HM Brig Badger:
Horatio Nelsons First Official Command
Badger (Ex-Pitt) is believed to have been a prize captured during the War of American Independence (1775 - 1783). She is shown on Navy Lists from 1776 and remained in service until sold in 1783.
Brigs were generally used for convoy duties, carrying dispatches, inshore reconnaissance and upholding trade agreements and Badger was no exception. Brigs differed from standard ship rigged men-of-war in so much as they were square-rigged on two masts and the bowsprit only. Although relatively swift and manoeuvrable brigs were very cramped and uncomfortable as they tended to be considerably wet in heavy seas.
In 1778, while serving on board the 50-Gun Ship Bristol, Nelson was promoted by Admiral Parker to the position of Commander and, on 8th December 1778, he was appointed to Badger. Nelson actually entered into Badger on 31st December 1778, superseding Captain Everitt.
Nelsons time on Badger was generally uneventful, carrying out blockade and escort duties. However, two incidents worthy of mention are:
The capture of an 80 ton vessel:
The rescue of the men from on board HMS Glasgow:
On 11 July 1779, Nelson was promoted to post-captain and on Sunday
20 June he transferred out of Badger to the 28-Gun Frigate Hinchinbroke.
* Although Nelson had captained both an unnamed sloop in November 1777 and the Schooner Little Lucy until early 1778, these were not official commands.
As custom dictates, Nelson was referred to as Captain while in charge of these ships but he was not in 'command'. This is due to the fact that Nelson, although he had passed his Lieutenant’s exam in April 1777, was still a non-commissioned officer (second-lieutenant) and was deemed only to have control or charge of the ship but not command per se.
According to the most technical definition of the word, the only persons able to exercise command in a military are commissioned officers. This is because commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of their specific office or position.
While in control of both the unnamed sloop and the Schooner Little Lucy, command remained with Captain William Locker of the 32-Gun Frigate Lowestoffe - the ship which Nelson was tending.
Nelson was promoted to the commissioned officer status of Lieutenant on 31st December 1778, when he was commissioned to Badger, thus Badger became his first command.
The Badger Manual and Sample Plans are now available for download in PDF format here.