HMS Polyphemus (1782)
|Ordered:||1 December 1773|
|Laid down:||January 1774|
|Launched:||27 April 1782|
|Fate:||Broken up, 1827|
|Notes:||Powder hulk from 1813|
|General characteristics |
|Class & type:||Intrepid-class ship of the line|
|Tons burthen:||1369 bm|
|Length:||159 ft 6 in (48.62 m) (gundeck)|
|Beam:||44 ft 4 in (13.51 m)|
|Depth of hold:||19 ft (5.8 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full rigged ship|
She was laid down at Sheerness in 1782 and was commissioned in 1799 under the command of Captain G. Lumsdaine. She sailed from Yarmouth on 9 August 1800, with a squadron under Vice-Admiral Archibald Dickson in Monarch bound for Denmark. Because of lack of wind the faster sailing vessels had to tow the slower ones and it was 15 August before they reached the Skaw. The next day the whole squadron advanced as far as the mouth of the Sound where the Danes had anchored three 74-gun ships, later increased to four, between Cronberg Castle and the Swedish shore. Because of gales the Admiral sheltered his squadron in Elsinor Roads then went in Romney as far as Sophienburg to talk with Lord Whitworth who was negotiating with the Danish ministers. When matters were resolved the squadron returned to Yarmouth in September.
In 1801, under the command of Captain John Lawford, Polyphemus was with the fleet that bombarded Copenhagen on 2 April. Polyphemus lost midshipman James Bell, four seamen and one marine. The boatswain (Edward Burr), twenty seamen, and four marines were wounded. The division of the North Sea fleet commanded by Admiral Thomas Graves in Polyphemus returned to Yarmouth from the Baltic Sea on 13 July and then sailed to join Admiral Dickson's squadron blockading the Dutch fleet in the Texel.[a]
In 1805, Captain Robert Redmill took command of Polyphemus off Cadiz. Later that year, she took part in the Battle of Trafalgar, where she fought in the lee column, with six killed and wounded. She engaged the French ships Neptune and Achille and after the battle captured the Spanish ship Argonauta. She towed HMS Victory, carrying Nelson's body, back to Gibraltar.
In July 1806, she was with Lord St. Vincent's squadron off Ushant and on 14 July her boats, together with others of the squadron, were taken by the Iris to Sir Samuel Hood in Indefatigable off Rochefort to attack two French corvettes and a convoy at the entrance to the Garonne. The weather on 15 July appeared suitable for the attempt but after the boats left a strong wind blew up and although they managed to capture the 18-gun brig Caesar they could not prevent the convoy escaping up river. The greater part of the boats were either shot through or so badly stove in that they were swamped, and had to be cut adrift from the brig as she was brought out under fire from the batteries and ex-British Teaser brig. The casualties from Polyphemus were William Anderson, Quarter Master's Mate, who was cut across the hand, and W. Fleming, Coxswain, who was cut across the eyebrow.
In 1808, under the command of Captain William Pryce Cumby, who had been lieutenant and then acting commander of HMS Bellerophon at Trafalgar, she became the flagship of Vice-Admiral B.S. Rowley. In July she sailed for Jamaica, convoying a large fleet of merchantmen, for the Vice-Admiral to take up his appointment. Since he resided on shore with his flag in Shark, Polyphemus was able to undertake cruises against the enemy. On the morning of 14 November he detached his boats under Lieutenant Joseph Daly in the barge to chase a schooner attempting to enter the harbour at San Domingo. An hour later she was boarded and carried under a hail of grape and musketry in which marine Samuel Crompton was killed and proved to be the French national schooner Colibry of three carriage guns commanded by Lieutenant Deyrisse with 63 men.
They sailed from Port Royal on 7 June with troops under Major-General Carmichael to assist the Spanish forces besieging the French in the city of San Domingo. On 1 July Polyphemus anchored at Caleta and loaded eight of her lower deck guns into the Sparrow sloop to be landed at Palenqui for the use of the batteries to the westward of the town. Two of the guns were then transported by Captain Burt of Sparrow from Andre Bay to the east battery, nearly 30 miles across almost impassable country. The French garrison surrendered on 6 July.
Captain Cumby was appointed to Hyperion in March 1811 and was succeeded by Captain T. Graves then Captain Douglas. Polyphemus paid off at Chatham in November 1812. In 1813 she was converted to serve as a powder hulk, and she was eventually broken up in 1827.
- Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p181.
- "The Trafalgar Roll", by Colonel Robert Holden MacKenzie, 1913, pp. 246-7, ed 2004, Chatham Publishing, ISBN 1-86176-228-3