By far, most of Maine’s privateering activity during the War of 1812 came from its southern coast. We already know about Dash, the ghost ship out of Casco Bay. But another was Dart, out of the Kennebec area. Capt. Moody Thurlow sailed the 12-ton boat with one swivel gun. It could quickly lower its mast and be rowed, thus escaping up small streams. Dart was lost the first year of the war in 1812.

Another Dart was a 44-ton schooner of four guns and 46 men. It was out of Portland, had 32 investors and sailed under Capt. John Curtis and 1st Lt. William Thomas. Dart took six prizes before it, too, was lost at sea in the fall of 1812.

In August 1812, Saco sent out 43-ton sloop (maybe schooner) Pythagoras under Capt. Cyrus Libby. It had three guns and 35 men but took no prizes and was captured that same month in a 20-minute action by the 10-gun Bream off Shelburne.

Portland privateer Morning Star was a 32-ton schooner of one cannon, four swivel guns and 50 men under co-owner Capt. Andrew Tucker. It sailed July 12, 1812, captured no prizes, and was burned that August. Also destroyed that month was 16-ton schooner Olive under Capt. George Titcomb. It had two guns and 12 crew. It, too, captured nothing before being burned Aug. 3, 1812.

In July 1812, seven Portland investors sent out 26-ton schooner Hare under Capt. James Brooks. It had one gun and 26 men but returned empty-handed. The 190-ton brig Rapid had one original owner, William Jewett. Under Capt. William Crabtree and 1st Lt. Joshua Knight, it had 16 guns and 100 men when it sailed Aug. 1, 1812. Rapid captured three prizes and became talk of the town. Jewett soon found 29 local investors for Rapid’s second voyage. They included Crabtree, four Jewett family members, and parties from Saco and Boston. Its second voyage under Capt. Joseph Weeks and 1st Lt. William Cammett was not as successful. The privateer departed September 1812 and was captured a month later.

 

Filled with privateers ready to venture forth, Portland’s harbor would have looked similar to this rendition from a painting of Crowninshield’s Wharf at Salem Harbor in 1812. (from Edgar Stanton Maclay, “A History of American Privateers” 1899)

 

Yankee was a 45-ton sloop of four guns, a dozen investors and 45 men, under Capt. James Brooks and 1st Lt. Isaac Gammon. It sailed Sept. 3, 1812, but recorded no prizes.

The 11-ton schooner Partridge under Capt. Barnabas Sawyer was owned by Samuel Quincy. It had four cannon, three swivel guns and 11 crew when it sailed October 1812. No prizes taken. The 28-ton schooner Parrot sailed December 1812 under Capt. John Webster with two guns and 20 crew, but it, too, returned empty handed.

At least three Portland privateers were named Mary. One, as of July 1812, was a 22-ton, two-gun schooner, with 15 men, owned by Capt. Joseph Sturdivant. No prizes taken. Another in August 1813 was a 16-ton, one gun, 15-man crew under Capt. John Pritchard. Again, nothing captured. In September 1813, there was a 17-ton boat of one gun and 15 men under owner Capt. George Titcomb. Once again, no prizes taken.

In July 1812, Portland sent out 26-ton schooner Mars under Capt. James Brooks and 1st Lt. Francis Colby. It had one gun and 20 men but was burned that August. Another Mars went out from Portland in December 1814 under Capt. Cyrus Libby and 1st Lt. Benjamin Rich. It was a 140-ton schooner of five guns and 45 men. No prizes were taken; it was lost at sea in 1815.

The 18-ton schooner Rover under Capt. James Sawyer carried eight guns and 25 men when it sailed November 1812. No prizes. There was also 252-ton brig Leo, owned by Asa Clap and Matthew Cobb. Under Capt. Cyrus Libby and 1st Lt. Samuel Libby, Leo sailed Oct. 31, 1812. On its first voyage, it carried 14 guns and 110 men and caught four prizes. On its second voyage in April 1813, also under Libby, Leo carried six guns and 76 men. It was captured Dec. 2, 1814.

In April 1813, 3-ton boat Razor, owned by Capt. Joseph Sturdivant of North Yarmouth, sailed from Portland with one gun and six crew. No prizes taken. Same month, 207-ton schooner Reaper under Ephraim Sturdivant sailed with six guns and 75 men. It, too, was unsuccessful. The 144-ton schooner Ilsley had six guns and 75 men when it sailed under Capt. Ephraim Studivant and 1st Lt. Andrew Blanchard in April 1813. No prizes taken. Anson sailed May 1813 but listed its homeport as Boston; its owner was Oliver Everett. Under Capt. Theophilus Stover and 1st Lt. Robert Stover, the 83-ton schooner had four guns and a 20-man crew but recorded no prizes.

