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"The Wasp's Frolic" (The song) and rare 1st-hand accounts of the 1812 battle.

uss frolick

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This song celebrates the victory of the US Sloop-of-War Wasp over HM Brig Frolic in 1812 off the Delaware Capes. Two equally matched sloops fought it out, and the American won. But a British 74-gun ship showed up and spoiled everything.  I hate it when that happens. A nice little tune, actually.





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Let's look and some contemporary first hand accounts of the battle. First off, the British officers on board the Frolic, Captain Thomas Whinyates, Lieutenant Frederick Boughton Winth, Purser John Collins, and Captain Sir John Beresford (HMS Poictiers), taken from the court martial assembled on the 74-gun Ship Marlborough, at Bermuda, on February 15th, 1813:


Captain Thomas Whinyate's (edited) official letter to the court:


"Sir, it is with bitter sorrow and distress, that I have to report to your excellency the capture of His Majesty's Brig Frolic by the Ship Wasp, belonging to the United States of America on the 18th instant (October).


Having under convoy the home-bound trade from the Bay of Honduras and bing in latitude 36 North and longitude 67 W, in the night of the 16th, we were overtaken by a most violent gale of wind, in which the Frolic carried away her main yard, lost her topsails, and sprung her main topmast.


On the morning of the 18th, as we were repairing the damages sustained in the storm, and reassembling the scattered ships,  a suspicious ship came in sight, and gave chase to the convoy.The merchant ships continued their voyage before the wind under all sail, and the Frolic dropped astern and hoisted Spanish colors in order to deny the stranger under our guns, and to give time for the convoy to escape. At 10 o'clock, both vessels being within hail, we hauled to the wind and the battle began, and the superior fire of our great guns gave every resign to expect its speedy termination in our favor, but the gaff and the head braces being shot away, and there being no sail on therein mast, the brig became unmanageable, and the enemy succeeded in taking a position to rake her, whilst she could not bring gun to bear. After laying some time exposed to a most destructive fire, she fell with her bowsprit betwixt the enemy's main and mizen masts, still unable to return his fire. At length, the enemy boarded, and made himself master of the brig; every individual officer being wounded, and the greater part of the men being killed or wounded, not more that twenty persons remained unhurt ... The Wasp was taken and the Frolic recaptured the same afternoon by His Majesty's Ship Poictiers."


All the officers and crew retired, except Frederick Boughten Wintle, 2nd Lieutenant of the Frolic who was worn. Captain Whinyates stated that he had no other documents to produce, but he wished to examine the 2nd lieutenant and the purser.


(Note: Captain Whinyates asks most of the questions.)


Q: From the time that the main yard of the Frolic was carried away, till we engaged the Wasp, was every exertion used under the disadvantages of a gale of wind to get the Frolic's damages repaired?


A: Yes.


Q: After the Wasp was discovered, was every possible preparation made to engage her?


A: Yes.


Q: Had I delayed to engage the Wasp until a jury main yard could have been put across, should I have exposed the convoy to evident capture?


A: I think you would.


Q: Did I use every possible exertion it was the duty of an officer to use, to animate my men and defend the ship and convoy entrusted to my care?


A: Yes.


Q: During the action, was every possible exertion made to fight and defend the Frolic?


A: Every possible exertion was used.


Q: How many men was the Frolic short of compliment when the engagement began?


A: I believe eleven.


Q: How many men were there, from sickness, who were unable to come to their stations?


A: Two were unable, but several were very ill who came to their quarters.


Q: How many hands were there on deck fit for duty when the engagement commenced?


A: I should think about eighty-five.


Q: At the time I was wounded, how many men did you suppose remained on the Frolic's deck?


A: I suppose about twenty.


Q: Did I submit after the enemy boarded us whilst there was any chance in opposing him to any affect?


A: No. The enemy had been in complete possession of the fore part of the ship and forecastle, and there being few men left, they asked from the forecastle if they would surrender, where captain Whinyates being wounded, as also myself , and also every officer upon deck, and very few men left, he replied 'yes'.


Q: Did you give it as your opinion, before I surrendered, that all further resistance was in vain?


A: I did.


Q: Was that the opinion of the remaining officers?


