14th Congress.] 

No. 130. 

[1st Session.



Washington, December 20, 1815.


In support of the petition presented to the honorable the Senate of the United States, and referred to their honorable naval committee, praying remuneration to those interested, for the captures made by the late United States brig Argus, under the command of my late brother William H. Allen, I have the honor to present, herewith, a letter from Benjamin Homans, Esq. of the Navy Department, to me, with a chart of the track of the Argus, and a list of the vessels she captured, their tonnage, &c. &c. and the documents that were found on board those vessels.

The chart shows the course of the Argus from L'Orient, up the western coast of Ireland, into the river Shannon, and thence, round into St. George's channel where she was captured. The red letters on the list of vessels indicate the time and place of their capture on the chart.

It appears, upon examination, that no invoices were found on board the captured vessels; those appertaining to the vessels bound coastwise were probably sent over land by mail; but I am unable to account for the absence of the others; the bills of lading that were signed were probably likewise sent by mail; and the bills of lading and custom house documents herewith, are the only or chief means by which an estimate of the value of the cargoes can be formed. Lieutenant Watson, of the Argus, on his return from England to this country, delivered at the Navy Department a report respecting the value, &c. of these vessels and their cargoes, which he estimated at about three millions of dollars, as will be seen by referring to the letter from Mr. Homans. I cannot find this report, and Lieutenant Watson is absent from this country. His means of ascertaining their value from the officers of the captured vessels, and while in England, were much greater than the papers presented herewith, alone afford; but unwilling to overrate the amount, and in order to make adequate allowance for such an error, should there be any in his report, I have thought best to state the sum in the petition at five hundred thousand dollars less than is expressed in his report.

I made application at the Navy Department for the log book of the Argus, which, perhaps, contains some information of importance on the subject, but it has not yet been found; as soon as it is discovered, I shall beg leave to add the evidence it may afford to that presented now.

Some of the vessels taken were very valuable, and among them were those from the West Indies. The cargo of the Bedford alone (with Irish linen, &c. from Dublin for London,) would have brought in this country nearly one million of dollars.

I have not been able to ascertain of what kind or quality were the goods chiefly composing the cargo of the brigantine Ann; but they were most probably linen manufactures, and, if fine, were very valuable. I have written to ascertain their character from Dennison, the purser of the Argus, who is at Baltimore. The schooner Matilda and ship Betsey were the vessels re-captured by the enemy.

The schooner Salamanca, captured on the passage from this country to France, was an armed Government vessel, as her papers show; and the principle upon which awards have already been made for the destruction of the national vessels of the enemy, applies fully to her. And what prevents the application of the same principle where the commerce of the enemy has been destroyed? As having reduced the actual power of the enemy, the capture of a few of their national vessels cannot be considered of much importance, their whole number being so great, and the means of replacing those that were lost so extensive, it can only be justly prized as having lessened the naval reputation of the enemy while it increased our own, and, raised the glory of the nation. Aside from this last consideration, the demolition of the enemy's instruments of annoyance gives claim to no greater reward than the destruction of the means by which those instruments are obtained. A nation cannot long support a war, from which the means are taken that enabled her to operate against an enemy: but leave her the means, and she will always be armed, being at all times able to replace her losses. To attack the commerce of the enemy was, therefore, the best mode of wounding her, and upon that conviction were the orders to my late brother predicated; in which the honorable Secretary of the Navy observes, "in no way can the enemy be made to feel our hostility so effectually, as by annoying and destroying his commerce, fisheries, and coasting trade: this would carry the war home to their direct feeling and interests, and would produce an astonishing sensation." And the sequel demonstrated that hostility in that form was far more dreadful and destructive to her interests than any other which it could assume.

