Johnston Blakeley, Hero of the War of 1812

Johnston Blakeley Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On November 28, 1814, Congress promoted Johnston Blakeley to the rank of Captain for his stellar performance in the ongoing war with Great Britain.

Born in Ireland but raised in Wilmington, Blakeley joined the navy as a young man and had a great deal of experience when the War of 1812 was declared. Shortly after the war’s outbreak, he was ordered to Massachusetts to oversee construction of a new sloop, Wasp.

Blakeley left port aboard the Wasp in May 1814, and captured his first prize the following month. By the end of June, he had captured and burned four more enemy vessels.

Blakeley’s crowning achievement came on June 28 when the Wasp defeated the British sloop-of-war HMS Reindeer during a brutal exchange of cannon fire and multiple attempts by the British sailors to board the Wasp. The Wasp, damaged by the fight, sailed to France to offload prisoners and seek repairs. Two more prizes were captured en route.

As news of Blakeley’s success filtered back to the United States in October and November, he became a hero. It’s unclear if Blakeley ever learned of his promotion as the ship disappeared while returning to the United States from Europe.

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