A: It was the opinion of the purser, who was the only other officer on deck.


Q: State to the court, what you attribute the extraordinary carnage on board your ship, compared to that of the enemy.


A: To the Frolic being very light, with quick motion, and being without sail, owing to the previous damages, it was impossible to take aim with the guns, whilst the Wasp, from having sufficient sail to keep her steady, and from the kind of shot they used, buck shot and wad shot, and from the position she was able to choose, from her perfect state, and the Frolic's disabled state, they were able to destroy more men of ours, than we could of theirs.


Q: Previous to the loss of the gaff, had the enemy any advantage in maneuver or position?


A: None what ever.


Q: Had we the best of the engagement before the misfortune of the loss of our gaff?


A: I think we had.


Q: Have you since learned how many men  the enemy commenced the action with?


A: I believe one hundred and forty six.


Q: Do you conceive our great loss in men, arose from the enemy's great guns, or from his having men in the tops with musquetry?


A: After she got across our bows, I think we suffered most from musquetry.


Q: From the circumstances of the engagement, do you think we could have got our gaff up again before the enemy got across our bows?


A: No.


A: Was the discipline of the Frolic that of a man of war, whilst you served with me, and were the men properly trained?


A: Yes.


Mr. John Collins (the purser) was called in and sworn:


(NOTE: Much of his testimony is repetitive, and I won't repeat it here, but Collins gives some new details of the battle. He said only one man didn't go to his quarters.):


Did you give it as your opinion before I surrendered, that all further resistance was in vain?


A: I observed so to the 2nd lieutenant.


Q: Was that the opinion of the remaining officers?


A: There was only the second lieutenant and myself on deck, who both agreed some time before captain Whinyates surrendered, that nothing more could be done, but Captain Whinyates still continued the contest, I should suppose, about a quarter of an hour.


Q: Previous to the loss of the gaff, had the enemy any advantage over us in maneuver?


A: I think not.


Q: Had we the best of the engagement before the misfortune of the loss of the gaff?


A: I think so.


Q: Do you conceive our great loss in men arose from the enemy's great guns, of from his having men in the tops with musketry?


A: Principally from the musquetry, but some were killed by the great guns.


Q: Was the discipline of the Frolic, that of a man of war, whilst you served with me, and were the men properly trained?


A: I think so. The same as I have previously observed, that they were exercised commonly once a week, except in foul weather.


Q: What cause do you attribute the great loss in men on board the Frolic?


A: To the enemy's superiority of musquetry, and they having men in their tops and we not.


Q: Was the principal loss before or after the two ships got on board each other.


A: Before, because Captain Whinyates would have boarded, on our first on board her, had he had sufficient men, which he had proposed to do. I had observed to Captain Whinyates "They will board us, sir!", when he answered "I will board her!", but I believe, as there were too few men, he gave up the idea.


Q: When the enemy boarded, did you observe me go forward almost solely to oppose them ?


A: I saw you go forward, and there were a few men near you, at the time the enemy was on the forecastle.


Q: State if I was wounded at that time?


A: You seemed to limp, but I did not exactly know at that time that you was wounded.


At this point, Captain Sir John Beresford of the Poictiers was asked to describe what he knew relative to the capture:


"I found the Frolic totally dismasted, and the Wasp with her main top-mast gone, and the enemy told me that the fire of the Frolic was very superior, and that after they had lost their main topmast, they were about hauling off, but the accident of the gaff of the Frolic being shot away, gave them a great superiority, of which they took advantage of. I think the crew of the Wasp consisted about one hundred and forty. They had five lieutenants and a midshipman or mate (prize masters) as captain of each gun, and I never saw finer looking men. I think the Frolic had not above fifteen or sixteen men who were not wounded when we took possession of her. And the enemy, whilst on board the Poictiers, corroborated the statement now before the court in Captain Whinyates letter, the nature of his wounds were such that he could not move without assistance, and that he was obliged to be hoisted aboard the Poictiers."