In another view, the claim of the subject to consideration is at least as strong. A law of the United States gives to captors the moiety of their captures; and I believe the position is correct, that the property in them vests the moment they are captured. But the power to convert such property before condemnation is not possessed either by the United States or the captors; and the United States have no greater authority to dispose of it, either before or after condemnation, than is enjoyed by the captors. My late brother was, therefore, compelled by his orders to destroy what actually belonged in part to himself and his crew; and the Executive authority having exercised the power of directing the disposal of those captures in a way that deprived the captors of their property in them, they have, it is humbly conceived, a just claim upon, the United States for indemnity.

There is something accruing, under existing laws, for the guns and m6n captured, but the amount is very small.

The continued loss of sleep, together with the excessive fatigue consequent upon such a rapid succession of captures, and the extreme watchfulness necessary in so exposed a situation, disabled the Argus from making so great a resistance to her more powerful enemy as she might otherwise, have done. And although victory hung no laurels over the tombs of those who fell, nor on the brows of the survivors, their misfortune has not sullied the fame of our arms, nor diminished their title to the remembrance of their country.

With the strongest conviction of the justice and liberal sentiments of the honorable gentlemen of the Senate to whose consideration this subject has been referred, I shall look with confident hope to a favorable result. I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your obedient humble servant,

THOMAS J. ALLEN, Attorney and agent.

The Hon. Charles Tait, Chairman of the Senatorial Committee on Naval Affairs.

NAVY Department, January 13, 1816.


I have the honor to transmit to the naval committee of the Senate, in compliance with your request of the 8th-instant, the several papers herewith marked A and B. The papers marked A contain a list of all the merchant vessels captured by the public armed ships of the United States during the late war, and subsequently destroyed at sea in obedience to the orders of this Department to that effect.

The papers marked B contain the orders, and extracts from such parts of orders, to the commanders of the ships and vessels of war under which, the vessels captured were destroyed at sea.

Those captured vessels which were sent to the United States, and arrived safely, are not included, nor those which were manned for the United States, or friendly ports in Europe, and afterwards recaptured, with a number of others which were liberated as cartels; the list being exclusively confined to the captured vessels destroyed, as far as the journals and reports have been made to this Department by the several commanding officers, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,


The Hon. Charles Tait, Chairman of the Naval Committee of the Senate.



Statement of all the vessels, other than vessels of war,
which were taken and destroyed by the Navy of the United
during the late war with Great Britain.

Names of vessels captured.

Date of capture.

Vessels by which captured.

Brig Hero,

August 2, 1812,

Frigate Essex.

Brig Mary,

August 9, 1812,


Schooner Elizabeth,

December, 1812,


Ship Greenwich,

May 28, 1813,


Ship Hector,



Ship Catharine,



Brig Lady Warren,

August 11, 1812,

Frigate Constitution.

Brig Adeona,

August 12, 1812,


Schooner Phoenix,

February 18, 1814,


Brig Catharine,

February 19, 1814,


Brig Lord Nelson,

December 24, 1814,


Brig Traveller,

July 2, 1812,

Frigate President.

Brig Duchess of Portland,

July 4, 1812,


Brig Jean and Ann,

July 12, 1813,


Brig Daphne,

July 18, 1813,


Brig Alert,

July 29, 1813,


Ship Wanderer,

January 5, 1814,


Ship Edward,

January 9, 1814,


Schooner Jonathan,



Schooner Prince Regent,

January 29, 1814,

Corvette Adams.

Schooner Industry,

February 9, 1814,


Sloop Nayntim Fairy,

March 4, 1814,


Brig Mentor

June 24, 1814,


Brig Mary,

June 28, 1814,


Schooner Favorite,

July 28, 1814


Ship Paris,

August 7, 1814,


Schooner Maria,

August 16, 1814,


Brig Liverpool Hero,

January 14, 1813,

Frigate Chesapeake.

Barque Neptune,

June 2, 1814,

Sloop of war Wasp.

