HMS Hussar (1763)
|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|
|Fate:||Ran aground in New York, 23 November 1780|
|Class and type:||Mermaid-class frigate|
|Tonnage:||627 64⁄94 (bm)|
|Beam:||33 ft 10.375 in (10.32193 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full-rigged ship|
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.
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. Hussar captured the Spanish ship of the line Nuestra Señora del Buen Confeso though armed en flute on the 20th November 1779.
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. “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.
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- Kokenes, Chris, op. cit. , CNN.com.
- CBS New York, "EXCLUSIVE: Loaded Revolutionary War-Era Cannon Found In Central Park -- Cannonball Discovered In Place."
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- Winnie Hu, "Finding Trash and Worse, but So Far, No Sunken Treasure," New York Times, Sept 4,2013, p. A17