Edward Vansittart was born at Bisham Abbey in Berkshire, the third son, in a family of five children, of Vice-Admiral Henry Vansittart of Eastwood at Woodstock in Canada, by his wife, Mary Charity, daughter of the Rev. John Pennefather. He entered the navy as a first-class volunteer, in June 1831, and passed through the course at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth. As a midshipman of the Jaseur, he served on the east coast of Spain during the Carlist War of 1834-6 and, having passed his examination on 2nd August 1837, served as mate in the Wellesley, flagship on the East Indies station, being present at the reduction of Karachi in February 1839 and at other operations in the Persian Gulf. In December 1841, he was appointed to the Cornwallis, flagship of Sir William Parker on the East Indies and China station and, in her, took part in the operations in the Yangtse-kiang, including the capture of the Woo-sung batteries on 16th June 1842. He received the medal, was mentioned in despatches and was promoted to lieutenant on 16th September 1842. In February 1843, he was appointed to the sloop Serpent and remained in her in the East Indies for three years. After a short period of service on board the Gladiator in the Channel, he joined, in December 1846, the Hibernia, flagship of Sir William Parker in the Mediterranean. During the Portuguese rebellion of 1846-7, he acted as aide-de-camp to Sir William Parker, and was present at the surrender of the Portuguese rebel fleet off Oporto. On 1st January 1849, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Royal Yacht and, on 23rd October, of that year was promoted to commander.
In August 1852, Vansittart commissioned the Bittern, sloop, for the China station, where he was constantly employed in the suppression of piracy, for which he was mentioned in despatches. During the Russian War, the Bittern was attached to the squadron blockading De Castries Bay in the Gulf of Tartary. In September and October 1855, Vansittart destroyed a large number of piratical junks, and the pirate stronghold of Sheipoo, and rescued a party of English ladies from the hands of the pirates. For these services he was thanked by the Chinese authorities and received a testimonial and presentation from the English and foreign merchants. On 9th January 1856, he was promoted to captain. In November 1859, he was appointed to the Ariadne, frigate, which, in 1860, went out to Canada and back as escort to the line of battleship Hero, in which the Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII) visited the North American colonies. The Ariadne then returned to the American station for a full commission. In September 1864, Vansittart was appointed to the Achilles in the Channel squadron and remained in command of her for four years. He was made a CB, in March 1867, and awarded a good service pension in November 1869. In September 1871, he commissioned the Sultan for the Channel squadron, in which he was senior captain, and continued in her until retired for age on 20th July 1873. In the Sultan, he saluted at Havre in 1872 M. Thiers, President of the New French Republic. He was promoted to rear-admiral, retired, on 19th January 1874, and to vice-admiral on 1st February 1879. He died at Worthing on 19th October 1904.
Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography Supplement' (1912).
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