USS Peacock (1813)

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USS Peacock in ice, 1840.jpg
Peacock in Antarctic ice, by Alfred Thomas Agate, while she was on the United States Exploring Expedition
Ordered3 March 1813
BuilderAdam and Noah Brown, New York Navy Yard
Laid down9 July 1813
Launched19 September 1813
DecommissionedOctober 1827
RefitRebuilt as exploring ship, 1828
FateWrecked, 17–19 July 1841
General characteristics
Tons burthen509 (bm)
Length119 ft (36 m)
Beam31 ft 6 in (9.60 m)
Draft16 ft 4 in (4.98 m)
Complement140 officers and enlisted
Armament20 × 32-pounder carronades + 2 × 12-pounder bow chasers

USS Peacock was a sloop-of-war in the United States Navy during the War of 1812.

Peacock was authorized by an act of Congress 3 March 1813, laid down 9 July 1813, by Adam and Noah Brown[1] at the New York Navy Yard, and launched on 19 September 1813. Peacock served in the War of 1812, capturing twenty ships. Subsequently, the ship served in the Mediterranean Squadron, and in the "Mosquito Fleet," which fought to suppress Caribbean piracy. She patrolled the South American coast during the colonial wars of independence.

Peacock was decommissioned in 1827 and broken up in 1828 to be rebuilt as USS Peacock, intended as an exploration ship. She sailed as part of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838. Peacock ran aground and broke apart on the Columbia Bar without loss of life in 1841.

War of 1812[edit]

During the War of 1812, Peacock made three cruises under the command of Master Commandant Lewis Warrington. Departing New York 12 March 1814, she sailed with supplies to the naval station at St. Mary's, Georgia. Off Cape Canaveral, Florida 29 April, she captured the British brig HMS Epervier and sent her to Savannah, Georgia. The United States Navy took her into service as USS Epervier.

Peacock departed from Savannah on 4 June on her second cruise. Proceeding to the Grand Banks and along the coasts of Ireland and Spain, Peacock returned via the West Indies to New York. She captured 14 enemy vessels of various sizes during this journey. On 14 August, Peacock captured William, Whiteway, master, of Bristol, and scuttled her.[2]

Peacock departed New York 23 January 1815 with Hornet and Tom Bowline and rounded the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean. In the Sunda Straight of Indonesia, Peacock captured three merchant vessels, Union, of Calcutta, Hall, master, Venus, Boon, master, and Brio del Mar, of Batavia, on 13, 21 and 29 June, respectively.[3] Peacock took the goods stored in the Venus' cargo holds (which contained specie, opium, and bale goods), and threw them overboard.[4] Peacock also took Union's cargo (which consisted of gold dust and pepper).

Peacock burnt Union and Brio del Mar,[5] and put their crews on Venus, which she made a cartel to carry the crews to Batavia. Venus arrived there about 11 July.[4][a]

Because the captures occurred after the end of the war, the Phoenix and Star insurance companies of Calcutta applied to the U.S. government for compensation. Congress voted full compensation, £12,000 for Union and £3,000 for Breo de Mar.[7]

Last action of the War of 1812[edit]

On 30 June Peacock captured the 16-gun brig HCS Nautilus, which was under the command of Lieutenant Charles Boyce of the Bombay Marine of the British East India Company in the Straits of Sunda, in the final naval action of the war. Boyce informed Warrington that the war had ended.[8] Warrington suspected a ruse and ordered Boyce to surrender. When Boyce refused, Warrington opened fire, killing one seaman, two European invalids, and three lascars, wounding Boyce severely, as well as mortally wounding the first lieutenant, and also wounding five lascars. American casualties amounted to some four or five men wounded.[8] When Boyce provided documents proving that the Treaty of Ghent ending the war had been ratified, Warrington released his victims,[9] though at no point did he in any way inquire about Boyce's condition or that of any of the injured aboard Nautilus.[8] Peacock returned to New York on the 30th of October. A court of inquiry in Boston a year later exonerated Warrington of all blame. In his report on the incident, Warrington reported that the British casualties had only been lascars.[8]


Peacock left New York on 13 June 1816, bound for France, with the Honorable Albert Gallatin and party aboard. After pulling into Havre de Grâce July second, she proceeded to join the Mediterranean Squadron. But for a year of Mediterranean–United States—and return transits, 15 November 1818 – 17 November 1819, the sloop remained with this squadron until 8 May 1821, when she departed for home; she then went into ordinary at the Washington Navy Yard 10 July.

