Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Davies in Gentlemen and Tarpaulins says…
Captain Nixon who had fought in the first Dutch War and whose courage had been highly commended by Albermarle himself, was sentenced to death for cowardice. (1665)
On the 25th May 1665 Sandwich reports the Court-Martial of Nixon...
“This morning the Duke called a court-martial of all the Captains of the fleet for the trial of Captain Edward Nixon, who was the commander of the Elizabeth frigate. Had been at Tangier to transport my Lord Bellasis and the recruits for that garrison, and was returning for Plymouth with the Eagle in company and in the Soundings met with 2 Dutch men of war of above 30 guns each. Exchanged some broadsides with them and at night bore up for the Channel and left them, they pursuing him until 4 o’clock in the morning . The captain of the Eagle advising him to continue the fight and himself viz. the captain of the Eagle, being shot in the head with a small shot, a slight wound.
Captain Nixon confessing the fact and alleging nothing for himself, but the evil council of his ship’s officers and the bad weather that he could not carry out his lower tier, and suspicion that these 2 men of war had more ships near to countenance their boldness; and too much care to perform his orders, which were to go to Plymouth and there receive advice how matters passed between our fleet and the Hollanders and in the case of no danger to repair to Portsmouth, concluded with acknowledging he had greatly offended and begged the Duke’s mercy.
Hitherto the Duke and Prince Rupert were present, but after Cpt. Nixon had said, the Duke spoke to the commanders, told them how much the honour of the King and the Nation was wounded in this miscarriage, wished the commanders to consider of what had been confessed and to punish it with severity according to the laws martial. And so himself and Prince Rupert went out of the Court and commanded me to preside the court-martial.
The Judge-Advocate, Fowler, read unto us the laws martial pertinent for the occasion and the 12 article was pitched upon by the commanders, which says that whatsoever captain shall withdraw himself from a fight with the enemy or not to do his best to destroy and take all pirates and enemies shall be punished with Death, or such other punishment as the court-martial shall see fit. And the court-martial did unanimously conclude his offence within the article.
And the major part of them (all indeed except 6 or 7, viz. (as I remember) Vice-Admiral Myngs, Capt. Kempthorn, Capt. Fenn, Capt. Selly and 2 or 3 more, who were for a mitigated sentence, because the article did leave a liberty for it, but gave no other reason for the lessening of his offence, did judge him to suffer death according to that article by being shot to death.
Captain Nixon was called in and the said sentence was pronounced unto him, and so the court was dismissed.”
(Journal of Montagu edited by Anderson)
NIXON, Edward,—was appointed captain of the Phœnix in 1660, of the Mermaid in the following year, and the Elizabeth in the year 1664, all by commission from the duke of York. No further mention is made of him.---Biographia Navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.
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