“She is, perhaps the most beautiful vessel that ever floated on the ocean…She has carried terror and alarm through the W. Indies…and frequently chased by British vessels…” Niles’ Weekly Register, 1815
The Chasseur ’was launched at the Thomas Kemp’s shipyard at Fell’s Point on December 12, 1812, described as a topsail-schooner-rigged, sharp-built vessel documented for a letter-of-marque. After two rather unsuccessful voyages she was sold at auction deliverable in New York. She had a new captain, well known in Fell’s Point, Captain Thomas Boyle (1775-1825) who had commanded the private armed vessel Comet a year before. She cleared New York on July 24 and charted her course to the English coast.
Having learned that the British admiralty had proclaimed the U.S. east coast under strict naval blockade, they having such great naval forces, Captain Boyle sent his own blockade proclamation into London. It was taken in by a captured an English merchantman and posted at the maritime insurance firm of Lloyd’s of London for all to see. The audacious proclamation read:
BY THOMAS BOYLE, ESQUIRE; COMMANDER OF THE PRIVATE ARMED BRIG CHASSEUR
Whereas, it has been customary with the admirals of Great Britain commanding small forces on the coast of the United States, particularly with Sir John Borlase Warren and Sir Alexander Cochrane to declare the coast of the said United States in a state of rigorous blockade, without possessing the power to justify such a declaration, or stationing an adequate force to command such a blockade.
I do, therefore, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested (possessing sufficient force) declare all the ports, harbors, bays, creeks rivers, inlets, outlets, island and sea coast of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in a state of strict and rigorous blockade, and I do further declare that I consider the forces under my command adequate to maintain strictly, rigorously and effectually, the said blockade.
And, I do hereby require the respective officers, whether captains or commanding officers, under my command, employed or to be employed on the coast of England, Ireland and Scotland, to pay strict attention to this my proclamation.
And, I hereby caution and forbid the ships and vessels and every nation, in amity and peace with the United States, from entering or attempting to come out of any of the said ports, harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, islands, or sea coasts, on or under my pretense whatever; and that no person may plead ignorance of this my proclamation, I have ordered the same to be made public in England.
Given under my hand on board the Chasseur. By the commanding Officer, THOMAS BOYLE, J.B. STANSBURY, SECRETARY.
Sources: The Republic’s Private Navy: The American Privateering Business as practiced by Baltimore during the War of 1812, by Jerome R. Garitee (Mystic Seaport, 1977); Tom Boyle: Master Privateer by Fred W. Hopkins, Jr. (Tidewater, MD., 1976); The Fell’s Point Story by Norman G. Ricket (Baltimore: Bodine & Associates, Inc., 1976).