The court inquired of Captain Whinyates if he considered any blame attached to the men remaining on deck at the moment he went forward to oppose the enemy, and was not supported, who replied, No. The enemy had boarded twice, and were beaten back once, and the men who had not returned from the side on which they had beaten back the enemy, when this occurred on the opposite side. Captain Whinyates ...was fully aware of the disabled state of the Frolic in commencing the action with an enemy of the force of the Wasp, yet he preferred doing so, to risking the loss of his convoy, which were all saved by the line of conduct which he pursued ...


And naturally, Captain Whinyates was acquitted.


(Source: Public Records Office, Kew, England, ADMI/5434 XC14734.)


Next up, the American court martial!





















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The story and people behind the ship. That is what it is really about, at least to me. 


Thanks Frolick



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On December 29th, after being paroled, American Captain Jacob Jones withstood a brief court martial for the loss of the Wasp. Their testimonies were summarized, not quoted word for word, as the British testimonies were. Jones was naturally acquitted. Here was his testimony:


"On the 18th of October last, about an hour after taking the Frolic,  and being much crippled in our masts and rigging, (our main topmast shot away about two feet above the cap, the mizen top gallant mast and gaff likewise, the main mast one third shot off, the mizen mast and fore top mast nearly halved in two, the starboard main yard arm shot off, and most of the other spars crippled) we discovered a ship to the windward standing for us. I wore and hauled upon a wind and placed the Wasp between the strange sail and the Frolic, supposing her to be one of her late convoy, and that she might be armed, as most of them were, We continued our efforts to secure the masts in a manner for being new main sails and spanker, for previous to this time, we had been employed clearing the wreck, reeving new breeching, all of which were gone or strained, and preparing the ship for action.


In about a half an hour after seeing the strange sail, she had drawn so near that I could see she had quarter boats, which left no doubt of her being of equal or greater force that a frigate, upon which I put away before the wind, and the sail we attempted to make was immediately blown to ribands from the bolt ropes and the canvas cut to pieces.. In less that 45 minutes from the time of our bearing away, she was so near as to round to at a cables length astern of us, and as nothing we could have done could have compensated in the smallest degree for the los of men we should have sustained be receiving her broadside in our unfavorable condition, I surrendered the ship without further effort. I have the satisfaction to assure the court that I was in every instance obeyed and aided with promptitude and clarity both by officers and crew."


Note the passage, "I could see she had quarter boats, which left no doubt of her being of equal or greater force that a frigate" is evidence that sloops of war from the 1812 period did not carry them.


Also note how severely the Wasp had been damaged aloft by the Frolic's gunnery.


Captain Jones later noted:


"The distance (between the Wasp and Poictiers when first sighted) must have been about ten miles; the officers observed that she was going at a rate of eleven knots, but he thought ten knots was more accurate.


First Lieutenant James Biddle stated that he was on board the Frolic at the time of the surrender of the Wasp, The Poictiers was first discovered at about ten or eleven miles distance, be he supposed her to be one of the convoy, as she was steering down stern on, and did not discover her to be a ship of war till after the Wasp bore up. It was about 4 PM when first discovered.


Biddle further stated that the capture of both vessels was certain as soon as he discovered the Poictiers to be a cruiser, as the Wasp was so disabled as to be "nearly a wreck".


Lieutenant George W. Rogers, who was on the Wasp, stated:


"[that he] was  informed that there was a strange sail in sight. At first it was supposed to be one of the convoy, and understanding that the convoy were armed, we immediately commenced preparing for action. When the strange sail came to within five or six miles, they supposed her to be a frigate, they then put away before the wind, under close reefed fore and mizen topsail and fore sail. They attempted to set the main sail, but it was torn to pieces immediately. They were unable to set more sails, from the crippled state of the masts. The strange sail gained on the rapidly, and soon came near and rounded to, within a half a cables length, when they discovered her to be a 74.  When finding it useless to contend with, the Wasp was surrendered."


Lieutenant Rogers also curiously described the Frolic as having mounted "twenty-two carriage guns".









