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Final possible sightings of the US Sloop of War Wasp, 1814-5.

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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.




























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From The Newburyport Herald and Country Gazette (Massachusetts, the port where she was built and crewed):


March 7, 1815:


'A Charleston paper of the 18th (February) has a round-about story of the U.S. Sloop Wasp having been captured in November by the English Sloop of War Myrmidon, of 20 guns." Interestingly, HMS Myrmidon was the only remaining ship-sloop in the Royal Navy of the Wasp's exact size and force, her sister the Hermes having been sunk in Mobile Bay in 1814.


March 31, 1815:


"MASS, BOSTON, March 29, NAVAL INTELLIGENCE - Wasp Sloop of War: Letters from Washington state authentically, that an officer of the Argus had arrived there in a Cartel San Philippi and reported having touched at Santa Cruz (Teneriffe) they there learned correctly, from the crew of an English Brig, prize to the Wasp on the 9th Jan., that the Wasp had on days previous, put into Mogadore (Morocco) for supplies. This accounts for this interesting vessel to be about the end of December.


On the 6th March, a lieut. of the British Frigate Severn, off Charleston (SC), reported that the Wasp had been captured in the Britlish Channel by a frigate.


(There have been several other vague reports of the capture of the wasp, from British officers on the coast, from Jamaica, etc.)"


April 28th, 1815:


"(From a) Kingston, Jamaica (newspaper), Feb. 9th. By His Majesty's Ship Medina, which arrived on Tuesday last,  we learn that Rear Admiral Durham had received an official letter from Captain Patterson, of the Myrmidon, 20 gun ship,  stating the capture by that vessel of the American Ship Wasp, of 22 guns,  after an obstinate engagement of two hours during which both vessels suffered severely. (Very doubtful)"


May 25, 1815:


"A London paper mentions a report that the U.S. Sloop of War Wasp had sunk two British sloops near Maranham."


From the New Hampshire Gazette, in Portsmouth:


January 31st, 1815:


"LATEST FROM THE WASP.  We learn from a friend who arrived here yesterday from Beaufort, NC,  that a Portuguese brig had arrived at that port, in 14 days from Turk's Island, laden with salt. The Portuguese captain informed us that he was boarded off Turk's Island, by the US Sloop of War Wasp,on a cruise. (It is 32 days since the Wasp boarded the above brig.)"


December 22, 1815:


"Another report relative to the Wasp. The Norfolk, Va. Beacon of November 22 contains the following paragraph. A young gentleman of this burough, who has a brother a lieutenant on board the [uSS] Guerriere [in Philadelphia], and another, a midshipman on board the Wasp, received a letter from his mother at King's Creek, near Williamsburough, in which she announces a reprint of a letter, from her son a  lieutenant on the Guerriere, informing her that he had heard from the wasp, that she was on the coast of the Brazils. (The source where this comes is most respectable, yet it ought perhaps to be received with some caution by anxious friends.)"


Note: There were indeed the Brothers Robert and Evan Randolph, both of Virginia, and both were navy officers assigned to the above mentioned ships.


The Savannah Republican and Evening Ledger:


November 15, 1814:


"By a gentleman of the St. Mary's we learn of a neutral vessel having arrived at Amelia Island the 11st instant, the captain of which informed that he was boarded by the United States Ship Wasp on the 7th, and she was in the act of burning an English vessel. There was a report in our town yesterday that the Wasp was off our bar, and was chased off by the [british Frigate] Lacedemonian [38 guns], there being no pilot to bring her in. Why do not the Commissioners of the Pilotage do their duty?"

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Here's an interesting alternative fate from The Niles Weekly Register, a national newspaper, dated June 4, 1825:


"The Wasp, sloop of war, Captain Blakeley, was remarkably successful in annoying the British during the the late war, and captured one sloop of the enemy and sunk another. The last account he had of her was, that, on September 23, 1814 she was off the Madeira Islands, and it has been ever since supposed that she has foundered at sea, whereby the whole of her officers and crew perished, and no trace was left of her.


The Spring Grove , whale ship, was lost on the African coast on the 23rd November last and some of the crew have been rescued from the Arabs, by that distinguished philanthropist, Mr. Wilshire, the British Counsel at Mogadore In the account of the affair there, is the following paragraph.


