Naval General Service clasp Trafalgar Midshipman aboard 'Neptune' which saw particularly fine service at Trafalgar and later severely wounded as senior Lieutenant of Cyane during her action with and capture by the U.S.S. Constitution

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Medal Description

Naval General Service clasp  Trafalgar 

 

A. MacKen(zi)e, Midshipman

 

Fair edge bruise has obscured (zi)

 

Lieutenant Alexander Mackenzie was born on the 30th June 1790. He entered the Navy in May 1804 as a First Class Volunteer on board H.M.S. Revenge with Captain Robert Moorsom which was stationed in the Channel. He was promoted to Midshipman and transferred to H.M.S. Neptune and saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar.

 

In November 1806 he was moved to H.M.S.Phoebe with Captain Jas Oswald, in the boats of which frigate, it appears, he was frequently employed in destroying the enemy's trade and signal posts along the French shores, and also saw much service on the coast of Portugal.

 

In November 1808 he joined H.M.S.Lavinia with Captain Lord William Stewart, under whom, during the expedition of 1809 to the Walcheren, he assisted in forcing the passage between the batteries of Flushing and Cadsand, and participated in all the boat operations on the East and West Scheldt. After an attachment of 14 months to H.M.S. Thames with Captain Hon. Wm Waldegrave and then H.M.S. Cumberland with Captain Hon Philip Wodehouse, on the Mediterranean station, where in the boats of the last-mentioned ship he served for two months in the Faro of Messina, and contributed to the capture and destruction of a large convoy in the face of a body of troops in the Bay of St.Eufemia.

 

He was nominated in January 1811 as Acting-Lieutenant of H.M.S. Warrior with Captain John Wm. Spranger and was for some time employed with the flotilla at the defence of Cadiz. He was promoted on the 27th April 1812 and was appointed to HMS Dispatch on the 24th August 1812 and then to H.M.S. Colossus on the 25th September 1812, serving on the Home Station.

 

On the 4th March 1814 served as Senior on H.M.S. Cyane. On the 20th February 1815 it was his fate to be on board when taken together with her consort H.M.S. Levant by the U.S. frigate Consitution, at the end of a fierce conflict in which H.M.S. Cyane besides being cut to pieces sustained a loss of 6 men killed and 13 including himself being severely wounded. He along with the other captives were put on shore at Maranham which is on the coast of Brazil and were left to find their way home.

 

At Trafalgar with H.M.S. Neptune

 

Neptune (Captain Thomas Freemantle)  formed part of the weather column in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October, and was the third ship from the lead. Fremantle had been promised a position second to Nelson aboard HMS Victory, and by 10 o'clock was sailing fast enough to threaten to overtake her. Fremantle hoped to pass her, and lead the line into battle, but Nelson ordered 'Neptune, take in your studding-sails and drop astern. I shall break the line myself.'  Neptune went into action with her band playing, and everyone except the officers and the band lying down on the deck to protect them from enemy fire.  Ahead of her Fremantle saw Eliab Harvey's Temeraire turn to pass astern of the French Redoutable, but resolved to follow Nelson and HMS Victory to pass astern of the French flagship Bucentaure.  As she passed under Bucentaure's stern, Neptune discharged a double-shotted broadside from her larboard  guns, with devastating consequences on Villeneuve's already disabled flagship. Fremantle then had the helm swung hard to starboard, bringing his ship abeam of the Bucentaure. He fired two more triple-shotted broadsides from nearly 50 guns at a range of less than 100 yards into the beleaguered French ship. 

 

Fremantle then spotted the towering mass of the Spanish four-decker Santísima Trinidad sailing away from him, and steered towards her starboard quarter in the hope of raking her stern. Opening fire with his larboard battery, he positioned Neptune off the Spanish vessel's starboard beam and the two exchanged heavy fire for the next hour as more British ships poured through the gap astern of Neptune.  Neptune took fire from other ships of the combined fleet as they sailed past. Santísima Trinidad, heavily battered by Neptune's guns, as well as those from the 74-gun ships HMS Leviathan and HMS Conqueror, became completely dismasted and covered in debris. She fought on until 5.30 pm, when she struck her colours, having sustained casualties of 205 dead and 103 wounded. Neptune left the 98-gun HMS Prince to take possession and headed north to cut off the remains of the enemy fleet, briefly becoming engaged with the French 74-gun Intrépide. During the battle Neptune suffered considerable damage to her masts, although they did not fall. Most of her rigging was cut to pieces and she sustained nine shot holes in her hull. She sustained casualties of 10 killed and 34 wounded. 

 

The War of 1812 with H.M.S. Cyane and the her action with the U.S.S. Constitution

 

On 20 February, 1815, the 54 gun  U.S.S. Constitution came upon the 34 corvette Cyane (Captain Gordon Thomas Falcon) and the 21 sloop Levant (Captain The Hon. George Douglas). The British knowing  that Constitution may intercept a convoy that the British vessels had been in the company of determined to engage rather than split and run. Whilst they jointly  matched Constitution for broadside weight on paper in actuality they were outweighed, outgunned and outmanned. The short range carronades of the Cyane and Levant were no match for the 24 pounder long guns of Constitution. At 6.10 pm the action commenced. At 6.50 having stood the brunt of the action to that point Cyane struck her colours. At that time she had 5 feet of water in her hold, her masts were heavily damaged and had most of her rigging and braces shot away. Disabled and still in the water Constitution lay off in a position where Cyane was unable to reply. As further loss of life was fruitless Captain Gordon struck his colours. Of the crew of 145 men and 26 boys, ten were killed and 26 died of wounds or were wounded (including MacKenzie severely so). Meanwhile with heavily damaged rigging levant had drifted downwind. Taking possession of Cyane, the Constution set off in pursuit but found Levant having made running repairs was gallantly returning to re engage, doing so at 8.50 pm. At 9.30 being disabled and her quarterdeck wheel shot away she struck with 23 of her 135 crew killed or wounded.

 

The subsequent court martial of Falcon, his officers and men for the loss of Cyane took place on board Akbar at Halifax on 28 June 1815. The board acquitted Falcon and the others as they had done their utmost against a much stronger enemy vessel. The court also praised the crew who, with the exception of three men, resisted the American attempts to "wean them from their allegiance, under circumstances of unprecedented severity exercised towards them"

 

The severity of Mackenzie's wound ensured that he saw no further service. 

 

Despite the bruise a fine medal of particularly fine service

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