Sunday, November 28, 2004

English Captain: John Pearce

There is a good deal of uncertainty about whether there was more than one Captain John Pearce. R.C.Anderson only credits him with serving in the Parliamentarian and Commonwealth navies. We know, however, that a Captain John Pearce served in the Restoration navy, although he came to a bad end. It is possible that the John Kearse who commanded the 8th Whelp in the Scottish squadron was the same man. After reading a great deal of handwriting from the 17th Century, I would think that they would likely be the same, as the "Kearse" name is only listed in 1645. John Pearce (or Pierce) commanded the Weymouth in the Summer Guard in 1646. His station was in the Downs. In the Summer Guard of 1647, he was assigned to the Western Guard. In the Winter Guard of 1647, he was at Guernsey, with the Robert and two ketches. In the summer of 1648, John Pearce now commanded the Hector in the Irish Guard, although Anderson still lists him as commanding the Weymouth until 1649. At least during the summer of 1648, John Bowen commanded the Weymouth, also in the Irish Guard. From 1649 until 1653, John Pearce commanded the 4th Rate Providence. He seems to have fought in the Battles of Portland, the Gabbard, and Scheveningen. From 1657 to 1660, a Captain John Pearce commanded the Lily. R.C. Anderson suggested that there could have been two men with the same name. A Captain John Pearce commanded the Convertine in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. At the Battle of Lowestoft, he was in the Duke of York's division. He was in Prince Rupert's division at the Four Days' Battle. They joined the battle over 3 to 4 June 1653 (Old Style). The Convertine (56 guns) tried to flee the battle on its own, and was taken by two Dutch ships. She was taken by the Wassenaer, seemingly without a fight. A Dutch newsletter reported that the crew had mutinied, afraid that the Dutch would not take their surrender if they fought. Captain Pearce later commanded the 4th Rate Sapphire, after the war. He ran his ship ashore on Sicily in 1671, rather than fight what he thought was a squadron of Algerines. They turned out to be English ships, and he was courtmartialed and shot. Sources:
  1. R.C. Anderson, List of English Naval Captains 1642-1660, 1964.
  2. James C. Bender, unpublished manuscript "English Ships 1652-1654", 2004.
  3. Frank Fox, A Distant Storm: the Four Days' Battle of 1666, 1996.
  4. J.R. Powell, The Navy in the English Civil War, 1962.

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