1797 Commission Certificate to Lt James Black Trafalgar Casualty


A rare and very desirable George III Royal Navy Commission document to Lieutenant James Black (later Captain, C.B.), who was later a Lieutenant on HMS Mars and was wounded in action at the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805. The Commission document is earlier, appointing Lieutenant James Black to the Gun Ship number 39, named the Brig ‘Pincher’. The document is dated 1797 and is signed by Sir Evan Nepean, Sir Philip Stephens, Vice Admiral James Gambier and Sir William Young. Condition is good, but it has suffered from damp in the past, which makes reading the pen writing a little harder. The document is mounted in a glazed frame. It has been purchased from a family descendant of Captain Black as well as other Commission documents to other family Naval Officers.
The Brig Pincher was one of 10 small mercantile brigs were all purchased at Leith and fitted there for naval service, being registered on the Navy List on the 5 April 1797. These assorted vessels did not constitute a single class, but as they were procured as a group, they were treated similarly. Originally numbered No. 34 to No. 44, the vessels were all given names on 7 August 1797. The Pincher had been previously named ‘Two Sisters’. A close look at the commission document shows that the name of the Brig was originally No.39, overwritten later as Pincher.

In 1805, Lieutenant James was serving on HMS Mars. She was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched in 1794 at Deptford Dockyard. The Mars fought at the Battle of Trafalgar where she was heavily damaged as she took fire from five different French and Spanish seventy-fours. Among the 29 killed and 69 wounded in the action was her captain, George Duff. Lieutenant James Black was amongst the wounded. The naval engagement between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), was the pivotal battle for supremacy naval supremacy. The battle resulted in 22 French/Spanish ships being lost, while the British lost none. The British commander Lord Nelson, however, was killed.

Lieutenant James Black was appointed afterwards commander of the sloop ’Port d’Espagne’. In 1813, he commanded the 18 gun Brig Weazel. His actions on that ship are worthy of a book. Suffice to say that Rear Admiral Sir Thomas F. Freemantle, under whose orders Captain Black was then serving, expressed himself as follows:– “In having the honour of forwarding, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, Captain Black’s report of his attack on an enemy’s convoy near Spalatro, it is my duty to represent what his modesty has not allowed him to make an official report of, namely, that he is himself badly wounded by a musket-ball, which passed through his right hand, and now confines him… Having made it my business to enquire and examine into all the particulars, I can have no hesitation in saying, that many would have undertaken the enterprise, but few vessels under such circumstances could have been extricated from such a force, and such difficulties, as were opposed to the Weazle. Much credit is due to Captain Black, his officers, and ship’s company, for their gallantry, perseverance, and steadiness.”

Lieutenant Black became a Captain in 1813 and was awarded the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath.

Size: 35 x 30 x 1.25 cm (13 ¾ x 11 ¾ x ½ inches)
Weight: 911 g