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USS Syren (1803)

A typical brig sail plan
Career Flag of the United States (1795-1818).svg
Name: USS Syren
Laid down: 1803
Launched: 6 August 1803
Commissioned: September 1803
Renamed: Siren, 1809
Fate: Captured at sea, 12 July 1814
General characteristics
Type: Brig
Displacement: 240 long tons (244 t)
Length: 94 ft 4 in (28.75 m)
Beam: 27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)
Draft: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Complement: 120 officers and enlisted
Armament: 16 × 24-pounder carronades

USS Syren (later Siren) was a brig of the United States Navy during the First Barbary War and the War of 1812 until being captured by the Royal Navy in 1814.

Syren was built for the Navy in 1803 at Philadelphia by shipwright Nathaniel Hutton and launched on 6 August 1803. She was commissioned in September and Lieutenant Charles Stewart was appointed in command.[1]

Service historyEdit

First Barbary WarEdit

The brig departed Philadelphia on 27 August 1803 and reached Gibraltar on 1 October. A fortnight later, she sailed via Livorno to Algiers carrying presents and money to the Dey of Algiers. She then sailed to Syracuse, Sicily, where she arrived early in January 1804.[1]

The first action the Syren was involved in was an attack with the intention of destroying the Philadelphia, a frigate which had run aground and had been captured by Tripolitan gunboats the previous autumn. To prevent the Philadelphia from opposing his planned operations against Tripoli, the commander of the American squadron in the Mediterranean, Commodore Edward Preble, decided to destroy her. To achieve this, the Syren and ketch Intrepid sailed from Syracuse on 3 February 1804 and proceeded to Tripoli which they reached on the 7th. However, before the American ships could launch their attack, they were driven off by a violent gale and did not get back off Tripoli until the 16th. Before the attack the Syren tied up alongside the Intrepid to transfer some of her crew for the assault on the Philadelphia. Aboard the Intrepid, under the command of Stephen Decatur sailors from both the Intrepid and Syren succeeded in burning the Philadelphia. Also present during the assault was Thomas Macdonough of the Syren.[1][2]

Syren returned to Syracuse on the morning of 19 February. On 9 March, she and Nautilus sailed for Tripoli. Soon after their arrival, Syren captured a polacca called Madona Catapolcana and sent her to Malta. Toward the end of the month, she captured the armed brig Transfer belonging to the Pasha. Stewart renamed Transfer USS Scourge, and she served in the American squadron.[1] Operations in the Mediterranean during the spring and summer of 1804 and participated in the attacks on Tripoli in August and September 1804. The ship continued to support the squadron's operation against Tripoli which forced the Pasha to accede to American demands. After a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on 10 June 1805, the brig remained in the Mediterranean for almost a year helping to establish and maintain satisfactory relations with other Barbary states.[1]

The ship returned to America in May 1806 and reached the Washington Navy Yard in August. She was laid up in ordinary there until recommissioned in 1807 and subsequently carried dispatches to France in 1809.[1] The following year, her name was changed to Siren.[3]

War of 1812Edit

Little record has been found of the brig's service during the War of 1812, however small news items appeared in the Salem Gazette and the Boston Gazette.

In May 1813 it was reported that within the space of two days a merchant vessel, the Pilgrim, was boarded, first by HMS Herald which was searching for the Syren and then by the Syren, which was searching for the Herald. The Syren was now commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Bainbridge.[4] The following month The Syren left Belize and proceeded to Cuba where after three weeks searching for an Royal Navy sloop, probably the Herald she sailed for the coast of Florida putting in at New Orleans before departing on 9 May 1813. No prizes were taken during this voyage and the ship needed repairs.[5]

By January 1814 the Syren was in Massachusetts and was now commanded by Lieutenant Parker,[6] In February she sailed along with a privateer the Grand Turk.[7] Not long after sailing Parker died and command transferred to Lieutenant N.J. Nicholson.[8]

On 12 July 1814 the Syren encountered the British ship HMS Medway a 74 gun third rate ship of the line under the command of Captain Augustus Brine. Heavily outgunned, the Syren attempted to run. After an 11 hour chase Medway captured her despite Syren having lightening her load by throwing overboard her guns, anchors and boats.[9] During her last voyage she had captured or sunk several British merchantmen.[8][10] Among the prisoners was Samuel Leech, who later wrote an account of his experiences.

According to Samuel Leech, after being captured the crew of the Syren were taken to the Cape of Good Hope, and after landing at Simonstown, marched to a jail in Cape Town. Here they were held until transferred to England when the war was over. On arriving at Simonstown, other American prisoners were seen to be leaving the jail and being shipped off to Dartmoor. The Syren crew met these again in England while waiting for transfer to America. Some had been present at 'The Massacre'.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Syren". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  2. Skaggs, 2003: Thomas Macdonough: Master of command in the early U.S. Navy, p.42
  3. The source for renaming is Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, however contemporary reports of the ship after 1809 still refer to the ship's name as Syren
  4. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 28 May 1813. 
  5. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 14 June 1814. 
  6. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 1 February 1814. 
  7. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 22 February 1814. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 4 August 1814. 
  9. The London Gazette: no. 16958. p. 2287. 19 November 1814. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  10. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 16 March 1815. 


  • Skaggs, David Curtis (2003). Thomas Macdonough: Master of command in the early U.S. Navy. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. pp. 257. ISBN 1-55750-839-9.  Url

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