1784 portrait by James Northcote
British admiral. Born 12 December 1724, Samuel Hood entered the navy in 1741 as captain’s servant on the Romney (50 guns). In 1743 he joined the Garland (24), and he became midshipman on the Sheerness (24) that November. After service in other ships, he was promoted to lieutenant on the Winchelsea (20) in 1746. Hood was on half-pay from November 1748 until appointed to the Invincible (74) in 1753. In 1754 Hood took command of the Jamaica (10) in the North American station.
In 1756 Hood was posted captain and appointed to the Grafton (70) and returned to England. He was appointed to the Biddeford (20) in 1757 and Vestal (32) in 1758, serving in the blockade of France. The Vestal took Bellona (32) off Cape Finisterrre in 1759 and served in the Mediterranean during 1760–1763. In 1763 Hood was appointed to the Thunderer (74) at Portsmouth. In 1765 the Thunderer transferred to North America, and two years later Hood was named commodore commanding that station on the Romney (50).
Returning to England, Hood commanded guardships at Portsmouth from 1771 to 1776, then was appointed to the Courageux (74). In 1778 he was named commissioner at Portsmouth and governor of the Naval Academy, and he was created a baronet.
Hood was promoted to rear admiral in 1780 and sent to reinforce Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney in the West Indies. He participated in the expedition against St. Eustatius, then blockaded Martinique, where he fought a brief engagement with French Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse-Tilly’s superior fleet in April 1781. Sent to reinforce Rear Admiral Thomas Graves in New York, Hood commanded the rear at the 5 September 1781 Second Battle of the Chesapeake, which sealed the fate of British troops at Yorktown.
Returning to the West Indies, Hood briefly occupied Basseterre at Nevis and then joined Rodney for the 12 April 1782 Battle of the Saints against de Grasse; he took the French flagship Ville de Paris (110 guns).
Hood was made a baron in 1782, returned to Parliament in 1784, was promoted vice admiral in 1787, and commanded at Portsmouth from 1787 to 1788. In 1788, he was named to the Board of Admiralty and served until his appointment to command the Mediterranean Fleet in 1793. There he oversaw the occupation of Toulon and the capture of Corsica. Hood was promoted to admiral in 1794 and returned to England. In 1796 he was created Viscount Hood of Catherington and named governor of Greenwich Hospital, where he served until his death on 27 January 1816.
Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood (Butleigh, 12 December 1724 – London, 27 January 1816) was a British Admiral known particularly for his service in the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He acted as a mentor to Horatio Nelson.
While serving in the Caribbean Hood became acquainted with, and later became a mentor to Horatio Nelson who was a young frigate commander. Hood had been a friend of Nelson’s uncle Maurice Suckling. In 1782 Hood introduced Nelson to the future King William, Duke of Clarence who was then a serving naval officer in New York.
Defence of Toulon
On the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War in 1793, he became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. His period of command, which lasted from May 1793 to October 1794, was very busy.
In August 1793 French royalists and other opponents of the revolution took over the town and invited Hood, whose fleet was blockading the city, to occupy the town. Hood, without time to request for instructions from the Admiralty in London, moved swiftly to take command of the port.
There were two main reasons for the British move. It was hoped that Toulon could be a centre of French resistance to Paris, and also to take possession of the French Mediterranean fleet of fifty eight warships, which lay in the harbour. It was hoped that depriving the French revolutionaries of their maritime resources would cripple the revolution.
He occupied Toulon on the invitation of the French royalists, in co-operation with the Spaniards and Sardinians. In December of the same year, the allies, who did not work harmoniously together, were driven out, mainly by the generalship of Napoleon. Hood ordered the French fleet burned to prevent them falling back into the hands of the revolutionaries, a task carried out by Captain Sidney Smith. Afterwards, Hood and his British force withdrew to maintain their blockade of the coast, while the French republicans reoccupied the city.
Hood then turned to the occupation of Corsica, which he had been invited to take in the name of the King of Britain by Pasquale Paoli, who had been leader of the Corsican Republic before it was subjugated by the French in 1769. The island was for a short time added to the dominions of George III, chiefly by the exertions of the fleet and the co-operation of Paoli.
While the occupation of Corsica was being effected, the French at Toulon had so far recovered that they were able to send a fleet to sea. In June, Hood sailed in the hope of bringing it to action. The plan, which he laid to attack the French fleet near Golfe-Juan in June, may possibly have served to some extent as an inspiration, if not as a model, to Nelson (who has been recorded as saying that Hood was “the greatest sea officer I ever knew”) for the Battle of the Nile, but the wind was unfavourable, and the attack could not be carried out.
In October, he was recalled to England in consequence of some misunderstanding with the admiralty or the ministry, which has never been explained. Richard Freeman, in his book, The Great Edwardian Naval Feud, explains his relief from command in a quote from Lord Esher’s journal. According to this journal, “… [Hood] wrote ‘a very temperate letter’ to the Admiralty in which he complained that he did not have enough ships to defend the Mediterranean.” As a result Hood was then recalled from the Mediterranean. [Freeman, p. 145].
Samuel Hood was created Baron Hood of Catherington in 1778 by King George III, an Irish Baron in 1782 and Viscount Hood of Whitley, Warwickshire in 1796 with a pension of £2000 per year for life (about £300,000 a year in present (2010) terms). He became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth again in June 1792. In February 1793 he became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. In 1796, he was named Governor of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich in London, a position which he held until his death in 1816. He was elected as Tory Member of Parliament for Westminster from 1784 to 1788 and from 1790 to 1796, and was Member for Reigate between 1789 and 1790, serving with his younger brother Alexander under Pitt the Younger.
He lived long enough to see Britain triumph in the Napoleonic Wars and was chief mourner at Nelson’s funeral.
Clowes, William Laird. The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. Vols. 3–6. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1898–1901.
Laughton, J. K. “Hood, Samuel, Viscount Hood.” In Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Sidney Lee, 27: 263–270. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891.
Le Fevre, Peter. Precursors of Nelson: British Admirals of the Eighteenth Century. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.
Lyon, David. Sea Battles in Close-Up: The Age of Nelson. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.