HMS Leopard (1790 - 1814) / 50-gun ship / Portland Class

Uwek

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Due to the fact, that I picked up once more the book "The 50-gun Ship" by Rif Winfield (see Book Review The 50-gun Ship) my interest was growing to find out more about this vessel. The information I found in the book and the web I want to summarize and share with you.


HMS Leopard 1790 - 1814 / 50-gun Ship / Portland Class

HMS Leopard was a 50-gun Portland-class fourth rate of the Royal Navy. She served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and was notable for the actions of her captain in 1807, which were emblematic of the tensions that later erupted in the War of 1812 between Britain and America. She was wrecked in 1814.

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Profile Artwork offered on amazon
https://www.amazon.de/Leopard-1790-Profil-A4-glänzend-Kriegsschiff-unterzeichnet/dp/B079CQM7ZV


Construction and commissioning

She was first ordered on 16 October 1775, named on 13 November 1775 and laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard (other sources say Sheerness Royal Dockyard) in January 1776. She was reordered in May 1785, ten years after having first been laid down, and construction began at Sheerness Dockyard on 7 May 1785. Work was at first overseen by Master Shipwright Martin Ware until December 1785, and after that, by John Nelson until March 1786, when William Rule took over. She was launched from Sheerness on 24 April 1790, and was completed by 26 May 1790. She was commissioned for service in June that year under her first commander, Captain John Blankett.

This is an excerpt from the drawings of the very good Rif Winfield book "The 50-gun Ship" - here once more the link to the Book Review (click on the title) The 50-gun Ship
Leopard2.png

Service

The China fleet of East Indiamen left Macao on 21 March 1791. Leopard and Thames escorted them as far as Java Head.

French Revolutionary Wars
On 24 October 1798, Leopard captured the French privateer vessel Apollon, which was under the command of captain La Vaillant. On 22 August 1800 Leopard captured Clarice.
Because Leopard served in the navy's Egyptian campaign (8 March – 8 September 1801), her officers and crew qualified for the clasp "Egypt" to the Naval General Service Medal that the Admiralty issued in 1847 to all surviving claimants.

The Chesapeake-Leopard affair
In early 1807, a handful of British sailors—some of American birth—deserted their ships, which were then blockading French ships in Chesapeake Bay, and joined the crew of the USS Chesapeake. In an attempt to recover the British deserters, Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys, commanding Leopard, hailed Chesapeake and requested permission to search her. Commodore James Barron of Chesapeake refused and Leopard opened fire. Caught unprepared, Barron surrendered and Humphreys sent boarders to search for the deserters. The boarding party seized four deserters from the Royal Navy–three Americans and one British-born sailor–and took them to Halifax, where the British sailor, Jenkin Ratford, was hanged for desertion. The Americans were initially sentenced to 500 lashes, but had their sentence commuted; Britain also offered to return them to America.
The incident caused severe political repercussions in the United States, and nearly led to the two nations going to war.

Fate
Leopard escorted a convoy from Portsmouth on 6 May 1808. Leopard left the convoy on 28 July at 35°S 7°E.
She then was part of the convoy assigned to Josias Rowley in the Mauritius campaign of 1809–11 in the Indian Ocean.
In 1812, Leopard had her guns removed and was converted to a troopship. On 28 June 1814 she was en route from Britain to Quebec, carrying a contingent of 475 Royal Scots Guardsmen, when she grounded on Anticosti Island in heavy fog. Leopard was destroyed, but all on board survived.

From wikipedia the basic information - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Leopard_(1790


A beautiful Navy Board style model of the HMS Leopard in scale 1:192 built by Gus Augustin
model Leopard by Gus Augustin in scale 1-192.jpg

to be continued.......
 