'A circumstance is related by one of the rescued men, which is as follows -  They said that the Arab chief in whose hands they fell, could speak a little English; and contrived to inform them, that, some years ago, and English ship was lost on the African Coast, that the crew reached the shore to the number of three hundred men, well armed; that his own tribe consisting of five hundred men, attacked them and were repulsed; that he solicited the assistance of a neighboring tribe to renew the attack, with an additional force of four to five hundred men; that the British drove them back a second time, and were making good their retreat for some settlement of security, when they were a third time surrounded by a body of thirteen hundred men; and that the British fought till three-fourths of their numbers fell; and the remainder were cut to pieces after laying down their arms, and after killing 250 Arabs. The name of the ship and the time of the shipwreck are unknown.


It will appear very possible, and even probably to everyone, on reading this paragraph, that we have just learned the probable fate of our gallant countrymen. The Americans might easily have been mistaken, by the Arabs, for Englishmen. The amount given as the strength of the crew is greater than the Wasp had, but she may have had some recent captures and have had many prisoners on board - who in the case of a shipwreck , and attack by Arabs,  would have made a common cause with her officers and crew. There would be melancholy satisfaction in ascertaining the certainty  of what is now supposed to have been the fate of the gallant Blakeley and his gallant crew."


This story was quoted from the rival publication, "The National Intelligencer", and their editors dismissed the story as probably just an old tale, it being similar to one they printed back in 1800, but the Niles Register's editors thought it legitimate, having come from English Council Wilshire.

Edited by uss frolick
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"The Fate of the Wasp, Sloop of War", North Carolina University Magazine,  July 1849, article written by Dr. Joseph Johnsson.


Dr. Johnson was of the opinion, that Captain Johnston Blakelely, UNC alumni and favorite son, perished in a battle off the coast of Charleston, SC, teh good doctor's home, after trying unsuccessfully to get into port. After correctly quoting the above two articles from the Savannah Ledger, he presented his evidence thus:


"On the 20th, Sunday evening, the Charleston pilots reported a British frigate, supposed to be the Lacemedonian, off the lighthouse at sunset, with two schooners possibly prizes, On the 23rd, [Captain] Anone of the Cinderella, from Savannah, reported that he saw the Lacedaemonian, in company with the Dotteral, off Tybee [island], on the 20th or 21st, the very time which an English Frigate was seen off the Charlestown lighthouse.  The three Charleston papers concur in stating that a heavy firing was heard there on Monday, the 21st November. It lasted from 10 o'clock until after 12, gradually diminishing and was doubtless a naval engagement a little south of the Charleston Bar. The results not known when the papers went to press. On the 24th Nov., they say:


'Captain Parker of the three masted Beauford Packet heard the firing on Monday, about 15 miles from the sea, and believes it to have been an engagement between two heavy vessels. I boat which came up from the seaboard informs us that they saw the action and that it was between two ships, that they were sailing off from the coast, and continued fight until out of sight.'


The evening paper, The Times,  concurs in substance with these paragraphs from the two morning papers."


My thoughts on this:


1. HMS Lacedaemonian was a new oak, 18-pounder frigate (launched in 1812) of the Leda/Shannon's class, and the Brig Dotterall (1808-27) was a sloop of war of the Reindeer/Avon/Cruiser's Class. Both were off the bar that day, according to the surviving log of the former.


2. Cinderella is a cool name for a ship!


3. If this were true about the Lacedaemonian engaging the Wasp, then it must necessarily negate the early British Admiralty accounts of the Wasp remaining in waters off the Azores and Africa, and chasing with Aquilion, Reynard and Jasper,  as the events took place at about the same time in waters too far away.


