HMS Cornwallis (1801)

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For other ships with the same name, see HMS Cornwallis.
Career (Great Britain)
Name: HEICS Marquis Cornwallis
Namesake: Marguess Cornwallis
Operator: Honourable East India Company
Builder: M/Shipwright Jemsatjee Bomanjee, Bombay
Launched: 1801
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Cornwallis
Acquired: March 1805 (by purchase)
Registered on 13 August 1806
Renamed: HMS Akbar in February 1811
Reclassified: Storeship in February 1813
Frigate in March 1813
Troopship in 1817
Quarantine ship in 1824
Lazarette in 1827
Training ship in 1852
Quarantine vessel c. 1858
Honours and
Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) with clasp "Java"[1]
Fate: Sold 1862 or 1869
General characteristics
Class & type: Fourth rate
Armament: 54 guns

HMS Cornwallis was a Royal Navy 54-gun fourth rate. Jemsatjee Bomanjee built the Marquis Cornwallis of teak for the East India Company. In March 1805 Admiral Sir Edward Pellew purchased her from the Company shortly after she returned from an expedition against the Mahe Islands. In February 1811 the Admiralty renamed her HMS Akbar.

Service with the HEIC[edit]

In December 1801, she sailed, together with the Upton Castle (an Indiaman), the Betsey, an armed HEIC brig, some other vessels, and 1000 troops to Daman and Diu to persuade the Portuguese governor to resist any French incursion. The expedition was under the command of Captain John Mackellar, of the Royal Navy, whose own vessel, Terpsichore, was not ready for sea.[2] The governor accepted the British reinforcements, which, as it turned out, were not needed.

On 8 May 1804, Marquis Cornwallis sailed from Portsmouth under the command of Captain Isaac G. Richardson. She sailed via Saint Helena to Bombay, where the company intended for her to remain.[3] She was convoying the Marquis of Ely, the Marchioness of Exeter, the Lord Nelson, the Bruswick, the Princess Charlotte, the Marquis of Wellesley, and the Ann.[Note 1]

East Indies, Pacific and Indian Oceans[edit]

In 1805 Admiral Pellew purchased her for £68,630.[5] She was commissioned under Commander Charles James Johnson.[5] She then served off Bombay and engaged in the long-distance blockade of Isle de France (now Mauritius).

On 11 November 1806, Sceptre and Cornwallis sailed into Saint Paul's Bay, on Île Bonaparte, in an attempt to cut out vessels there, which consisted of the French frigate Sémillante, three other armed ships and twelve captured British ships. (The eight ships that were prizes to Sémillante had a collective value of ₤1.5 million.) They fired on the French and took fire in return. However, when the slight breeze failed, Sceptre and Cornwallis found themselves unable to maneuver. They therefore left without having accomplished anything, but apparently also without having suffered damage or losses.[6]

In February 1807, Cornwallis was ordered to Australia. She reached Port Jackson by sailing through the Bass Strait, which made her the first Royal Navy ship to traverse the strait. After visiting Port Jackson, Cornwallis sailed to New Zealand and subsequently crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Juan Fernández Islands in the vain hope of finding enemy shipping.

Off Valparaiso, an accidental explosion caused serious damage and a number of casualties aboard the frigate, but she was still able to raid Spanish settlements in the region, capturing a number of sheep and pigs and a few small vessels on the Peruvian coast. In September, Cornwallis raided Spanish settlements and shipping near Panama and subsequently visited Acapulco and Hawaii before returning to Madras. During this voyage, on 14 December Captain Johnston sighted and named the islands at Johnston Atoll. It is unclear if any territorial claim was made to the discovery at the time.

In 1808, command passed to Captain Fleetwood Pellew. In 1808, Cornwallis, in company with Sceptre, engaged and damaged Sémillante, together with the shore batteries whose protection she had sought.

In 1809 Captain William Augustus Montagu took command. Montagu was engaged in a number of operations off the Dutch East Indies, attacking forts on Celebes and Amboyna.