Uwek

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In the archive of the Royal Museum Greenwhich you can find several draughts of the HMS Leopard 1790 and other ships of the same Portland class

http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/81517.html

Sheer Plan and Lines:
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Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the body plan, sheer lines with some inboard detail, and longitudinal half-breadth proposed for a 50-gun Ship. The dimensions match those of the Portland class (approved 1766), which was based on the plan for Romney (1762). The Portland class was ordered in two batches: Portland (1770), Bristol (1775), Renown (1774), and Isis (1774); then Leopard (1790), Hannibal (1779), Jupiter (1778), Leander (1780), Adamant (1780), Europa (1783), and Assistance (1781). All were 50-gun Fourth Rate, two-deckers. The ticked lines represent Romney.
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/81508.html#Me5AGahXxDq0Uf5D.99



large.jpg
Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the body plan, stern board with decoration detail and name on the counter, sheer lines with inboard detail and figurehead, and longitudinal half-breadth for Leopard (1790), a 50-gun Fourth Rate, two-decker, as built at Sheerness Dockyard.

Orlop and Lower Gundeck Plans:
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Upper Gundeck, Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans:
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Scale: 1:96. A plan showing the spar deck, and upper deck of 'Leopard' (1790), as originally fitted as a fifty gun fourth rate two-decker, and as fitted in 1812 for a troopship. Signed by Nicholas Diddams [Master Shipwright, Portsmouth Dockyard, 1802-1823].
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/85294.html#PUygxR31lAUj23c4.99


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Scale: 1:96. A plan showing the gun deck, and hold with fore and aft platforms for 'Leopold' (1790), as originally fitted as a fifty gun fourth rate two-decker, and as fitted in 1812 for a troopship. The plan was subsequently used for fitting the 'Romney' (1815), a fifty gun fouth rate two-decker, as well as all other two decked ships with the omission of the red lines and addition of the green lines on the plan (Admiralty Order of 12 September 1812). Signed by Nicholas Diddams [Master Shipwright, Portsmouth dockyard, 1802-1823]
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/85293.html#d7gPx808wEi3fj5J.99


Inboard Profile plan:
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Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the iinboard profile for Portland (1770), and later for Hannibal (1779), Jupiter (1778), Adamant (1780), Leopard (1790), Leander (1780), and Europa (1783), all 50-gun Fourth Rate, two-deckers.
Read more at http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/81511.html#pUbyct3Quk6D2OLX.99


Framing plan:
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The Navy Board model of HMS Portland. HMS Leopard was identical, other than figurehead and decorations.

Starboard Quarter view:
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Starboard Bow view:
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to be continued.....
 

Uwek

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The Portland Class was a group of ten 50-gun ships designed by Sir John Williams, Co-Surveyor of the Navy.

Name of ship - launched - Out of service - Shipyard

HMS Portland - 1770 - 1817 - Harwich
HMS Isis - 1774 - 1810 - Chatham Dockyard
HMS Renown - 1774 - 1794 - Southhamton
HMS Bristol - 1775 - 1810 - Sheerness Dockyard
HMS Hannibal - 1779 - 1782 - Buckler´s Hard
HMS Adamant - 1780 - 1814 - Liverpool
HMS Leander - 1780 - 1798 - Chatham Dockyard
HMS Assistance - 1781 - 1802 - Liverpool
HMS Europa - 1783 - 1814 - Woolwich Dockyard
HMS Leopard - 1770 - 1814 - Sheerness Dockyard


Design Armament

Broadside Weight = 414.00 Imperial Pound ( 187.75 kg)
Lower Gun Deck 22 x British 24-Pounder
Upper Gun Deck 22 x British 12-Pounder
Quarterdeck 4 x British 6-Pounder
Forecastle 2 x British 6-Pounder

infos from:
https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_class&id=178


Up until the mid-1750s, the 50 gun fourth rate ship of the line was the smallest of the Royal Navy's ships of the line. From then, they were seen as being too small and weak to stand in a line of battle against the larger and more heavily armed French and Spanish ships of the line. They continued to be of use however, in the shallow waters off Northern Europe and North America where the larger ships of the line had difficulty operating safely and they were of particular use against the smaller and less heavily armed ships of the line operated by the Dutch Navy and for that reason, the Royal Navy continued to build and operate small numbers of them into the early 19th century. At the end of the 18th century however, a new type of warship appeared, the Heavy Frigate. These ships, mounting upwards of 40 guns and carrying 24pdr long guns and heavy carronades both outsailed and outgunned the 50 gun ship of the line and by the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, they had largely disappeared from front line service in the Royal Navy. Those ships which avoided being broken up or converted into hulks continued in service in supporting roles, as troopships or storeships.

to be continued......
 

