Jump to content

Seafight off Florida! Lost Voices from HMS Epervier: Court Martial testimony.

uss frolick

Recommended Posts

The following describes the fight between the American Ship-Sloop USS Peacock, of 22 guns, and the British Brig-Sloop, HMS Epervier, of 18 guns, fought off the coast of present day Cape Canaveral, Florida. Both sloops of war were armed primarily with 32-pounder carronades, and this engagement has always been considered to be a fair fight, even though the Americans, as usual, had an advantage in the number of men and guns.


The British court martial for the loss of the Epervier was held on board HM Ship Gladiator in Portsmouth Harbor, on January 20th, 1815.  The PRO [in Kew] reference number is ADMI/5447 - XC20479.


Interesting note: One of the twelve Royal Navy  officers serving on this court martial was Captain Peter Haywood, RN, one of the Bounty's mutinous midshipmen! He had been arrested in Tahiti, survived the Pandora's wreck, stood trial, was acquitted, forgiven, reinstated, and moved up the ranks to captain by 1815.




Statement of HM Brig Epervier's Captain, Richard Wales:


"To the right honorable president and members of the court:


The Narrative of R.W. Wales, Commander of His Majesty's Late Sloop Epervier, from the 14th day of April, until the 29th of the same month, on which day the said sloop was captured by the United States Ship of War Peacock, in Latitude about 27 degrees 47" North and  Longitude 80 degrees 07" West.


Having received orders from Rear Admiral Brown, then Commanding at Jamaica, to give instructions to ships bound to the Havannah, Bermuda and Nova Scotia, also to any others which may be bound to the northward as far as our courses lay together, I sailed on the morning of the 14th of April from Port Royal, it being the day appointed for our sailing, with seven sail in company, three of which separated on the 16th and 20th ultimo for their destinations. At the 24th PM, arrived off Havannah, and having seen the ships bound there safe in, and the vessel being bound toward Bermuda being in want of water, I anchored the Epervier at the entrance of the harbor my orders being to wait there 24 hours for any vessel that might be bound to the northward, having made the same known to the merchants, and that my orders were limited, I weighed the following morning at daylight, and made convoy signal for ships bound to the northward, and remained off the harbor mouth the greater part of the day. When not perceiving any other vessel come out to join me, I made sail with the one only bound to Bermuda, nothing particular occurred until the 29th instant, when at daylight, two sail appeared ahead, the wind being about ESE, and our course about N by E. At 7.30 AM spoke to one of the strangers under Russian colours, who was from the Havannah bound to Boston, who informed us, the other sail, under Spanish colors, was bound there also. Soon after, saw a sail in the SW quarter.


At 6.30 AM, observed the stranger to be a square rigged vessel, and apparently, a man of war in chase of us, by her closing very fast. We then shortened sail, and at 9 AM hauled our wind on the larboard tack, finding the wind veered around to the southward, and made sail, so as to get between the convoy and the stranger. At 9.20 AM made the private signal, which was not answered by the stranger , but shortly after by a blue English ensign and pendant hoisted, which I considered as suspicious, and made the signal to the convoy for an enemy, and to provide for her safety. Beat to quarters and cleared the ship for action, at 9.40 observed the stranger to haul down the English ensign and pendant, and hoist an American at the peak, and another on the fore topmast head, ay 9.50, being within half gunshot of the enemy, observed her to keep away, as i supposed to bring her broadside to bear on us, which we avoided by putting the helm up also, and keeping before the range of her guns, , and then rounding too, firing our starboard guns at tthe enemy's bow, when three of the carronades unshipped, by the fighting bolts jumping out of the chocks, which were again shipped,  and when abaft the range of the enemy's guns, we tacked and hauled up the main sail, during which period the enemy appears to have luffed up to bring her guns to bear, several of which were fired, but without doing us any material injury, in doing this, she got into the wind, as a I apprehended,  as their head yards appear to have been [illegible] a-box, by which maneuver, and the Epervier falling round off, brought us immediately to close action again, when we stood, with the wind about abeam, the enemy then directing his fire chiefly at our sails, and rigging. I am sorry to say they succeeding in completely dismantling us, in cutting away our sails and running rigging with their star and bar shot, and shot away the jaws of the main boom. 