 

Captured ships were often heavily damaged but if possible were brought into port by privateer crews, here the U.S. privateer Chasseaur brings in the captured British cruiser St. Lawrence. (from Edgar Stanton Maclay, “A History of American Privateers” 1899)

In July 1813, Portland sent out 20-ton schooner Pilot under co-owner Capt. Joseph Sturdivant. It had two guns and eight men but captured nothing. The 19-ton sloop Revenge under owner Capt. Theophilus Stover sailed the following month with seven men and no guns. On its second voyage in September, Capt. Robert Stover added two swivel guns but still the vessel returned empty-handed.

The 23-ton schooner Superb, under owner Capt. William Patterson, sailed in September 1813 with one gun and six men crew but took no prizes. The 9-ton boat Lively under Capt. Henry Cumpston and 1st Lt. Franklin Charles had a six-man crew and one gun when it sailed in October 1813. It, too, returned empty. Portland sent out 266-ton brig Leopard under Capt. Phineas Drinkwater and 1st Lt. Benjamin Rich. It had five guns and a 22-man crew when it sailed in 1813. No prizes were taken; it was captured in November that same year.

Washington was commanded by two of its co-owners Capt. William Malcomb and 1st Lt. Henry Cumpston. There were seven other investors. It was a 24-ton schooner of one gun and 15 men when it sailed Oct. 21, 1813, but was captured the following June after having taken two prizes.

The 39-ton schooner Fly had one cannon and four swivel guns with 25 men. Under co-owner Capt. Henry Dekoven with 1st Lt. William Sebor, it sailed in December 1813 and captured two ships. It went out twice more but took no prizes. In December 1813, Portland sent out 4-ton boat Lark under Capt. Alex Baker with a crew of four and no guns. No prizes recorded.

The 367-ton ship Hyder Ali carried 16 guns and 50 men. Under Capt. Israel Thorndyke and 1st Lt. Henry Oxnard, it sailed in January 1814 and was captured in June that year after having taken two prizes. The 13-ton boat Dolphin had no guns and 20 men. Under owner Capt. Pelaliah Moore and 1st Lt. Daniel Noonan, it sailed in January 1814. No other information is recorded.

The 143-ton Armistice had a 3-month turbulent history. The schooner had three guns and 15 men under Capt. John R. Stanhope and 1st Lt. Anthony Post. No prizes were taken; it was captured Dec. 7, 1814. Retaken by U.S. privateers the following month, it was then re-captured by the British a month later.

 

British political cartoon during the War of 1812, unhappy with Americans’ use of privateers to break the British blockade. (Library of Congress)

 

Portland sent out 44-ton schooner Otho under Capt. William Thomas in October 1814. No record of guns; it did have 40 men but did not take any prizes. The 111-ton schooner Cumberland under Capt. E. Killeran and 1st Lt. William Gardner was owned by Robert Isley. It sailed Nov. 25, 1814, with three guns and 40 men. Gardner commanded its second voyage in February 1815, but neither attempt yielded anything. It was at sea when peace was ratified.

The 222-ton brig Clio had two guns and 20 men under Capt. Samuel McClelland and 1st Lt. William Garland. It sailed in December 1814 but captured no prizes. John Lawton owned Lucy and put it into privateering Dec. 22, 1814. It was a 25-ton schooner with four guns and 26 men under Capt. J. Babson. Records simply state Lucy was captured. The 309-ton brig Grand Turk first operated out of Salem before switching to Portland for its December 1814 cruise under Capt. Nathan Greene and 1st Lt. John D. Wilson. By then it had 15 guns and 110 men, but recorded no prizes taken.

Portland’s Union was owned and captained by Gamaliel H. Ward with 1st Lt. Jacob Barnes. The 35-ton schooner with no guns and a 20-man crew sailed Jan. 11, 1815, but took no prizes. The 2-ton schooner Favorite had two guns and a dozen crew. Under Capt. John Chatty and 1st Lt. Benjamin Sheehan, it sailed in September 1815 and captured one prize.

Kennebunkport sent out Gleaner Packet under Capt. Nathaniel Lord. Its owners were Nathaniel and Tobias Lord and six other Kennebunkport men. Gleaner Packet was a 57-ton sloop that carried six guns and 40 crew. Its first voyage captured two prizes. Gleaner Packet then added two more cannon. It was captured July 23, 1812, by 18-gun Colibri off Cape Sable and became the Nova Scotian provincial vessel Gleaner.

Co-owner Tobias Lord tried again with 180-ton brig Macdonough from Kennebunkport under Capt. Joseph Weeks and 1st Lt. Moses Burbank. Five guns and 60 men, it sailed October 1814. No prizes were taken; it was captured a month later. Kennebunkport was apparently not done with privateering. The same men involved with Gleaner next used 207-ton brig Ludlow for privateering under Capt. Joseph Mudge and 1st Lt. William Homan. It had a crew of 50 and eight guns. No prizes were taken, and Ludlow was listed missing at the close of the war.

Charles Lagerbom teaches AP U.S. History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport.  He is author of “Whaling in Maine” and “Maine to Cape Horn,” available through Historypress.com.

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