Fighting pirates and disease[edit]

Pirates were attacking West Indies shipping in the 1820's, and on 3 June 1822, Peacock became the flagship of Commodore David Porter's West India Squadron, in charge of rooting out pirates. Peacock served in the expedition that included the U.S. Revenue Marine schooner Louisiana and the British schooner HMS Speedwell. The trio broke up a pirate establishment at Bahia Honda Key , 28–30 September, capturing four vessels. They burnt two and prize crews took the other two to New Orleans. Eighteen of the captured pirate crew members were sent to New Orleans for trial.[10][11] Peacock captured the schooner Pilot on 10 April 1823 and another sloop 16 April.

In September 1822, "malignant fever (assumed Yellow Fever)" necessitated a recess from activities, and Peacock pulled into Norfolk, Virginia on 28 November 1822. Similarly yellow fever decimated the frigate USS Macedonian, which lost 74 members of its crew to the disease, before finally returning to Norfolk.[12] The symptoms per Dr. Travett, included, bleeding in the mouth, nose, eyes, and the gastrointestinal tract which caused vomit containing blood, hence the Spanish name for Yellow Fever, vómito negro ("black vomit"). Captain Stephen Cassin writing to Secretary of the Navy, Smith Thompson, on 31 October 1822 confirmed the outbreak and stated, the crew suffered the "black vomit."[13]

Dr. Samuel R. Travett to Stephen Cassin, 29 October 1822, re "malignant fever" (possibly yellow fever) outbreak, with list of sick and dead on USS Peacock, page 1.

South Pacific coast and Hawaiʻi[edit]

In July 1823, the sloop was involved in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo and Mr. Peter Storms decided to join the Independentist cause, who won their independence[14] on 3 August. Later, in March 1824, the sloop proceeded to the Pacific and for some months cruised along the west coast of South America, where the colonies were struggling for independence. In September 1825, Peacock under the command of Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, sailed to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, where a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation was negotiated.[15][16] From 24 July 1826 until 6 January 1827, the sloop visited other Pacific islands to protect American commerce and the whaling industry. Returning to South America from Hawaii, the ship was struck by a whale, suffering serious damage. Nevertheless, she reached Callao, from which she departed 25 June for New York.[17]

USS Peacock (1828)[edit]

A sketch of USS Peacock during the Wilkes Expedition in 1838.

Peacock returned to New York in October 1827 to be decommissioned, broken up and rebuilt in 1828 for a planned expedition of exploration. Her size and configuration stayed about the same, but her guns were reduced to ten: eight long 24-pounders (10.89 kg) and two long 9-pounders (4.08 kg). When plans for the exploratory voyage stalled in Congress, she re-entered regular service in the West Indies from 1829 to 1831. Following refit, both Peacock and the newly commissioned Boxer, a 10-gun schooner, were ordered to assist the frigate Potomac, which had just sailed on the first Sumatran Expedition. The two ships were also charged with diplomatic missions. Boxer left Boston Harbor about the middle of February 1832, with orders to proceed to Liberia and from thence to join Peacock off the coast of Brazil; Peacock sailed on 8 March 1832 under Commander David Geisinger.

Diplomatic missions[edit]

Peacock conveyed Mr. Francis Baylies and family to the United Provinces of the River Plate (Argentina) to assume the post of United States chargé d'affaires in the wake of the USS Lexington raid on the Falkland Islands in 1831. On arrival both British line-of-battle ship Plantagenet and H. B. M. frigate Druid[18] complimented her flag by playing Hail, Columbia.[19]: pp.25, 26  Also aboard was President Andrew Jackson's "special confidential agent" Edmund Roberts in the official status of Captain's clerk.[20]: p.208 

25 June 1832, having left orders for Boxer to follow to Bencoolen, Peacock departed war-stricken Montevideo for the Cape of Good Hope. After taking water at Tristan da Cunha and rounding the cape, then trying to keep about latitude 38° or 39°, on 9 or 10 August a sea of uncommon height and volume struck the ship, and threw her nearly on her beam ends, completely overwhelmed the gig in the starboard-quarter, crushed it into atoms in a moment, and buried the first three ratlines of the mizen-shrouds under water.[19]: p.31 

Picking up the southeast trade wind around (16°00′N 102°00′E / 16.000°N 102.000°E / 16.000; 102.000,) on 28 August 1832, Peacock sailed to Bencoolen where the Dutch Resident reported that Potomac had completed her mission.[19]: p.32  Under orders to gather information before going to Cochin-China, Peacock sailed for Manila by way of Long Island and 'Crokatoa' (Krakatoa), where hot springs found on the eastern side of the islands one hundred and fifty feet from the shore boiled furiously up, through many fathoms of water. Her chronometers proving useless, Peacock threaded the Sunda Strait by dead reckoning. Diarrhea and dysentery prevailed among the crew from Angier to Manila; after a fortnight there, cholera struck despite the overall cleanliness of the ship. Peacock lost seven crewmen, and many who did recover died later in the voyage of other diseases. No new case of cholera occurred after 2 November 1833 while Peacock was under way for Macao. Within two leagues of the Lemma or Ladrone islands, she took aboard a pilot after settling on a fee of thirteen dollars and a bottle of rum.[19]: p.65 

