Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth

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Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757-1833) was a British naval officer. He fought during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Entered the Royal Navy in 1770. He saw service in the American War of Independence where, as a Master's Mate he took an active part in the campaign on Lake Champlain performing well in the Battle of Valcour Island. After the surrender of General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, he was repatriated and was promoted to lieutenant.

He was Captain of HMS Nymph which took the first French warship, the Cleopatre during the Revolutionary war with France in 1793. For this action he was knighted. By 1794 he was Commodore of the Western Frigate Squadron. In 1795, he took command of HMS Indefatigable, the ship with which he is most closely associated.

His most famous action started on January 13, 1797 when cruising in company with HMS Amazon, a French 74 gun ship of the line, Les Droits de l'homme, was sighted. Normally a ship of the line would outmatch two frigates, but by skilful sailing in the stormy conditions, the British frigates avoided bearing the brunt of the superior fire power of the French. In the early morning of January 14, 1797, the three ships were embayed on a lee shore in Audierne Bay. Both Les Droits de l'homme and Amazon ran aground but Indefatigable managed to claw her way off the lee shore to safety.

Pellew was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1804. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies. It took six months to sail out to Penang so he took up the appointment in 1805. On his return from the east, he was appointed, in succession to the positions of Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean from 1811 to 1814, and of the North Sea in 1820.

In 1814, he was made Baron Exmouth of Canonteign. He led an Anglo-Dutch fleet against the Barbary states and was victor of the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816 and secured the release of the 1,000 Christian slaves in the city. For this action he was created 1st Viscount Exmouth. In 1832 he was appointed Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom.

He was also a good swimmer and noted for saving many lives. The most striking event was on January 26, 1796 when the East Indiaman Dutton, which was carrying troops, ran aground under Plymouth Hoe. Due to the heavy seas, the crew and soldiers aboard were unable to get to shore. Pellew swam out to the wreck with a line and helped rig a lifeline which saved almost all aboard. For this feat he was made a baronet.

Pellew is featured as the Captain of Indefatigable in some of C. S. Forester's fictional Horatio Hornblower novels; in the television adaptations, as portrayed by Robert Lindsay, he is given a more prominent role.


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