At 10.30 AM, observed the enemy's fore yard droop. We cheered. Soon after this, several of the larboard carronades unshipped, by the fighting bolts, coming out of their places, shipped them again, and continued firing, some of them continued to unship when fired. At 10.40 AM, the boom topping lift gave way, and the boom fell on the wheel, from which the head sails being shot away, through the Epervier in a situation to be raked, but the enemy not immediately perceiving it and the brig having headway, we succeeded in bringing our broadside towards the opponent again, without receiving three or four shot, while in that position, after this, the enemy fired chiefly at our hull, and disabled three guns in the waist, and several shot in the hull below. At this time, several of the crew had fallen, amongst whom was the first lieutenant. At 10.55 AM the breeching bolts having drawn, I consulted the master to get the Epervier around, so as to engage the opposite side, the larboard broadside being totally disabled, with the exception of one 18-pounder which was now the only gun we had to return the enemy's fire. But this was thought to be too impracticable from being to near the enemy, and rather advanced before her helm, without putting onboard of her, I then ordered the officers aft, and asked if they were of the opinion that we should succeed by boarding, but this was considered impossible from the enemy's apparent superiority, and that nothing more could be done. At 11 AM the main topsail fell, and the foremast tottering being much crippled by shot, and all the larboard rigging being shot away, and the Epervier in a defenseless state, the carpenter reported her making water, and there was four feet and a half in the hold. To prevent the loss of any more men, the convoy having escaped, I was under the mortifying necessity of ordering the colours to be hauled down, when the enemy soon took possession of us, and sending a strong party of seamen and carpenters on board, the weather being very moderate and smooth,   water, they succeeded in stopping the shot holes and securing the fore mast, and got her safe into Savannah.


I hereby annex, for the information of the court, the effective force of the crew on board H. Majesty's late sloop under my command at the commencement of the action, viz.


Officers - Nine

Petty Officers - 26

Able seamen - 13

Ordinary seamen - 18

Marines  - 16

Boys - 15

Landsmen - 20

Supernumerary - one



Total - 118.


[signed ] R. W. Wales."


I will edit out the boring legalese in the following testimony ...

Edited by uss frolick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The Judge Advocate asked Captain Wales:


Q: Have you any complaint to make against the surviving officers or men as to their conduct in or subsequent to the action?


A:  Yes, against Boatswain Joseph Deane, there was a want of activity and exertion in him during the action. In part of the ships company, there was also a want of activity and exertion, as near as I can guess, about twenty of them.


Q:  Name them.


A:  The greater part of the ship's company being sent to the West Indies, and distributed amongst the shipping at Halifax, I cannot name them, There is one here, Charles manly, a seaman,  who was not forthcoming at the first part of the action under the pretense of a bad knee, but afterwards rendered himself serviceable in handing up powder.


To the officers and men present:


Q:  Have you any complaints to make against Captain Wales as to his conduct during the action?


A:  None.



Q:  How long had you commanded the Epervier?


A:  About fifteen months.


Q:  How long have the greater part of the crew been in her?


A:  About nearly the same time.



Q:  Where was she manned?


A:  At Sheerness, in the Nore.


Q:  Were the crew, generally speaking, expert in the use of the great guns?


A:  They were frequently exercised, but there were many who were not so expert as I thought they ought to have been.



Q:  You stated in your narrative, that the carronades were unshipped in consequence of the fighting bolts coming out of their places two or three times. Describe how they were fastened.


A:  They were drop bolts, with a shoulder at the bottom, and no forelock.


Q: In what way did you attempt to make them secure during the action?


A:  They were merely replaced. I knew of no other way to secure them.



Q:  Did the bolts ever come out of their places in the similar manner when the guns were exercised?


A:  No.


Q:  What damage did the enemy sustain?


A:  The sails and rigging were a good deal cut, the fore yard wounded by shot, I never could ascertain whether any of her men were killed, which they would not acknowledge. But I saw five men in their cots who had been severely wounded.



Q:  Do you know in what manner the fighting bolts of the carronades of the enemy were secured and fastened?


A:  The carronade slide was shipped in the port cill, with a drop bolt and a forelock right through the ships side, then with a small forelock through the end of it.


Q:  State the names of the officers, that acquainted you that some of the men had not exerted themselves so much, as they ought to have.


A: Lieutenants hacket and Harvey.



Q:  At what distance were you at the greater part of the action, from the enemy's ship?


A:  Sometimes we were in a quarter of a cable's length, at other times at a greater distance, wen the enemy yawed occasionally.


Q:  What shot did you use in the great gun principally?


A:  Round and grape and canister.



Q:  Do you know if the powder was regularly reduced, according to instructions?


A:  , My directions to the gunner, who is a careful and attentive man, in his situation were to pay particular attention to that part of his duty, and I have reason to believe he did so.


Q:  Was musketry used?


A:  I did not think from the height of the bulwarks of the enemy and of our own also, that the marines could be so well employed there, as at the great guns, not being able to see an object to fire at.


Q:  Was the enemy to windward, or to leeward?


A: To leeward.


Q:  You stated in the narrative, that in the latter part of the action, the breeching bolts drew. How many of them, or the side you engaged, drew?


A:  The bolts at five guns drew.



Q: How were they secured?


A:  Through the side, and clinched.


Q:  You stated in the narrative, that the yards and the head sails, were so damaged that the brig could not be got around, was any attempt made by sweeps or otherwise to effect that object?


A:  No. I consulted with the master, who was of the same opinion as myself,, that from the nearness that we were to the enemy at the tie, that her head could not be got round, without getting on board her.


Q:  Had you sights on the carronades?


A:  No. We were lately been on shore in the hurricane in Halifax, where the brig lay ten days under water, by which means the small efforts we made towards having anything of the kind were destroyed, and I had not the time or means of getting anything of the kind done.


