Auction: 13002 - Orders, Decorations, Campaign Medals and Militaria
The Unique and Historically Important K.C.H. and Five Clasp Naval General Service Medal Group to Rear Admiral of the Blue Sir Thomas Ussher [C.B.], Royal Navy; A Master Exponent of Both the Boat Action and the Broadside, He Always Led from the Front Even when on Crutches. Seriously Wounded Several Times, 'Equivalent to the Loss of a Limb', And Taken Prisoner of War, He was a Daring Officer who Reconnoitred The Entire French Fleet in Brest Harbour on His Own Initiative- Entering the Harbour in a Gig under the Cover of Darkness He Obtained Exact Intelligence on the Disposition of the Enemy Fleet and was Only Discovered when His 4-Oared Vessel was Abreast of the French Admiral's Ship: Ussher Made Good His Escape from 3 Boats and 11 Pursuing Gun-Brigs. Whilst In Command of the Redwing He Obliterated 7 Spanish Vessels With a Broadside Delivered at Pistol Shot Range Off Cape Trafalgar, 7.5.1808; He Captured Almuñecar Castle With The Aide of Spanish Partisans, Before Being Given the Honour of Conveying Napoleon in H.M.S. Undaunted to Start His Exile on Elba, 1813
a) The Royal Guelphic Order, Military Division, Knight Commander's (K.C.H.) set of Insignia, by Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell, London, neck Badge, 87mm including crown and crossed swords suspension x 58mm, gold and enamel, Hallmarks for London on suspension ring; Star, 78mm, silver, gold, and enamel, the reverse engraved 'Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. Jewellers to Their Majesties & Royal Family, London', with gold retaining pin, very minor green enamel damage
b) Naval General Service 1793-1840, five clasps, 1 June 1794, Redwing 7 May 1808, Redwing 31 May 1808, Malaga 29 April 1812, 2 May Boat Service 1813 (Thos. Ussher, Capt. R.N.), last lightly lacquered, nearly extremely fine (3)
Thomas Ussher served as Midshipman in H.M.S. Invincible for the Fleet action that became known as 'The Glorious First of June.' A total of seven Large Naval Gold Medals and 15 Small Naval Gold Medals were awarded for this action; Ussher served as Commander in H.M.S. Redwing (brig), when under his command she captured or destroyed a convoy of 12 Spanish merchant vessels escorted by seven armed vessels (including the schooners Diligente and Boreas), 35 miles off Cape Trafalgar, Spain, 7.5.1808. During this spirited action the 18-gun Redwing got within point blank shot of the enemy. The seven Spanish escorts formed in close line and advanced with the intention of boarding. Ussher, however, brought his guns to bear with such devastating effect that within two hours only two of the armed vessels remained afloat. Both schooners turned over and were lost with all hands, a number of gunboats ran ashore and four merchant ships, in their attempts to scatter, were sunk by the Redwing; Ussher served as the same rank and in the same vessel for the capture of two Spanish vessels, and the destruction of a third in the Bay of Bolonia, near Cape Trafalgar, and the silencing of a gun battery, 31.5.1808. The Redwing chased a mistico and two feluccas into the Bay of Bolonia, which took shelter under a gun battery of six long 24-pounders. Ussher landed with a party of 40 seamen armed with pikes, stormed the battery area, spiked the guns and destroyed the magazine. The mistico was then destroyed and the two feluccas brought out. For this and several earlier actions Ussher was advanced to post rank; Ussher served as Captain in H.M.S. Hyacinth, and officer commanding of a small squadron, for the capture of the French privateers Brave and Napoleon, lying within the mole of Malaga, Spain, 29.4.1812. The squadron consisted of the Hyacinth, Goshawk (Commander James Lilburne), the gun-brig Resolute (Lieutenant John Keenan) and No. 16 gunboat (Lieutenant Thomas Cull). British merchant shipping had consistently come under attack by several fast rowing French privateers under the command of a Chief named Barbastro. Unable to flush the privateers out of the mole, Ussher decided to attack them in port by employing boats. Despite the harbour entrance being defended by a 15-gun battery and being overlooked by a castle Ussher pressed on with his attack - taking the lead boat himself. Lieutenant Hustings carried the mole-head battery, whilst Commander Lilburne with the gunboat and other boats boarded and captured the enemy rowboats. Guns from the castle opened up on the attackers and French infantry entered the mole-head battery just as Captain Ussher left after spiking the guns. British losses were Commander Lilburne and 14 men killed and 53 officers and men wounded; Ussher served as Captain in H.M.S. Undaunted, when the marines from the Repulse, Volontaire, and Undaunted, under Captain Michael Ennis R.M., were landed and destroyed some newly erected works near Morgiou, Toulon, while the boats from the same ships, under the command of Lieutenant Isaac Shaw of the Volontaire, covered by the launches and H.M.S. Redwing, brought out six laden merchant vessels, 2.5.1813.
