MANUSCRIPT LETTER FROM SIR THOMAS BYAM MARTIN, FLEET CAPTAIN ABOARD THE "VICTORY" IN THE BALTIC IN 1808, ADDRESSED TO LIEUTENANT JOHN ROSS (LATER, SIR JOHN ROSS, ARCTIC EXPLORER).

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£600.00




Folio, 2 sides, blank + integral address leaf, VICTORY off Ragerwick, 23 Sept. 1808. Watermark Golding & Snelgrove for 1807. Slight foxing & slight wear along folds o/w V.G. Sir Thomas Byam Martin (1773-1854) entered the Royal Navy in 1785 and first went to sea a year later in the PEGASUS under Prince William Henry (afterwards William IV). During 1795-6, he was employed off the Irish coast where he captured many privateers, going on to do the same in the West Indies in 1797. On his way home in 1798, in command of the frigate FISGARD, he fell in with a French frigate off Brest and the engagement that followed was considered to be the most brilliant frigate action of the war, with Martin emerging victorious. His letters and papers were published by the NRS (See Item 119). In 1808 he took command of the IMPLACABLE in the Baltic, and on the 26th August that year, while attached to the Swedish fleet under the orders of Sir Samuel Hood, he brought to action and captured the Russian SEWOLOD for which he was decorated by the king of Sweden. In this letter of the 23rd September 1808, he is in Nelson's VICTORY off Ragerwick, a Russian port at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. He writes to Lt. John Ross, then serving aboard a Swedish man-o'-war, asking Ross to inform the Swedish admiral that in consequence of a report from Captain Bathurst (Walter Bathurst, killed at Navarino) regarding the Russian Fleet being so secure to booms that it would prevent any approach, the C-in-C (Saumarez) deemed it expedient to dismantle the EREBUS and BALTIC as Fire Ships, and to restore them to their former role (as Rocket Ships). The C-in-C thinks it highly desirable that a Swedish captain should accompany Bathurst in the SALSETTE to view the Russian Fleet for himself so that he may form his own judgment of the practicability of using Fire Vessels with effect. Martin goes on to inform Ross that the admiral (Saumarez) wishes him to accompany the Swedish captain in the SALSETTE whose signal is made to close the GUSTAF ADOLPH (Swedish flagship). The letter, "On His Majesty's Service" is signed "J. B. Martin, Fleet captain." Sir John Ross (1777-1856) had, in his earlier sea career, experience of the Baltic aboard merchantmen. He served under Saumarez in different ships from 1803 to 1812. In 1805 he was severely wounded while cutting out a Spanish vessel under the batteries of Bilbao. (He was in fact, during his naval career, wounded 13 times and had been a POW of the French 3 times !) In September 1808, while serving in the VICTORY, he was for a short time attached to the staff of the Swedish admiral Hindric Johan Nauckhoff (named in this letter) as he spoke Swedish. Sweden was at war with Russia and Saumarez was blockading the Russian Fleet. From 1818 onwards, Ross's name is associated with Polar voyages, although he fell out with Barrow at the Admiralty. He led an expedition in search of Sir John Franklin despite his advancing years. An interesting and important letter written during the turbulent era in the Baltic when James Saumarez held command.


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