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Age of Sail 

Action between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere

Action between American frigate Constitution and HMS Guerriere, 19 August 1812. Painting by Michel Felice Corne, depicting the two frigates firing on each other as Guerriere's mizzen mast goes over the side (K-26254).

On 27 March 1794, President George Washington signed the Naval Armament Act of 1794. The act called for the construction of six frigates, commissioning of officers, and raising of crews. It specified ship manning levels, pay, and rations as well. After the American Revolution, the Continental Navy was slowly disbursed with the last frigate, Alliance, sold in Philadelphia on 3 June 1785. During the War of 1812, brigs acquired distinction in small fleet engagements on the Great Lakes and as merchant raiders in the Atlantic. As brigs required a large crew, schooners were often used because they handled better in coastal winds and required a smaller crew. Sloops were usually smaller, three-masted vessels commanded by a master commandant.


Suggested Reading

Ships of the Age of Sail

The U.S. frigate President Captured British schooner HMS Highflyer, September 1813

On 9 September 1813, United States frigate President, commanded by Commodore John Rodgers, was on its way home after a cruise when south of Nantucket was British schooner HMS Highflyer, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant William Hutchinson. When passing the British schooner, Rodgers sent a lieutenant, dressed in a British uniform, on board it. The lieutenant successfully commandeered a book of British signals and where different British ships were on the American coast (USN 903314).

Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813. Colored lithograph by M. Dubourg (NH 65811-KN).

USS Somers (1842-1846)

Lithograph, published circa 1843, depicting USS Somers under sail, bound home from the African coast, 1 December 1842, after the hanging of three alleged mutineers. The executed mutineers were Midshipman Philip Spencer, Boatswain's Mate Samuel Cromwell, and Seaman Elisha Small (NH 51922).

USS Saratoga under full sail off Plymouth, England, summer 1897

USS Saratoga under full sail off Plymouth, England, summer 1897 (NHF-028).

Schooner Porpoise and Flying Fish in Heavy Seas

Schooners Porpoise and Flying Fish in heavy seas. Painting by Alfred T. Agate (98-089-FZ).

Published: Tue Feb 20 10:15:32 EST 2024