Approximately 7 'Redwing 7 May 1808' clasps issued
Approximately 5 'Redwing 31 May 1808' clasps issued
Approximately 17 'Malaga 29 April 1812' clasps issued
Approximately 48 '2 May Boat Service 1813' clasps issued
Rear Admiral of the Blue Sir Thomas Ussher, C.B., K.C.H. (1779-1848), son of the Reverend Henry Ussher, a Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin and first Astronomer Royal of Ireland; Thomas Ussher joined the Royal Navy as Midshipman (under the patronage of Colonel W.B. Conyngham, M.P., uncle of the then late Marquess Conyngham), 1791. He was appointed to H.M.S. Squirrel (Captain W. Drury) later that year, and, 'in that vessel, after serving on the Irish station, he proceeded to the coast of Africa; where, to avenge an insult offered to the British flag, he assisted in driving the Portuguese Governor of Prince's Island, in the Bight of Benin, with severe loss, from the two batteries (one mounting 22, the other 4 guns) defending the harbour' (O'Byrne, refers). His return passage to England was one of hardship - with the officers and crew of the Squirrel reduced to a daily allowance of 1 oz of bread and a single cup of water each. Ussher was appointed to H.M.S. Invincible (Captain the Hon. T. Pakenham), September 1793. He served in the latter vessel during 'The Glorious First of June', before following his Captain for service in H.M.S. La Juste. Both Captain and Ussher had been instrumental in the capture of La Juste during Lord Howe's action.
Between 1795-1796 Ussher served in H.M. Ships Prince George, Glory and Thunderer (all bearing the flag of Sir Hugh Christian). He made passage with H.M.S. Thunderer to the West Indies. On the way out, 'he removed with Sir H.C. Christian to the Astraea frigate. During the operations of May 1796, against Ste. Lucie, Mr. Ussher, who had been nominated Acting-Lieutenant of the Minotaur... was employed on shore in command of a party of seamen attached to the army under Sir Ralph Abercromby. Subsequently to the surrender of the island, he was ordered to act as Lieutenant in the Pelican brig (18-guns)... under Capt. Searle the latter vessel, with only 97 men on board, beat off in the most dashing manner, near Désirade, the French frigate Médée of 40 guns and 300 men, after a close action, in which the enemy sustained a loss of 33 men in killed and wounded... This affair took place on the morning of 23 Sept. 1796; and in the course of the same day the sloop retook the Alcyon, late a British army victualler, and then a prize to the Médée' (O'Byrne, refers).
A Liking for Boats
In September the following year he took part in the destruction of the French privateer La Trompeur off St. Domingo. His bravery was commended in his commanding officer's despatch (London Gazette 1797, p114). La Trompeur (16-guns and 160 men) engaged the Pelican for over half an hour before trying 'to effect her escape, but, being overtaken, had resolutely defended herself until the fire of her opponent sent her to the bottom. Sixty only of her brave crew could the British save, but among them was their gallant chief, whose life was preserved through the exertions of Mr. Ussher... On 4th April 1798, Mr. Ussher, who, in command of two boats containing 14 men, had been occupied... in looking into the different creeks about Cumberland Harbour and St. Jago de Cuba in search of a privateer... landed in a sandy bay near the latter port. While his men were reposing on the beach, they were of a sudden, although a sentinel had been posted on a height to prevent a surprise, attacked by between 60 and 70 soldiers, who, with a volley of musketry, rushed upon them... A deadly conflict ensued, and lasted until Mr. Ussher, having succeeded in regaining his only remaining boat - the Spaniards had swamped the other - was enabled to fire into the midst of them a swivel, loaded with 200 musket-balls. The enemy then fled; and the British re-embarked, with a loss, however, of two killed and 10 severely and slightly wounded. Among the latter was Mr. Ussher' (ibid).
