TyrannicideThe Fourth of July is fast approaching! Balladeer’s Blog presents another seasonal post in honor of that upcoming holiday.

THE TYRANNICIDE – I can’t think of a better name for a ship serving as either a commerce raider or a privateer in the Revolutionary War. What makes the Tyrannicide one of my favorite plunder vessels of our rebellion against Great Britain is the name, its exploits and the fact that it was launched from Salisbury, MA on July 8th, making it about as close as you could get to America’s national birthday.  

This ship, crewed by 75 men, was a 14-cannon sloop which preyed on British targets from July of 1776 until August 14th, 1779. After its launch from the Salisbury Naval Shipyard the Tyrannicide made Salem, MA its homeport.  

The Tyrannicide wasted no time, battling the HMS Dispatch on July 12th. The Dispatch boasted 20 cannons but after an hour & a half battle fell to Tyrannicide under its first Captain, John Fisk. The raider towed this prize into Salem by July 17th and soon set out for more.  

August of 1776 saw the ship working the waters off Cape Sable and Nantucket. During that time three more prizes fell to Tyrannicide – the Glasgow, the Saint John and the Three Brothers.

The Tyrannicide claimed yet another prize but while towing it back to Salem a British frigate attacked. In the ensuing battle the American ship was nearly captured, even after abandoning its recent “catch.”   

After that this renowned vessel was refitted and undertook a raiding expedition to the West Indies in late October. Between then and February of 1777 the Tyrannicide seized the brig Henry & Ann, the snow-brig Ann, the Three Friends (100 tons) and the John (140 tons).    

Upon returning to Salem, Captain Fisk was reassigned to command the Massachusetts, while the Tyrannicide’s First Lieutenant Jonathan Haraden was promoted to be the new Captain. On March 24th the vessel set out with the Massachusetts to prey on British shipping along the Atlantic lanes all the way to the coast of England.  

Before the end of March the Tyrannicide captured the Eagle and plundered the snow-brig Sally from London. On April 2nd the Chalkley‘s cargo of mahogany from Honduras fell into the hands of the Americans.

April 8th saw the Tyrannicide in a THREE HOUR battle with the FIVE HUNDRED TON barque Lonsdale, defeating that British ship in the end. Captain Haraden teamed up with his former commander Captain Fisk on April 22nd when the Tyrannicide and Massachusetts picked off a straggler from a British convoy crossing the Atlantic.      

This storied vessel finished out its active April of 1777 on the 30th by capturing the Trepassy. The inevitable happened on May 17th when Tyrannicide and Massachusetts happened to be in the wrong part of the sea at the wrong time. The American ships fell foul of an entire squadron of British vessels and had to flee.

The Brits kept up the pursuit and eventually the two American raiders got separated from each other. The Tyrannicide barely beat its pursuers to Bilbao, Spain, a feat it accomplished only by tossing all guns and supplies overboard to lighten themselves enough to outrace the British.  

By August 30th Captain Haraden and his ship were back in American waters and put in at Boston. After another refitting the Tyrannicide joined the Hazard in setting off for another West Indies voyage on November 21st.

December 13th saw Tyrannicide capture the Alexander and its cargo of oil, fish, lumber and other building supplies. Unfortunately, much later the HMS  Yarmouth recaptured the Alexander off Barbados but not before Captain Haraden and his crew had towed it in.    

Between December 22nd 1777 and the end of March 1778 the Tyrannicide captured the Good Intent, the Polly and the Swift along with their cargoes of fish, oil, wood and flour. On March 30th the vessel set sail for Massachusetts and put in at Boston in May for another round of refitting.

Captain John Haraden moved on to a career commanding the privateer ship General Pickering and was replaced by Captain John Allen Hallet. (For the rest of Haraden’s storied career in privateering click HERE ) On July 10th of 1778 the Tyrannicide set out for more action. September 29th saw the vessel defeat and capture the British privateering ship the Juno.   

After that the ship resumed hunting for prey and dodging British squadrons at sea. March 9th of 1779 brought on a huge gale which Captain Hallet and “his fearless crew” managed to negotiate their way around undamaged in an example of expert seamanship.

On March 29th Tyrannicide fought and captured the British ship Revenge after a two-hour battle. Captain Hallet and his men seized another two prize ships before putting in at Boston on April 25th.

Captain John Cathcart replaced Hallett as Tyrannicide‘s commander on May 1st. After more refitting the vessel set sail on July 19th and took part in the Penobscot Expedition, a 44-ship campaign to retake that part of the mid-Maine coastline which had been seized by the British and renamed New Ireland. It was the largest American Naval operation of the war.

The Penobscot Expedition was a thorough defeat for the Americans both on land and at sea. The British Fort George and their other land forces held the Americans off for three weeks, and then fresh British ships arrived. The American ships were routed and fled up the Penobscot River, where the Tyrannicide and all the others were torched by the United States forces to avoid having them fall into the hands of the Brits.

From there Americans who avoided death or capture undertook a long, hard journey back toward southern Maine and northern Massachusetts. It was an ignoble end for such a grand vessel. +++







  © Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Filed under Neglected History, Revolutionary War


  1. Interesting. I think your country and mine should be closer than they are.

  2. Awesome! These guys were like pirates!

  3. This guy was pirate for independence!

  4. Warren

    ur rite! Kickass name for a rebel ship!

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  6. Elena

    I would rather see a movie about this ship than a millionth Terminator movie.

  7. Glenn

    This is such an exciting story!

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