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The next account comes from the 74-gun HMS Poictiers, but not from her captain. It comes instead from one of her 500 sailors, a literary chap by the name of Charles Loftus, who served in the Royal Navy from 1809 to 1816. In 1876, Loftus wrote his memoirs, called "My Youth By Sea and Land", excerpted here:


"On the 18th October, 1812, which was Sunday, Devine service was ordered for eleven o'clock, and our parson had just begun what we all thought was going to be a very good discourse, when a hail from the mast head, informing us that three strange sail were on the lee-beam. In an instant the captain and the first lieutenant jumped from their seats and went on deck, and in less than five minutes afterwards, I heard the first lieutenant calling Mr. Brown, the boatswain, to turn up the hands and make all sail. The parson was left in a moment without an audience, so little ceremony was shown to him upon an occasion of their kind. The ship being put before the wind we were not long in making sail, and with all studdingsails set low and aloft, we were walking through the water at about eleven knots per hour."


(Note: It looks like Jones was a pretty good judge of a ships speed!)


"The men were piped to dinner, and at two o'clock we could see that the strangers to leeward had hauled their wind, and that one of them was totally dismasted. Some of the sailors  declared that they that they had seen a great deal of smoke, and several flashes of guns., which induced us to believe that the three large vessels laying to, with all their masts standing must be an American squadron, and that the dismasted vessel must be one of ours, which had been attacked by a superior force. Consequently we beat to quarters, and our ship was in a very few minutes in that delightful state of confusion which I have described in its normal condition when we cleared for action.


At four o'clock, we were close to the vessels; boats had been seen to pass between them, and we now observed that one of the ships had lost her main topmast, and had borne up before the wind, making all sail. the weather had, for the last hour, had been gradually getting hazy, accompanied by heavy squalls of wind and rain, while there was also a very nasty sea.About the time of which I am speaking a squall of wind had carried away our larboard for topmast studding-sail boom, compelling us to shorten sail. At the same moment, our starboard lower-deck bow-gun ran out through the port hole, and as the ship heeled over considerably the whole deck was flooded, which caused great confusion. It was this circumstance that first gave the enemy, now running away to leeward, notice of the proximity of a superior force; for when we luffed to the wind, shortened sail and reefed topsails, they saw our broadside and became aware of our strength. We made out that the dismasted vessel was an eighteen gun brig, and the ship to leeward a sloop of war, but they showed no colors, neither could we obtain any answer to our signals. two boats were therefore to ready to be lowered the moment we hove to. As soon as we were close to the American frigate a gun was fired at her, and she displayed over her stern an English ensign. Our ship was at once hove to, and in a few moments we were in possession of the other vessel. A lieutenant, two midshipmen and about twenty seamen were sent on board the dismasted vessel, and they brought back about the same number of Americans, with two officers. We ascertained, on their return, the ship was the English man of war Frolic, which had been captured by the American Sloop-of-war Wasp. As soon as our boats were hoisted up we bore away before the wind, crowding all sail, in chase of the American sloop-of-war. In about an hour, we were close up to her, and fired two shots art her, when she showed her colors and rounded to. She appeared to be a handsome vessel, and when we struck between the for and main masts, she hauled down her colors, and we took possession of her. With three boats, we were not long in bringing off her crew, who numbered about a hundred and fifty men, with several officers, and the finest looking fellows I think I ever saw.


We now turned our thoughts towards the brig which we had left to windward. We had placed a lieutenant, four midshipmen, and sixty men on board our prize, and as soon as the boats were up, we made sail too rejoin the Frolic, which we did in about two hours. Preparations were made to take her in tow by passing a hawser over her stern. Whilst this was going on, I heard a conversation between the captain and the master as to the desirability of having the captain of the Frolic, who. had been wounded, brought on board our ship. The captain, turning round to me, as I was near him, directed me to go, with his compliments, to the captain of the Frolic, and to say that he thought he would be more comfortable in our ship than where he was, desiring me, at the same time, to bring him on board as soon as possible. the crew of the pinnace were now called, and as  soon as she was manned I shoved off, and was soon on board the brig. I desired the coxswain to lie off under her lee quarter, and having sent the message of my captain to the captain of the Frolic, I waited on deck for a few minutes, and was then desired to go below into the cabin.