Despite being wounded Ussher attempted to capture another French privateer the following day. With only two boats and 19 men at his disposal he attempted to board Le Moulin a Café (7-guns and 83 men) near Cumberland Harbour. He was rebuffed by a broadside, 'yet, unwilling to retreat, and eagerly anticipating a re-enforcement from the Pelican, he remained exposed to a destructive fire until, having had his best marksmen killed and many others wounded, he was himself felled by a shot through the right thigh. Conceiving his wound to be mortal, he directed those of his party, who were able, to retire, and he then, from loss of blood, fainted. On recovering his senses he found himself in the hands of the French... For many months after his return to the Pelican, Mr. Ussher was under the necessity of using crutches' (ibid).
Always Lead From the Front- Even on Crutches
Despite his physical state he volunteered to lead another daring attack in January 1799. Ussher, 'with the Pelican's cutter and 12 men, to attack another privateer, La Trompeuse, of 5 guns and about 70 men, lying in the Artribonite River, at the west end of St. Domingo. The original plan had been to approach the privateer with 50 men in a merchant schooner. The plan had been changed due to weather conditions. Undeterred the gallant Ussher lead his men to board, capture and destroy the privateer, 'much to the credit of Mr. Ussher; who, it may be here added, was present, while belonging to the Pelican, in upwards of 20 boat engagements with the enemy' (ibid).
In May 1799 he was appointed to H.M.S. Trent (36-guns, Captain R.W. Oatway). On the 7th June using the ship's barge he boarded and towed out a schooner under the guns of a large battery in Aguada Bay, Puerto Rico. Having, 'with the assistance of the Trent's cutter under Mr. H. M'Cleverty, the Master, towed the prize out beneath a ruinous fire... he returned in the cutter and, fortunately without further loss (every one nearly of the barge's crew had been killed or wounded) brought off a felucca' (ibid).
In July of the same year Ussher again commanded boats in the capture of another felucca. He brought her out from under another battery in the face of a troop of cavalry at Laguira. Ussher returned to England in September 1800, 'from the effects of his wounds, which threatened even to produce locked-jaw, was obliged for a time to seek half-pay, thereby, losing the fairest chance of promotion. Although, on being surveyed by the College of Surgeons, the injuries he had received were declared equal to the loss of a limb... his late Commander in Chief Sir Hyde Parker, in a letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, "recommended him, in justice to his merits, not only for a pension, but for any mark of favour their Lordships might think proper to bestow on him." On applying in June, 1801, for employment, contrary to the advice of his physicians, he was at once appointed to the command of the Nox cutter. In this vessel, which was stationed off Weymouth in attendance upon the King, he remained four months' (ibid).
Under the Cover of Darkness
Between 1803-1804 Ussher was appointed to the command of the Joseph and the Colpoys. Both were attached to the blockading force under Admiral Cornwallis off Brest. At the end of 1804, 'the British Fleet, during a succession of hard weather, was blown off the coast; and on regaining his station Admiral Cornwallis was in some doubt as to whether or not the enemy had left port. On hearing of this, Mr. Ussher, of his own accord, stood close in shore after dark, and, hoisting out his gig (a 4-oared boat), actually entered the harbour, discovered and rowed along the whole French line, and thereby obtained an exact knowledge of the enemy's force, consisting of 21 sail. On arriving abreast of the French Admiral's ship he was descried, and immediately pursued by three boats; but from these he fortunately escaped, as well as from the boats of 11 gun-brigs lying in Camaret Bay, who, on his clearing the Goulet Passage, united in the chase. The Colpoys, the next day, joined her own Admiral, with signal flying "The enemy the same as when last reconnoitred"; affording the latter the information that he had anxiously desired, and to Captain Puget the particulars that were required for the fructification of the plan he formed' (ibid).
