Monday, June 18, 2012

USS United States, USS Macedonian & Sloop Hornet: War of 1812

If you ever take the Cross Sound Ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point, you will soon drive by a local beach in Oysterponds. As you gaze to the sea you will spy a blue sign. The sign patiently awaits the reader. But to one like me it speaks. Tell my story. Well, here is the story behind the sign.

HMS Macedonian was a 38-gun fifth rate Lively-class frigate in the Royal Navy, later captured by the USS United States during the War of 1812. She was built at Woolwich Dockyard, England in 1809, launched 2 June 1810 and commissioned the same month. She was commanded by Captain Lord William Fitzroy.
HMS Macedonian

In September 1812, Macedonian was ordered to accompany an East Indiaman as far as Madeira, then to cruise in search of prizes as long as his supplies permitted. The frigate left Madeira on 22 October 1812, but only a few days later, on the morning of 25 October, encountered the USS United States, commanded by his former dinner host Decatur. The United States had just declared war on the United Kingdom, and both captains were eager to achieve personal glory in a fight. Unfortunately for Macedonian, the United States was one of the new 44-gun frigates, and her broadside was 864 pounds of metal, vs Macedonian's 528 pounds.

USS United States defeats HMS Macedonian
The USS United States hove round, turning downwind and making HMS Macedonian chase her. Within a few minutes of closing, fire from the United States's 24 pounder cannons brought down all three of Macedonian's masts, and riddled the hull. The United States then pulled away temporarily, leaving Carden and Hope time to contemplate their lack of options. Finally, with the United States preparing to rake the British vessel again, Carden struck his colors, making the Macedonian the second Royal Navy vessel to surrender to the Americans during the war. 

Decatur was careful to preserve Macedonian, sending over a detail to help repair it. This took a full 2 weeks. Decatur then brought the captured ship into Newport, Rhode Island as a prize on 4 December 1812, causing an immediate national sensation. The USS Constitution had previously beaten HMS Guerriere, but the Guerriere had been too badly damaged to save. The Macedonian was a sizable and welcome addition to the then tiny US Navy. The United States took Macedonian into the United States Navy immediately, retaining the name as USS Macedonian under the command of Captain Jacob Jones.

Sloop Hornet
Early in May after receiving needed repairs Macedonian, along with United States and sloop Hornet hoped to make their way to sea from the anchorage of Staten Island by way of Sandy Hook but were because of the British Blockade, two ship of the lines and three frigates guarding that passage Decatur, determined, took his squadron and crossing New York harbor made his way up the East River by way of Hell Gate, New York, 24 May 1813. While sailing along Long Island Sound on the night of the 24th the flagship United States was struck by lightning, causing damage to the main mast, which came crashing down and causing serious damage to the vessel. Macedonian, being close, by immediately distanced herself from the periled United States. 

After hasty repairs the fleet continued on their way eastward along the Sound. Because of unfavorable winds and a passage not favorable to heavy vessels, the fleet finally reached Montauk Point, the easternmost point of Long Island. The open sea was now before them but the British had blockading vessels there lying in wait. Unmatched, the fleet had no alternative but to turn back, making their way to the Thames River (Connecticut), where Macedonian and the rest of the fleet remained until the end of the war.


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