No. 113. [3d Session.
CAPTURE OF THE EPERVIER
COMMUNICATED TO THE SENATE, ON THE 10TH OF OCTOBER, 1814.
Navy Department, October 3d, 1814.
Agreeably to your request I have the honor to enclose copies of the official account and other papers relating to the capture of the enemy's sloop of war Epervier, on the 29th April last, by the U. S. sloop of war Peacock, commanded by Captain Warrington.
If the relative force, and comparative effect of the fire of the combatants, and the speedy termination of the contest, though protracted by the early loss of the Peacock's fore yard, be taken as the criterion, then does it display a steady valor and superior skill on the part of the commander, officers, and crew, of the Peacock, which may fairly challenge any single action on record.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
The Hon. Charles Tait, Chairman of the Naval Committee of the Senate.
U. S. sloop Peacock, at sea, Lat. 27° 47', Long. 80° 9', 29th April, 1814.
I have the honor to inform you that we have this morning captured, after an action of forty-two minutes, His Britannic Majesty's brig Epervier, rating and mounting eighteen thirty-two pound carronades, with one hundred and twenty-eight men, of whom eight were killed and fifteen wounded, (according to the best information we could obtain.) Among the latter is her first lieutenant, who has lost an arm and received a severe splinter wound on the ship. Not a man in the Peacock was killed, and only two wounded, neither dangerously so.
The fate of the Epervier would have been determined in much less time but for the circumstance of our fore yard being totally disabled by two round shot, in the starboard quarter, from her first broadside, which entirely deprived us of the use of our fore and fore-topsails, and compelled us to keep the ship large throughout the remainder of the action. This, with a few top-mast and top-gallant back-stays cut away, and a few shot through our sails, is the only injury the Peacock has sustained. Not a round shot touched our hull; our masts and spars are as sound
as ever. When the enemy struck, he had five feet water in his hold, his main-top-mast was over the side, his main boom shot away, his foremast cut nearly in two, and tottering, his fore rigging and stays shot away, his bowsprit badly wounded, and forty-five shot holes in his hull, twenty of which were within a foot of his water line above and below. By great exertions, we got her in sailing order just as dark came on
In fifteen minutes after the enemy struck, the Peacock was ready for another action, in every respect but her fore yard, which was sent down, fished, and had the fore sail set again in forty-five minutes. Such was the spirit and activity of our gallant crew.
The Epervier had under her convoy an English hermaphrodite brig, a Russian and Spanish brig; which all hauled their wind, and stood to the E. N. E: I had determined upon pursuing the former, but found that it would not answer to leave our prize in her then crippled state, and the more particularly so, as we found she had one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in specie, which we soon transferred to this sloop. Every officer, seaman, and marine, did his duty, which is the highest compliment I can pay them.
I am, respectfully,
Savannah, 4th May, 1814.
I have great satisfaction in being able to report to you the arrival of the Peacock at this anchorage to-day, and also the arrival of the Epervier, on Monday last.
I have now to detail to you the reason of our separation. We made sail, as mentioned in my last, on the evening of the 29th. The next afternoon we were, at half past five, abreast the centre of Amelia Island, with the vessel in sight over the land, when two large ships, which had been seen some time previous a little to the northward of the island, were clearly ascertained to be frigates and in chase of us. In this situation, at the suggestion of Lieutenant Nicholson, I took out all but himself and sixteen officers and men, and stood to the southward along shore on a wind, leaving him to make the best of his way for St. Mary's, which place I felt confident he would reach, as the weather frigate was in chase of the Peacock, and the other was too far to leeward to fetch him. At nine we lost sight of the chaser, but continued standing all night to the southward, in hopes to get entirely clear of him. At day light we shortened sail and stood to the northward, and again made the frigate ahead, who gave chase a second time, which he continued until two P. M. when, finding he could not come up, he desisted. In the evening we resumed our course, and saw nothing until day-light on Tuesday morning, when a large ship (supposed to be the same) was again seen in chase of us, and was again run out of sight.
