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There is a letter, unfortunately missing from the ADM File at the National Archive, which according to the digest in ADM12 for 1809 was from the Admiralty concerning leave for George Cadogan very soon after the court martial ended.

Evidently Cadogan, having got through the trial, was afterwards quite ill. On 25th April, in a letter which does survive he writes that he cannot possibly do his duty as the state of his health is so bad and requests a stand-in captain be appointed to the Crocodile for two months [21]. The Admiralty had in fact already appointed an acting captain, Captain Chamberlayne but in response to the request for two months leave actually granted him leave untill the beginning of May. The muster book for the period shows that in fact George was mustered only once more, on the first weekend in May, when he signed off the log and a new one was begun by Chamberlayne. However he remained captain, at least in name, until September of that year and he also remained on the books of the Crocodile during that time, with the final September muster recording that he had been superceded.

Further evidence that George was not a particularly  unusual harsh disciplinarian is provided by the captain’s log of 1810 [22]. The first two months in which Captain Chambelayne was at sea with the Crocodile reveal a punishment record similar to that of Cadogan at its higher end. In the two month period of June and July there were more than 20 punishments in total, of 18 men, some of them more lenient than under Cadogan and some, for instance three of 60 lashes each, more severe. At least 7 of the men punished were men who had earlier been disciplined by Cadogan

Cadogan knew that he might be left with a damaged reputation despite his acquittal, that something of the accusations of tyranny would stick. At the same time it seems likely that he, and indeed his officers, much though they might deplore Badcock’s death, could not help feeling some relief at the change to their ship and their quarterdeck following the departure of Badcock. The spirit in which the successful Autumn cruise of 1808 was undertaken with its success in prize taking and lack of punishments would seem to bear this out. The cruise (described in more detail in the previous post on the Crocodile command) had been one with many prizes captrued and a very low punishment record indicating a crew and captain more at ease with each other.

The court martial transcript reveals Badcock as a young man almost bent on self destruction as he compounds one offence upon another and appears unaware, indifferent, or worse, to the attempts to discipline him.

Were he alive now we would no doubt be looking to a diagnosis of some behavioural disorder, though it is always difficult to read back into descriptions of individual behaviour what would count as precise symptoms.

However it is Cumberland himself who provides some insight into what may have been one of the major problems in William Badock’s life. He describes in his Memoirs the dissolute life of Badcock’s father Richard, talking of him having died “from excess” but he also he also describes his nature in terms uncannily reminiscent of William Badcock as seen through the eyes of the officers of the Crocodile [23]. Cumberland writes of Richard Badcock

...he had a great share of a peculiar kind of humour, was an admirable mimic, and at times would be extremely pleasant and entertaining in society but the general turn of his habits was reserved and gloomy, proudly independent, too quick in conceiving himself affronted, and much too slow in regaining his good humour when he had discovered his mistake. I have often found him under the visitation of these sullen fits of discontent…

It seems that Cumberland saw clearly the traits of behaviour which led to a wasted life and early death in his son in law. Perhaps it is only natural to a grandparental perspective that he did not see them in his grandson in the same way. The kind of family life William Badcock must have experienced with such a father is illustrated not only by Cumberland but by no less a witness than the sharp-eyed Jane Austen. Encountering the couple at Bath, she has left a brief glimpse into some of the nature of their excess. In a letter to her sister Cassandra she makes passing mention of a group of people encountered at the Assembly Rooms in Bath:

Mrs Badcock and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs Badcock thought herself obliged to leave them and run round the room after her drunken Husband. His avoidance and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene. [24]

Sophia Badcock  nee Cumberland. William Badcock's mother

Sophia Badcock  nee Cumberland , William Badcock’s mother painted by Romney

William would then have been only nine years old, as the eldest child of Richard and Sophia he would have been the longest exposed to what one must assume was hardly the best parenting around. His father then died before his tenth birthday and he was at sea a year later, still not quite eleven years old. There is little to wonder at in the fact that William Badcock was a disturbed young man.

Thomas Devon was discharged just over a week after the court martial and in fact on the day that Cadogan was writing to ask for extended leave, the 26th  April  Devon was in Exeter marrying his fiancee Anne Tompson, daughter of a local doctor [25]. After a few months he took command, still as a lieutenant, of the Brev Drageren gun brig, 18, with a crew of fifty officers and men. He went on to distinguish himself in action and was later made a Knight and then Knight Commander of the Hanoverian order of the Guelph and died in 1846.

George Cadogan was in effect without a ship until the Autumn when he was appointed to command the Pallas and was involved in taking the future Duke of Wellington on board with his entourage. Cadogan continued in active naval service until 1813 when he retired with honours following the capture of Zara on the Dalmatian coast, an action for which he was decorated.  Cadogan was thirty and had been at sea for sixteen years since joining HMS Indefatigable in 1795.

Over the course of his naval career George Cadogan experience the best and the worst of the sea service and his few surviving letters provide a glimpse of the personal cost of these events.  Cadogan may never have ascended to the heights of his early mentor Captain Sir Edward Pellew but neither did he sink to the depths of the brutal Captain Hugh Pigot.  His letters suggest a man of some sensibility who was moved and affected by the events that he experienced and who is ultimately revealed as a deeply human individual.


[21] ADM 1/

[22] ADM 51/ Crocodile captain’s log 1810.

[23] Richard Dircks (ed), Memoirs of Richard Cumberland AMS Studies in the 18th Century vol 32, pp177-8.

[24] Deirdre le Fay (ed), Jane Austen’s letters, 2011. p 89.

[25] Marshall’s Naval Biography and marriage  entry in Registers of St Lawrence, Exeter from the records on microfilm at www.familysearch.com