H.M.S. Glasgow and the Incident at Crow Rock

HMS Glasgow was launched in 1757 and took part in the American revolutionary War. She is most famous for her involvement against the Continental Navy off Block Island on 6 April 1776. This  action was a night time naval encounter with the Continental Navy, which was returning from the Battle of Nassau on its maiden voyage, and HMS Glasgow, at the time serving as a dispatch boat under Captain Howe, successfully evaded capture from a fleet of seven Warships under the command of Esek Hopkins. She did, however, sustain quite a lot of damage in the encounter. -In 1775 the Second Continental Congress had established the Continental Navy and by the February of 1776 the first ships of the new fleet were ready for their maiden voyage. Commodore Esek Hopkins led this fleet of eight ships on an expedition to the Bahamas, where the British were known to have been keeping military supplies. In early March of that year the fleet, which lost one ship on route, landed marines on the island of New Providence and captured Nassau. After loading the ships with the captured military stores, the fleet then sailed north for Block Island. By April 4 the fleet reached the waters off Long Island, and captured HMS Hawk. The next day they captured HMS Bolton. The fleet then moved south hoping to catch further British ships as prizes. On April 6,  United States Ship Andrew Doria spotted HMS Glasgow which was carrying important military dispatches.  Howe came about to investigate the fleet, and over the next 30 minutes closed to within hailing shot. Esek Hopkins felt there was no immediate threat, so gave no signals to his fleet.

Captain Howe first came upon the USS Cabot, whose Captain was John Hopkins the son of Esek. The younger Hopkins, when hailed by Howe for identification, replied with a lie by saying, "Columbus, a 22-gun frigate." An overzealous seamen on his ship then tossed a grenade onto the deck of HMS Glasgow and the battle began. The Cabot was actually a lightly armed Brig, and she fired one ineffective broadside at Howe's ship. The Glasgow countered with two broadsides wounding John Hopkins, and disabling the ships steering gear. As she drifted away, the USS Alfred came up to engage Glasgow, and the two became fully engaged. A shot from Glasgow early in the action broke the tiller chains of the Alfred and her temporary loss of steering made it difficult for another ship, the USS Andrew Doria, to join the action. Eventually more ships of the fleet did join the action against Glasgow forcing Howe to break off with the engagement. In spite of extensive damage to her sails and rigging, the Glasgow managed to escape towards Newport. After several hours of chase that lased until daylight, Hopkins called off the chase.

After repair, the Glasgow continued to serve in the American revolutionary conflict until 1778 when she return home. On route she came into Scilly. On her way out again she struck the Crow near Pendrethen. The incident caused her considerable damage as she lost her forefoot and a large rock became embedded in her hull. However, with her Captain taking a quite a considerable chance, she continued on her journey to Plymouth carrying the rock along with her which helped stop the water from coming in. Perhaps the incident may have been more serious had the rock came out on route to Plymouth but it remained firmly in position.

After repair HMS Glasgow returned to the Caribbean in 1779, where after chasing two large Continental frigates she was accidentally burned in Montego Bay. Captain Horatio Nelson in HMS Badger was on hand to rescue the crew of HMS Glasgow.


See Lyonesse, Tonkin & Row p59.