Post Treaty of Ghent Naval Battles

The HMS Endymion, HMS Pomone, HMS Majestic and HMS Tenedos takes the USS President

The HMS Endymion, HMS Pomone, HMS Majestic and HMS Tenedos takes the USS President by by artist Thomas Buttersworth and  engraver Joseph Jeakes, Circa 1815
On 14 January 1815, USS President under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur left New York for a mission in the Indian Ocean. She then fell in with the British blockading-squadron, consisting of the razee Majestic (56 guns, Captain John Hayes) and the frigates Endymion (Captain Henry Hope), Pomone (38 guns, Captain John Richard Lumley) and Tenedos (38 guns, Captain Hyde Parker). Immediately, the British squadron gave chase with Majestic leading. At noon, Endymion, being the much better sailer, overhauled her squadron and left them behind. At 2 pm she gained on the President and took position on the American ship's quarter, shooting into President as she tried to escape. Endymion was able to rake President three times and did considerable damage to her; by contrast, President primarily directed her fire at Endymion's rigging in order to slow her down. Finally at 7:58 pm, President ceased fire and hoisted a light in her rigging, indicating that she had struck. Endymion's foresails had been damaged in the engagement and she hove to for repairs to the rigging (being unable to take possession of her prize due to a lack of boats that would "swim". Whilst Endymion was engaged in repairs Commodore Stephen Decatur took advantage of the fact and, despite having struck, made off to escape at 8.30 pm; Endymion, still engaged in repairs could not immediately pursue and resumed the chase at 8.52 pm.

Stephen Decatur was born in Sinnepuxent, Worcester County, Maryland, January 5, 1779. He was appointed a midshipman, 1798; a lieutenant, 1799; served in the Mediterranean under Commodore Dale, 1801, and under Commodore Preble, 1803; and, while in command of the Intrepid, destroyed the Philadelphia, off Tripoli, February 15, 1804. For this gallant deed he was immediately promoted to the rank of captain. He commanded a division of gunboats under Preble in the subsequent attacks on Tripoli. On October 25, 1812, when in command of the frigate United States, he captured the British frigate Macedonian, Captain John Carden, for which action Congress gave Decatur a vote of thanks and a gold medal. In January, 1815, he left New London as commodore, having his flag on the President, but was soon afterward captured by an English fleet. The same year he sailed for the Mediterranean in command of a squadron, and made treaties with Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. On his return home he became a member of the Naval Board. He was shot in a duel by Commodore Barron, at Bladensburg, Maryland, March 22, 1820, and died the same evening.

At 9.05 pm Pomone and Tenedos came up with the heavily damaged President. Unaware that the enemy had already struck Pomone fired two broadsides into the President, following which Decatur again struck his ship and hailed the British to say that he had surrendered. Shortly afterwards, Captain Lumley of Pomone took possession of President.

The British reported that the President had lost 35 men killed and 70 wounded, including Decatur. American sources gave their losses at 24 killed and 55 wounded. Endymion had 11 killed and 14 wounded.  In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue to any still surviving crew from Endymion of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Endymion wh. President".

USS Constitution Captures the  HMS Cyane and HMS Levant

Capture of HMS Cyane & HMS Levant, by the USS Constitution, Lithograph by James Queen after a painting by Thomas Birch, published circa the mid-19th Century by P.S. Duval, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The USS Constitution, after spending much of 1813 in dry dock for an overhaul, and most of 1814 blockaded in Boston by a squadron of English warships set out on patrol in 1815. This time the Constitution was on the other side of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. On February 20th, 1815, a sail was sighted off the larboard bow, and then another one to the west. Captain Charles Stewart, the latest man to command the frigate, ordered the ship to tack toward the unknown vessels. Constitution had found two British men-of-war, HMS Cyane and HMS Levant.

The battle between these three vessels is described here in Captain Stewart's official report of the engagement and then in a excerpt from the personal journal of A. Y. Humphreys, Constitution's chaplain. In this duel, "Old Ironsides" proved more than a match for the English vessels. Cyane and Levant took care not to engage the American singly, but before the day was over both struck their colors and surrendered to the American. In fact, the peace treaty between England and the United States had been ratified by the Senate three days earlier, but because of slow communications Constitution did not learn of the cessation of hostilities until 28 April 1815.

Minutes of Action between the U.S. Frigate Constitution and H.M. Ships Cyane and Levant, 20 February 1815