Brig William,

June 13, 1814,


Brig Pallas,

June 18, 1814,


Ship Orange Boven,

June 26, 1814,


Brig Regulator,

July 4, 1814,


Schooner Jenny,

July 6, 1814,


Brig Lettice,

August 30, 1814,


Brig Bon Accord,

August 51, 1814,


Brig Mary,

September 1, 1814,


Brig Three Brothers,

September 12, 1814,


Brig Bacchus,

September 14, 1814,


Brig Sea Flower,

June 17, 1814,

Sloop of war Peacock.

Brig Stranger,

July 5, 1814,


Sloop Fortitude,



Brig Venus,



Sloop Leith Packet,

August 1, 1814,


Sloop William and Ann,

August 2, 1814,


Sloop Peggy and Jane,

August 3, 1814,


Barque William,

August 14, 1814,


Brig Bellona,

August 21, 1814,


Brig Triton,

August 23, 1814,


Brig Duck,

September 2, 1814,


Ship Mary,

October 12, 1814,


Ship Union,

June 13, 1814,


Ship Brio de Mar,

June 29, 1814,


Ship Barton,

May, 1814,

Brig Siren.

Brig Adventurer,



Brig Resolution,

February 4, 1813,

Sloop of war Hornet

Brig Rambler,

February 7, 1814,

Brigs Rattlesnake and Enterprise.

Brig Little Fox,

March 17, 1814,

Sloop of war Frolic.

Schooner --------- ,

April 3, 1814,


Brig John,

June 10, 814,

Brig Rattlesnake.

Brig Crown Prince,

June 22, 1814,


Schooner Salamanca,

The precise time
of capture of these
vessels is not
known; it,
occurred about
the beginning
of Aug. 1813.

Brig Argus.

Brig Richard,


Brig Fowey,


Sloop Lady Frances,


Brig Alliance,


Ship Barbadoes,


Ship Mariner,


Sloop John and Thomas,


Sloop Dinah and Betsey,


Brig Ann,


Ship Defiance,


Brig Baltic,


Brig Bedford,





Rattlesnake and Enterprise,










Corvette Adams,

















Navy Department, June 5, 1813.


When the honorable Mr. Crawford, minister plenipotentiary from the United States to France, is ready for departure, you will receive him and his suite on board, and proceed, with the first favorable opportunity, to sea, directing your course, without deviating for any other object, to the first port in France. In all probability you will find Brest or L'Orient the easiest of access; but should you have an opportunity of landing the minister, on any part of the coast of France, you may thereby avoid much risk in attempting to enter a port before which you may find a hostile squadron. But, in whatever way you may effect the first object of your destination, you will then proceed upon a cruise against the commerce and light cruisers of the enemy, which you will capture and destroy in all cases; unless their value and qualities shall render it morally certain that they may reach a safe and not distant port. Indeed, in the present state of the enemy's force, there are very few cases that would justify the manning of a prize; because, the chances of reaching a safe port are infinitely against the attempt, and the weakening the crew of the Argus might expose you to an unequal contest with the enemy.

It is exceedingly desirable that the enemy should be made to feel the effects of our hostility, and of his barbarous system of warfare; and in no way can we so effectually accomplish that object, as by annoying and destroying his commerce, fisheries, and coasting trade. The latter is of the utmost importance, and is much more exposed to the attack of such a vessel as the Argus, than is generally understood. This would carry the war home directly to their feelings and interests, and produce an astonishing sensation.

For this purpose, the cruising ground from the entrance of the British channel to Cape Clear, down the coast of Ireland, across to, and along the northwest coast of England, would employ a month or six weeks to great advantage. The coasting fleets on this track are immensely valuable; and you would also be in the way of their West India homeward fleet, and of those to and from Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean. When you are prepared to leave this ground, you may pass round the northwest of Ireland, towards Fair island passage, in the track of the Archangel fleets, returning home in August and September.

When it shall be absolutely necessary to return home, you will pursue such route as may best promote the objects of your cruise, and endeavor to make some eastern port; perhaps Portsmouth may be as easy of access, and as convenient, in other respects, as any other.

On your arrival in France you will, with the aid of Mr. Crawford, be better able to form an opinion of the expediency of attempting to send prizes into France, or of touching there to replenish your stores in order to protract your cruise.