Q:  Where is the surgeon?


A:  He is at Halifax.


Q:  Do you know if the prisoner, Charles Manly, had been on the sick list prior to the action?


A:  Yes, he had, and the day before the action, he was reported by the surgeon to be able to come on deck if required, but not go aloft.


Q:  Who reported to you, that he did not come on deck at the beginning of the action?


A:  I understand, after the action, in a conversation with some of the officers, that he had been absent from his quarters during the action, as also a man by the name of Peter Meak, who is, I think at Halifax, on which referring to the second lieutenant, , he said,  that they were reported sick to him.


Q:  At what period of the action was Lieutenant Hackett wounded?


A:  I think about a third of the action, but I did not know,  of his being wounded until some short time afterwards, when the carpenter came on deck, and told be of it.


Q:  How does the prisoner, Charles Manly, stand on the ships books?


A:  As Ordinary Seaman. I think he came on board in the first draught from the Namur, at Sheerness, I think he is of England.


Q:  How many men had you on the sick list at the time?


A:  To the best of my recollection, none others than Charles Manly, and Peter Meak.


Q:  Were the ship's company, in general, healthy men?


A:  They were tolerably so at this time,but had suffered a great deal from the severity of the weather at Halifax, and in the Bay of Fundy, during the winter.


Q:  How long previous to the action was it, that the Epervier was on shore, and under water, at Halifax Harbour?


A:  She drove on shore in the hurricane at Halifax, on the twelfth November, proceeding.  The action was on the 29th of April.


Q:  Was the Epervier's tiller on decK?


A:  Yes.


Q:   You said in your narrative, that the topping lifts of the main boom fell on the wheel. Were the tiller ropes cut in consequence of this?


A:  No. They were not. The tiller being very near the deck, that a man could not readily steer it, as with the wheel,  that I considered the clearing of the main boom off the wheel to be less trouble, than steering by the tiller, which was done very soon.


Q:  How long did the Epervier remain in a situation to be raked by the enemy, in consequence of the wheel being disabled?


A:  I think about six or seven minutes.


Q:  Do you know if two round shot were fired from the carronades during the action?


A:  No. I do not know if two round shot were fired. But I believe a round, and a grape or canister, were.


Q:  Did the enemy vessel appear to sail better than the Epervier?


A:  From the manner in which she approached us, I thought she sailed very fast, and during the time I was on board the Peacock being chased, by the Majestic as I believe, she left her very fast, and from her trial one day, with one of their schooner privateers to windward, I think she would have come up with the Epervier."


[Note: The Peacock was to leeward, initially, so Wales means that eventually, the Peacock would have gotten to weather of her, crossing her wake. The ship that later chased them was HMS Majestic, 58 guns, a recently razeed 74 gun ship.]



"Q: What was the tonnage of the Peacock?


A:  I cannot say exactly her tonnage, but I think she is five hundred tons at least.


Q:  Were the bolts you used the ones you took out in England?


A:  Yes, they were.


Q:  Do you know if Charles Manly volunteered to hand up powder, or that he did not do so until ordered?


A:  I cannot say whether he did it voluntarily, or not, but I understand, in the event, of a man being killed between decks, and he handed up powder in his stead.


Q:  From whom did you understand it?


A: from Gardner, the carpenters-mate, that he saw him handing up powder, and I believe Mr. Harvey also saw him.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Lieutenant John Hackett ... was called in, and sworn.



Q:  Did you hear the narrative delivered by Captain Wales and read to the court? Are the contents of it correct and true as it came within your knowledge? 


A:  Yes.


Q:  How long had you been in the Epervier?


A:  I joined her in the January before.


Q:  Did you make any report to Captain Wales, respecting the carronade slides having unshipped in consequence of the fighting bolts coming out of their places?


A:  On the first broadside, the fighting bolts of three after guns, on the quarter deck got out of their places, and the after gun got nearly halfway out the port. Captain Wales himself was on the quarterdeck at the time, for which reason I made no report to him, as he saw it himself, and I busied myself in shipping the bolts., and the guns again, as soon as possible.


Q:  How are those bolts secured?


A:  By dropping down and turning. There was a groove in the bolt that generally was turned by hand, and there was a small ketch in the head of the bolt.


Q:  Did the same circumstance ever occur when the guns were examined?


A:  No. As we never exercised with powder, and I conceive it was from the concussion of the guns.


Q:  From the time of your joining Epervier, to the day of the action, was the weather frequently such as to have allowed your exercising with powder, and frequently at a mark?


A:  After we went to sea, (I think the latter end of January, or the beginning of February)there was so much to do from the brig being fitted out that we were obliged to take every opportunity of putting the rigging in order during the first cruize. When we went out the second time with convoy for Bermuda, and the West Indies, during that passage, after losing the convoy, we frequently had opportunities of firing at a mark, although the ship was in a bad state from the bowsprit and the heel of the fore mast being sprung.


Q:  Were the men well acquainted with the use of the great guns?


A:  They were.


Q:   How often were they exercised without powder?