Ussher's next exploit was a 'cloak and dagger' raid on Bertheume Castle. He landed at midnight with six men only 200 yards from the castle. With total surprise he overwhelmed the sentry and captured both the enemy's private signals and the commanding officer. He returned to more conventional methods, 21.3.1806, 'having driven three Spanish luggers under a battery of six 24-pounders in the port of Avillas, he pushed with two boats, manned with volunteers, through a heavy fire of grape from the battery and of musketry from a party of soldiers, who had been sent on board the vessels to defend them, and with six men in the headmast boat, boarded and carried them, the enemy jumping over one side as the British entered the other. Thirteen of the former were taken prisoners, and on the arrival of the second boat, which pulled heavy, two of the prizes, mounting each two guns, and laden with flax and steel (the third, in ballast, was restored), were brought off. On first boarding, Mr. Ussher had made two of the crew jump overboard and swim onshore, directing them to inform the officer commanding at the battery that if another gun was fired, he would hang the Spaniards, 11 in number, remaining in his possession. The menace having the effect he wished, he was enabled with safety to complete his operations' (ibid). For the latter action he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 1806, p437).
Ussher was mentioned again (London Gazette 1806, p570) when he landed with 24 men and captured a two gun battery at the mouth of the river Douillan, 19.4.1806. He also captured and destroyed a signal post at Douillan on the same day, both without suffering any loss.
In July 1806 Ussher commanded the Colpoys, the Haughty (gun-brig), Frisk (cutter) and the Felix (schooner) in destroying several batteries at St. Antonio, Avillas and Bermeo. On 28.7.1806, 'he took possession, after much opposition, of the town of Hea, the defences of which, two batteries, were, together with a magazine and some vessels, either taken or demolished. In less than a week after the latter event he was obliged to resign the command of the Colpoys; the fatigue he had undergone having been so great as to cause the wound he had before received in his thigh to break out afresh, accompanied by the most alarming symptoms. His claims being now backed by testimonials of the strongest character from Earl St. Vincent and Admirals Cornwallis and Graves, he had the gratification of being at length, on 18th October in the same year, promoted to the command of the Redwing sloop of 18-guns. His conduct at Avillas had previously obtained for him a sword valued at 50l from the Patriotic Society; and he had had the satisfaction of receiving from the crew of the Colpoys a similar token of their "respect and esteem." ' (O'Byrne refers)
Captain Ussher was now to be employed mainly in a defensive capacity. The Redwing was to protect merchant shipping against attacks from Spanish gun-boats and privateers near Gibraltar. Defence, however, was not a word with which Ussher appeared to be overly familiar with - he immediately went on the attack. Between March-September 1807 he bested a division of gun-boats and several batteries near Cabritta Point; on passing Tarifa he decoyed an enemy flotilla within range of his carronades and then forced them to seek shelter under their land batteries and 'on her return from conveying despatches to the Balearic Islands, the Redwing, on 7th September, drove several vessels on shore near the town of Calassel, on the coast of Catalonia... On the following day, having pushed in within 100 yards of the castle of Benidorme, mounting four 18-pounders, she enabled her boats... to board and carry a polacre-ship... She then, although her masts, sails, and rigging were greatly damaged, made after three privateers, mounting respectively 10, 6, and 4 guns, who, under cover of the smoke, had made their escape from before the town. These she pursued until they ran on shore, apparently in a sinking state, at Jovosa, four miles west of Benidorme' (ibid).
Give Them a Broadside!
