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HMS Volcano (1804)
Name: HMS Heron (1804-1810)
HMS Volcano (1810-1816)
Acquired: by purchase, 1804
Commissioned: 1804
Decommissioned: 1806
Recommissioned: 1810
Decommissioned: 1815
Fate: Sold, 28 August 1816
General characteristics
Type: 16-gun ship-sloop / bomb vessel

HMS Heron was originally the merchant vessel Jason, which the Admiralty purchased in 1804 for the Royal Navy for use as 16-gun ship-sloop under the name HMS Heron. During the Napoleonic Wars she served as a convoy escort on the Leeward Islands station. Then in 1810 the Admiralty had her converted into a bomb vessel and renamed her HMS Volcano. As Volcano she served during the War of 1812, and in particular participated in the Battle of Baltimore. The Admiralty sold her in 1816.


As Heron[]

The Admiralty purchased Jason when the Napoleonic Wars broke out. After the Treaty of Amiens, Britain had disarmed while France rearmed so on the resumption of war the Admiralty found itself short of vessels for convoy escort. Because of the urgency of the situation, the Admiralty purchased twenty such (three-masted) mercantile vessels; among them they took Jason into service with her original masts and yards even though she was under-canvassed and therefore slow, and without a cargo in her hold tended to roll; she became HMS Heron.

She was commissioned in June 1804 under Commander John Edgecombe. At the end of the year he escorted a convoy of merchantmen from England to Barbados. Once in Barbados Edgecombe faced a dilemma. On the one hand there were reports of an enemy fleet in the Windward Isles that could threaten Barbados. On the other hand, a fleet of 28 merchantmen and two transports had gathered in Carlisle Bay, awaiting a warship to escort them to Halifax or Britain. Edgecombe decided to escort the convoy, risking court martial for leaving his duty station without orders. Five of the ships parted company for Halifax. Argus, off Cape Clear, met six others that were going up the St. Georges Channel. Heron accompanied the remainder to the Downs, where the convoy arrived on 2 August 1805. The captains of the 19 vessels that Edgecombe had convoyed signed a letter, interceding with the Admiralty on his behalf. The letter proved moot as the Admiralty had already approved Edgecombe's actions.

Edgecombe realized that Heron was too slow to catch enemy cruisers; instead he decided to use guile. While she was sailing to Antigua with a convoy he noticed a schooner approaching. He hoisted American colours and dressed a midshipman as a woman. The schooner showed French colours and approached. Unfortunately, the French vessel was too low for Heron's guns to bear and rolled too much for her crew to secure grapnels. All that the British could do was raise the British ensign and discharge a volley of musketry before the French vessel escaped. Cambrian later captured the schooner, which turned out to be the Matilde, of 16 guns.

Thereafter, Heron escorted convoys to Halifax, Newfoundland and Bermuda until December 1806 when Edgecombe, whose health had been impaired, left. Heron then remained in ordinary until 1810 when the Admiralty had her converted into a bomb vessel and renamed her Volcano.

As Volcano[]

Commander David Price assumed command of Volcano on 6 December 1813. In the summer of 1814 he sailed her to North America to join Sir Alexander Cochrane's fleet off the entrance to Baltimore harbour where he joined in the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Along with her were other bomb vessels and a Congreve rocket vessel, Erebus. The entire fleet consisted of 19 vessels, and launched over 1,500 bombs during the attack, but killed only four Americans and wounding 24 before giving up the attack.

Later, Volcano served in the Potomac under Rear Admiral Pulteney Malcolm. On 31 October 1814, while escorting a merchantman to Jamaica, Volcano nearly succeeded in capturing the 7-gun American privateer schooner Saucy Jack. The two vessels exchange fire before the American took advantage of her greater speed and escaped. The British lost three men killed; the Americans lost seven killed and 14 wounded.


After end of the war with America, Volcano sailed left for home on 5 April 1815 and arrived at Portsmouth on 31 May. The Admiralty sold Volcano on 28 August 1816.


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