A:  Every morning for an hour, when the weather would permit.


Q:  At what period of the action were you wounded?


A:  By the first broadside, three of the fingers of my left hand were taken off, about a quarter of an hour, or twenty minutes afterwards, I received two wounds in the hip, and my elbow was shot off, and when I fell, and endeavored to regain the quarterdeck, I found myself unable to walk, and was carried below.


Q:  Had any of the breeching bolts drawn previous to your being carried below?


A:  Not that I know of.


Q:  Do you know anything of the conduct of Charles Manly, or anything relative to it?


A:  I recollect his being on the sick list, but not so as to incapacitate him from coming to his quarters, and I knew nothing of his absence until many days after  the action. He was quartered at some of the waist guns, at the second lieutenants quarters. I heard he was handing up shot at the fore hatchway, and afterwards, when the man stationed to hand up powder at the main hatch way was shot, Manly took his place.


Q:  State the distance the vessels were from each other, during such part of the action, as you were on deck?


A:  We exchanged our first broadsides in passing, about half pistol shot from each other, after tacking, and during the time I was on deck, we were at no time further than pistol shot.


Q:  Taking into consideration, the physical strength and practical skill of the Epervier's crew, how would you say she was manned?


A:  Very badly. I do not conceive there were twenty men in the ship who had been in action before, and they were a weak crew, and not bred as seamen.


Q:  Was every proper arrangement made previous to coming into action, and encouragement given to the crew by Captain Wales?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Do you know of any want of exertion, activity or zeal, on the part of any of the officers, petty officers, seamen or marines belonging to the Epervier during the action,or on that occasion?


A:  The conduct of the officers, with the exception of the boatswain, was every way in which officers should show themselves, the Conduct of the Boatswain, Mr. John Deane, John Caroll Captain of the forecastle, nathaniel Brown, George Elkinson, two seamen, was cowardly, in stowing themselves under the forecastle. i drove them out myself, after I drove them out the first time, I did not see Caroll or Brown in the same situation again, but the Boatswain and Elkinson, I drove out twice, I am confident and I believe three times from the same place. brown and Caroll were stationed in the fore rigging, and not at the guns, and when I sent them over to the guns, I did not see them afterwards under the forecastle, and I concluded they obeyed my orders, as I saw them cross over the fore gratings, before I went on to the quarterdeck again. Elkinson gave himself up as an American; he stated his name in America was George Force.


Q:  Was any officer with you at the time you drove them out?


A:  No.


Q:   Were the three carronades that were unshipped on firing the first broadside replaced, and ready to fire, by the time the Epervier got alongside the enemy?


A:  They were, we replaced them while tacking.


Q:  During the time you was on deck, did it appear to you that with the exception of the men that you have already mentioned, that the men fought their guns with the usual spirit of British seamen in action?


A:  The after guns were fought with the spirit of British seamen, the foremost guns were not. I observed them very weak, and went forward to know the reason and found the guns weakly manned, the chief part of the men who had fallen were at the foremost guns.


Q:  Previous to those men having fallen, were those foremost guns fought with the spirit of British seamen?


A:  They were.


Captain wales asked:


Q:  Would any delay for the purpose at firing at the mark with great guns while on the passage out to Jamaica have made our passage longer in the crippled state she was in?


A:  Certainly.


Q:  Were any of the guns fired with powder while running down the south side of St. Domingo?


A:  I do not recollect. I think two guns were fired when there was a vessel in sight to windward.


Q:  Were they fired in exercising them, or otherwise?


A:  The men quartered at the after guns fired them.


Q:  Was the boldness of the ships company such, in the opinion of the Americans, that they did not endeavor to seduce more than five or six of them after our capture, to enter the American service?


A:  I heard they endeavored to seduced Whittle the armorer, Latham the captain's coxswain, and Hemp captain of the fore castle, who are dead, and one or two of the quartermasters, Pearson is one of them, who is here, but they did not succeed.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting stuff. I've always been fascinated by Epervier as the USN's short-lived example of a Cruizer-class brig. A shame she was lost so soon after, though after getting some American modifications (enlarged gunports, headrails, and increase rake of her masts). I did notice the mention of the captain on the quarterdeck and the tiller on the deck, which would imply to me it was not one of the Cruizers with the aft platform. In those there was very little headroom, the main boom passes over the platform, and the tiller is mounted on top (above the bulwarks) in a lot of them too.


This makes me want to finish my drawing of her from Chappelle, and do the American modifications too. I also have a vague idea of doing the ship rig too, and a modified exploration vessel in the same vein as HMS Beagle's modifications to the smaller Cherokee-class.


(the other ship in the drawing is Chappelle's take on Cyane, but it's incorrect. He was sent the Bittern-class Cyane plans instead of the Brazen-class and he dressed it up with War of 1812-style bulwarks and such. Hmm, if you continue doing these after-action reports...)


EDIT: Threw together a quick size comp of Peacock and Epervier. They're alligned at the aft perpendicular to show the length difference better.



