~ Circa 1778 Brass Barrelled Flintlock Pistol Owned By Admiral Foley Hero Of The Battle Of The Nile By J Harding Of London ~
The pistol is full stocked in walnut with a chequered grip. The brass barrel is of octagonal form with front and rear sites. The ramrod is horn tipped.
The top flat is engraved ‘J Harding Borough London Thomas Foley Esq Captain R N’ and the lockplate ‘J Harding’. Harding was a principal contractor who provided blunderbusses etc. for the Post Office. It is likely that the lock plate was changed from an earlier piece and the barrel inscribed at that time.
The engraved silver trigger guard is a later upgraded replacement, with pineapple finial, is hallmarked for London, 1818 and has a makers mark of ‘M.B’, probably Margaret Binley who was active between 1765 and 1790.
An exquisite piece.
~ Admiral Foley ~
Admiral Sir Thomas Foley GCB (1757 – 9 January 1833) was a Royal Navy officer and “Hero of the Battle of the Nile”.
He was the second son of landowner John Foley of Ridgeway, the Foley family’s ancestral estate in the parish of Llawhaden near Narberth, Pembrokeshire, and the nephew of Captain Thomas Foley, who accompanied George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, on his voyage around the world.
He entered the Royal Navy in 1770, and, during his time as midshipman, saw a good deal of active service in the West Indies against American privateers. Promoted lieutenant in 1778, he served under Admiral Keppel (afterwards Viscount) and Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel, and with Rodney’s squadron was present at the defeat of De Langara off Cape St Vincent in 1780, and at the relief of Gibraltar. Still under Rodney’s command, he went out to the West Indies, and took his part in the operations which culminated in victory at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782.
In the French Revolutionary War he was engaged from the first. As flag-captain to Admiral John Gell, and afterwards to Sir Hyde Parker, Foley took part in the siege of Toulon in 1793, the action of Golfe Jouan in 1794, and the two fights off Toulon on 13 April and 13 July 1795. At St Vincent he was flag-captain to the second in command on Britannia. After the battle he was transferred to the Goliath (74), in which he was sent out in the following year to reinforce Nelson’s fleet in the Mediterranean.
The part played by the Goliath in the Battle of the Nile was brilliant. She led the squadron round the French van, and this manoeuvre contributed not a little to the result of the day. Whether this was done by Foley’s own initiative, or intended by Horatio Nelson, has been a matter of controversy.
His next important service was with Nelson in the Baltic. At the beginning of 1801, Nelson was promoted to Vice Admiral of the Blue and after a few months, he took part as the second in command in the Battle of Copenhagen. The Elephant carried Nelson’s flag and Foley acted as his chief-of-staff. During the action Nelson’s commander, Sir Hyde Parker, who believed that the Danish fire was too strong, signaled for him to break off the action. Nelson ordered that the signal be acknowledged but not repeated. Legend has it that Nelson turned to his flag captain and said:
“You know, Foley, I only have one eye – I have the right to be blind sometimes” and then holding his telescope to his blind eye said “I really do not see the signal!”
Nelson’s action was approved in retrospect.
Foley was one of Nelson’s “Band of Brothers”. Nelson himself was a sea-officer par excellence. Yet there were many who struggled, suffered and were wounded as often as he. This could not help but develop a close relationship among the men. Nelson himself was very aware of the brotherhood which had arisen. In his biography of Nelson, David Howarth makes this clear:
“…Nelson’s famous phrase, “I had the happiness to command a band of brothers’…After his first great victory, Nelson called his captains ‘my darling children’, and none was the least embarrassed by that. Under Jervis, the captains of the Mediterranean fleet were becoming a brotherhood, bonded by skill, experience, mutual respect and a common cause. Maybe they had not thought of it in that way before; but from about this time they all did, and Nelson most of all. And the concept – so suitable to his nature – became an important, conscious element in his conduct of the war.”
An amusing illustration of the affection Nelson inspired in his captains, and of the half maternal care they exercised over the fragile and stunted body of their famous leader, is supplied by a letter from Nelson himself to Ball, written from Kioge Bay in 1801. He was racked with the Baltic cold, and wroth, as was common with him, with the still chillier winds which blew from the Admiralty Board:
“But,” he says, “all in the fleet are so truly kind to me that I should be a wretch not to cheer up. Foley has put me under a regimen of milk at four in the morning; Murray has given me lozenges; Hardy is as good as ever, and all have proved their desire to keep my mind easy.”
That picture of one sea veteran administering warm milk to his admiral at four o’clock in the morning is amusing enough; but it shows more effectively than graver things could do the feeling Nelson inspired in his captains.
Ill-health obliged Foley to decline Nelson’s offer (made when on the point of starting for the Battle of Trafalgar) of the post of Captain of the Fleet. Therefore it was Foley’s fellow “brother” Thomas Hardy who was present at Nelson’s death.
From 1811 to 1815, Foley commanded in the Downs from his flagship Monmouth, and at the peace was made KCB. Sir Thomas Foley rose to be full admiral and GCB. He died while serving as Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth in 1833.
~ Condition ~
The lock works well on half cock and cock with a strong spring. The woodwork on the stock is complete with no loss. The metal work is in good order.
~ Dimensions ~
The pistol is 37 cm (14.5 inches) in length with a 23 cm (9 inches) barrel.