Death of a Naval Veteran.
Readers of Home news will doubtless remember noticing a paragraph in in the last mail summary announcing the death of James Coull, the veteran who steered the Shannon in her encounter with the Chesapeke in 1813. The Montrose Review, just to hand, a paper published in the old man’s native place, gives an account of Coull’s life, and, as the account is interesting, inasmuch as it gives a good picture of the days of the press gang and the old wooden walls of England, we publish the article in extenso : On Friday morning, October 1, Quartermaster James Coull was found dead in bis bed. On the previous day James had been iu his usual health, and spent a good part of the day in company with some old “salts.” In the evening he complained to his niece of being unwell, but went to bed as usual, and was found cold and stiff, having been dead for some hours. The deceased seaman was born in 1780, and, if his life had been spared till the 7fh January next, he would have been ninetyfive years of age. d ames was a native of the fishing village of Ferry den, in which, for ages, the Coulls have been many. At the early age of eight years he began his seafaring life as cabin boy on board the Christina, brig, of Montrose. When some years older ho was bound an apprentice to the brig Concord, of Montrose, a port to which few brigs belonged in the end of last century, the flax trade with Russia not being then, it may be said, begun. While serving in the Concord, and the vessel lying at Copenhagen, the pressgang seized the apprentice boy Coull and took him to the Centaur, line-of-battle ship, of seventy - four guns. The famous and terrible battle of Copenhagen quickly followed this, and James Coull, sixteen years of age, took part in the action, The year 1802 brought peace, and James, being a pressed apprentice, received his liberty, and, returning to Montrose again, found his old ship, the Concord. The peace was a short one, .and so was Janies Coull’s liberty, for, when the Concord was lying at the Nore, he was again pressed, and taken a second time on board of the Centaur, ship of war. The subject of our memoir had soon to fight another battle, even the ever-memorable one of Trafalgar, fought in 1805, when Coull had become an able saman, and a veteran one. We must pause, and ask whether he has left alive a naval seaman iu Scotland who fought at Copenhagen and Trafalgar 1 The one battle was fought about eightyyears ago, and the other seventy-five ; and
where, it may ho asked, is the old tar alive who was in these battles and can spin yarns upon them such as we have hear! from James Coull ? It was not his custom to say much about the taking of Batavia, in Java, or about skirmishing, but when the battle of the Shannon and Ohesapeke was mentioned to him he at once became young, and fought the battle “o’er again.” The battle, as is well known, was fought in 1813, and it certainly was Greek meeting Greek, for the Americans believed themselves more than a match for Urn British on the sea, ship for ship and gun for gun. James Coull was a volunteer in the Shannon, which had a thorougiy trained crew, and her commander, Captain Broke, sent a challenge to the Ohesapeke into Boston Harbor. Before it reached the American captain, the Ohesapeke was seen coining slowly out, prepared for action with t’-e British frigate The man at the helm of the Shannon, as she bore down on the enemy, was Jas. Coull, skilful at his post, and, let us say, no sheepshank of a seaman. Tall, broad chested, deep-muscled, stronar, and lithe of limb, there a man stood of indomitable courage, a vctei’an in war at sea. The battle, a bloody one, lasted only fifteen minutes, when the Ohesapeke was in the hands of the British. A withering fire came from marines on her tops, down upon the Shannon, from the first of the action. A bullet entered the wrist of the dauntless helmsman and came out near his elbow, but Coull kept hold of his wheel until the vessels were broadside on and lashed together. Then the Ohesapeke was boarded, and, in a hand-to-hand fight on her deck, James Coull received a scalp wound which bled so profusely as almost to blind him, biff, as James was wont to say, I still kept at the Americans to show them what British seamen could do, and did so till the enemy surrendered. James Coull, by the loss of his hand, which had to be amputated, became a disabled seamen when thirty years of age, and was discharged with a pension of LIG a year, a small one for a quarter-master who lost his hand in a sea fight that will be ever honorable to the British Navy. About fifteen years ago, or when he was over eighty years of age, Ll 3 12s. was added to his pension. The hand lost at the holm of the Shannon gave place to one that James called a “ summer-won fellow ” —a knob of hardwood with an iron hook in it. This was whore his left hand should have boon, and with his right hand he was no trifler. The writer has seen him beat fifty men in a ship in throwing the deep-sea lead. His one arm had more than the strength of two common ones, and with it and his deck, as he called it, could be a master cook at sea, which he was for many years. He crossed the Atlantic fourteen times as cook, besides which he was for twenty years cook in Montrose whalers. James Couil was 'physically a noble specimen of a man, and, being trained in the Mercantile Marine, he was in youth a perfect prize to a pressgaug, seventy or eighty years ago. His portrait, taken by Mr. James Irvine, is said to have attracted much attention in the Edinburgh Academy Exhibition, and well it might, for, as the writer saw him in his prime, half a century ago, he seemed to have been born a prince among men. He compelled respect, and he deserved it, for he was in disposition kind and ready to help, with all the generosity of a British seaman. On Monday, October 4, the mortal remains of the veteran were interred with naval and military honors, in St. Peter’s Burying-ground. The staff of the F. and K. Militia and a number of the Coastguard were present, as well as a large concourse of the general public. The coffin was borne on the shoulders of men of the Coastguard, the F. and K., with muskets reversed, walking on either side. The band was in front, playing the Dead March in “ Saul,” and the service was most impressively read at the grave. After which three volleys were fired over the grave by the firing party. Thus has passed away from us one of the old men who connected the past with the present.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 220, 18 December 1880
Death of a Naval Veteran. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 220, 18 December 1880
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