Edited by Talos
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Lieutenant John Harvey, second lieutenant of His Majesty's late sloop Epervier was called in and sworn.



Q:  Did you hear the narrative delivered by Captain Wales and read to the court?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Are the contents of it, as far as comes within your knowledge, correct and true?


A:  Yes.


Q:  How long have you been in the Epervier previous to the action?


A:  Three months.


Q:  Where were you quartered?


A:  At the five foremost guns.

Q:  Did the fighting bolts of the carronades come out, and the slides unship on firing the guns?


A:  One of the starboard side of my quarters, none on the larboard side.


Q:  Did any of the breeching bolts draw?


A:  Yes, the third gun from forward, on the larboard side, the bolts drew.


Q:  Do you know if the fighting bolts came out at the after guns?


A:  Yes. But I do not know how many. Because they were shipped again immediately on their being unshipped.


Q:  At what distance was the enemy's ship from the Epervier during the greater part of ht e action?


A:  About a third of a cable's length, to the best of my judgement.


Q:  What damage did the Epervier sustain during the action?


A:  The second broadside from the enemy, the main boom was shot away by the jaws, and to the best of my knowledge, not a brace or bow line left.  Shortly afterwards, one of the guns on the larboard side was dismounted by an enemy's shot, and towards the close of the action, two others were dismounted, and a fourth gun was rendered useless by a ring bolt and an eye bolt both being torn away by shot, and this time, the fore mast was cut nearly three fourths through, both topsail yards on the cap, Jibb haulyards and jibb sheet pendants shot away, the main topmast fell just as we were about to strike the colours, to the best of my knowledge there were forty five shot holes through the hull, eleven of them below the cills of the port. A consultation was held by the captain and the officers to get the starboard guns to bear, but it was thought impracticable, the captain asked if we were of the opinion that we could carry the enemy by boarding, and the officers were of the opinion that it was impossible, the colours were then ordered to be struck by the captain, we were about half a cable's length from the enemy.


Q:  How many of the Epervier's men were killed and wounded?


A:  Six men killed and nine wounded, to the best of my knowledge.


Q:  How many of them were at your quarters?


A:  Three killed and two wounded.


Q:  Were the Epervier's men, generally speaking, expert on the exercise of the great guns?


A:  They were, considering the strength of the men, they were not strong men, and [had] the appearance of unhealthy men.


Q:  Were they frequently exercised at the great guns?


A:  Every evening when the weather would permit, for an hour.


Q:  When at sea, had they been exercised with powder and shot?


A:  Once, one gun only?


Q:  Were there opportunities or their being exercised or of firing at the mark?


A:  The weather would frequently permit.


Q:  Were the men from different guns brought to the one gun that was fired?


A:  No. It was to try the cross breechings that had just been fixed.


Q:  Were many of the ships company practical seamen?


A:  Not more than twenty. Not more than ten thorough seamen, to the best of my knowledge.


Q:  Was every arrangement made previous to the action, and proper encouragement given by Captain Wales to the ships company during the action?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Do you know of any want of exertion, activity or zeal, on the part of any officers, petty officers, seamen and marines, belonging to the Eperviier during the action, or on that occasion.


A:  Nothing that came within my knowledge respecting the officers, but as to the men, James Lochan, John Peters, William Smith, George Elkinson, and John Sheldon deserted their quarters. At my own quarters, it came to my knowledge that  George Elkinson and John Sheldonboth stated themselves to be Americans after the action, and entered into the American service. I think I heard that Elkinson stated himself to have been an American before the action. Lochan, Peters  and Smith were distributed to different ships in the West Indies and North American stations.


Q:  Do you know of any circumstances relative to Charles Manly's conduct during the action?


A: I mustered the men at my quarters, and I understand from Mr. Evans, a midshipman,  who is not here,  that Charles Manly and Peter Meak were unable to come to their guns.


Q:   Can you account to the court for the breeching bolts of the guns giving way. Was it a defect of the iron, or the ships sides giving way?


A:  I suppose they had not been properly clinched, as they came through with out the bolts being in the least injured.


Q:  How did the ships company altogether behave with the exceptions you have already made?


A:  The greater part of them were never in action before, and before the commencement, seemed to be rather confused.


Q:   Was it possible for you to get on board the enemy at the time the officers consulted on that point?


A:  No. It was not possible.


Q:  Was every pains taken to discipline the crew of the Epervier when you were in her?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Could the Epervier have been defended longer with hopes of success?


A:  No.


Q:  Was there a possibility of pulling her head round to have got your starboard guns to bear?


A:  No. I do not think it was possible, as we might have pulled her head round, but her stern would have been to the enemy's broadside.


Q:  Was the enemy to the windward or the leeward of you at the close of the action?


A:  To the windward of us, but a very little.


Q:  What was the state of the enemy's ship at the close of the action?


A:  The fore yard was shot away in the slings, the sails very much cut, but no other apparent damage.


Q:  Did the enemy fire musketry?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Was any of your people killed or wounded by it?


A:  No.


Q:  Did it come to your knowledge that the powder was properly reduced during the action?


