Piecing together the career of a junior naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars is no easy thing and years of effort by Carter have certainly paid off in this case. This is backed up by three generations of general family information and again it requires hard work to put together a picture where records are so sparse and scattered.
- Nick Carter
Joseph Dewsnap, 1776-1837, was brought up in Woodstock, the son of an eponymous glovemaker, descendant of a Huguenot refugee who had fled France in 1685. He reached the quarterdeck in 1799 via enlistment as a Captain's servant in 1793 which bespeaks a reasonable education and some family 'interest'. Sadly his active and clearly creditable naval career was cut short by a bullet in the shoulder in 1801. He was then, fortunately for him, appointed as one of the officers administering the naval hospital at Greenwich, albeit on half pay, where he and his French Canadian wife raised several children to maturity, one of which daughters was the author's great great grandmother. In this he did better than the previous generation; the majority of his siblings had died in infancy. The survivors' stories are included in this narrative, as are those of Dewsnap's own children; so also Joseph senior and junior's financial problems.
The necessarily short narrative includes thirteen highly pertinent and interesting illustrations. As a Huguenot descendant, keen family historian on my own account, and naval officer myself, and also a probable connection of a connection to the Captain Ommaney mentioned in the narrative (thank you, Nick, for sending me on a new line of research), I found the story most interesting. The book has also sent me off to get a copy on 'Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian' (cited) which is of interest regarding many of my forebears' lives in India. So, for me, rich pickings from a short book.
As a coda, a wealth of Huguenot records are held in the National Archives at Kew within the University College, London, Special Collections.