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Buffalo

The popular name for the North American bison, a bovine mammal that once ranged widely across the lands that now comprise the United States.


A city in western New York state at the northeastern extreme of Lake Erie. It is the seat of government for Erie County.


The first two ships named Buffalo appear to have been named for the animal, while the later ships (including those not built) were named for the city in New York.


I

(Block Sloop: cpl. 44; a. 5 guns)

The first Buffalo (sometimes spelled Buffaloe in contemporary correspondence)--a block sloop--was built in Philadelphia, Penn., under the supervision of naval constructor Charles Penrose, conducted her sea trials on 29 May 1813 and was apparently commissioned soon thereafter, Lt. Samuel Angus in command.


Constructed for service with the Delaware Flotilla, a unit that Lt. Angus also commanded, Buffalo--which resembled a vessel loaded with shingles--saw her only action just weeks after commissioning. The morning of 29 July 1813 found the Delaware Flotilla lying off Dennis' Creek, when Lt. Angus discovered that the British 18-gun sloop-of-war Martin aground on the outer ridge of Crow's Shoals after chasing and capturing a small vessel too near the Overfalls.


Angus, thinking it "proper to endeavor to bring him [Martin] to action," ordered the flotilla--consisting of the block sloops Buffalo and Camel and eight gunboats--to weigh anchor and stand toward the enemy. As the American ships did so, however, the British 38-gun frigate Junon anchored to support Martin.


The Americans, despite being plagued by poor gunpowder, delivered a brisk cannonade of the grounded sloop but did so from too great a distance. Likewise, while most of the enemy's shot missed Angus' ships, one passed through the foot of Buffalo's jib and another through the under part of her bowsprit. Only one other American ship, Gunboat No. 125, suffered any damage in the inconclusive, long-range engagement, although Gunboat No. 121 was captured after straying from the formation in disobedience to Angus' orders.


The court of inquiry that met on board Buffalo on 11 September 1813 found Angus guilty of an error in judgement but not of any lack of personal bravery. He had shown ample courage at other times in his career, both in the Quasi-War with France and in the War of 1812. The court felt that he might have moved his command closer to the grounded Martin which then might have been at the flotilla's mercy, given her condition.


Buffalo presumably spent the remainder of her career based at Philadelphia serving as a transport with the Delaware Flotilla. On 24 July 1816, the president of the Navy Board of Commissioners directed George Harrison, the Navy agent in Philadelphia, to sell Buffalo and three other ships. On 12 August 1816, she was sold to Bowers and Company for $1,100.

Robert J. Cressman



23 November 2005