Ussher resumed his station in the Gut of Gibraltar, when on 7.5.1808, 'being about six miles E.S.E. of Cape Trafalgar, he discovered, at daybreak, a convoy of 12 sail passing alongshore under the protection of seven armed vessels, namely, two schooners, the Diligente and Boreas, each mounting two long 24-pounders and two 8's, with a complement of 60 men; three gun-vessels, carrying in aggregate three long 24-pounders, two 6's, one 36-pounder, and 111 men; and a mistico and felucca, each of four guns and 20 men. Forming a line abreast, this formidable force swept, with an evident intention of boarding, towards the Redwing; who, nothing loth, prepared for the conflict by loading each gun with one round shot, one grape, one cannister, and 500 musket-balls, the latter tied up in a bag. When within pistol-shot the Redwing's broadside, reserved until then, went off like a single gun. Struck at the waterline, and cut open fore and aft, the Diligente gave two or three heavy rolls, turned over, and, with all on board went down. Sharing her fate, the Boreas was soon no more; two other of the vessels, with four of the merchantmen, disappeared in the surf; and seven traders, together with the armed mistico, fell into the hands of the British. The felucca, one gun-boat, and a single merchant-vessel were all that escaped. In thus brilliantly disposing of her foes the Redwing had her foremast crippled by two 24-pounders; and a shot of similar dimensions passed through her mainmast; the gammoning of her bow-sprit was shot through; and the knee of her head was cut asunder. Her loss, however, was confined to 1 man killed, and the Master, Purser, and 1 sailor wounded; while that of the Spaniards, as by themselves admitted, extended to 240, out of 271, killed, wounded, and taken prisoner' (ibid). Ussher was mentioned in Collingwood's despatch (London Gazette 1808, p735).
On 31.5.1808 Ussher chased a mistico and two feluccas into the Bay of Bolonia, 'where, as soon as she had silenced the fire of a battery, mounting six long 24-pounders, her boats, under Lieutenant Ferguson, destroyed the mistico and took possession of the feluccas. Accompanied by the Lieutenant and 40 men armed with pikes, Captain Ussher then landed, stormed the battery, rendered its guns unserviceable, and destroyed the magazine. Up to this period the Redwing, in the whole, had not lost more than 7 men killed and 32 wounded. On his return to Gibraltar, Captain Ussher found that for "his judicious and gallant conduct in his Majesty's service" he had been promoted to Post-rank, by a commission bearing the date of 24th May 1808' (ibid).
Due to deteriorating health, as a consequence of his old wounds, Ussher was forced to return to the UK. He arrived in September 1808, 'At a public dinner given to him by the nobility and gentry at Dublin, Captain Ussher was presented with the freedom of that city' (O'Byrne refers). Subsequent appointments included to H.M.S Leyden, with whom he was involved in operations against Walcheren, and H.M. Ships America and Hyacinth (26-guns). After accompanying a fleet of merchantmen in the Hyacinth to the Mediterranean, he joined the squadron engaged in the defence of Cadiz, 'on the night of the 29th April, 1812, having assembled the boats of his own ship and of the Goshawk sloop and Resolute gun-brig, and having added to them a gun-boat, No. 16, he placed himself at the head of the whole and proceeded to the attack of several privateers, commanded by one Barbastro, a man of great enterprise and daring, and then lying in the port of Malaga; the entrance to which was protected by two batteries, one mounting 15 long 24-pounders, the other four guns of the same calibre. In his own gig with six men, supported by his Second-Lieutenant, the present Sir Thomas Hastings, in the pinnace with 20 men, he made a dash at the larger battery, and although fired at before the scaling-ladders could be placed, made himself completely master of it in less than five minutes after he had touched the shore. He immediately turned the guns against the castle of Gibralfaro, and kept the garrison there in check until all the powder he could find was expended. He then pulled up the harbour to superintend the further operations; but the boats, in the meantime, had become exposed, with such prizes as they had taken, to a murderous fire as well from the castle as from the 57th Regt. of French infantry, on the mole-wall; and the moon now rising with more than usual brightness, and displaying them to full view, while from the effects of the firing the wind died away, their position became critical in the extreme. Barbastro's own privateer... the Braave [sic]... and the Napoleon... were brought out - the remainder, before they were abandoned, being damaged as much as possible. In this most heroic affair the British, out of 149 officers and men, had 15, including Captain Jas. Lilburne of the Goshawk, killed, and 53 wounded' (ibid). For this action Ussher received the high approbation of Sir Edward Pellew (Commander-in-Chief) and the Board of Admiralty.
