October 12 This day during the War of 1812

October 12, 1800 – USS Boston vs Berceau was a single ship action off Guadeloupe, during the Quasi-War with France. The USS Boston (36 guns), Capt. George Little, captured the French corvette Berceau. Cruising 600 miles northeast of Guadeloupe in the morning of 12 October, the Boston, spotted two vessels that by 8:00 A.M. were determined to be warships, a schooner (not identified) and the 24-gun Berceau, which then headed in different directions. Pursuing the latter, the Boston gained steadily before catching in the late afternoon (the American report gives the time as 4:30 P.M., French 3:30 P.M.). Berceau then shortened sail and the two began a stubborn engagement, each trying to wreck the spars, sails and rigging of the other until the damage to the tops of both made them unmanageable and they drifted apart. The crews then spent the next several hours repairing their damage so that they could rejoin the fight. Well after dusk, the two were again able to engage (the French report gives an additional intermediate engagement), which they did for more than an hour. The action was finally terminated (American, 10:20 P.M.; French 11:30 P.M.) when, losing her fore and main mast and already having had boarding attempts repulsed, the Berceau was forced to strike her colors. Following several days spent immobile, repairing spars, sails and rigging, the Boston towed the Berceau under prize-master Robert Haswell to its namesake home port of Boston. On arrival, it was discovered that the action had actually been fought two weeks after a peace agreement had formally ended hostilities. As a consequence the Berceau was repaired at American expense and returned to France. The victory was also tainted by charges that the French officers had been plundered of their personal belongings and negro servants, with the active participation of most of their American counterparts. Acquitted in a resulting court martial proceeding, most of the Boston’s officers were nonetheless dismissed from the Navy.

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