Capture of the Legendary Snap Dragon, 1814

A painting of the HMS Martin capturing the American privateer Snap Dragon. Image from the Canadian War Museum.

On June 30, 1814, Otway Burns’ privateering ship Snap Dragon, temporarily under the command of Captain W. R. Graham, was captured by the British near, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Burns was at home suffering from rheumatism. The Snap Dragon mounted six guns and was carrying 70 men at the time it was seized. The vessel was on its fourth privateering voyage, and had recently captured the schooner Linnet laden with fish and oil and another schooner full of fruit.

Burns had the vessel outfitted for privateering through the sale of stock. Hefty subscribers came from New Bern and Beaufort. Burns, who was born near Swansboro, made three lucrative privateering runs on the Snap Dragon during the War of 1812, two to the West Indies and one to Nova Scotia. The prizes and captures he brought into the state were reported in several newspapers.

Stories were told of Burns’s adeptness at sea as well as his ability to lead men. The village of Otway in Carteret County bears the captain’s name as does the Yancey County town of Burnsville. Snap Dragon was the most successful North Carolina privateer during the war period.

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