A:  I had a cartridge in my had just before we struck, and I could perceive no sensible difference in the full charge.


Q:  Did the Epervier roll much?


A:  No.


Q:   Did you see any of the shot rollout of the guns?


A:  No.


Q:  What shots were put into the guns at your quarters?


A:  Two round shot the first broadsides at my quarters, I saw them put in myself and afterwards we put in round and grape alternately.


Q:  By who's orders did you put two round shot into the guns at the first broadsides?


A:  I received the orders from aft, I supposed from the captain or first lieutenant.


Q:  Were any of your guns disabled by the firing of them?


A:  No. Not by being overcharged, but by the enemy's shots.


Q:  Did you know the size of the Peacock? 


A: Five hundred and nine tons by the American tonnage, as they acknowledged, which I supposed was nearly five hundred and sixty tons English. One hundred and eighty six men, they had on board, and three boys.


Q:  Could you ascertain the loss she sustained?


A:  No.


Captain Wales asked:


Q:  Did you at any time during the action see Charles Manly handing up powder?


A:  Yes.

Edited by uss frolick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Mr. Davis Golan, Master of His Majesty's late sloop Epervier [was] called in and sworn.


 Q:  Did you hear the narrative delivered by Captain Wales and read to the court?


 A:  Yes.


 Q:  Are the contents of it true and correct, as far as it came within your knowledge?


 A:  Yes


 Q:  How long had you been master of the Epervier, previous to the action?


 A:  About fifteen months.


 Q:  Where were you quartered during the action?


 A:  On the poop.



 Q:  What damage did the Epervier receive during the action?


 A:  She suffered very much in both the standing and running rigging, and also in the hull and sails. There was every gun on the larboard side, but one, dismounted, three of which were knocked off their slides by shot, the others by the bolts being drawn out of the slides, three or four of the fighting bolts jumped out of their places several times, and were replaced.I do not know anything about the foremost guns, other than what I heard.


 Q:  Do you know of the wheel being prevented from working?


 A:  Yes. There was a shot which took away the main boom close by the jaws, the brig was then right before the wind, and the boom amidships, the boom then hanging on the topping lifts. It then flew forward, with a strain being on the topping lefts, run clear of the poop and fell upon the wheel, the after end of it.


 Q:  Was the tiller at end?


 A:  We had relieving tackles, but they were not wanted, the hands hove the boom off.


 Q:  Do you know what damage the enemy received?


 A:  She was very much cut up in her rigging and sails, and her fore yard was wounded, and some shots in her hull.



 Q:  Was the fore mast of the Epervier wounded?


 A:  Yes, she had four or five shots in it


 Q: Did the Epervier's main top go, just before you struck?


 A:  Yes. About ten minutes before.


 Q:  Was the Epervier's fore mast, spars, and rigging so much damaged as to prevent your getting round, and bringing your starboard guns to bear?


 A:  Yes.


 Q:  Did a consultation take place with the captain and officers, of the propriety of making further resistance, or the possibility of boarding the enemy?


 A:  Yes. About two minutes before we struck the colours, I said it was impossible to wear clear of the Peacock, she was on our larboard beam, within a quarter of a cable's length, the wind being then on the starboard quarter, we could neither get ahead, nor astern, of her without running on board her. I told Captain Wales it was impossible to get clear of the Peacock, either to wear clear of her, or haul off from her, every brace bowline haul yard, and the clue of the top sail shot away, and the jib stay and jib, all to pieces. I told Captain wales it was impossible to board her. I could see all her people, on deck, and ours, most of them, too weak.



 Q:  Were the crew of the Epervier frequently exercised with the great guns?


 A:  Yes, an hour every night, when the weather would permit, and sometimes an hour in the forenoon.


 Q:  Were they expert on the use of the great guns?


 A: Yes, but rather weak.


 Q:  Do you remember their being exercised with powder and shot at any time?


 A:  Yes, twice.


 Q:  Do you know what water was in the ship when she struck?


 A:  Yes. I heard the carpenter come up and report to Captain Wales, that there was four and a half feet of water in the hold, about nearly the time we struck, and that she was making water fast, and there was one shot hole in the larboard bow, which could not be got at.



 Q:  How was the Epervier manned?


 A:  Very poorly indeed. I never saw a worse crew in my life, in every respect.


 Q:  Where was she manned?


 A:  At the Nore.


 Q:  Was every necessary preparation, previous to the action made, and due encouragement give by Captain Wales to the sloops crew during the action?


 A:  Yes.


 Q:  Do you know of anything improper of the conduct of the other officers  or sloops crew, during the action?


 A:  No. I did not see any cowardice on the quarterdeck, amongst the officers and men, I only heard of it as to others.


 Q:  Could the Epervier have been defended longer, with the most distant prospect of defense?


 A:  No.


 Q:  Do you know of any circumstances relative to the prisoner Manly?


 A:  Manly was on the doctors light list previous to the action. I know nothing further of it, than what I have heard.


 Q: What sail had the Peacock set when the Epervier struck?


