O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'
O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'


The Royal NavyO'Byrne

The following is the entry for Fairfax Moresby in William O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'.

MORESBY, C.B., K.M.T. (Captain, 1814. f-p., 25; h-p., 23.)

Fairfax Moresby, born at Calcutta, is son of Fairfax Moresby, Esq., of Stow House, Lichfield, co. Stafford, formerly Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Staffordshire Militia, and Colonel-Commandant of the Lichfield Volunteer Yeomanry. He descends from the Moresbys of Moresby, co. Cumberland.
This officer entered the Navy, 21 Dec. 1799, aa A.B., on board the London 98, Capt. John Child Purvis, with whom, after having taken a Midshipman’s part in Sir John Borlase Warren's expedition to Ferrol, he removed to the Royal George 100. In March and Nov. 1802 he successively joined the Alarm 32, and Amazon 38, both commanded by Capt. Wm. Parker. In the former ship he escorted a body of German troops to Holland; and in the Amazon, besides accompanying the Duke of Kent from Gibraltar home, and participating in much general service, he went with Lord Nelson to the West Indies in pursuit of the combined fleets of France and Spain. Previously to the latter event he had been frequently placed in charge of captured vessels, and had had the misfortune on one occasion, while so employed, to fall into the hands of the enemy, by whom he was detained a prisoner at Malaga until released through the interference of the immortal hero. In Dec. 1305 Mr. Moresby became Master’s Mate of the Puissant 74, at Portsmouth; and on 10 April, 1806, at which period he was serving with Lord St. Vincent in the Hibernia 110, off Ushant, he was made Lieutenant into the Ville de Paris 110, Capt. Geo. Aldham. Being next, in the course of the ensuing summer, appointed to the Kent 74, Capt. Thos. Rogers, he was at first employed in that ship at the blockade of Rochefort, and afterwards in her boats and tenders in various parts of the Mediterranean; where, on 1 Aug. 1808, he distinguished himself by his conduct at the capture, by the boats of the Kent and Wizard sloop, of a convoy of 10 deeply-laden coasters lying at anchor, under protection of a gun-boat, close to the beach abreast of the town of Noli, on the coast of Italy, fastened to the shore by ropes from their keels and mast-heads, and farther defended by the fire of two adjacent field-pieces, of a heavy gun in front of the town, and of a volley of musketry kept up by a considerable body of regular troops, whom the resistless impetuosity of the British quickly put to flight. So repeated and favourable was the mention made of Lieut. Moresby's name, that on the return of the Kent to England, in Dec. 1809, he was immediately ordered back to the Mediterranean on promotion in the Repulse 74, Capt. John Halliday. On his arrival he was at once appointed to the Sultan 74, Capt. John West, and in that ship he remained until invested, 5 Feb. 1811, with the acting-command of the Éclair 18. Removing in a few days to the ship-sloop Acorn, he was for a short time employed in the Adriatic in alone watching the remains of the Franco-Venetian squadron so memorably defeated by Capt. Hoste off Lissa; and he was next concerned in a variety of operations against the enemy's trade, which resulted in the speedy capture of more than 60 of their vessels. Although superseded in the Acorn, on the receipt of his Commander’s commission, bearing date 18 April, 1811, and placed in consequence on half-pay, Capt. Moresby was forthwith appointed by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Chas. Cotton, to the Wizard 16, and sent to repress the piracies then so frequent in the Grecian archipelago; where his exertions in enforcing the restitution of plunder, in effecting the capture of three privateers (one of them the Corcira, of 8 guns and 60 men), and in performing other important services, led to his obtaining high official encomium, and to his being presented with a valuable sword by the mercantile body at Malta. After conveying important despatches from Constantinople to England, Capt. Moresby returned with a valuable convoy to the Mediterranean, and, having deposited his charge at Valetta, proceeded to join Sir Edw. Pellew off Toulon. Being sent, next, to the Adriatic, he made prize, during his passage thither, of Le Petit Chasseur French privateer; after which, volunteering his services, he took command, 18 Aug. 1813, of the boats of his own vessel and of the Saracen and Weasel brigs, and, landing under a heavy fire of