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Brenton, Sir Jahleel

BRENTON, SIR JAHLEEL (1770-1844), British admiral, was born in Rhode Island, U.S.A., on the 22nd of August 1770. He was the son of Rear-Admiral Jahleel Brenton (1729-1802), who belonged to a loyalist family which suffered the loss of most of its property in the insurrection of the American colonies. He was a lieutenant in the British navy when the war began, and emigrated with his family to the mother country. Three of the sons entered the navy - Jahleel (the eldest), Captain Edward Pelham Brenton (1774-1839), and James Wallace Brenton, who was killed young in 1799 when attacking a Spanish privateer near Barcelona in the boats of the "Petrel," of which he was lieutenant. Jahleel went to sea first with his father in 1781, and on the return of peace was sent to the "maritime school" at Chelsea. He served in the peace before the beginning of the war in 1793, and passed his examination as lieutenant, but seeing no chance of employment went with other English naval officers to serve in the Swedish navy against the Russians. In 1790 he received his commission and returned home. Till 1799 he served as lieutenant, or acting commander, mostly under Earl St Vincent, and was present in the battle from which the admiral received his title. As commander of the "Speedy" brig he won much distinction in actions with Spanish gunboats in the Straits of Gibraltar. In 1800 he reached the rank of post-captain, and had the good fortune to serve as flag-captain to Sir James (afterwards Lord) Saumarez in the action at Algeciras, and in the Straits in 1801. During the peace of Amiens he married Miss Stewart, a lady belonging to a loyalist family of Nova Scotia. After the renewal of the war he commanded a succession of frigates. In 1803 he had the misfortune to be wrecked on the coast of France, and remained for a time in prison, where his wife joined him. Having been exchanged he was named to another ship. His most brilliant action was fought with a flotilla of Franco-Neapolitan vessels outside of Naples in May 1801. He was severely wounded, and Murat, then king of Naples, praised him effusively. He was made a baronet in 1812 and K.C.B. in 1815. After his recovery from his wound he was unable to bear sea service, but was made commissioner of the dockyard at Port Mahon, and then at the Cape, and was afterwards lieutenant-governor of Greenwich hospital till 1840. He reached flag rank in 1830. In his later years he took an active part in philanthropic work, in association with his brother, Captain E.P. Brenton, who had seen much service but is best remembered by his writings on naval and military history, - Naval History of Great Britain from the Year 1783 to 1822 (1823), and The Life and Correspondence of John, Earl of St Vincent (1838).

A Memoir of the Life and Services of Vice-Admiral Sir Jahleel Brenton, based on his own papers, was published in 1846 by the Rev. Henry Raikes, and reissued by the admiral's son, Sir L.C.L. Brenton, in 1855.

(D. H.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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