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He participated in the gallant Sir George B. Rodney's glorious victory of the 1st of April, 1782, and, immediately subsequent to this splendid event, he obtained his commission, bearing date 2nd of May, 1782, as commander, and was appointed to the Fury sloop of war, having served as a lieutenant less than one year.
In the next year, 1783, he was made post captain, an exceedingly rapid, and a not strictly regular, promotion—a rapidity of advancement that can only be accounted for by his father's interest at court, and justified by Sir Sidney's great merit. He was a post captain at the juvenile age of nineteen, having served as a commander only one year and five days.
With this promotion he obtained the command of the Alcmene, a small class frigate of twentyeight guns; and as a short and deceitful though a profound peace had appeared to have hushed up the angry feelings of the European powers, he returned to England, and on his arrival his ship was immediately paid off.
Now, with the certainty of life, was the certainty of the highest honours of his noble profession assured to him. Without meaning the imbecility of a pun, before he had reached his majority as a civilian, as a naval officer he ranked with a full colonel in the army. The minor man
was a full post. He had passed, when in the eye of the law he was only considered as an infant, as a warrior entitled to the command of hundreds of men, those difficult, and too often impassable portals which open to that path, which requires only time to guide the fortunate traveller to the high station of admiral of the red. Truly may it be said of Sir Sidney, that he possessed, in an eminent degree, that (by the Romans) much venerated attribute in a commander, good luck ; and it was happy for his country, and glorious to our hero, that he possessed merits equal only to his brilliancy of accident.
On his return to England he found his worthy parent residing at Carrington-street, May Fair; and though, as yet, he had not graven his name deeply on the tablets of fame, he had signalised himself sufficiently to make all connected with him proud to own him as an acquaintance, friend, or relation. His father, at this period, seemed to exist but for his favourite son; every indulgence was his that he could bestow, and much more excellent advice was at his son's service than he chose to receive. It must be confessed that at this time he fell in with the gaieties of liis station, and the opportunities that were offered him in the best metropolitan society, but in a manner neither vicious nor outrageous. With the exception of some few passages of love, with which our biography has nothing to do, he might be pronounced at this period of his life a rather staid young man.
Sir Sidney enters the Swedish service — The Battle of the
Galleys— The Battle of the 9th and 10th of June—Anecdote of Captain Dennison-Some reflections on British officers serving foreign powers.
With increasing ardour for a profession in which he had already given so great a promise of future excellence, and impatient of a life of inactivity, our officer, in 1788, upon a prospect of a rupture between Sweden and Russia, with a generous sympathy for the party which appeared to be the weaker, entered into the naval service of the former.
His distinguished bravery and very superior naval science drew upon him the general attention, and purchased for him the gratitude of the Swedish nation. It was a severe service in stormy regions, and an inclement climate. Captain Smith had first to discipline before he fought his crews.
In the several severe encounters
which proved the more bloody and disastrous in wreck, on account of the ignorance of the belligerents, the fleets of the Empress Catherine had bitterly to deplore the assistance that was brought to their opponents in the person of our officer.
The digression can hardly be thought to be unwarrantable, when it gives an abstract of some of the encounters between the naval armament of these rival northern powers. It was in those that Captain Sidney Smith saw some most severe service, and gained great knowledge and experience in the desperate school of actual fight. We will select from among these transactions a short account of the battle of the Galleys, which may not be unacceptable to the admirers of our hero's character.
Just as the stormy April of 1790 was terminating, the grand fleet of Sweden - for Sweden then had a grand fleet, and was a considerable naval power—under the command of the Duke of Sudermania, consisting of twenty-three ships of the line and eighteen frigates, sailed from Carlscrona, in the province of Smaland.
This expedition was well planned. Its pretended object was that of preventing the junction of two divisions of the Russian fleet, one of which was then riding at anchor in the port of Revel, the other in the port of Cronstadt. The real