USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere on August 19,1812 during War of 1812, Eye-witness account by U.S. Navy Captain Isaac Hull TEXT

As we bore up, she hoisted an English Ensign at the mizzen gaff, another in the mizzen shrouds, and a Jack at the fore, and mizzen top gallant mast heads. At 5 Minutes past 5 P.M. as we were running down on her weather quarter, she fired a broadside but without effect the shot all falling short. She then wore and gave us a broadside from her port guns, two of which shot struck us but without doing any injury.

At this time finding we were within gunshot...The enemy continued wearing, and maneuvering for about 1/2 of an hour, to get the wind of us. At length finding that she could not, she bore up to bring the wind on the quarter and run under her topsails, and jib. Finding that we came up very slow, and were receiving her shot without being able to return them with effect, I ordered the main top gallant sail set, to run up alongside of her.

At 5 Minutes past 6 P.M. being alongside, and within less than pistol shot, we commenced a very heavy fire from all our guns, loaded with round, and grape, which was done with great execution, so much so that in less than fifteen minutes from the time, we got alongside, his mizzen mast went by the board, and his main yard in the slings and the hull and sails very much injured, which made it difficult for them to manage her.

At this time the Constitution had received but little damage, and having more sail set than the enemy, she shot ahead. On seeing this, I determined to put the helm to port, and oblige him to do the same, or suffer himself to be raked by our getting across his bow. On our helm being put to port the ship came to, and gave us an opportunity of pouring in upon his port bow several broadsides, which made great havoc amongst his men on the forecastle and did great injury to his fore rigging and sails.

The enemy put his helm to port, at the time we did, but his mizzen mast being over the quarter, prevented her coming to, which brought us across his bow, with his bowsprit over our stern. At this moment I determined to board him, but the instant the boarders were called for that purpose, his foremast and mainmast went by the board, and took with them the jib boom, and every other spar except the bowsprit.

On seeing the enemy totally disabled, and the Constitution received but little injury, I ordered the sails filled, to haul off, and repair our damages and return again to the action, not knowing whether the enemy had struck, or not. We stood off for about half an hour, to repair our braces, and such other rigging as had been shot away, and wore around to return to the enemy. It being now dark, we could not see whether she had any colors flying or not, but could discover that she had raised a small flag staff or jury mast forward.

I ordered a boat hoisted out and sent Lieutenant Reed on board as to see whether she had surrendered or not, and if she had to see what assistance she wanted, as I believed she was sinking.

Lieutenant Reed returned in about twenty minutes, and brought with him James Richard Dacres Esq. Commander of his Britannic Majesty's Frigate the Guerriere, which ship had surrendered to the United States Frigate Constitution.