The captain was lying in his cot, poor fellow! Badly wounded; and in reply to my message he said he would be most happy to avail himself of the kind offer made, and would endeavor to come with me. I then went on deck to look after my boat, which I found lying off, on her oars, and every thing looked very miserable on deck. The brig was rolling very heavily from side to side, having no sail to steady her; her mainmast had fallen over the starboard quarter; and the foremast had been shot away about four feet from the deck. I saw none of her own crew, as they were all down below, a good many badly wounded. Just under the head of the mainmast lay the bodies of two men, one of whom had his skull split in two, evidently by the cut of a sword, while the other was jammed by the mast against the side. An old quartermaster who now came on deck began working the  hand pump, and from him I learned many particulars relative to the capture of his vessel. It appeared she had a convoy of five or six ships loaded with mahogany, from the Bay of Honduras; had sprung her main yard two days before, and was otherwise much crippled by the gale which we had encountered; and, in fact,  was in a helpless state when  the American sloop-of-war bore down upon her, and after exchanging a few broadsides, had carried her by boarding.


There was then a hail from the forecastle to say the hawser had parted - an unwelcome piece of information. My ship soon shot ahead, though she had her main topsail to the mast. I went below to the captain's cabin and reported the curcumstance. They were dressing him, and getting him ready as fast as they could, but it took a long time to prepare him, as he seemed to suffer much from his wound, and could only just sit up at his cot. I was most anxious to get away with him, for the sea was rising and the wind increasing ..."


Hate to leave you all hanging, but I can't copy the whole dang book! Needless to say, they got the Frolic's captain, the dear Thomas Whinyates, safely off, and he lived to tell the tale ... !






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8 hours ago, uss frolick said:

It looks like Jones was a pretty good judge of a ships speed!)

He was also an accomplished writer for the age he lived in his status in life. One does not normally accredit a seaman of that period as having this much command of the written language, even though you do say that this was written long after the actual incident.



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Now let's turn to the official American accounts of the battle. I should have done this first, but I couldn't get hold of a copy early on ...


Prior to the battle, Jacob Jones had taken the Wasp out on a month long cruise, ending in early September, looking for an enemy of equal force to fight. He reported his actions, in a letter dated September 11, 1812, while anchored in New castle, Delaware, to the Secretary of the Navy, Paul Hamilton. The seas off Columbia's Shores were doubly dangerous even then, with British cruisers galore and foul weather. Note how seriously the rough seas had damaged the Wasp's bow and head timbers:


"I have arrived here today after a cruise of 29 days, from the time of leaving the Delaware, during which we sailed along the coast every day in sight of the land as far as Block Island, and from thence as far as Georges Bank, believing it probably we should find some of the enemy's sloops of war there, as none were to be seen of or heard of off our ports.  Finding none there, I steered from thence for Halifax, but was so much retarded by head winds, that we did not arrive there until the 25th Ultimo, and the weather still bad, and the terms of our crew nearly expired, we that afternoon directed our course for this place. On the morning of this day, we captured the Brig Hazard, of which I wrote you at the time which we recaptured the previous night from a Salem privateer by the British Frigates Shannon and Aeolus. On the 27th, we fell in with a ship we took to be a sloop of war, and our opinion was much strengthened by the very cautious manner of her meeting us, but within about three miles, we discovered her to be a thirty[-two] gun frigate, and from the description given us [of the] Shannon and Aeolus, I believe it must have been the latter. We made sail from her, and night soon coming on, we saw no more of her. Early the next morning, the weather was thick and squally, we saw 4 or 5 miles ahead of us a frigate, which from her length and appearance, must have been a 44, and most probably the Shannon. Favored by the thickness of the weather, and heavy squalls of rain, we soon ran clear of her, but without ascertaining which sailed [letter illegible].


In carrying sail to avoid this last ship, we carried away one of the head rails and bumpkin, and all the head timbers on the starboard side, to repair which, and fill up the vacancies of our crew, which is 14 short, if we receive again those of the prize, I shall proceed to Philadelphia and then await your orders."



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In November, 1812 a prisoner cartel arrived in New York, containing Captain Jacob Jones and the exchanged crew of the Wasp. On the 24th, Jones penned his official report of the victory to Secretary Jones:


" I here avail myself of the first opportunity of informing you of the occurrence of our cruise, which terminated in the capture of the Wasp on the 18th October by the Poictiers of seventy-four guns., while a wreck from damages received in an engagement with the British Sloop-of-War Frolick of twenty-two guns, sixteen f them thirty-two pounder carronades, and four twelve pounders on the main deck, and two twelve pounders on the topgallant forecastle, making her superior I force to us by four twelve pounders. The Frolic had struck to us, and was taken passion of, about two hours before our surrendering to the Poictiers.