 A:  She had her fore and main topsails set, her mizen topmast being banded, her fore sail spanker and jib topsail and jib set.


 Q: If you had determined to board her, the Peacock could have avoided it, if they chose?


 A:  Yes.


 Q:  What are the dimensions of the Peacock?


 A:  I think five hundred and nine tons American . She was laid down for six hundred tons, as I was told by a relation in America. She was much larger that the Epervier.


 Q:  Do you know what the loss of the Peacock was?


 A:  I was told by a gentleman at Savannah, who made an enquiry, that their loss was three killed and seven wounded.


 Q:  Do you know how long the Epervier's guns had been loaded, before the action?


 A:  I think about two or three days."

Edited by uss frolick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why was Mr. Manly in a heap of trouble? Seems to have been stated and affirmed that he left Sick Bay in spite of his bad knee and passed shot and later powder replacing a wounded man. Anyone who has been around work similar to hauling on tackles and the quick movement needed to serve a gun would have known that bad knees would have hindered the working of the gun, causing a slower the rate of fire. A good gun Captain would have kept him away from his gun, I have been a Gun Captain, for training, the duds or healing injured, were second loaders and we didn't fire enough ammo to run short, in combat, didn't want them around. Sounds like a vindictive officer, perhaps the Captains later question might indicate there might have been some earlier intervention, causing a vindictive attitude by an officer, were I on that court, I would have released Mr Manly and chastised the officer responsible for questionable accusations and wasting the courts time. Apparently there was some shirking of duty by hiding that was more worthy of attention than Mr. Manly, with his apparent the day before the battle injury causing him to be held in sick bay, only available for limited duty if sufficient need was there. Also it came out in the testimony that the crew was poorly made up in ability and experience. Testimony also reviled that the crew were in a greatly weakened state caused by winter and probably poor rations. In spite of testimony the state of the crew is probably the greatest cause in the loss of the ship along with poor outfitting.  Looks like there could have been a little class warfare going on which the court was attempting to reveal by its questioning, were some attempting to pass some blame to crew members by their testimony, Mr. Manly's conduct was not the cause for losing the ship, it seems that Capt. Wales was supporting Mr. Manly and his conduct with his question about being seen passing powder.

. :pirate41:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

"William Gardner, Carpenter's mate of His Majesty's late Sloop Epervier was called in and sworn.


Q:  Did you hear the narrative of Captain Wales and read to the court?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Are the contents of it,as far as it came to your knowledge, true?


A: Yes, as far as I can understand it.


Q:  Where were you quartered?


A:  Between the decks, along with the carpenter.


Q:  Were you wounded?


A:  Yes, about the third broadside.


Q:  What water was in the hold when she struck?


A:  Four feet six inches.



Q:  Did you know anything about the conduct of prisoner Manly during the action?


A:  Yes. I saw him at the fore hatchway, I believe handing up shots. I saw him below when the action began before I was wounded. I believe he was handing shot up.


William Pearson, quarter gunner of His Majesty's late Sloop Epervier, was called in and sworn.


Q:  Did you hear the narrative delivered by Captain Wales read to the court?


A: Yes.



Q:  Are the contents of it, as far as it came to your knowledge, true?


A:  Yes.


Q:  How long have you been in the Epervier before you was captured?


A:  About three months.



Q:  Where were you stationed during the action?


A:  At the aftermost gun but one.


Q:  Was that, or any other gun disabled by the enemy's shot, or any other cause?


A:  Three different ones in the waist were disabled by the enemy's shot. My gun was disabled by the bolts drawing, the breeching went. I do not know of the others.



Q:  Were the crew of the Epervier expert on the use of the great guns?


A:  No, I believe not. Several of those at my gun did not perform the business properly.


Q:  Were they frequently exercised?


A:  Yes, every night when the weather permitted.



Q:  How do you account for their not being so expert?


A:  I believe it was for the want of a headpiece!


Q:  Were the crew of the Epervier generally speaking, strong and healthy men, or a weak ship's company?


A:  They were a very indifferent ships company.



Q:  Do you know of any misconduct on the part of any officers or men in the action?


A:  None of the officers, and none particular of the men, by my knowledge.


Q:  Were there any steps taken by the Americans to go into their service?


A:  I was asked by the governor of the prison if I would go into their service. there was a privateer fitting out there. I told him no, not if I stayed seven years there!


Q: How long have you been in the King's service?


A: Nine years. I was pressed in the East Indies.


James Boyd, quartermaster of His Majesty's late Sloop Epervier was called and sworn.



Q:  Did you hear the narrative delivered by Captain Wales and read to the court?


A:  Yes.


Q:  Was the Contents of it, as far as it came to your knowledge, true?


A:  Yes.



Q:  Where were you stationed during the action?


A:  At the wheel.


Q:  How near were the two ships together?


A:  As nigh as I can guess, about a quarter of a mile from each other.



Q:  How long have you been at sea?


A:  About thirty years, about fifteen of it in the Kings service.


Q:  Were you ever in action before?


A:  Never.



Q:  Did the main boom come down on the wheel?


