The young gentlemen who served under Pellew's command aboard hms Indefatigable in 1797 are in many ways indicative of the countless men and boys who benefited from his patronage throughout his long career. Three individuals, George Cadogan, the son of an earl, Jeremiah Coghlan, a brave and capable merchant seaman, and William Kempthorne, the son of a Falmouth packet captain, are particularly illustrative of the breadth of Pellew's patronage and the wide range of young officers whose careers he nurtured and promoted. Irrespective of their widely varying family backgrounds and social standing, all benefited from Pellew's support, particularly during their formative years in the service. These young gentlemen highlight the nature of Pellew's patronage, his enduring friendship and the ongoing, sometimes dogged, support he provided to those who ran foul of the vicissitudes of naval service.
The Honourable George Cadogan is unique among the young gentlemen of hms Indefatigable in that he was the only one of the seventeen who came to the ship bearing his own aristocratic title. On the evidence of contemporary naval biographies, Cadogan's naval career bears all the hallmarks of privilege and patronage. The eighth son of Earl Cadogan joined the navy at the age of twelve, following a recommendation from the First Lord of the Admiralty, he made lieutenant at nineteen, commander at twenty-one, post captain at twenty-four, achieved the rank of Admiral of the Red in retirement and served as naval aide-de-camp to two monarchs.
While Cadogan's achievements appear respectable by any measure, archival evidence reveals a troubling picture of a man who had a turbulent naval career and an unsettled family life. By the time he retired from active service, George Cadogan had survived two mutinies, lost one ship, served time as a prisoner of war, been investigated by two courts of inquiry following accusations of cruelty and brutality, and been court martialled on charges relating to the death of a young midshipman. Though honourably acquitted of all charges, accusations of tyranny and brutality dogged George Cadogan throughout his career . Cadogan's personal life was also marred by a series of scandals. His parents and his sister were involved in acrimonious and very public divorce cases, which resulted in Cadogan fighting a duel in an attempt to restore the family's honour.