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Norfolk nChance

Age of Sail Salaries and Prize Question

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Hi All,

One for the history buffs out there. Looking for Pay scales and grade for the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Struggling on this with a lot of conflicting amounts. The prize money split also is extremely confusing...

A RN Frigate from the Mid-Atlantic fleet chases down and captures another vessel in the Caribbean.  The Prize value split starts with a portion going to the Jamaica or Leeward station as well as the Captain’s senior Admiral reporting line. Now him, and then the crew, this includes all crew like The Marines and The Chaplain.

Is this correct? How is the prize actually valued? Assume the cargo contents the easiest to value and sell off but the ship itself?

If anybody could point me to a good site or book that would be really helpful.

Thanks

 

Norfolk

Ps. Capt. 1st Rate Ship pa GBP400, 6th Rated GBP150 pa

Surgeons GBP165, Chaplains GBP100 and Able Seaman GBP20

 

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Prizes differed according to whether the vessel itself, just the cargo or nothing was legally seizable. If the owner or captain could make a good case, then the capturing ship(s) gained nothing. This frequently occurs near the beginning and end of hostilities, even when a vessel is seized from a 'hostile nation', and is not uncommon when neutral ships were supplying enemy ports (or were suspected of doing so).

Prizes per ship were divided:
1 8th to the flag officer if part of a division or fleet.
2 8ths to Captain
1 8th to the Lieutenants, master and marine captain
1 8th to Warrant officers
1 8th among the Petty Officers
2 8ths divided among the remaining crew and marines.

I don't know how the prize was divided within the Division if a frigate was operating with a ship-sloop or brigs with a 74... but it might have been proportionate to the crew size so those participating got broadly equal amounts per normal seaman, and officers more according to their rate. There might also be a premium for following a successful aggressive action, rather than merely 'supporting', but I don't have information in front of me to answer that question.

Rates of pay were well below those of seamen in the more profitable merchant trades. (e.g. North Sea colliers ~ £5-6 per month, while seamen in the Navy received less (~1797 at around -/18/- to 1/4/-..., rising over the course of the Napoleonic war to 1/2/6 and 1/13/6 per month by 1806). Worse - the pay was rolled into the Sea Service vote which included victualling, naval stores and repairs... which were prioritised over paying the seamen. The mutinies at Spithead and Nore were a result of a mix of deficient schedules of pay and conditions (including arbitrary and cruel discipline). Despite new regulations passed in the wake of Spithead, the mutineers on Nassau at Nore still had not received any pay for over 19 months.

'Pay' was instead made by promissory note, which commonly would be sold or redeemed via money lenders, loan sharks et al if payment from the navy wasn't forthcoming, with a considerable 'wastage' coming from the debts taken with these expedient solutions. To compensate, at least in small part, Victualling and Accommodation were provided, and there were provisions for pensions and for 'widows men' on the ships' payroll. Some distrust was also found with the 14oz short measure from the purser (a supply of a pound was "as customary" delivered as 14oz... this probably dates from the late medieval period (and earlier) when a 'trade pound' had 15oz, but with a 16oz pound this 'customary' was a larger deduction than seems reasonable for wastage. This practice was also halted after Nore, and the full ration was permitted (and excess purchased back to store by the purser). An allowance of 1/9th for wastage was allowed 'upstream' between Admiralty and the supplies distributed in place of the the 1/8th taken from the seamen's allocation.

Prize moneys could take even longer to be distributed, but once confirmed and paid were significant, for officers and ranking men, but didn't generally amount to much in the 2 8ths for the bulk of the crew.

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That’s great @Lieste thank-you.

'Pay' was instead made by promissory note, which commonly would be sold or redeemed via money lenders, loan sharks et al... This opens up a whole new can of worms... lol

 

The division split would leave little for the average man indeed. At the Battle of Cape St. Vincent with Nelson’s patent bridge boarding I’d loved to know what the payout was. In his 74-gun Captain he took the 84-gun San Nicolas and then the 114-gun San Josef. This before the HMS Britannia 94-gun closed in. His small ship and crew taking two much larger vessels.

The San-Nicolas was really badly damaged, but I keep thinking was Nelson’s motivation the prize on the San Josef rather than the boldness of the move? Once Britannia arrived it would dilute the purse somewhat...

Sir John Jervis 8th, then the rest for the HMS Captain would seem to be a huge fortune.

