USS Delaware (1776)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
United States
Name: USS Delaware
Ordered: 13 December 1775
Builder: Warwick Coates
Launched: July 1776
Captured: 27 September 1777
Royal Navy EnsignGreat Britain
Name: HMS Delaware
Acquired: 1779
Fate: Sold April 1783
French Navy Ensign French Navy EnsignFrance
Name: Dauphin
Acquired: By purchase c.1783 or 1788
Fate: Still in service in 1795
General characteristics
Class and type: Frigate
Tons burthen: 563 (bm)

119 ft (36 m) (pp)

117 ft 10 in (35.92 m) (deck)
Beam: 32 ft 11 in (10.03 m)
Depth of hold: 9 ft 8 in (2.95 m)
Propulsion: Sail
  • USN:22 × 12-pounder + 6 × 6-pounder guns
  • RN:28 guns
  • Dauphin:32 guns

The first USS Delaware of the United States Navy was a 24-gun sailing frigate that had a short career in the American Revolutionary War as the British Royal Navy captured her in 1777. The Royal Navy took her in as an "armed ship", and later classed her a sixth rate. The Royal Navy sold her in 1783. French interests purchased her and named her Dauphin. She spent some years as a whaler and then in March 1795 she was converted at Charleston, South Carolina, to French privateer. Her subsequent fate is unclear.

US Navy[edit]

She was built under the 13 December 1775 order of the Continental Congress in the yard of Warwick Coates of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under the direction of the Marine Committee. Upon her launching in July 1776, Captain C. Alexander took command.[1]

Delaware served in the Delaware River, joining with Commodore John Hazelwood's Pennsylvania state ships in operations which delayed the British Fleet in approaching Philadelphia and supplying the British Army. When the British took possession of Philadelphia 26 September 1777, Delaware, now under the command of John Barry, in company with several smaller ships, advanced upon the enemy fortifications which were being erected and opened a destructive fire while anchored some 500 yards from shore.[2]

On 27 September she went aground on the ebb tide and came under the concentrated fire of the British artillery. After a brave defense against overwhelming odds, Captain Alexander was compelled to strike his colors. Delaware was taken into the Royal Navy.[1]

Royal Navy[edit]

The Royal Navy took her in as an "armed ship", and later classed her a sixth rate. As an armed ship her captain was Commander James Watt. In April 1778 Commander Christopher Mason commissioned her.

On 1 December 1779 Delaware escorted a convoy of supply ships to Bermuda, and also brought some 100 officers and men of the Royal Garrison Battalion of Veterans to defend Bermuda. She and the troops arrived in time to forestall an American attack. When four American naval vessels arrived later that day they saw Delaware in place and British troops patrolling, and so left quickly.

On 6 June 1779 HMS Daphne captured the American privateer Oliver Cromwell. Delaware and the privateer Union were in company and so shared in the prize money.[3][Note 1]

United States[edit]

The Royal Navy sold Delaware on 14 April 1783[citation needed] to Mary Hayley, who rechristened the ship as the United States and sailed from Falmouth to Boston in April 1784.[6][7] Hayley had the boat fitted out as a whaler and seal hunting vessel, shipping to the Falkland Islands in late 1784. The ship returned in 1785 with a cargo of whale oil, which was seized by customs agents. After a trial, the Crown lost its case against Hayley for duty, as she was a British citizen, and was ordered to pay her £4,000 for her losses.[8] In the fall of 1786, Francis Rotch reported that Hayley had sold the United States to the firm Brothers DeBauque and that he had advised them to send the ship to the Falklands rather than Greenland.[9] The ship made a second voyage to the Falklands in 1786 remaining two years hunting seals and gathering whale oil. It returned to Dover in 1788, selling its 25,000 gallons of whale oil duty free. The 13,000 seal skins collected were sold in China for ten times their New York value, confirming the lucrative nature of the China Trade.[7] After this voyage, the vessel was sold in 1788 to the French South Sea whaling partnership.[10]


A whaler by the name of United States arrived at Dunkirk in July 1787 from the Falklands.[citation needed] Francis Rotch commissioned her in August under the name Dauphin.[Note 2] She was described as a frigate of 695 tons. Her known ports of call included Lorient (1792), New Bedford (November 1792), then Brazil, Delagoa Bay, Saint-Laurent Bay, Île de France, and Nantucket in November 1793. She became American again in November 1793, and was in Dunkirk in 1794.[11]

In May 1794 she arrived at Charleston, South Carolina. She was sold at auction on 23 June to Jean Bouteille who wished to convert her to a privateer. Despite efforts by Benjamin Moodie, the British Vice-consul in Charleston to block her conversion, in March 1795 she was ready and sailed for Port-de-Paix.[12] Her ultimate fate is unknown.

See also[edit]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ The State of Connecticut had financed the construction of Oliver Cromwell. The Hayden shipyards launched her in 1776 and she proceeded to take five prizes before she herself fell prey to Daphne. In the engagement with Daphne Oliver Cromwell had three men killed; a further four died of their wounds. The British renamed her Restoration.[4] There is no record of her serving in the Royal Navy, however, a Restoration appears in Lloyd's Register in 1779. She is a ship of 130 tons (bm), reportedly built in 1777 in America, with R. Crombie, master, and W. Wallace, owner. Her trade is Liverpool—New York.[5]
  2. ^ William Rotch Jnr. was an American Quaker who had operated whalers out of Dunkirk between 1786 and 1794. Francis Rotch (1750-1822), was a brother of William Rotch Snr. From about 1760 to 1900, the Rotch family were key figures in the development of the whaling industry in Nantucket and New Bedford.


  1. ^ a b Delaware I (frigate).
  2. ^ Meany, 1911 p.22.
  3. ^ "No. 12330". The London Gazette. 10 September 1782. p. 2.
  4. ^ Storms & Malcarne (2001), p.23.
  5. ^ Lloyd's Register (1779), Seq.№210.
  6. ^ "Boston, May 31". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Gazette. 16 June 1784. p. 3. Retrieved 7 May 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ a b Druett, Joan (2001). She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 126–127. ISBN 978-0-7432-1437-7.
  8. ^ "(untitled)". London, England: The Public Advertiser. 17 June 1786a. p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  9. ^ Ford, Worthington Chauncey, ed. (1915). Commerce of Rhode Island 1726–1800. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Seventh Series volume X. II: 1775–1800. Norwood, Massachusetts: The Plimpton Press for the Massachusetts Historical Society. p. 292.
  10. ^ Jackson 1969, p. 74
  11. ^ Demerliac (2004), p. 326, n°3121.
  12. ^ Jackson (1969), pp. 74, 75n, 83, & 84n.


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