Local link to famous victory

The role of a Ferryden man in one of the Royal Navy’s most famous victories will be highlighted at a talk in Montrose Museum today (Thursday).

To mark the 200th anniversary of the capture of the American Navy frigate USS Chesapeake, the museum has mounted a display which includes four prints by Captain R.H. King of the Royal Navy which depict the dramatic sea battle.

The talk by local historian Sandy Dolan has been organised to complement the display and will focus on the role of James Coull, a veteran of Trafalgar who served as quartermaster on board HMS Shannon which engaged the Chesapeake on June 1, 1813.

Although the battle, around 20 nautical miles from Boston Harbour, lasted only around 15 minutes, it was intense and resulted in 252 men dead or wounded which included the Chesapeake’s captain, James Lawrence. James Coull was also wounded in his left arm, leading to the amputation of his hand three years later as a result of his injuries.

The battle, during the War of 1812 between Britain and America, came about as the Shannon’s captain, Philip Broke, was keen to engage with one of the enemy ships that had already taken on and beaten British frigates.

Treating the battle as a duel, he issued a written challenge to Lawrence requesting that the two ships meet “to try the fortune of our respective flags” although the Chesapeake had already sailed by the time it arrived in Boston.

Early in the battle, the American ship was disabled by damage to its sails and the loss of its wheel and was quickly over-run by a British boarding party. It was the first major victory in the naval war for the British and the Chesapeake’s capture did much to raise the morale of the Royal Navy.

In his talk, Mr Dolan will give a biographical account of James Coull including his many adventures at sea, from his first job as a young cabin boy at the age of eight to his final years as a cook on the Montrose whalers.

The free talk will begin at 2pm and refreshments will be served.