Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

U.S. Revenue Cutters In The War of 1812 (Coast Guard)

U.S. Revenue Cutters In The War of 1812 (Coast Guard) – http://www.uscg.mil/history/wars/1812/1812.asp   (Link currently down 8/25/17)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find accounts of boarding parties in the War of 1812?
  • What restrictions did the Revenue department put on the use of cutters?
  • Who commanded the Surveyor during the War of 1812?


This page links to a number of resources related to the service of Revenue Cutters (pre-Coast Guard) during the War of 1812 including some chronologies. Most likely of interest to writers are the cutter-specific histories for the following vessels:

  • Active
  • Argus
  • Commodore Barry
  • Diligence
  • Eagle
  • Gallatin
  • George
  • Hornet
  • Louisiana
  • James Madison
  • Massachusetts
  • Mercury
  • New Hampshire
  • Surveyor
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Vigilant

Each cutter history includes available specifications, its ultimate disposition, the ship’s master during the war, significant events during the war and a sources section that provides additional leads. Some of the histories quote contemporary accounts of battles like this one involving the cutter Eagle:

An American captive on board the captured merchantman characterized the engagement as such: “The cutter was stripped of her sails, &c, and her guns dragged up to a high bluff, and there fought against the brig and tender with bravery until two o‟clock. The brig opened fire against the cutter and our people on the hill about 9 o‟clock, and by two the cutter‟s masts were cut away, and her hull appeared to us who were in the sloop, about 2 or 3 miles from the brig, to be a wreck.” After fighting for two days, Dispatch departed, and then Lee patched up and refloated damaged Eagle. However, Dispatch and its tender returned with HMS Narcissus (36) on October 13 and delivered an overwhelming force of seven barges, whose men fought off Lee’s men and captured the damaged cutter. Lee later commented: “The officers and crew, together with the volunteers, on board the cutter, have done their duty as became American sailors.

Search Tip:

To look for particular people or themes in a cutter history, visit your favorite search engine and conduct this search:

[Search Terms] “War of 1812 Events and Operations:” inurl:history/webcutters

For example, the search [surprise “War of 1812 Events and Operations:” inurl:history/webcutters] brings up two results, one in which a surprise attack on the Cutter Mercury is averted and a town is saved. Using “drown” in place of “surprise” brings up the cutter Diligence, which assisted the American brig defiance after a capsizing drowned three crewmembers.


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