Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

The Orlando (built circa 1811)
MSA SC 5496-014997
British Frigate, Captain John Clavell, War of 1812


The British frigate Orlando was built in Chatham, England, in 1811, from a design by Sir Edward Hunt.1 "A very favourite and fast-sailing frigate,"2 the thirty-six-gun vessel began service in the Mediterranean under Captain John Clavell during the Napoleonic Wars.3 Prior to receiving his post as captain, Clavell had served as a first lieutenant on the Royal Sovereign, and suffered a serious head wound in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.4 He was promoted to the rank of captain that year. In 1814, Clavell sailed the Orlando to Bermuda. He joined Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn, "who took the Orlando to the Chesapeake, and there left him [Clavell] in command of five frigates and four sloops."5 Cockburn described Clavell as a leader of "active zeal.6

In January 1815, the Orlando was stationed in the Potomac River, along with the Havannah under Captain William Hamilton.7 On January 16th, Clavell reported from St. George's Island that his own ship and the "Havannah...are getting very sickly having thirty each in the List—We are badly off for Fresh Beef, and there is no getting it without money, as they will not exchange it for Salt."8

On February 23, 1815, Clavell wrote the following to Rear Admiral Cockburn:

Two Commissioners have come to me with proper Authority, to demand the private property and Slaves, agreeable to the first Article of the Treaty— Private property I have none, or, are there any Slaves on Tangier, except the Wives and Children belonging to the Black Batallion, which I have refused giving up, as well as those that have Entered on Board the different Ships.9
The Orlando soon received many of these refugee slaves from "the different Ships," which included the Havannah, the Dauntless, and the Menelaus. On March 6, 1815, thirty-one American slaves were on board the Orlando, including twenty-one men, four women, and five children.10 For instance, the slaves Margaret Clem, Lucy Hall, Leah Hantes, Jerry Lynch, and Nathaniel Johnson, had escaped to the Havannah from Mathias Clarke's and George Loker's farms in St. Mary's County. They were transferred to the Orlando on February 27, 1815. General Saunders and his brother Davy had escaped to the ship Dauntless from Thomas Reynolds' farm in Calvert County, and had boarded the Orlando by March 6th.

Captain Clavell commanded his squadron until the end of the War of 1812. He sailed the Orlando to Bermuda in April 1815, carrying the slave refugees with him.11 The Madagascar and the Bream accompanied the Orlando.12 Later that year, Captain Clavell began a seven-month journey to China, again in the Orlando, arriving in July 1816.13 In 1818, the vessel was found unfit during service in India, forcing Captain Clavell and his crew to return to England on the new frigate Malabar.14

1.     "Correspondence." Naval Chronicle 1 January 1818: 285. Access Newspaper Archive.
1.     "Naval Intelligence." The Edinburgh Advertiser 26 November 1811: 6.
1.     Robert Gardiner. Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000) 10, 11 and 22.
1.     "Orlando." Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy. Age of Nelson.

2.     Qtd. in James A. Sharp, ed. Memoirs of the Life and Services of Rear-Admiral Sir William Symonds, Kt. (London, UK: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1858) 550.

3.     Edward Pelham Brenton. The Naval History of Great Britain, From the Year 1783 to 1836. Vol. 2 (London, UK: 1837) 85.
3.     John Marshall. Royal Naval Biography (London, UK: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1830) 438.
3.     Gardiner 23.

4.     Brenton 85.
        Marshall 438.

5.     Marshall 443.

6.     Ibid.

7.     William S. Dudley, ed. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985) 364.
        Arthur William Alsager Pollock. "Obituary." United Service Magazine: Naval and Military Journal (1861: 3) 125.

8.     Qtd. in Dudley 348.

9.     Dudley 349.

10.   Thomas M. Bayly. No. III, Bayly's List. (RG 76. Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitration. Records of the Mixed Claims Commission: Miscellaneous Records. National Archives, College Park) 112.

11.   Ibid.

12.   State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States. Boston, MA: Thomas B. Wait, 1819.

13.   Henry Ellis. Journal of the Proceedings of the Late Embassy to China (London, UK: Edward Moxon, 1840.) 46-47.

14.   Untitled. The British Press 19 July 1819: 2. Access Newspaper Archive.
14.   Untitled. The Courier 2 August 1819: 2. Access Newspaper Archive.

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