The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The War at Sea

Frigate Engagements

HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake entering Halifax harbour, 1813

Caption: HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake entering Halifax harbour, 1813

The War of 1812 took place not only on land and within the Great Lakes, but on the sea as well. Unlike its army, the modest American navy had excellent officers and extremely well trained sailors. At the beginning of the hostilities, the Royal Navy was defeated on several occasions in single combat between frigates, to the great surprise of the British. They recovered, however, and on June 1, 1813, the frigate HMS Shannon captured the American frigate USS Chesapeake. The honour of the Royal Navy had been upheld.

These battles between frigates - which the Americans to this day describe as great naval battles - were nothing more than single engagements with no real effect on the outcome of the war. The security of the Maritime colonies and the Gulf of St. Lawrence was never really compromised, because the Americans did not have vessels that could take on the British fleet in the North Atlantic anchored at Halifax, with secondary bases at St. John's, Newfoundland, and the Bermuda islands.

Additional Images

Royal Navy officers and midshipmen 1787-1812