General Armstrong

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Battle of Fayal 1.jpg
United States
Name: General Armstrong
Namesake: John Armstrong, Sr.
Builder: Adam and Noah Brown[1]
Homeport: New York, NY[2]
Fate: Scuttled on 27 September 1814 at Fayal.
General characteristics
Type: Brig
Tons burthen: 246 (bm)
Complement: 90 officers and men
  • 8 × long 9-pounder guns
  • 1 × long 42-pounder gun (Long Tom)
Notes: War of 1812

General Armstrong was an American brig built for privateering in the Atlantic Ocean theater of the War of 1812. She was named for Brigadier General John Armstrong, Sr. who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

War of 1812[edit]

General Armstrong had a crew of about 90 men, based in New York. 1812 under Captain Tim Barnard, From 1813 to July 1814 under the command of Guy R. Champlin and subsequently under the command of Captain Samuel Chester Reid until its scuttling in Fayal.[3] She was armed with seven guns, including a 42-pounder Long Tom.


On 11 November 1812 General Armstrong attacked the English ship Queen, carrying 16 guns and 40 men. Queen, Conkey, master,[4] was from Liverpool bound for Surinam, with a cargo valued at about ninety thousand pounds. Her crew made a brave resistance and did not strike her colours until their captain, the first officer, and nine of the crew had been killed. This, perhaps, was one of the most valuable prizes that was made in the war. A prize crew was placed aboard, with instructions to make for the United States, but unfortunately, when nearing the coast, Queen was wrecked off Nantucket.[3]

Two days after General Armstrong captured Queen, General Armstrong captured Lucy & Alida, Deamy, master, which was sailing from Surinam to Liverpool. However, the letter of marque Barton, of Liverpool, recaptured Lucy & Alida.[4][Note 1] Lucy & Alida was carrying a cargo dry goods. The American privateer Revenge, from Norfolk, recaptured her.[5][6]

Battle of Suriname River[edit]

11 March 1813, under the command of Guy R. Champlin, General Armstrong was in the mouth of the suriname River when she encountered a vessel that she presumed to be a British privateer.[7] This ship was, in fact, the British sloop HMS Coquette. The ensuing battle caused a lot of damage to the General Armstrong. Champlin was injured and threatened to blow up the ship if his crew surrendered. General Armstrong managed to escape.

In his log-book Champlin wrote: "In this action we had six men killed and sixteen wounded, and all the halyards of the headsails shot away; the fore-mast and bowsprit one quarter cut through, and all the fore and main shrouds but one shot away; both mainstays and running rigging cut to pieces; a great number of shot through our sails, and several between wind and water, which caused our vessel to leak. There were also a number of shot in our hull."

General Armstrong returned to the US and arrived in Charleston 4 April. The shareholders of the General Armstrong awarded Champlin a sword in recognition of his saving the General Armstrong.[8]

Battle of Fayal[edit]

General Armstrong is most remembered for her involvement in the Battle of Fayal, under the captaincy of Samuel Chester Reid, from 26 to 27 September 1814. In the engagement, the British brig-sloop Carnation and several boats armed with cannon and carrying sailors and marines, attempted to cut out the General Armstrong. General Armstrong repulsed the attacks but Captain Reid felt he had no chance of escaping the Azores so he ordered the scuttling of General Armstrong after fighting off the Carnation for a final time on 27 September. The Americans made it to shore where the Portuguese authorities protected them. Casualties amounted to two killed and seven wounded for the United States; the British lost 36 men killed and 93 wounded. Two of their boats were sunk and two others were captured.[9]

"Night battle of the Privateer Brig "General Armstrong" of New York", by Emanuel Leutze.

Other engagements[edit]

29 Nov 1812 unsuccessful attack on Maxwell off coast of Brazil[10] Sir Sidney Smith, captured and ordered to port, foundered off Nantucket.[11][Note 2]
Brig Union, from Guernsey for St Christopher's captured and sent to New York.[12]


Unnamed Schooner, captured by General Armstrong on her passage to France, and burnt.[13]
Unnamed Brig, captured by General Armstrong on her passage to France, and burnt.[14]


Sloop Resolution, from Jersey for Lisbon with linen and paper, captured by the General Armstrong on her passage from France, dispossessed of her cargo and released. Brig Phoebe, from Forney for Maderia, laden with butter and potatoes, captured and scuttled.[15] General Armstrong arrived in New York.

