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HMS Detroit (1812)

United Kingdom
Name: HMS Detroit
Builder: River Rouge Military Shipyard
Launched: 1799
Acquired: Captured on 16 August 1812
Fate: Captured and burnt on 9 October 1812
Notes: Originally the US Army transport brig Adams
General characteristics
Class & type: 6-gun brig
Tons burthen: 150
Sail plan: brig
Armament: 6 x 6-pounder guns

HMS Detroit was a 6-gun brig of the Royal Navy. She served on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, giving the British control of the lake. She was briefly recaptured by the Americans, but came under heavy fire and had to be abandoned. Both the British and Americans contested her until her battered hulk was burnt.


  • American career and surrender 1
  • British career 2
  • Masters 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

American career and surrender

Detroit had previously been the brig Adams, a 150-ton vessel built at the United States Shipyard on the River Rouge, begun in 1798 and launched on May 18th 1799. Her official name was the Brig President Adams. She was utilised by the commissariat at Fort Shelby at Detroit, Michigan, to transport troops and supplies to Fort Mackinac and Fort Dearborn. Adams was in drydock at Detroit for repairs and refitting when war broke out, and though launched on July 4th 1812, was surrendered to the British with the rest of the city on Hull's capitulation. The British armed the prize and commissioned her as HMS Detroit. She and HMS Caledonia gave the British undisputed control of Lake Erie and the Upper Lakes.

British career

All changed early on the morning of 9 October 1812 when a boat expedition commanded by Lieutenant Jesse D. Elliott captured the two vessels right under the muzzles of the guns at Fort Erie. Caledonia made it safely to the temporary American base at Black Rock, but Detroit, owing to light wind, was swept away by the Niagara River's strong current and was forced to anchor within range of British guns. An artillery duel ensued. Elliott brought all his guns to his engaged side and continued the cannonade until his supply of ammunition was exhausted. Thereupon, he cut the cable; and the brig drifted down the river. She grounded on Squaw Island (today known as Unity Island) within range of both British and American batteries. Elliott and his men left the ship, and almost immediately, some two score British soldiers took brief possession of the brig. American guns soon drove them out with great loss, and both sides began pounding her with gunfire. The continued heavy Americans and British fire finally set fire to and destroyed the battered hulk.


Adams had three sailing masters during her American career, sailing under the command of Captain Peter Curry for her maiden voyage on 18 May 1800. Her second master was John Williams (not Joseph Campau's nephew), in the summer of 1801. Adams spent her longest period under Lieutenant Henry B. Brevoort, an army officer who had been master of the Gally Adams on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in 1800 and 1801. The Askin Papers recorded that "In the spring of 1802, he (Brevoort) was ordered to Detroit to assume command of the Adams, which had been built at Rouge River...from this time until the War of 1812, Brevoort commanded the 'navy of the lakes', which during most of the period comprised the Adams and her crew."

See also


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