Sir James Lucas Yeo, KCB, KBA (7 October 1782 – 21 August 1818) was
a British naval commander who served in the War of 1812. Born in
Southampton, he joined the
Royal Navy at the age of 10 and saw his
first action in the Adriatic Sea. He distinguished himself in combat
multiple times, most notably during the Portuguese conquest of French
Guiana, earning knighthoods in the Portuguese
Order of Aviz
Order of Aviz and the
British Order of the Bath. Given command of the frigate Southampton,
in 1811 his ship was wrecked in the
Bahamas and was acquitted of blame
for its loss . Yeo was then given command of the squadron on Lake
Ontario, commanding it in several engagements with the Americans.
1 Service history
1.1 Early life and career
1.2 Napoleonic Wars
1.3 War of 1812
5 External links
Early life and career
Yeo was born in Southampton,
England on 7 October 1782 to a naval
victualling agent. Yeo was sent to an academy near
Winchester for his
formal education. Yeo joined the
Royal Navy as a midshipman aboard
HMS Windsor Castle at the age of 10, thanks to his patron,
Admiral Phillips Crosby. In 1796, he was made acting-lieutenant and
placed in command of the 16-gun sloop HMS Albacore. He was
made lieutenant permanently on 20 February 1797. The vessel was
deployed to the West Indies, where Yeo contracted
Yellow fever was
ordered home to
England to convalesce in 1798. By 1802, Yeo was first
lieutenant aboard HMS Genereux in the Adriatic Sea. He
distinguished himself during the siege of
Cesenatico in 1800, when
thirteen merchant vessels were burned or sunk.
Peace of Amiens
Peace of Amiens in 1802, Yeo was demoted to half-pay.
Once war began again between Britain and France in 1805, Yeo became
first lieutenant of the frigate HMS Loire. The frigate was
patrolling off the northwest coast of Spain when Loire's commanding
officer, Captain F.L. Maitland, chose to attack shipping in Muros Bay,
Spain. Lieutenant Yeo led fifty men ashore to attack a shore battery
that was firing on the frigate. Once there, they found a second, more
powerful emplacement and captured that one too. During the battle, Yeo
was stabbed with a bayonet. The Spanish suffered over forty casualties
in the engagement, the British six. Loire captured three vessels at
Muros Bay including the 22-gun corvette Confiance. As a reward, he
was promoted to commander on 21 June and given the command of the
captured Confiance, which had been taken into Royal Navy
In 1807, Confiance was part of Admiral Sidney Smith's fleet off
Portugal. Confiance transported Percy Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford
Lisbon to negotiate an alliance with Britain. Lord Strangford also
negotiated the passage of the Portuguese Prince Regent Dom João and
the Portuguese royal family to Brazil. Yeo was ordered by Admiral
Smith to bring word of Strangford's success to Britain, an honour that
led Yeo being named to the list of post-captains. Due to his rank,
Confiance was reclassified as a post-ship. The following year,
Confiance was part of Smith's fleet stationed off Brazil.
Yeo was ordered by Smith to bring dispatches to a Portuguese general
from whom he learned of French privateers based at Cayenne, French
Guiana. On 6 January 1809, he took command of a small force consisting
of Confiance, two Portuguese brigs, and 550 Portuguese soldiers. With
them he captured Cayenne, a fortified position of two hundred guns,
and took a thousand prisoners. The conquest of French Guiana would
remove the French from their last South American colony. During the
operation, Yeo was among the many British who became sick. In 1810, he
was knighted for his services at Cayenne, both by the Portuguese who
decreed him a member of the
Order of Aviz
Order of Aviz and the British, who decreed
him a knight commander of the
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath and was given his own
coat-of-arms. Yeo was the first
Protestant to be made a member of the
Order of Aviz.
In 1811 Yeo was given command of the frigate HMS Southampton. The
frigate was ordered to
Jamaica where it joined the fleet of Vice
Admiral Charles Stirling. In 1812, he was stationed in the
Bahamas. There he captured the privateer Heureuse Réunion, a brig and
a corvette in the Action of 3 February 1812, and the American brig
Vixen in November 1812. However, shortly afterwards
Vixen were wrecked in the Crooked Island passage, although no lives
were lost. As was customary in the case of the loss of a ship from any
cause, Yeo was court martialled, but the court accepted that the reef
on which he was wrecked was not charted, nor were the local currents
documented, and Yeo was exonerated.
