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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Asp

 

A small venomous snake indigenous to Egypt.

 

II

 

(Sch: t. 56; cpl. 22; a. 1 12-pdr., 2 12-pdr. car.)

 

The second Asp—a three-gun schooner purchased on 17 February 1813 at Alexandria, D.C. (now Virginia), as Adeline—was outfitted as a warship at the Washington Navy Yard. Under the command of Midshipman James B. Sigourney, Asp cruised the Chesapeake Bay into the summer of 1813.

 

On 14 July, she and another small warship, Scorpion, got underway from the Yeocomico River, Va., and entered the bay. They soon encountered two British brig sloops, HMS Contest and HMS Mohawk, which immediately gave chase. Scorpion made good her escape up the Chesapeake, but Asp's poor sailing qualities forced her to put back into the river. The two British ships anchored off the bar and prepared a boat expedition. At the sight of oncoming British boats, Asp cut her cable and tried to escape farther up the river. At that point, three of the British boats attacked but were beaten off. Then two other British boats joined the first three for a second attempt which proved successful. The Americans fought valiantly in spite of the lopsided odds. Midshipman Sigourney and 10 of his 20-man crew were killed defending their ship while the remainder escaped ashore when the issue became hopeless. The British set fire to Asp and retired. At that point, her second in command, Midshipman H. Mc-Clintock, led the remnants of Asp's crew back on board, extinguished the flames, and put her back in fighting trim. For whatever reason, the British declined to renew the combat.

 

Asp finished out her Navy career at Baltimore, Md. First, she served as tender to the frigate Java then under construction and later became a receiving ship at Baltimore. The schooner continued that service until sold in 1826.