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 HMS Penelope 
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Lieutenant

Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:05 pm
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Post HMS Penelope
Can someone provide a citation to details of the loss of HMS Penelope (6th rate, 24 guns), Captain James Jones, in the West Indies in 1779 or 1780? Rif Winfield and David Hepper both list her as being lost in the great Oct 1780 hurricane but Colledge, although also dating the loss to Oct 1780 says "Captured 10.1780 by her Spanish prisoners."

None are correct as to the date as Admiralty struck her from the Admiralty Sea Pay List for 01 Apr 1780 (ADM 8/56) and closed out her pay book (ADM 34/582) as of 30 Nov 1780 which indicates that the Admiralty & Navy Board believed she was lost in November 1779. Also predating the hurricane, the will of “James Jones, Captain of His Majesty's Ship Penelope of Douglas, Isle of Man” was proved at the Prerogatory Court of Canterbury on 16 Aug 1780.

The only report of substance which I have been able to find so far is a newspaper account first appearing in the Providence Gazette [Rhode Island], issue of 08 July 1780:
Quote:
"Extract of a letter for Cork, March 20. [1780]"
"We are sorry to hear that the Penelope Frigate, Capt. Jones, after having taken some Spanish prizes, was herself taken by the Spaniards, in the following manner.—A sudden wind arising, many of the Penelope's hands were upon the yards, taking in the sails ; which opportunity the Spanish prisoners embraced, and having killed Capt. Jones, with most of his officers, they overcame the remaining crew, and carried the ship into Cuba."


Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:42 pm
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Commander

Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:27 am
Posts: 389
Location: Australia
Post Re: HMS Penelope
I notice that Beatson's "Naval & Military Memoirs" has the PENELOPE as foundered in the West Indies in 1779.

The "Annual Register" has her as taken by the Spaniards in 1780.

A letter of January, 1780 from Sir Peter Parker at Jamaica to the Admiralty reports that the PENELOPE had sent in a prize "on 27th November last". From this it would seem that the PENELOPE was still active in November, 1779 and her loss was not known to parker in January, 1780.

In "The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson" (Vol 1, p.32) there is a letter from Nelson to Captain Locker dated 23rd January, 1780 giving the story of the PENELOPE having been taken by her Spanish prisoners and carried into St Jago in Cuba. However, a note by the Editor contradicts this and states that she foundered with the loss of all hands. Nelson's HINCHINBROOKE had been operating with her late in 1779 and it seems probable that she was lost at the end of that year which would account for the 1779/80 conflict.

Perhaps Parker's subsequent reports to the Admiralty in 1780 will shed more light on the matter.


Sun Aug 22, 2010 12:17 am
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Lieutenant

Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:12 pm
Posts: 56
Post Re: HMS Penelope
I forwarded the original query onto Rif Winfield. His response is:

Quote:
Checking my records, I concur that the date was probably November 1779, but the records I have consulted definitely say she was "supposed to be cast away in the West Indies", although that "supposed" indicated a lack of knowledge at the time of writing. The Admiralty Order to dispense with her papers (i.e. close her accounts) was dated 28 May 1781.

Cy


Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:27 am
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Lieutenant

Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:05 pm
Posts: 62
Post Re: HMS Penelope
Peter & Cy – Thank you.

The Sir Peter Parker letter of January 1780 which was published in The London Gazette #12064 of 7-11 Mar 1780 describes the prize which arrived [at Port Royal?] as a Spanish Guarda Costa, of 10 guns and 75 men, named the Hermosa Marianna. Sir Peter’s prize list of 02 Dec 1780, published in a fortnight later edition of The London Gazette (#12068 of 21-25 Mar 1780) covers prizes taken between 25 May and 14 Nov 1779 which includes three prizes partially or fully captured by the Penelope, viz. on 31 Oct 1779, two vessels owned by Dan. Ross & Co, bound from Grenada to Curacao laden with Sugar & Coffee, being the brig Penelope, William Scallion, master, and the snow Ariadne, Jean Patterson, Master, both listed as being taken in Lat. 11° 14’ N. As Grenada and Curacao embrace the same latitude (between 12° 0’ N and 12° 15’ N, albeit Curacao is about 500 miles west) this puts the captures with 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Then a fortnight later, on Nov 14th, about 350 miles to the north, Penelope is listed as taking the “Guarda Costa Sloop La Hermosa Mariana, 76 men, 10 guns, from Porto Rico on a cruize, taken in the Mona Passage” (i.e., between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, about 600 miles east of Port Royal, Jamaica.).

This establishes that Penelope was still afloat on 14 Nov 1779 and Nelson’s report, if accurate, indicates the Penelope had been taken before 23 Jan 1780.

The Horatio Nelson to Wm Locker letter dated, Port Royal, 23 Jan 1780 reads, in part: “I sailed in the Hinchinbrook from Port Royal in the middle of September, to join the Niger and Penelope. We took four Sail, for which I shall share about 800l. Sterling. We left the Penelope at sea, who soon afterwards took a Spanish privateer: the crew rose upon the Penelope, and have carried her off: they certainly have killed poor Captain Jones and his Officers.[editor's footnote]”

The editor footnoted the above: “This report is not true; but the Penelope, Captain James Jones, foundered with all her crew in that year.” No authority for the footnote was cited. Penelope was quite new having been commissioned 04 June 1778 and sailing for Jamaica in Jan 1779 so many of the causes for foundering can be ruled out.

Of Nelson's four prizes, the other two prizes taken by ‘Niger and fleet” were also Dan Ross & Co. ships Conferance [sic] and Rachel and Betsey, both taken the same day (Oct 31st) and same latitude as the two credited Penelope as above.

The first cited letter from Cork says that the Penelope was carried into Cuba. As it is about 600 miles from the Mona Passage to Port Royal, this strongly suggests that the Penelope was more than halfway “home” when the frigate was seized as it would be closer to go to Cuba rather than beating back to Puerto Rico. The big unknown I see was whether the prize La Hermosa Mariana was in company with the Penelope when the Penelope was taken. I don’t think this was the case because then the date of the taking of Penelope would be known by the prize crew aboard La Hermosa Mariana which arrived 27 Nov 1779 at Port Royal.

I find compelling evidence in that the Admiralty/Navy Board closed Penelope’s pay book on 30 Nov 1779. The policy then that if the exact date of loss was not known, the pay book was closed effective the last day of the month that the ship or vessel was believed to be still afloat.

Another major puzzle is what happened to the Penelope under Spanish "ownership," if indeed she made it to Cuba. I would have expected the frigate to have been taken into Spanish naval service.

Any comments are most welcome.


Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:56 pm
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Commander

Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:27 am
Posts: 389
Location: Australia
Post Re: HMS Penelope
That seems to be a good summary of the available "facts".

We need Parkers reports to the Admiralty for the rest of 1780. He must have dealt with the missing PENELOPE in one of them.

Had she been carried into Cuba, I would have thought that the Spaniards would have made considerable noise about it and references thereto should not be lacking?


Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:53 pm
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