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"In Pursuit of the Essex - Ben Hughes" Topic

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carojon22 Dec 2020 1:17 a.m. PST

I have recently finished reading Ben Hughes account of the cruise of the USS Essex and her action with HMS Phoebe and Cherub off Valparaiso in 1814.


The activities of the Essex are perhaps the least referred to in the naval war of 1812 perhaps because the focus was very much on the success of the larger US frigates, even though the damage caused to the British whaling industry had more effect than most of the other commerce raiding conducted by other US navy ships.

This modern book helps to redress the record and brings a vivid account of the activities of the US and British ships involved in the war in the Pacific in 1813-14.

If you would like to know more I have posted my thoughts on the book.



79thPA Supporting Member of TMP22 Dec 2020 5:14 a.m. PST

That sounds like an interesting read.

Blutarski24 Dec 2020 9:02 a.m. PST

Very good book indeed.

Also, a good naval wargame scenario is to be had here.

Historically, the USS Essex (Captain David Porter) had been blockaded in the neutral harbor of Valparaiso, Chile for six weeks by the British frigate HMS Phoebe (Captain James Hillyar) and ship/sloop HMS Cherub. Porter and Hillyar were on friendly personal terms, having met during Porter's posting to the Mediterranean station prior to the war, and actually exchanged social courtesies in Valparaiso during the blockade period.

Porter had played havoc with British merchant shipping and Pacific whaling fleet, but earnestly desired to cap his war cruise with an action against a worthy British naval opponent; he therefore issued a challenge to Hillyar, offering to leave the protection of neutral Valparaiso and fight a fair frigate versus frigate duel if Hillyar would agree to exclude HMS Cherub from taking part. Hillyar politely declined the challenge, possibly because Phoebe's short-handed crew had only recently been filled out with a number of untrained landsmen. Hillyar's refusal of the challenge put Porter in a difficult situation. Although he could theoretically remain safely in neutral Valparaiso, every passing day posed a risk that British reinforcements or diplomatic pressure might conspire to turn a difficult situation into an impossible one. Porter therefore decided to attempt an escape to the open sea. Unfortunately, Essex was caught by a sudden squall while rounding Point Angel, losing her main topmast as a result. Porter could neither fight nor flee in such a crippled state and was forced to anchor his ship. Immobile and predominantly armed with short-range carronades, Essex was shot into submission by Phoebe and Cherub from beyond carronade range in a bloody one-sided engagement.

This scenario assumes that Essex is not damaged by a squall and Captain Porter has an opportunity to fight on even terms.

Porter issues challenge.

If Hillyar declines the challenge -
> HMS Phoebe crew quality is one level inferior to USS Essex.
> Porter gets to choose weather and time (day or night)
> British must capture or destroy USS Essex to claim victory.
> Porter can win simply by escaping to the N, S or W out of gun range or vision of both British ships.

If Hillyar accepts the challenge -
> HMS Phoebe crew quality = that of USS Essex.
> Weather to be diced for randomly.
> HMS Cherub must remain heaved-to off-table beyond the N, S or W table edge, with her position known to Porter at game start.
> Victory goes to the player who succeeds in capturing or destroying his opponent.

"Perfidious Albion" Option -
> In the case of an accepted challenge scenario, Hillyar may at any time attempt to summon HMS Cherub by signal to enter the fray by a score of 1 on the throw of a D6.
> If successfully summoned, Cherub will enter the play table anywhere along its previously specified edge 2xD6 turns if upwind, 4xD6 turns if downwind and 3D6 if otherwise.
> Once Cherub enters the play table, scenario conditions immediately convert to that of a declined challenge.
> Failure to capture or destroy Essex after invocation of the Perfidious Albion Option results in the disgrace of Captain Hillyar and the banishment of his family from polite society ….. ;-)

Vessel relative speeds -
The true maximum speeds of the three ships at that historical point in time have never been historically ascertained. Essex and Phoebe were both of comparable size and class (900t frigates); Essex probably enjoyed a slight edge by virtue of her lighter weight carronade armament. Cherub was a 400t ship-sloop, a class not known for great speed. On the first occasion upon which any ship makes Full Sail, it must throw 1D6 and record the net result.
> USS Essex adds 1 to score.
> HMS Phoebe records the raw D6 score.
> HMS Cherub subtracts 1 from score.
In the event of a chase under full sail, the ship with the higher score will add one unit of movement distance to its normal value each turn it is under Full Sail. Loss of any mast or spar will negate this movement advantage.

A little Blutarski Christmas-time scenario gift for the Age of Sail geeks among us.



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