Mr. Midshipman Puget
Puget's ancestors had fled France for Britain during Louis XIV's persecution of the Huguenots. His father, John, was a successful merchant and banker, but died in 1767, leaving Puget's mother, Esther, with two sons and three daughters. In 1778, twelve-year-old Peter entered the navy as a midshipman and served in the following ships:
1778: HMS Dunkirk, an aging two-decker, Captain John Milligan. Harbor service.
December 1779: HMS Syren, frigate, Captain Edmund Dodd. Patrolled North Sea, battling blockade runners.
1780: HMS Lowestoft, 64, Captain Edmund Dodd (transferred from Syren); bound for the West Indies squadron. There, Puget served with a small force of naval gunners reinforcing the garrison at St. Kitts, and survived the defense of Brimstone Hill against the vastly superior forces of French Admiral DeGrasse. Probably served in Rodney and Hood's victory of April 12, 1782 at the Saintes.
November 1782: HMS Thetis, Captain John Blankett; Gilbralter and Mediterranean
1783: HMS Europa, battleship, Captain Vashon, flying the broad pennet of Commodore Alan Gardner; service in Jamaica. Met then-Lieutenant George Vancouver. Paid off in 1787.
1787: Rejoined Captain Dodd on the Lowestoft, but within two months, that was paid off too.
1788 (?): East Indiaman Prince
Lieutenant Puget and the Discovery
Upon returning to England, Puget was assigned to the HMS Discovery, temporarily as a Master's Mate, and then commissioned her 3rd Lieutenant on June 11, 1790 to assist in its fitting out for an exploration of the South Pacific. However, during the Great Spanish Armament, it was used as a depot vessel. When the crisis ended with the Treaty of Nootka Sound, the mission changed; the first priority was to physically accept possession of the Sound from the Spanish. An accurate survey the North American Pacific Coast, and other surveys, were important secondary missions.
Because the Admiralty, following the Mutiny on the Bounty incident, had ordered, as a precaution against mutiny, that ships no longer make such long voyages alone, the armed tender HMS Chatham was assigned to the expedition, and HMS Daedelus was to bring supplies a year later.
In 1791, Discovery and Chatham sailed to Cape Town, Australia, Tahiti and the Sandwich Isles before starting a detailed survey of the Pacific North American coast, from the Columbia River to Alaska. Many features were named after friends or persons of influence. When it was hoped that the Georgian Strait and Admiralty Inlet might lead to the Northwest Passage, Vancouver anchored the ships near modern-day Seattle, Washington and set Puget in command of two rowing craft to survey south (May 20-27, 1792). In recognition of Puget's work, Vancouver named the south end Puget Sound, a name that over time encompassed the whole.
Puget was given command of Chatham when her first captain was murdered in Hawai'i and his replacement was sent with dispatches back to England.
Commander and Captain
While only a lieutenant-in-command of Chathem, Puget served with distinction for the rest of the survey. He assisted Vacouver in negotiations with the Spanish at Nootka Sound. In 1795, the two-ship squadron returned to England by way of Cape Horn, capturing a Dutch East Indiaman along the way. Once home, Puget was confirmed in the rank of Commander.
In February 1796, Commander Puget was given the tiny Adelphi with which to protect a supply convoy to Gibralter. To protect the return convoy, he fitted out an armed freighter, the Esther, using his own funds. On the return voyage, he captured a Spanish merchantman and sent it ahead with a prize crew. Then his convoy was attacked by French frigate La Bellona, and Puget interposed his tiny vessel to let the other ships flee. Puget then bribed the French captain (pointing out that he was unlikely to collect much in prize money) and brought his command home. Ironically, the British Admiralty found a way not to pay Puget prize money on the merchantman, although it did cover his expenses, including the bribe.
In 1797, Puget was given command of the sloop-of-war HMS Raven and join the fleet of Sir John Jervis. Jervis put him in charge of the San Nicholas, a Spanish ship-of-the-line, still crewed by Spaniards; Puget suppressed a mutiny and delivered the crew to Lisbon.
1798: Captain of troopship HMS Van Tromp
March, 1799: Flag captain for Admiral Whitshed on HMS Temeraire
1800: Captain of ship-of-the-line HMS Monarch; served with the channel fleet until she was paid off in 1802, following the Peace of Amiens
1804: Flag captain for Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves on HMS Foudroyant; served in Channel blockade until seriously injured in 1805; sent home to recover
February 1807: Captain of ship-of-the-line HMS Goliath.
In 1807, Puget played a decisive role at the Second Battle of Copenhagen. He lead an inshore squadron of shallow-draft vessels (including two bomb ketches) to disable the Danish gunboats and to cover the army's seaward flank in a maneuver similar to Nelson's action in the First Battle of Copenhagen. However, British public reaction to the second attack was unfavorable, since it was an attack on a neutral country; no fame attached to Puget's success.
1809: At the request of Admiral Sir Richard Strachan, Puget planned and assisted in the successful amphibious invasion of the Dutch islands of Walcheren and Vlissingen.
1810-1817: Commissioner of the Navy at Madras. He supervised naval affair throughout much of India, fought the corruption endemic to supply practices, and developed the new naval base at Trincomalee.
Thereafter, Puget settled into family life, living in Bath, England for reasons of health. He was gazetted a Companion of the Bath in 1818 and, according to the rules of seniority, he was commissioned Rear Admiral of the Blue on July 19, 1821.
The Bath Chronicle memorialized him:
"Died on Thursday 31st October at his home in Grosvenor Place, after a long and painful illness, Rear Admiral Peter Puget C.B. This lamented officer had sailed round the world with the late Captain Vancouver, had commanded various men-of-war and was many years Commissioner at Madras, the climate of which place greatly contributed to the destruction of his health."
Peter Puget married Hannah Elrington on February 6, 1797. They had 7 sons and 4 daughters.
Their eldest son, Peter Richard Puget, went to America and became an actor. Other sons served in the British Army or Navy, one of which (William David) retired as a Captain. The daughter all married and it is through one of them, Eleanor Catherine, came the only known descendent of Peter and Hannah Puget.
Hannah Puget never remarried, died on September 14, 1849, and is buried next to Peter, in the church yard of Woolley, in Bath. The original sarcophagus is heavily weatherworn, and has been supplemented by a bronze plaque donated by the Seattle Historical Society.
* Wing, Robert and Newell, Gordon (1979). Peter Puget: Lieutenant on the Vancouver Expedition, fighting British naval officer, the man for whom Puget Sound was named. Gray Beard Publishing. ISBN 0-933686-00-5.
* Muster Table of His Majesties Sloop The Discovery. Admiralty Records in the Public Record Office, U.K. (1791).
* Naish, John (1996). The Interwoven Lives of George Vancouver, Archibald Menzies, Joseph Whidbey and Peter Puget: The Vancouver Voyage of 1791-1795. The Edward Mellen Press, Ltd.. ISBN 0-7734-8857-X.
The above is from an article on wikipedia to which I made large contributions (about 90% of the text.) It is of course under a free license so anyone can use it (subject to the license). I hope anyone who can improve the article will do so! The current version (which has probably been editted more) is here: