American Revolution: Admiral Samuel Hood

Samuel Hood during the American Revolution
Admiral Samuel Hood. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Samuel Hood - Early Life & Career:

Born December 12, 1724 in Butleigh, Somerset, Samuel Hood was the son of Samuel and Mary Hood.  Receiving his early education locally, Hood met Captain Thomas Smith in 1740 when he stayed with his parents.  Taken by the naval officer's stories, he and his younger brother, Alexander, both sought careers in the sea service the following year.  Going aboard HMS Romney (50 guns), Hood initially held the position of captain's servant.

  Remaining with the ship for two years, he departed in 1743 to become an able seaman aboard HMS Garland (32).  In 1744, Hood received a midshipman's warrant and transferred to HMS Sheerness (24) where he served under Captain George Rodney

Continuing his education afloat, Hood was appointed as an acting lieutenant aboard HMS Winchelsea (24) in June 1746. Operating off Scotland and in the Channel, his vessel engaged the French frigate Subtile (26) that November.  In the fighting, Hood suffered a wound in the hand.  In March 1748, Hood departed and briefly served on HMS Greenwich (50) before moving to HMS Lyon for operations in North American waters.  Returning to Britain that fall, he was placed on leave with half pay.  During this time, Hood courted Susannah Linzee whom he married in 1749.  Gaining a post in January 1753, he spent the year on HMS Invincible (74), a guard ship at Portsmouth, and HMS Terrible (74).

Samuel Hood - French & Indian/Seven Years' War:

Promoted to commander in 1754, Hood took command of the sloop HMS Jamaica (10).  Sailing for the North American Station, he commenced operations against the French during the early months of the French & Indian War.  Remaining abroad for two years, Hood briefly commanded HMS Lively (20) before being elevated to captain and given command of HMS Grafton (70).

  Departing for Britain, he arrived in late 1756.  Upon his return, Hood moved through HMS Torbay (74) and HMS Tartar (28) that spring while their commanders were engaged in the court-martial of Admiral John Byng.  Assuming temporary command of HMS Antelope (50) in late April, Hood succeeded in driving the French ship Aquilon ashore in Audierne Bay on May 14.  This action was followed by the capture of several French privateers.   

These actions brought Hood to the attention of the Admiralty which rewarded him with permanent command of the frigate HMS Vestal (32) in February 1758.  On February 21, 1759, while en route to North America, Hood fell in with the French frigate Bellona (32).  After a four-hour fight, Vestal proved triumphant and captured the French ship.  As both vessels had sustained heavy damage, Hood elected to sail for Britain to make repairs.  With the completion of these, he joined Rodney's squadron in the Channel where he blockaded the French coast and took part in the 1759 raid on Le Havre. The following year, Hood requested a transfer to the Mediterranean where he commanded HMS Levant (28).  Operating around the Straits of Gibraltar for the next three years, his ship saw regular employment as a convoy escort.

Samuel Hood - American Revolution:    

Ordered to HMS Thunderer (74) in 1764, Hood transported soldiers to North America.  Three years later, in July 1767, he returned to take the post of Commander-in-Chief, North American Station.  Flying his pennant from HMS Romney (50), Hood held this post for three years.  Relieved in October 1770, he took command of HMS Royal William (84) before moving to HMS Marlborough (74) in 1773.  Hood was aboard the latter ship when the American Revolution began in 1775.  Accepting a position as Commissioner at Portsmouth and Governor of the Naval Academy in January 1778, he was made a baronet later that year.  In September 1780, Hood received a promotion to rear admiral of the blue and took command of a squadron fitting out to reinforce Rodney in the West Indies.

  Leading from HMS Barfleur (90), he joined Rodney at St. Lucia in January 1781.   

In selecting Hood, the Admiralty had hoped that he could work well with his former captain as Rodney had complained about ineffective subordinates in the past.  While the two were not friendly, Hood established a record of effectively fulfilling Rodney's orders.  That spring, Hood was critical of his superior when Rodney lingered to plunder St. Eustatius following the island's capture rather than intercept a French squadron bound for Martinique.  Late that summer, Rodney dispatched Hood  north with fourteen ships of the line to locate a French fleet led by the Comte de Grasse.  Uniting with Rear Admiral Thomas Graves at New York, the combined British force sailed for the Chesapeake Bay where they located the French who were aiding General George Washington's siege of Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis' army at Yorktown.

Samuel Hood - Chesapeake & Saintes: 

Engaged by the French at the Battle of the Chesapeake, the British, under the overall command of Graves, were drawn away from the bay in a running fight.  Though tactically inconclusive, the engagement proved a strategic victory for the Franco-American alliance as the British were unable to support or rescue Cornwallis.  Returning south, Hood operated as an independent command for part of the winter as Rodney had sailed for Britain citing ill health.  In late January, Hood won a tactical victory against de Grasse at St. Kitts.  Outnumbered and with the French and Spanish threatening an invasion of Jamaica, he was reinforced in February by Rodney.

  Resuming their former command structure, the two men inflicted a decisive defeat on de Grasse at the Battle of the Saintes in April.  Seven days later, on April 19, Hood completed the victory when he captured four damaged French ships in the Mona Passage.  Though a great victory, Hood was critical of Rodney for not being more aggressive in pursuing the beaten enemy.  

Samuel Hood - Wars of the French Revolution:

That September, Hood arrived back in Britain where he was elevated to the Irish peerage in recognition of his actions in the Caribbean.  With the end of the war in 1783, he successfully ran for Parliament the following year.  In 1786, Hood assumed the post of Commander in Chief, Portsmouth.  On the south coast for three years, he received a promotion to vice admiral during his tenure.  Appointed to the Board of Admiralty in 1788, Hood still held a seat when Britain entered the Wars of the French Revolution in 1793.  Ordered to the Mediterranean as Commander in Chief, Hood occupied Toulon in late August at the invitation of French Royalists.  Attempts to hold the city failed and by December, the British departed having burned those French warships in the harbor.

Withdrawing, Hood continued to blockade the French coast and, at the behest of Pasquale Paoli, began operations to occupy Corsica.  In June 1794, he attempted to bring a French fleet to battle in the Golfe-Juan but was prevented from doing so by unfavorable winds.  Promoted to admiral for his efforts in the Mediterranean, he was recalled later that year.

  Arriving home, he was appointed Governor of Greenwich Naval Hospital in 1796 as well as made Viscount Hood of Whitley.  A mentor of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Hood played a prominent role at his 1805 funeral following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Largely retiring, Hood lived until January 27, 1816.  Dying at the age of ninety-two, he survived to see the defeat of Napoleon.  Hood's remains were interred at Greenwich.

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