 

Thank-you again for the information

 

N.

 

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I don't know the answer to that one, but his prize money from Aboukir Bay was around 1/3rd of the £8,000 which his prize agent had received as commissions overall.

I believe that the prizes for large fleet actions were at least *broadly* evenly distributed. He wouldn't have retained the whole of the prize for the two captures he made, and neither would the captains who took the other two vessels... I can't answer about the exact distribution, but maybe looking at how prizes were distributed when a squadron took a single prize in one of the many smaller actions might offer more digestable content.

There is apparently a document (an appeal to Admiralty) by this man (Davison) which complains (ultimately successfully) of a prize distribution from the capture of two frigates in 1799 when he was acting commander of Mediterranean station, but the prize money share was given to the previous Admiral - John Jervis Earl of St Vincent... who had returned to England due to ill health before the action.

It was apparently also listing all the other prize monies given, and purported to show how Nelson had been frequently 'short changed' compared to other officers. I haven't seen it, so can't add any more, but it should be worth seeking out.

Edited by Lieste
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The captains at Aboukir also pledge to each contribute 84/-/- to provide pensions for the widows and the wounded made in the battle (895) - 15 ships in total, so presumably this amounted to 'about' 1/8/2 each - hardly life changing, but presumably a welcome gesture. It was probably not vanishingly uncommon as a supplement on leaving service wounded or dead on well managed vessels.

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I’ll have a look for ‘An Appeal to Admiralty’. This seems the thing I’m looking for. Brilliant.

 

The Battle of Cape St. Vincent I found out was GBP140,000 in prize money (GBP14m in today’s value). Sir John Jervis would have taken GBP17,500 home from the battle. Four ships captured two thirds and two firsts. So, a straight even split, with GBP70,000 going to HMS Captain.

This leaves Nelson’s highest possible prize for HMS Captain would be GBP61,250.

I’d assume this number is then split into eighths of GBP7,650. Nelson Himself on your numbers of two eighth takes GBP15,300 the rest split downward. Nelson was in charge, the senior officer as Commodore, the HMS Captain’s Captain Miller... this adding confusion.

I would certainly agree with you that Nelson wouldn’t receive the whole amount. Pensions, provisions and other additions would have reduced the 61k to a fraction. However, I bet that Sir John probably did walk away with 17k. He was awarded later for this action a pension of GBP3,000 per year as well.

 

N.

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Aha, some context for the suit against Jervis. As acting commander (Mediterranean) he had received for 780 prizes (including 3-4 warships and 26 privateers) and freight money only £3374.

After Tenerife, where he was wounded he was concerned about his future in peacetime (his half-pay would have been around £77/9/6 with only £2000 in stocks as savings, having "made very little prize money" at St Vincent - still looking for a value, but I think much more modest than your assessment).

Edited by Lieste
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One more detail on the Aboukir engagement.

Earl St Vincent sent a squadron of 14 ships of the line, plus one frigate. This left it under command of the Earl St Vincent... and he received the 1/8th share of the prize.

Nelson received his share "according to naval custom as one of the junior flag officers belonging to the fleet off Cadiz".

From this it seems unlikely that he would have taken a lion's share of the prize money from Cape St Vincent, although he did acquire fame and honour.

(According to Steele, the prize money went to the ships of the fleet, spread in three installments (entries 464 (1798), 1005 (1800), 1756 (1802), but presumably the largest portions in 1798/1800 as the 1802 supplement arose from the withdrawal of a Frigate's claim)
Distribution noted (1756 entry) as: Captain 99/17/- Commissioner 41/7/9 Petty Officer -12/9, Able & co. -/2/1, but this may relate only to the residual paid to complete the distribution, as I obtain a Captain's share of ~£795 from the original estimate of £140,000 (less Jervis's 1/8th and divided between the 22 named ships (and then scaled accordingly Able & co would be roughly -/16/7))


"Steel's Prize Pay Lists; new series ... Corrected to the first of April, 1805", is available as a document on Google books. It might at least give an idea of the scale of payments, and how long it takes between the action and payment.

Edited by Lieste
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I know that as a midshipman, Robert Calder received 1,800 GBP; I believe it was on the Essex under George Faulkner. This was regarded as an exceptionally large payout.

 

I seem to recall reading, though I don't remember where, that if a ship was not attached to a fleet or higher division then the admiral's 1/8th share was divided amongst the entirety of the crew.

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