Pellew, Sir Isaac Israel (17581832), naval officer, was born on 25 August 1758 either at Flushing, near Falmouth, or at Dover, the third of the six children of Samuel Pellew (17131765), commander of a Dover Post Office packet, and his wife, Constance (d. 1812), daughter of Edward Langford of Penzance and his wife, Catherine. His elder brother was . First going to sea in the sloop Falcon in 1771, he served for three years in the West Indies. After a short time on the Albion in 1775 he went to the North American station on the frigate Flora a year later. When she was scuttled to prevent her capture in 1778 he briefly served ashore and was commended for his conduct. On his return home Pellew was made lieutenant into the Royal George in April 1779 and then served on the frigates Danaë and Apollo. He was placed in command of the armed cutter Resolution in the North Sea in 1782, distinguishing himself on 20 January 1783 when she captured a Dutch privateer, and he retained command of her on the Irish station until 1787. In March 1789 he joined the Salisbury, and he was promoted commander on 22 November 1790, not being employed again during the peace.
In 1792 Pellew married Mary Helen Gilmore (17581844), and for a while they lived in Larne, co. Antrim, near her family: they had one son, Edward, an officer in the Life Guards who was killed in a duel in 1819. On the outbreak of war in 1793 Pellew served as a volunteer in his brother's frigate the Nymphe, being in charge of her aft guns when she captured the Cléopâtre on 18 June. For this he was presented to George III and made post captain into the Squirrel, being praised for his command of her off the Dutch coast. In April 1795 he was made captain of a larger frigate, the Amphion, commanding her off Newfoundland and in the North Sea. In September 1796, sailing to join his brother's squadron in the channel, Pellew took Amphion into Plymouth for repairs. At 4.30 p.m. on 22 September she suddenly exploded. The ship was packed with people, about 300 of whom were killed. Pellew, stunned and badly cut about the facelacerations that scarred him for lifesurvived by throwing himself through an open stern gallery window on to the deck of an adjacent sheer hulk. An inquiry blamed the disaster on the Amphion's gunner, who was suspected of stealing gunpowder and carelessly leaving a trail that caught fire and led back to the fore magazine. However, it may also be significant that Pellew had already complained that the magazine was poorly constructed and unsafe.
In February 1797 Pellew was appointed to the Greyhound but, having been put ashore when her crew mutinied, and under pressure from his commander-in-chief, he resigned the command, being moved in July to the Cleopatra. He commanded her first in the channel, until November 1798, and then on the Halifax and Jamaica stations. He suffered a defeat in 1800 when sending boats from the Cleopatra and the Andromache to seize some Spanish vessels in Levita Bay, Cuba. The assault was anticipated and, though they captured a small galley, the attackers were driven off, suffering twelve dead and seventeen wounded. Later on Pellew also had the embarrassment of the Cleopatra's running aground on Abaco, one of the Bahamas. She was stuck for three days and only escaped when her guns and part of her ballast had been thrown overboard. The Cleopatra returned to Britain in December 1801 and was paid off.
Pellew next went to sea in April 1804, commanding the ship of the line Conqueror in the channel before going to the Mediterranean in September. She fought at Trafalgar, being fourth ship in the van or weather column, and it was to her that the Bucentaure, Villeneuve's flagship, surrendered. She also engaged the Santisima Trinidad and attempted to block the escape of Dumanoir's squadron. Although Conqueror's sails and rigging suffered considerable damage, she lost only three dead and nine wounded. One prize, however, was denied Pellew. He sent a marine captain and five men to secure the Bucentaure, that officer refusing to accept Villeneuve's sword and that of the commandant of her soldiers with the remark that the swords should go to Captain Pellew. In the heat of the action, though, they never reached him, ending up with Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood who, much to Pellew's disgust, kept them.
After Trafalgar the Conqueror helped blockade Cadiz and then, in 1807, was in the squadron sent to secure the Portuguese fleet and royal family. She remained off the Portuguese coast during much of 1808, eventually returning home after the surrender of Siniavin's Russian squadron in the Tagus. Pellew then left her and was appointed to superintend the payment of ships in the Medway.
On 31 July 1810 Pellew was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral and in the following year his brother, on receiving the command in the Mediterranean, made him captain of the fleet, a sort of naval chief of staff. He retained this position until 1816, taking a prominent part in the negotiations with the Barbary powers that year. This marked the end of his active service. Pellew, who had been made a KCB on 2 January 1815, advanced to the rank of vice-admiral on 12 August 1819 and admiral on 22 July 1830. He had moved to Plymouth and died there, after a long and painful illness, on 19 July 1832; he is buried at the town's Charles Church. He was survived by his wife, who died on 2 November 1844.
Christopher D. Hall
DNB · E. Osler, The life of Viscount Exmouth (1835), appx A, 36585 · Annual Biography and Obituary, 17 (1833), 30006 · C. N. Parkinson, Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, admiral of the red (1934) · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 1/2 (1823) · G. C. Boase, Collectanea Cornubiensia: a collection of biographical and topographical notes relating to the county of Cornwall (1890) · J. Ralfe, The naval biography of Great Britain, 4 vols. (1828) · Boase & Courtney, Bibl. Corn., vols. 23 · Naval Chronicle, 3 (1800), 197202 · W. James, The naval history of Great Britain, from the declaration of war by France in 1793, to the accession of George IV [3rd edn], 6 vols. (1837) · W. L. Clowes, The Royal Navy: a history from the earliest times to the present, 7 vols. (18971903); repr. (19967), vols. 45 · G. Landmann, Adventures and recollections of Colonel Landmann, 2 vols. (1852) · B. Lavery, Nelson's navy: the ships, men, and organisation, 17931815 (1989)
Wealth at death
left £500 to a niece and remainder, incl. house in Plymouth, to wife: will, 1820, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/1805, sig. 595