AMERICAN WAR OF 1812 – CHESAPEAKE AND SHANNON Printed document with manuscript insertions, signed by Captain Broke of the Shannon and others, 30 June 1813

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Lot 5
AMERICAN WAR OF 1812 – CHESAPEAKE AND SHANNON
Printed document with manuscript insertions, signed by Captain Broke of the Shannon and others, certifying to the Directors of the Chest at Greenwich that on 1 June 1813 during the "Engagement with the United States frigate Chesapeake" Alexander McClennan, private marine, first class, was wounded on board His Majesty's "Ship Shannon" by receiving "a severe blow of the head from a splinter or wad producing concussion of the brain, squinting of the Left eye And slight deformity of face"; [Halifax], 30 June 1813

Sold for £ 4,812 (US$ 5,908) inc. premium
AMERICAN WAR OF 1812 – CHESAPEAKE AND SHANNON
Printed document with manuscript insertions, signed by Captain Broke of the Shannon and others, certifying to the Directors of the Chest at Greenwich that on 1 June 1813 during the "Engagement with the United States frigate Chesapeake" Alexander McClennan, private marine, first class, was wounded on board His Majesty's "Ship Shannon" by receiving "a severe blow of the head from a splinter or wad producing concussion of the brain, squinting of the Left eye And slight deformity of face"; signed by Philip Bowes Vere Broke as Captain ("PBV Broke"), Provo William Parry Wallis as Lieutenant ("Provo Wm Py Wallis"), Henry Gladwell Etough as Sailing Master ("HG Etough") and Alexander Jack as Surgeon ("Alex.r Jack"), also giving details of McClennan's birthplace, age and appearance, 1 page, edges neatly trimmed, guard verso, small 4to (c.130 x 140mm.), [Halifax], 30 June 1813

Footnotes

  • 'HIS MAJESTY'S SHIP SHANNON... ENGAGEMENT WITH THE UNITED STATES FRIGATE CHESAPEAKE'; a document signed by 'the worthy victor of the finest single ship action in the history of naval warfare under sail' (Andrew Lambert, ODNB).

    The Chesapeake was one of the six original US heavy frigates which spectacularly out-performed their British equivalents during the War of 1812. In Captain Broke's Shannon, however, she famously met her match. While her crew had been hastily assembled during her stay in Boston Harbour, Broke's had been trained to a high degree of readiness: 'At great pecuniary loss to himself and the ship's company, he carried out a resolution to make no prizes which would entail sending away prize crews, and so weakening his force, and most of the ships captured were therefore burnt. He took extraordinary pains to train his men, especially in gunnery. While the custom then was never to cast the guns loose except for action, Broke introduced systematic training, and every day in the week, except Saturday, the men, either by watches or all together, were exercised at quarters and in firing at a target, so that they attained an unprecedented proficiency' (Lambert): 'a more destructive vessel of her force had probably never existed in the history of naval warfare' (Peter Padfield, Broke and the Shannon, 1968, p.151).

    Captain Lawrence of the Chesapeake, by contrast, had experience only of atrocious British gunnery, which had earlier earned him an easy victory over the Peacock. The Boston crowds treated the duel between the two ships as a public spectacle with many pleasure boats sailing out to watch and celebrate. The battle lasted about fifteen minutes, ending with Broke leading a boarding party onto the Chesapeake. Casualties on both sides were terrible, with Broke being seriously wounded, and Lawrence mortally so, famously exclaiming as he was carried below 'Don't give up the ship'.

    Broke's three fellow signatories are all of note. Second Lieutenant Provo Wallis had taken temporary command of the Shannon after Broke had been wounded and the first Lieutenant killed; and it was he who had the honour of towing the Chesapeake into Halifax harbour. (Wallis rose to become an admiral of the fleet and because he had held command during the French Wars, was allowed to retain his place on the active service list. This he did until he died, an admiral of the fleet, a couple of months before his hundred and first birthday in 1892.) Broke acknowledged Etough's services in his despatch to the Admiralty after the battle: 'To Mr. Etough, the acting Master, I am much indebted for the steadiness with which he conned the ship into action' (John Marshall, Royal Naval Biography, 1823, Philip Broke, p.377). The Surgeon, Alexander Jack, treated Broke's wound; his medical and surgical journal for the Shannon, begun the day our certificate was issued, is at the National Archives: Mclennan is listed in this later record as having been put on the sick list on 19 August and discharged the following day to Halifax Hospital (ADM 101/120/3A, fol.6-7). Jack was later to serve as surgeon superintendent on the convict ship Caledonia bound for Van Diemans Land.

    The Chatham Chest had been established in 1590 and comprised an actual chest into which seamen made contributions from their pay and from which pensions were paid. By 1814 its charitable functions had been merged with those of Greenwich Hospital and the chest withdrawn from use: it is now on display at the National Maritime Museum.
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