Commences with light breezes from the E and cloudy weather. At 1 discovered a sail two points on the larboard bow--hauled up and made sail in chace -- At 1/2 past 1 made the Sail to be a Ship's at 3/4 past 1 discovered another Sail ahead--made them out at 2p.m. to be both Ships, standing close hauled, with their Starboard tacks on board. At 4 p.m. the weathermost ship made signals and bore up for her consort, then about ten miles to the leeward. --We bore up after her, and set lower topmast, top gallant, and royal studding sails in chace--At 1/2 past 4 carried away our main royal mast--took in the Sails and got another prepared. At 5 p.m. commenced firing on the chace from our larboard bow guns--our shot falling short, ceased firing--At 1/2 past 5, finding it impossible to prevent their junction, cleared ship for action, then about 4 miles from the two ships--At 40 minutes after 5, they passed within hail of each other, and hauled by the wind on the starboard tack, hauled up their courses and prepared to receive us--At 45 minutes past 5, they made all sail close hauled by the wind, in hopes of getting to windward of us.--At 55 minutes past 5, finding themselves disappointed in their object, and we were closing with them fast, they shortened sail and formed on a line of wind, about half a cableslength from each other. At 6 p.m. having them under the command of our battery, hoisted our colours, which was answered by both ships hoisting English Ensigns. At 5 minutes past 6, ranged up on the Starboard side of the Sternmost Ship, about 200 yards distant, and commenced action by broadsides, both ships returning fire with great spirit for about 12 minutes, then the fire of the enemy beginning to slacken, and the great column of smoke collected under our lee, induced us to cease our fire to ascertain their positions and conditions. --in about 3 minutes, the smoke clearing away, we found ourselves abreast of their headmost ship, the sternmost ship luffing up for our larboard quarter--we poured a broadside into the headmost ship, and then braced aback our Main and Mizen Topsails, and backed astern under the cover of smoke, abreast the stern most ship, when action was continued with spirit and considerable effect until 35 minutes past 6, when the enemy's fire again slackened, and we discovered the headmost bearing up-filled our topsails-shot ahead, and gave her two stern rakes--we then discovered the sternmost ship nearing also-- wore ship immediately after her, and gave her a stern rake, she luffing too on our Starboard bows, and giving us her larboard broadside. We ranged up on the larboard quarter, within hail, and was about to give her our starboard broadside when she struck her colours, fired a lee gun, and yielded. At 20 minutes past 6, took possession of H.M. Ship Cyane, Captain Gordon Falcon, mounting 34 guns At 8 p.m. filled away after her consort, which was still in sight to leeward -- at 1/2 past 8 found her standing towards us, with her Starboard tacks closehauled, with top-gallant set, and colours flying-- at 20 minutes past 8, ranged close along to windward of her, on opposite tacks, and exchanged broadsides--wore immediately under her stern and raked her with a broadside, she then crowded all sail and endeavoured to escape by running--hauled on board our Tacks, Let Spanker and Flying jib in chace--and 1/2 past 9 commenced firing on her from our starboard bow chaser. --gave her several shot which cut her spars and rigging considerably--at 10 p.m. finding they could not escape, fired a gun, struck her colours and yielded. We immediately took possession of H.M. Ship Levant, Honorable Captain George Douglas, mounting 21 guns. At 1 a.m. the damages of our rigging was repaired, sails and the ship in fighting condition.

Source: Enclosure in Captain Stephen Decatur to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield, dated May 1814, National Archives, Record Group 45, Captain's Letters Sent, 1815, Vol. 3, No. 93.

Excerpts from the journal of A.Y. Humphreys, Chaplain, USS Constitution,describing the encounter with H.M. Ships Cyane and Levant, 20 February 1815 

Throughout the night standing to the northward and westward under short sail on the starboard tack continuing on this tack without seeing any thing untill 1h 10m. p.m. on Monday when a sail was cried from the mast head as being on the weather bow: hauled up for her under all sail, shortly after another sail was descried on the lee bow and word from aloft that the ship to windward had bore up for us. As we were now in the direct track for craft bound from the Mediterranean to Madeira &c felt assured that none but men of war would manoeuvre in this way and were not mistaken. At 2:30 p.m. the ship standing for us displayed signals which not being answered she squared away to the westward to join her consort setting all studding sails and making a great display of bunting, which she enforced with a number of guns. Set every rag in chase, the wind rather lulling. At a few minutes before three commenced firing from the forward guns on gun deck, the shot falling short ceased firing; at 3:15 opened again from the forward guns the shot just reaching. At 3:45 carried away the main royal mast which enabled the chase to distance our fire. Set Carpenters to work to make a new royal mast which they completed about 5. At 5:30 the breeze freshening a little. The ship to leeward tacking to the Southward under all sail. At 6 the weather ship passed under the stern of the other and spoke with her took in light sails and both of them hauled up their mainsails and hauled too on the starboard tack in line. At 6:10 ranged ahead of the sternmost which we found to be a frigate built ship, bringing her on the quarter and her consort on the bow distant about two hundred yards, and opened our broadsides which was returned with great quickness and spirit and some degree of precision; continued exchanging broadsides until the whole were enveloped in smoke upon the clearing away of which perceived we had got abreast of the headmost ship, manned both sides in case it should be necessary to ware ship, and backed the main and mizen topsails and dropped into our first station, the ship on the bow backing her topsails also; broke the men off from the starboard battery and renewed the action from the larboard; after a few broadsides the ship on the bow perceived the error she had committed in getting stern board, & filled away with the intention of tacking athwart our bow, the ship on the quarter at the same moment falling off perfectly unmanageable; filled away in pursuit of the former and compelled him to put his helm up at about one hundred yards distant pouring several raking broadsides into him. He made all sail before the wind which we did not think proper to reduce knowing his crippled situation would enable us to overhaul him after securing his consort, wore sound and ranged alongside the latter when she hoisted a light and fired a gun to leeward and upon being hailed to that effect replied she had surrendered. Sent a boat on board and took possession of His Majesty's Ship Cyane Capt Gordon Falcon mounting 34 guns 32 pound carronades -- having received her Commander and officers on board with the greater part of her crew ordered her to keep company and filled away in chase of the other gentleman and in short time discovered him on the weather bow standing for us. In a few minutes he luffed to and fired his broadsides which was duly repaid, he then tacked ship and made all sail by the wind receiving a rake from our starboard broadside; set the Royals and soon gained his wake and opened upon him from the gun deck chase guns with great effect and in a few minutes after she hoisted a light and hove too. Ranged alongside, sent a boat on board and took possession of His Majesty's Ship Levant Capt. Douglass, of 18 32 pound carronades and 2 long 12 pounders. The whole of this business occupied about three hours, only forty-five minutes of which were taken up in compelling both ships to yield to our superior gunnery. The Cyane when she struck had five feet water in the hold and otherwise very much cut up, her masts tottering and nothing but the smoothness of the sea preventing them from going over the side. The Levant in a condition somewhat better, her spars having generally escaped, but her hull pretty well drilled and her deck a perfect slaughter house, in fact so hardly had she been dealt with on deck that her men by the acknowledgement of their Officers twice went below from their quarters. The Constitution lost not a spar but the fore top gallant yard, and was in better order if possible to have fought a similar action than when the late one commenced. The loss on the part of the two ships was upwards of forty killed and nearly double that number wounded, the Constitution had four killed and eleven wounded. Two or three hours sufficed to place the three ships in a condition to make sail and by four o'clock on the morning of Sunday Feby. 21st they were standing to the Westward.