round shot and musketry, stormed, carried, and assisted in destroying two strong batteries at the entrance of the Boco di Cattaro. This exploit was happily performed without loss, owing solely to the conduct of Capt. Moresby; whose order in advancing, judgment in landing, and determination of manner in leading the men up to the batteries, so intimidated the enemy, that they did not wait for the charge, but hastily fired and fled. During the proximate siege of Trieste, he served on shore in command, from 16 to 24 Oct., of one of the batteries; he was then ordered to form one with 4 32-pounders, within breaching distance; and this, in the course of 56 hours, under all the disadvantages of weather, &c., he contrived, with 50 men from the Milford and 20 from the Wizard, to complete without assistance of any kind. For the above and other important services performed in co-operation with the Austrian troops on the coasts of the Adriatic, Capt. Moresby obtained permission, 23 May, 1814, to accept and wear the insignia of a Knight of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Theresa; and being moreover strongly recommended to the consideration of the Admiralty, he was advanced, 7 June following, to Post-rank; besides being nominated, 4 June, 1815, a C.B. His next appointment was, 26 April, 1819, to the Menai 24; in which ship, after visiting St. Helena, then the abode of Napoleon Buonaparte, he proceeded as Senior officer to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1820 he undertook the survey of Algoa Bay and its vicinity, as also the landing of the settlers, in number 2000, and the other duties connected with the first establishment of a colony at that place, the whole of which, notwithstanding their arduous nature, he discharged in a manner in the highest degree creditable to his sagacity and benevolence. In Feb. 1821 Capt. Moresby assumed the chief command at the Mauritius, with a view to the suppression of the slave-trade, which, up to the period of his arrival, had been carried on to a very great extent. Within a short time, however, the more notorious vessels were either captured or destroyed; prosecution was commenced against the owners and captains; and a complete stop put to other adventurers. For the purpose of preventing a recurrence of what he had so successfully demolished, Capt. Moresby then entered into a treaty with the Imaum of Muscat, afterwards confirmed by the British government, upon whom it conferred the right of exerting itself to the utmost for the abolition of the nefarious traffic. At the expiration of the Menai's term of service, in the spring of 1822, the Admiralty, on the application of Lord Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and at the solicitation of Mr. Wilberforce and others, was induced to prolong the period of Capt. Moresby's command at the Mauritius; and he accordingly continued there until June, 1823. He then embarked the Governor, Sir Robt. Farquhar, and, after arranging a treaty with the King of Madagascar for the suppression of the slave-trade in his dominions, returned to England and was paid off in the month of Sept. To such an extent had his health become impaired while in command of the Menai, particularly in the extensive surveys he had made of the Ethiopian archipelago and of the African coast, that for five years he was subject to attacks which reduced him each time to the lowest state of debility. Although the vigour of his constitution was at length restored, he did not succeed in procuring fresh employment until Jan. 1837, on 25 of which month he was selected to succeed Sir Thos. Fellowes in the command of the Pembroke 74, on the Mediterranean station, whence he came home and was put out of commission in Feb. 1840. He has been in command, since 1 March, 1845, of the Canopus 84, employed chiefly on particular service.
Capt. Moresby married, 6 Aug. 1814, at Malta, Eliza Louisa, youngest daughter of John Williams, Esq., of Bakewell, Derbyshire, by whom he has issue three sons and two daughters – the elder married to Commander J. C. Prevost, R.N. His eldest son, Fairfax, now a Mate R.N. (1845), was born in Dec. 1826, and served as Midshipman of the Pique 36, Capt. Edw. Boxer, throughout all the operations on the coast of Syria, including the bombardment of Acre, as also of the Cornwallis 72, Sir Wm. Parker's flag-ship, during the war in China. Capt. Moresby's youngest son, John, born in March, 1830, was lately serving as a naval cadet on board the America 50., Capt. Hon. John Gordon. Agents – Messrs. Ommanney.


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