Saturday, February 25, 2006

English Captain: Leonard Harris

Leonard Harris served in the Restoration navy. In 1666, he commanded the fireship Dolphin.

In 1668, he commanded the Little Victory (12 guns), which was used as a fireship by that date. On 17 July 1669, an English squadron set sail from Spithead for the Mediterranean Sea. The squadron was commanded by Sir Thomas Allin, and consisted of the following ships:

  • Resolution, Sir Thoms Allin
  • St. David, Sir John Harman
  • Mary, Robert Clarke
  • Hampshire, Richard Beach
  • Bristol, Daniel Helling
  • Portsmouth, William Coleman
  • Jersey, William Poole
  • Deptford ketch, John Ashby
  • Little Victory fireship, Leonard Harris

He was in the Mediterranean Sea in December 1670 under the command of Sir Edward Spragge, who was in the Revenge. They were cruising off Formentera, when they sighted two Algerine warships with a prize. They chased the Algerines for three days, but the Revenge was slow. Spragge put an extra 100 men into the Little Victory to work the sweeps. They were able to overhaul an Algerine warships with 28 guns and forced it ashore. They boarded the ship and got it off, undamaged. The other Algerines were able to escape.

In May 1671, Leonard Harris was again under Sir Edward Spragge's command. Some Algerines were lying in Bugia Bay, and the English atatcked in the night of 2 May with boats and the fireship Eagle. Due to some subordinates misunderstanding the attack failed, and the Eagle was expended needlessly. A different plan was tried, and the English attacked in daylight on 8 May. The Algerines had built a boom across the harbour entrance. The boats severed the boom, and the Little Victory went in to attack. Leonard Harris was seriously wounded, but Sir Edward Spragge "had ordered Henry Williams, a young master's mate, to be at hand to assume the command at a moments notice; and Williams, after not only Harris, but also the proper master's mate, and the gunner of the Little Victory, had been disabled, brought the business to a triumphant conclusion". The Algerine warships were all destroyed. The English names for them were the While Horse (34 guns), Orange Tree (34 guns), Three Cypress Trees (34 guns), Three Half-Moons (28 guns), Pearl (26 guns), Golden Crown (24 guns), and Half-Moon (24 guns). Three Algerine prizes "were also burnt".

In 1672, he commanded the Castle fireship. In 1673, Prince Rupert appointed him captain of the old 2nd Rate St. George. Later in 1673, the Duke of York appointed him as captain of the Guernsey. On 29 November 1673, the King appointed Leonard Harris to command the Success. The King appointed him to command the hired ship Massenbird on 12 April 1678. Later in the year, on 30 November 1678, the King appointed him to command the old 2nd Rate Rainbow, now functioning as a guardship. On 22 August 1679, the Commissioners appointed him to command the Mary guardship. Sources:
  1. William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present, Vol.II, 1898.
  2. J.R. Tanner, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Naval Manuscripts in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, Vol.I, 1903.

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