Saturday, December 29, 2012

USS Constitution VS HMS Java 200 Years Ago Today

 USS Constitution VS HMS Java
Story taken from the journal of Commodore William Bainbridge commander of the USS Constitution.

Journal of Commodore William Bainbridge

Extract from Commodore 
Bainbridge's Journal Kept 
on board the U. S. Frigate
Tuesday 29th December 1812
At 9 AM, discovered two Strange Sails on the weather bow, at 10. AM. discovered the strange sails to be Ships, one of them stood in for the land, and the other steered off shore in a direction towards us. At 10.45. We tacked ship to the Nd & Wd and stood for the sail standing towards us,-At 11 tacked to the Sd & Ed hauld up the mainsail and took in the Royals. At 11.30 AM made the private signal for the day, which was not answered, & then set the mainsail and royals to draw the strange sail off from the neutral Coast.
Wednesday 30th December 1812, (Nautical Time) Commences with Clear weather and moderate breezes from E.N.E. Hoisted our Ensign and Pendant. At 15 minutes past meridian, The ship hoisted her colours, an English Ensign, --having a signal flying at her Main Red Yellow-Red At 1.26 being sufficiently from the land, and finding the ship to be an English Frigate, took in the Main Sail and Royals, tacked Ship and stood for the enemy
At 1 .50. P.M, The Enemy bore down with an intention of rakeing us, which we avoided by wearing. At 2, P.M, the enemy being within half a mile, of us, and to wind ward, & having hawled down his colours to dip his Gafft, and not hoisting them again except an Union Jack at the Mizen Mast head, (we having hoisted on board the Constitution an American Jack forward Broad Pendant at Main, American Ensign at Mizen Top Gallant Mast head and at the end of The Gafft) induced me to give orders to the officer of the 3rd Division to fire one Gun ahead of the enemy to make him show his Colours, which being done brought on afire from us of the whole broadside, on which he hoisted an English Ensign at the Peak, and another in his weather Main Rigging, besides his Pendant and then immediately returned our fire, which brought on a general action with round and grape.
The enemy Kept at a much greater distance than I wished, but Could not bring him to closer action without exposing ourselves to several rakes.-Considerable Manoeuvers were made by both Vessels to rake and avoid being raked.
The following Minutes Were Taken during the Action
At 2.10. P.M,
Commenced The Action within good grape and Canister distance. The enemy to windward (but much farther than I wished).
At 2,30. P.M,
our wheel was shot entirely away
At 2.40.
determined to close with the Enemy, notwithstanding her rakeing, set the Fore sail & Luff'd up close to him.
At 2,50,
The Enemies Jib boom got foul of our Mizen Rigging
At 3
The Head of the enemies Bowsprit & Jib boom shot away by us
At 3.5
Shot away the enemies foremast by the board
At 3.15
Shot away The enemies Main Top mast just above the Cap
At 3.40
Shot away Gafft and Spunker boom
At 3.55
Shot his mizen mast nearly by the board
At 4.5
Having silenced the fire of the enemy completely and his colours in main Rigging being [down] Supposed he had Struck, Then hawl'd about the Courses to shoot ahead to repair our rigging, which was extremely cut, leaving the enemy a complete wreck, soon after discovered that The enemies flag was still flying hove too to repair Some of our damages.
At 4.20.
The Enemies Main Mast went by the board.
At 4.50
[Wore] ship and stood for the Enemy
At 5.25
Got very close to the enemy in a very [effective] rakeing position, athwart his bows & was at the very instance of rakeing him, when he most prudently Struck his Flag.

Had The Enemy Suffered the broadside to have raked him previously to strikeing, his additional loss must have been extremely great laying like a log upon the water, perfectly unmanageable, I could have continued rakeing him without being exposed to more than two of his Guns, (if even Them)
After The Enemy had struck, wore Ship and reefed the Top Sails, hoisted out one of the only two remaining boats we had left out of 8 & sent Lieut [George] Parker 1st of the Constitution on board to take possession of her, which was done about 6. P.M, The Action continued from the commencement to the end of the Fire, 1 H 55 m our sails and Rigging were shot very much, and some of our spars injured-had 9 men Killed and 26 wounded. At 7 PM. The boat returned from the Prize with Lieut. [Henry D.] Chads the 1st of the enemies Frigate (which I then learnt was the Java rated 38 - had 49 Guns mounted--)-and Lieut Genl [Thomas] Hislop-appointed to Command in the East Indies,-Major Walker and Capt Wood, belonging to his Staff. -Capt [Henry] Lambert of the Java was too dangerously wounded to be removed immediately.
The Cutter returned on board the Prize for Prisoners, and brought Capt [John] Marshall, Master & Commander of The British Navy, who was passenger on board, as also Several other Naval officers destined for ships in the East Indies. The Java had her whole number complete and nearly an hundred supernumeraries. The number she had on board at the commencement of the Action, The officers have not candour to say; from the different papers we collected, such as a muster book, Watch List and quarter Bills, she must have had upwards of 400 souls, she had one more man stationed at each of her Guns on both Decks than what we had The Enemy had 83 wounded & 57 Kill'd.
The Java was an important ship fitted out in the compleatest manner to [carry out] the Lieut. Genl & dispatches. She had Copper &c. on board for a 74 building at Bombay, and, I suspect a great many other valuables, but every thing was blown up, except the officers baggage when we set her on fire on the 1st of January 1813 at 3 P.M. Nautical Time.
Source: National Archives, Record Group 45, Captain's Letters, 1813, Vol.1, No.8 1/2.

Order of Battle

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