4. The log of HMS Lacedaemonian survives, and I had the opportunity of examining it. No fight is mentioned, however, earlier that morning, the two Britons did engage in "exercising the guns", which may have included some live fire. But given the expense of powder and shot, no exercise would continue as long as two hours and 'continuing until out of sight'. When I wrote my book on the subject, I concluded that the excitement ashore must have been caused by a misunderstood gunnery practice between the Lacedaemonian and the Dotterall, but now I'm not entirely sure. No practice firing could have been "heavy" and have lasted that long. Anyway, Captain Parker reported two ships, not a ship and a brig, and he was in a position to know the difference. But the Britons would have needed to practice, as everyone ashore was expecting the arrival of the Wasp, and surely the blockading captains would have heard those rumors, and they determined to prepare for that real possibility. Then again, the duration and intensity of the firing might surely have been exaggerated with each retelling before reaching the newspapers. At any rate, Blakelely was ordered to return to a southern port, and had he followed his orders, he could have easily have appeared off Charleston by this time.


Dr. Johnson then quoted a letter, dated 27th June, 1844, written by the then Governor of the State of South Carolina, Whitemarsh B. Seabrook.


"At the time of the occurrence (the firing off Edisto Island, on the 21st Nov., 1814) I had just crossed the Edisto Ferry, on my way, I think, to Columbia. The day was calm and the firing heavy and obviously very near. It was evident that two vessels of unequal size were engaged, and the gradually diminishing sound of their broadsides showed that it was a running fight, and that they were opposite to each other. Shortly afterwards, in conversation with a gentleman from St. Helena, whose name has escaped me, he stated that two negroes who were on Coffin's Island, the most eastern of the Hunting Islands,  when the engagement took place. informed him that one of the vessels was much larger than the other,  and that while they continued in sight, they were very near each other. It further appears, from the representations of these negroes,  that the engagement commenced off the eastern end of Coffin's Island, and that the vessels steered about southeast. Two or three days before the event alluded to, it was reported that the Wasp had been seen off the Savannah Bar, and about three months after it, I well remember reading in the newspaper that a British frigate stationed off the coast had not been heard from for a long time. I then came to the conclusion, but without any other data than those so briefly related that the fight was between the Wasp and the missing frigate, and that both were sunk by accidental or designed explosion of the magazine of the former. Such, however, has always been the impression on my mind. Blakeley was a daring and chivalrous commander, had been victorious in two engagements, and was not likely to surrender to an enemy unless greatly superior."



But later, when it was learned that the Lacedaemonian had not been lost, Dr. Johnson started looking around for another British warship to blame.


To be continued ...

Edited by uss frolick
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Very interesting research, frolick. I've been a big fan of that class of sloops, they're neat vessels. This really makes one wonder what caused her to go down. It's not like some of the other missing ships, where there were big storms reported in the area.


Of course, this could also be a good basis for a historical fiction story, leading up to that fight in Africa. :D


Got a whole list of other ships to do later too, you know. Albany, Insurgent, Lynx, Epervier...

Edited by Talos
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Now we go back across the Atlantic again ...


Dr. Johnson continues:


"About a year after this excitement, the following publication appeared in The Weekly Museum, taken from the Norfolk Beacon of13th Dec., 1815:


'The Wasp sunk. - Notwithstanding the reports we have heretofore published, a conversation with an officer of the first standing and respectability in the navy, permits us to entertain no doubts of the loss of the U.S. sloop-of-war Wasp, and her end has been as glorious as her cruise has been brilliant. All readers of newspapers must recollect that, about a year ago there was an account of a british frigate putting into Cadiz, much cut to pieces, and 100 men killed and wounded, reporting her having had an engagement in that quarter, and that the Wasp was believed to be cruising in that neighborhood; but little was said or thought about it at that time, as the report was not generally credited. We now learn fro a source which cannot be doubted, that there was an action between a British frigate of the largest class, and an American ship,  and that it was undoubtably the Wasp. Lieut. Conkling, who commanded the Schooner Ohio, of Commodore Sinclair's squadron, on Lake Erie,  and who was captured in August 1814, off Fort Erie, and sent to England, has lately reported himself to his commanding officer, to whom it appears he related having met with one of the officers on board the above mentioned frigate, and he was informed by him, that the ship they engaged was not a frigate, as was stated,  and that his commander, as well as every person on board, could see by her battle lanterns having been lighted, and fro the clashes of her guns,  that she was a corvette ship mounting 22 guns, and that they themselves believed that it was no other than the Wasp. But after being so gallantly beaten off, and having suffered so severely,  they were reluctant to acknowledge how inferior the force had been which had inflicted such severe chastisement on them. It appears by the lieutenant's own accounts, that the action lasted several hours; that the frigate sheered off to refit, intending to renew the action at daylight, which was not far off, if circumstances would admit it, but at its earliest dawn there was no vestige of their gallant enemy. from the crippled state of the ship, and from the short time intervening between their separation and daylight, the lieutenant believed it impossible that they could have been out of sight, had their opponents been above water.


