HMS Shannon (1806)

W Elmes, The Brilliant Achievement of the Shannon ... in Boarding and Capturing the United States Frigate Chesapeake off Boston, June 1st 1813 in Fifteen Minutes (1813).jpg
"The Brilliant Achievement of the Shannon... in boarding and capturing the United States Frigate Chesapeake off Boston, 1 June 1813 in fifteen minutes" by W. Elmes. Shannon is to the left.
United Kingdom
Ordered:24 October 1803
Builder:Brindley, Frindsbury
Laid down:August 1804
Launched:5 May 1806
Completed:3 August 1806 at Chatham Dockyard
Out of service:Receiving ship in 1831
Renamed:St Lawrence in 1844
Honours and
Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Shannon wh. Chesapeake"
Fate:Breaking up completed by 12 November 1859
General characteristics
Class and type:Leda-class frigate
Tons burthen:1,0656294 (bm)
  • 150 ft 2 in (45.8 m) (gundeck)
  • 125 ft 6 12 in (38.3 m) (keel)
Beam:39 ft 11 38 in (12.2 m)
Depth of hold:12 ft 11 in (3.9 m)
Sail plan:Full-rigged ship
  • Upper deck: 28 × 18-pounder guns
  • QD: 8 × 9-pounder guns + 14 × 32-pounder carronades
  • Fc: 2 × 9-pounder guns + 2 × 32-pounder carronades

HMS Shannon was a 38-gun Leda-class frigate of the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1806 and served in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. She won a noteworthy naval victory on 1 June 1813, during the latter conflict, when she captured the United States Navy frigate USS Chesapeake in a singularly bloody battle.


Construction and commissioning

Josiah and Thomas Brindley built Shannon at Frindsbury in Kent and launched her on 5 May 1806. She spent her first seven years under the command of Captain Philip Broke, who was transferred from Druid and took command of Shannon in June that year.

Home waters

Shannon was quickly put into service. She formed part of a squadron under Commodore Owen that was patrolling off the French port of Boulogne. On 8 October she took part in the bombardment of the town using Congreve rockets.

Her next task was sailing in 1807 with Meleager to protect the whale fishery off Greenland. Despite encountering ice on 7 May 1807, they were able to push through, reaching the southern part of Spitsbergen on 17 June. There the two ships surveyed the Bay of Magdalena, at a latitude of 80°N. They eventually reached a latitude of 80° 6' N before the ice stopped them. They then turned westwards and reached the coast of Greenland on 23 July. The island of Shannon is named after the ship. Shannon spent the early autumn cruising from Shetland. She then left, returning to Yarmouth by the end of September, where she cruised off the Downs. She put into Spithead on 28 September to refit.

By the end of 1807, France had invaded Portugal, and Shannon joined Sir Samuel Hood's expedition against Madeira. The British took the island without firing a shot. Captain Broke then escorted the transports that had accompanied the fleet back to England, where they arrived on 7 February 1808. Shannon put into Plymouth before returning to patrolling in the Channel.

On 20 July Shannon was in company with Surinam and Eclair when they captured Comet.[1] Then on 21 August, Shannon was in company with Surinam and when they captured Espoir.[2]

In November 1808, Shannon took the French frigate Thétis in tow. Amethyst had shortly before captured Thétis, which later entered service as HMS Brune.

Shannon spent 1809 with the Channel Fleet and on 27 January captured the French 14-gun privateer cutter Pommereuil. Broke sent the prize into Plymouth.

On 1 June 1811, Shannon returned to Plymouth and was put into the dock where her hull was re-coppered. After this was completed, she sailed for Portsmouth to complete her refitting and resupplying in preparation for being assigned to foreign service.

The American coast

Broke and Shannon were ordered to sail for North America as tensions between Britain and the United States escalated in the run-up to what would become the War of 1812. Shannon sailed from Portsmouth and arrived in Halifax on 24 September 1811 after a journey of 45 days.

On 5 July 1812 Broke took command of a squadron consisting of Shannon, Africa, Belvidera, Aeolus and later Guerriere. Vice-Admiral Herbert Sawyer then ordered him to carry out a blockade of American ports.

Broke's first success came on 16 July when he captured the 16-gun American brig Nautilus off Sandy Hook. Nautilus had been on a cruise from New York.

Later in the evening, the squadron spotted and gave chase to USS Constitution as she sailed from Chesapeake Bay to New York. The chase lasted some 65 hours, during which both pursued and pursuers had to tow and warp. Belvidera eventually managed to come within gunshot of Constitution on the afternoon of 17 July, but a lucky breeze blew up, and Constitution's clean bottom allowed her to make good her escape.

Shannon's next duty was to meet a convoy homebound from Jamaica. An American squadron under Commodore John Rodgers had sailed to intercept it. Shannon ensured the convoy safely passed the Great Banks, before she returned to the American coast. Shannon recaptured the brig Planter,[3] which the American privateer Atlas had captured on 3 August.

Shannon put into Halifax on 20 September to take on provisions. Sir John Warren arrived while she was in port, and took up the post of commander in chief of the North America and West Indies Station. He then despatched Shannon with the schooner Bream to rescue the crew and offload the money being carried by the frigate HMS Barbadoes, which had been wrecked on Sable Island.[4] While carrying out this mission, Shannon encountered and subsequently captured an enemy privateer schooner, Wily Reynard on 11 October, that she took back to Halifax with her.[5]

On 31 October, while Shannon was cruising with , , and Curlew, Broke captured the American privateer brig Thorn. Thorn was armed with eighteen long 9-pounder guns and had a crew of 140 men. She was three weeks out of Marblehead on her first cruise.[6] Sent to Halifax with a prize crew, Thorn was subsequently purchased and renamed as the Nova Scotia privateer brig Sir John Sherbrooke.[7]

Sir John Warren was at Bermuda during the winter of 1812, and left Broke in command of the Royal Navy squadrons operating on the coasts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England. In December Broke took the Shannon and escorted a homebound convoy halfway across the Atlantic, returning to North America by sailing round the Azores.

On 31 January 1813 Shannon recaptured the ship Hebe, which the American privateer Dolphin had captured six days earlier in a hard-fought action.[8]

In 1813, Captain Oliver arrived on the station aboard the 74-gun third rate Valiant, and took command from Captain Broke. Broke continued to deploy with his squadron until Shannon and Tenedos became separated from them in a gale. They decided to steer for Boston, reaching the port on 2 April. Having observed the activity in the port, they returned to their squadron and reported the presence of the American frigates Congress, President and Constitution. In their absence, Chesapeake had entered the harbour through the eastern channel.

Captain Capel aboard Hogue ordered Shannon and Tenedos to watch the port from close inshore, while the rest of the squadron cruised in the offing. On 16 May Shannon and Tenedos chased a large armed ship under American colours, and forced her to run aground near Cape Ann Town. Shannon anchored close to the grounded ship and fired a few shots to disperse a number of militiamen who were assembling. Lieutenant George Watt of Shannon then managed to bring the ship off the shore without loss. She was the French corvette-built privateer Invincible, of 16 guns, originally named Invincible Napoleon.[9]

On 25 March Shannon took on stores of water and provisions from Tenedos, which was then detached, with orders to rejoin the Shannon on 14 June.