Royal Navy Research Archive Forums

Surface Vessels => Pre 1919 Vessels => Topic started by: Nigel Brown on 09 August 2017 11:26:55 AM

Title: HMS Skipjack c.1861
Post by: Nigel Brown on 09 August 2017 11:26:55 AM
My great great grandfather's brother John James Brown (1838-1911) was an Able Seaman on HMS Skipjack in the 1861 census. The Albacore class gunboat was commanded by Plymouth-born Lieutenant Commander George H Barnard. The census form says they were located at Latitude 24 19' North Longitude 74 28' West, West Indies, which by my reckoning is about 13 nautical miles north of San Salvadore in the Bahamas.

Can anyone tell me what they would have been doing there at around that time and/or before and after (he served on Skipjack for several years I believe).

Thank you for any help or pointers.

Nigel Brown
Title: Re: HMS Skipjack c.1861
Post by: PhiloNauticus on 11 August 2017 04:13:04 PM

SKIPJACK was commissioned in August 1857 for service on the North America and West Indies station; she returned to England and was paid off in November 1861.  I believe she was actually commanded by Lieutenant John Murray from August 1857 until Lieutenant George Barnard assumed command in March 1861
Title: Re: HMS Skipjack c.1861
Post by: PhiloNauticus on 11 August 2017 04:39:52 PM

As to what they would have been doing... they were part of the British naval squadron maintained in the West Indies, basically to act as both a support to the colonial authorities, but also to protect British interests - there was a war going on in Venezuela, and much of the South American coast was regarded as lawless, and the U.S. civil war was also underway. British naval ships were also very active in suppressing slavery in the first half of the 19th century, and although most countries had officially outlawed slavery by this time, the R.N. patrolled to make sure that this was enforced

Murray and the Skipjack gets some mentions at this time in The Milne Papers vol.2 (a collection of letters etc. from Admiral Milne, then commanding the station).  From this it is clear that she was based at Barbados. Milne states that she was there "For the protection of British interests and Commerce"

She had an interesting episode in in February 1860 when Murray was informed that 2 British subjects had been seized as hostages by 'insurgents', and immediately went to the reported location, in the river Orinoco; the Skipjack went 40 miles upriver and after confronting the 'insurgents' (which Murray described as 'very contemptible') they undertook to release the hostages .  The ship unfortunately ran aground in the shoal river, and was with much effort by the crew that they got free

Admiral Milne later wrote: 'You have a very superior man in Murray.. very unassuming, modest and shy but well read and a sensible, good officer, devoted to the service and his gunboat is a perfect man of war..."