Your own disposition, and the amiable character of the minister, insure to him the kindest attention on your part; and I am persuaded that you will derive the most ample gratification from such an intercourse. Your talents and honorable services are deeply impressed upon this Department, and will not cease to excite its attention.

Wishing you a prosperous and honorable cruise, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant Wm. H. Allen,

Commanding U. S. brig Argus, New York.

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Captain Charles Stewart, commanding the United States'
frigate Constitution, dated September 19, 1813.

The commerce of the enemy is the most vulnerable point we can attack, and its destruction the main object; and to this end all your efforts should be directed. Therefore, unless your prizes shall be very valuable, and near a friendly port, it will be imprudent, and worse than useless, to attempt to send them in; the chances of recapture are excessively great, the crew, and the safety of the ship under your command, would be diminished and endangered, as well as your own fame, and the national honor, by hazarding a battle after the reduction of your officers and crew by manning prizes. In every point of view, then, it will be proper to destroy what you capture; except valuable and compact articles, that may be transhipped.

This system gives to one ship the force of many; and, by granting to prisoners a cartel, as sufficient numbers accumulate, our account on that head will be increased to our credit, and not only facilitate the exchange, but insure better treatment to our unfortunate countrymen who are, or may be, captured by the enemy.

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Master Commandant George Parker, commanding the
United States' brig Siren, dated December 8, 1813.

Your own observation must have proved to you how precarious and uncertain is the prospect of getting prizes into a friendly port; and that the manning of a few prizes will soon terminate your cruise, and diminish your force so as to jeopardise the safety of the Siren, and your own reputation, by a chance conflict with an enemy, nominally your equal, but fully manned. With every patriotic officer private motives will yield to considerations of public good; and as the great object and end of our public force is to harass and distress the enemy, and as the most effectual annoyance is the destruction of his trade and commerce, it ought to be the ruling principle of action with every commander.

A single cruiser, if ever so successful, can man but a few prizes, and every prize is a serious diminution of her force; but a single cruiser, destroying every captured vessel, has the capacity of continuing, in full vigor, her destructive power so long as her provisions and stores can be replenished, either from friendly ports, or from the vessels captured.

Thus has a single cruiser, upon the destructive plan, the power, perhaps, of twenty, acting upon pecuniary views alone; and thus may the employment of our small force, in some degree, compensate for the great inequality compared with that of the enemy. Considered even in a pecuniary point of view, the chances of the safe arrival of the prize are so few, and of recapture by the enemy, so many, that motives of interest alone are sufficient; but when we consider that it is, in all probability, consigning the prize crew to a loathsome prison, in the hands of a perfidious and cruel enemy, every just motive will combine to urge the destruction, rather than the manning, of every prize.

The American people and Government have given abundant proof that they are deficient neither in gratitude nor generosity. I, therefore, strenuously urge and order the destruction of every captured vessel and cargo, unless so near to a friendly port, as to leave little doubt of safe arrival, or that the merchandise shall be so valuable and compact as to admit of transhipment, without injury to the vessel under your command, or to the public service.

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Master Commandant John Orde Creighton, having under his command
the United States' brigs
Rattlesnake and Enterprise, Lieutenant Commandant James Renshaw, dated December 22, 1813.

The great object, however, is the destruction of the commerce of the enemy, and bringing into port the prisoners, in order to exchange against our unfortunate countrymen who may fall into his hands. You will, therefore, man no prize, unless the value, place of capture, and other favorable circumstances, shall render her safe arrival


morally certain. As the ransoming of British vessels is prohibited by a statute, and the ransom bonds declared void, you will not agree to the ransoming of any prize. The enemy has also, in violation of his own agreement, and of good faith, refused to recognise cartels granted at sea; you will, therefore, grant no cartel, nor liberate any prisoners, unless under circumstances of extreme and unavoidable necessity.