The following month Ussher contacted and gained the confidence of partisans on the Granada Coast. The latter agreed to co-operate in an attack led by the Hyacinth with the assistance of the Termagent (sloop) and the Basilisk (gun-brig). On the 26th of 'that month, and in less than an hour [they] silenced the fire of the important castle of Almuñecar, armed though it was with two brass 24-pounders, six iron 18-pounders, and a howitzer, and defended by 300 French troops. At 7am, on the 27th latter, having during the night mounted a howitzer in a breach made by the ships on the covered way to the castle, the French re-opened their fire; but by 10am the castle was again silenced, and the French were driven with great loss into the town, where they fortified themselves in the church and houses. Desirous of sparing the unfortunate inhabitants, Captain Ussher ceased firing; and at 2pm, after having destroyed a privateer of 2 guns and 30 or 40 men, at anchor under the castle, he weighed and ran down to Nersa, for the purpose of concerting plans with the guerrillas; on his arrival there he embarked 200 infantry on board his little squadron, and then stood back with them towards Almuñecar, while a body of cavalry hastened thither by a more circuitous route. A calm, however, delaying his progress, the enemy obtained a knowledge of the combined movement that was being made against them, and precipitately fled. The fortifications of the castle were ultimately demolished (ibid). Ussher was mentioned for this action (London Gazette 1812, p1279) and for the interception of several valuable American merchantmen (London Gazette 1812, p2296).
Napoleon- Ussher 'Undaunted'
During Ussher's short time in command of the Euryalus, he was employed chiefly at the blockade of Toulon. He was appointed to the command of H.M.S. Undaunted in 1813, and employed his boats in a number of important operations, including at Carri, 18.3.1813; Morgiou 31.3.1813 and 2.5.1813; near Marseille in the same month and at Cassis in August. In consequence of harsh weather the Undaunted was stationed off Toulon for the duration of winter, 'where he was left by Sir Edward Pellew with a small squadron under his orders to watch the movements of the French fleet. In April, 1814, being close in with Marseille, in company with the Euryalus (Captain Charles Napier), he received from that city a deputation, consisting of the mayor and civil authorities, who had come off to inform him of the abdication of Napoleon Buonaparte, and of the formation of a provisional government in the absence of the Bourbons. He therefore landed; but he had not long done so when, through the hands of Sir Neil Campbell, who had just arrived from Paris, he received a requisition from Lord Castlereagh that he should forthwith make preparations for conveying the ex-Emperor from the shores of France to Elba. Repairing accordingly to Fréjus, he there had the honour of embarking the fallen chief; with whom, at about 8pm on the 30th he anchored at the mouth of the harbour of Porto Ferrajo. On 3rd May Napoleon landed and took upon himself the government of the island. Captain Ussher, who obtained great credit for the manner in which he acquitted himself of the delicate and important duty which had been confided to him, remained at Elba until the English transports which had brought the ex-Emperor's troops, horses, carriages, baggage &c., were cleared and sent to Genoa; whither, although entreated by Napoleon to prolong his stay, he himself proceeded' (O'Byrne, refers).
During this period Ussher and Napoleon entered into many long and engaging conversations on a variety of topics which were recorded at length in Ussher's diary and then published in 1840 as a Narrative of the First Abdication of Napoleon. This was then republished alongside the diary of John R. Glover, Secretary to Rear Admiral Cockburn (onboard the Northumberland) in 1890 as Napoleon's Last Voyages. This detailed account offers a fascinating insight into the fallen Emperor's mind, right from the first dinner spent together on board Undaunted, 'the party at table consisted of Prince Schoovalof, Russian envoy; Baron Koller, Austrian envoy; Comte Truxos, Prussian envoy, and our envoy, Colonel Campbell; Comte Clam, aide-de-camp to Prince Schwarzenberg; Comte Bertand, Drouot, and I. The Emperor did not appear at all reserved, but, on the contrary, entered freely into conversation, and kept it up with great animation', to Ussher departing from Elba.
It is recorded that Napoleon gave Ussher a large quantity of wine and a snuff box as a token of his esteem. Ussher returned to England in August 1814. He was nominated a C.B., 4.6.1815, and awarded a pension for his wounds of £250 per annum. He was appointed Equerry in the Household of Queen Adelaide, July 1830, and appointed a K.C.H. the following year. Ussher advanced to Flag-rank in November 1846, and served as Commander-in-Chief at Cork until his death in 1848.
The inscription on the reverse of Ussher's Guelphic Star dates it from the period 1831-37. His Bath insignia, in accordance with the statues in force at the time, was liable to be returned to the Central Chancery on his death.
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