HMS Hannibal

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Hannibal, 1786
Type: 3rd rate ; Armament 74 ;
Launched : 1786 ; Disposal date or year : 5 Jul 1801
Disposal Details : Captured by a French squadron, under the batteries of Algesiras, Gibraltar bay. Captain Solomon Ferris.

10 April 1795 Rear-admiral John Colpoys, while cruising with a squadron to the westward, gave chase to three French frigates. Colossus, having got within gun-shot of one of them, opened fire, but the frigates, took different courses, two pursued by the Robust and Hannibal ; while the frigate Gloire was chased and taken by the Astræa. The French 36-gun frigate Gentille was captured on the 11th by the Hannibal.

21 Oct 1795 captured the French privateer Grand Voltigeur on the West Indies station.

24 Oct 1795 captured the French privateer Convention on the West Indies station.

13 Nov 1795 captured the French privateer Petit Tonnerre on the West Indies station.

1 Jul 1798 working into the mole at Port Royal, Jamaica.

2 Jul 1798 came to anchor at Port Royal, Jamaica.

12 Feb-30 Mar 1799 captured 2 merchant vessels whilst under the command of the CinC at Jamaica.

25 Jan 1801 at Portsmouth. Sir A. S. Hamond and Sir William Rule arrived here on the 19th, and went off for London on the 22d, after surveying, in company with Commissioner Sir Charles Saxton, the whole of the ships in ordinary ; and ordered the following to be repaired and ready for commission in six weeks at farthest the Brunswick, Bellerophon, Goliath, Vengeance, Vanguard, and Hannibal.

19 May 1801 moved out of harbour to Spithead.

7 Jun 1801 departed Spithead to join the Channel Fleet.

12 Jun 1801 came into Cawsand Bay, from Spithead, to join R.-Adm Sir James Saumarez.

15 Jun 1801 departed Plymouth Sound this evening at six o'clock, the squadron under Rear Admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart, with the Caesar, Pompée, Spencer, Hannibal, Audacious, Thames, Paisley, of 16, and Plymouth lugger. They are victualled and stored for five months. Their orders are not to be opened till the squadron arrives in a certain latitude. Previous to the sailing of the above squadron twenty tons of vegetables and 2000 weight of fresh beef were conveyed on board by the gun-boats.

5 Jul 1801 departed from off Cadiz for Algeziras roads where, on the 6th, the squadron engaged a small French squadron protected shore batteries, during which severe action the Hannibal went aground and was lost to the Spanish and French : details of casualties sustained in the action.

Circa 7 Jul 1801 officers and wounded from the Hannibal given their parole.

