HMS Highflyer (1813)

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HMS Highflyer was an 8-gun schooner of the Royal Navy, formerly an American privateer of 138 tons and five guns, built in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1811, and operating out of Baltimore. Originally set up for six long nine-pounder cannon, she apparently sailed with one long 12-pounder and four nine-pounder carronades.

As a privateer

Under Captain John Gavet, on 21 July 1812 she captured the British merchantman Jamaica, with seven guns and 21 men, and the Diana. The next day, she captured the Mary Ann, with 12 guns and 18 men. On 26 August, she sent into Baltimore the schooner Harriet, of four guns, which had been sailing from New Providence to Havana. On her second cruise, under Captain Jeremiah Grant, she captured the brig Porgie, sailing from Antigua, and the brig Burchall, traveling from Barbados to Demerara, plus a number of coasting vessels operating among islands of the West Indies. She also took the brig Fernando, which was, however, retaken.[1] Lastly, she sent into Charleston the ten-gun brig Active.[2][3]

In the Royal Navy

HMS Acasta captured Highflyer in January 1813, with HMS Poictiers assisting. The Admiralty took Highflyer into service with the Royal Navy as an eight-gun schooner, still under her original name.

She was initially employed as a tender in the Chesapeake. On 13 April 1813, Sir John Borlase Warren's squadron, consisting of Highflyer, and more importantly San Domingo, Marlborough, Maidstone, Statira, Fantome, and Mohawk, pursued four schooners into the Rappahannock. The British sent 17 boats 15 miles upriver before capturing their prey.[4] The British took three of the schooners into service. The six gun Chesapeake schooner Lynx became Mosquidobit. Of the three Baltimore schooners, the Racer became Shelburne; the Dolphin retained her name; lastly, it is not clear what became of Arab, which with Dolphin, put up some resistance. Dolphin had been on a privateering cruise; consequently she carried 100 men and 12 guns.[5]

On 23 April Highflyer supported Fantome and Mohawk's boats on a successful raid. The vessels gathered cattle for the fleet's use, paying with bills on the Victualling Office. The next day, the vessels secured more cattle from Spesutie (Spesucie) Island just south of Havre de Grace at the entrance of the Susquehanna.[6]

On 29 April, boats from Dolphin, Dragon, Fantome, Highflyer, Maidstone, Marlborough, Mohawk, Racer and Statira went up the Elk River in Chesapeake Bay under the personal command of Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn. Their objective was to destroy five American ships and stores, and by some accounts, a cannon foundry at French Town. This took until 3 May 1813 to complete. On the way back, a battery, possibly at Havre de Grace, fired on them from the shore. A landing party destroyed the battery. The Navy issued 48 clasps - marked "28 APRIL BOAT SERVICE 1813" - to the Naval General Service Medal for the action.

On 23 May 1813, the Virginia privateer schooner Roger departed Norfolk under Captain Roger Quarles, an experienced merchant seaman. The 188 ton vessel carried 14 guns and 120 men. Some days after leaving Norfolk, Roger and Highflyer encountered each other and an indecisive, though prolonged, fight ensued. At the time of this encounter, Highflyer carried eight guns and a crew of 72. After suffering the death of her captain, Lieutenant Theophilus Lewis, and five other men, as well as nine men wounded, Highflyer sheared off.[7]

On 11 June, Highflyer joined with a number of other vessels to land troops under Lieut. Col. Napier on Portsmouth and Ocracoke Island.[8]

Between 11 and 13 July 1813, Highflyer was part of a squadron bringing troops to take Ocracoke, on the North Carolina coast. The squadron captured Atlas and the Anaconda, both letters of marque. Anaconda was a brig-sloop of 16 guns and a crew of 160, with a home port of New York. Atlas had a home port of Philadelphia Both subsequently entered the Royal Navy, the Anaconda as an 18-gun vessel and retaining her own name, and the Atlas, as a 14-gun schooner under the name HMS St Lawrence.

Return to American control

The USS President recaptured Highflyer on 23 September 1813 off Nantucket Sound. President's captain, John Rodgers, had captured British recognition signals and so was able to decoy Highflyer alongside, capturing it without a shot, together with a number of despatches and more British signals.[9] A prize crew then took Highflyer to Newport; her captain, Lieut. George Hutchinson, remained a prisoner on the President. The Americans did not take Highflyer into service.


  1. John Philips Cranwell and William Bowers Crane, Men of Marque ( New York: W.W Norton & Company Inc, 1940), 371-401.
  2. J. Thomas Scharf. 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), p.106.
  3. Edgar S. MacLay. 1899. A History of American Privateers. p.452.
  5. Chapelle (1967), 214.
  9. Benson John Lossing. 1868. The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 : or, illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American independence. (New York : Harper & Bros.), pp. 735-6.
  • Chapelle, Howard Irving (1967) The search for speed under sail, 1700-1855 (New York: Norton).
  • Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing, 2nd edition, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4.