Brave Admiral Benbow

This version, nearly identical to the first given by W. B. Whall in Sea Songs and Shanties, was a long-time favorite with naval seamen. Whall proceeded to give another version to the tune of Captain Kidd which is categorized under the title Admiral Benbow.

John Benbow (1653-1702) was the son of a tailor, born in Shrewsbury, England. He served in the merchant navy and Royal Navy for 24 years, reaching the rank of vice-Admiral. His final campaign was aboard the HMS Breda in the West Indies during the War of Spanish Succession, where his task was to intercept the Spanish silver fleet and guide it to England. As tensions with the French boiled over, Benbow set out to find Jean-Baptiste du Casse's fleet near Santa Marta. Though the English war ships outnumbered the French seven to four, Benbow's officers would not close the engagement. He chased du Casse along with the HMS Ruby, but the battle ended in defeat. The disabled Breda returned to Jamaica where he received a letter from the French captain:

Sir,

I had little hopes on Monday last but to have supped in your cabin: but it pleased God to order it otherwise. I am thankful for it. As for those cowardly captains who deserted you, hang them up, for by God they deserve it.

Yours,
Du Casse

His captains were court-martialed and then cashiered or executed. Admiral Benbow succumbed to his injuries on November 4, 1702.