Tag Archives: Thomas Kemp

The Schooner Mammoth sets sail on a privateer cruise to Havana

On March 22, 1814, the Mammoth set sail for Havana on a maiden voyage with commander Samuel Franklin and a large crew of 100 seamen. Built by Thomas Kemp in 1813 for $40,000, the Mammoth was the largest privateer schooner built in Baltimore at the time, weighing 376 tons and measuring 112′ by 28’3″ by 13’4″. When ship was commissioned on March 7, the ship’s owners included John Gooding, Samuel Smith, James Williams, and James A. Buchanan.

With special thanks to volunteer Dennis Lilly and the Maryland Historical Society, we are excited to follow the first two voyages of the Mammoth from March through late October. The ship’s log acquired by the Maryland Historical Society in 2009 is likely a period copy of the original as the pages are clearly written and there are no water stains or other evidence of hard use from a long sea voyage.

Over the next few months, you can stay tuned for more daily updates on the lives of the Baltimore seamen on board the Mammoth but if you don’t mind the spoilers we have a quick preview of the events that lie ahead for this schooner.

Armed with 10 cannons, the Mammoth sailed to Havana where she unloaded her cargo then cruised the Caribbean, teaming up with two other privateers, to burn and harass the substantial English trade. In late spring, the Mammoth sailed north and put into Portsmouth on May 27 and stayed until June 23, 1814. The Mammoth’s second cruise began with a foray of burning English fishing vessels off the Grand Banks, where her attack on an armed English brig (probably the Sinclair) was repulsed. On October 10, 1814 she engaged in a long cannonade against an English transport, the Champion, which resulted in her capture. Mammoth transferred her cargo, and then returned the shot-up vessel to her commander. Franklin then sailed the Mammoth to Ireland, where she cruised, burning a number of captured vessels. She arrived back in Portland on November 15, 1814.

This post is adapted from the Maryland Historical Society Finding aid to The Schooner Mammoth Logs, 1814 and The Schooner Independencia del Sud, November, 1817 – January, 1822 MS 3082.

Havana Harbour and City From A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation, by J. R. (John Ramsay) McCulloch, 1882.
Havana Harbour and City, 1882. LEARN NC, 9277.


Advertisement: For Sale… the Privateer Schooner Chasseur, now ready to sail

For Sale
American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, January 13, 1814

On January 13, 1814, Thomas Kemp advertised the “Privateer Schooner Chasseur” for sale and Captain William Wade prepared to take the ship out on its first cruise. Built by Thomas Kemp for local merchant William Hollins, the Chassuer launched on December 12, 1812 but failed miserably in two attempts to evade the British blockade of the Chesapeake on commercial ventures with the second trip ending in mutiny.

Captain William Wade took command in February 1813 after the ship received a privateer commission and brought recent experience privateering as a second officer on the Comet under Captain Thomas Boyle. The Chasseur weighed almost twice as much as the Comet (resting in Puetro Rico after a damaging fight with the Hibernia just days earlier) and already had a reputation as one of the fastest top sail schooners built to date. Even with Wade’s experience and the ship’s speed, getting past the British might be a difficult task.

Master Commandant Robert T. Spence and the USS Ontario: “Had I my compliment of men, I could be ready for sea in three weeks.”

Baltimore Jany. 9th 1815 [1814]

In reporting to you the advancement of my ship I have the honor to state, that we got our topmasts on end to day—that our lower rigging is rattled down, and catharping’d in.
The Hold is nearly stowed.— and I intend our yards shall be across next week. I shall stand in need of my sails from Washington.
Had I my compliment of men, I could be ready for sea in three weeks.—
My residing within a hundred yards of my ship since appointed to her, and giving personal attention to every little thing will account to you for my rapid progress.— The “Erie” has more men, but in other respects the “Ontario” is equally advanced. Indeed we have little the start! With great respect your very Obt. Servant

R. T. Spence

From a January 9, 1814, letter by Master Commandant Robert T. Spence to Secretary of the Navy William Jones. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Volume III, p.19

On March 3, 1813, the United States Congress authorized the construction of six sloops-of-war. Naval architect William Doughty designed three of the six ships and directly supervised the construction of the USS Argus at the Washington, DC shipyards. In Baltimore, Thomas Kemp took Doughty’s designs and began work on the remaining two, the USS Ontario and USS Erie, at his Fell’s Point shipyard.

The Erie launched from the shipyard on November 3, 1813 and The Ontario followed on November 28, 1813. Master Commandant Robert T. Spence, commander of the USS Ontario, spent the winter months of 1814 struggling to recruit enough men to set sail—a delay that ultimately kept the Ontario stuck in Baltimore behind the British blockade of the Chesapeake through the end of the war.

USS Erie, American sloop-of-war
USS Erie, American sloop-of-war. Image courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration, 512994.