] 1 Sep 1801 a Court Martial was held on board the Gladiator, in Portsmouth harbour, to try Captain Solomon Ferris, his Officers, and ship's company, for the loss of his Majesty's ship Hannibal, in Algeziras Bay, on the 6th of July, 1801. In giving a detail of the circumstances, which led to the loss of HM late ship the Hannibal, then under my command, I am sorry, that, owing to my clerk being killed, and whose remarks were lost, I cannot be so particular, as to the exact times of signals being made, as I otherwise should have been ; but I shall state them to you, to the best of my recollection.
On the morning of the 6th of July last, at or about six o'clock, HM ships Venerable, Pompee, Audacious, Ceasar, Spencer, and Hannibal, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, being off Cabareta Point, and standing in for Algeziras Bay upon the larboard tack, with the wind westerly, the Admiral made the signal to the Venerable, to know if she could fetch the enemy's ships then in sight in that bay, which being answered in the affirmative, the Admiral made the signal for close action.
At about eight o'clock, the Venerable began the action, at a considerable distance to leeward, as she could not fetch further than into the bay ; and soon after the Pompée anchored nearer in shore, and the Audacious astern of her. The Admiral, in the Caesar, next anchored ahead of the Audacious, and made the signal for the ships to anchor in the best possible manner for their mutual support. We then anchored ahead of the Caesar, within hail of her and by a spring, got our broadside to bear on one of the enemy's line of battle ships, at about ten minutes before nine o'clock, where we kept up a good fire for about an hour.
At this time, about ten o'clock, not having understood some verbal directions, attempted to be given from the Caesar, I received an order from the Admiral by an Officer, to go and rake the French Admiral instantly, who turned up the hands to make sail, cut the cable, and cast the ship by the spring and made sail to the northward, stood in, to a quarterless six, and then tacked for the French Admiral, for the purpose I had been ordered to effect.
As I approached him, I began to take in sail in such a manner as would have enabled me to have hauled in shore athwart his hawse, and which I preferred to going to leeward under his stern, as that might have subjected me, from the variable flaws of wind, to have drifted farther to leeward, and consequently without fulfilling, in a manner which I deemed the must effectual and decisive, the object of my orders.- But, just as I got the fore clewgarnets manned, in order to take in the fore-sail, with an intent to put the helm a-lee, and to brace the head yards a-box, the ship took the ground, within hail of the Formidable (the French Admiral's ship), and which accident alone could have prevented me from putting my orders in execution.
In this situation I opened my fire on the French Admiral, with as many of my foremost guns as could be brought to bear on him, the rest being directed, with much effect, on the town, batteries and gun-boats, with which I was surrounded. But the ship appearing to swing a little, I let go the bower anchor and cut the cable, the stream cable being clenched to the ring of the anchor, and in at the gun-room port, on which I intended to heave a strain, to endeavour to force the ship round, so as to bring her broadside to bear on the French Admiral (having at this time no hope of getting the ship entirely afloat, the master having, by my directions, sounded round her, and found rather less water than where she lay) ; but the spring being shot away before it was well taught, the shp remained immoveable. I had by this time, after much endeavour, all my signal haulyards being shot away, effected making the signal for striking and sticking fast on a shoal.
I observed some time afterwards all our ships driving out of the bay, the Admiral having previously made my signal of recall, and sent a boat from the Caesar and another from the Venerable to my assistance : but finding they could afford me none, I sent the Venerable's boat back, and the crew of the Caesar's in one of my own cutters, their pinnace having been sunk by a shot alongside.
About twelve o'clock our ships were all out of gunshot of the enemy, and we had the fire of the whole French squadron, batteries, and gun-boats, to contend with alone ; against which we continued to keep up as brisk a fire as could be expected, even by men in the most sanguine expectation of victory, until nearly two o'clock.
I had been before this time receiving repeated reports from several of my Officers of the numbers killed and wounded, and of many of my guns being rendered unserviceable ; and seeing many of my brave crew every moment falling at their quarters, and the ship, in all respects, but little better than a wreck, I thought proper to call my Officers together, and asked their opinion, whether more could be done for the preservation of the ship; they replied, that they thought it was impossible to do more, and that to strike the colours was the only means of preserving the lives of those that remained.
On these considerations, and from a conviction of having experienced every possible assistance that the persevering endeavours of zealous and brave officers and men could afford me, whose exertions, and those of Lieutenant Hills in particular, who did duty as my First Lieutenant, during the action and for some time before, I shall ever remember with the greatest gratitude ; and seeing that our hitherto very effective fire on the enemy's ships and batteries was now so slackened as to be nearly useless, I ordered the firing to cease, and the people to shelter themselves as much as possible; and in a little time afterwards I submitted to the painful necessity of ordering his Majesty's colours to be hauled down. The Court, on hearing the narrative of Captain Ferris, and the evidence of the Officers and ship's company, and, after mature deliberation, was of opinion that the loss of his Majesty's ship Hannibal was caused by her grounding on a shoal in the Bay of Algeziras, ahead of the French Admiral, when Captain Ferris, her Commander, agreeably to the orders he had received, was making the gallant and well-judged attempt to place her so as to rake the enemy ; and, after a considerable part of the ship's company had been killed, or wounded, being obliged to strike his Majesty's Colours ; and that the conduct of Captain Ferris, in going into the action was that of an excellent, and expert seaman, and that his conduct after she, was engaged, was that of a brave, cool, and determined Officer ; and that the said Captain Ferris, his Officers, and ship's, company, by their conduct throughout the action, more particularly in continuing it for a considerable time after she was on shore, and the rest of his Majesty's fleet had been obliged to quit her, did the utmost for the preservation of his Majesty's ship and the honour of the British flag ; and doth adjudge them to be honourably acquitted, and the said Captain Solomon Ferris, his Officers, and ship's company are hereby honourably acquitted accordingly.
This handsome and highly honourable acquittal was immediately followed by the return of Captain Ferris's sword to him by the President, who was pleased, in a manner that did honour to his feelings, to address him in the following words :
Captain Ferris, I have great pleasure in returning this sword to you, as I feel assured, if ever you have occasion to unsheathe it again, it will be used with the same gallantry which you so nobly displayed in defending his Majesty's ship Hannibal.
It is with the greatest satisfaction we have been enabled to insert the above very interesting particulars. The testimonies adduced of the intrepid and persevering gallantry displayed by the Captain, his Officers, and all concerned in the action, and the very honourable acquittal they have received, will render the loss of the above ship an event as glorious in the annals of naval heroism, as any to be found among the most successful of our achievements.

5 Sep 1801 Capt Ferris, late of the Hannibal, has been appointed to the Thunderer at Blackstakes (a major anchorage in the Medway).

2 Jan 1802 letters received at Plymouth from Gibraltar, dated the 16th of November, state the safe arrival there, with part of the Straits fleet, of the Racoon, 18, Captain Rathbone. She and the convoy experienced dreadful weather on their outward-bound passage, in the Bay of Biscay. The Racoon fell in with, steering for Brest, his Majesty's late ships of war Hannibal, 74, and Speedy, 14 ; the former taken in Algesiras Bay by Admiral Linois, and the latter by Gantheaume's squadron in the Straits ; they were both under jury-masts and French colours : found the British fleet at Gibraltar all well.