The Action of the Kingfisher with Seven Algerine Ships, 22 May 1681 under command of Captain Morgan Kempthorne. She was specially designed to counter the attacks of Algerine corsairs, or pirates, in the Mediterranean by masquerading as a merchantman, which she achieved by hiding her armament behind false bulkheads. She also was provided with various means of changing her appearance. Kingfisher was rebuilt at Woolwich in 1699, as a Fourth Rate of 46-54 guns. She was hulked in 1706, and was broken up in 1728.
4th rate ship of the line – HMS Kingfisher was an amazing pirate hunter frigate masqueraded as a merchant ship. In the battle that made her famous where she fought Algerian 3 sail ships and 5 galleys for 12 hours and won with 8 casualties and somewhat 30 wounded. Same year she have sank Moroccan pirate and few years later captured Sophia a 12 gun ship.
Carrick Castle is a late fourteenth/early fifteenth century Tower House built by the Campbell clan and replaced an earlier fortification that had served as a Royal hunting lodge. It was constructed upon a rocky promontory overlooking the entrance into Loch Goil. The castle was attacked by the Royal Navy during the rebellion of Archibald Campbell in 1685.
THE BATTLE WITH ALGIERS
France’s duc de Beaufort somewhat redeemed his humiliating defeat at Djidjelli by finding a glorious death fighting the Turks in the last stages of the seemingly endless siege of Candia in 1669. His body, and the French force he was leading, was then returned to France. The other foreign Christian contingents, especially the knights from Malta, also departed. Finally the last Venetian commander surrendered Candia to the Ottomans on terms and went home. The war for Crete was finally over. With the Ottoman sultan finally victorious, the Barbary corsairs would no longer have to send ships every year to join his fleet, and would have more vessels available to go in pursuit of Christian merchant ships. Algiers in particular stepped up its corsairing activities, just as the European sea powers, at peace with each other once more, were sending their battle fleets back to the Mediterranean.
An English fleet under Sir Thomas Allin commenced operations against Algiers in late 1669. Allin’s attempts to blockade Algiers necessitated a base much closer to the enemy city than Tangier, so he used anchorages in the Balearic Islands with the tacit approval of the Spanish. Tangier was, however, useful as a base for English warships mounting patrols in or near the strait of Gibraltar, a favourite cruising ground of the Algerine corsairs. An increasing number of corsairs were captured or driven ashore, while even large groups of them might be driven off by single English warships.
Battle of Cádiz, 18–19 December 1669. Engraving of the battle by Wenceslaus Hollar, an eyewitness
An example of the latter event occurred in December 1669. Earlier that year the famous artist and engraver Wenceslaus Hollar had been sent by King Charles II to Tangier to make drawings of the crown’s newest possession. After completing his work, Hollar boarded the warship HMS Mary Rose, commanded by Captain John Kempthorne, for passage back to England. First Kempthorne had to convoy some merchant ships to Cadiz in Spain. Soon after the convoy left Tangier it was attacked by a force of seven Algerine corsairs. They concentrated on trying to capture the Mary Rose, but for many hours Kempthorne’s crew beat them off. Eventually, after heavy damage had been inflicted on the Algerine flagship, the corsairs withdrew, and the Mary Rose and its convoy reached Cadiz safely. Kempthorne was rewarded by Charles II with a knighthood, while Hollar immortalized the event in an engraving.
Despite having fought two bitter naval wars against each other, England and the Netherlands could on occasion co-operate in the fight against the Barbary corsairs. In 1670 Admiral Willem van Ghent brought a Dutch fleet of thirteen ships, drawn from the admiralties of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Zeeland, to the Mediterranean and cooperated with Allin in the war against Algiers. An English squadron under Captain Richard Beach was detached to accompany van Ghent’s ships in patrolling the strait of Gibraltar and its approaches. In mid-August 1670 the allies encountered an Algerine squadron near Cape Spartel, and in the ensuing battle they drove six enemy ships ashore, burning them, killing several noted Algerine captains and freeing 250 Christian slaves.
In September 1670 Allin handed over command of the English Mediterranean fleet to Sir Edward Spragge and returned home. Spragge continued aggressive operations against the Algerines and achieved his greatest victory over them in May 1671. Seven Algerine warships were in the harbour at Bougie, and Spragge sent in fireships which successfully burned them all. This further heavy blow to the navy of Algiers led to a revolution in the city. The old ruler was overthrown and the new one was anxious to make peace with England, which was soon agreed. From this point onwards, the ruler of Algiers was known as the `dey’ (literally `uncle’), a title peculiar to that city.