The above account essentially coincides with with the opinions of the best informed naval men about the seat of government, who generally agree in the belief that  the Wasp was the vessel engaged with the British frigate above alluded to.' "


They loved to write in run-on sentences back then !


Analysis the above article to come next ...

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Well, the problem with this article is that the name of the frigate, and the time and place of the action, were not provided, nor was the Wasp known to be in the offing around Cadiz. Further dashing everyone's hopes was a brief, and oddly specific public denial by Lieutenant Conkling. He didn't deny the particulars of the story, only "his having a conversation with a British Lieutenant on the subject is entirely unfounded." But Dr. Johnson was undeterred:


"We consider the card of Lieutenant Conkling only of his having received the statement of "a British lieutenant". He does not deny that he reported to his 'commanding officer', the particulars of the Wasp's last engagement, or of the publication being substantially true. He appears, therefore, to confirm all we care to know of the Wasp's last action, and the fate of the wasp. He only contradicts the statement of his having had received the information from a British lieutenant.. He does not say that he did not receive it from a midshipman ... or some other officer of respectability, whom he believed. He probably intended his own verbal communication for his own navy department and not for publication, fearing that his friend in the British Navy might incur the censure of their Admiralty, for divulging their secret."


Captain John H. Aulick, USN, a former steerage messmate of Commander Johnston Blakeley's in the Frigates President, Congress, and John Adams, agreed with the story, but remembered a difference source, in an undated letter to then Captain David Geisinger, USN, Aulick's then commander at the Washington Navy Yard, and the Wasp's senior surviving officer (Midshipman Thomas N. Bonneville, illegitimate son of founder Thomas Paine, being the only other), and former prize-master of the Brig Atalanta, stated:


"That an officer of our navy  who was a prisoner in England, at the close of the last war, (he thinks an officer of the Brig Siren) told him that he then there saw and conversed with a British officer, who said that the frigate in which he had been then recently cruising, had had a night action with a vessel which he took to be a sloop of war, though his captain maintained that she was a frigate. That this vessel suddenly disappeared in the darkness of the night, and that they on board the frigate believed she had sunk."


Dr. Johnson then quotes a letter dated  22nd  March, 1847, written by Mr. Robert R. Stewart, "A very respectable inhabitant of Philadelphia." What Johnson curiously didn't state, possibly because he might not have known it, but that would be one hell of a coincidence, that Mr. Stewart came home from France as a passenger in the Wasp, serving as a volunteer during the Wasp/Avon action, and he went home with Midshipmen Geisinger and Bonneville in the prize Atlanta. Blakeley had instructed Mr. Stewart to personally carry his and the State Department's dispatches to the Secretary of the Navy, William Jones, in Washington, which he did. Anyway, Stewart wrote:


"The action between a British frigate and an American Ship of War  off Cadiz, I think very probable, as it came from various sources. One in particular reported to me by Mr. Jas. Robinet of this city (since dead) who, during the latter part of the war, and after the peace, was a clerk in Mr. Hackney's counting house in Cadiz He told me that when the frigate entered Cadiz, he went on board of her and inquired the news, and was in formed as nearly related by Mr. [sic] Johnson, with a slight difference as to the killed and wounded on board the frigate. They told him they had lost 104 killed and wounded."

Edited by uss frolick
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I will now discuss Talos's question, 'who was the frigate?'. I believe the story is an amalgam of four incidents, involving four separate British frigates: Aquilion, Hyperion, Horatio, and Lacedaemonian.


