Westward Expansion and the War of 1812, 1803-1820

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Author: Isaac Hull  | Date: August 19, 1812

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The "Constitution" Captures the "Guerriere"

I HAVE the honor to inform you, that on the 19th inst. at 2 P.M. being in Lat. 41° 42’ and Long. 55° 48’, with the Constitution under my command, a sail was discovered from the masthead bearing E. by S. or E. S. E. but at such a distance we could not tell what she was. All sail was instantly made in chase, and soon found we came up with her. At 3 P.M. could plainly see, that she was a ship on the starboard tack under easy sail, close on a wind; at half past 3 P.M. made her out to be a frigate; continued the chase until we were within about three miles, when I ordered the light sails to be taken in, the courses hauled up, and the ship cleared for action.

At this time the chase had backed his maintop-sail, waiting for us to come down. As soon as the Constitution was ready for action, I bore down with intention to bring him to close action immediately; but on our coming within gun-shot she gave us a broadside and filled away, and wore, giving us a broadside on the other tack, but without effect; her shot falling short. She continued wearing and maneuvering for about three quarters of an hour, to get a raking position, but finding she could not, she bore up, and ran under her top-sails and jib, with the wind on her quarter. I immediately made sail to bring the ship up with her, and five minutes before 6 P.M. being alongside within half pistol-shot, we commenced a heavy fire from all our guns, double shotted with round and grape, and so well directed were they, and so warmly kept up, that in 15 minutes his mizzenmast went by the board and his main yard in the slings, and the hull, rigging, and sails very much torn to pieces. The fire was kept up with equal warmth for 15 minutes longer, when his mainmast and foremast went, taking with them every spar, excepting the bowsprit. On seeing this vie ceased firing, so that in thirty minutes after, we got fairly alongside the enemy; she surrendered, and had not a spar standing, and her hull below and above water so shattered, that a few more broadsides must have carried her down.

After informing you, that so fine a ship as the Guerriere, commanded by an able and experienced officer, had been totally dismasted, and otherwise cut to pieces so as to make her not worth towing into port, in the short space of thirty minutes, you can have no doubt of the gallantry and good conduct of the officers and ship’s company I have the honor to command; it only remains therefore for me to assure you that they all fought with great bravery; and it gives me great pleasure to say, that from the smallest boy in the ship to the oldest seaman, not a look of fear was seen. They all went into action, giving three cheers, and requested to be laid close alongside the enemy.

Enclosed I have the honor to send you a list of killed and wounded on board the Constitution [total, 141, and a report of the damages she has sustained; also a list of killed and wounded on board the enemy [total 77, and 24 missing], with his quarter bill, &c….

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Chicago: Isaac Hull, "The Constitution Captures the Guerriere," Westward Expansion and the War of 1812, 1803-1820 in America, Vol.5, Pp.154-156 Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XCFZ2GW8SLNF6P.

MLA: Hull, Isaac. "The "Constitution" Captures the "Guerriere"." Westward Expansion and the War of 1812, 1803-1820, in America, Vol.5, Pp.154-156, Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XCFZ2GW8SLNF6P.

Harvard: Hull, I, 'The "Constitution" Captures the "Guerriere"' in Westward Expansion and the War of 1812, 1803-1820. cited in , America, Vol.5, Pp.154-156. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XCFZ2GW8SLNF6P.