Captain Rennie had distinguished himself, when a lieutenant, at the Helder; and Admiral Mitchell had mentioned him in such high terms of commendation in his public despatches, that he was made a post-captain. After remaining for some time unemployed, he was appointed to the Invincible, and proud of his first command, full of life and hope, he had just put to sea when this melancholy catastrophe closed a career that held out such bright prospects for the future.
We must not be supposed to have more feeling for an officer than for the men before the mast. If we dwell with peculiar sorrow upon the loss of a brave commander, like Captain Rennie, it is not that we are indifferent to the fate of the four hundred gallant men who perished with him; but there is something in human nature that compels even the most generous spirit to speak more of the loss of a man in a responsible station than others; and one reason for this may be, that our hopes under God, for the safety of our fleets and our armies, rest on our brave and efficient commanders.
No one can read such records of British seamen, as appear in this volume, without joining heart and soul in the sentiment expressed by the poet:—
To them your dearest rights
In peace, then, would you starve them?
What say ye, Britain’s sons? Oh, no!
Protect them and preserve them;
Shield them from poverty and pain;
’Tis policy to do it:
Or when grim war shall come again,
Oh, Britons! ye may rue it.
Lieutenant Robert Tucker, who was saved in the launch, accompanied Rear-Admiral Totty to the Baltic and West Indies in the Zealous, 74. He was subsequently promoted, and appointed to the Surinam in 1803.
Whilst the Surinam was on the West India station, Captain Tucker rendered good service to the French garrison at Jacquemel; and on returning from thence, his ship sprung her foremast, and was in other respects so much damaged, that he was obliged to put in at Curacoa. Whilst refitting, he received private information that Great Britain and Holland would ere long be declared enemies. He therefore made every effort to hasten his departure, and get his ship ready for sea; and he had warped her to the head of the harbour, when a prize schooner which he had despatched to Commodore Hood returned from that officer, with orders for his future guidance. The officer on board the schooner incautiously permitted his vessel to touch at the government wharf, when some of the crew, having the opportunity imprudently afforded them, jumped on shore, and reported that the British had already commenced hostilities.
Upon this the Surinam was detained, and Captain Tucker was ordered on shore, and informed that he must consider himself a prisoner of war. At first he was not put under strict surveillance, and he therefore employed the weary hours in taking plans of the forts and batteries of the island. His occupation, however, was soon discovered, and highly disapproved by the authorities, who immediately placed him in close confinement in a room of the barracks.