Alexander Ball

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Sir Alexander John Ball (born 1759October 20, 1809), was a British admiral and governor of Malta. He was a member of a Gloucestershire family.

He entered the navy, and in 1778 was promoted lieutenant. Three years later he began a close association with Sir George Rodney. Two days after his chief’s crowning victory of April 12, 1782, Ball was promoted commander, and in 1783 he became captain. At this time he spent a year in France with the double purpose of learning the language and living economically. Admiral Lord Nelson, then a captain, was at this time by no means favourably impressed by his future friend and comrade, and spoke of him as a "great coxcomb."

It was not until 1790 that Ball received a command. From that year, however, he was continuously employed. In 1798, assistance rendered by him to Nelson's ship in heavy weather caused the latter to forget his former animosity, and from that time the two were close friends. Under Nelson’s command Ball took part in the Battle of the Nile, and his ship, the “Alexander,” was the particular opponent of Brueys’ flagship, “L’Orient,” which blew up.

Two months later he was ordered to the blockade of Malta, which was kept up without a break for the next two years. Ball committed the blockade to his first lieutenant, and he led the marines and local militia himself, making the siege on the land side. His care for his men laid the foundations of his popularity with the Maltese which continued till his death. After the fall of Malta, Ball, practically retired from the service, in spite of Nelson’s urgent entreaty that he should continue afloat, and from 1801 (when he was made a baronet) to 1809 he was governor of Malta, where he endeared himself to the people by his regard for their interests, and his opposition to the policy of treating the island as a conquered dependency. Samuel Taylor Coleridge became an assistant to Ball in 1804 and later described his administration in The Friend. Ball's friendship with Lord Nelson, whose letters prove his high regard for him, was only broken by death. Ball was buried in Malta.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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