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EAST COAST

* Chesapeake Bay * Alexandria * Baltimore * Hampden * Fort Peter

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GREAT LAKES / SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER

* Lake Ontario * 1st Sacket\'s Harbor * York * Fort George * 2nd Sacket\'s Harbor * Lake Erie * Fort Oswego * Lake Huron * Lake Champlain

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* La Guaira * 1st Fort Bowyer
Fort Bowyer
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Fort Bowyer

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PACIFIC OCEAN

* James Island * Charles Island * Nuku Hiva * Downes Expedition * Porter Expedition * Typee Valley * Valparaiso (Capture of USS Essex) * Seringapatam Mutiny * Action of 9 May 1814

The SINKING OF HMS PEACOCK was a naval action fought off the mouth of the Demerara River , Guyana
Guyana
on 24 February 1813, between the sloop of war USS Hornet and the Cruizer-class brig-sloop HMS Peacock . After an exchange of broadsides , Hornet was able to rake Peacock, forcing her to strike . Peacock was so damaged that she sank shortly after surrendering.

CONTENTS

* 1 Prelude * 2 Battle * 3 Aftermath * 4 Notes * 5 Printed sources * 6 External links

PRELUDE

On 26 October 1812, the frigate USS Constitution
USS Constitution
and sloop Hornet sortied from Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts
. (The frigate USS Essex was supposed to accompany them but was undergoing repairs. Several rendezvous were assigned for Essex to meet the other two ships, but the arrangements miscarried.)

On 13 December, the two American ships arrived off Salvador, Bahia
Salvador, Bahia
on the coast of Brazil
Brazil
, where they found the British sloop of war HMS Bonne Citoyenne . Commodore William Bainbridge
William Bainbridge
, commanding Constitution, sent a letter to the captain of Bonne Citoyenne, challenging him to fight Hornet, an equal match. The British captain refused, as his ship was carrying a valuable cargo of bullion. Bainbridge left Hornet to blockade Bonne Citoyenne and cruised to the south, looking for other prizes. Eventually he found and sank the frigate HMS Java .

Aboard Hornet, Master Commandant James Lawrence
James Lawrence
was aware from Portuguese sources that a British ship of the line was expected. On 24 January 1813, HMS Montagu appeared and Lawrence retreated into Portuguese territorial waters. After dark, he headed north along the South American coast. On 14 February, Hornet encountered and captured the British packet brig Resolution, which was carrying twenty thousand dollars in gold and silver.

BATTLE

On 24 February, Lawrence pursued a British merchant brig into the mouth of the Demerara River. As evening drew on, Lawrence then noted a British brig-sloop, HMS Espiegle , at anchor in the river, and another, Peacock, approaching from seaward.

Hornet beat to windward and gained the advantage of the windward position. Lawrence then tacked, and as Hornet and Peacock passed each other on opposite tacks they exchanged broadsides at "half pistol shot". Even at this close range, the British fire went high. Some American sailors were killed and wounded at the mastheads. Peacock suffered heavy damage to the hull.

Captain Peake of Peacock turned downwind to bring his opposite battery to bear, but Lawrence had carried out the same maneuver more rapidly. The starboard bow of Hornet came up against the stern of Peacock from where the British could bring no guns to bear, and from this position, Hornet's gunners shattered Peacock in a mere four minutes. Peake was killed, and his First lieutenant surrendered and almost immediately made a distress signal. The British lost 5 men killed and 33 wounded (three mortally); the Americans lost only one man killed and four wounded (one mortally), most to Peacock's first broadside.

Both vessels anchored. An American prize crew went aboard Peacock and tried to plug the holes below the waterline and throw the guns overboard to lighten the brig, but Peacock sank suddenly. Three Americans and nine British sailors were trapped below deck and drowned. Peacock sank in only 33 feet (10 m) of water, and four British sailors saved themselves by climbing the foremast, the top of which remained above the water. Four others escaped to the shore in a boat in the confusion.

Although Espiegle was in sight throughout the engagement, it made no attempt to intervene, and Espiegle's captain later claimed that he was not aware of the action.

Although Peacock was more lightly armed than Hornet, mounting eighteen 24-pounder carronades to Hornet's eighteen 32-pounder carronades, the overwhelming defeat was more probably due to Peacock being rigged as a brig and Hornet rigged as a ship. With only two masts, Peacock would have less rigging to shoot away before she would be unable to maneuver. Even slight damage such as the loss of one topmast would disable Peacock, while Hornet would still have steerage way if the same damage was inflicted upon her. This disadvantage that brigs had over ship-rigged vessels lead the British to develop flush deck sloops that were ship-rigged in response to the American ship-rigged sloops. This resulted in the Cyrus-class ship-sloops . In the case of the Peacock, this disadvantage was exaggerated by Captain Peake because he concentrated on the ship's appearance resulting in minimalist rigging. Furthermore, poor training and lack of practice at the guns made the crew unprepared aboard Peacock.

AFTERMATH

The survivors of Peacock were taken aboard Hornet, where they joined some other prisoners from captured British merchant vessels. Together with some American sailors from a recaptured prize, Hornet was now carrying 277 people. Hornet made for Martha\'s Vineyard , the nearest point of the American coast known not to be watched by the Royal Navy. Even so, all on board were suffering severely from shortage of water when they arrived on 19 March. The surviving officers of Peacock nevertheless testified to the generosity of Hornet's crew. Eventually, Peacock's surviving officers and crew were put on a cartel on which they reached Britain in June.

NOTES

Footnotes

* ^ Lloyd's List initially reported that Captain Peake and eight of her crew were killed in the action, and 27 were wounded; 19 men, who could not be rescued, went down with her when she sank, though Hornet rescued the rest. Hornet herself had lost only one man killed and two wounded.

Citations

* ^ Pullen, Hugh Francis. The Shannon and the Chesapeake (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970) * ^ Lambert 2012 * ^ A B C Roosevelt, p.94 * ^ Roosevelt, p.67 * ^ Forester, p.91 * ^ Forester, p.97 * ^ A B Lloyd's List 154 May 1813 - accessed 13 November 2013. * ^ Rosoevelt, p.95 * ^ Lambert 2012 * ^ Forester, p.97 * ^ Roosevelt, p.96

PRINTED SOURCES

* Forester, C.S. (1970) The Age of Fighting Sail. (New English Library). ISBN 0-939218-06-2 * Roosevelt, Theodore: The Naval War of 1812, Modern Library, New York, ISBN 0-375-75419-9

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