Dr. Johnson was of the stubborn belief that both the Charleston, SC, battle sightings and the Cadiz accounts were true, and that after fighting off Charleston, the damaged ship sailed across the Atlantic and put into Cadiz, instead of Halifax or Bermuda. He then states, without citing any sources, that:


"Since these events, we have been informed that it was H.M. Frigate Horatio, which sunk that Wasp." He then goes on to wrongly describe her as a 44-gun frigate with 24-pounders on her main deck and "43" pounder carronades. Actually, there was a frigate called Horatio, but she was a Lively Class ship with 18-pounders, and was rated at 38 guns.  But Horatio was indeed on the American Station prior to the action, and in Portuguese waters afterwards, and she was "damaged" en route, so her history fits his criteria nicely.  He explains:


"We then recapitulate, that when the Wasp boarded the Swedish Brig Adonis on the 19th October [the last true confirmed sighting of her], in Lat 18.35, and half across the Atlantic, she probably continued to run as far as the East Indies, then turned northward, and was first reported off the Turks Island about the 1st November, then was off Amelia Island, on the south side of the St. Mary's River, about the 10th of November; - then off Tybee, the entrance of the Savannah River on the 12th. There, meeting with the Lacedaemonian Frigate she was chased off, but having escaped, as reported by the crew of that frigate, she then tried to obey her orders and get into a southern port. That she made land midway between Port Royal and Charleston on the morning of the 21st, aiming to reach the latter port, but was cut off from it by the Frigate Horatio, which had just reached her station, and was seen the evening before off Charleston lighthouse. That the engagement between them ensued, which was heard in Charleston, and seen at St. Helena's Inlet, both vessels sailing off the coast and fighting as long as they cold be seen or heard. From that time, the Wasp was missing; and from that time, the British frigate was missing from her station on the southern coast, and never returned to it. About a month after that naval engagement, "a British frigate of the largest class" put into Cadiz, very much cut to pieces, having lost 104 of her men, reporting that she had been engaged with an American Frigate, and had sunk her.. No other American ship of war, but the Wasp, could have been so engaged, no other could, therefore have beaten off this first rate frigate."


The general wanderings of HMS Horatio from April 1814 - Jan. 1815, as far as I am able to determine, were as follows:


At Portsmouth, on 4 Apr 1814: Ordered To sail on following Wednesday for Newfoundland.

At Portsmouth, 6 Apr 1814: Sailed for Newfoundland.

Circa, 11 Jun 1814 departed Halifax with the HMS Hamadryad for Newfoundland.

At Plymouth, 9 Aug 1814 Arrived from Newfoundland.

Portsmouth, 10 Aug 1814 Arrived at Portsmouth, having accompanied HMS Victorious, after having struck a sunken rock near Disko Island, and being leaky.

18 Aug 1814, departed Plymouth for Cork.

21 Aug 1814, arrived at Cork, from Plymouth and hoisted the convoy signal for America.

3 Nov 1814, arrived Halifax, the brig Forth, from Cork, under convoy of the Horatio.

At Newfoundland, 23 Dec 1814, Sailed with a convoy for Portugal and Spain &c.

At Lisbon, 10 Jan 1815, In the Tagus.


I could see how Dr. Johnson could identify HMS Horatio as the suspect, since she was on the North American station, then she sailed to Portugal, among other places, and was damaged en route (by a rock), but her log mentions no action. 


But another Frigate did put into the Cadiz Station very badly damaged at that time. I had hired English researcher extraordinaire, Mr. Graham Salt, years ago, to look through the various ships logs for me in preparation for my book, and he was able to identify another surprise suspect, the British Frigate Hyperion, of 32 guns. (Mr. Salt used advertises in the NRJ, and I highly recommend him.) The Hyperion had been sailing in company with the British Sloop Icarus when they encountered a severe storm. Hyperion became partially dismasted and had her windows smashed in by a following sea, and she was just barely able to limp into Cadiz. Hyperion lost sight of the little Icarus, and all aboard her feared that she had foundered. But the Icarus miraculously limped into Cadiz a few days later, completely dismasted. This incident, I believe, was responsible for the part of the story where a frigate loses sight of a damaged sloop of war at night.


