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James Snagg (1754-1793)


James Snagg joined Discovery as surgeon’s first mate on 16 March 1776, where he was assistant to the surgeon John Law.  When William Anderson, surgeon in Resolution died in August 1778, Law moved to Resolution and David Samwell moved from Resolution to take Law’s place in Discovery


Snagg was baptised on 22 July 1754 at St. Sepulchre, Holborn, one of eight children of Richard Snagg and Ann (née Botfield).  His parents had married at St. Mary Somerset in London on 7 February 1743.  Richard Snagg was a joiner. 


Snagg passed his examination for surgeon’s first mate any rate (i.e. for any rating of ship) on 7 March 1776.1  Being in Discovery, Snagg does not feature in Cook’s narrative.


A sea life was obviously not to Snagg’s liking as he changed to the army, becoming surgeon of the 14th (Bedfordshire) Regiment of Foot from 1782 to 1786.  He served in Jamaica where, possibly, he contracted one or more diseases, as he died in London in 1793, aged only 38.  He was buried at the same church where he had been baptised.  His will was proven on 18 February 1793 by his brother, Richard Snagg of the Excise Office, who had been a bookseller in Paternoster Row.2  David Samwell received a small bequest.  A very short obituary appeared in the Scots Magazine.

Mr James Snagg, several years surgeon to 14th Foot.  He was also one of the medical gentlemen in the last voyage undertaken by the late celebrated Capt. Cook; and by whose joint endeavour the health of each respective ship’s crew was to successfully preserved as to be almost unprecedented in the annals of nautical practice.3


John Robson



  1. Cook’s Log, page 39, vol. 33, no. 2 (2010). 
  2. PROB 11/1229. 
  3. Scots Magazine.  February 1793.  Vol. 55.  p.101.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 35, number 3 (2012).


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