We had left the Delaware on the thirteenth - the sixteenth had a heavy gale in which we lost our jib boom and two men, half past eleven on the night of the seventeenth, in Latitude of 37 N. and 65 W, we saw several sail, two of them appearing very large, we stood from them for some time, the shortened sail, and steered the remainder of the night, the course we had perceived them on. At daylight on Sunday the eighteenth, we saw them ahead - gave chase and soon discovered them to be a convoy of six sail under the protection of a sloop of war, four of them large ships mounting from sixteen to eighteen guns. At thirty-two minutes past eleven AM, we engaged the sloop of war having first received her fire at a distance of fifty to sixty yards, which space we gradually lessoned, until we laid her on board, after a well supported fire of forty three minutes, and also so near while we were loading the east broadside, that our rammers were shoved against the side of the enemy, our men exhibited the same clarity which they had done during the whole of the action.They immediately surrendered upon our gaining our forecastle, so that no loss was sustained on either side after boarding.


Our main top mast was shot away between four and five minutes from the commencement of the firing, and falling together with the main top sail yard, across the larboard fore and fore top sail braces, rendered our head yards unmanageable for the remainder of the action. At eight minutes, the gaff and mizen top gallant mast came down and at twenty minutes from the beginning of the action, every brace - and most of the rigging was shot away. A few minutes minutes after separating from the Frolic, both her masts fell upon deck, the main mast going close to the deck, and the fore mast twelve or fifteen feet above it."


He then goes on a lengthy praise of each officer's bravery.


"... I could not ascertain the exact loss of the enemy, as many of the dead lay buried under the masts and spars that had fallen upon deck, which two hours exertion had not sufficiently removed. Mr. Biddle, who had charge of the Frolic, states that from what he saw, and from the information of her officers, the number of the killed must have been about thirty, and that the wounded, about forty or fifty - of the killed was her first lieutenant and sailing master, and of the wounded Captain Whinyates and the second lieutenant.


We had five killed and five wounded, as per the list, the wounded are recovering. Lieutenant [Alexander Claxton who was confined by sickness, left his bed a little previous to the engagement, and tho too weak to be at his division, remained upon the deck and by his composed manner, of noting its incidents, that we had lost by his illness, the services of a brave officer ..."

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Thomas Clark's Naval History of the United States, published in 1814, gives new details, not contained in the official letter, among them the heroic tale of Sailor Jack Lang. As First Lieutenant James Biddle knew Mr. Clarke personally - they lived 'within a door or two of each other" in Philadelphia - the details have a high degree of authenticity about them.


" ... notwithstanding, Captain Jones resolved to attack them. The convoy made their escape under a press of sail. About 11 o'clock, the Frolic showed Spanish colours. The Wasp immediately displayed the American ensign and pendant.. At 32 minutes past 11, the wasp have down to windward on the larboard side of the Frolic. When within about 60 yards she hailed. The Frolic then hauled down Spanish colors, hoisted the British ensign, and opened a fire of cannon and musketry. This was instantly returned by the Wasp; and, nearing the enemy, the action became close and spirited. About four or five minutes after the commencement of the action, the main topmast of the Wasp was shot away, and having fallen, with the main topsail yard, across the larboard fore and fore topsail braces, rendered her head yards unmanageable during the remainder of the engagement. In two or three minutes more, her gaff and mizen topgallant sail were shot away. She however, kept up a close and constant fore. the sea was so rough, that the muzzles of the Wasp's guns were frequently under water. The Americans fired as the side of their ship was going down; their shot of course, with struck the Frolic's deck or below it. The English fired as their vessel rose; their balls, consequently, only struck the the rigging, or were ineffectual. The Wasp, having now shot ahead of the Frolic, poured a broadside into her, which completely raked her. She then took a position of the Frolic's larboard bow. A most spirited fire was now kept up by the Wasp. It produced great effect.  The fire of the Frolic had slackened so much, that Captain Jones gave up his intention of boarding her, lest the vessels might be entangled by the roughness of the sea; but, in the course of a few minutes more, not a brace of the Wasp was left; all had been shot away. Her rigging was so much torn to pieces; that Captain Jones was afraid that her masts, being unsupported, would go by the board, and the Frolic would thereby be enabled to escape; he therefore decided to board, and at once decided the contest.


