“...the conclusion of course was, that she was either a French or an American frigate. Captain Dacres appeared anxious to ascertain her character, and after looking at her for that purpose, handed me his spy-glass, requesting me to give him my opinion of the stranger. I soon saw from the peculiarity of her sails, and from her general appearance, that she was, without doubt, an American frigate, and communicated the same to Captain Dacres. He immediately replied, that he thought she came down too boldly for an American, but soon after added: ' The better he behaves, the more honor we shall gain by taking him.'“ (William B. Orne, former master of the American merchant brig “Betsey”, aboard HMS “Guerriere” during the engagement)
|The final stages of the naval duel, as imagined by the Saturday Evening Post's illustrator Anton Otto Fischer (1882 - 1962)|
|Anton Otto Fischer's imagination of the "Chase of the Constitution" by a British squadron in July 1812|
|The final stages of the fight, HMS "Guerriere's"main mast getting shot away (American School, mid 19th century)|
“It is not merely that an English frigate has been taken, after what we are free to express, may be called a brave resistance ... 'but that it has been taken by a new enemy, an enemy unaccustomed to such triumphs, likely to be rendered insolent and confident by them”, the “Times” wrote in reaction to the event. And indeed, the Bostonians were beside themselves with triumph when Hull sailed “Constitution” back home and so was the rest of the young American nation. Actually, he had planned to tow “Guerriere” along as a prize, but she was literally shot to a wreck and blown up after her survivors were taken on board of “Old Ironsides”. Less than half a year later, she would capture another British frigate, HMS “Java”, off Brazil, while USS “United States” took HMS “Macedonian” in October. British Admiralty forbade any single ship-to-ship actions with the uber-frigates after the events and it fell to Broke, the squadron commander of 1812 whom “Constitution” had so narrowly escaped, to restore the honour and the tradition of victory of the Royal Navy at least partially, when he defeated USS “Chesapeake” in HMS “Shannon” during a more balanced duel off Boston in June 1813. Dacres himself was honourably acquitted of all blame for the loss of his “Guerriere” in the customary court martial in Halifax that followed his exchange later that year and, as a small belated consolation for not becoming “made for life" as being the first RN captain engaging an American frigate, at least not the way he imagined it before the fight, sailors of HMS “President”, built along the lines of USS “President” captured in 1815, named a fortification they built at the mouth of Fish River in South Africa Fort Dacres in his honour.
And more about the duel of USS “Constitution with HMS “Guerriere” on: