Reference:
The naval history of Great Britain:
from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV

William James
London 1824.

USS Frolic engages HMS Orpheus
20th April 1814

The American government, wishing to have some cruisers more a match for the British "22-gun" brig-sloops (as those of the Peacock and Frolic's class were denominated) than the Hornet, ordered the construction of five "18-gun" ship-sloops; which were to measure 509 tons American, or 539 tons and a fraction English, and to carry on a flush deck twenty-two 32-pound carronades and two long 18 pounders, with a crew of from 170 to 175 men.

Early in the month of February the first launched of these sloops, the Frolic, commanded by Master-Commandant Joseph Bainbridge, sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

On the 20th of April, at daylight, latitude 24°12' north, longitude 81º25' west, the Frolic fell in with the British 36-gun frigate Orpheus, Captain Hugh Pigot, and the 12-gun schooner Shelbourne, lieutenant David Hope.

When the chase commenced. Both British ships were to-leeward; but in an hour or two the schooner weathered the American ship. At a few minutes past noon the Orpheus, then on the Frolic's lee quarter, standing on the opposite tack, fired two shots, both of which fell short.

However, they produced as good an effect as it they had struck the American between wind and water; down went the "star bespangled banner" and its stripes. This fine American sloop-of-war, as soon as the Orpheus could get near enough to take possession of her, was found with 171 officers and men, all "high-minded Americans," on board.

We should not have hesitated to call a French, or even a British captain, who acted as master-Commandant Joseph Bainbridge of the United States navy did, a -; but we will not again soil our pages with a name that, in the few instances in which occurs, has not, we trust, been wrongfully applied.

The Master-Commandant, who performed this exploit, is now, from his great interest, (a sway that even republics can feel,) a captain. Let, then, Captain Bainbridge, if the subject be not a sickening one to him, turn over these pages, and count how many instances he can find of conduct like his own. Enough of such a character; suffice it, that the British became possessed, at an easy rate, of a finer 22 gun ship than they had previously owned; a vessel with excellent quarters, and of extraordinary large scantling.



This gentle surrender, according to the report of the British officers, was attended with a circumstance fully as disgraceful to the Frolic's officers and crew. The locks of the great guns were broken, and muskets, pistols, pikes, swords, bar and chain shot, etc. were thrown overboard, together with the pendant that had been struck!
A Nassau paper, of the 25th of April adds:" The purser's store-room was next sacked; then the men got into the gun room and captain's cabin, and pillaged them. In short, the ship, we are told, bore the semblance of a town given up to the pillage of soldiery." Perhaps these gentlemen were determined that, as their ship had not behaved like a man-of-war, they would destroy all appearance of her having been one- James's naval Occurrences page 337.




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Maritime History

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War of 1812