Age of Sail. "HMS Quebec vs. Surveillante", (ageofsail.wordpress.com, May 21, 2009.)
Ancestry.com. "Information Wanted on Rebecca Fabian b1758", (boards.ancestry.com, December 8, 2008.)
Blytmann, Tage W. "HMS Astrea: A Brief History of the 32 Gun British Frigate With an Account of Her Loss on Anegada Reefs in the Virgin Islands on May 23rd, 1808...", (revised & updated 1996, 2000.)
Hillhouse, Helen T. and Laurens Petigru. "The Hillhouse Family: The South Carolina Branch", (The Hillhouse Family Book, 1959.)
Jeremiah, Josephine. personal correspondence to Bristol and Somerset@RootsWeb.com, (Bristol and Somerset - L Archives, August 12, 2008.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina During the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
The Saisbury & Winchester Journal. "Some Selected Reports from the Salisbury & Winchester Journal - Monday, August 8, 1788", (Ancestry.com, Newspaper Transcripts, 18Aug1788.)
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia - entry for: "HMS Diomede (1781)", (last modified on October 11, 2015.)
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia - entry for: "HMS Quebec (1781)", (last modified on October 17, 2015.)
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia - entry for: "HMS Astraea (1781)", (last modified on April 5, 2016.)
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia - entry for "Hilhouse", (last modified on February 14, 2015.)
This overall blog has been concerned with the frigate South Carolina and her numerous crew members and marines that served on board of her during either the first, maiden voyage of the frigate from the Texel, Holland to Philadelphia, PA or the second, brief cruise of the frigate when she was captured just off the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782. The posts have, for the most part, focused on individuals or groups of men who served on board the frigate South Carolina. But, as there is always another side to any story, the frigate South Carolina also has another point of view to her story. That point of view is from an enemy perspective and addresses the three Royal Navy frigates that were on station when the frigate South Carolina emerged from the Delaware River and headed for the open Atlantic Ocean on December 20, 1782. These ships-of-war were also manned and serviced by flesh-and-blood, living men and each vessel probably had stories quite similar to those of the frigate South Carolina. These similar stories coincided to a degree except that the specific mission of the three Royal Navy frigates was to capture or destroy the patriot frigate, thus removing her as a potential threat to British shipping along that section of the North Atlantic coastline of America. It is the intent of the writer of this blog to present here a brief history of each of these British Royal Navy frigates and what ultimately became of them in later years. Their stories deserve to be told also and will provide for a more complete picture of the story of the frigate South Carolina.
According to the Wikipedia article, entry for "HMS Diomede (1781)", the HMS Diomede was ordered by the British Admiralty on August 14, 1779. The builder was James Martin Hillhouse of Bristol, England. The keel was laid down in March 1780 and actually launched on October 18, 1781. Ships were usually launched before they were actually completed and the HMS Diomede was no different. She was actually completed on March 14, 1782, almost six months after her launching. According to the Wikipedia article, entry for "HMS Diomede (1781)", the HMS Diomede was built and launched as a 44-gun, fifth rate ship-of-the-line and "...she belonged to the Roebuck class of vessels specially built during the American Revolutionary War for service in the shallow American coastal waters. As a two-decker, she had two complete batteries of guns, one on the upper deck and the other on the lower deck.".
(Note: There exists quite a bit of information on James Martin Hillhouse and his family. According to the Hillhouse & Petigru article, "The Hillhouse Family: The South Carolina Branch", page 2:
"The father of James Martin had built a fortune in privateering ventures and had taken a very active interest in city affairs. In 1792 the father was Warden of the Merchant Venturer's Society, and at one time was a city councilor and in 1755-1756 the Sheriff of Bristol. James Martin's grandfather had come to Bristol from Northern Ireland. The grandfather was admitted into the liberties of the city in 1704 "...for he married Hester, daughter of John Hollister, a linen draper of the City and had taken the Oath of Obedience and paid his four shillings and sixpence...". He made his way up in the world, and as generally happened with the richer men of the city, turned his attention to ship owning, joining the famous Merchant Venturer's Society, the guild which had already controlled Bristol shipping for well over a century. He became head of the Guild in 1730 when he was made Master. When he died in 1754, he left a fortune of 30,000 [pounds sterling].".