The English and the Dutch had inflicted notable defeats on the Barbary corsairs, and the French had also carried out lesser naval operations against them in these years. However, just as the Barbary corsairs were beginning to feel real pressure from the European sea powers, that pressure was suddenly relaxed. Louis xiv was determined to destroy the Dutch republic, and he enlisted the aid of Charles II to launch an Anglo-French assault on the Netherlands in 1672. England would fight the Dutch until 1674, while the French continued the war against them until 1678. Once again the Barbary corsairs were left largely unopposed while the European sea powers fought among themselves.
Although the Dutch finally beat back the French invasion of 1672 which almost destroyed their country, and other states, including Spain, later joined their struggle against France, there was little doubt that this war weakened Dutch power. This was especially true in the Mediterranean. The French encouraged a revolt in Sicily against Spain, and the Dutch sent a fleet, under Admiral de Ruyter, to the Mediterranean to assist the Spanish. In a series of sea battles around the shores of Sicily in 1676 the French, under Admiral Abraham Duquesne, eventually got the better of the Dutch-Spanish fleet and the famous de Ruyter was killed in one of the encounters. The French were now masters of the western and central Mediterranean.
France and the Netherlands made peace in 1678. Dutch seaborne commerce had largely been excluded from the Mediterranean since 1672 and Dutch shipowners were desperate to regain the trade they had lost to French and English ships. Attacks by the Barbary corsairs might help those two countries in preventing a Dutch trade revival in the region. When Dutch negotiators came to the Barbary regencies in 1679 aiming to obtain new treaties from them, they came as supplicants. As usual the treaty agreed with Algiers would set the tone for those with Tunis and Tripoli. The terms the Dutch eventually agreed with Algiers were to horrify their English and French rivals. Although the Netherlands still had a significant navy and most of its merchant ships went to the Mediterranean in well protected convoys, the Dutch effectively capitulated to the Algerines.
In the treaty of 1679, ratified in 1680, the Dutch agreed, among other things, to provide what was in effect an annual tribute payment to Algiers. It did not take the form of money, but of a free gift of cannon, firearms, gunpowder and naval stores such as masts, cordage and shipbuilding timber. In effect the Dutch were providing the material to equip Algerine corsairs to attack the ships of other nations and in return the Algerines agreed not to attack Dutch merchant shipping. The Dutch had calculated it was cheaper to send regular tribute to Algiers than to face the cost of sending punitive naval expeditions against the corsair city. The 1679 treaty was to be the basis of Dutch relations with Algiers for the next hundred years and more.
The English and the French were loud in their condemnation of what they saw as a Dutch surrender, and they resolved to bring the Barbary regencies to terms through further aggressive action by their navies. England led the way, and from 1677 to 1682 waged a fierce naval war with Algiers. However, when an English fleet, under Sir John Narbrough, returned to the Mediterranean in 1675 after King Charles ii had ended his participation in France’s war against the Dutch, its first target was not Algiers but Tripoli in Libya.
For most of 1675 Narbrough tried to maintain a naval blockade of Tripoli. The knights allowed him to use Malta as his forward base, but most of his supplies came from the more distant port of Livorno (called Leghorn by the English) in Tuscany, the principal base for English merchants in the central Mediterranean. Narbrough became more aggressive in the following year. In January 1676 a force of boats from the English fleet, led by Narbrough’s protégé Cloudesley Shovell, entered Tripoli harbour and burned four ships of the Tripoli fleet. Soon afterwards Narbrough’s ships encountered a Tripoli squadron at sea and destroyed all four vessels. After these heavy blows to his fleet, the ruler of Tripoli made peace in March 1676, freeing all his English captives and promising to pay a financial indemnity. The people of Tripoli revolted, overthrew their ruler and forced his replacement to denounce the treaty. Narborough quickly returned, threatening to bombard Tripoli unless the new ruler confirmed the treaty, which he duly did.
This success might have encouraged the other regencies to be more respectful towards England, but the Algerines were angry because so many foreign ships were using false English flags to avoid capture by their corsairs.
By 1679 the new commander of the Mediterranean Fleet Vice-Admiral (brevet) Arthur Herbert (later Lord Torrington) was less interested in a blockade of Algiers, preferring to escort English trade convoys through the corsair danger areas, mostly in or near the strait of Gibraltar, and to mount patrols in the same areas. Not only did his ships begin to take a steady toll of Algerine vessels, captured or destroyed, but they also accounted for some Sallee rovers from Morocco as well. In the past the corsairs had always been able to outrun English warships, but since the 1660s English shipyards had produced a number of fast, well armed vessels, often of shallow draught. They were equally useful operating among the sandbanks of the North Sea off the Dutch coast or going into the shallows near headlands like Cape Gata where Barbary corsairs lurked waiting for their prey.