With this intention, he wore ship, and ran down upon the enemy; the vessels struck each other; the Wasp's side rubbed along the Frolic's bow; the jib boom of the latter entered between the main and mizen rigging of the Wasp, directly over the heads of Captain Jones, and his First Lieutenant Biddle, who were then standing together, near the capstan. The Frolic now laid in such a good position for being raked, that it was resolved not to board until another broadside had been poured into her.  So near were the two vessels, that while the men were loading the guns, the rammers of the Wasp were pushed against the Frolic's sides; and two of her guns went through the bow ports of the Frolic, and swept the whole length of her deck.


About this time Jack Lang, a brave and intrepid seaman of the Wasp, who had once been impressed by an English man of war, jumped on a gun with his cutlas, and was springing on board the Frolic, when Captain Jones, desiring to fire again before boarding, called him down; but, probably urged on by his impetuosity, he did not hear the command of his captain, and was immediately on the bowsprit of the Frolic. Lieutenant Biddle, perceiving the ardor and enthusiasm, mounted on the hammock-cloths to board; the crew immediately followed; but the lieutenant's feet, being  entangled in the rigging of the Frolic's bowsprit, and Midshipman Baker, in his ardor to board, laying hold of his coat, he fell back on the Wasp's deck; he frantically sprang up, and, as the next swell of the sea brought the Frolic nearer, he got on her bowsprit, where Lang and another seaman were already. He passed them on the forecastle; and was much surprised at not seeing a single man upon the Frolic's deck, except a seaman at the wheel, and three officers. The deck was slippery with blood, and strewed with dead bodies. As he went forward, the Captain of the Frolic, and two other officers, who were standing on the quarterdeck, threw down their swords, and made an inclination of their bodies as a sign of submission. The colors of the Frolic were still flying; none of her seamen probably, dared to go into the rigging to strike them, for fear of the musketry of the Wasp. Lieutenant Biddle, himself, immediately jumped into the rigging, and hauled down the British Ensign."

Edited by uss frolick
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Our old friend, British Historian William James, in his 1816 "Naval Occurrences of the War of 1812", fleshes the story out with additional details:


"... but some time after the Wasp had been taken possession of, by the Poictiers, 74, two men were found dead in the Wasp's mizen-top, and one in the main-top-mast-staysail netting." 


"... The Wasp mounted sixteen carronades, 32-pounders, and two brass long twelve pounders. She also had on board two brass 4 or 6 pounders, which she usually carried in her tops, but which had been brought on deck in the gale of the 15th. They were mounted on small carriages, but not, it is  believed, used in the action."


"... Never was a finer crew seen, than what was on board the Wasp. She had four lieutenants, and while the Frolic had only one midshipman, he was a boy. The Wasp had 12 or 13 midshipmen, chiefly masters and mates of merchantmen, stout able men,  each of whom could take charge of a ship.  Their chief employment in the action, were captains of the guns. Among the crew, was one lad of 18; the remainder were from 20 to 35 years of age; all stout athletic fellows, in full health and vigor. A great proportion of them were Irishmen, and several, deserters from British ships."


"... Mr. Biddle's friend, Jack Lang, on his mounting Frolic's forecastle, actually lodged a musket ball in Lieutenant Wintle's right thigh; and this, while he was preventing one of the Frolic's men from firing at (American) Lieutenant Rogers. Someone else of the boarding party, at the same moment, fired at and wounded Captain Whinyates, who, like his brave second lieutenant, could scarcely keep the deck, from the severity of the wounds he had previously received."


"... It was the musketry of the Americans that so augmented the loss. The second lieutenant, Frederick B. Wintle, had two balls fired into him (during the boarding), besides being wounded by three others."


"... The Wasp's scantlings were as stout as a British 28-gun frigate's, especially at her topsides."

Edited by uss frolick
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