Be assured, sir, that the confidence of our country cannot be enhanced by any new achievements of our gallant navy; it is now entire, and the services of an officer will now be estimated by the extent of the injury he may inflict upon the vital interest of the enemy in the destruction of his commerce.

[Instructions, the same as the preceding to Captain Creighton, were given, January 6, 1814, to Master Commandant Joseph Bainbridge, commanding the United States' sloop of war Frolic]

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Wavy to Master Commandant Lewis Warrington, commanding the
United States' sloop of war Peacock, dated

February 26, 1814.

You will therefore, sir, unless in some extraordinary cases that shall clearly warrant an exception, destroy all you capture; and by thus retaining your crew, and continuing your cruise, your services may be enhanced tenfold. The service you may render your country will be estimated by the extent of the injury you may inflict upon its implacable enemy; and this will be best accomplished in the annoyance and destruction of its commerce, from which no other object should be suffered to divert your attention for a moment. With this view, as well as from the rational and obvious policy opposed to this practice, I have it in command from the President, strictly to prohibit the giving or accepting, directly or indirectly, a challenge to combat ship to ship.

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, to Master Commandant Johnston Blakely, commanding the United States' sloop of war Wasp, dated

March 3, 1814.

If the qualities of the Wasp are such as I feel confident they will prove to be, you cannot fail to make a brilliant and productive cruise. Your own sound judgment and observation will sufficiently demonstrate to you, how extremely precarious and injurious is the attempt to send in a prize, unless taken very near a friendly port; and under the most favorable circumstances. A failure of success places our unfortunate seamen in the hands of the enemy, diminishes your means of achieving honor to yourself and glory to your, country, curtails your cruise, and subjects you to the unequal attack of a foe, nominally your equal, but fully manned: Hence, it is evident, that policy, interest, and duty, combines to dictate the destruction of all captures, with the above exceptions. It is a great object with the enemy to capture and detain in prison, our seamen; and this can only be counteracted by capturing and bringing into port an equal number; this is an object of great national importance; the releasing at sea on parole, though practised by all civilized nations, is utterly disregarded by our enemy.

[Instructions relative to the disposition of captures, the same as the preceding, were given, March 16, 1814, to Master Commandant Charles D. Ridgely, commanding the United States' sloop of war Erie.]

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Captain Charles Stewart,
commanding the United States frigate
Constitution, dated

November 29, 1814.

Having, on former occasions, urged the superior policy and advantage of destroying the captures you may make, in preference to the hazardous attempt to send them in, unless in the vicinity of a friendly port, and only in the case of very valuable and fleet sailing prizes, I need, not now dwell upon that subject.

Daily experience, and the grievous complaints of the merchants of Great Britain, sufficiently attest the efficacy of the system. Should you touch at any friendly port for succors, you will observe the strictest economy, and put to sea again with the least possible delay. The general instructions you have from time to time, received from this Department, and your own experience, will supersede the necessity of further details, and, in the event of any casualty, or occurrence, which, in your judgment, may render a deviation from these instructions indispensable to the public interest, you will act accordingly, still adhering, as near as may be, to their general spirit and intention.

[Instructions, similar to the preceding, were given, 30th November, 1814; to Captain Charles Morris, commanding the United States' frigate Congress.]

Extract of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Captain David Porter,
commanding a squadron of small vessels at New York, dated

November 30, 1814.

Having already given to you the necessary instructions for procuring, arming, equipping, and manning, the five vessels destined for your command, you will, as soon as the squadron snail be ready for sea, proceed upon a cruise in the West Indies, where you will employ your force, either collectively or separately, in annoying and destroying the commerce of the enemy, which the nature of your force, seconded by your judgment and enterprise, will, I trust, enable you to execute, as well in his harbors as at sea, and upon a scale so extensive as to make him participate deeply in the evils which he has inflicted upon our prosperity.

[Instructions similar to the preceding to Captain Porter, were given the same day, November 30, 1814, to Captain Oliver H. Perry, commanding another squadron of small vessels.]