Although the long breakwater built by the English at Tangier was said to be almost complete by the late 1670s, it had done little to improve the city’s harbour. Like his predecessors, Herbert was reluctant to make much use of Tangier as a naval base and it usually only received occasional visits from patrolling warships. This situation changed dramatically in 1680 when repeated Moroccan attacks on the defences of Tangier compelled Herbert to take the fleet there, landing sailors and cannon to assist the garrison in beating off the Moroccan assault. Nevertheless, once the danger was past, Herbert looked elsewhere for a fleet base and found it in Gibraltar. In April 1680 the Spanish gave Herbert permission to use Gibraltar as his main base and he continued to use it until his return to England in 1683. Among the young officers in Herbert’s fleet was George Rooke. Almost a quarter of a century later, as Admiral Rooke, he would capture Gibraltar for England in 1704.
Herbert soon began to accumulate many Muslim slaves, mostly taken from captured Algerine vessels. Like his predecessors, he was under orders not to bring them back to England. Some were used as labour in Tangier, working on the defences or constructing the breakwater. The rest were sent to the various slave markets in Christian Mediterranean countries, such as those at Cadiz and Livorno. In 1679 alone Herbert was said to have made a profit of 16,862 pieces of eight from the sale of 243 Muslim captives. Not all Muslim captives passed unresisting into slavery. At least two ships carrying Muslim slaves away from Tangier experienced revolts among the captives. The ships were seized and run ashore on the coast of North Africa.
By the start of 1681 Herbert’s ships were maintaining a steady rate of success against the Algerines. In March 1681 two English warships captured the noted Algerine corsair Golden Horse. (Algerine vessels did not have names like Christian ships, and they were usually identified by the name of their captain. When captured, they were often named after some feature of the carving at the stern of the vessel.) Some 500 Muslim crew, including the captain, a Dutch renegade, were taken prisoner and 90 Christian slaves were freed. In May history repeated itself when the warship HMS Kingfisher was attacked by eight Algerine corsairs near Sardinia. The ship’s captain was Morgan Kempthorne, son of John Kempthorne who had found himself in a similar position in HMS Mary Rose in 1669. Like his father, Morgan beat off his assailants, but in the battle he was fatally wounded. In September another Algerine corsair fell to the English warships. An English renegade was found among the officers of the captured vessel. He was immediately hanged.
Although Herbert was bringing increasing pressure to bear on the navy of Algiers, the city’s ruler became favourable to peace with England for other reasons. Algiers had been at peace with the Dutch and the French, but at war with the English. By late 1681 the Algerines were being drawn into conflict with France. Since the traditional policy was to avoid being at war with more than one of the main European sea powers at a time, war with France meant peace would have to be agreed with the English as soon as possible. In 1682 Algiers made a peace treaty with Herbert, and this treaty was to be the basis of England’s relations with Algiers until 1816.
In February 1685 Charles II died and was succeeded by his Catholic brother James II. Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, was in exile in Holland and already plotting a Protestant revolt in tandem with Charles’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth. He raised a few thousand pounds among the Scottish exiles and hired three ships – the Anna of 30 guns, the David of 12 and the Sophia of 6. Evading the half-hearted attempts of the Dutch authorities to stop them, they sailed north intending to round Scotland and land in the Argyll territories in the west, which had been confiscated after the Earl was accused of treason in 1681.
Carrying 300 men and 400 sets of back armour, breast-plates and head-p ieces, the ships made a very fast passage and arrived off the Moray Firth on 5 May. They missed the passage between Orkney and Shetland in fog and found themselves in Scapa Flow, where they anchored in Swanbister Bay. Spence, the Earl’s chamberlain, had connections in the islands and went ashore with Dr Blackadder, but they were quickly arrested by the Bishop and magistrates of Kirkwall.
The leaders of the expedition were undecided about what to do. Some wanted to land and rescue their comrades, some suggested reprisals and a party was sent ashore and took six hostages. But the ships sailed on without Spence and Blackadder. They spent the night of 11 May at anchor in Tobermory Bay, then largely undeveloped, and mad e a specious attempt to salvage guns from the famous Spanish galleon wrecked there. They sailed down the Sound of Mull, unchallenged by Duart Castle, and on the 15th they arrived at Islay, on the edge of Argyll’s clan territory. Th e Earl expected that his authority as chief of the Clan Campbell would instantly raise thousands of men, but Islay had already been visited by government troops who imposed an oath of loyalty. About eighty men were recruited to the rebellion, but half of them soon deserted.
The Anna and her consorts sailed on to Campbeltown, solid clan territory as its name suggests. On 22 May they raised the standard of revolt, bearing the slogans ‘For the Protestant Religion’ and ‘Against, Popery, Prelacy and Erastianism’. Again there was indecision about what to do next. Some wanted to develop a base in the Highlands, others to seize what they believed was an opportunity to exploit discontent in Ayrshire and Galloway across the firth of Clyde. Instead, the fiery cross was sent through Argyllshire to raise the Campbells, and Tarbert, further up the Kintyre peninsula, was chosen as the rendezvous. The three ships sailed up the firth and the troops from Campbeltown marched. A force of about 2,500 men was assembled at Tarbert.