After six weeks in the vicinity of Canton City, China, with the onset of the winter northeast monsoon and no sign of Boxer, Peacock sailed from Lintin Island in the Pearl River estuary for the bay of Turane (modern Danang) as best for access to Hué, capital of Cochin-China – her task was to explore the possibilities of expanding trade with the kingdom.[21] Contrary winds from the northwest rather than the expected northeast quarter, coupled with a strong southward current, caused her to lose ground on every tack until, on 6 January 1833, she entered what enquiries disclosed to be the Vung-lam harbor of Phu Yen province.[22]

On 8 February, Roberts having failed to gain permission to proceed to Hué due to miscommunication, Peacock weighed anchor for the gulf of Siam, where on the 18th she anchored about 15 miles (24 km) from the mouth of the river Menam at 13°26′N 100°33′E / 13.433°N 100.550°E / 13.433; 100.550, as was ascertained by frequent lunar observations and by four chronometers.[19]: p.229 

On 20 March 1833 Roberts concluded the Siamese-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the minister representing King Rama III, and Peacock departed on 5 April to call on Singapore, where she stayed between 1 and 11 May.

On 29 August in the Red Sea, while bound to Mocha, Peacock encountered Nautilus, the same brig Peacock had attacked after the end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain. Nautilus was sailing to Surat as escort to four brigs crowded with pilgrims returning from Mecca.[19]: p.341  This time Peacock did not attack Nautilus.

Arriving 13 September off Muscat, Roberts concluded a treaty with Sultan Said bin Sultan, and departed on 7 October 1833. On the voyage from Muscat to Mozambique, Roberts omitted the particulars of each day, but stated that what he had written served "to show the absolute necessity of having first-rate chronometers, or the lunar observations carefully attended to; and never omitted to be taken when practicable."[19]: p.366 

Peacock returned Roberts to Rio de Janeiro on 17 January 1834, where on 1 March 1834 he boarded Lexington to return to Boston.[19]: p. 400 [19]

Return mission[edit]

On 23 April 1835, Peacock, under the command of C. K. Stribling, and accompanied by U.S. Schooner Enterprise, Lieutenant Commanding A. S. Campbell, departed New York Harbor. Roberts was once again aboard Peacock, and the two vessels were under the command of Commodore Edmund P. Kennedy. The mission first sailed to Brazil, then round the Cape of Good Hope to Zanzibar, for Roberts to return ratifications of the two treaties.

Masirah incident[edit]

On 21 September 1835 at 2 am southeast of Masirah Island about 400 miles (640 km) from Muscat, Peacock grounded on a coral reef in about 2 1/4 fathoms (2.28 meters). Roberts and six men under the command of Passed Midshipman William Rogers left in a small boat to effect a rescue. The crew hove overboard 11 of 22 guns, re-floated the ship on the 23 September, and repelled Arab marauders before making sail the next day. On 28 September, Peacock was off Muscat when she encountered the sloop-of-war Sultan under the Muscat flag, and under the command of Mr. Taylor.[23]: p.58 [24][b] Said bin Sultan later recovered the guns that had been thrown overboard and shipped them to Roberts free of charge.[25] Peacock later obtained this letter:[23]: pp.61–62 

I certify that during the period I have navigated the Arabian coast, and been employed in the trigonometrical survey of the same, now executing by order of the Bombay government, that I have ever found it necessary to be careful to take nocturnal as well as diurnal observations, as frequent as possible, owing to the rapidity and fickleness of the currents, which, in some parts, I have found running at the rate of three and four knots an hour, and I have known the Palinurus set between forty and fifty miles dead in shore, in a dead calm, during the night.

It is owing to such currents, that I conceive the United States ship of war Peacock run aground, as have many British ships in previous years, on and near the same spot; when at the changes of the monsoons, and sometimes at the full and change, you have such thick weather, as to prevent the necessary observations being taken with accuracy and the navigator standing on with confidence as to his position, and with no land in sight, finds himself to his sorrow, often wrong, owing to a deceitful and imperceptible current, which has set him with rapidity upon it. The position of Mazeira Island, is laid down by Owen many miles too much to the westward.

Given under my hand this 10th day of November, 1835.

S. B. Haines. Commander of the Honorable East India Company's surveying brig Palinurus
To sailing master, John Weems, U. S. Navy.

