Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RODNEY, George Brydges, Baron, English naval officer, born in Walton-upon-Thames, Surrey, 19 February, 1718; died in London, 21 May, 1792. At the age of twelve he left Harrow school and entered the navy, becoming a lieutenant in 1739, captain in 1742, and in 1748 governor and commander-in-chief of the station of Newfoundland. On his return to England in 1752 he was elected to parliament for Saltash, and he was promoted rear-admiral in 1759, and appointed in 1761 commander-in-chief of Barbadoes and the Windward islands, capturing St. Pierre, Grenada, and St. Lucia. He was promoted vice-admiral in the following year, created a baronet in 1764, appointed master of Greenwich hospital in 1765, and returned to parliament for Northampton in 1768. He resigned his governorship of Greenwich in 1771, on being appointed commander-in-chief at Jamaica, which post he held till 1774, when he returned to England, but, failing to make arrangements with his creditors, he sought refuge from them in France. Obtaining money to pay his debts, he returned to England in 1779, was promoted admiral, and when Spain joined France in the war against England he sailed to the West Indies as commander-in-chief of the station, with a fleet of twenty-two ships-of-the-line and eight frigates. On 16 January, 1780, off Cape St. Vincent he fell in with a Spanish division of eleven ships and two frigates under Juan de Sangara, and after an obstinate action captured five vessels and destroyed two. After relieving Gibraltar and Minorca, he sailed again for this country, and met the French fleet, under Count de Guichen, near Martinique, 15 and 17 April. Although no general battle was fought, he broke through the enemy's line and was rewarded by parliament with a vote of thanks and a pension of £2,000. He was elected to parliament for Westminster, created a K. B., and in December, 1780, made an unsuccessful attack on St. Vincent. but in 1781 captured the Dutch colonies of St. Eustatius, Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice. Returning to England in the autumn of 1781, he was appointed vice-admiral of England, and assigned to command in the West Indies. In April, 1782, he met, in the channel of Dominica, with Count de Grasse, who was escorting a convoy of 150 sail that carried an invading army to Jamaica. On 9 April a partial engagement was fought, and on 12 April, Rodney, having the advantage of the wind, attacked the French. The battle lasted nearly twelve hours, and was one of the most obstinate that was ever fought in those waters. As Vaudreuil's division was unable, on account of the wind, to co-operate in the action, and De Grasse's flag-ship was sinking, the latter was compelled to lower his flag, the French losing seven ships and two frigates, and the English three vessels. Vaudreuil abandoned the expedition to Jamaica, owing to subsequent orders, and a truce was signed, which led to the peace of 1783. The Whigs, who had meanwhile come into office, had despatched, before the victory was known, an officer to supersede Rodney, who arrived in England, 21 September, 1782. He was greeted with enthusiasm, elevated to the peerage as Baron Rodney, and received an additional pension of £2,000, made revertible to his heirs. Owing to infirmities, he retired from active service. Jamaica, which he saved, voted £1,000 for the erection of a monument over his grave, and his portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, is at Greenwich. Rodney's son-in-law, General Godfrey Basil Mundy, published "Life and Correspondence of Lord Rodney" (2 vols., London, 1830).
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