Viscount Samuel Hood
Viscount Samuel Hood (1724-1816), British admiral, was the son of Samuel Hood, vicar of Butleigh in Somerset, and prebendary of Wells. He was born on the 12th of December 1724, and entered the navy on the 6th of May 1741. He served part of his time as midshipman with Rodney in the "Ludlow," and became lieutenant in 1746. He was fortunate in serving under active officers, and had opportunities of seeing service in the North Sea. In 1753 he was made commander of the "Jamaica" sloop, and served in her on the North American station. In 1756, while still on the North American station, he attained to post rank.
In 1757, while in temporary command of the "Antelope" (50), he drove a French ship ashore in Audierne Bay, and captured two privateers. His zeal attracted the favourable notice of the Admiralty and he was appointed to a ship of his own. In 1759, when captain of the "Vestal" (32), he captured the French "Bellona" (32) after a sharp action. During the war his services were wholly in the Channel, and he was engaged under Rodney in 1759 in destroying the vessels collected by the French to serve as transports in the proposed invasion of England.
In 1778 he accepted a command which in the ordinary course would have terminated his active career. He became commissioner of the dockyard at Portsmouth and governor of the Naval Academy. These posts were generally given to officers who were retiring from the sea. In 1780, on the occasion of the king's visit to Portsmouth, he was made a baronet. The circumstances of the time were not ordinary. Many admirals declined to serve under Lord Sandwich, and Rodney, who then commanded in the West Indies, had complained of want of proper support from his subordinates, whom he accused of disaffection. The Admiralty was naturally anxious to secure the services of trustworthy flag officers, and having confidence in Hood promoted him rear-admiral out of the usual course on the 26th of September 1780, and sent him to the West Indies to act as second in command under Rodney, to whom he was personally known.
He joined Rodney in January 1781, and remained in the West Indies or on the coast of North America till the close of the War of American Independence. The calculation that he would work harmoniously with Rodney was not altogether justified by the results. The correspondence of the two shows that they were far from being on cordial personal terms with one another, but Hood always discharged his duty punctually, and his capacity was so great, and so signally proved, that no question of removing him from the station ever arose.
The unfortunate turn taken by the campaign of 1781 was largely due to Rodney's neglect of his advice. If he had been allowed to choose his own position there can be no doubt that he could have prevented the Comte de Grasse (1722-1788) from reaching Fort Royal with the reinforcements from France in April. When the fleet went on to the coast of North America during the hurricane months of 1781 he was sent to serve with Admiral Graves (1725?-1802) in the unsuccessful effort to relieve the army at Yorktown. But his subordinate rank gave him no chance to impart a greater measure of energy to the naval operations.
When, however, he returned to the West Indies he was for a time in independent command owing to Rodney's absence in England for the sake of his health. The French admiral, the comte de Grasse, attacked the British islands of St Kitts and Nevis with a much superior force to the squadron under Hood's command. The attempt Hood made in January 1782 to save them from capture, with 22 ships to 29, was not successful, but the series of bold movements by which he first turned the French out of their anchorage at the Basse Terre of St Kitts, and then beat off the attacks of the enemy, were the most brilliant things done by any British admiral during the war. He was made an Irish peer for his share in the defeat of the comte de Grasse on the 9th and 12th of April near Dominica.
During the peace he entered parliament as member for Westminster in the fiercely contested election of 1784, was promoted vice-admiral in 1787, and in July of 1788 was appointed to the Board of Admiralty under the second earl of Chatham. On the outbreak of the revolutionary war he was sent to the Mediterranean as commander-in-chief. His period of command, which lasted from May 1793 to October 1794, was very busy. In August he occupied Toulon on the invitation of the French royalists, and in co-operation with the Spaniards. In December of the same year the allies, who did not work harmoniously together, were driven out, mainly by the generalship of Napoleon.
Hood now turned to the occupation of Corsica, which he had been invited to take in the name of the king of England by Paoli. The island was for a short time added to the dominions of George III., chiefly by the exertions of the fleet and the co-operation of Paoli. While the occupation of Corsica was being effected, the French at Toulon had so far recovered that they were able to send a fleet to sea. In June Hood sailed in the hope of bringing it to action. The plan which he laid to attack it in the Golfe Jouan in June may possibly have served to some extent as an inspiration, if not as a model, to Nelson for the battle of the Nile, but the wind was unfavorable, and the attack could not be carried out.
In October he was recalled to England in consequence of some misunderstanding with the admiralty, or the ministry, which has never been explained. He had attained the rank of full admiral in April of 1794. He held no further command at sea, but in 1796 he was named governor of Greenwich Hospital, a post which he held till his death on the 27th of January 1816. A peerage of Great Britain was conferred on his wife as Baroness Hood of Catherington in 1795, and he was himself created Viscount Hood of Whitley in 1796. The titles descended to his son, Henry (1753-1836), the ancestor of the present Viscount Hood.
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