I think that Dr. Johnson confused Hyperion with Horatio - each name begins with an "H" - has four syllables - and both were 18-pounder ships launched in 1807.  She sailed at night in company with a sloop which was also damaged. But neither Horatio's nor Hyperion's log mentions any battle. Any engagement with such a high casualty rate would certainly have been.


Here's what I think might have happened, based only on the information found so far, barring any new discoveries: 


The US Sloop-of-War Wasp stayed in the waters between Teneriffe and Africa, not too very far from Cadiz, because those seas were rich with English prizes.  The Wasp chased many more merchantmen, took several, possibly burned at least one, according to the Aquilion's log, and she briefly chased the British Sloops Jasper and Sloop Reynard (twice), and she in turn was chased by the British Frigate Aquilion, or at least the British Admiral Fleming on board HMS Elizabeth thought so. If there had been an actual action between the Aquilion and the Wasp, it was a running one, at distance, and must necessarily have caused few or no casualties on the British ship, for the incident to have stayed out of the press, and out of the naval history books. It wouldn't have been the first time that a running fight went unmentioned in a ship's log-book. But Aquilion's captain did mention in the log that he was chasing an American corvette. This information quickly made it's way back to shore, and soon merged in the public mind, with the appearance in Cadiz of the damaged Frigate Hyperion, and the damaged Sloop Icarus which temporarily having gone missing at night, and also the American account of the apparent battle, or at least the extended great gun exercise, on board the Frigate Lacedaemonian, along with the Sloop Dotteral, off Charleston. These three stories melted into the one, and that new convoluted tale, based on true, but disparate facts, is what finally appeared in all the papers. 


The Wasp's rigging had been badly damaged in an hour long fight with the Sloop Avon, and she even took a full 32-pounder carronade broadside from the Sloop Castillion through her rigging during her escape, and all those damages had been repaired at sea. Prior to that, the Wasp had fought the Sloop Reindeer, and had taken a 24-pound ball right through the center of her fore mast. The mast was taken out and repaired in L'Orient, France, but not replaced.  The bottom line is that her rigging was weak and vulnerable. The Wasp could possibly have sunk in the storm that almost sank the Hyperion, or driven her ashore on the African coast ...


But the Sloop Wasp could also have made it to the US coast - there were those two sightings of her off Tybee and Turk's Island, after all - but that would necessarily mean the four British sightings, at roughly the same time, far away off  Tenerife, would have had to have been another ship, perhaps a rare, ship-rigged American privateer. But then, what happened to her? A storm? A frigate? We'll probably never know for sure.

Edited by uss frolick
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The Frigate Aquilion, the only British frigate that we know, for sure, actually chased an "American corvette", was a Hermione Class, 12-pounder frigate, designed by John Hunt, and launched in 1786. She mounted 26 twelve-pounder long guns on her main deck, with a mixture of six pounder long guns and 24-pounder carronades (mostly) on her upper works. This was probably her final cruise, as she was broken up in 1816. (Info from The Sailing Navy List, David Lyon, Conway Publishing.)


Dr. Johnson wrote about the Horatio's career, "ever since her return to England, she has been laid up in ordinary, as completely lost to the service as the Wasp." The Frigate Horatio actually enjoyed a long and interesting career, but this statement holds true about the Aquilion.

Edited by uss frolick
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Horatio did have an interesting career lasting over half a century. She was one of Macedonian’s sister-ships as built. Rerated as a 44-gun frigate later (by counting the carronades and forecastle chase guns), she was one of the frigates (only Lively-class) fitted with a steam engine and screw propeller and used as a steam battery. As the ship wasn’t lengthened, she was very cramped inside, with the engine and coal cutting into storage space. She was rearmed with 20 x 42-pounders on the gun deck, two 10” and two 56-pounders on the upper deck (the latter on pivots). The 42-pounders got replaced by 18 x 8” guns later. She had her gunports recut and reduced in number to 11 per side when she was refitted into a steamship. Finally, during the Crimean War she was stripped of her armament and given a pair of 13” mortars with a few smaller cannons as secondary armament. She wasn’t scrapped until 1865.


Plans for Horatio’s (and Eurotas’) propeller installation survive and are published in DK Brown’s “Before the Ironclad”. He also refers to a sketch of Horatio as a steamship surviving, but doesn’t include it.