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The History of HMS Leopard from the lay down, her service until her fate:

HMS Leopard was originally ordered on 16th October 1775 and was laid down at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in January 1776. Work did not progress beyond that and the ship was later re-ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness and was laid down there on 7th May 1785. Construction work was delayed a number of times due to changes in the management at Sheerness, where the supervision of work on her construction ended up being undertaken by no less than three Master Shipwrights; Mr Martin Ware until promotion took him to the position of Master Shipwright at Woolwich Royal Dockyard in December 1785, Mr John Nelson until he replaced Mr Ware at Woolwich in March 1787 and finally Mr William Rule. It was William Rule who supervised the final stages of construction and the launch of HMS Leopard. In addition to this, the Sheerness Royal Dockyard was busy with the fitting out of the many smaller vessels being built in shipyards along the south Kent coast, which had a higher priority than an already largely obsolete ship of the line. By the time the ship was launched into the Swale on 24th April 1790, the French Revolution had occurred. In June 1790, the ship commissioned under Captain John Blankett.

When she was finally completed, HMS Leopard was a ship of 1044 tons, she was 146ft 5in long on the upper gundeck, 120ft long along the keel and 40ft 8in wide across her beams. She was armed with 22 24pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 22 12pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, 2 24pdr carronades and 2 9pdr long guns on her forecastle, 4 9pdr long guns and 4 24pdr carronades on her quarterdeck with 6 12pdr carronades on her poop deck. In addition to her main guns, she carried a dozen hald-pounder swivel guns attached to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. She was manned by a crew of 350 officers, seamen, boys and Royal Marines.

Despite being on the verge of obsolescence, HMS Leopard had an active career. On 12th May 1796, she took part in the capture of the Dutch 36 gun frigate Argo off Texel, in company with HMS Phoenix. The Dutch frigate had been sailing in company with three brigs and these were chased by the frigate HMS Pegasus and the brig HMS Sylph. The brigs managed to evade capture.

On 18th February 1797, she captured the French privateer Victorieux. May of 1797 saw the ship at the Nore, where the Great Mutiny there broke out on the 12th. HMS Leopard, in company with the 64 gun 3rd rate HMS Repulse escaped from the mutiny on 9th June, coming under fire from the mutineer-controlled ships HMS Monmouth and HMS Director as they did so.

The following year saw the ship operating in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. On 26th October 1798, HMS Leopard captured the French privateer Apollon in the Indian Ocean. On 22nd August 1800, she captured the French privateer Clarisse in the Red Sea.

She landed troops at Suez on 22nd April 1801 as part of the campaign against the French army stranded in Egypt after Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

1804 - 1805 saw serious French preparations for an invasion of Britain and HMS Leopard was recalled to home waters, operating as part of the blockade of Boulogne. In April 1805, HMS Leopard was part of a squadron which captured a number of Dutch armed Schuyts (a kind of flat-bottomed river barge) off Boulogne.

By 1807, the French were attempting to provoke the United States into joining them in the war against Great Britain and as part of an attempt to intimidate the USA into deciding otherwise, HMS Leopard was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia to join British forces patrolling the eastern coast of the USA. In the spring of 1807, the Royal Navy had received information that a significant number of British deserters were hiding amongst the crew of the large American frigate USS Chesapeake. Seamen on the run from the Royal Navy had discovered that they would be offered asylum on American ships and be given a chance to earn US Citizenship. On 1st June 1807, Commander-in-Chief Halifax Station issued orders to the effect that the USS Chesapeake was to be stopped and searched if intercepted outside American territorial waters. On 21st June 1807, HMS Leopard, in company with the 74 gun 3rd rate ship of the line HMS Bellona and the 36 gun frigate HMS Melampus anchored off Cape Henry, Virginia and lay in wait for the USS Chesapeake. They were joined the following day by the large 74 gun 3rd rate ship HMS Triumph.