A:  The jaws of the  main boom were shot away, and it came down on the wheel. It was cleared in about four or five minutes.


Q:  was much was the Epervier disabled in her sails and rigging?


A:  Yes, very much.



Q:  Was she defended as long as she could be with any prospect of success?


A:  Yes, but if we had been well manned, we would have taken her, I think.


Q:  What was the state of the enemy when you struck?


A:  A very little hurt, only her fore yard carried away.



Q:  How do you think the Epervier was manned?


A:  Very poorly, very few seamen.


Q:  Were they frequently exercised?


A:  Yes they were?



Q:  Do you know of any misconduct on the part of the officers and men?


A:  No. Captain Wales and all the officers encouraged the men most courageously. I saw none of the men behave improperly.


Captain Wales asked:


Q:  Do you remember our firing at a rock, when off St. Bartholemews at a mark?


A:   Yes.


Charles Manly said he was handing up shot, that he was not able to come to his quarters, that a midshipman came down and the surgeon said he was not able to go to quarter, but might hand shot along, which he did. That he was very bad in prison with his knee for some time, he had a swelling on it, and had been on the doctors list for three or four days before the action.


James Leath, a seaman belonging to His Majesty's late Sloop Epervier was brought in and sworn.


The prisoner Charles Many asked:


Q: Did you see me handing up shot during the action?


A:  Before the action I was down for a box of shot, and he lent me a hand up with it as far as the fore ladder. I did not see any more of him, til the latter part of the action, a boy, who was at my gun went down and stayed there too long, and I was sent to the scuttle to see if he was there. the boy was there and Charles Manly was giving him powder.


The court asked:


Q: Do you know if the man was ill?


 A: Yes. He had a bad knee and a piece of flannel wound round it. I saw him sitting on the berth deck several days before. He walked very lame. On the day of the action, he told me he could not stoop to lift up a box.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The court was cleared, and agreed that the cause of the capture of His Majesty's late Sloop Epervier, was the very superior force of the enemy, the insecure manner in which the fighting bolts of the Epervier were fitted, and the breeching bolts drawing, from being badly clinched, and the inefficiency of her crew, that the said Captain Richard Wales took the Epervier into action in a very skill full manner, and together with the officers and the other ships company (except Joseph Deane, the Boatswain, John Carroll, captain of the forecastle, Nathaniel Brown, George Elkinson, Thomas Lochan, John Peters, William Smith and John Sheldon, seamen, who appear to have deserted their quarters) exerted themselves with gallantry and zeal, during the action, particularly John Hackett, the first  lieutenant,  in remaining on deck after the loss of three fingers, until he was completely disabled by receiving three other wounds, and did adjudge the said Captain Richard Wales, and the other officers and sloops company (except the other ships company before mentioned to have deserted their quarters) to be full and honorably acquitted."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here are my thoughts.


The Epervier was a new fast sloop, built to the latest designs, launched in 1812, and she was constructed of oak. She had a complete battery of sixteen 32-pounder carronades, plus two 18-pounder trunioned carronades, and a complete crew with no vacancies, and no missing officers.


Although the officers claim the the crew was indifferent, most of them had been in the sloop since her first days, with the same captain and most of her officers. It was the officers duty to train and inspire them.


The crew may have been sick due to the cold weather in Halifax the previous year, they had been in the tropics for several months, more than enough time for all cold weather maladies to cure themselves. 


They may have only had 31 real sailors on board, but that was more than enough to sail a brig of her size. The rest were only needed to haul the ropes and work the guns. If they were not a strong, smart crew, then it was the officers's duty to train them properly, as they had been together a year and a half, much longer than the Peacock's had her's.


The defects in the fighting bolts would have been spotted long before, if all the guns have been tested with powder and ball, which they were not, only one was, and the problem could have been fixed. Given the little damage to the Peacock, the British carronades were aimed too high, and the downward recoil might have caused the problem. If the guns had been aimed flat for the enemy's hull, they may not have popped out.


The breeching bolts pulled out probably because, while underwater at Halifax, water soaked into the breach bolt holes, and after six months of rotting, the wood couldn't stand the repeated recoil of the guns, and let the bolts pass through. The sloop probably lay aground, partially submerged on her larboard side.


It is surprising that they didn't try wearing around to bring their starboard guns to bear, as some had suggested. So if they were too close to the enemy, and had fallen on board, as they had feared, then they could have tried boarding the Peacock, since they still had over one hundred hands unhurt, including all sixteen of her marines, and apparently nobody had fired their muskets yet.

Edited by uss frolick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a comprehensive and well written history of the Epervier, one must read:


McCleary, J.R., "Lost By Two Navies: HMS Epervier, A Most Unfortunate Ship", Part 1, Nautical Research Journal,  Vol. 41, N0. 2, page 81-87, June 1996, and Part 2, NRJ, Vol. 41, No. 3, September 1996, page 131-141.


Mr. McCleary did not have access to the above court martial proceedings, so with that in mind, it should be a fun re-read!

Edited by uss frolick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...