Addressing the shipbuilding aspects of the family, according to the Wikipedia article, entry for "Hilhouse", page 1:
"....Hilhouse (also spelled Hillhouse) was a shipbuilder in Bristol, England who built merchantmen and men-of-war during the 18th and 19th centuries. The company subsequently became Charles Hill & Sons in 1845. The company and its successor Charles Hill & Sons, were the most important shipbuilders in Bristol, and taking the concern together built over 560 ships over their 200 years of existence.".
Also on page 1, this article addresses the origins of the shipbuilding concern and goes on to state that:
"The shipbuilding concern Hilhouse and Company was first established in 1772 by James Martin Hilhouse, after inheriting a fortune from his father, James Hilhouse, a Bristol Sheriff and councillor who ran a successful privateering venture. The company acquired the large Hotwells drydock, built by the engineer William Champion in 1765 on the north side of the River Avon, to build merchantmen and undertake repair work. From 1778, Hilhouse secured Admiralty contracts for warships following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War...".
James Martin Hilhouse (or Hillhouse) operated a total of five shipyards along the banks of the River Avon between 1772 and 1848. Only two of these were actually in operation during the period of the American Revolution - Red Clifts Yard (1780-1786) and Champion's Dock/Hotwells Dockyard (1772-1823). It is almost certain that the HMS Diomede was constructed at the later of the two shipyards. According to Jeremiah's letter, "....James Martin Hillhouse (sic), Shipbuilder, was at Hotwell-road.
According to Harrison's article, "James Martin Hillhouse", page 1, James Martin Hillhouse built fourteen men-of-war between 1778 and 1810. The HMS Diomede is cited as being launched on October 18, 1781 and being "...a 44-gun Ship at Bristol... All but one of these men-of-war were built and launched between 1778 and 1786, the HMS Diomede being the seventh one launched.)
According to the Wikipedia article, "HMS Diomede (1781)", the HMS Diomede had an overall length of 140 feet with a total keel length of 115 feet, 6 inches. She carried a ship's complement of 300 crew members and marines. Her armament consisted of twenty-two 9-pounder guns on the upper deck, twenty 18-pounder guns on her lower deck, and two 6-pounder guns on her forecastle deck.
According to the Wikipedia article cited immediately above, the HMS Diomede was involved in two major actions during her career as a man-of-war of the Royal Navy. The first major action was the capture of the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782. Since this action is one of the pivotal topics of this overall post, the writer of this blog will not go into further details now. But, suffice it to say, that the presence of so heavily gunned a man-of-war as HMS Diomede definitely turned the scales in favor of the Royal Navy in this particular naval engagement.
The second major action would lead to disaster for HMS Diomede. By the fall 1793, HMS Diomede was on station in the East Indies. The object of the British naval offensive soon to be commenced was the capture of Trincomalee and other Dutch settlements on the island of Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka). According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Diomede (1781)":
"...on August 2, 1795 Diomede was towing a transport brig when she struck a sunken rock in Black Bay and sank. She was working into the bay against a strong land wind when she hit the rock, which her charts showed as being a half-mile further north. She went down with all her stores on board and there was barely enough time for her crew to save themselves. Although the loss of Diomede delayed the landing by a day, on 31 August the British captured fort Ostenburg, and with it Trincomalee. The British would go on to capture other Dutch settlements in India and Ceylon, but denying Trincomalee to the French was the most important objective."
According to the Wikipedia article cited above, the captain of HMS Diomede, Captain Matthew Smith, was court-martialed and dismissed from the Royal Navy while still in the East Indies. "When Smith returned to Britain in 1798 he appealed the sentence. His dismissal was rescinded due to irregularities in the proceedings and he was restored to his rank. However, the Admiralty never again called him into service.".
