HMS Hussar (1763)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Hussar.
Career (Great Britain) British-White-Ensign-1707.svg
Name: HMS Hussar
Ordered: 30 January 1762
Builder: Thomas Inwood, Rotherhithe, England
Laid down: 1 April 1762
Launched: 26 August 1763
Completed: 7 November 1763 at Deptford Dockyard
Commissioned: August 1763
Fate: Ran aground in New York, 23 November 1780
General characteristics
Class & type: Mermaid-class frigate
Tonnage: 627 6494 (bm)
Length: 124 ft 4 in (37.90 m) (gundeck)
103 ft 8.5 in (31.610 m) (keel)
Beam: 33 ft 10.375 in (10.32193 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 200
Armament: 28 guns comprising
Upper deck 24 × 9 pounder (4 kg) cannon,
quarterdeck 4 × 3 pounder (1.4 kg) cannon, 12 swivels.

HMS Hussar was a sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy, built in England in 1761-63. She was a 28-gun ship of the Mermaid class, designed by Sir Thomas Slade. In early 2013, a cannon from Hussar was discovered stored in a building in New York's Central Park still loaded with live gunpowder and shot.[1]

The Hussar was commissioned in August 1763 under Captain James Smith, and sent for her commission cruising in the vicinity of Cape Clear. By 1767 she was commanded by Captain Hyde Parker. She continued to serve off North America between 1768 and 1771, before paying off into ordinary in March 1771. After being repaired and refitted at Woolwich from 1774 to 1777, she recommissioned in July 1777 under Captain Elliott Salter.

In later life, she was part of the British fleet in North America. During the American Revolution, Hussar carried dispatches on the North American station. By mid-1779, the British position in New York was precarious as a French army had joined forces with General George Washington's troops north of the city. When Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney took his twenty ships of the line south in November, it was decided that the army's payroll be moved to the anchorage at Gardiners Bay on eastern Long Island. On 23 November 1780, against his pilot's better judgment, Hussar's captain, Charles Pole, decided to sail from the East River through the treacherous waters of Hell Gate between Manhattan Island and Long Island.

Just before reaching Long Island Sound, Hussar was swept onto Pot Rock and began sinking. Pole was unable to run her aground and she sank in 16 fathoms (29 m) of water. The British immediately denied there was any gold aboard the ship, but despite the difficulty of diving in the waters of Hell Gate, reports of $2 to $4 million in gold were the catalyst that prompted many salvage efforts over the next 150 years. This continued even after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers eased the passage through the East River by blowing "the worst features of Hell Gate straight back to hell" with 56,000 pounds (25 t) of dynamite in 1876. Hussar's remains, if any survive, are now believed to lie beneath landfill in the Bronx.

On January 11, 2013, preservationists with the Central Park Conservancy in New York were removing rust from a cannon from Hussar when they discovered it still contained gunpowder, wadding, and a cannonball. Police were called and bomb disposal staff eventually removed about 1.8 pounds of active black gunpowder from the cannon, which was disposed of at a gun range.[2] “We silenced British cannon fire in 1776 and we don’t want to hear it again in Central Park,” the New York Police Department said in a statement.[3]

References[edit]

  • David Hepper, British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail.
  • Rattray, Perils of the Port of New York.
  • Robert Gardiner, The First Frigates, Conway Maritime Press, London 1992. ISBN 0-85177-601-9.
  • David Lyon, The Sailing Navy List, Conway Maritime Press, London 1993. ISBN 0-85177-617-5.
  • Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1714 to 1792, Seaforth Publishing, London 2007. ISBN 978-1-84415-700-6.
  • Winnie Hu, "Finding Trash and Worse, but So Far, No Sunken Treasure," New York Times, Sept 4,2013, p. A17