In February 1810, the British attacked Amboyna. In the campaign, Cornwallis captured the ship Mandarine, of 16 guns and 66 men, Captain Besman, on 3 February after a chase of four hours. Madarine had been out for four weeks but had captured nothing. Cornwallis suffered only one man wounded in the action.[7] Mandarine then served as a tender to Cornwallis.[Note 2]

On the 1st of March Cornwallis chased a Dutch man-of-war brig all day until she took refuge in a small bay on the north side of the island of Amblaw. The wind being light and variable, and night approaching, Montagu sent in Cornwallis's boats, under the command of Lieutenant Henry John Peachy. After rowing all night, they captured the Dutch brig Margaritta Louisa, under Captain De Ruyter on 2 March. Margaritta Louisa was pierced for 14 guns but carried only eight, and a crew of 40 men.[7] Margaritta Louisa had left Surabaya nine days earlier with 20 to 30,000 dollars for Ambonya, and supplies for Ternate. In the boarding, the British had one man seriously wounded and for men lightly wounded; the Dutch lost one man killed and 20 wounded.[8]

As the wind was light and variable, and night approaching, Captain Montagu sent the yawl, cutter, and jollyboat, under the command of Lieutenant Henry John Peachey, assisted by Mr. John Garland the master, and master's mate William Sanderson, to endeavour to bring the vessel out.

After a fatiguing pull during the whole night, the boats found themselves, at daylight, close to the vessel : which was the Dutch national brig Margaretta, mounting eight, but pierced for 14 guns, with a crew of 40 men. In the face of a heavy fire of grape and musketry, and of a brave defence by pikes and swords, Lieutenant Peachey and his party boarded and carried the brig, and that with so comparatively slight a loss as one man dangerously, and four slightly wounded. The Dutch had one officer killed and 20 seamen wounded.

On 28 March Cornwallis and Dover shared in Samarang's capture of the Dutch brig Recruiter.[Note 3]

In late 1810, Cornwallis was deployed with Albemarle Bertie's squadron that forced the surrender of Isle de France. William Fisher took command after Cornwallis' Captain Montagu was selected from among the captains assembled for the invasion and reassigned to lead a naval brigade in support of the British Army forces' ground offensive. Over the next four years Cornwallis remained in the Indian Ocean under various commanders.

On 29 June 1811 Salsette captured the slaver Expedition off Mauritius. The prize crew took the ship and the slaves on her to the Portuguese colony of Goa because selling slaves was illegal in British India, but not Goa. Salsette shared the prize money with the crews of Drake and Cornwallis.[10]

Between 4 August and 19 September 1811, Akbar participated in the capture of Java.[11] In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Java" to all surviving claimants from the campaign.

In the spring of 1813, Captain Archibald Dickson was appointed to command Akbar.[12] On 15 May 1814, Akbar captured the Indian Lass.[Note 4]

In 1814 Cornwallis traveled to Britain for the first time.

The court martial of captain, officers and men of Cyane for the loss of their vessel took place on board Akbar at Halifax on 28 June 1815. Then on 11 August Akbar and Arab captured the Hannah.[14][Note 5]


Akbar was laid up at Plymouth and was on harbour service from 1824 but was out of commission by January 1840. She was sold in 1862 or 1869.


  1. ^ The Naval Chronicle gives the departure date for the convoy as 20 March.[4]
  2. ^ Mandarine is not Mandarin, which the British also captured during the same campaign.
  3. ^ A first-class share was worth £23 18s 9½d; a sixth-class share was worth 3s 10d.[9]
  4. ^ A first-class share of the prize money was worth ₤9 19s 9d; a sixth-class share, the entitlement of an ordinary seaman, was worth 3s 11¼d.[13]
  5. ^ A first-class share was worth ₤275 18s 9¾d; a sixth-class share was worth ₤2 15s 7½d.[15] A second payment for Hannah, plus some money due for the capture of the Friede followed at the end of 1818. A first-class share was worth ₤109 11s 3½d; a sixth-class share was worth ₤1 2s 0¾d.[16]
  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20939. p. 244. 26 January 1849.
  2. ^ Marshall (1824), Vol. 2, Part 1, p.219.
  3. ^ Hardy (1811), p.293.
  4. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 11 (Jan-July 1804), p.261.
  5. ^ a b Winfield (2008), p.123.
  6. ^ James (1837), Vol. 5, p.65.
  7. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 16407. pp. 1486–1487. 22 September 1810.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16407. p. 1488. 22 September 1810.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17011. pp. 904–905. 13 May 1815.
  10. ^ History 1793-1844 from the newspapers
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17064. p. 1956. 23 September 1815.
  12. ^ Royal Naval Biography Vol IV part II p.447.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17310. p. 2444. 2 December 1817.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17329. p. 247. 3 February 1818.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17334. p. 357. 21 February 1818.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 17434. p. 2330. 26 December 1818.


  • Hardy, Horatio Charles (1811) A register of ships, employed in the service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the year 1760 to 1810: with an appendix, containing a variety of particulars, and useful information interesting to those concerned with East India commerce. (Black, Parry, and Kingsbury).
  • James, William (1837), The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV., R. Bentley 
  • Marshall, John (1823-1835) Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1. 

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