JOHN BENBOW (1653-1702), English admiral, the son of a tanner in Shrewsbury, was born in 1653. He went to sea when very young, and served in the navy as master's mate and master, from 1678 to 1681. When trading to the Mediterranean in 1686 in a ship of his own he beat off a Salli pirate. On the accession of William III. he re-entered the navy as a lieutenant and was rapidly promoted. It is probable that he enjoyed the protection of Arthur Herbert, earl of Torrington, under whom he had already served in the Mediterranean. After taking part in the bombardment of St Malo (1693), and superintending the blockade of Dunkirk (1696), he sailed in 1698 for the West Indies, where he compelled the Spaniards to restore two vessels belonging to the Scottish colonists at Darien (see Paterson, William) which they had seized. On his return he was appointed vice-admiral, and was frequently consulted by the king. In 1701 he was sent again to the West Indies as commander-in-chief. On the 19th of August 1702, when cruising with a squadron of seven ships, he sighted, and chased, four French vessels commanded by M. du Casse near Santa Marta. The engagement is the most disgraceful episode in English naval history. Benbow's captains were mutinous, and he was left unsupported in his flagship the "Breda." His right leg was shattered by a chain-shot, despite which he remained on the quarter-deck till morning, when the flagrant disobedience of the captains under him, and the disabled condition of his ship, forced him reluctantly to abandon the chase. After his return to Jamaica, where his subordinates were tried by court-martial, he died of his wounds on the 4th of November 1702. A great deal of legendary matter has collected round his name, and his life is really obscure.
See Yonge's Hist. of the British Navy, vol. i.; Campbell's British Admirals, vol. iii.; also Owen and Blakeway's History of Shrewsbury.
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