The second part of the three British men-of-war was HMS Quebec. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 1, HMS Quebec was ordered by the Admiralty on September 15 1779. She was to be constructed as a 32-gun fifth rate frigate. There is no indication of the weight of the shot of these guns but, one can assume that it was generally of similar type as HMS Astraea - 9-pounder or 12-pounder guns. She was launched on May 24, 1781 and, like HMS Diomede, was completed around six months later. She would experience unbroken service until 1812 when she was decommissioned. Of all three of these British men-of-war, HMS Quebec saw the most action and served with great distinction through out her period of almost thirty years of service.
(Note: According to Wikipedia's article, "George Parsons (Shipbuilder)", page 1, the shipbuilder responsible for constructing HMS Quebec was George Parsons. There is not nearly as much information concerning George Parsons as there is for James Martin Hillhouse, shipbuilder of HMS Diomede. But, there is enough information to record something of the construction of HMS Quebec. George Parsons was born in Poole, England and baptized at St. James Church, Poole on September 21, 1729. According to Wikipedia's article, "George Parsons (Shipbuilder)", page 1, when George was young, "...his father, [also George Parsons], moved to Portsmouth, England to take up a position as a shipwright in the Royal Dockyard in 1740. George junior began as a Quarter Boy entering 18 June 1744. He continued in the Royal Dockyard until, as a 2nd Shipwright he was discharged 6 April 1763." After this, George Parsons moved to Bursledon, England which was most likely accomplished within that same year but, certainly by 1764. Most probably by 1774, he had moved to his own shipyard at Bursledon Point on the River Hamble. According to Wikipedia's article, "George Parsons (Shipbuilder)", page 1, "By late 1778 he was ready to build on his own account when a Navy Board letter of 19 December refers to an offer from him to build 'a Ship of 32 guns'". According to this same Wikipedia article, HMS Quebec was the second ship built and launched by George Parsons. Between 1780 and 1812, George Parsons built twenty-one men-of-war for the Royal Navy. Interestingly enough, HMS Quebec was also one of the smaller ships in terms of the number of guns mounted on her that was built by George Parsons.
George Parsons launched HMS Nymphe on April 13, 1812. Three days after this launching, George Parsons died on April 16, 1812 at Salterns, his home in Bursledon. According to Wikipedia's article, "George Parsons (Shipbuilder)", page 2, "...a contemporary obituary remarked that '...he has left a high character for inflexible, undeviating integrity, and, the punctuality and uprightness with which he performed his Contracts with Government, in the building of ships of war for the Navy, gained him the esteem of the Navy Board, and render his death a public loss.'"
Also, according to Wikipedia's article, "George Parsons (Shipbuilder)", page 1, HMS Quebec may have been built in partnership with evidently another shipbuilder based in Bursledon, Robert Stares. No further information concerning Robert Stares, 18th century shipbuilder of Bursledon, England, can be located by the writer of this blog.)
As stated earlier, HMS Quebec served her country long and well. Unfortunately, her dimensions and other pertinent information remain unrecorded, at least in the Wikipedia article, "HMS Quebec (1781)". Even the caliber of her guns is not recorded, only the number of them being documented as "...32..." and her crew compliment being at 250 crew members and marines. But, suffice it to say, HMS Quebec was a new, fresh man-of-war, having been launched just under a year prior to her first captures in American waters and just over a year and one half before her encounter with the frigate South Carolina off the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782.
According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 1, "...throughout 1782, Christopher Mason commanding, HMS Quebec operated in North American waters in the final year of of the War of American Independence. On 22 February that year she captured the schooner Betsey, and in April two ships laden with flour, oil, bale goods, salt and wine...". These last two mentioned ships remain unnamed, though they seem to have been merchantmen since they were laden with non-military stores.
Later that year, in December 1782, HMS Quebec participated in the chase and capture of the frigate South Carolina, her first action against an armed ship-of-war of similar dimensions and martial capabilities. The capture was made on December 20, 1782. Two of the three merchantmen that were being escorted by the frigate South Carolina were also taken as prizes. The crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina was distributed between the three British men-of-war that participated in the capture. These three British men-of-war reached New York City harbor with their patriot prisoners-of-war, their prize ships, and the frigate South Carolina on December 23 and 24, 1782. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 1, the crew of HMS Quebec "...shared in prize money awarded eighteen months later.". This was the beginning of a long career of combat against foreign ships-of-war that would not end until after the cessation of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Those feats of combat should be cited as a part of the history of this British man-of-war but, for the sake of the specific subject matter of this overall blog, will be briefly related here.
