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SWANTON, ROBERT, naval officer; d. 11 July 1765, probably in St James’ parish, Westminster, London, England.

Robert Swanton was commissioned lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 17 Jan. 1734/35. In January 1743/44 he was in command of the Astrea which burned in the Piscataqua River (Me.-N.H.). In August he was made post captain, commanding the Mary galley. He may have been unemployed between 1748 and 1756 when Britain was at peace. Following the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War he was appointed to the Prince and shortly after moved to the Vanguard. He was with Boscawen at the capture of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) in 1758 and with Admiral Charles Saunders* at Quebec in 1759, but he performed no unusual services in either campaign.

Although Quebec fell in September 1759, Trois-Rivières and Montreal remained in French hands, and the British were anxious to get a fleet into the St Lawrence in the spring before supplies and reinforcements could arrive from France. Swanton and the Vanguard reached the Île du Bic on 11 May 1760, accompanied only by the frigate Diana (Capt. Alexander Schomberg). He planned to wait there for the rest of his squadron, which had been scattered during the crossing of the Atlantic, but he soon received word from James Murray*, commander at Quebec, that the city was under attack. Lévis*, with some 11,000 men and the support of Jean Vauquelin*’s two frigates, two armed vessels, and collection of small craft was besieging it. Aided by fresh northeasterly winds Swanton reached Quebec on the evening of 15 May, joining the Lowestoft (Capt. Joseph Deane), which had arrived a few days before. The next morning the Lowestoft and the Diana destroyed or routed the French ships while the Vanguard enfiladed the French position at Sillery. Lévis hastily raised the siege, abandoning his guns. “One ship of the line and the place [Quebec] would have been ours,” lamented the engineer Jean-Nicolas Desandrouins*. The British naval presence was reinforced on 18 May with the arrival of Alexander, Lord Colvill’s squadron, and François-Chenard Giraudais, commanding a small French relief fleet, did not attempt to go up the St Lawrence when he learned that the British had preceded him.

Swanton returned to England in October, unaware that the admiralty had appointed him to relieve Colvill for the winter as commander-in-chief at Halifax. In the spring of 1761 Swanton helped convoy the outward-bound ships of the East India Company. The next year the Vanguard was in the fleet that completed the capture of French possessions in the West Indies. Swanton was promoted rear-admiral of the blue on 21 Oct. 1762. He was at Dominica and Antigua the following summer.

Swanton died on 11 July 1765, and was survived by his wife Emma. The administration of his estate indicates that at the time of his death he was a resident of St James’ parish, Westminster.

C. H. Little

PRO, Adm. 1/2474; Prob. 6/141. Knox, Historical journal (Doughty). Logs of the conquest (Wood). PRO, Calendar of Home Office papers of the reign of George III, 1760 (25 Oct.)–1765, ed. Joseph Redington (London, 1878), 300. Charnock, Biographia navalis, V, 354–58. G.B., Adm., Commissioned sea officers, 16601815, III. W. L. Clowes et al., The Royal Navy, a history from the earliest times to the present (7v., London, 1897–1903), III. Stanley, New France.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

C. H. Little, “SWANTON, ROBERT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 19, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/swanton_robert_3E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/swanton_robert_3E.html
Author of Article: C. H. Little
Title of Article: SWANTON, ROBERT
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1974
Year of revision: 1974
Access Date: December 19, 2014