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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Wasp

 

Any of numerous winged hymenopterus insects possessing smooth, slender bodies, and an abdomen attached by a narrow stalk. They have well developed wings, biting mouthparts, and often administer painful stings.

 

V

 

(SlpW: t. 509; lbp. 117'H"; b. 31'6"; dph. 14'6"; cpl. 173; a. 2 long 12-pdrs., 20 32-pdr. car.)

 

The fifth Wasp—a ship-rigged sloop-of-war constructed in 1813 at Newburyport, Mass., by Cross & Merrill—was commissioned early in 1814, Master Commandant Johnston Blakeley in command. She remained at Portsmouth, N.H., until late spring awaiting sailing orders and, upon receipt of them, put to sea on 1 May 1814 for a war cruise to the western approaches to the English Channel. She captured her first vessel, the 207-ton bark Neptune, on 2 June; embarked her crew as prisoners; and burned the prize at sea. Eleven days later, she took William, a 91-ton brig, and burned her as well. Wasp encountered the 131-ton, armed brig, Pallas, on the 18th and captured her—apparently without resistance—and scuttled her. Her fourth victim— which she took on the 23d—-the 171-ton galiot Henrietta, was given up to the prisoners she had thus far taken. Three days later, she captured and scuttled the 325-ton ship Orange Boven.

 

On 28 June, she came upon the 21-gun sloop-of-war Reindeer some 225 miles west of Plymouth and brought her to battle. The fight lasted only 19 minutes; but, during that brief span of time, the two ships traded a murderous fire of grape and solid shot. Several times, Reindeer's crew tried to board Wasp; but the American crew repulsed them on each occasion. In the end, Wasp's own ship's company boarded Reindeer and carried the day. Wasp suffered six hits in her hull, and some of her rigging was shot away, but she remained sailable. After taking prisoners on board, setting fire to Reindeer, and watching her explode, Wasp set course for L'Orient, France. En route, she took two more prizes, the 112-ton brig Regulator on Independence Day and the 151-ton schooner Jenny two days later. Not long thereafter, she entered L'Orient for repairs, provisions, and care for her wounded.

 

Wasp remained in L'Orient until she again put to sea on 27 August. On her third day underway, she captured the brig 'Lettice and, the following day, took another, Bon Accord. Early in the morning of 1 September, she encountered a convoy of 10 ships escorted by the 74-gun ship-of-the-line Armada. Wasp made for the convoy and singled out the brig Mary which she quickly took as a prize, carrying off her crew as prisoners and burning her. The American sloop then attempted to take another ship in the convoy, but Armada chased her off.

 

That evening, she spied another sail on the horizon and gave chase. By 2130, she had the brig under her lee bow and opened fire. The enemy returned fire until 2200 at which time her battery seemed to cease fire. When Wasp did the same and called for the stranger's surrender, the British ship answered with another cannonade. Wasp again opened fire on the ship, now known to have been the 18-gun, 477-ton brig Avon. Some broadsides later, Avon's guns fell silent once more, and Wasp repeated the call for surrender. Avon, at this point a battered hulk, had no choice but to comply.

 

However, just as Wasp began to lower the boat for the prize crew, the lookout sighted another enemy brig standing toward the two adversaries. Wasp's crew manned their battle stations immediately in hope of taking the newcomer as well. Just then, two more British ships appeared on the horizon; and Wasp was forced to give up the destruction of Avon and see to her own salvation. The lead British ship, however, failed to engage Wasp. Instead, she hauled in close to Wasp's stern and loosed a broadside into the American's rigging which damaged sails, sheets, and braces considerably and then came about to rendezvous with the other two ships following her and the sinking Avon. Although the Americans didn't know it at the time, Avon sank soon after Wasp left her.

 

The American warship continued her ravages of the British merchant marine. On 12 September, she encountered Three Brothers, a brig, and scuttled her. Two days later, she sank the brig Bacchus. On the 21st, an eight-gun brig, Atlanta, ran afoul of Wasp, and she, too, suffered the ignominy of capture. Deemed too valuable to destroy, Atlanta was placed under the command of Midshipman Geisinger and was sent home to the United States. She entered Savannah, Ga., safely on 4 November. From the time Wasp and Atlanta parted company, nothing was heard from the former. She was last seen by a Swedish merchantman bound from Rio de Janeiro to Falmouth, England, about three weeks after the Atlanta capture and was said to be headed for the Caribbean. Wasp apparently sank in a storm.