On 19 April 1814, General Armstrong captured the British letter of marque Fanny, of eighteen guns and forty-five men, off the coast of Ireland. Fanny had been sailing from Maranham to Liverpool. The engagement, which lasted about an hour, was described as a "severe" close range action. The entire battle was fought within "pistol shot range" and eventually the British struck their colors after losing several men either killed or wounded. The crew of the General Armstrong lost one killed and six wounded; Fanny lost a like number out of a much smaller crew. The British ship third rate Sceptre later recaptured Fanny.[16]

Lloyd's List for 26 April 1814 reported that the General Armstrong was seized and the crew taken prisoner when she in put into Dunkirk.[17] However, the crew were later released and General Armstrong allowed to sail.[18]

On 25 June 1814, General Armstrong, Captain Champlin, captured the Portuguese ship Mercury, which Champlin allowed to proceed as she was neutral.[19]

Brig Duke of York, of Grenock, captured and burnt
Sloop George, laden with pork, captured off the coast of Ireland, and sunk.
Brig Swift, in ballast, captured, and made a cartel.
Brig Defiance, laden with whiskey, butter and bread, for Lisbon, captured and burnt
Brig Friendship, laden as above, captured and burnt
Brig Stag, laden with a full and very valuable cargo of dry goods, captured and divested of some articles and burnt, in sight of a British frigate, brig and schooner.
Ship Dorcas, out of Anguilla, captured by the boats of the General Armstrong, and sunk.
19 July 1814, Sloop Henrietta, bound to Chesapeake with stores, captured and sent to Egg Harbour
Three other very valuable prizes, captured, manned by prize crews and ordered into port.[20] Possibly the Fanny captured 18 April 1814 was one of the 3 unnamed prizes detailed in Niles' Register.

Another may have been the Sir Alexander Ball, which General Armstrong captured after a short engagement some 80 miles west of Lisbon. Sir Alexander Ball had six men wounded, two probably fatally. Champlin sent her crew into Lisbon, and sent her with a prize crew for America. However, HMS Niemen recaptured Sir Alexander Ball and by 20 July 1814 she was at Halifax, Nova Scotia, being condemned as a prize to Niemen.

in all, of the prizes that were captured and ordered to port, about a third were recaptured. Battle-damaged and short-manned, they were fairly easily re-captured. Niles' Register details the plight of one such captured vessel.

"Shifting Owners! The prize schooner to the General Armstrong (lately arrived at an Eastern Port) was formerly the Matilda, American privateer. She was captured on the Brazil coast, some months since, by the Lion, British privateer ship of 28 guns, after severe action, recaptured going into England by the late U.S. Brig Argus, re-captured going into France by a British 74, and again re-captured by the American privateer Armstrong.

After a successful cruise, General Armstrong, arrived in home port late July 1814. Samuel Reid took over as captain and departed Sandy Hook 9 September 1814.


Claims for damages arising out of the sinking of the General Armstrong lasted for over 70 years, and even became subject matter for The Senator, a popular play in the 1890s.


  1. ^ "Noah Brown shipbuilder War of 1812". Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  2. ^ Niles' Register, Volume 3
  3. ^ a b History of the American Privateers, George Coggeshall
  4. ^ a b Lloyd's List №4773.
  5. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, January 23, 1813
  6. ^ Lloyd's List №4761.
  8. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, April 24, 1813
  9. ^ "American Privateers in The War Of 1812 - A Paper".
  10. ^ "1813".
  11. ^ "Saga of Sankaty - Historic Nantucket article from the Nantucket Historical Association".
  12. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, December 12, 1812
  13. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, September 11, 1813
  14. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, October 2, 1813
  15. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday, January 29, 1814
  16. ^ Williams (1897), pp. 444–446.
  17. ^ Lloyd's List 26 April 1814
  18. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday July 9, 1814
  19. ^ Chronological Tables, Francis Shallis, Philadelphia, 1817
  20. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, Saturday July 30, 1814


  • Coggeshall, George (1856) History of the American Privateers, and Letters-Of-Marque. (New York).
  • Williams, Gomer (1897; since republished) History of the Liverpool Privateers and Letters of Marque: With an Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade. (W. Heinemann).


  1. ^ There were two Bartons of Liverpool sailing at that time and it is not clear whether the recaptor was Barton or Barton.
  2. ^ The cargo of the Sir Sidney Smith were the subject of a case in the New York prize courts

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.