Sir Peter Parker, 2nd Baronet

Sir Peter Parker, 2nd Baronet (England, 1785 – 31 August 1814, Fairlee, Maryland) was an English naval officer, the son of Vice-Admiral Christopher Parker and Augusta Byron.

Captain Peter Parker (John Hoppner, ca. 1808–1810)

BiographyEdit

Parker was the descendant of several Royal Navy flag officers. His father was the son of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, and his mother the daughter of Vice-Admiral John Byron. Educated at Westminster School, he entered the Royal Navy in 1798, serving under his grandfather and his grandfather's friend, Lord Nelson in Victory. He rapidly rose through the ranks, and was promoted in May 1804 to Commander. The next year he took command of the brig Weazel. The Weazel was the first British vessel to sight the Franco-Spanish fleet leaving Cádiz, an action that precipitated the Battle of Trafalgar. For this service he was promoted to Captain.

Parker was briefly a Member of Parliament. He was returned unopposed as a Tory for the Irish borough constituency of Wexford at a by-election held on 3 March 1810. He resigned the seat in 1811 and was replaced at a by-election on 1 July 1811.

In 1810, he was given command of the frigate Menelaus, which he commissioned. Within weeks of commissioning she was involved in the suppression of a mutiny aboard Africaine. The notoriously brutal Captain Robert Corbet had been appointed to command Africaine and the crew had protested and refused to allow him to board. The Admiralty sent three popular officers to negotiate with the crew and ordered Menelaus to come alongside. If the crew of Africaine refused to agree with the appointment of Corbet, Parker had been ordered to fire on the ship until they submitted. The crew eventually agreed to allow Corbet aboard and Menelaus did not have to fire on Africaine. In the summer of 1810, Parker sailed for the Indian Ocean to reinforce the squadron operating against Île de France, where he participated in the capture of the island in December 1810.

In 1812, Menelaus was part of the blockade of Toulon in the Mediterranean and operated against coastal harbours, shipping and privateers off the southern coast of France with some success. In 1813, the frigate was transferred to the Atlantic for service convoying merchant ships to Canada in the War of 1812. Menelaus was subsequently employed in raiding American positions along the Maryland coastline, destroying a coastal convoy in September. In 1814, Parker was ordered to operate against French ships in the Atlantic and recaptured a valuable Spanish merchant ship in January.

In 1814, following the French surrender, Menelaus was sent to Bermuda. From there Parker joined the British forces in the Chesapeake Bay under Admiral Sir George Cockburn and took part in the blockade of Baltimore. A bold and efficient commander, he became known for his ferocity in destroying American farms and property along the Chesapeake. Having for several days raided Kent County, Maryland, he landed a shore party and attempted a night attack on a detachment of Maryland militia at Fairlee, Maryland on the night of 30 August 1814. Parker, who had recently liberated four slaves after raiding the plantation of Richard Frisby, was told by one slave that there was an American militia unit nearby. Parker landed the Menelaus at Tolchester, Maryland and had the slave guide him to the position. There he met resistance from the 21st Maryland Militia under command of Lt. Colonel Phillip Reed in the corn field of Isaac Caulk. This precipitated the Battle of Caulk's Field; while British and American sources differ on the result of the battle, Parker was one of the casualties. Leading his marines, he was hit in the thigh (as his grandfather had been at the Battle of Sullivan's Island), but unlike his grandfather, Parker died on the field of a severed femoral artery. According to midshipman Frederick Chamier, "“The whole animation of the party died when he drooped,” Chamier said in his account. “The Americans fortunately had begun another retreat; and our ceasing fire only led them to believe that we were following the quicker. Sir Peter’s only words were these: ‘I fear they have done for me … you had better retreat, for the boats are a long way off.”[1] It took only about 10 minutes for Parker to bleed to death. 14 men under Parker's command died at Caulk's Field, 12 of which remain buried in unmarked graves at the site of the battle.

Parker's body was sent to Bermuda, and subsequently interred at the family vault at St Margaret's, Westminster, a public funeral with military honors being held on both occasions. He was eulogized by his first cousin, Lord Byron.

FamilyEdit

Parker married Marianne Dallas, daughter of Sir George Dallas, 1st Bt.. They had three sons:

  • Commander Sir Peter Parker, 3rd Baronet (1809–1835), promoted to commander on 3 March 1834, then of HMS Vernon
  • ? Parker (d. bef. 1835)
  • George Parker (February 1815 – 23 November 1817), died of croup.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Hemstock, Kevin (2014). "The Battle of Caulk's Field". Kent County.

ReferencesEdit

Naval career

  • Dallas, Sir George (1815) A biographical memoir of the late Sir Peter Parker: baronet, captain of His Majesty's ship Menelaus, of 38 guns, killed in action while storming the American camp at Bellair, near Baltimore, on the thirty-first of August, 1814. (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown).

Political career

  • The Parliaments of England by Henry Stooks Smith (1st edition published in three volumes 1844–50), 2nd edition edited (in one volume) by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1973)
  • Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801–1922, edited by B.M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978)

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Nevill
Member of Parliament for Wexford Borough
1810–1811
Succeeded by
Richard Nevill
Baronetage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Peter Parker
Baronet
(of Bassingbourn)
1811–1814
Succeeded by
Peter Parker