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USS Royal Savage (1775)
Career (United States)
Name: Royal Savage
Builder: British, St. John, Quebec
Launched: Summer 1775
Out of service: 11 October 1776
Fate: she was taken by the British and burned
General characteristics
Type: schooner
Displacement: 70 long tons (71 t)
Length: 50 ft (15 m)
Beam: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Sail plan: gaff-rig
Complement: 40–50
  • 8 × 4-pounder guns
  • 4 × 6-pounder guns
  • 10 × swivel guns

Royal Savage was a two-masted schooner built by the British in the summer of 1775.[1] She was damaged and sunk by soldiers of the United Colonies during the Siege of Fort St. Jean and later raised and repaired after the fort was captured.[2]

Design[edit | edit source]

The dimensions of Royal Savage were an estimated 50 ft (15 m) long and 15 ft (4.6 m) wide with an unknown draft and a displacement of 70 long tons (71 t).[2]

She was armed with eight 4-pounder guns, four 6-pounder guns, and ten swivel guns. Royal Savage had a crew of 40 to 50 men.[2]

Service history[edit | edit source]

Siege of Fort St. Jean[edit | edit source]

Royal Savage, a two-masted schooner, was damaged and sunk by American forces under Richard Montgomery during the siege of St. Johns (St. Jean-Iberville), Quebec, in the fall of 1775. Raised and repaired after the capture of that fort on 2 November, she, with the small schooner Liberty and the sloop Enterprise (ex-HMS George III), formed the nucleus of the American Lake Champlain squadron. That squadron, under Benedict Arnold, denied the British the use of the lake during the fall of 1776 and thus contributed to Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga.[2]

Summer 1776[edit | edit source]

In June 1776, the American force, pushed from Canada, fell back to Crown Point, Skenesborough, and Fort Ticonderoga. There Arnold pressed his force to complete a shipbuilding program before the British completed their squadron. In late August, 10 of his ships were finished and he moved north with Royal Savage as his flagship. Into September he scouted the lakeshore. On the 23 September he moved his fleet into an anchorage at Valcour Island, separated from the western shore by a half-mile channel, to await the remainder of his squadron, and the British. With the arrival of the galley Congress, Arnold shifted his headquarters to that boat, and continued to wait.[2]

Battle of Valcour Island[edit | edit source]

On 11 October the north wind carried the British past the island. American ships, including Royal Savage, appeared; fired on the enemy, and beat back into the southern entrance to the channel, where the remainder of Arnold's force was positioned to meet the enemy, beat him if possible, but, at all cost, to delay him.[2]

Coming in from the south, the British force was handicapped by the wind. Arnold's planning and the British acceptance of the bait had given the Americans a chance to carry out their mission.[2]

Royal Savage, however, ran aground on the southwest point of Valcour Island around 11am when attempting to return to the American line, and, undefendable, was abandoned. Despite attempts to reboard her, she was taken by the a British boarding party which turned her guns against the American fleet. They too, however, soon found themselves under considerable fire and had to abandond Royal Savage.[2][1]

The British didn't want to give the Americans an opportunity to retake Royal Savage so they set fire to her sometime after dark. This, though, led to unintintionally helping the American fleet escape in the night. With the fire burning all night she was able to provided for a magnificent distraction. Combined with a moonless night, the ammunition blowing up and staring at the fire, the British were unable to see the American fleet slip away.[1]

Preservation[edit | edit source]

The ship remained in the lake until it was raised in 1934 by marine salvor and amateur archaeologist Lorenzo Hagglund. According to Art Cohn, Hagglund’s family held onto the remains of the ship and associated artifacts until being purchased by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1995.[3]

The remains were sold to Harrisburg for $42,500 with the plan of five museums being created in the city. The ship had no connections to either the city of Harrisburg or the state of Pennsylvania, but with plans of revolving displays that would cover different periods of history the then mayor, Stephen R. Reed was able to rationale the purchase. However, only two of the planned six museums opened and the plans to display Royal Savage stalled with the remains being pilled up in the corner of one of the city garages.[1]

In October 2013 the city council tried to recoup some of the city's money by auctioning off the remains of Royal Savage. They had already auctioned off some other artifacts in 2006 that had an American West connection in Dallas, Texas. The pre-auction estimates for Royal Savage ranged between $20,000 and $30,000. This fell well below the $42,500 that had been paid for her in 1995. The starting bid was set at $10,000 but she was only able to bring $5,000. However, in the end the bidder decided not to take possession of Royal Savage and Harrisburg retained ownership.[1]

In July 2015 the city of Harrisburg was formally presented with the remains of Royal Savage.[3]

Mayor Eric Papenfuse presided over the event in which Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Director Sam Cox accepted the artifacts on behalf of the Navy.[3]

This ship, and its artifacts are now going to be preserved and cherished for the public for generations to come as they should be. For the last 20 years, the artifacts have stayed in storage, out of public viewing, and we are pleased today to bring them to the light of day and to make sure they are being given the proper care.


Notes[edit | edit source]


Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Online resources

Further reading

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