During the French Revolutionary Wars, HMS Quebec, did exemplary service. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", in 1793, HMS Quebec had the flag of the commander of the Downs station transferred to her during the occupation Of Ostend and the defense of Dunkirk. In 1794, HMS Quebec was operating in the Leeward Islands against Martinique and St. Lucia, the later of which fell on April 4, 1794. HMS Quebec was then directed to operate against the smaller islands, the Saints, which fell to the British on April 5, 1794. HMS Quebec participated in the capture of Guadaloupe with her participating in the capture of numerous prize ships as they attempted to leave the anchorage. According to Wikipedia's article,"HMS Quebec (1781)", page 2, finally, on August 12, 1794, HMS Quebec captured "...a French ship, Adelle,...for which prize money was awarded a year later.". In 1796, HMS Quebec captured a French cutter, Aspic, off the Scilly Islands in English home waters and on December 3, 1796, near St. Domingo in the Caribbean captured the French corvette, Affricaine. In 1797, HMS Quebec , operating in Haitian waters, participated in the seizure of numerous British merchant ships that had been taken as prizes of French privateers. In 1799 and 1800, in Caribbean waters, HMS Quebec seized merchantmen of American, French and Dutch nationalities, taking very diverse cargoes as a result. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 3, "...a Spanish vessel, Nostra Senora del Carmen, 'laden with fustie and brazil' was captured..." as well as numerous unnamed merchant vessels later in the year. In 1802, due to the Treaty of Amiens, the British Admiralty took HMS Quebec out of commission. She did not return to active duty until 1805 by which time Great Britain was at war with Napoleon and France.
During the Napoleonic Wars, HMS Quebec again performed exemplary services to the British Crown. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 3, HMS Quebec's station during this time was "...in the Downs and North Sea.". On May 28, 1806, in company with HMS Paulina, HMS Quebec captured the Frau Geziner. In April 1807, HMS Quebec captured Providencia and between August 16 and September 2, 1807, she took nineteen Danish merchantmen. In 1808, HMS Quebec was stationed just off the Danish coast, operating in the Great Belt and Kattegat, keeping a close observation on the last remaining Danish ship-of-the-line, the name of which is not given. According to the same Wikipedia article, page 3, "...in 1810, HMS Quebec was stationed in the North Sea primarily off the Frisian Islands of Texel and Vlie to help enforce the naval blockade of that coast.". While there, HMS Quebec took several French privateers and at least one French prize ship was recaptured, the Susannah Margaretta. On November 8, 1810, HMS Quebec captured "...a fine French privateer schooner, La Jeune Louise..." and on December 2, 1810, captured "...the French privateer cutter Renard.". In 1811, HMS Quebec was still stationed in the North Sea and "...recaptured the Aquator on 26 May...". According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 4, in August 1811...HMS Quebec captured a Vaisseau de Guerre...with a merchant vessel in tow..." as they were leaving the harbor of Nordeney (East Frisian Islands). She then went on to capture four French gunboats in the harbor of Nordeney. According to the same Wikipedia article, page 4, "...two months later, on 30 October, Quebec was off the Flemish Banks when she captured the privateer Olympia...after a long chase.".
According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Quebec (1781)", page 4, "...at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy laid up many of its ships, [HMS] Quebec among them. She was advertised for sale in April 1816 for breaking up within twelve months: 'Lying at Sheerness, Quebec of 32 guns and 700 tons'. She was broken up in July ." Thus, came an end to the long-serving, hard-fighting man-of-war, HMS Quebec.
