[From Manx Quarterly, #12 June 1913]

Rear-Admiral Sir H C. Christian,

Rear-Admiral Sir H. C. Christian was a descendant from the ancient family of Christian, in the Isle of Man. Born in London in 1747, he was made lieutenant in the Royal Navy January 21st, 1771, and on August 2nd, 1778, having previously been advanced to the rank of master and commander, we find him in the Vigilant, armed ship of 20 guns. On Dec. 8th, 1778, he was made post-captain. and in Admiral Byron's memorable action with D'Estaing, on the 6th July,1779, his ship, the Suffolk, had seven killed and twenty-five wounded. He was in the actions with De Guichen on April 17th and May 15th and 19th, 1780. On June 1st. 1795, he was made Rear-Admiral of the Blue. On November 16th, having hoisted his flag on the Prince George, of 98 guns, he sailed with a squadron of ships of war, and a convoy of more than 200 sail of transports and West Indiamen, on board of which were embarked upwards of 16,000 troops. The most tempestuous weather ensued. Several of the transports and merchantmen foundered, and many lives were lost. The Admiral having repaired the damage, sailed again on the 9th December, and after encountering the most dreadful weather, which dispersed the squadron, he was obliged to return to Spithead with eight ships and about fifty sail of transports and merchantmen. A third effort proved more successful. The Rear-Admiral sailed again on the 20th March, 1796, in the Thunderer, of 74 guns, accompanied by the Invincible, 74 guns; Grampus, 51 guns; and four smaller vessels of war, with such of the merchantmen and transports as were ready, and after a passage of 32 days arrived at Barbadoes. On the; 22nd April he left Carlisle Bay in company with Sir J. La Forey, who, on his arrival at Martinique, resigned the command at the Leeward Islands to the Rear-Admiral. Sir Hugh immediately commenced operations for the reduction of St. Lucia, which Island surrendered on the 25th May to the land and sea forces commanded by Sir Ralph Abercrombie and the rear-admiral. The garrison amounted to 2,000 men. A great quantity of stores, etc., were taken. After the restoration of tranquility in Grenada, St. Vincent, etc., he was superseded by Rear-Admiral Harvey, and returned to England in the Beaulieu, a frigate. On the 17th February he obtained the insignia of the Military Order of the Bath; on the 20th February, 1797, he was made Rear-Admiral of the White; and in the following year he succeeded Admiral Pringle as commander-in-chief at the Cape, and died there in November, 1798.

It has been pointed out to me that the above account is incoprrect in many aspects:

Commissioned as Lieutenant on 21 Nov 1771 though unclear to to what vessel; on 3 Apr 1776 commissioned Lieutenant on HMS Shark, Sloop, Commander John Chapman, commanding (Admiralty commission, ADM 6/21, p. 175) - Sloops of War only rated a single Lieutenant at this time. On 10 Aug 1776, HMS Shark sailed for the Leeward Islands where on 12 Feb 1777 he was superseded by James Gambier (ADM 6/21, p. 285 [commissioned by VAdm James Young & confirmed by Admiralty on 09 May 1777]). By letter of the same date (ADM 1/309 12 Feb 1777) VAdm James Young advised Admiralty:
[extract] " I am likewise to acquaint their Lordships that the several Hired Transports named in the inclosed List; having provisions and Stores on board for the use of the King's Army and Navy employed in America, instead of making the best of their way to New York &ca as they were ordered; have deviated therefrom, and put into this Island [Antigua]; and the greatest part of them without any apparent Necessity. As the King's Service might be very much retarded and hurt by such delays I have thought it necessary to appoint an Officer to take Charge and Command of as many of the Transports as are fit to proceed on their Voyage, and conduct them to New York: and have accordingly put Lieutenant Hugh Cloberry Christian (from the Shark) on board the Albion Transport, and directed him to Execute that service. . . ."

On 11 May 1777 after reaching New York, HCC joined HMS Eagle, 3d-rate/64-guns, Lord Howe's flagship as supernumerary 5th Lieutenant. My reading is that the position of "Supernumerary 5th Lieutenant" was used by Lord Howe for the most senior of his two "flag Lieutenants." HCC joined Eagle as supernumerary pay no. 651 on 11 May 1777 and was discharged 28 Jan 1778 to Kingsfisher, Sloop (Eagle's paybook, ADM 34/272) [though as Lord Howe frequently did, the promotion/commission was backdated from the actual change of command.]

On 30 July 1778, HMS Kingsfisher and two galleys, then stationed on the east side of Rhode Island in Sakonnet Passage, were run ashore, stores & guns landed, then burned and abandoned as the French fleet approached. [On 5 August, five frigates and another galley were destroyed on the west or Narragansett Bay side of Rhode Island. HCC (and others) were tried by court(s)-martial on 28 Sep 1778 (except one commander tried 16 Oct 1778) for the losses of their ships and galleys and all were acquitted. (ADM 1/5314)

HCC then returned to England where he was promoted/commissioned by Admiralty to command HMS Suffolk, 3d-rate/74-guns on 8 Dec 1778 (ADM 6/21, p. 485 [the next page after his confirmation as Commander, Kingsfisher (see above)] and appears to have command of the former French frigate, HMS Fortunée, 5th rate/42 guns about 29 Jan 1780 whilst in the Leeward Islands - the only commander of Fortunée which paid off on 2 July 1783.

After American war he commanded HMS Colossus, 3d-rate/74-guns from about June 1787 until Oct 1790 when he moved to HMS Queen Charlotte, 1st-rate, 100-guns, which paid off at year's end. He was back in the Queen Charlotte in Feb 1793 as Lord Howe's flag-captain, serving to March 1794.

After this period designated Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies station in Oct 1797, replacing RAdm Peter Rainer, going out east in the frigate, HMS Virginie, 5th rate/44 guns, Captain Anthony Hunt, commanding though not clear if he made the the East Indies or whether his orders were changed before sailing as found Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope in mid-1798, with HMS Tremendous, 3d-rate/74-guns, serving as his flagship (Captain John Osborn, flag-captain)


Admiralty papers National Archives

DNB (Oxford UP 2004) which gives many references



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