HMS Dolphin (1813)

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HMS Dolphin 1813 was the 12-gun American privateer schooner Dolphin that Admiral John Borlase Warren's squadron captured on 13 April 1813 and that participated in a boat action on 29 April and 5 May 1813 for which the Royal Navy issued a clasp for the Naval General Service Medal.[1] Her ultimate fate is undocumented.


Dolphin had been an American privateer and had carried Baltimore's privateering commission No. 2.[2] Under Capt. W.S. Stafford, on 26 July 1812 she captured a British vessel valued at US$18,000, and in August she captured the schooner Fanny, valued at a similar amount.[3]. In the same month she captured schooner James, which she sent into port, and destroyed several droggers.[3] Next she captured and sent into Baltimore the John Hamilton, of 10 guns and 30 men, laden with several hundred tons of mahogany.[3]

She had had an unsuccessful cruise of two months before on 25 January 1813 she captured the Hebe,[3] of 16 guns and 25 men and the brig Three Brothers of ten guns and 25 men.[4] These two vessels, though heavily armed, had too few crew to man even a broadside. Capt. W.A. Brigham of Hebe was wounded by a musket ball and later injured by a powder explosion. Dolphin had four men wounded and the British 10, including Brigham.[4] The British recaptured Hebe before she could reach America.[2] Dolphin returned to Baltimore on 13 February.

In all, as a privateer, Dolphin had captured 11 British vessels. One had been burned at sea and another (Hebe) recaptured. However, nine, had been brought safely back to the United States.[4]


A British cutting out party under the command of Lieut. James Polkinghorne was able to enter the Rappahannock River where four American vessels were laying becalmed and out of range of each other.[4] The British captured all four:

  • Arab, Captain D. Fitch, seven guns and 45 men
  • Racer, Captain D. Chaytnor, six guns and 36 men
  • Lynx, Captain E. Taylor, six guns and 40 men
  • Dolphin, Captain W. S. Stafford, 12 guns and 100 men

The British first captured Arab, which put up a strong fight and caused them the heaviest losses of the day.[4] The British then captured the next two with no (Lynx) or little (Racer) resistance.[4]. Dolphin resisted for two hours before surrendering. In all, the British lost two men killed and 11 wounded, including Polkingthorne, who received a promotion to Commander for his part in the action.[4] Dolphin alone lost six killed and 10 wounded.[4] Subsequently the British took Racer, Lynx, and Dolphin into service.

British service

Dolphin retained her name and became a tender commanded by a Lieut. George Hutchinson. On 29 April 1813, boats from Dolphin, together with boats from Fantome, Mohawk and Highflyer and Racer, which had not yet been renamed, went up the Chesapeake Bay to Frenchtown to destroy five American ships and stores; they also purchased provisions for the squadron from the locals. This took until 3 May 1813 to complete. On the way back, a battery fired on the British from the shore; a landing party destroyed the battery. The Admiralty would later issue the clasp "28 APRIL BOAT SERVICE 1813” for the Naval General Service Medal for the action.

The rest of Dolphin's service career and what became of her at the end of the war is an open question.


  1. Dudley, William S. (1992) The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center), V. 2, p. 339.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gardiner, Robert (1998), "War on the High Seas", in Robert Gardiner, ed. The Naval War of 1812 (London:Chatham)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Scharf, Thomas J. (1881) History of Baltimore City and County, from the earliest period to the present day: including biographical sketches of their representative men. (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts), p105.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Maclay, Edgar Stanton (1968) A history of American privateers. (New York: Franklin), p. 465-7.