HOOD, SAMUEL. (1724–1816). British admiral. Born in Budleigh, Somerset, on 12 December 1724, the eldest son of a country parson, Hood entered the navy in 1741 and for a time was a follower of Captain George Brydges Rodney. He saw action in the North Sea and the Channel and was in American waters between 1753 and 1756. A captain from 1756, he again served under Rodney when they broke up a French invasion flotilla at Le Havre in 1759. In 1767–1770, as commodore commanding the North American station, he encountered American discontents and warned the government to choose conciliation over provocation. In September 1780 he accepted promotion to rear admiral as the irascible Admiral Rodney's second in command in the West Indies.
After the capture of St. Eustatius in January 1781, Hood was detached to intercept Admiral de Grasse off Martinique, but in the action of 29 April he failed to close with his opponent. Hood blamed Rodney's interference with his initial dispositions, whereas Rodney was quick to criticize Hood's attention to duty. During the Yorktown campaign, Hood claimed later, Admiral Thomas Graves was too slow in starting for the Chesapeake and should have abandoned the strict line of battle to attack French ships as they came out of the bay. But in the ensuing action it was Hood who kept the line so rigidly that his rear division was never engaged. Hood then urged his superior to race back to reach Cornwallis at Yorktown, but Graves, who rightly feared being bottled up there by de Grasse, declined.
In short, Hood, as a subordinate admiral, while possessed of some strategic instinct, was excessively cautious in battle and insolent to the point of insubordination. By contrast, returning to the West Indies as his own master, he displayed unusual talent and determination. Although he failed to save St. Kitts in February 1782, his maneuvers against de Grasse's superior numbers were daring and masterly. When Rodney returned to assume command, Hood became his old self, bombarding him with gratuitous advice and later unreasonably criticizing his failure to pursue de Grasse after the victory of The Saints (or Saints Passage) on 12 April 1782. His relationship with Robert Pigot, Rodney's more amiable successor, was little better.
In September 1782 Hood was given an Irish barony and returned home in June 1783. In 1784 he entered Parliament, and from 1788 to 1794 he was a lord of Admiralty. In 1793–1794, as commander in chief in the Mediterranean, he briefly occupied Toulon and conquered Corsica. Dismissed for insubordination in 1795, he became governor of Greenwich Hospital, and Viscount Hood in 1796. He died after a fall at Bath on 27 January 1816.
Breen, Kenneth. "Divided Command in the West Indies and North America, 1780–1781." In The British Navy and the Use of Naval Power in the Eighteenth Century. Edited by Jeremy Black and Philip Woodfine. Leicester, U.K.: Leicester University Press, 1988.
Grainger, John D. The Battle of Yorktown, 1781: A Reassessment. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K., and Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell Press, 2005.
Syrett, David. The Royal Navy in American Waters 1775–1783. Aldershot, U.K.: Scholar Press, 1989.
Hoare, Samuel, 1st Viscount Templewood
J. A. Cannon
David Denis Aldridge