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Wasp

by Jerry L. Cross, 2006

The Wasp was a privateer commanded by Capt. Johnston Blakeley during the War of 1812. The sloop was still under construction at Newburyport, Mass., when Blakeley received his appointment on 13 Aug. 1813. He hired a crew of 173 and supervised the completion of the ship, which carried 20 carronades and 2 long 12-pounder guns. The Wasp sailed on 1 May 1814 with orders to inflict damage on British shipping on the coast of western Europe and then to conduct a naval campaign against English allies along the Spanish coast, afterward returning to New Orleans. Blakeley's orders were to destroy any captured prizes rather than reduce his crew by returning them to American ports and under no circumstances to engage a British naval fighting ship.

An engraving of the Wasp and the Reindeer. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

From 1 May to 6 July the Wasp destroyed six commercial vessels. One, the Reindeer, put up a spirited fight and severely damaged the foremast, rigging, and sail of the Wasp. Blakeley limped his wounded ship to the port at L'Orient, France, to rest his men and repair his vessel. On 27 August the Wasp departed for the Spanish coast on the second leg of its mission. Soon Blakeley spotted a convoy of ten merchant ships under the protection of a British 74-gun frigate. With expert seamanship he cut one, the Mary, from the line, took his prize, and burned the vessel before the frigate could maneuver into attack position. Blakeley withdrew the Wasp to safer waters, but later that afternoon, another brig in the convoy fell well behind the main line. Blakeley engaged the Avon in a 47-minute battle and secured its surrender. But several members of the convoy returned before his crew could board, and the Wasp retreated under cover of advancing darkness.

An engraving of the Wasp and the Avon. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

Three weeks later Blakeley and the Wasp captured three more prizes: the Three Brothers, the Bacchus, and the Atalanta. As neither a flag nor official papers clearly established the Atalanta's nationality and the captain had no wish to destroy a non-British allied vessel, he sent the brig, commanded by a prize crew of his own men, to Savannah, Ga., where it arrived on 14 Nov. 1814. Last seen by the Swedish vessel Adonis on 9 Oct. 1814, the Wasp, with captain and crew, mysteriously disappeared.

References:

K. P. Battle, "A North Carolina Naval Hero and His Daughter," North Carolina Booklet 9 (1902).

Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, North Carolina and the War of 1812 (2000).

Additional Resources:

"Captain Johnston Blakeley." North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. http://ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?ct=ddl&sp=search&k=Markers&sv=H-10 (accessed August 20, 2012).

James, William. "Frolic and Wasp." The Naval history of Great Britain: From the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV. London: Richard Bentley. 1837. p.109-113. http://archive.org/stream/navalhistorygre01jamegoog#page/n128/mode/2up  (accessed August 20, 2012).

James, William. "Reindeer and Wasp." The Naval history of Great Britain: From the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV. London: Richard Bentley. 1837. p.294-297. http://archive.org/stream/navalhistorygre01jamegoog#page/n314/mode/2up  (accessed August 20, 2012).

James, William. "Avon and Wasp." The Naval history of Great Britain: From the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV. London: Richard Bentley. 1837. p.297-299. http://archive.org/stream/navalhistorygre01jamegoog#page/n316/mode/2up  (accessed August 20, 2012).

Butler, Lindley S. Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2000. p. 96-99. http://books.google.com/books?id=OczKwIYqAbEC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA97#v=onepage&q&f=false

War of 1812 Bicentenntial 2012-2015. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. 2011. http://nc1812.ncdcr.gov  (accessed August 20, 2012).

Bowen, Abel. "Wasp and Reindeer." The naval monument: containing official and other accounts of all the battles fought between the navies of the United States and Great Britain during the late war; and an account of the war with Algiers, with twenty-five engravings. To which is annexed a naval register of the United States. Boston: A. Bowen. 1816. http://books.google.com/books?id=GtFY8OHawUIC&pg=PA132#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed August 20, 2012).

Bowen, Abel. "Wasp and Avon." The naval monument: containing official and other accounts of all the battles fought between the navies of the United States and Great Britain during the late war; and an account of the war with Algiers, with twenty-five engravings. To which is annexed a naval register of the United States. Boston: A. Bowen. 1816. http://books.google.com/books?id=GtFY8OHawUIC&pg=PA139#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed August 20, 2012).

Image Credits:

"Photograph, Accession #: H.19XX.135.40." Circa 1900. North Carolina Museum of History. From: Bowen, Abel. The naval monument: containing official and other accounts of all the battles fought between the navies of the United States and Great Britain during the late war; and an account of the war with Algiers, with twenty-five engravings. To which is annexed a naval register of the United States. Boston: A. Bowen. 1816.
 

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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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