War of 1812
The importance of the naval warfare on the
Great Lakes raised "The
Lakes Service" to the status of a Flag Command and Kingston was the
Commodore's headquarters. Yeo was sent to
Canada in 1813 aboard
Woolwich to command the British naval forces in the Great Lakes. He
was appointed commodore of the fleet on Lake Ontario. Sir James's
use of his small navy was always determined and skillful, but he was
hampered by a lack of cooperation from the British army. The commander
of these forces, Sir George Prevost, failed to follow up key advances
made by Sir James at Sackett's Harbour and elsewhere that might have
resulted in major British victories. On the whole, historians regard
the war on
Lake Ontario as having been a draw. During 1814 both Yeo
and Isaac Chauncey, the American commander, tried to out build the
other. Yeo captured
Oswego, New York
Oswego, New York and then blockaded Sacketts
Harbour on 6 May 1814, when reinforced by two frigates built on Point
Frederick. During the final months of the war, Yeo ensured British
control of the lake by the 1814 launch of HMS St. Lawrence, a
112-gun first rate ship of the line built in Kingston specifically for
use on the lake, a three-decker man-of-war, and he had two more
building. The Americans also had two first line men-o'-war on the
In August 1815, Yeo was posted to Inconstant, 36 guns, at Plymouth.
After the British-American War, Yeo held important commands on the
West African and
Caribbean stations, but saw no further action. He
died in 1818 at the age of 35, while returning from
Yeo Hall, Royal Military College of Canada
James Lucas Yeo
James Lucas Yeo plaque at the Royal Military College of Canada
The Yeo Hall at the Royal Military College of
Canada in Kingston,
Ontario was named in his honour in 1936. This multifunctional building
houses the Cadet Dining Hall and the Cadet Mess. The barber and
Canadian Forces Exchange System
Canadian Forces Exchange System (CANEX) are located in the basement. A
plaque erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of
the Royal Military College of
Canada states "Born in Southampton,
England, Yeo entered the British Navy, served throughout the
Napoleonic Wars and won rapid promotion by his ability. In 1813,
already a Commodore, he came to
Canada to command British forces on
the Great Lakes. Yeo successfully blockaded the American fleet in
Sackett's Harbour for some months and subsequently commanded the naval
forces at the capture of Oswego in 1814. Returning to
the war he was posted to the West African Coast and died at sea while
returning from that tour of duty."
Yeo was one of the actual historical officers on whom C. S. Forester
modeled his fictional naval hero Horatio Hornblower.
^ "No. 16972". The London Gazette. 4 January 1815. p. 19.
^ "No. 16380". The London Gazette. 19 June 1810. p. 902.
^ "Memoir of the Public Services of Sir James Lucas Yeo, Knt". The
Naval Chronicle. 24: 265–285. 1810.
^ Chartrand, Rene (2000-11-25). The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic
Wars. Reference to Captain James Yeo award with date and unit. Osprey
Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 9781855329812.
^ a b Malcomson 2001, pp. 115–116.
^ a b c d e Spurr, Dictionary of Canadian Biography
^ a b c d Malcomson 2001, p. 116.
^ Malcomson 2001, pp. 117–118.
^ Malcomson 2001, p. 118.
^ Malcomson 2001, pp. 118–119.
^ "Historical Naval Fiction: The home of historical fiction set in the
Age of Sail" provides a detailed comparison between events of Yeo's
historically attested career and those of Hornblower's fictional one
Malcomson, Robert (2001) . Lords of the Lake: The Naval War on
Lake Ontario 1812–1814 (Paperback ed.). Toronto: Robin Brass Studio.
Spurr, John W. (1983). "Yeo, Sir James Lucas". In Halpenny, Francess
G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. V (1801–1820) (online ed.).
University of Toronto Press.
Biography of James Lucas Yeo, Commander of the Great Lakes