Jump to content

Johnston Blakeley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnston Blakeley
Blakeley in 1846 lithograph, entitled Naval Heroes of the United States
BornOctober 1781
Seaforde, County Down, Ireland
DiedOctober 1814 (aged 32–33)
Atlantic Ocean
Place of burial
Lost at sea
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1800–1814
RankCaptain (posthumous)
Commands held
RelationsCharles Adams Blakely (great-grandnephew)

Johnston Blakeley, also spelled Johnston Blakely (October 1781 – October 1814), was an officer in the United States Navy during the Quasi-War with France and the War of 1812. He is considered to be one of the most successful American naval officers of that period.[1]

Early life[edit]

Blakeley was born near Seaforde, County Down, Ireland. Brought to the United States as a child in 1783, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, in 1800, then joined the Navy and was appointed a Midshipman in 1800.

After service in President during the Quasi-War with France and command of Enterprise early in the War of 1812, Master Commandant Blakeley was appointed to command of the newly built sloop-of-war Wasp.

Commerce Raiding in the War of 1812[edit]

Beginning of Commerce Raiding[edit]

The USS Wasp under Johnston Blakeley departed Portsmouth on May 1, 1814, at four o’clock in the afternoon, cleared the American harbor at dusk, and set off into the Atlantic under a fresh breeze. The Wasp went on the month-long voyage across the Atlantic. Blakeley’s goal was the English Channel, where British ships, presumably safe in home waters, formed their convoys for outgoing voyages and scattered upon their return for their various home ports. The Wasp arrived on station in late May and on June 2 took and burned her first prize, the bark Neptune. Unlike privateers who expected to seize property for profit, Blakeley was a commerce raider who had orders to destroy his prizes after looting them for needed supplies and provisions.[2]

Destroying 3 vessels and making 1 vessel into a cartel[edit]

Over the following weeks the Wasp seized another four ships- the brig William, the brig Pallas, the galliot Henrietta, and the 325-ton ship Orange Boven. All of these prizes were burned or scuttled, except the Henrietta, whose cargo was overboard so that she could be used as a cartel ship to convey paroled prisoners to England.[3]

Destroying HMS Reindeer[edit]

On June 28, Blakeley sighted two sails and chased them. The Wasp identified a vessel as the British vessel HMS Reindeer. Reindeer was commanded by William Manners. After a sea combat of broadside bombardments, cannon shooting, and maneuvering. Captain Manners wounded in both legs turned the Reindeer toward the Wasp, crashing into her port side. The British swarmed to the rail to board the Wasp but were repeatedly beaten back by the “cool and deliberate” American musket fire. Manners who led the van got shot down. Then he got shot in the head by an American marine sharpshooter. At Blakeley’s order, the Americans stormed the Reindeer. After the Americans won, the Americans had 9 killed and 15 wounded. While the British had 25 killed and 42 wounded. Blakeley had the prisoners and the British twelve pounders, the Reindeer was burned at Blakeley’s orders.[4]

Further Raiding British Shipping[edit]

Blakeley then set course for the nearest neutral port, L’Orient in France. Capturing en route two more British merchantmen. Independence day was celebrated by burning the brig Regulator, laden with port wine, and two days later the schooner Jenny was scuttled. During a 3-week interlude in hospitable L’Orient. Blakeley was having his vessel repaired while he sent 79 prisoners to England on a cartel ship.[5]

Raiding and Destroying 2 British Brigs[edit]

On August 27, Blakely on the resupplied Wasp headed back to her former cruising ground in the English Channel. Blakeley destroyed two prizes in the first two days on station, the brigs Lettice and Bon Accord.[6]

Raiding a British Convoy[edit]

On September 1, Blakeley encountered a Gibraltar-bound convoy of ten merchantmen protected by the seventy-four-gun Armada. The swift Wasp easily outsailed and outmaneuvered the lumbering ship-of-the-line, darting in and cutting out and burning the brig Mary, which carried a valuable cargo of cannon and military stores.[7]

Defeating HMS Avon[edit]

Continuing south toward Gibraltar, the Wasp sighted four sails in the late afternoon. Blakeley ordered pursuit of the nearest vessel. After a lot of cannon fire and combat, the enemy vessel surrendered. But three more enemy vessels came by. Blakeley, judging that the risk was too great, decided to slip away in the gloom. The vanquished but rescued British vessel was the brig HMS Avon. The Avon sank with 10 killed and 29 wounded. While the USS Wasp escaped with 3 wounded.[8]

Muster USS Wasp, 1813 -1814, recap signed Johnston Blakeley & Lewis Fairchild

Last Raiding Voyage[edit]

The Wasp continued south, taking and sinking two more brigs which were the Three Brothers and the Bacchus. By 21 September the Wasp was about 75 miles east of the Madeira Islands when she captured the brig Atlanta, armed with eight guns. The valuable cargo of wine, brandy, and silk induced Blakeley to keep the prize for the first time on the cruise. Blakeley entrusted the command to American Midshipman David Geisinger. David Geisinger was ordered to take the prize to the United States, and the two ships parted company near the island of Porto Santo. The Wasp sailed before the trade winds, on October 9, 1814, she encountered a neutral Swedish brig, the Adonis. Two American officers, passengers on the Adonis, transferred to the Wasp, which sailed into the vast central Atlantic toward home by way of the West Indies. Geisinger arrived with the Atlanta in Savannah, Georgia on November 4, 1814. Then Wasp under Blakeley mysteriously disappeared out of sight, probably foundered in a storm.[1] Blakeley received the Thanks of Congress, a gold medal, and posthumous advancement to the rank of Captain for his last cruise. [9]

Benefits for Blakeley’s Family in the aftermath[edit]

Captain Blakeley was married, in December, 1813, to Miss Jane Hoope, the daughter of his father's old friend, Mr. Hoope, of New York; and has left an only daughter, who received one of the most noble and substantial and affecting tributes of national gratitude which has occurred in the history of this country. The legislature of North Carolina, on 27 December 1816, after prescribing the destination of the sword they had voted to Captain Blakeley, "Resolved, unanimously, That Captain Blakeley's child be educated at the expense of this State; and that Mrs. Jane Blakeley be requested to draw on the Treasurer of this State, from time to time, for such sums of money as shall be required for the education of the said child."



Three ships have been named USS Blakely in Captain Blakeley's honor:


Also part of the San Juan Islands chain are a group of islands to which Wilkes bestowed the name "Wasp Islands" after the Wasp. Their namesake, however, was not the same vessel commanded by Blakely, but an earlier Wasp, also a sloop-of-war, which was commissioned in 1807 and captured by the British in the early months of the War of 1812.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "North Carolina History Project : Johnston Blakely (1781-1814)". northcarolinahistory.org. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  2. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  3. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  4. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  5. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  6. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  7. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  8. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  9. ^ "Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast" by Lindley S. Butler Pages.110-115.
  10. ^ "georgia.gov - City of Blakely". blakely.georgia.gov. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Majors, Harry M. (1975). Exploring Washington. Van Winkle Publishing Co. pp. 23, 82. ISBN 978-0-918664-00-6.
  12. ^ Phillips, James W. (1971). Washington State Place Names. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95158-3.

External links[edit]