Seringapatam (1799 ship)

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Civil Ensign of the United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Name: Seringapatam
Namesake: Battle of Seringapatam
Launched: 1799, Bombay
Fate: Captured July 1813
United States
Name: USS Seringapatam
Acquired: July 1813 (by capture)
Fate: Taken by mutineers and prisoners of war in May 1814
Civil Ensign of the United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Name: Seringapatam
Acquired: Seized by mutineers and prisoners of war in May 1814
Fate: 1860: Sold as a hulk
General characteristics
Type: Brig
Tons burthen: 357 (bm)
  • British service: 14 cannon
  • US service: 22 cannon

Seringapatam was built in 1799, of teak, as a warship for Tippu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. However, the British stormed his citadel at Seringapatam that year and he was killed in the action. The vessel was sailed to England in the hopes that the Admiralty would buy it. The Admiralty did not, and British merchants bought her to use as a whaler. She made several voyages to the Southern Atlantic and the Pacific until 1813, when during the War of 1812, a US frigate captured her. She served briefly as a tender to the frigate before mutineers and British prisoners recaptured her and sailed to Australia. After her return to her owners, she continued to trade until 1850, sailing between London and the South Seas and Australia.


Between 1800 and 1811 or so, Seringapatam sailed under a sequence of four letters of marque.[1]

Date Captain Armament Crew
22 April 1800 William Allam Day 14 x 9&18-pounder guns 25
7 August 1804 John Bird 16 x 6&9-pounder guns + 4 x swivel guns 40
28 May 1806 Edward Clark, of Nantucket 10 x 6-pounder guns + 4 x 18-pounder carronades + 4 swivels 30
14 March 1810 Robert Poole 14 x 9-pounder guns + 6 swivels 30

She was registered on Lloyd's Register in 1801 with sequence number S215, and her age was noted as two years old.[2] Lloyd's List reported in January 1801 that she had been at Rio de Janeiro, having sailed in company with a several ships of the East India Company. She was one of the vessels in the convoy at the Action of 4 August 1800, when HMS Belliqueux and the East Indiaman Exeter captured the French frigates Concorde and Médée.[3]

In 1804, under Captain John Bird, Seringapatam visited the Kerguelen Islands as part of a flotilla of eight vessels on a sealing voyage from London.[4] At the time she was owned by the merchant William Mellish.

Over the years, Seringapatam was reported to be well at the Galapagos Islands, off Peru, near Cape Horn, etc. In September 1810 she was off the coast of Peru with 420 barrels of whale oil.[5]

In March 1812 Seringapatam, still owned by William Melish and under the command of Captain William Stavers,[6] sailed for the South Atlantic. (Her crew included John Stavers as Mate and Francis Stavers as gunner.) She then sailed towards the Galapagos Islands via Cape Horn. At the time of her capture Seringapatam did not have a letter of marque in hand as she had left before the outbreak of war with the United States and as she did not expect to encounter any French vessels.[Note 1] She carried 14 guns on her spar deck; she was pierced to carry guns on her gun deck, but did not carry any there. Although she did not have a letter of marque in hand, she nevertheless, on her way, captured the Edward of Nantucket, which was carrying 1200 barrels of oil, and sent her in to London as a prize.[8] Edward was an American South Seaman, Woodward, master, and she arrived in the Downs on 14 June 1813.[9]


In early 1813 Captain David Porter entered the Pacific, via Cape Horn, in the thirty-two gun frigate USS Essex. Originally Porter was assigned to rendezvous with two other warships but both encountered British warships and Porter went around the Horn alone. The mission was to harass the British whaling industry off South America and around the Galapagos Islands. Around the Galapagos, Porter and his men captured numerous British vessels and recaptured an American ship from the Peruvians. One of the vessels he captured was the letter of marque Greenwich, of 338 tons burthen, armed with 10 guns and having a crew of 25 men under the command of Captain Shuttleworth.[10] At Tumbes he fitted her up as a storeship, increased her armament to 20 guns, and put her under the command of Lieutenant John M. Gamble, USMC. To assist Gamble, Porter gave him two seaman to act as mates, one of whom was a good navigator.[11]

Greenwich captured Seringapatam off Tumbes, Peru, on 13 July 1813, after an exchange of broadsides, but apparently no casualties on either side. Seringapatam was somewhat damaged so Porter sent over his gunners and carpenters to work on her and in a few days they had repaired her, and upgraded her armament to 22 guns. Porter placed Master's Mate James Terry of Essexon board Seringapatam as prize master, and she then cruised with Porter's squadron.[11]

Captain Stavers, when asked to surrender his privateer's commission, revealed that though he had applied for a letter of marque, he had not yet received one, but that it was probably waiting for him in Lima. Captain Porter announced that Stavers would be taken to the United States and be tried as a pirate, and ordered him and his crew to be put in irons. They were given more freedom after some liberated American whalers told Porter that the British had treated them well during their time as prisoners aboard Seringapatam.

