On March 19, 1814, Captain Thomas Boyle and the Comet arrived at Beaufort, North Carolina where he ended his third and final cruise as the ship’s commander.
Excerpts from Boyle’s log were published in the Baltimore Patriot where he gave an account detailing their voyage from their escape from the Chesapeake Bay in October to the ship’s battle with the Hibernia in January to the “large man of war brig” that gave chase on March 5 before his ship “out sailed her with ease.” Boyle concluded the with satisfaction, writing:
On the 19th, arrived at this place after a cruize of 5 months, and being chased during that time thirty four times, by frigates and men-of war brigs, but always out sailed them.
At half past meridian got under way from Point Look Out, and stood down the bay. Left the U.S. frigate Adams at anchor. At 3 P.M. discovered three sail standing up the bay by the wind—immediately beat to quarters and cleared ship for action. At 20 m. past 3, spoke the headmost, which proved to be a schooner from Norfolk for Baltimore—received from her information of the number and situation of the enemy below; hove too until dark. Off New Point, he heard the report of a gun; we supposed it to be the Admiral’s 8 o’clock gun; passed one 74 and two brigs at anchor. – At 10 P.M. discovered two large ships at anchor in the Middle Channel—supposed them to be frigates; hauled our wind and run close in with Cape Henry; finding we were not perceived, made sail and went to sea.
From the journal of the Chasseur, excerpted in Baltimore American, June 2nd, 1814, Maryland Historical Society.
Captain William Wade left Baltimore on January 15 and found little success as a privateer in the first several months of 1814. When Thomas Boyle (still making his way back to Baltimore after a bruising battle with the Hibernia) took over as commander in July, the Chasseur embarked on a remarkable cruise to the British Isles, capturing an astonishing number of prizes, and earning the nickname the “Pride of Baltimore” from the Niles Weekly Register.
Special thanks to Baltimore Heritage volunteer Dennis Lilly and the Maryland Historical Society for helping us share excerpts from the ship’s log from now through April. Continue to follow along for more updates on William Wade, Thomas Boyle and the Chasseur in the months ahead!
On January 11, 1814 at half-past midnight, the British ship Hibernia fought desperately against an attack by The Comet. Over a year before, in December 1813, the 187-ton Baltimore-built Comet slipped past a British blockade of the Chesapeake Bay and sailed south towards the Caribbean. The ship’s captain, Thomas Boyle, carried a letter of marque from President James Madison—one of five hundred letters Madison issued authorizing private ships to bring the fight to British shipping across the Atlantic.
In a little over a year at sea, Boyle and his crew recorded an astonishing twenty-seven prizes. They were on their way back to Baltimore when the ship spotted and engaged the 800-ton Hibernia in the early afternoon of January 10. After hours of maneuvers and exchanges of cannon fire that continued into the morning hours of January 11, both ships were badly damaged.
Contradictory accounts of the conflict do leave some room for interpretation. British sources, including excerpts from the British ship’s log, suggest the Hibernia was disabled, with only six cannons and a skeleton crew but still managed to kill twenty of Boyle’s crew in a desperate defense. Popular American sources describe the Hibernia differently—a formidable opponent with twenty-two guns and a full crew that left the Comet badly despite Boyle’s brave assault.
The battle ended inconclusively before dawn. The Comet retreated to Puerto Rico for repairs before finally returning home in Baltimore on March 17.