Action of 1814-08-27

27th August 1814
Part of : The War of 1812 (1812 - 1814)
Previous action : Attack on Lake Erie 13.8.1814
Next action : Battle of Lake Champlain 11.9.1814


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Tartarus (20) John Pascoe Sunk
Avon (16) George Rose Sartorius (1790-1885), James Arbuthnot10 killed, 32 wounded Sunk
Castilian (16) Edmund Denman, George Lloyd, Edmund Denman

United States of America

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Wasp (22) Johnston Blakely (d.1815)

Notes on Action


On August 27th she sailed again, making two prizes in the first three days. On the 1st of September she came upon a convoy of ten sail under the protection of the Armada, 74, bound for Gibraltar. Confident in her speed and in the seamanship of the crew, Blakely hovered round the convoy, though chased off again and again by the two-decker, and finally cut off and captured a ship laden with iron and brass cannon, muskets, and other military stores of value. He was then on a cruising ground traversed in every direction by British warships and merchantmen, and on the evening of the same day he made out four sail, of whom it afterwards turned out that three were cruisers, being the British ship-sloop Tartarus, 20, and the brig-sloops Avon, 18, and Castilian, 18. Blakely soon became convinced that three of the four were hostile vessels of war. Nevertheless he determined to engage one of them after nightfall, hoping to sink or capture her before either of her consorts could come to her aid. It was a very bold determination, but it was justified by the Wasp's efficiency as a fighting machine. Blakely had less men in crew than when he fought the Reindeer, but, profiting by his experience with the latter, he had taken on board her 12-pr. carronade.

The three British sloops were in chase of an American privateer schooner, while the American sloop in her turn chased them. The privateer outsailed her pursuers, and the latter gradually drew apart until the headmost, the Castilian, was nine miles distant from the rearmost, the Avon, when, late in the afternoon, the Wasp began to approach the latter. The Avon was under the command of Commander the Hon. James Arbuthnot. She carried twenty guns, including sixteen 32-pr. carronades, a light shifting carronade, two long guns as bow-chasers, and another light long-gun as stern-chaser. Her crew numbered one hundred and seventeen. The odds against her in point of force were thus far less than in the case of the Reindeer, being about what they were against the Epervier, or five to four in weight of broadside. As the Wasp approached, the Avon, not desiring to encounter her single-handed, began signalling with her lanterns to her consorts ahead, and when she met with no response she fired signal shots to them.

Soon after 9 P.M. the Wasp, steering free through the darkness, got on the weather quarter of the Avon, and the vessels exchanged hails. The action began by the Wasp firing her 12-pr. carronade, and the Avon responding, first with her stern-chaser, and then with her aftermost port guns. Blakely put his helm up lest his adversary should try to escape, ran to leeward of her, fired his port broadside into her quarter, and then ranged up on her starboard beam. A furious night fight followed at very short range. The Wasp's men did not know the name of their antagonist, but her black hull loomed clearly through the night, and aloft in her tops the clustered forms of her sailors could be seen against the sky. Four round shot struck the Wasp's hull, killing two men; and another man was wounded by a wad. This was all she suffered below, but aloft her rigging was a good deal cut, for the practice of the Avon was bad, her guns being pointed too high. The Wasp's fire, on the contrary, was directed with deadly precision. The Avon's hull was riddled through and through, until there were seven feet of water in the hold, the lower masts were wounded, and the standing and running rigging were cut to pieces. Five of the starboard guns were dismounted, and forty-two of the crew killed or wounded. Less than three quarters of an hour after the beginning of the action she struck her colours.

While Blakely was lowering away the boat to take possession, the Castilian, Commander George Lloyd (actg.), made her appearance, and soon afterwards the Tartarus also approached. They had been recalled by the noise of the cannonade, and had come up under a press of sail. When the Castilian came in sight Blakely again called his men to quarters, and made ready for battle; but the appearance of the Tartarus forced him to relinquish the idea of fighting. Accordingly, the braces having been cut away, the Wasp was put before the wind until new ones could be rove. The Castilian followed her, but the Avon had begun to fire minute-guns and make signals of distress, and Commander Lloyd deemed it his duty to put back to her assistance. He accordingly returned to his consort, after firing his lee guns over the weather quarter of the Wasp, cutting her rigging slightly, but not touching a man, nor doing any other damage. He consoled himself by reporting that if he had been able to attack the Wasp she would have "fallen an easy prey " to him, and that he did not doubt that his broadside was "most destructive." The Avon sank soon afterwards.

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