(Note: In doing research on the Jersey prison "hulk" in May-June 2015, the writer of this blog came across a reference to the naming of ships-of-war by the British. Evidently, it is a part of British naval tradition for names to remain in circulation even if a ship by a certain name is captured or sunk. It appears that earlier during the American Revolution, there was another Royal Navy frigate also named Quebec. According to Age of Sail's article, "HMS Quebec vs. Surveillante", page 1-4, on October 6, 1779, this earlier HMS Quebec entered into a horrific battle with a French frigate, Surveillante, off Ushant, France. In the ensuing ship-on-ship action, both ships ended up dismasted with HMS Quebec on fire and eventually exploding when the fire reached her magazine. HMS Quebec had only 68 out of 195 crew members that survived the battle while the Surveillante lost 115 killed and wounded out of a total crew strength of 255. Many have claimed that the heroic fight between the Bon Homme Richard and HMS Serapis was the most vicious single ship-on-ship action of history. But, this forgotten action between HMS Quebec and Surveillante should not be overlooked. It would make sense that when the newer HMS Quebec was launched on May 24, 1781, she would be named after so illustrious a naval predecessor.)
The third, and final, member of the trio of British men-of-war that captured the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782 off the Capes of the Delaware was HMS Astraea. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 1, the actual name of the frigate is either Astraea or Astrea. She was a Fifth Rate Active Class frigate and carried 32 guns on board. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 1, HMS Astraea was ordered by the Admiralty on May 7, 1779.
(Note: The shipbuilder responsible for constructing HMS Astraea was Robert Fabian of East Cowes, England. Of the three shipbuilders involved in the construction of the three British men-of-war that captured the frigate South Carolina off the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782, even less is known of the life of Robert Fabian and what is known has to be inferred from other sources. According to Ancestry.com's article, "Information Wanted on Rebecca Fabian b1758", page 2, one of the sources is the baptismal records of one Rebecca Fabian. It appears from the scant information that is recorded she was a daughter of Robert Fabian and was baptized on May 31, 1757. Robert Fabian is listed as the father of Rebecca and her mother is cited as Ann Fabian. This baptismal record was filed in Eling Parish in Hampshire, England. Thus, from this brief, official baptismal record, we know a small scrap of information concerning Robert Fabian's family in 1758.
The next piece of information we have on Robert Fabian is the following document that appeared on Monday, August 18, 1788 in "The Salisbury & Winchester Journal":
"The Estate of Robert Fabian, Deceased
The surviving Trustees of the Estate and Effects of Robert Fabian, late of East Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, in the county of Southampton, ship-builder, deceased, intend to meet on Thursday the ...h day, of this inst. August, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, at the house of Mr. Thomas Rogers, known by the sign of the Coach and Horses, in the town and county of Southampton, to make a dividend of the Estate and Effects of the said Robert Fabian; when and where the creditors who have not already proved their debts upon oath, are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the benefit of the said dividend; and the dividend then declared will be paid on the 4th day of September next, between the hours of ten in the morning and three in the afternoon, at the house of the said Thomas Rogers.
All persons indebted to the Estate of the said Robert Fabian, are requested to pay the same immediately to George Bower, of Newton Buildings, Southampton.
Southampton, August 8, 1788.".
Thus, through inference, we can assume that at some point after 1758, Robert Fabian and his family moved to Southampton, England where Robert Fabian continued in the business of shipbuilding. In the above document, "...Robert Fabian, deceased..." was identified as a "shipbuilder". At some point before August 8, 1788, Robert Fabian died and his estate and effects were "...made a dividend of..." and all debts to the estate of Robert Fabian were intended to be collected. The Isle of Wight is off the coast of southern England, between England and France, and is located in the English Channel. This is all we know of Robert Fabian of East Cowes, Southampton, shipbuilder.)
According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 1, HMS Astraea had her keel laid down in September 1779 at East Cowes, Southampton, Isle of Wight. The full length of her gun deck was 126 feet while at her keel she was 103 feet long. HMS Astraea had twenty-six 12-pound guns on her upper deck, four 6-pound guns on her quarterdeck and two 6-pound guns on the forecastle deck. Her full complement of crew members and marines was 250. She was launched on July 24, 1781 and was commissioned later that same month. Her first captain was Captain Matthew Squires, who sailed her for North America on October 7, 1781.
