Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Caithness and Napoleon 4

Retreat from Moscow 1812

By October 1812 Napoleon’s Grande Armee was beginning the retreat through a desolate wasteland after the Russian campaign, with huge losses occasioned by freezing weather conditions. By April 1814 Napoleon abdicated and a Bourbon, Louis XVIII, returned to the throne of France.

In May of that year, Napoleon was exiled to Elba but not for long: he escaped the following February and entered Paris. Events followed swiftly. Within three months the Battle of Waterloo took place, Louis XVIII was restored to the throne and Napoleon was exiled to the island of St Helena. He would remain there until his death in May 1821.

Napoleon on St Helena

James Caithness survived imprisonment and in the Spring of 1814 was recorded on the muster of HMS Salvador del Mundo. Originally a Spanish 112-gun first-rate ship of the line, the Salvador del Mundo had been captured by Nelson at the Battle of Cape Vincent in 1797. 

Victory raking the Salvador del Mundo, Battle of St Vincent 1797

She was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a receiving ship in 1803, stationed in the Hamoaze anchorage at Plymouth. Here her role was as an administrative centre where court martial and other proceedings were held. She would have taken on board men who were in transit from one ship until they were allocated to another.

The Hamaoze, Plymouth, where HMS Salvador del Mundo was stationed

In James’s case, he was one of several ex-HMS Calcutta men who were transferred after their release from French prison per the ship Vengeur to Salvador del Mundo. The long years of captivity were over.

James Caithness listed on muster of Salvador del Mundo:
'from French prison late Calcutta'

Tom Sheldon for research at The National Archives UK

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