Who Is Jack Aubrey’s Role Model?

September 23, 2016

I guess that depends on whom you read. Two names, however, rise to the top: Admiral Thomas Cochrane and Admiral Edward Pellew; both individuals possessed the prerequisite skills that would have attracted Patrick O’Brian. The former was more flamboyant and controversial, the latter is considered the greatest frigate captain in the Royal Navy.

The partisans for Cochrane can point to this article – The real master and commander – that certainly presents a strong argument for Cochrane being the role model for Aubrey.

The case for Edward Pellew, who, if you remember, was featured in the early career of Hornblower, is convincingly laid out in this article – The Master and Commander revealed: The real Captain Jack Aubrey, at your service.

I am of the opinion that it is both, but be that as it may, here are some primary sources (along with a few secondary ones) that support their cases.


Thomas Cochrane.

The trial of Charles Random de Berenger, Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, the Hon. Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, Richard Gathorne Butt, Ralph Sandom…1814 [Trial proceedings on conspiracy of stock fraud. See below]


The case of Thomas Lord Cochrane, K. B. : containing the history of the hoax, the trial, the proceedings in the House of Commons, and the meetings of the electors of Westminster (1814) [This deals with Cochrane’s supposed role in the Great Stock Exchange Hoax of 1814. This work is his rebuttal.]

An address from Lord Cochrane to his constituents, the electors of Westminster. (1815) (From his prison cell]

A letter to Lord Ellenborough from Lord Cochrane. (1815) [Ellenborough is the judge who sentenced him.]

Narrative of services in the liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese domination (2 vols., 1859)


The autobiography of a seaman [Thomas Cochrane] (2d ed., 2 vols, 1861) (NAM Rodger, in his Command of the Ocean, labels this work as “A mendacious work of self-justification….” 794)

The life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald; completing “The autobiography of a seaman.” ( 2 vols, 1869) [Written by his son, the eleventh Earl of Dundonald]


His speeches in Parliament. (use Cochrane or Dundonald, depending on the decade you are searching). You also have recourse to the Naval Chronicle and the London Gazette.

Edward Pellew

There does not appear to be a great deal of writing by Pellew available online. Here are his speeches in Parliament.

Some of his dispatches can be traced through his biographical memoir in the Naval Chronicle; others are available via the London Gazette.

Some works of interest:

A narrative of the expedition to Algiers in the year 1816, under the command of the Right Hon. Admiral Lord Viscount Exmouth (1819)


The life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth (1835) [With a few examples of his writings in an appendix.]


Types of naval officers drawn from the history of the British Navy; with some account of the conditions of naval warfare at the beginning of the eighteenth century… (1901) [Chapter 7 on Pellew]


Edward Pellew (1934) [A goodly number of letters both to and from him.]

“The Real Hornblower”

September 20, 2016

I have had the pleasure of reading Bryan Perrett’s work “The Real Hornblower” in which he postulates that C.S. Forester at least partially based Hornblower’s adventures on the exploits of Admiral James Gordon. The bibliography contains valuable links to primary sources, among them the London Gazette and the Naval Chronicle, both titles that have appeared in previous entries here. Being as this blog is intended to find primary sources in a digital format, I must express my regret at not being able to locate an online version of Letters and Records of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Alexander Gordon, GCB. This just goes to prove that not everything is online, and also that this work was privately published and almost certainly there are few copies available. To make up for this deficiency, I tried to find other primary sources that might help define Gordon. In the Memoir of the Life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington. With selections from his public and private correspondence (1873) we do find a couple of reference to Gordon, one of which calls him “Jemmy”. There are fuller mentions of Gordon in Memoirs and letters of Capt. Sir William Hoste (1833). (Hoste was his commander in the Adriatic.) In The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, a treasure trove of primary sources scrupulously edited, you will find repeated mentions of Gordon, along with his report of his expedition in concert with the burning of Washington, D.C. (all found in the index to volume 3).


Newspaper Accounts of American Maritime Events

September 16, 2016

In Chronicling America, the Library of Congress is assembling a vast digital treasure trove of newspapers from every state in the Union. Ranging from 1789 to 1922, the millions of pages of newspapers form an inestimable resource of primary research material. A featured portion of this site is the Topics section, a selected listing of important events in American history that can be searched alphabetically, by date or by subject.  Each topic has a brief summary of the event, a timeline, suggested search terms, and a linked list of articles relevant to the historical occurrence. As far as maritime subjects go, the following are now available (the dates indicate the year range of article coverage): Blockade Runners in the Civil War (1862-1904); Ironclads (1861-1931); Sinking of the SS Sultana (1865-1898); Submarines (1864-1918); The Sinking of the Maine (1898); Battleships. Pre-World War I naval arms race. (1906-1910); Slocum Steamboat Tragedy (1904-1906); Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet (1907-1909); The Sinking of the Lusitania (1915); and Titanic, Sinking of (1912).

Canadian Mariners

September 12, 2016

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has a special topical section listing mariners. This is not limited to those born in Canada but rather lists those who impacted this country through maritime exploits/endeavors. Hence the inclusion of John Cabot (born in what is now Italy) and Newman Coyles (born in Dartmouth England). Extensive bibliographies are appended to each biography, and appropriate links are also included.

The Maritime Heritage Program

August 24, 2016

In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, I thought it appropriate to direct your attention to its Maritime Heritage Program. Here you will find a listing of maritime-related national treasures as well as documentation for reporting candidates for inclusion. Parks, historic ships, life-saving stations, and light houses are all featured.

