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USS WASP (1814)

Wasp was one of three sloops-of-war ordered by Secretary of the Navy, William Jones, in June of 1813.  Wasp and two others-Peacock, and Frolic were all put to sea in June of 1814.  The Frolic was captured straight off by two British ships, but the Peacock and Wasp went off to raise havoc with British shipping, capturing or burning between them 34 ships, 16 for the Wasp.  At the same time the Wasp engaged and defeated two British brigs, the HMS Reindeer and the HMS Avon in June and September 1814.  

117' in length, Wasp was a fast moving sloop-of-war.  She carried 173 officers and enlisted men.  That crew was made up of almost entirely New Englanders of averaging only 23 years of age.  Many of them had not previously been to sea, and it would take a skilled and talented man to lead this enthusiasm and ambition crew.

Wasp's first and only commander was thirty-three year old, Irish born, Master Commandant Johnston Blakeley who had already earned his place in naval history, commanding the USS Enterprise in the splendid victory over the HMS Boxer.

First raiding voyage in the English Channel:

Wasp captured her first vessel, the 207-ton barque Neptune, on 2 June 1814, embarked her crew as prisoners, and burned the prize at sea. On 13 June 1814, she took and burned William, a 91-ton brig.  On 18 June 1814, Wasp captured and scuttled the 131-ton armed brig Pallas. Her fourth victim, 171-ton galiot Henrietta, which she took on 23 June 1814, was given to the prisoners Wasp had thus far taken.  On 26 June 1814, Wasp captured and scuttled her largest ship so far--the 325-ton ship Orange Boven.

When Johnston Blakeley took a risk to hunt farther up the Channel than had been intended, Wasp came upon formidable opponent some 225 miles west of Plymouth, England on 28 June 1814.  It was the 18-gun HMS Reindeer.   After two hours of engaging in a cat-and-mouse standoff and a bit of a chase between the two ships, it was the Reindeer that fired the first 12 pound cannonade.  The USS Wasp only returned fire, in succession, with all the guns of his broadside.  The Reindeer could not bear that kind of thunderous blow and became somehow disabled and run aboard of the Wasp.  With Reindeer's port bow against the Wasp’s quarter, the Wasp's 32-pounder carronades started to crumble her opponent. 

On deck, masts and spars, American marines and riflemen with the remarkable marksmanship were in action.  The captain of the Reindeer was among the wounded but refused to back down and a second bullet went through his thigh and brought him to his knees.  Bleeding profusely, and shouted to his men: "Follow me, my boys, we must board.”  But two balls from the Wasp’s maintop instantly passed through his skull.  Commander Blakeley would later write: “The Reindeer was literally cut to pieces in a line with her ports.”  During the brief 19-minute fight.  Wasp suffered six hits in her hull, and some of her rigging was shot away, but she remained sailable. The USS Wasp lost five and twenty-one were wounded while 25 men of Reindeer were killed and 42 wounded.

After taking prisoners on board, setting fire to Reindeer, and watching her explode, Wasp set course for L'Orient, France to care for her wounded men.  En route, she took two more prizes, the 112-ton brig Regulator on 4 July 1814 and the 151-ton schooner Jenny on 6 July 1814.  


Second raiding voyage:

Wasp remained in L'Orient until she again put to sea on 27 August 1814.  On 30 August 1814, she captured the brig Lettice and, on 31 August 1814, took another, Bon Accord.  Early in the morning of 1 September 1814, she encountered a convoy of 10 ships escorted by the 74-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Armada.  Wasp bravely singled out the brig Mary, which she quickly took as a prize, carrying off Mary's crew as prisoners and burning her.  The American sloop then attempted to take another ship in the convoy, but the Armada chased her off.

That evening, she spied another sail on the horizon and gave chase.  By 21:30, she had the brig under her lee bow and opened fire.  The enemy returned fire until 22:00 at which time her battery seemed to cease fire. When Wasp did the same and called for the stranger's surrender, the British ship answered with another cannonade.  Wasp again opened fire on the ship, now known to have been the 18-gun, 391-ton brig HMS Avon.  Some broadsides later, Avon's guns fell silent once more, and Wasp repeated the call for surrender. Avon, at this point a battered hulk, had no choice but to comply.

However, just as Wasp began to lower the boat for the prize crew, the lookout sighted another enemy brig standing toward the two adversaries. Wasp's crew manned their battle stations immediately in hope of taking the newcomer as well.  Just then, two more British ships appeared on the horizon and Wasp was forced to give up the destruction of Avon and see to her own salvation.  The lead British ship, however, failed to engage Wasp; instead, she hauled in close to Wasp's stern and loosed a broadside into the American's rigging which damaged sails, sheets, and braces considerably and then came about to rendezvous with the other two ships following her and the sinking Avon.  Although the Americans didn't know it at the time, Avon sank soon after Wasp left her.  Avon had suffered 10 killed and 32 wounded.  Avon's primary rescuer was her sister ship, Castilian.

The USS Wasp continued her ravages of the British merchant marine.  On 12 September 1814, she encountered Three Brothers, a brig, and scuttled her.  On 14 September 1814, she sank the brig Bacchus. On 21 September 1814, an eight-gun brig Atalanta, ran afoul of Wasp, and she, too, suffered the ignominy of capture. Deeming Atalanta too valuable to destroy, Blakeley placed her under the command of Midshipman David Geisinger and sent her to the United States.  She entered Savannah, Georgia safely on 4 November 1814.

After Wasp and Atalanta parted company, nothing more was heard from Wasp.  She was last seen by a Swedish merchantman bound from Rio de Janeiro to Falmouth, England, about three weeks after the Atalanta capture and was said to be headed for the Caribbean. Wasp probably foundered in a storm.



 

This 33" long X 27" tall  x 11" wide model of the USS WASP features:

-
Superior hollow hull construction technique
- Billowing sails, a ModelShipMaster's exclusive feature
-
95% of parts are wooden or metal
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Copper-plated bottom, with individual copper pieces
- Blackened metal cannons and wooden carriages
- The figurehead was a special request.  The actual Wasp did not have it.

This is a special commissioned model.  If you'd like to have a similar one built for you, please click on the "COMMISSIONING" button on the left column.  Thank you.

 

"The Wasp arrived in good order, safe and sound.  The model is one of your best productions with detail as authentic as you can get. It now has a place our honor in my den. It just so happens that I have a copy of the actual ships plans from the National Archives and the model is remarkably accurate. I'm grateful for such a great job. I couldn't be more pleased.

Best regards
Michael T.
Rio Rico, AZ"