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HMS Laura (1805): Wikis


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  • HMS Laura, captured by the French in 1812, became an American privateer, only to be recaptured by the British less than a year later?

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Career (United Kingdom)

HMS Laura

Owner: Royal Navy
Builder: Bermuda
Launched: 1805
Commissioned: 1806
Captured: 1812
Fate: Captured by France
Career (United States)


Acquired: 1812
Captured: 1813
Fate: Recaptured by Royal Navy
General characteristics

Class and type: Adonis-class schooner
Tons burthen: 110 93/94 (bm)
Complement: 35 men and boys
Armament: 10 18-pounder carronades

HMS Laura was an Adonis-class schooner of the Royal Navy, launched in 1805. She was built at Bermuda of the pencil cedar and was pierced to mount ten 18-pounder carronades, but was too small to carry conveniently that many guns. Her establishment consisted of 50 men and boys.

The Adonis-class schooners were a little larger and much better armed than the Ballahoo- and Cuckoo-class schooners that they followed. The Admiralty's intent was to improve survivability of these dispatch boats.

Laura served during the Napoleonic Wars before a French privateer captured her at the beginning of the War of 1812. She was briefly an American letter of marque before the British recaptured her in 1813. Despite having recaptured her, the British did not return Laura to service.



In March 1806 Laura was commissioned under Lieutenant Joseph Webb, for the Channel.[1]

In 1807 Lieutenant Robert Yetts took command and on 28 March he sailed Laura for the Leeward Islands. On 4 August 1807, Laura was in company with the schooner Ballahoo, of 4 guns, when they encountered the French privateer Rhone some 16 miles north of Tobago.[2] After a running fight of several hours, they captured the French brig after Rhone had suffered two dead and five wounded out of her crew of 26; the British had no casualties.[2] Rhone, under the command of Francis Goureu, was of 90 tons (bm), mounted six long 6-pounder guns, and was 10 days out from Martinique, having captured nothing.[1][2]

In 1809 Lieutenant Charles Newton Hunter took command in the Leeward Islands.[1] On 6 February 1810 Laura was present at the surrender of Guadeloupe, which earned her surviving officers and men the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "GUADALOUPE".[3]



In August 1812 Laura was escorting convoys but on 8 September she encountered the French privateer brig Diligent (or Diligente or Diligence) off the Delaware River. Laura had just captured three American prizes and was in the process of taking a fourth when Diligent arrived on the scene. Hunter recalled his boat and her men from the prize and sailed to engage, even though he knew from his third prize that Diligent outmanned and outgunned Laura.[4]

Laura's crew had been reduced to 41 men because of the need to man the prizes she had taken, and was short of officers, for the same reason. The need to guard 25 American prisoners further reduced her effective strength.[4] At the time of the engagement, Laura carried two short 9-pounders in addition to her ten 18-pounder carronades, while Diligent normally carried 16 French 24-pounder carronades and two long 12-pounder guns.[4] However, Diligent had stowed three of her cannon in the hold for stability in a recent gale. She also had a crew of 97 men rather than her usual 120.[4]

The two vessels exchanged fire for an hour, during which time both Hunter and the other remaining officer, Midshipman John Griffith, were wounded, and 13 others in Laura's crew of 41 were killed or wounded. Consequently, the crew put up little resistance when the French finally were able to board. Captain Grassin of Diligent carried his prize to Philadelphia.

When Hunter faced his court martial at Halifax the fact that Diligent had nine killed and 10 wounded showed that he had made as spirited a defence as was possible and he was acquitted of responsibility for her loss.[4] However, Seaman James Cooper, who had surrendered Laura while Hunter was having his wounds dressed, was condemned to death, his sentence being rmitted to seven years transportation.[5]

The month before her encounter with Laura, Diligent had captured the schooner Whiting, a sister ship to Ballahoo.


Laura became the American letter of marque Hebe, John Picarare (or Picarrere), master,[1] of two guns and 15 men.[Note 1] In April 1813, the frigates Stag and Unicorn recaptured her as she was sailing to Bordeaux or Nantes. However, the Admiralty did not take her back into service.[1]


  1. ^ Maclay (2008; p.310) says Hebe carried 12 guns.


  1. ^ a b c d e Winfield (2008), p.360).
  2. ^ a b c Naval Chronicle, vol. 18, p.514.[1]
  3. ^ Allen (1853), p.340.
  4. ^ a b c d e James (1837), pp.139-40.[2]
  5. ^ Gossett (1986), p.85.
  • Allen, Joseph (1853) Battles of the British navy. (London: H.G. Bohn), Vol. 2.
  • Gossett, William Patrick (1986) The lost ships of the Royal Navy, 1793-1900. (Mansell). ISBN 978-0720118162
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV.. 4. R. Bentley. 
  • Maclay, Edward Stanton (2008) Washington's wolfpack: the Navy before there was a Navy. (Tucson, AZ: Fireship Press). ISBN 9781934757406
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461. 


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