CAPTURE OF THE MACEDONIAN AND FROLIC, AND LOSS OF THE WASP.
COMMUNICATED TO CONGRESS, DECEMBER 11, 1812.
Washington, December 11, 1812.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
I transmit to Congress copies of a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, from Captain Decatur of the frigate "United States," reporting his combat and capture of the British frigate Macedonian. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on that officer and his companions, on board, for the consummate skill and conspicuous valor by which this trophy has been added to the naval arms of the United States.
I transmit also a. letter from Captain Jones, who commanded the sloop of war Wasp, reporting his capture of the British sloop of war the Frolic, after a close action, in which other brilliant titles will be seen to the public admiration and praise.
A nation feeling what it owes to itself and to its citizens could never abandon to arbitrary violence on the ocean, a class of them which gives such examples of capacity and courage, in defending their rights on that element—examples which ought to impress on the enemy, however brave and powerful, a preference of justice and peace, to hostility against a country whose prosperous career may be accelerated, but cannot be prevented, by the assaults made on it.
United States' ship United States, at sea, October 30, 1812. Sir:
I have the honor to inform you that, on the 25th instant, being in the latitude 29° N. longitude 29° 30 W. we fell in with, and, after an action of one hour and a half, captured, His Britannic Majesty's ship Macedonian", commanded by Captain John Carden, and mounting forty-nine carriage guns (the odd gun shifting.) She is a frigate of the largest class, two years old, four months out of dock, and reputed one of the best sailers in the British service. The enemy being to windward, had the advantage of engaging us at his own distance; which was so great that, for the first half hour, we did not use our carronades, and at no moment was he within the complete effect of our musketry or grape: to this circumstance, and a heavy swell which was on at the time, I ascribe the unusual length of the action.
The enthusiasm of every officer, seaman, and marine, on board this ship, on discovering the enemy, their steady conduct in battle, and the precision of their fire, could not be surpassed. Where all have met my fullest expectations it would be unjust in me to discriminate. Permit me, however, to recommend to your particular notice my first lieutenant, William H. Allen; he has served with me upwards of five years, and to his unremitted exertions in disciplining the crew is to be imputed the obvious superiority of our gunnery exhibited in the result of this contest.
Subjoined is a list of the killed and wounded on both sides. Our loss, compared with that of the enemy, will appear small. Amongst our wounded you will observe the name of Lieutenant Funk, who died a few hours after the action: he was an officer of great gallantry and promise, and the service sustained a severe loss in his death.
The Macedonian lost her mizzen mast, fore and main top masts, and main yard, and was much cut up in her hull. The damage sustained by this ship was not such as to render her return into port necessary; and had I not deemed it important that we should see our prize in, should have continued our cruise. With the highest consideration and respect,
I am, sir, your obedient humble servant,
The Hon. Paul Hamilton.
List of killed and wounded on board the United States.
Thomas Brown, New York, seaman; Henry Shepherd, Philadelphia, ditto; William Murray, Boston, boy; Michael O'Donnel, New York, private marine; John Roberts, ditto—killed.
*John Mercer Funk, Philadelphia, Lieutenant; John Archibald, New York, carpenter's crew; Christian Clark, ditto, seaman; George Christopher, ditto, ordinary seaman; George Mahar, ditto ditto; William James, ditto ditto; John Laton, ditto, private marine—wounded.
On board the Macedonian there were thirty-six killed, and sixty-eight wounded; among the former were the boatswain, one master's mate, and the schoolmaster; and of the latter were the first and third lieutenants, one master's mate, and two midshipmen.
New York, November 24, 1812.
I here avail myself of the first opportunity of informing you of occurrences of our cruise, which terminated in the capture of the Wasp, on the 18th October, by the Poictiers, of seventy-four guns, while a wreck from damages received in the engagement with the British sloop of war Frolic, of twenty-two guns, sixteen of them thirty-two pound carronades, four twelve-pounders on the main deck, and two twelve-pound carronades on the top-gallant fore castle, making her superior in force to us by four twelve pounders. The Frolic had struck to us, and was taken possession of two hours before our surrendering to the Poictiers;
We had left the Delaware on the 13th; the 16th had a heavy gale, in which we lost our jib-boom and two men; half past eleven on the night of the 17th, in the latitude of 37 degrees North, and longitude 65° West, we saw several sail, two of them appearing very large: we stood for them for some time, then shortened sail, and steered the remainder of the night the course we had perceived them on. At day light on Sunday the 18th we saw them ahead: gave chase, and soon discovered them to be a convoy of six sail, under the protection of a sloop of war, four of them large ships, mounting from sixteen to eighteen guns. At thirty-two minutes past eleven A. M. we engaged the sloop of war, having first received her fire at the distance of fifty or sixty yards, which space we gradually lessened until we laid her on board, after a well supported fire of forty three minutes; and although so hear, while loading our last broadside, that our rammers were shoved against the side of the enemy, our men exhibited the same alacrity which they had done during the whole of the action. They immediately surrendered upon our gaining their lore-castle, so that no loss was sustained on their side after boarding.
Our main top mast was shot away between four and five minutes from the commencement of the firing, and falling, together with the main topsail yard, across the larboard fore and fore topsail braces, rendered our head yards unmanageable the remainder of the action. At eight minutes, the gaff and mizzen top-gallant mast came down, and at twenty minutes from the beginning of the action every brace and most of the rigging was shot away. A few minutes after separating from the Frolic both her masts fell upon deck; the main mast going close by the deck, and the fore mast going twelve or fifteen feet above it.
The courage and exertions of the officers and crew fully answered my expectations and wishes. Lieutenant Biddle's active conduct contributed much to our success, by the exact attention paid to every department during the engagement, and the animating example he afforded the crew by his intrepidity. Lieutenants Rodgers, Booth, and Mr. Rapp, showed, by incessant fire from their divisions, that they were not to be surpassed in resolution or skill. Mr. Knight and every other officer acted with a courage and promptitude highly honorable, and I trust have given assurance that they may be relied on whenever their services may be required.
I could not ascertain the exact loss of the enemy, as many of the dead lay buried under the masts and spars that had fallen on deck, which two hours' exertion had not sufficiently removed: Mr. Biddle, who had charge of the Frolic, states that, from what he saw, and from information from the officers, the number of killed must have been about thirty, and that of the wounded about forty or fifty; of the killed, is her first lieutenant and sailing master; of the wounded, Captain Winyates, and the second lieutenant.
We had five killed and five wounded, as per list: the wounded are recovering. Lieutenant Claxton, who was confined by sickness, left his bed a little previous to the engagement, and though too weak to be at his division, remained on deck, and showed, by his composed manner of noting its incidents, that we had lost by his illness the services of a brave officer.
I am, respectfully, &c.
Hon. Paul Hamilton.
* Since dead.