This morning, at half past three, we made Tybee light, and at half past eight anchored near the United States' ship Adams. As the enemy is hovering close to St. Mary's, I concluded that he had received information of, and was waiting to intercept us; accordingly we steered for this place, where we received intelligence of the Epervier's arrival, after frightening off a launch which was sent from the enemy's ship to leeward, on Saturday evening, to cut him off from the land.
From the first of April to the 24th, we saw but one neutral and two privateers, both which we chased without overhauling, although we run one amongst the shoals of Cape Canaveral, and followed him into four fathoms water. We have been to the southward as far as the Great Isaacs; and have cruised from thence to Maranilla reef, and along the Florida shore to Cape Canaveral. Not a single running vessel has been through the Gulf in all this time. The fleet sails from Jamaica under the convoy of a seventy-four, two frigates, and two sloops, from the 1st to the 30th May. They are so much afraid of our cruisers that several ships in the Havana, ready for sea, which intended to run it, (as it is called) were forced to wait the arrival of the convoy from Jamaica.
The Epervier and her convoy were the first English vessels we had seen.
We shall proceed in the execution of your further instruction's as soon as we can get a fore yard, provisions, and water.
The Epervier is one of their finest brigs, and is well calculated for our service; she sails extremely fast, and will require but little to send her to sea, as her armament and stores are complete. I enclose you a list of the brig's crew, as accurately, as we can get it.
I am, respectfully,
The Honorable Secretary of the Navy, Washington City.
United States' ship Peacock, Savannah, 5th May, 1814.
As my letter of yesterday was too late for the mail, I address you again, in the performance of a duty which is pleasing and gratifying to me in a high degree, and is but doing justice to the merits of the deserving officers under my command, of whom I have hitherto refrained from speaking,as I considered it most correct to make it the subject of a particular communication.
To the unwearied and indefatigable attention of Lieutenant Nicholson, (first) in organizing and training the crew, the success of this action is, in a great measure, to be attributed. I have confided greatly in him, and have never found my confidence misplaced; for judgment, coolness, and decision, in times of difficulty, few can surpass him. This is the second action in which he has been engaged this war, and in both he has been successful. His greatest pride is to earn a commander's commission, by fighting for instead of heiring it.
From Lieutenant Henley, (second) and Lieutenant Voorhees, (acting third, who has also been twice successfully engaged) I received every assistance that zeal, ardor, and experience, could afford.
The fire from their two divisions was terrible, and directed with the greatest precision and coolness. In Sailing Master Percival, whose great wish and pride, it is to obtain a lieutenant's commission, and whose unremitting and constant attention to duty, added to his professional knowledge, entitles him to it, in my opinion, I found an able as, well as willing assistant. He handled the ship as if he had been working her into, a roadstead. Mr. David Cole, acting carpenter, I have also found such an able and valuable man in his occupation, that I must request, in the most earnest manner, that he may receive a warrant: for I feel confident that, to his uncommon exertion, we, in a great measure, owe the getting of our prize into port. From 11 A. M. until 6 P. M. he was over her side, stopping shot holes, on a grating; and when the ordinary resources failed of success, his skill soon supplied him with efficient ones. Mr. Philip Myers, master's mate, has also conducted himself in such a manner as to warrant my recommendation of him as a master; he is a seaman, navigator, and officer, his family in New York is respectable, and he would prove an acquisition to the service. My clerk, Mr. J. S. Townsend, is anxious to obtain, through my means, a midshipman's warrant, and has taken pains to qualify himself for it, by volunteering, and constantly performing a midshipman's duty; indeed I have but little use for a clerk, and he is as great a proficient as any of the young midshipmen; the whole of whom behaved in a manner that was pleasing to me, and must be gratifying to you, as it gives an earnest of what they will make in time. Three only have been to sea before, and one only; in a man of war, yet were they as much at home, and as much disposed to exert themselves, as any officer of the ship. Lieutenant Nicholson speaks in high terms of the conduct of Messrs Greeves and Rodgers, midshipmen, who were in the prize with him. I have the honor to. be, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
The Honorable William Jones, Secretary of the Navy.