HMS Meleager (1785)

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Career Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Meleager
Namesake: Meleager
Builder: Greaves & Nickolson, Frindsbury, Kent
Launched: 1785
Fate: Wrecked, 9 June 1801
General characteristics [1]
Type: Fifth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 682 4894 (bm)
Length: 126 ft (38 m) (o/a)
104 ft (1,250 in) (keel)
Beam: 35 ft 1 in (10.69 m)
Depth: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
Armament: 32 guns

HMS Meleager was a 32-gun frigate that Greaves and Nickolson built in 1785 at the Quarry House yard in Frindsbury, Kent, England.[2] She served during the French Revolutionary Wars until 1801, when she was wrecked in the Gulf of Mexico.

Career[edit]

Admiral Sir Charles Tyler took command of Meleager in 1790.

In 1793 Lieutenant Thomas Masterman Hardy served aboard her. Meleager was among the vessels that shared in the capture, on 5 August 1793, cf the Prince Royal of Sweden.[3] Also, on 16 November she and Romulus captured the French gunboat Ca Ira.[4]

In 1794 Sir George Cockburn commanded her. In early 1794 she was among the British vessels present when Sir David Dundas captured the town of San Fiorenzo (San Fiurenzu) in the Gulf of St. Florent in Corsica. There the British found the French frigate Minerve on 19 February 1794, and were able to refloat her. They then took her into service as a 38-gun frigate under the name St Fiorenzo. Meleager shared in the prize money for both St Fiorenzo and for the naval stores captured in the town.[5]

In April Juno captured the Mars (3 April) and Aurora (15 April) in the presence of Courageux, Berwick, St George, and Meleager.[6]

Next, she took part in the Raid on Genoa (14 March 1795), and the Fight at Hyeres (12 May 1795). Meleager was among the vessels that shared in the prize money for the Ça Ira, Censeur, and Expedition (formerly Speedy), captured during or after the raid on Genoa.[7] The British returned Speedy to service. Around this time Meleager was among the vessels that shared in the capture of the Genoese vessel Fortuna and the tartane Concezione.[8] They also captured the Genoese and Venetian polacres and luggers Madona del Grazzie e Consolazione, Volante de Dio, Madona del Grazzie de Padua, Buena Forte and another small vessel.[8]

In 1796, Meleager was part of a squadron off the coast of Genoa under the command of Captain Horatio Nelson. Nelson, in Agamemnon, led Meleager, Blanche (32 guns), Diadem (64 guns) and the 16-gun brig-sloop Speedy.

On 31 May 1796, the squadron chased six French vessels that Nelson believed were bringing supplies from Toulon, to be landed at St. Piere d'Acena, for the Siege of Mantua.[9] The vessels took shelter under the guns of a battery. Meleager then led Agamemnon and the rest of the Nelson's squadron in close where the boats of the squadron could capture the French vessels, which they did. In the action, Agamemnon had one man killed and two men wounded, and Blanche had one man wounded.[9] The French prizes consisted of two warships and five transports:

  • ketch Genie of three 18-pounders, four swivel gunss and 60 men;
  • gunboat Numero Douzel of one 18-pounder, four swivels and 30 men;
  • brig Bonne-Mere of 250 tons burthen, transporting brass 24-pounder guns, 13" mortars and gun-carriages;
  • ketch Verge de Consolation of 120 tons, transporting brass guns, mortars, shells and gun-carriages;
  • ketch Jean Baptiste of 100 tons, carrying brandy and some bread;
  • ketch of unknown name of 100 tons, carrying Austrian prisoners; and
  • ketch St. Anne de Paix, of 70 tons, transporting wheelbarrows and entrenching tools. The British destroyed the vessel.[9]

On 24 December 1796, Meleager, Niger, Lively and Fortune captured the Spanish vessel Mejor Amigo.[10] On 2 January 1797, the same vessels plus Raven captured Nostra Senora de la Misericordia.[11] That same day the same vessels captured the French privateer Fodroyant, for which head money was paid in August 1801.[12]

Also in early 1797, Meleager was in company with these British vessels and some others when they captured the Spanish ship San Francisco, which was sold in Lisbon.[13] On 30 January Meleager was among the eleven vessels that shared in the capture of the Purissima Conception.[14]

Then on 25 February, Meleager, under Captain Charles Ogle, and Thalia captured the Spanish ship Santa Catalina.[15] At some point Meleager captured the Spanish ships St. Natalia and Cartada, alias Cubana.[16] In May 1798, Meleager received the net proceeds of an insurance of ₤3000 on the Spanish ship Teresa, which she had captured on 21 February 1797.[17]

Meleager transferred to the Jamaica Station, where she served in the squadron under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. In June 1799 she captured a Spanish settee carrying sugar from Vera Cruz to Cadiz.[18] On 23 and 24 July Meleager was in company with Greyhound when they captured the Spanish vessels Virgin D'Regla, Jesus Maria, and Jose.[19]

Between end-July and end-October 1799 Meleager and Greyhound captured five more Spanish vessels:[20]

  • ship Santa Anna, of 12 guns, 24 men, 320 tons, sailing from Havana to Vera Cruz with a cargo of wine, wax, tar and the like;
  • cutter Vecourso, of two guns, 12 men and 50 tons, sailing from Nantz to Vera Cruz with a cargo of steel, bale goods and the like.
  • brig Animas sailing from Havana to Vera Cruz with a cargo of brandy, bales, etc.
  • schooner Saint Juan Baptiste sailing from Cadiz to Vera Cruz with a cargo of wine and cloth.
  • settee Saint Miguel y la Virgin de Regla sailing from Cadiz to Vera Cruz with a cargo of paper, oil, etc.

