THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (April 27-May 3, 1814)

April 27, 2014 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Fierce Peacock.

USS Peacock captures HMS Epervier, 29 April 1814.  (Courtesy of the Navy Art Gallery, Naval History and Heritage Command)

USS Peacock captures HMS Epervier, 29 April 1814.
(Courtesy of the Navy Art Gallery, Naval History and Heritage Command)

The USS Peacock, a ship-rigged sloop of war slips out of New York harbor and through the British blockade in late March 1814. After delivering supplies to Georgia, the Peacock is supposed to rendezvous with the frigate USS President, but the bigger American warship is unable to break through the blockade.

Peacock’s skipper, Master Commandant Lewis Warrington, decides to go hunting in the waters of the Bahamas for British merchantmen sailing from Jamaica. On the morning of April 29, Peacock’s lookouts spot the sails of a small convoy escorted by HMS Epervier, a Cruizer-class brig-sloop. The 18-gun Epervier, slightly smaller and less well-armed than the 22-gun Peacock, makes ready to fight while the three merchant ships flee.

Both warships fire broadsides at each other about 10:20 a.m. off the coast of Florida. In less than hour, Epervier — with 45 holes from cannon shot in her hull and five feet of water in her hold — strikes her colors. The British ship loses eight killed and 15 wounded compared to only two casualties for the Peacock, which sustains damage to her rigging. Not one British cannon ball pierces her hull.

It is one of the most lop-sided naval victories for the United States during the War of 1812. But, like many engagements on land and sea during that conflict, victory goes to the side that is better equipped, better trained or better led. Much of Epervier’s crew were said to be recovering invalids or on the brink of mutiny, while several of her guns — which had been insufficiently tested in gunnery practice — came apart early in the battle.

The Peacock took Epervier as a prize and after hasty repairs, both ships elude two British frigates and make it safely to port at Savannah, Georgia. Epervier is commissioned into the U.S. Navy as USS Epervier. Think you remember another sea battle where the Peacock  fought on the other side? You’re correct. The USS Peacock was named after a British ship, also named Peacock, sunk by the Americans earlier in the war.

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Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: , , , , .

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