There is no record of any actions or captures she participated in while in North American waters until December 1782. At some point, HMS Astraea was ordered on station, patrolling the Capes of the Delaware alone. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 93, "...the [HMS] Astraea had been on station alone until December 19 , when the other two ships, fresh from New York, had joined her." There is no indication as to how long HMS Astraea had patrolled her station alone before being joined by HMS Diomede and HMS Quebec. The next day, December 20, 1782, HMS Astraea, the smallest and most lightly gunned of the three British men-of-war on station off the Capes of the Delaware took part in the pursuit and capture of the frigate South Carolina and two of her three convoy members, the brigs Hope and Constance. Most likely, as with HMS Quebec, this was the first action for HMS Astraea against a heavily-gunned patriot ship-of-war.
The only other recorded action HMS Astraea participated in while she was in North American waters during the American Revolution took place on March 15, 1783. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 2, on this date, HMS Astraea, HMS Vestal, and HMS Duc de Chartes captured the ship Julius Caesar. In January 1784, HMS Astraea was paid off. Between the end of the American Revolution and the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars, the man-of-war HMS Astraea spent three years in the Madeira Islands and the West Indies. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 2, "...during this time, she visited all of the British islands and most of the French and Spanish colonies.".
During the French Revolutionary Wars, HMS Astraea, served with great distinction, though possibly not as much as HMS Quebec. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 2, HMS Astraea participated in "...the recapture of the ship Caldicot Castle and the French corvette Jean Bart on 28 and 30 March .". On April 10, 1795, while in a squadron of British men-of-war, HMS Astraea engaged and exchanged broadsides with the French frigate Glorie for almost an hour before the French frigate struck her colors. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 3, HMS Astraea was present for but, did not take part in the Second Battle of Groix on June 23, 1795, off the west coast of France. About ten months later, HMS Astraea was dispatched to the Caribbean Sea where she participated in the attack on and capture of Sainte-Lucie. Shortly thereafter, HMS Astraea, due to her poor structural condition, was dispatched back to Britain, bearing official communications from the Caribbean Sea to the Admiralty.
From mid-February 1797 to early April 1800, HMS Astraea operated in the North Sea station. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 3, HMS Astraea participated in the capture of "...the French privateer Tartare.". A few months alter, on June 1, 1797, she captured the Dutch privateer Stuiver off the Skaw. Several months later, on April 22, 1798, HMS Astraea "...captured the French privateer schooner Renommee on the Dogger Bank.". On July 30, 1798, HMS Astraea, in company with two other British men-of-war, captured "...the Dutch Greenlandsmen Frederick and Waachzamghheer..." and a week later captured "...the Dutch Greenlandsman Liefde.". On March 29, 1799, HMS Astraea, in company of one other British man-of-war, captured "...the galiot Neptunus..." and a few days later, on April 10, 1799, "...captured the 14-gun French privateer lugger Marsouin after a chase of three hours...". According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 4, "...five days later [April 15, 1799], [HMS] Astraea was among the vessels that captured the Aeolus and the Sex Soskendi.".
In April and May 1800, she served again at Sainte Lucia in the Caribbean Sea. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 4, in 1801 HMS Astraea was transferred to the Mediterranean Ocean where in March 1801 she participated in the landings at Abu Qir Bay, located on the northern coast of Egypt.
During the Napoleonic Wars, HMS Astraea served well and distinguished herself but, would also meet with disaster in the late spring of 1808. In April 1805, HMS Astraea would be assigned to the Downs station. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 4, "...on 21 October , [HMS] Astraea was among the British vessels sharing in the capture of the Anna Wilhelme...". The following account is contained in the same Wikipedia article cited immediately above and pertinent sections are quoted here:
"On 1 December  [HMS] Astraea limped into Elsinore, Denamrk, with water in her hold and her masts gone. She had experienced bad weather near the Skaws and then grounded on a shoal some three miles off the island of Anholt in the Kattegat.... [HMS Astraea's Captain] Dunbar had to throw her guns overboard and cut away her masts before she floated free. He then had a mizzen-jury mast erected, which enabled her to sail the 25 miles to Elsinore.".