Source: Indiana University, Lily Library, A.Y. Humphreys journal, Humphreys Manuscripts.

USS Hornet captures HMS Penguin March 23, 1815

USS Hornet in action with HMS Penguin, 23 March 1815
Halftone reproduction of an artwork by Carlton T. Chapman, depicting the capture of HMS Penguin by USS Hornet off Tristan da Cunha, in the South Atlantic.

Though the United States had ratified the 24 December 1814 Treaty of Ghent on 18 February 1815, thus formally bringing the War of 1812 to an end, this information took a long time to reach ships at sea. Thus, in the late morning of 23 March 1815, when the U.S. Sloop of War Hornet (Master Commandant James Biddle) sighted the British brig-sloop Penguin (of similar size and force) off Tristan d'Acunha island in the south Atlantic, neither vessel was aware that their two nations were now at peace.

The two sloops approached each other on roughly parallel courses, Penguin to windward, and opened fire at about 1:40PM. They exchanged broadsides (Hornet firing to starboard, Penguin to port) for some fifteen minutes when the British commanding officer was mortally wounded while attempting to run down his adversary. Penguin's bowsprit then caught in Hornet's rigging and, as the two separated, broke away, taking with it her foremast. Disabled and very much the worse off from American gunfire, the British warship surrendered shortly after 2PM. She was too badly damaged to save, and her crew was sent to Rio de Janeiro in the U.S. Schooner Tom Bowline, which arrived on the scene in company with U.S. Sloop of War Peacock soon after the battle.
Hornet and Peacock remained in the vicinity for about three more weeks, then sailed for the East Indies, still unaware that the war was over. While en route on 27 April they sighted HMS Cornwallis, a 74-gun ship of the line, and mistook her for an indiaman. A long chase ensued when they discovered their error. By skillful seamanship, assisted by the battleship's poor gunnery, the two Americans escaped. Hornet, however, had thrown overboard her spare spars, boats, nearly all of her guns and ammunition and much other equipment and supplies. She thus was obliged to return to the U.S., arriving at New York on 9 June 1815.

The USS Peacock takes the HMS Nautilus
June 30th, 1815

Lewis Warrington (3 November 1782 – 12 October 1851) was an officer in the United States Navy during the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. He temporarily served as the Secretary of the Navy.
The USSS Peacock, in company with sloop Hornet and storeship Tom Bowline, departed New York for her third cruise on 23 January 1815. Chased by a British frigate off South America, the American ships split up, with Peacock sailing alone to the southeast. She rounded the Cape of Good Hope and cruised in the Indian Ocean that spring, where she captured and burned three prizes, including the British merchant ship Union with a cargo of sugar. On  June 30th, 1815 the Peacock fell in with a small 14-gun East India Company cruiser in the Straits of Sunda. When Nautilus claimed peace had been signed at Ghent the previous December, Warrington suspected a ruse and demanded the brig strike her colors. 

The British refused and Peacock responded with a broadside, killing or wounding fifteen. After boarding Nautilus, Warrington, in what must have been a melancholy affair, confirmed peace had been signed. He freed the prize and returned home, arriving in New York on 30 October. A court of inquiry was held in Boston a year later, exonerating Captain Warrington of all blame.


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