Captain Joseph Fletcher's background and information
Joseph James Fletcher is the son of a wealthy wool merchant from the South West of England. As the second son he was set to inherit nothing and so sent to the Navy to make his fortune. Since joining at age 12 Captain Fletcher has distinguished himself in a number of actions ensuring rapid promotion. Now based in the West Indies Captain Fletcher works alongside his uncle, Walter Fletcher to further the aims of King George.
Cotehele is a Tudor house located in the parish of Calstock, Cornwall. In Cornish the place name is Koesheyl (the creek in the wood). Originating circa 1300. The main phases of building appear to have been by Sir Richard Edgcumbe from 1485-89 and his son, Sir Piers Edgcumbe, from 1489-1520. For centuries a home of the Edgcumbe family, the house and grounds now form part of the Fletcher estate. The grounds stretch down to a quay on the River Tamar, allowing access by boat to the dockyards at Plymouth.
Although a modest estate, especially compared to nearby Edgcumbe and Saltrum, Cotehele is one of the best preserved Tudor houses in England and is sighted close to the Fletcher ancestral home. The addition of a Quay provides quick access to Plymouth and beyond.
As fitting his Rank the Lord Edgcume maintains rooms in Westminster however most of his time is spent at sea, during which the family run the estate.
A life at sea
I was a young lieutenant of 17, based with the channel fleet onboard HMS Swift, a 34. We were part of a squadron tasked with a mission to raid an ammunition convoy bound for Breast and had received information for an exploring officer working in France. A large road convoy of powder was bound for the port to equip a new 74 that had just been completed. Two ships would stand guard while we landed a shore party, a company of marines under Captain Conner and 35 picked men from the ship. I was to lead 35 of our men. The marines would march to the road to attack the convoy while 15 of our men under Lieutenant Madders would guard the boats. I was to lead my men to the village of St. Lo and prevent anyone razing the alarm.
The landing was unopposed; we left Lt. Madders and marched the 2 miles inland. Reaching the village at 3 in the morning we waited for the arranged time of 6 o’clock, noon. I sent half the men with Midshipman Denny around to the other side of the village and moved in the arranged time. We caught the villagers unawares and moving house to house collected everyone and moved them to the church where they were guarded by Midshipman Attfield and 7 men. So far not a shot had been fired. We were to wait until we heard the marines detonate the powder convoy. This was due to happen at around 8.
It was then that things started to go wrong. Some of the men had found a wine cellar and were drunk, two of the men started fighting and shots were fired, no one was hurt but the shot had alerted people in nearby farms, including a half company of French infantry who were waiting to join the convoy. My outlying pickets reported that the infantry were forming up and preparing to march on out position. I ordered the church boarded up and left men to guard the door. I then sent a messenger to warn Lt. Madders and request he send half his force. I then prepared to meet the French.
We took up position on the western edge of the village, using a cornfield and farmhouse as cover. I sent parties to search the houses with orders to collect oil and powder. Using this I prepared a 20 yard strip of the cornfield. My plan was to fire it to prevent the French hitting out southern flank. My men were not used to fighting in the line and I would have to get the French to come close. Placing my men behind the walls of the farm I gave orders, we would wait until the enemy were within 20 yards, give them one volley and then charge. We would not pursue the fleeing enemy but return to our position and await the second attack. I kept a reserve of 5 good fighting men, they would use bayonets to prevent any flank attack.
The French came in loose formation, about 75 men in all. At 100 years my men gave up a cry “God save the king” and the French formed up and came on. At 50 yards they stopped and fired a volley, Clouter went down when a musket ball hit him in the throat; Perkin was hit in the leg. The French reloaded and still I did not fire. Their second volley was less effective, my men were learning to listen to the French officers and ducking behind cover. The French then charged! My men aimed at 40 yards and fired at 20. The volley was devastating, I saw 9 men go down before the smoke hid the enemy. With a cheer “a Swift, a Swift!” my men went forward, it was too much for the French and the broke and ran!
It was now 10 o’clock
20 Min later and they came on again, this time one man would fire while another kept his musket loaded to stop any counter charge. They spread out, hoping to overlap our flanks and with less of a target my volley was not as effective affective and the French were ready for our charge. Before we got to them 5 of my men were down and the French held firm and it became a hand to hand struggle. From behind there was a shout, they had moved onto our southern flank and were hitting us in the rear. Only the quick actions of Midshipman Denny saved the day. He lead the reserve to counter the threat, ignoring a wound in his left arm. He then fired the cornfield causing confusion in the French men. Suddenly there was a cry of “Swift, Swift” and Lt. Madders charged with 20 of his men into the French flank, this was too much for them and they started to pull back, but were still fighting. Then there was an almighty noise as the marines completed their mission. That was it for the French and they turned and ran. Victory was ours.
The butchers will was low, 4 dead including poor Clouter, 12 wounded including 3 who were too bad to move and had to be left with the villagers. Of the two men who were drunk, Woodley was killed in the fighting and Banks fought valiantly and had his punishment reduced from hanging to 50 lashes, which he took well. Once back to the boats we set sail for Plymouth, encountering a French 36 on the way, but that’s for another story!
Current and previous commissions
- HMS Flamsteed - 4th Rate ship of the line
- HMS Exeter - 4th Rate ship of the line
- HMS Anistasia - 4th Rate ship of the line
- HMS St George - 1st Rate ship of the line, Squadron Flagship
- HMS Plymouth - 3rd Rate ship of the line, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Devon - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Experiment - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Fearless - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Parliament - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Torbay - 4th Rate ship of the line, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Danae - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Halfrida - 5th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Master - 6th Rate Frigate, laid up in Port Royal
- HMS Bounder - Unrated Cutter, laid up in Port Royal