The Naval history of Great Britain:
from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV
William James London 1824.
On the 27th August the Wasp, thoroughly refitted and manned, sailed from Lorient to resume her cruise, and on the 1st September, at seven in the evening, latitude 30º north, longitude 11º west, going free on the starboard tack, with the wind at south-east, fell in with the British 18-gun brig-sloop Avon, (sixteen 32-pound carronades and two long sixes,) Captain the Honourable James Arbuthnot, nearly ahead, steering about south-west.
At thirty-four minutes past seven the Avon made night-signals to the Wasp; which the latter, at eight, answered with a blue-light on the forecastle. At thirty-eight minutes past eight the Avon fired a shot from her stern chase gun, and, still running on to the south-west, fired a second shot from her starboard or lee side. At twenty minutes past nine the Wasp, being then on the weather quarter of the Avon, was hailed by the latter, "What ship is that?" and answered by the question, "What brig is that?" The Avon replied with her name, but it was not heard upon the Wasp: the former again asked "What ship is that?" and was told to heave-to and she would be informed. the question was repeated, and answered to the same effect. An American officer then went forward on the Wasp's forecastle, and ordered the Avon to heave-to; but the latter declined to do so, and at twenty-five minutes past nine set her larboard fore-topmast studding-sail.
At twenty-six minutes past nine the Wasp fired her 12-pound carronade, when the Avon commenced the action by a discharge from her larboard guns.
The Wasp then kept away, and running under the brig's lee, at twenty-nine minutes past nine opened her broadside. Almost the first fire from the American ship, consisted of star and bar shot, cut away, along with parts of her rigging, the slings of the brig's gaff; and, on the immediate fall of the latter, the boom-mainsail covered the quarter-deck guns on the side engaged, the only ones that would at this time bear. Shortly afterwards the brig's main mast fell by the board. Thus rendered completely unmanageable, the Avon lost all advantage to derived from manoeuvring, and, what with the wreck lying upon some of her guns, and the upsetting of others from the usual defects in their fastening, could make little of no return to the animated fire maintained by the Wasp; who, on this occasion, (recollecting what she had lately suffered by allowing the British an opportunity to board,) fought much more warily than in her action with the Reindeer.
At twelve minutes past ten, according to Captain Blakeley's minutes, but at a time much nearer eleven, as will presently be proved, the Wasp hailed the Avon, to know if she had surrendered, and received an answer in the affirmative.
When "on the eve of taking possession" the Wasp, discovered a sail close on board of her." This sail was the British 18-gun brig-sloop Castilian, (same force as Avon,) Captain David Braimer. It was exactly at eleven o'clock, that the Castilian came near enough to ascertain that one vessel was a dismasted brig, (supposed to be the Avon,) and the other a ship.
The Castilian immediately chased the Wasp, then without either light of ensign. After having hailed several times without effect, the Castilian, at forty minutes past eleven, fired her lee guns into, or rather, as it proved, over the weather quarter of the Wasp; who, although this second opponent had only cut away her lower main cross-trees and damaged rigging, did not return a shot, but made all sail before the wind.
Repeated signals of distress having by this time been made by the Avon, the Castilian tacked and stood towards her; and on closing, at fifty-five minutes past eleven, Captain Braimer was informed by Captain Arbuthnot, that the Avon was sinking fast.
The Castilian immediately hoisted out her boats to save the people; and at one o'clock on the morning of the 2nd, just as the last boat pushed off from the Avon, the brig went down: an irrefutable proof, that she had not surrendered until every hope of success or escape had vanished.
Hoisting in her boats, the Castilian filled and made sail to the north-east, in search of the Wasp; but the latter had already run out of sight. As a reason for this, Captain Blakeley has alleged, that he discovered two other vessels, beside the Castilian, in chase of him.
Out of her 104 men and thirteen boys, the Avon lost he first lieutenant and nine seamen and marines killed and mortally wounded, her commander, second lieutenant, one midshipman, and twenty-nine seamen and marines wounded severely and slightly.
According to Captain Blakeley, the Wasp received only four round shots in her hull, and, out of her acknowledged complement of 173 men, had but two killed and one wounded. The gallantry of the Avon's officers and crew cannot, for a moment, be questioned; but the gunnery of the latter appears to have been not one whit better than, to the discredit of the British navy, had frequently before been displayed in combats of this kind. Nor, form the specimen given by the Castilian, is it likely that she would have performed any better.
The Wasp, unfortunately for her brave officers and crew, never reached a port in the United States; she foundered, as is supposed, between the 15th (when she was off Madeira) and the end of September.
To the merit justly due to the captain of the Wasp, for his conduct in his two successful actions, America must be divided in her claim; as Captain Blakeley was a native of Dublin, and, along with some English and Scotch, did not, it may be certain, neglect to have in his crew a great many Irish, The construction of so fine a ship as the Wasp, and the equipment of her as an effective man-of-war, is part of the merit, and no small part either, which belongs exclusively to the United States.