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Wasp, the

An American sloop-of-war of eighteen guns, built in Washington, D. C., in 1806. On Oct. 13, 1812, under command of Capt. Jacob Jones, [241] thoroughly manned and equipped, carrying sixteen 32-pounder carronades and two long 12-pounders, with two small brass cannon in her tops, she left the Delaware on a cruise. She was considered one of the fastest sailers in the service, and was furnished with 135 men and boys. She ran off towards the West Indies, and, on the night of Oct. 18, Jones saw several vessels, and ran parallel with them until the dawn, when he discovered that it was a fleet of armed merchant-vessels convoyed by the British sloop-of-war Frolic, Capt. T. Whinyates, mounting sixteen 32-pounder carronades, two long 6-pounders, and two 12-pounder carronades on her forecastle. She was manned by a crew of 108 persons. the Frolic took a position for battle so as to allow the merchantmen to escape during the fight. A severe engagement began at 10.30 A. M. Within five minutes the maintop-gallant mast of the Wasp was shot away and fell among the rigging, rendering a portion of it unmanageable during the remainder of the action. Three minutes afterwards her gaff and maintop-mast were shot away, and at twenty minutes from the opening of the engagement every brace and most of the rigging were disabled. Her condition was forlorn.

But while the Wasp was thus suffering, she had inflicted more serious injury to the hull of the Frolic. The two vessels gradually approached each other, fell foul, the bowsprit of the Frolic passing in over the quarter-deck of the Wasp, and forcing her bows up in the wind. This enabled the latter to give the Frolic a raking broadside with terrible effect. With wild shouts the crew of the Wasp now leaped into the entangling rigging, and made their way to the deck of the Frolic. But there was no one to oppose them. The last broadside had carried death and dismay into the Frolic, and almost cleared the deck of effective men. All who were able had escaped below to avoid the raking fire of the Wasp. The English officers on deck, nearly all of them bleeding from wounds, cast their swords in submission before Lieutenant Biddle, who led the boarding-party. He sprang into the rigging, and with his own hand struck the colors of the Frolic. The contest lasted forty-five minutes, and the aggregate loss of the Frolic in killed and wounded was ninety men. the Wasp had only five men killed and five wounded.

Jones placed Lieutenant Biddle in command of the Frolic, with orders to take her into Charleston, S. C., and when they were about to part company the British ship-of-war Poictiers, seventy-four guns, Capt. J. P. Beresford, bore down upon them. the Wasp and her prize were not in a condition to flee or fight, and within two hours after he had gained his victory Jones was compelled to surrender both vessels. They were taken to Bermuda, where the American prisoners were exchanged. The victory of the Wasp over the Frolic caused much exultation in the United States. Jones was lauded in speeches and songs. The authorities of New York voted him a sword and the freedom of the city. Congress voted him thanks and a gold medal, and appropriated $25,000 to Jones and his company as compensation for their loss of prize-money. A silver medal was given to each of his officers. The captain was promoted to the command of the frigate Macedonian, captured from the British by Decatur. The legislature of Pennsylvania voted Lieutenant Biddle thanks and a sword, and the leading men of Philadelphia gave him a silver urn. He was

The Biddle urn.

shortly afterwards appointed to the command of the sloop-of-war Hornet. This victory was celebrated by songs, and also by caricatures. One of the songs became very popular, and was sung at [242] all public gatherings. In it occurred the following lines:

The foe bravely fought, but his arms were all broken,
And he fled from his death-wound aghast and affrighted;
But the Wasp darted forward her deathdoing sting,
And full on his bosom, like lightning alighted.
She pierced through his entrails, she maddened his brain,
And he writhed and he groaned as if torn with the colic;
And long shall John Bull rue the terrible day
He met the American Wasp on a Frolic.

A Wasp on a frolic.

Among the caricatures was one by Charles, of Philadelphia, under which were the following words:

A Wasp took a Frolic and met Johnny Bull, Who always fights best when his belly is full.
the Wasp thought him hungry by his mouth open wide,
So, his belly to fill, put a sting in his side.

On May 1, 1814, the Wasp, then under command of Capt. Johnston Blakeley, left the harbor of Portsmouth, N. H., and soon appeared in the chops of the British Channel, where she spread terror among the British merchant-ships and the people of the seaport towns. Painful recollections of the ravages of the Argus were revived. On the morning of June 28, while some distance at sea, the Wasp was chased by two vessels. They were soon joined by a third, which displayed English colors. In the afternoon, after much manoeuvring, this vessel and the Wasp came to an engagement, which soon became very severe. The men of the stranger several times attempted to board the Wasp, but were repulsed. Finally, the crew of the Wasp boarded her antagonist, and in less than thirty minutes the latter was a prize to the American vessel. She proved to be the sloop-of-war Reindeer, Capt. William Manners, and was terribly shattered. Her captain and twenty-four others were killed and forty-two wounded. the Wasp was hulled six times, and her loss was five men killed and twenty-two wounded. Blakeley put his prisoners on board a neutral vessel and burned the Reindeer. For this capture Congress voted him a gold medal.

He arrived at L'Orient July 8, and on Aug. 27 departed for another cruise in the Wasp. On Sept. 1 she had a sharp engagement with the Avon, eighteen guns, Captain Arbuthnot, in intense darkness. At the end of thirty minutes the antagonist of the Wasp ceased firing. “Have you surrendered?” inquired Blakeley. He was answered by a few shots, when he gave the Avon another broadside, followed by the same question, which was answered in the affirmative, and an officer was about to leave the Wasp to take possession of the prize. Just then another vessel was seen astern, rapidly approaching; then another and another, and Blakeley was compelled to abandon the prize so nearly in his possession. The vessel that first came to the assistance of the Avon was the Castilian, eighteen guns. the Avon was so much shattered in the conflict that she sank almost immediately. Her people were rescued by their friends on the other vessels. the Wasp continued her course, capturing several prizes. Near the Azores she captured (Sept. 21) the Atlanta, a valuable prize that he sent home in command of Midshipman (afterwards Commodore) D. Geisinger. On Oct. 9 the Wasp was spoken by a Swedish bark making her way towards the Spanish main. She was never heard of after- [243]

Blakeley's medal.

wards, nor those who were then on board of her. She and all her people perished in some unknown solitude of the sea.

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