Robert Southey’s “Life of Nelson”

August 22, 2016

Robert Southey’s Life of Nelson (first British edition, 1813; first United States edition, 1813) has been in print since it was first published; it stands as one of his greatest works. If you want to see the correspondence with his publisher and others over this work, then this selection of letters, well over one hundred, should satisfy.

French Voyages of Discovery

August 18, 2016

Although this blog has so far concentrated on things American or British, it is time to let the French speak. The following are works recounting French voyages of exploration; they are arranged in chronological order:

Amédée-François Frézier. A voyage to the South-sea, and along the coasts of Chili and Peru, in the years 1712, 1713, 1714 (1717 with a postscript by Edmund Halley in which he defends himself against the author’s assertion that his charts are woefully inaccurate). This voyage was essentially one of spying on the Spanish fortifications in the above areas and rendering accurate maps.

Antoine-Joseph Pernety. A history of a voyage to the Malouine (or Falkland) Islands, made in 1763 and 1764…. (a 1771 abridged translation of the 1769 two-volume French edition). The first comprehensive survey of the flora and fauna of the Falklands; the islands were claimed for France.

Alexis Rochon. A voyage to Madagascar and the East Indies. By the abbe Rochon … To which is added. [M. Brunel’s] memoir on the Chinese trade (1792). Investigates this island, discusses the sugar and cocoa industries there and details some of the history.

Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de la Perouse. A Voyage round the World, Performed in the Years 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788, by the Boussole and Astrolabe(1798). This was a two-ship expedition sent out to explore the South Seas; both were lost after leaving Botany Bay. This work is based on his reports and observations that went home on another ship.

 Jacques-Julien Houtou de la Billardiere. A search mission was dispatched to search for La Perouse –  Voyage in search of La Ṕerouse, performed by order of the Constituent Assembly, during the years 1791, 1792, 1793, and 1794 (2 vols, 1800). They could not find them.

Jacques Amago. Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes, Commanded by Captain Freycinet, During the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820 (1823). Written in a series of letters by one of the participants. This was a scientific expedition that had among its other goals experiments with magnetism





England’s Port Cities

August 16, 2016

Three ports are individually profiled with different approaches employed in the ir presentations. Bristol focuses on its role in the slave trade with extensive essays, links, glossary, and a bibliography of secondary sources; London can be explored via time periods as well as by the numerous collections housed at the site, including a featured section on the docks of the city; and Southampton concentrates on the modern era through its collections of 10,000 items online.

Naval Biographies from the DNB

August 8, 2016

The Sea” is a topical feature of the online Dictionary of National Biography; it contains “The stories of 37 men and women remembered for lives spent on, over, beside, and under the sea.” Among those profiled are the Nore mutineer Richard Parker and naval hero John Crawford. These biographies are well-researched and are based on primary and secondary resources.

Royal Navy Court Martials

August 1, 2016

Some notable court martial cases include:

Minutes taken at a court-martial, asembled on board His Majesty’s ship Torbay : began the 28th of January, 1744, and ended the 5th of February following, pursuant to an order from the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, bearing date the 28th of November, 1744, to Vice-admiral Rowley : being an enquiry into the conduct of Captain Richard Norris, in the engagement between the English fleet under the command of Admiral Mathews, and the united fleet of French and Spaniards in the Mediterranean, on the 11th of February, 1743 (1745)

The minutes of a court-martial, held on board His Majesty’s ship the Lenox, in Portsmouth harbour, on the 31st of January last : enquiring into the conduct of the commanders of the Hampton-Court and Dreadnought, for not engaging the Fleuron and Neptune, two French men of war ; together with the depositions and examinations of the officers and men, who were on board the said ships at the time of the chase (1745)

Minutes of the proceedings at the trial of Rear-Admiral Knowles : before a court-martial, held on board His Majesty’s yacht, the Charlotte, at Deptford, for his conduct and behaviour in and relating to an engagement with a Spanish squadron on the first of October, 1748. (1750)

The trial of the Honourable Admiral John Byng, at a court martial, as taken by Mr. Charles Fearne, Judge-Advocate of His Majesty’s Fleet (1757) and Admiral Byng’s defence, as presented by him, and read in the court January 18, 1757, on board His Majesty’s ship St. George, in Portsmouth Harbour. Containing a very particular account of the action on the 20th of May, 1756, off Cape Mola, between the British and French fleets, and the whole proceedings of His Majesty’s fleet during the six days it was off Minorca (1757).

The trial of the Honourable Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the Blue Squadron (1779)

The defence of Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, Bart. [electronic resource] : at the court-martial lately held upon him, with the court’s sentence (1779)

(Interesting note. Keppel’s court martial was brought by charges made by Palliser. The charges against Keppel were dismissed, provoking Palliser to demand a court martial against himself. He, too, was acquited. Look at this dissertation (p.88+) for more information on this dispute.

Bligh’s narrative of the mutiny on board H.M. ship Bounty … : Minutes of the court martial … Bligh’s answer to certain assertions … Edward Christian’s short reply to Captain William Bligh’s answer (1792-94; repr. 1952)

Minutes of a court martial holden on board His Majesty’s ship Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth Harbour : on Monday, the 23rd day of December, 1805, and the three following days, for the trial of Sir Robert Calder, bart., Vice Admiral of the Blue (1805).

Minutes of a court martial, holden on board His Majesty’s ship Gladiator, in Portsmouth Harbour : on Thursday, the 25th day of April, 1805, and the two following days, for the trial of Sir J. T. Duckworth, K.B., Vice Admiral of the Blue (1805?)