Naval Battle - Constitution vs. Guerriere
Particulars of the late action between the U.S. Frigate CONSTITUTION, and the British frigate GUERRIERE. Communicated to the editors of the Boston Gazette, by an officer on board the Constitution]
Lat. 41,42, N.long. 55,32 W. Thursday, August 19, fresh breeze from N.W. and cloudy, at 2 P.M. discovered a vessel to the southward, made all sail in chase; at 3 perceived the chase to be a ship on the starboard tack, close hauled to the wind; hauled S.S.W.; at half past 3, made out the chase to be a frigate; at 4, coming up with the chase very fast; at quarter before 5, the chase laid her maintopsail to the mast; took in our topgallantsails, staysails, and flying jib; took a second reef in the topsail; hauled the courses up, sent the royal yards down; and got all clear for action; beat to quarters, on which the crew gave 3 cheers; at 5, the chase hoisted 3 English ensigns.
At 5 minutes past 5, the enemy commenced firing; at 20 minutes past, set our colors, one at each mast head, and one at the mizen [sic-mizzen] peak, and began firing on the enemy, and continued to fire occasionally, he wearing very often, and we maneuvering to close with him, and avoid being raked; at 6, the maintopgallantsail, the enemy having bore up; at 5 minutes past 6, brought the enemy to close action, standing before the wind; at 15 minutes past 6, the enemy’s mizenmast fell over on the starboard side; at 20 minutes past 6, finding we were drawing ahead of the enemy, luffed short around his bows, to rake him; at 25 minutes past 6, the enemy fell on board of us, his bowsprit foul of our mizen rigging.
We prepared to board, but immediately after his fore and mainmast went by the board, and it was deemed unnecessary. Our cabin had taken fire from his guns, but soon extinguished, without material injury; at 30 minutes past 6, shot ahead of the enemy, when the firing ceased on both sides; he making the signal of submission by firing a gun to leeward; set foresail and mainsail, and hauled to the eastward to repair damage; all our braces and much of our standing and running rigging and some of our spars being shot away.
At 7 wore ship, and stood under the lee of the prize -- sent our boat on board, which returned with our boat on board [sic], which returned at 8, with Capt. Dacres, late of his majesty’s ship Guerriere, mounting 49 carriage guns, and manned with 302 men, got our boats out, and employed in removing the prisoners and baggage to our own ship.
Sent a surgeon’s mate to assist in attending the wounded, wearing ship occasionally to keep in the best position to receive the boats....
At day light was hailed by the lieut. on board the prize, who informed he had 4 feet of water in the hold, and that she was in sinking condition, all hands employed in removing the prisoners and repairing our own damages through the remainder of the day.... At 3 P.M. made the signal of recal for our boats...they immediately left her on fire, and a quarter past 3 she blew up. Our loss in the action was 7 killed, and 3 wounded.... On the part of the enemy, 15 killed and 64 wounded....
COMMENT: This was perhaps the most famous naval battle of the War of 1812, if not of any American war, and is told here in detailed naval fashion. It gave the U.S. Frigate Constitution the nickname of “Old Ironsides” which she still bears, and served as an needed antidote to the bad news coming from Detroit.