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American and French Revolutionary Wars - H.M.S. Alfred Snuff Box, 1814
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American and French Revolutionary Wars - H.M.S. Alfred Snuff Box, 1814

Measurements: 9cm (3.5in) x 6.2cm (2.5in) x 2.5cm (1in)



Oak with silver gilt mounts and interior lining. The rectangular box with hinged lid applied with a silver gilt plaque in the form of the Third-Rate H.M.S. Alfred’s stern,  framed within a silver gilt border of oak leaf and acorn design. The underside applied with a silver gilt plaque engraved with H.M.S. Alfred under canvas over the initials ‘GW to JI.’. Maker’s mark of Joseph Ash I. Hallmarked London 1813-14. The present snuff box belongs to the naval tradition of constructing snuff boxes from ships timbers as a momentoes of service at sea.

Launched in 1778 at Chatham during the American War of Independence, H.M.S. Alfred, 74-guns, (Captain William Blayne, R.N.) first saw active service in the Channel interrupting American trade. After Spain joined the alliance of Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, Holland and France against England, Alfred was present at the moonlight Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780) where Admiral Rodney defeated the fleet under Don Juan Francisco de Lángara. Having participated in the latter stages of the Channel Fleet’s campaign, Alfred sailed with Hood’s squadron for the Leeward Islands, and was present at the capture of the island of St. Eustatius (3 February 1781) through which substantial quantities of American Revolutionary military supplies were being trans-shipped.

Alfred subsequently led the British line at the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April 1781 and again at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay fought off the Virginia coast on 5 September 1781. Alfred returned to the Leeward Islands with Hood in the autumn, but in January 1781 was involved in a collision with the frigate Nymphe 36-guns, (Captain John Ford, R.N.) off St. Kitts. Nobody was held accountable for the incident and indeed Bayne earned great praise for quickly restoring theAlfred to order and joining Hood’s repulse of the French at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25/26 January 1782. Whilst leading the British van in the skirmish with the French fleet on 9 April, the captain’s leg was carried off at mid-thigh by a chain shot and he died before a tourniquet could be applied. Three days later at the Battle of the Saintes, which prevented the invasion of Jamaica and broke the back of French naval power in the Caribbean, she expended all of her powder and shot in what was to prove the final major naval engagement of the American Revolution. After participating in Hood’s pursuit of crippled French ships and the consequent Battle of the Mona Passage, the Alfred returned to England was paid off in 1783.

After recommissioning in 1790, Alfred was in Hood’s division at the fleet action of The Glorious First of June. However on that occasion Alfred (Captain John Bazely, R.N.) was unable or unwilling to respond to Lord Howe’s order to break the French line. Returning to the Caribbean,Alfred took a succession of prizes between 1796 and 1798, the largest of which was the French frigate Renommée, 32-guns, off San Domingo, before being paid off. Alfred served as a Hospital Ship at Plymouth from 1800 until being refitted and recommissioned in 1807. Later the same year when under the command of Captain John Bligh, R.N., Alfred took part in the second Battle of Copenhagen that resulted in the Danes being forced to surrender their fleet. In 1808 Alfred was ordered to Portugal where she landed troops under Sir John Moore and Sir Arthur Wellesley, before returning home as part of the escort to the Russian fleet, which had been surrendered under the terms of the Convention of Cintra. In May 1809 Alfred was Chatham undergoing repairs under Captain Joshua Rowley Watson R.N., whose diary records her subsequent later duties as a troop carrier on the Walcheren Expedition (1809) and in support of the army in the West Indies and Mediterranean. After two further changes of commanding officer Alfred was paid off for the last time and broken up at Portsmouth in May 1814.