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USS Chesapeake

On 22nd June, USS Chesapeake was spotted and HMS Leopard was ordered to intercept the American ship. Captain Salusbury Humphreys of HMS Leopard hailed the American to heave-to. Commodore James Barron, in command of the USS Chesapeake saw no problem with this and complied with the British request. Lieutenant John Meade was despatched from HMS Leopard and presented Commodore Barron with a search warrant. The American was having none of it and sent Mr Meade back to HMS Leopard. Captain Humphreys then ordered the USS Chesapeake to comply and HMS Leopard fired a shot across the American's bow. When the American further refused to comply, HMS Leopard responded by firing three full broadsides into the American ship. USS Chesapeake was totally unprepared for the attack and only managed to fire one single gun in response. With three men dead and 18 wounded, including Commodore Barron himself, Barron ordered his colours to be struck and his ship surrendered. The British captain refused the surrender and sent a boarding party across to the USS Chesapeake.

Leopardchesapeake.jpg Chesapeake.jpg

The boarding party proceeded to search the American ship and found four suspected deserters. These were Daniel Martin, John Strachan and William Ware. These three men had run from HMS Melampus. The fourth man, Jenkin Ratford had run from HMS Halifax. The four men were arrested, taken aboard HMS Leopard and taken to Halifax, where they stood trial at Court Martial. Of the four men, Martin, Strachan and Ware were able to prove their American citizenship. They had previously served in the Royal Navy but were not British Citizens. Two of the three men were African-Americans. They were each sentenced to 500 lashes, but this was commuted. Ratford was not so lucky. He was a British citizen, had deserted from the Royal Navy and was sentenced to death. He was hanged from the fore-yard of HMS Halifax. USS Chesapeake had been allowed to go on her way after the men were seized.

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Handing over the sword after the capture

The incident, known now as the 'Leopard-Chesapeake Affair' caused a storm of outrage in the United States and led the two countries to the brink of war. Relations between the United States and Great Britain remained tense for the next few years and this incident, British assistance to rebelling Native Americans, together with constant French provocation and further incidents involving British warships stopping American ships and seizing men thought to be deserters eventually led to the United States declaring war on Britain on 18th June 1812. The unfortunate USS Chesapeake went on to be captured by the 18pdr-armed 38 gun frigate HMS Shannon in 1813.

By 1810, the ship was operating in the Indian Ocean again and arrived off Mauritius in company with the 36 gun frigate HMS Iphegenia and the ex-French 32 gun frigate HMS Magicienne in early April in order to support the campaign to take that island from the French. She wasn't there long, in May, she was dispatched to the Cape of Good Hope to replace the 64 gun 3rd rate ship HMS Raisonnable, which had returned to the UK.

Her career as a front line warship was over by 1811. Fourth Rate ships of the line like HMS Leopard were by this time, totally outclassed by the Heavy Frigates then entering service. HMS Leopard, in common with other surviving, similar ships, was relegated to second-line duties such as carrying stores and troops. Between March and April 1811 HMS Leopard was converted at the Chatham Royal Dockyard to a 26 gun troopship, when her lower gundeck guns were permanently removed and the gunports sealed shut. She spent the rest of her career carrying troops, stores and prisoners to and from the far-flung corners of the by now rapidly expanding British Empire.

HMS Leopard
's career came to an end on 28th June 1814. Whilst carrying 475 soldiers of the Royal Scots Guards from the UK to Quebec, she ran aground in fog on Anticosti Island off the coast of Quebec. Despite efforts to refloat her, the ship couldn't be saved. All aboard the ship escaped unharmed but the ship was lost.

Infos and parts of text or texts from Rif Winfields book, Kenthistory and others

Beautiful built model of the HMS Leopard 1790

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hms-leopard-leopard-stern.jpg
 
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