Johnston Blakeley, War of 1812 Hero, Lost at Sea

A lithograph of Blakeley from the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn May 1, 1814, the USS Wasp set sail with a crew of 173 men and orders to harass British merchant ships. The ship’s successes were many and the ship’s captain, Johnston Blakeley was described as “a brave and discreet officer” and his ship as “one of the most successful of our cruisers.”

Blakeley was awarded a gold medal for his victory over the HMS Reindeer and was promoted to captain. He never learned of his promotion since the Wasp was lost at sea. The ship is believed to have been sunk in an Atlantic storm, since no British ship reported destroying the prized vessel. The last known sighting of the ship was by the Swedish vessel Adonis on October 9.

Blakeley’s widow, Jane Ann, gave birth to their daughter, Maria, in January 1815. The following year, the state of North Carolina voted to bestow upon his widow a sword in honor of her husband’s service, but she suggested instead that a silver tea service be given to Maria. An elegant service was crafted by Anthony Rasch of Philadelphia in 1818 and presented to the child. The Blakeley tea service is now in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

An engraving of the Wasp engaged in battle from the N.C. Museum of History

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