Alone, Meleager also captured a Dutch schooner sailing from Jaquemel to Curacoa with a cargo of coffee.

Between end-October 1799 and 20 February 1800, Meleager took a number of prizes:[21]

  • Dutch schooner Minette of ten men and 40 tons, sailing with coffee from Jaquemel to Curacoa;
  • Danish schooner Hazard, of 12 men and 40 tons, sailing from Aux Cayes to St Thomas with coffee; and
  • French schooner Virgin, of 30 tons, sailing from Aux Cayes to St Thomas with coffee and rum.

Meleager destroyed a number of the quite small vessels sailing from Aux Cayes to St Thomas:

  • French schooner of ten tons with rum;
  • French boat with rum;
  • French sloop with rum;
  • French schooner with coffee; and
  • Spanish schooner, of 40 tons, sailing in ballast.

Then she took as prizes:

  • Spanish schooner, of 50 tons, sailing in ballast; and
  • Spanish Schooner Aimable Marie, of 22 men, 110 tons, sailing from Cadiz to Vera Cruz with bale goods.

Together with Crescent she captured:

  • Spanish vessel St. Francisco, sailing from Cuba to St. Martha with bale goods;
  • Spanish vessel Nostra Senora de los Dolores, sailing from Porto Bello to Carthagena with tobacco and copper; and
  • Spanish vessel Nostra Senora del Carmen, sailing from St. Domingo to Carthagena with naval stores.

Between 28 February and 20 May, Meleager captured two small vessels:[22]

  • Spanish xebec Pacaro; and
  • Spanish brig Maiste, sailing from Vera Cruz with copper, hides, and soap.

Between 20 May and 3 August 1800, Meleager captured further vessels. First, she detained the American ship Gadson, which was sailing from Porto Cavello to Charleston with indigo, coffee, and tobacco. Then with Crescent and Nimrod she took a Spanish felucca sailing from Havana to Vera Cruz and a Spanish xebec sailing from Campeachy to Havana.[23]

Next, Meleager took four more vessels:[23]

  • American ship Diana, sailing from Vera Cruz to New York, with cochineal and sugar;
  • English schooner Flora, sailing from Vera Cruz with specie;
  • Spanish schooner Bella Johannah, sailing from Campeachy to Porto Cavello with Mahogany;
  • American brig Leopard, sailing from Boston to Havana with iron.

Captain John Perkins was made post-captain in Meleager in 1800 on the Jamaica station but less than a year later, in 1801, she came under the command of Thomas Bladen Capel.

Fate[edit]

On 9 June 1801 Capel and Meleager were cruising Bahia del Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico when just before midnight lookouts spotted breakers ahead.[24] Even though the helmsman tried to turn her, Meleager ran hard onto a reef. Despite their best efforts, the crew could neither pull Meleager off the reef nor could the pumps keep up with the water coming in.[24] The crew put provisions in the boats and then abandoned ship before she sank. The boats sailed to Vera Cruz. Here, in mid-July, Apollo picked the crew up. The subsequent court martial ruled that the wreck was due to the charts on Meleager being greatly in error with respect to the location of the Triangles Shoal on which she had run aground.[24]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "NMM, vessel ID 371278". Warship Histories, vol viii. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Merrily to Frendsbury-A History of the Parish of Frindsbury. Derek Barnard. Private Pub. City of Rochester Society. post 1994.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 13982. p. 184. 21 February 1797.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 13911. p. 676. 12 July 1796.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14026. p. 646. 8 July 1797.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15226. p. 97. 28 January 1800.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14018. p. 549. 10 June 1797.
  8. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 15543. pp. 1360–1361. 21 December 1802.
  9. ^ a b c The London Gazette: no. 13912. p. 682. 16 July 1796.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14009. p. 436. 13 May 1797.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14014. p. 499. 30 May 1797.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15402. p. 1062. 29 August 1801.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14047. p. 913. 19 September 1797.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14065. p. 1097. 14 November 1797.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 14066. p. 1107. 18 November 1797.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15009. p. 335. 21 April 1798.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15017. p. 425. 19 May 1798.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15184. p. 955. 17 September 179.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15296. p. 1111. 23 September 1800.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15222. pp. 46–47. 14 January 1800.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15253. pp. 417–421. 29 April 1800.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15277. pp. 825–828. 19 July 1800.
  23. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 15295. pp. 1082–1083. 20 September 1800.
  24. ^ a b c Hepper (1994), p.98.

References[edit]

  • Hepper, David J. (1994) British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. (Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot). ISBN 0-948864-30-3
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1. 

This article includes data released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported UK: England & Wales License, by the National Maritime Museum, as part of the Warship Histories project