August 1807 was a month of heavy engagement for HMS Astraea. According to Wikipedia's article, "HMS Astraea (1781)", page 4,
"...on the 19th she [HMS Astraea] and [HMS] Agamemnon captured two Danish merchant vessels, the Two Sisters and the Three Brothers. One week later, [HMS] Astraea, [HMS] Comus and [HMS] Surveillante captured the Danish vessel Fama. That same day [HMS] Astraea captured the Danish merchant vessel Anna Dorothea. Also during the month, [HMS] Astraea, [HMS] Agamemnon, and [HMS] Cruizer shared in the capture of the Danish merchant vessels Anne and Catherine, Anne and Margaret, and Three Brothers.".
It seems from the citations of prize ships for HMS Astraea for the month of August 1807 that she was operating in an area of sea lanes well traveled by Danish mechant fleets. The final prize cited for the HMS Astraea during the Napoleonic Wars was made on December 14, 1807 when HMS Astraea captured the French privateer lugger Providence.
Then came Monday, May 23, 1808 off the island of Anegada in the Caribbean Sea. According to Blytmann's article, "HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 5, the conditions in the Caribbean Sea area had deteriorated to the point that:
"Navigation in the West Indies had become increasingly difficult and dangerous, particularly for the lightly armed merchant vessels. The fear of being apprehended and taken by one of the numerous privateers or men-of-war was always foremost in the mind of any captain navigating those waters in time of war. The British convoys, which sometimes consisted of as many as two hundred vessels accompanied by seven or eight men-of-war, left the Caribbean up to four times a year fro Europe...St. Thomas was for years chosen as the most convenient place for the convoys to rendezvous. Merchant vessels from all the British islands in the Caribbean arrived there to make the homeward bound voyage under the protection of 'His Majesty'. This was not, however, generally the case as far as the mail packets were concerned. Communications with the mother contry was essential and far too important to be confined to the infrequent departure and slow progress of the convoys. The mail packets required special attention and a frigate was usually detailed to escort them until a relatively safe position had been reached in the Atlantic Ocean."
HMS Astraea had been accompanying a packet ship, Prince Ernest, since May 9, 1808 as an armed escort to protect her against Caribbean privateers. On that date, Prince Ernest, separated from the protection of HMS Astraea, making her four-week run for England, while HMS Astraea "...headed south toward Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico...". It appears that after the departure of the Prince Ernest, HMS Asraea became the unsuspecting victim of inaccurately taken coordinates and relaxed vigilance due to the familiarity of the environment through which she was passing at the moment. According to Blytmann's article, "HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 5, the officers inaccurately ascertained the coordinates to place them "...about 30 miles north of the eastern extremity of Puerto Rico.". In actuality, she was bearing down on the island of Anegada which had a "...deadly horseshoe reef..." surrounding the end of the island that HMS Astraea was approaching. According to Blytmann's article, "HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 5,
"...a few minutes before eight o'clock, George Lovet, the gunner, came on deck to stand his watch on the forecastle. Leaning over the port rail, his eyes slowly getting accustomed to the dark evening, he suddenly saw a solid line of white breakers appearing dead ahead. His reaction was instantaneous and only seconds later the captain's command "helm hard a port" came loud and clear. Having fresh way on, the frigate started to respond to the wheel - but, it was too late.".
HMS Astraea struck the reef hard and began to immediately take in water. According to Blytmann's article, "HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 6,
"...the wind, however, was still freshening and being on a lee shore each swell forced the vessel against the reef with a sickening crash. When after a short while the frigate showed signs of capsizing, orders were given to cut away both the main and the mizzen masts. Following this desperate action many of the cannons were thrown overboard in a last attempt to lighten the ship. This only made things worse and the frigate was now forced further into the frothing reef. The men at the pumps were fighting a loosing battle which was only given up when the carpenter reported the keel had broken in two. Having no hope of saving the ship, the object of attention now focused on saving the crew.".
