Capt. John Linzee, RN assumed his first command at the age of twenty-seven, and seems to have been present, for better or worse, at a surprising number of the significant naval engagements that occurred during the Revolutionary War.
In the posts ahead, I’m going to focus largely on his presence at the Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, but there is fascinating material scattered across the web dealing with both his life as a whole and his participation in these other events. The archivist in me would love to reproduce all that material here in toto, and probably fair use laws would allow some creative excerpts, but rather than go that route, I’ll simply put up the links.
- Linzee’s biography – one from the Linzee Family Association, and another from More than Nelson, a site devoted to the golden age of the British navy
- Linzee and the Gaspee Affair – an article at the Gaspee Virtual Archives
- Linzee and the first naval skirmish of the revolution (yes, you read that right) – an article by Derek W. Beck; a follow-up article by J.L. Bell
- Linzee and the Battle of Gloucester – the Wikipedia explanation; a follow-up article from Revolutionary War and Beyond, a history site
Portrait of Capt. Linzee attributed to Sir George Chalmers. The original is in the museum at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston.
Here below, as a quick thumbnail sketch, I will offer the following brief timeline of Capt. Linzee’s very full career. It comes from the HMS Falcon website, a naval reenactment group dedicated to the history of the sloop, and is used with their generous permission.
from the HMS Falcon site,
25 March 1743: Born in Dorsetshire and raised at Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, one of three known children of Captain John Linzee, Sr. of the Royal Navy and his wife, Rose.
28 February 1767: Appointed as master’s mate aboard ROMNEY (50 guns).
19 November 1767: Commissioned as a lieutenant and served aboard the LANCASTER (66 guns) as third lieutenant.
22 October 1768: Appointed to temporary command of schooner HALIFAX (6).
28 March 1769: Appointed as second lieutenant of ROMNEY.
26 May 1770: Appointed as first lieutenant aboard ROMNEY.
4 October 1770: Appointed as acting commander of the 14-gun brig BEAVER off Rhode Island Station by Commodore Samuel Hood (his mother’s uncle). BEAVER was to assist the King’s Revenue Service in the suppression of smugglers and other violators of the Crown’s taxation laws.
10 October 1770: Confirmed in command of BEAVER. Lieutenant Linzee soon established a reputation for ruthlessness in the pursuit of his duties.
9 June 1772: His Majesty’s schooner GASPEE (8), tender to BEAVER, was taken and burned by “patriots” near Providence, Rhode Island. During the investigation of the incident, Linzee was arrested by the civil authorities after he refused to hand over a key witness to them and was severely criticized for his “callous behavior” in the affair by the Admiralty Commission of Inquiry.
1 September 1772: Married to Miss Susannah Inman of Boston, Massachusetts. (Over the years, they would produce nine children.)
29 October 1772: Removed from command of BEAVER and put on the half pay list. Lieutenant and Mrs. Linzee sailed to England and took up residence in Plymouth.
19 January 1775: Promoted to Master and Commander of the 14-gun sloop FALCON at Portsmouth, England.
26 February 1775: FALCON sailed to join the North Atlantic Squadron at Boston, Massachusetts and arrived
16 April 1775. Linzee lead the FALCON through hard-fought victory and defeat for almost two years.
16 February 1777: Promoted to Post Captain by Admiral James Young and assumed command of the CAMILLA (20) at Antigua, West Indies.
03 May 1777: Returned to command of FALCON by order of Admiral Richard Howe. (Admiral Howe viewed the promotions by Admiral Young as an affront to his authority and annulled them, hence Linzee’s temporary return to FALCON. The Admiralty soon confirmed Young’s promotions and Howe was forced to appoint these officers to new commands.)
21 May 1777: Appointed as captain of the PEARL (32) at New York, New York. (The Admiralty confirmed this appointment on 06 August 1779).
28 November 1780: Appointed as captain of the SANTA MONICA (36).
16 July 1781: Linzee was forced to put down a mutiny aboard SANTA MONICA while at English Harbor, Antigua. He was cleared in the subsequent court-marshal of any wrongdoing.
1 April 1782: The SANTA MONICA was wrecked off Tortola in the Virgin Islands. Linzee’s leadership was credited with saving much of the ordnance, stores, and cargo and all but one of the crew.
4 December 1788: Appointed as captain of PENELOPE (32). On 9 Sept. 1790, Linzee sailed PENELOPE into the harbor of Boston, Massachusetts, and fired what is believed to have been the first salute in New England waters to the flag of the new United States by a foreign ship.
October 1792: Susannah Linzee died at Boston, age 38. Captain Linzee resigned from the Navy soon after.
8 October 1798: Captain Linzee died at his home in Milton, Massachusetts, age 56, and was interred with his wife in the churchyard of old Trinity Church, Boston.
– ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS –
- First and foremost, many thanks to the historian of The Linzee Family Association of America, Thomas Linzee,
- and the other Members of the Board for the use of Captain Linzee’s portrait. They have been most generous
- Please visit their web site at – http://www.linzeefamilyassn.org/ for more information.
- “The Lindeseie and Limesi families of Great Britain: including the probates at Somerset house, London, England, of all the spellings of the name Lindeseie from 1300 to 1800”, Volume 2, by J. W. Linzee. The Fort Hill Press, private printing 1917.
- The Collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, U.K.
- The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, U.K.
- “The Court and City Register, or Gentleman’s Complete Annual Kalendar “, 1768 – 1780.
- “The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle”, 1736–1833.
- ”The Scots Magazine”, Vol. 42, 1780, pages 19 – 20, by James Boswell, printed by Sands, Brymer, Murray and Cochran, 1780
- “The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure”, multiple volumes.
- “Naval chronology or an Historical Summary of Naval Maritime Events from the time of the Romans, to the Treaty of
- Peace 1802, with an Appendix in Five Volumes”, by Isaac Schomberg, Esq. Captain in the Royal navy, London, 1802.
- “The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy”, by N. A. M. Rodger, W. W. Norton & Co., 1996.
- “Naval Documents of the American Revolution“, Vols. 1 – 11, the U. S. Navy Press, Washington DC, 1966.
- “Who’s Who in Naval History” by Alistair Wilson
- “The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to 1900”, Volume 2, by William Laird Clowes, Chatham Publishing, London, 1996-97
Lastly some other portraits, from earlier portions of his life…
As a junior officer, possibly midshipman
A bit later, perhaps as a lieutenant
The year he was promoted to Master and Commander
A cropped version of the 1775 portrait, alongside his wife, Susannah, aka Suky
Another, I would suggest better, portrait of Susannah (“Suky”) Linzee
A snapshot of the Chalmers portrait (see top) as it hangs in the museum at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston. I have yet to find a quality color reproduction, without the glare from the glass and the reflection of the lightbulbs.