Wreck of USS Revenge found by divers near Rhode Island

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Wreck of USS Revenge found by divers near Rhode Island

January 08, 2011 - 14:23
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A team of divers say they've discovered the remains of the USS Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry and wrecked off Rhode Island in 1811.

Divers from Connecticut, including Charles Buffam, one of the distant relatives of Oliver Perry, on board the Blue Moon, first found what they all believed were a number of 1,000 pound cannons, on the deck of the U.S.S. Revenge, in 10 to 15 feet of water.

Divers say they have discovered the remains of the USS Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry and wrecked off Rhode Island in 1811

The divers claim to have found other relics that fit the time period from when the ship sank — cannons, an anchor and other metal objects — but have yet to find anything that definitely identifies the ship as the USS Revenge — such as the ship's bell.

The ship will either be salvaged by the Navy, which has first rights to its shipwrecks, or it could possibly be salvaged privately and its artifacts put on display in a museum.

The divers, Charles Buffum, a brewery owner from Stonington, Conn., and Craig Harger, a carbon dioxide salesman from Colchester, Conn., say the wreck changed the course of history, because Perry likely would not have been sent to Lake Erie otherwise.

Perry is known for defeating the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie off the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario in the War of 1812 — and for the line "We have met the enemy and they are ours." His battle flag bore the phrase "Don't give up the ship," and to this day is a symbol of the Navy.

Buffum said he's been interested in finding the remains of the Revenge ever since his mother several years ago gave him the book "Shipwrecks on the Shores of Westerly." The book includes Perry's account of the wreck, which happened when it hit a reef in a storm in heavy fog off Watch Hill in Westerly, as Perry was bringing the ship from Newport to New London, Conn.

Sunday marks the 200th anniversary of the Revenge running aground on a reef.

History

The Revenge was a schooner purchased by the Navy at New Orleans in December 1806. Ordered to the Atlantic coast, the schooner, commanded by Lt. Jacob Jones was assigned to Commodore John Rodgers' New York Flotilla which was organized soon after the Chesapeake-Leopard incident and charged with protecting shipping near that vital port. After Jefferson's Embargo Act was passed at the close of the year, the flotilla had the unpleasant duty of blockading the U.S. coast to prevent foreign commerce.

In 1809, Lt. Oliver Hazard Perry relieved Jones in command of Revenge. With the repeal of the Embargo Act, the ship widened her operations, cruising south to the tip of Florida and north to the coast of New England.

In April 1810, the schooner entered the Washington Navy Yard for repairs. The following July, while cruising off Charleston, S.C., Revenge was ordered to Amelia Island, Fla., then Spanish territory, to free an American ship, Diana, which had been seized in Spanish waters and placed under British colors. Undaunted by the presence of two British warships, Perry boarded the ship, manned her with a prize crew, and sailed away.

That winter, Revenge surveyed the harbors of Newport, R.I.; New London, Conn.; and Gardiner's Bay, Long Island N.Y. The schooner ran aground on 9 January 1811 while returning to New London and was abandoned. Perry was cleared of responsibility for loss of the ship by a court of inquiry.

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