Jun 30

USS Peacock vs. British East India Company Brig Nautilus

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 4:00 AM


The last naval action of the War of 1812, a contest between U.S. sloop of war Peacock and the British East India Company brig Nautilus, took place on 30 June 1815, in the Sunda Strait off Java——four months after the declaration of peace.

On 1 December 1814, Secretary of the Navy William Jones had directed Commodore Stephen Decatur to lead a four-ship squadron comprising the frigate President, sloops of war Peacock and Hornet, and the store ship Tom Bowline on a commerce raiding cruise in the East Indies. By the end of April 1815, only Peacock remained to fulfill the mission. Still unaware that the war had ended, Peacock captured three English merchantmen during June off Java.

On the morning of 30 June, the Americans encountered the East India Company brig Nautilus in Java’s Anjier Roads. Peacock’s captain, Lewis Warrington, disregarding Nautilus’s protestations about the peace treaty, ordered his crew to open fire. Nautilus struck after a scant, fifteen-minute battle, having sustained considerable damage and casualties. The next day Java officials sent proof of the peace; Peacock sailed for America, the war finally over for its crew.

The diplomatic repercussions of Warrington’s post-War of 1812 cruise reverberated throughout the Navy and State Departments and in Congress for the next thirteen years. By 1828 the American government had satisfied all the monetary claims initiated on behalf of the three merchant vessels captured by Peacock. The British silence about any indemnification for the alleged “wanton violence” against Nautilus may have been due to Great Britain’s more conciliatory policy toward America in the postwar era.