Tuesday, 12 April 2016

J is for jaundiced in Jamaica


Augustus James Champion de Crespigny (1791-1825), my second cousin five times removed, died of yellow fever on board HMS Scylla. and was buried at Port Royal, Jamaica. Augustus was the third son of the second baronet, Sir William Champion de Crespigny (1765-189) and his wife Lady Sarah née Windsor (1763-1825).

Augustus James Champion de Crespigny, portrait in the collection of Kelmarsh Hall. Published on artuk.org
The monumental inscription at the Port Royal Parish Church in Jamaica reads:
Sacred to the memory of Augustus James DE CRESPIGNY, 3d son of Sir W. Chn & Lady Sarah De Crespigny, who died on board H.M.Ship 'Scylla', Oct. 24, 1825. Capt De Crespigny went first to sea under the patronage of Ld. St Vincent & served under the flag of Nelson, at Trafalgar. From thence he was taken under the patronage of Ld. Collingwood, who made him study the duties of a seaman, under his particular care. The above gallant officer saved no less than sixteen lives of his fellow creatures during his naval career for which he was presented with a service of Plate from his Ship's crew, as well as a medal from the R.H.S. in the annual report of which society an account is given, the last paragraph is as follows: These are to certify to the principal officers of the Royal Humane Society that Lieutenant Augustus C. De Crespigny served with me as a volunteer midshipman from His Majesty's Ship 'Tonnant' in the gunboat service in Cadiz in 1810, during which time I had opportunities of seeing his noble conduct on three very particular occasions. First, in jumping from a boat in a very strong tide way and saving a Marine, Second, a boy in the same way, and thirdly, in taking to a small boat & pulling into the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, and evidently saving five men that were near drowning, by the 'Achilles' barge being sunk: his conduct on the last occasion was so truly noble that he not only gained the admiration of the whole flotilla but the envy of the French Commanding Officer, who at last ordered his men to cease firing on him. Given under my hand, this 12th Day of July 1815, West Cowes. This tribute to a father's memory was erected by his eldest son, Sir Claude Chn. De Crespigny, BT 1841. (from findagrave.com

Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease, transmitted primarily by mosquitoes. It is called ‘yellow fever’, from the French 'jaune', 'yellow', because the infected person's skin takes on a characteristic yellowish colour.

According to the caption of a photograph of the church at Port Royal taken by the International Mission Photography Archive (IMPA), the church has numerous plaques commemorating men lost in gales, killed in action or by the sinking of their ships, but more numerous than the others put together, are those commemorating men struck down by yellow fever.

Photograph of the Church of England Parish Church, Port Royal. The church is a stone built building with a red tiled roof. A number of parishioners can be seen approaching the building. The church was rebuilt 1725-1726.; Memorial tablets cover the interior walls of the church commemorating men lost in gales, killed in action or by the sinking of their ships, but more numerous than all the others put together are those commemorating those struck down by yellow fever. From the International Mission Photography Archive (IMPA) - http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll123/id/64458, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30916044

Augustus was born  6 March 1791 at Nice in the south of France. He had two older brothers and seven younger siblings:
  • Claude 1787-1813
  • William Other Robert 1789-1816
  • Augustus 1791-1825
  • Sarah 1792-1805
  • Frances 1793-1793
  • Patience Anne 1795-1831
  • Heaton 1796-1858
  • Emma Honoria Dorothy 1800-1883
  • Herbert Joseph 1805-1881
  • Mary Catherine 1810-1858

Augustus and his brother Claude entered the Royal Navy in the war against France.

Their grandfather, Claude Champion de Crespigny (1734-1818), was Receiver-General of the droits of Admiralty, traditional rights or perquisites of the Crown, which included proceeds from the sale of enemy ships seized in time of war. With this connection it is perhaps not surprising that two of his grandsons were enlisted in the Navy.

Augustus first went to see at the age of 14 under the patronage of John Jarvis, First Lord of the Admiralty, later Earl of St Vincent, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. In October 1805 Augustus was at the Battle of Trafalgar on board HMS Spartiate.

He was later a volunteer midshipman on HMS Tonnant in the gunboat service in 1810 at Cadiz. While serving on the Tonnant he rescued drowning sailors on three separate occasions.

Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Part 1, 1816, page 609: Review of New Publications - Annual Report of the Royal Humane Society for the recovery of Persons Apparently Dead 1816. Retrieved from Google Books https://books.google.com.au/books?id=wc9KAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA609 (click on image to zoom in)
from page 610 of the 1816 Gentleman's Magazine

Augustus de Crespigny became a Lieutenant on 1 April 1811. (The Commissioned Sea Officers Of The Royal Navy 1660-1815 Volume 1 viewed on ancestry.com)

Augustus's brother Claude died of dysentery in July 1813 on board the HMS Gorgon off Palermo. The HMS Gorgon was serving as the flagship for Vice Admiral Francis Pickmore. Commander Claude de Crespigny replaced Commander Rowland Mainwaring at Port Mahon, Menorca, in 1813. Coincidentally Rowland Mainwaring (1783-1862) is my fourth great grandfather on another branch of my tree.

Augustus's second oldest brother William, was a lawyer and called to the bar in 1814. He served with the Surrey local militia promoted to lieutenant on 9 July 1813. He died of illness in January 1816.

Neither Claude nor William had married.

On 29 May 1817 Augustus James Champion de Crespigny, bachelor of Kensington, married Caroline Smyth, spinster, by licence, in the parish of St George Hanover Square. They had three children:
  • Claude William (1818-1868) - he succeeded his grandfather as the third baronet
  • Henry Other (1822-1883)
  • Frederick John (1822-1887)

Heraldic Illustrations, page 84, by Bernard Burke published in 1853 repeats the facts contained on the plaque in Jamaica.


Augustus-James, Capt. R.N., gallant officer, who served under Nelson and Collingwood, and whom the latter took under his especial care. On board the Ocean, he saved no less than Gorgon, nine of his fellow subjects from a watery grave, at the imminent risk of his own life, for which he received a medal from the Royal Humane Society, and a service of plate from his ship's crew. His last gallant feat, was his taking to a small boat, and pulling into the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, whereby he saved five men who were near drowning by the Achilles Barge being sunk. His conduct on this last occasion was so truly noble, that he not only gained the admiration of the whole Flotilla, but the envy of the French commanding officer, who at last ordered his men to cease firing on him. Capt. de Crespigny, d. on board H. M. S. Scythe, off Port Royal, Jamaica, 24 Oct. 1825.
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