Jahleel Brenton

Sir Jahleel Brenton, 1st Baronet, KCB (22 August 1770  21 April 1844) was a British admiral born in Newport, Rhode Island, British North America.

Sir Jahleel Brenton, Bt
Born22 August 1770 (1770-08-22)
Newport, Rhode Island, British North America
Died21 April 1844 (1844-04-22)
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1781–1812
RankRoyal Navy Vice-Admiral
Battles/warsBattle of Svensksund, 1790
Battle of Cape St Vincent, 1797
Battle of Algeciras, 1801
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Early life

Jahleel Brenton was the son of Rear-Admiral Jahleel Brenton (1729–1802), and a great-great grandson of Rhode Island colonial governor William Brenton. His father belonged to a loyalist family which suffered the loss of most of its property in the American Revolution. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy when the war began, and emigrated with his family to the United Kingdom in 1780.

Apart from Jahleel, the eldest, two Brenton sons entered the Royal Navy: Captain Edward Pelham Brenton (1774–1839), and James Wallace Brenton, who was killed young in 1799 while attacking a Spanish privateer near Barcelona in the boats of HMS Peterel, of which he was lieutenant.

Jahleel first went to sea in 1781, serving as midshipman in HMS Queen (1769) which was commanded by his father, and then in HMS Termagant. At the end of the American War of Independence in 1783, Jahleel was sent to the maritime school at Chelsea.

In 1787 Jahleel joined HMS Perseverance which was however paid off soon after his arrival and he moved to HMS Dido where he took part in surveys of the coastline of Nova Scotia. In 1789, his time as a midshipman nearly expired, he joined HMS Bellona and in March 1790 passed his examination for the rank of lieutenant.

Foreign service

Seeing no chance of promotion or employment during the state of peace existing at the time, he went with other English naval officers to serve in the Swedish navy against the Russians in the Gulf of Finland, accepting a lieutenant's commission in the Swedish Navy. He served in the ship Konig Adolf Frederic, the flagship of Admiral Modee. He saw service in the Battle of Svensksund.

Return to England

He returned to England in 1790 as there was a possibility of war between Britain and Spain. Receiving his commission as lieutenant, he joined the Assurance, a troopship for a short time before moving to the brig HMS Speedy as second lieutenant, eventually being made first lieutenant. Speedy was paid off in 1791 and Brenton moved again, to his first command, the Trepassey, a small 42-ton sloop with a crew of eight, stationed at Newfoundland. He reported that naval officers referred to her and her sister, Placentia, as "...a machine for making officers." In her, in 1793, he accepted the surrender of Miquelon at the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars.

In early 1794 Brenton returned to England, and became second lieutenant of Sybil, a 28-gun ship, which spent much of its time patrolling the coast of Flanders. Towards the end of 1795 Brenton was forced to leave the ship due to illness caused by the bad weather conditions in which the Sybil had been cruising.

Mediterranean service

After recovering, he was appointed second lieutenant of HMS Alliance, a store ship in 1796. This was considered somewhat humiliating by Brenton, after having been the lieutenant of a frigate. However, after Alliance arrived in the Mediterranean, Brenton was appointed to HMS Gibraltar. After Gibraltar was damaged by running aground and was forced to return to England for repairs, he was commissioned as first lieutenant of HMS Aigle. Aigle being at that time at the other end of the Mediterranean, Brenton served as a temporary lieutenant aboard HMS Barfleur during which service he saw action in the Battle of Cape St Vincent.[1]

The Aigle meanwhile having been sunk, Brenton was made first lieutenant of the Barfleur, moving in 1797 to HMS Ville de Paris, and spent the winter of 1797-98 surveying the River Tagus between Lisbon and Salvaterra de Magos.

In 1798 he was appointed Commander of HMS Speedy, and won much distinction in actions with Spanish gunboats in the Straits of Gibraltar in 1799.[1]

In 1800 he attained the rank of Post-captain, and had the good fortune to serve as Flag captain to Sir James (afterwards Lord) Saumarez. During the peace of Amiens he married Miss Stewart, a lady belonging to a loyalist family of Nova Scotia whom he had first met during his earlier service on the North American Station.

Following the renewal of hostilities with France, he commanded a succession of frigates. On 2 July 1803, while commanding HMS Minerve the ship ran aground near Cherbourg, France. Minerve came under fire from shore batteries and all attempts to refloat her having failed, Brenton was obliged to surrender. He was imprisoned at until 1806, during which time his wife joined him. [1] Having eventually been exchanged (freed in return for the release of a French prisoner) he was appointed to HMS Spartan in 1807.

Brenton's most brilliant action was fought with a squadron of French ships at Naples on 1 May 1810. He was severely wounded during the battle, and Joachim Murat, the then king of Naples, later praised his conduct.[1]

Later life

Brenton was created a Baronet in 1812[2] and appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1815.[3][1] After his recovery from his wounds he was found to be unfit for service at sea, and so was made Commissioner of Port Mahon Dockyard, and then at the Cape of Good Hope, and was afterwards lieutenant governor of Greenwich Hospital till 1840. He attained flag rank of Rear-Admiral of the White in 1830,[4] and was promoted to Vice-Admiral of the Blue in 1840.[5]

At the Cape he surveyed and declared Knysna Lagoon as a harbour in 1815. The nearby seaside resort of Brenton-on-Sea is home to the endangered Brenton Blue butterfly Two islets of the St. Croix archipelago off the Port Elizabethan coast in Algoa Bay, Jahleel Island and Brenton Island, are named for him.

In his later years he took an active part in philanthropic work in association with his brother, Captain Edward Pelham Brenton, who had seen much service, but is best remembered by his writings on naval and military history, Naval History of Great Britain from the Year 1783 to 1822 (1823), and The Life and Correspondence of John, Earl of St Vincent (1838).


Brenton was twice married: his first wife died in 1817, and in 1822 he married a cousin, Harriet Brenton, who survived him. He left one son, Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, who, after taking his degree at Oxford, became a nonconformist minister; on his death, without issue, the baronetcy became extinct.[6]


  1. Chisholm 1911.
  2. "No. 16663". The London Gazette. 3 November 1812. p. 2189.
  3. "No. 16972". The London Gazette. 4 January 1815. p. 19.
  4. "No. 18709". The London Gazette. 23 July 1830. p. 1540.
  5. "No. 19871". The London Gazette. 3 July 1840. p. 1570.
  6. Laughton, John Knox (1886). "Brenton, Jahleel" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co.


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