Argyll wanted to move further up the coast to his former seat at Inveraray, where 500 government troops were in control and were reportedly terrorising the population. His advisers pointed out the danger of the ships being trapped in the cul-de-sac of Loch Fyne with English warships approaching. Since supplies were short at Tarbert, it was decided to land on Bute. It took three days to transport all the men to Rothesay, using the Dutch ships plus about forty local fishing 4 – boats.) Rothesay Castle was burnt as a reprisal for the government’s burning of Argyll’s castle on Loch Goil. The tiny island of Eailean Greig in the Kyles was set up as a base. It was hoped that the narrow and winding channels would prove unnavigable for English warships.
Meanwhile the government was preparing its own forces. HMS Kingfisher of forty guns under Captain Hamilton was in the Clyde near Dumbarton and was joined by other ships from Leith. On shore, the Earl’ s close relations and supporters were arrested and troops were mobilised.
The rebels landed a small party at Toward Castle opposite Rothesay while another small force sailed to Greenock, where they defeated some ineffective government opposition. They gained about thirty recruits and retired across the firth. On 11 June, the same day as Monmouth belatedly began his revolt in the south-west of England, Argyll left Eailean Greig with most of his army and crossed the mainland of Cowal. He advanced up Glendaruel and reached Ardentinny. But in the meantime the Kingfisher succeeded in navigating up the Kyles of Bute and the rebel base came under arrack, Captain Hamilton describes events.
We got up to them yesterday with an intention to beat his men out of the fortifications they had built there by the castle, but they did not stay for our coming up with them, but run their ships on ground and abandoned the castle. They had laid a train of matches with an intention to blow up the castle but I sent a boat on shore and prevented the blowing Up.
This was deeply demoralising to the rebel army, but they used local boats to cross Loch Long from Ardentinny to Coulport. They marched round the head of the Gareloch and took a circuitous route towards Glasgow, hoping to avoid conflict with government forces. The army was slowly dispersing and by the time it reached the Clyde at Kilpatrick there were only about 150 weary, dispirited men left. Argyll crossed the Clyde and was arrested by government forces at Inchinnan while trying to cross the River Cart. He was taken to Edinburgh and executed on 30 June, while Monmouth faced the same fate two weeks later.
Having served as lieutenant of the Rupert in 1666, and of the Mary in the following year, was, in 1668, promoted to be commander of the Deptford ketch, and very soon afterwards removed into the Nightgale. In 1671-2 he was appointed captain of the Mermaid; and being removed, in the course of the following year, into the Constant Warwick of thirty-six guns, a small fourth rate, behaved very gallantly in a very smart encounter with a Dutch privateer, as given in a letter written at the time. In 1673, the spirit he had manifested on the former occasion procured him to be promoted to the Mary Rose of fifty guns.
In the account given by Prince Rupert, of the engagement between the English fleet under his command, and that of the Dutch, on the 28th of May in this year, he mentions a Colonel Hamilton, as having lost his leg. We have not been able to identify precisely, but we believe him to have been this gentleman, the appellation of Colonel being indiscriminately applied both to officers of the navy and army, at that day, and there being no other person at that time in the service of the same name. He was not appointed to any other ship till the 18th of June, 1675, when he was made captain of the Margaret Galley; the first of these appellations appears to have been a misnomer, as it is imagined there was no vessel of that name in the service.
We find him commanding the Charles, on the Mediterranean station, on the 26th of October 1677; at which time he captured, in company with the James, Captain Canning, who was killed, a very large Algerine ship of war, after a desperate battle. On the 4th of March 1682, he was appointed to the Kingfisher. In the month of June 1685, having with him the Falcon frigate, he attacked and carried almost without resistance, the castle of Ellengreg, on the eastern coast of Scotland. The unfortunate earl of Argyle had taken possession of it a few days before, and fortified it, as well as time and circumstances would permit him, intending it as his grand magazine, and place of final retreat. Captain Hamilton’s success appears to have given the decisive blow to this petty invasion, for on this occasion he not only made himself master of all the earl’s
stores, spare arms and ammunitions, but, pursuing his good fortune, took possession of the three ships which the earl brought with him, and in which only he could place his last hope of escape for himself and his followers.
We meet with nothing farther relative to Captain Hamilton till the month of May 1689, some months after the revolution had taken place; he then commanded a ship of war, whose name we have not been able to learn, on the Irish station, and performed a notable piece, of service in destroying a considerable number of boats intended for the use of the late King James’s army.