This was accomplished with the loss of only four men as the majority of the crew made it safely to the island of Anegada or to the other near island of Virgin Gorda. From the moment of the deadly collision, men were attempting to save some of the gear and stores of the frigate. These efforts would go on until the final abandoning of the wreck on June 24, 1808 with little actually being salvaged from the wreck of the HMS Astraea.
As direct result of the loss of one of "His Majesty's Ships", a courts-martial was convened to pass judgment on Captain Edmund Heywood and the other officers for their responsibility in the loss of the HMS Astraea. According to Blytmann's article, "HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 7,
"...having heard the narrative thereof by Captain Edmund Heywood, together with expalnations given by himself and also by Mr. Allan McLean, the master of the said ship, and having fully completed the inquiry, and maturely and deliberately weighed and considered the whole thereof, the court is of the opinion that the loss was occasioned by an extraordinary weather current having set the ship nearly two degrees to the eastwards of the reckoning of all officers on board...and that no blame is attributable to Captain Heywood, his officers, and the ships company...".
(Note: According to Blytmann's article, HMS Astraea: A Brief History...", page 11 footnote 12,
"...the island of Anegada is the northeastern-most of the Virgin Islands. It is very low, being for the most part only thirty feet high and with a length of nine miles and a width of two miles at its widest point. Except for a small strip near the western end, Anegada is completely surrounded by coral reefs, rocks and submerged obstructions, bordered on its northern side by a barrier reef which extends seaward some eight miles towards the southwest. From this point detached coral heads and shallow ledges continue in a southerly direction for another four miles. From the quarterdeck of an 18th or 19th century vessel, Anegada may be seen in clear weather at a distance of only 7-8 miles, hence it is possible for a ship to be right on the reef without ever seeing the island."
Further down in the same numbered footnote, Mr. Blytmann states that it is "...possible to verify a total of approximately 150 wrecks between 1654 and 1899. In addition, it must be supposed that a significant number went down during stormy nights without ever being detected by the inhabitants of Anegada and officially recorded as 'lost at sea'."
Also, according to this same article, page 9, this easternmost projection of Anegada Island just off of which HMS Astraea wrecked is today known as Pelican Point.
According to Blytmann's article, HMS Astraea: A Brief History..., page 9-10, "...in October, 1967 a diving team consisting of Captain Bert Kilbride, Dr. David Bergland, Dr. Orlin Rice, and Captain Ralph Gresens..." discovered the wreck site of HMS Astraea. They identified and accurately described numerous items resting on the ocean floor such as anchors, ballast bars, cannon, cannon balls and canister shot, copper bottom sheathing, and numerous conglomerations of musket balls, spikes, nails, drift pins and other pieces of brass and lead scattered around the site.)
This post constitutes a brief history of the three British men-of-war - HMS Diomede, HMS Quebec, and HMS Astraea - that pursued and captured the frigate South Carolina just off the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782. Each entry follows the specific man-of-war through it's career until the end of the ship's life as a warship of the Royal Navy. All three of them were relatively new ships-of-war in comparison to the frigate South Carolina. All of them were launched and completed by the summer of 1781, except for HMS Diomede, which was not actually completed until March 1782, a mere nine months before her action against the frigate South Carolina. Individually, these Royal Navy men-of-war were no match for the overwhelming firepower of the frigate South Carolina. If the patriot frigate had emerged from the Capes of the Delaware escorting her small convoy, and only encountered one, or possibly even two, of the enemy ships-of-war, she could have forced them to allow her convoy to pass in the face of her superior firepower. But, the frigate South Carolina emerged from the Capes of the Delaware and encountered all three of these Royal Navy men-of-war. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 93, "...together this fleet of three British men-of-war posed an ominous threat, and only superb sailing plus good luck, would save the American frigate and convoy.". Neither of these factors were forthcoming that fateful, blustery day of December 20, 1782 just off the Capes of the Delaware. Each of these Royal Navy men-of-war would go on to other actions against other foes in the years to come. Yet, interestingly, the action against the frigate South Carolina was practically the first naval action of each of these British men-of-war. In this brief action in North American waters, each of these three British men-of-war performed admirably and, for one, brief shining moment, demonstrated that Britain still ruled the waves.