Lloyd's List reported that Essex had captured Seringapatam, Stavers, master, New Zealander, Donneman, master, and Charlton, Halcrow, master. Porter then had put the captured crews aboard Charlton.[12]

USS Seringapatam[edit]

In September, Porter found the frigate Essex in need of repairs and provisions and set sail for the island of Nuka Hiva, in the Marquesas, nearly 3,000 miles away. He took with him four of his prizes, Greenwich, Seringapatam, Sir Andrew Hammond, and Essex Junior. When the repairs to the Essex were completed and provisions taken on board, he set sail for the coast of Chile, accompanied by Essex Junior.

Prior to his departure on 12 December, Porter placed Seringapatam, Sir Andrew Hammond, and Greenwich under the guns of Fort Madisonville, which Porter had had erected. He further left a small force on the island under the command of Lieutenant Gamble. Many of the prisoners from the captured ships were Americans and they volunteered for service, as did some of the British captives. There were also six British prisoners of war. Soon after Porter sailed away, the local inhabitants became so troublesome that Gamble was forced to land a detachment of men to restore order.

In April 1814, despairing of Porter's return, Gamble began to rig Seringapatam and Sir Andrew Hammond with the intention of quitting the island. When signs of mutiny appeared, he had all the arms and ammunition put on board his own ship, Greenwich.[Note 2] Despite this precaution, the mutineers freed the prisoners of war and together captured Seringapatam on 7 May, wounding Gamble in the process. They then put him an open boat and sailed Seringapatam for Australia. Only one of Seringapatam's crew had been a member of her original crew; all the rest had been sent off in cartels Georgiana and Charlton.[13]

Return to British control[edit]

Main article: Nuku Hiva Campaign

The former prisoners of war and the mutineers sailed Seringapatam to New South Wales, stopping in Otahite on the way.[8] When they arrived at Port Jackson, Seringapatam's crew gave an embellished, self-serving account of their exploits.[8] It was only much later that a more mundane and less creditable account surfaced, less creditable in that eight of the 14 men had been turncoat British sailors.

Joseph Underwood, a local merchant, acted as the crew's agent in claiming salvage from the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Sydney, but the court referred the matter to London.[13] On 16 October, at Governor Lachlan Macquarie's request, Captain Eber Bunker sailed Seringapatam to England, where she was returned to her owner.

Lloyd's List reported that 14 seamen from Greenwich and Sir Andrew Hammond had recaptured her in the Marquesas Islands and taken her into Port Jackson. From there she had sailed and after 17 weeks had arrived at Cowes on 11 February 1815 with cargo and passengers.[14]


Seringapatam continued to sail under various masters and for different owners at least until 1850, with F. Lowell, master, Crichton, owner, the last year she was listed in Lloyd's Register.[15] Her last voyage, per Lloyd's Register for 1850, was London-Sydney, with same master and owner.[16]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ One authorizing her to take vessels belonging to the United States was issued in London on 12 December 1812, long after she had left England.[7]
  2. ^ By one, clearly erroneous report, Greenwich was back in London by December 1813.[10]


  1. ^ "Letters of marque against France 1793-1815" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (1801).
  3. ^ Lloyd's List, 16 January 1801[1] - accessed 11 November 2013.
  4. ^ Headland (1989), p.94.
  5. ^ Lloyd's List 22 January 1811[2] - accessed 11 November 2013.
  6. ^ The register of shipping for 1813, p.1812.
  7. ^ Men of Marque - Seringaptam.[3] Accessed 5 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Literary Panorama (1815), clmns. 801-4.
  9. ^ Lloyd's List, 18 June 1813.[4] - accessed 11 November 2013.
  10. ^ a b Clayton (2014), p.133.
  11. ^ a b Congress of the United States (1860), Part 6, Vol. 2, pp.97-98.
  12. ^ Lloyd's List, 11 January 1814[5] - accessed 11 November 2013.
  13. ^ a b Dunabin, T. "A Raider of 1813-14: Retaking of the Seringapatam", The Argus (Melbourne , Victoria), 10 July 1920, p.5.
  14. ^ Lloyd's List 14 February 1815[6] - accessed 11 November 2013.
  15. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (1849); Ship No. S336.
  16. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (1850); Ship No. S326.


  • Clayton, Jane M. (2014) Ships employed in the South Sea Whale Fishery from Britain: 1775-1815: An alphabetical list of ships. (Berforts Group}. ISBN 978-1908616524
  • Congress of the United States (1860) American state papers: Documents, legislative and executive of the Congress of the United States ..., Part 6, Vol. 2. (Gales and Seaton). (The documents in question are from the 18th Congress of the United States and concern Lieutenant Gamble's unsuccessful petition for compensation for the capture of Seringapatam.)
  • This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
  • Headland, Robert (1989) Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events. (Cambridge University Press; Studies in Polar Research). ISBN 978-0-521-30903-5