Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
Per L&M Companion:
Harman, Sir John, kt. 1665 (d. 1673). One of the most experienced of contemporary seamen, he served in all three Dutch wars; in the last two as a flag-officer. A parliamentary inquiry exonerated him for his failure to pursue the enemy after the Battle of Lowestoft (1665). A John Harman lived in New Palace Yard in 1658 and 1661.
Portrait with more biographical information:http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object...
HARMAN, Sir John.—This brave, and justly renowned commander was appointed captain of the Gloucester, of fifty-eight guns, in 1664; and, in the following spring, served as lieutenant of the Royal Charles. The office he bore is not, however, to be taken according to' the present meaning affixed to the term. He was, in fact, captain of the ship, as sir William Penn, who was on board the Royal Charles with him, was captain of the fleet. The enemies of the duke of York have taken some pains to asperse the character of sir John Harman, as having been concerned in the business with Brounker. The rage of party can reconcile the greatest absurdities and persuade the most sensible men of the propriety of its dictates: but certainly no man can stand clearer of all blame than he does. The story, as related by unbiassed persons, is simply this. After the action, in which it is admitted, on all hands, the Royal Charles bore so distinguished a part, the duke having retired to his cabin for repose, Brounker, who was one of the gentlemen of his bed-chamber, came to sir John, who was then standing near the helm, and pressed him much to shorten sail, urging as a reason, the risk the duke ran if his ship, the headmost of the fleet, should fall in singly with the enemy upon their own coasts. Sir John ever attentive to, and intelligent in his duty as an officer, answered, "he could do nothing without orders." Brounker accordingly went back into the cabin, and brought him orders, as from the duke, to shorten sail. Sir John obeyed. It must be apparent to any person who will be at the pains of considering the foregoing statement, that, let the blame (if any) lay where it will, not a shadow of it is imputable to sir John, whose subsequent conduct through life proved him one of the last men in the world, who could with justice be charged either with treachery or want of spirit. As a convincing proof no such opinion was entertained of him by government, he received the honour of knighthood, and is said in the navy list to have been appointed, immediately after the action, rear-admiral of the white, and that he hoisted his flag on board the Resolution. This we apprehend to be a mistake, as we find him both in the navy list, and every other document, serving, when the fleet put next to sea under the command of the earl of Sandwich, as rear admiral of the blue on board the Revenge, an highly merited, though very rapid promotion, when we consider scarcely twelve months had elapsed since he first became a commander. ---Biographia Navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.
In the month of November following he was detached, by the earl of Sandwich, with eighteen ships, to bring home the fleet from Gottenburgh. On his return he shifted his flag into the Henry, and distinguished himself too remarkably, in the long action between the duke of Albemarle and the Dutch, to be passed over in general or common terms of approbation. Leading the van of the English fleet, he soon got into the center of the Zealand squadron; and being in a short time completely disabled, one of the enemy's fireships grappled him on the starboard quarter: he was, however, soon freed by the almost incredible exertions of his boatswain, (as it is asserted by all historians, but according to the navy list it appears he was his lieutenant) who having in the midst of the flames loosed the grappling-irons, swung back on board his own ship unhurt. The Dutch bent on the destruction of this unfortunate ship, and seeing the ill-success of the first, sent a second, who grappled her on the larboard side, and with much greater success than the former, for the sails instantly taking fire, the crew were so terrified that near fifty of them, among whom the chaplain is said to have been one, jumped overboard. Sir John seeing this confusion ran instantly, with his sword drawn, among those who remained, and threatened, with instant death, the first man who should attempt to quit the ship, or should not exert himself in quenching the flames. This spirited conduct had the desired effect the crew returning to their duty soon got the fire under: but the rigging being a good deal of it burnt, one of the top-sail yards fell and broke sir John's leg. In the midst of this accumulated distress a third fireship prepared to grapple him; but ere she could effect her purpose, four shot from the Henry's lower-deck guns sunk her. Evertzen, the Dutch vice-admiral now bore up to him, and calling on him to surrender, offered him quarter. Sir John answered him bluntly, "It was not come to that yet," and giving him a broadside killed the Dutch commander, which so intimidated the rest of his adversaries, that they declined all farther contest. The Henry, shattered as she was, her Commander disabled, and great part of her crew killed or wounded was, nevertheless, carried safely into Harwich, whence, sir John having the next day refitted her, as well as the time and circumstances would permit him, and hoping to share in the honour of the last day's engagement, put to sea (notwithstanding his broken leg) but unfortunately, as sir John thought, the action was over ere he reached the fleet.---Biographia Navalis. J. Charnock, 1794.
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