uss frolick Posted March 13, 2016 Share #1 Posted March 13, 2016 As all the cool kids know, the USS Wasp (II), built in Newburyport, MA, in 1813, vanished at sea with 173 souls some time in late 1814 or early 1815, and was last seen "officially" of the Azores on September 22, 1814, when she sent in her prize schooner, the Atalanta, formerly the Privateer Baltimore Clipper Siro of Baltimore. Prior to that she enjoyed a very successful cruise in British home waters, taking a dozen merchantmen and winning battles against two English Sloops of War, HMS Reindeer and HMS Avon, becoming the only American ship of war to win two battles while out on a single cruise under the same captain, in this case Johnston Blakeley. Wasp was one of only four ships, along with Constitution, Constellation and Hornet, to defeat two enemies of comparable force. Some long-winded and tedious fellow wrote a book about the Wasp and her captain a few years back, so I'll refer any interested parties to it for further particulars ... There were many accounts of the Wasp's activities after the capture of the Atalanta in the Royal Navy records, and many more in the papers of the day, which I shall try to list here in chronological order. The British vessels referred to here were all cruising the same waters in which the Wasp had last been seen. These waters were rich with valuable English merchantmen and homeward bound Indiamen, the prime hunting ground for an energetic American sloop of war to stalk. Somebody was out there in a ship/corvette/small frigate scaring the heck out of the maritime community. There were also many privateers in those seas, but they were only very rarely ship rigged, they being primarily swift brigs and topsail schooners. First, some official RN logbook entries and official letters. Nov. 3, 1814: Log of Sloop of War HMS Reynard: Position at Noon 41.58 N., 14.48 W, Virgo NE 194 miles. 1300. Saw a sloop of War to leeward, made a private signal to her (She having English Ensign and Pennant flying), which she made a mistake in answering, made all sail from her, supposing her to be an American Sloop of war" 16:00 "Stranger out of sight." Was this the Wasp? Reynard was only a 12-gun sloop, armed with 18-pounder carronades, so she probably was in the right by fleeing. USS Peacock, the only other US sloop at sea at this time, was, at this date, off Brazil, heading north to NY. Nov. 4, 1814: Log of HMS Reynard: Position at noon, 43.32 N, 15.28W Cape Finisterre 230 milles. "1415 saw a strange sail ... 1600 saw a ship of war on the lee quarter and a schooner which was in distress." Oddly, no further mention. January 2, 1815: Log of Elizabeth, 74 guns, flagship of the Gibraltar station, Admiral Fleming: "Letter from the captain of the [32-gun 12-pounder Frigate] Aquilion, dated 16 December, that it was his intentions to put to sea from the Tagus the following day ... A Letter from the Captain of the Jasper, that on the 16th December. off Cape St. Vincent, that he was chased by an enemy's ship, that after a variety of manuveres [sic] he succeeded in getting clear of her, with a transport and merchant vessel under his protection, and that he arrived in the Tagus on the 26th of that month, that he did not conceive it to be prudent to bring her into action having with him a vessel laden with naval stores, but that he was fully resolved to go to the bottom rather than to have struck his colors. " No log entry describes this event on that date. Twice, one month apart, Reynard runs into an American sloop of war, probably the same one, and twice he runs away? January 3, 1813: Log of Elizabeth: "Letter received from the captain of the Reynard, that he arrived in the Tagus on the 14th of December and that he had ... on the 2nd of Nov., in Lat 41.58, Long 14.28, he had fallen in with a corvette, which he thinks was an American, that being within 4 miles of her, he perceived that she carried 20 guns, that point, from the inferior force of the Reynard, he did not feel himself justified in bringing her into action, which she did not seek. From the bad state of her copper, I believe she must be hove down after the next cruise, that at the moment her has completed her provisions, he will resume his station." (Note that Wasp had 22 guns and eleven broadside ports, but English sloops of the Hermes/Myrmidon class carried only 20 guns, even though they also had eleven ports.) January 4, 1814: Log of Elizabeth: "Letter to the Admiralty that the Reynard returned to Gibraltar on the 31st December, that her Captain having been chased off Cape Finisterre by a small frigate of the enemy whose attention being drawn to other objects, he was enabled to escape, [and] that this sloop has lost a great part of her copper and is otherwise in a leaky state." The captain of the Reynard was named Sinclair. It is noteworthy that the "ship of war" has grown into a frigate. Another small 18-pounder, brig-rigged, sloop of war on the station, HMS Jasper, also had a run-in with this mysterious corvette. Again from the Elizabeth log on the same date: "Jasper states his having been chased by a corvette on his passage to Lisbon off Cape St. Vincent, and that he appears to have evinced considerable ability in saving h is convoy." For some reason, the chase was not recorded either in the Jasper's log-book. January 8, 1815: Log of the Frigate HMS Garland: "20:20 hrs, 34.44 N, 15. 28 W Joined convoy and gained information that an American Frigate was a few leagues to the NE." Note France was at peace since the previous summer so the marauding frigate could not have been french. The Constitution, the only American frigate at sea, was not yet in these waters. January 23, 1815, log of Frigate HMS Aquilion: "08:30 38.47N 12.17 W. A strange ship of war bearing down upon us. Made the private signal, cleared for action, hauled down the private signal unanswered, the stranger having hauled to windward. Observed the stranger to be an enemy corvette." Nothing further is mentioned in the log, until the following day, they discovered a vessel on fire burned to the waterline. Her captain was Thomas Burton. Privateers rarely burned prizes, but navy ships commonly did. March 1, 1815: Log of HM Ship Meander, in the Tagus: "... several other privateers have made their appearance occasionally on this coast, but from information being received from neutral vessels, the descriptions differs, accept with respect to the American of twenty guns, ship rigged, which was chased by the Aquilion, and which I have reason to believe was the same which lately pursued the Jasper, this vessel with another ship of the same description [i.e, which twice chased the Reynard!] , has generally been taken for the Wasp. [signed] Admiral Fleming." Next I shall list some contemporary newspaper accounts. thibaultron, CharlieZardoz, mtaylor and 6 others 9 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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