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Here's another point for your time history of the Wasp.  I found this in an excerpt of "Naval Adventures During 35 Years Service"   by Lt. W. Bowers, RN. ,Vol1. 1, pp 272-302, 1833, reprinted in "Every Man  will do his Duty",  by Dean King, Henry Holt & Co. 1997.  Pg 397


and the original can be found at:



Wm Bowers, serving on the HMS Helicon on station off the Scilly Isles.   "About the beginning of July [1814] we received orders to proceed to the longitude of 12 deg West, to join our old consort the Reindeer; .... Approaching our ground, we fell in with the Achates, Captain Langhorn, and the following day discovered the wreck of a vessel's mast and rigging floating in the water.  ...on sending a boat to examine the wreck, the evidence afforded by the grape shot sticking in the mast, the marks and dimensions of the main cap, the sails and rigging, left no doubt of the Reindeer's fate.  The main mast appeared to been burnt off by the copper in the wake of the main boom.  Everything denoted that the strife had been sanguinary, and the catastrophe recent; whoever had been the antagonist, he had found tough work. ...At the end of the week, we returned to the spot, where we discovered the wreck of the fore-mast."


A footnote is provided:  

The following are the particulars of the action received from one of the survivors: "The enemy, (the Wasp, American corvette) was discovered on our lee bow about 10 AM [on June 28, 1814] standing toward us...."


The foot note continues to discuss the battle, the death of Capt. Manners and wounding most of the other officers.  Overall, 70 of 109 crew killed or wounded.  The "brig a perfect wreck, so as to be unmanageable, we were compelled to strike."


After reading the history of the Wasp on Wikipedia, I wonder how much damage accumulated during so many battles in a short time without the ability to to do a major refit.  The Wasp was larger than any of its opponents, but it is unlikely to get away unmarked.   For instance, the battle with Reindeer was against carronades at short range, so there must have been damage to the hull and perhaps the spars.  Could structural weakness have contributed to loose in a storm?


Stay Sharp - Stay Safe

Judgement comes from experience:  experience comes from poor judgement.

  • USS Constitution: Scratch build solid hull 1:96 scale
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  • 5 years later...

To the attention of USS Frolick

Dear Sir,


Interested in the entry of Rear-Admiral Penrose’s squadron in Gironde in March 1814 and the capture of the French flotilla of Blaye on 2 April 1814, I wished to consult the logbooks of the various English ships who composed this squadron, including HMS Porcupine and HMS Reynard.

In the course of my research, I came upon your post which mentions the logbook of HMS Reynard.

Would it be possible, if you have copies of this logbook, to send me photos for the period 28 March - 12 April 1814? I would also like to thank you for any other copies of documents you send me on this subject.


Thank you in advance for your response,

Best regards,


Adrien L. (BORDEAUX - France)

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First, welcome to MSW Adrien. 


I could never live in Bordeaux as I would spend all my time and money in the wineries on the left bank of the Gironde!! 😃      Regardless of this peril, we hope to spend some time in at least one or two regions of Bordeaux on our next trip to France.


Please post an introduction about yourself in the new members forum, including your interest in this subject.  Others may also respond with help for you.


You can purchase at least one log from RMG .  https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/archive/rmgc-object-529446 


Have you PM'd Frollick?  Just click on his name then click on message and send your note to him.   


Encore, bienvenu to MSW





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Dear Allanyed,


I thank you for your welcome and I am delighted to see that you appreciate France (and its specialties!).


I will post an introduction about myself and also send a PM to Frollick as you advise.

I apologize in advance for my bad English (partly from the translator Reverso!).


Adrien L. (BORDEAUX - France)

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Your English is better than my French.  Je parle en peu, mais ma femme parles en francais, donc voyager en France est plus facile quand on y est.



PLEASE take 30 SECONDS and sign up for the epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series.   Click on http://trafalgar.tv   There is no cost other than the 30 seconds of your time.  THANK YOU

Current Builds - HMS Litchfield 1695 - Scratch 1:64 HMS Boston 1762 -Scratch 1:196


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