A second attempt at negotiation with Cochin-China failed as Roberts fell desperately ill of dysentery; he withdrew to Macao where he died 12 June 1836. William Ruschenberger, M.D., (1807–1895) was commissioned on this voyage,[26] and gave an account of it up until 27 October 1837 when Peacock anchored opposite the city of Norfolk, Virginia, after an absence of more than two and a half years.[23]

Exploration expedition and fate[edit]

Peacock after hitting the bar of the Columbia River.

Peacock joined the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838 until getting stuck on a bar of the Columbia River in Oregon. She broke up on 17–19 July 1841 after all the crew and much of the scientific data had been taken off, though Titian Peale lost most of his notes.[27]

See also[edit]

Notes, citations and references[edit]


  1. ^ Union, of 310 tons (bm), had been launched at Calcutta in 1800 as Jennet.[6]
  2. ^ For a full account of the Masirah incident, see Coupland (1938; pp.370–2).</ref>


  1. ^ "Noah Brown: shipbuilder War of 1812". research sources for the study of privateering during the War of 1812. War of 1812: Privateers. 1 March 2008. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012. Noah and Adam built the U.S. sloop Peacock at Corlear's Hook, New York, from July through September 1813.
  2. ^ Farr (1950), p. 255.
  3. ^ Neeser (1909), p. 306.
  4. ^ a b "The Marine List". Lloyd's List. No. 5028. 5 December 1815. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  5. ^ Silverstone (2001), p. 39.
  6. ^ Phipps (1840), p. 98.
  7. ^ Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany ..., Volume 10 (July 1820), p.91.
  8. ^ a b c d James (1837), Vol. 6, pp.266-9.
  9. ^ Malcomson (2006), p. 363.
  10. ^ King, p. 71
  11. ^ Record of Movements, p 77
  12. ^ Sharp, John G.M. (1822). The Disastrous Voyage: Yellow Fever Aboard the USS Macedonian & USS Peacock.
  13. ^ Cassin to Smith Thompson, 31 October 1822, Letters to the Secretary of the Navy, "Officers Letters" letter 67, volume 79, RG 260, NARA.
  14. ^ Rastrogeo Margariteño, (spanish) (pdf) (page 40-41)
  15. ^ Thomas ap Catesby Jones; Elisabeta Kaahumanu; Karaimoku; Poki; Howapili; Lidia Namahana (23 December 1826). "Hawaii-United States Treaty – 1826". Retrieved 26 December 2012. Entered into force December 23, 1826
  16. ^ The Hawai'i-United States Treaty of 1826
  17. ^ Gene A. Smith (2000). Thomas ap Catesby Jones, Commodore of Manifest Destiny. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-848-8.
  18. ^ Druid, 1825
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i Roberts, Edmund (12 October 2007) [First published in 1837]. Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat: in the U.S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4. Harper & brothers. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  20. ^ Long, David Foster (1988). "China, 1819–1860". Gold braid and foreign relations : diplomatic activities of U.S. naval officers, 1798–1883. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. p. 238. ISBN 9780870212284. LCCN 87034879.
    • Lay summary in: Joyce S. Goldberg (February 1990). "Review: Gold Braid and Foreign Relations: Diplomatic Activities of U.S. Naval Officers, 1798-1883 by David F. Long". The American Historical Review. 95 (1): 253–254. JSTOR 2163133.
  21. ^ "China". The Morning Post. British Newspaper Archive. 12 April 1833. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Dossier of Xuan Dai Bay (Phu Yen Province) submitted to UNESCO". Vietnam Tours. 21 September 2011. Archived from the original on 25 October 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012. Vung Lam bay used to be the most bustling trading port of Phu Yen in the past, the door connecting Phu Yen to the outer trading worlds.
  23. ^ a b c Ruschenberger, William Samuel Waithman (24 July 2007) [First published in 1837]. A Voyage Round the World: Including an Embassy to Muscat and Siam in 1835, 1836 and 1837. Harper & brothers. OCLC 12492287. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  24. ^ Richardson, Alan (December 1979). "Richardson". Our Illustrious Ancestors. Katharine's Web. Voyage via the Orient: Letters to Home by Charles Richardson. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  25. ^ Gilbert, Wesley John (April 2011). Our Man in Zanzibar: Richard Waters, American Consul (1837–1845) (free) (B.A. Thesis). Departmental Honors in History. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University. Retrieved 3 May 2012.)
  26. ^ W.S.W. Ruschenberger, M.D. (1873). "A report on the origin and therapeutic properties of cundurango". Published by order of the Navy Department. Washington: G.P.O. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2012. Commissioning with the USS Peacock in 1836, William Ruschenberger sailed with Edmund Roberts....
  27. ^ Lundeberg, Philip K. (1985). "Appendix 1: Characteristics of Selected Exploring Vessels". In Viola, Herman J.; Margolis, Carolyn (eds.). Magnificent Voyagers: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838–1842. Smithsonian Institution. p. 255.