USS Rattlesnake was a brig built in Medford, Massachusetts as a privateer but because of the need for the ship by the United States Navy due to the War of 1812, the Navy purchased it from private owners before its launch in 1813. Rattlesnake had a reputation for success and captured numerous British merchant vessels including over $1million in cargo in the first year. The HMS Leander captured her in mid-1814 and the Royal Navy apparently purchased her at Nova Scotia, but there is no record thereafter.
Rattlesnake sailed out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in1814, under the command of Master Commandant John O. Creighton. The ship sailed with Enterprise, another privateer, searching the Caribbean. The two ships took five prizes, other ships, and cargo very quickly. These included:
- Brig Rambler, carrying coffee was burnt;
- A Spanish brig, retaken from HMS Belvidera, that arrived in Wilmington;
- Swedish ship Societe;
- Mars, a privateer, of Nassau, arrived at Wilmington; and
- Schooner Eliza, which had been sailing from Nassau to Pensacola.
The Rattlesnake and Enterprise separated upon word of a heavily gunned British ship in the area. The Rattlesnake fled Wilmington, North Carolina. It was soon back at sea under the command of Lt. James Renshaw. She captured eight merchant vessels in the eastern Atlantic, north of the equator. The Rattlesnake captured Henry Dundas and released her after having taken off the most the cargo. In the spring, the Rattlesnake encountered a British frigate, but escaped by throwing all but two of her guns overboard. She then captured two more merchant vessels.
Rattlesnake met her match in the summer when the 50-gun British frigate Leander captured her off Cape Sable, the southern point of the island off Nova Scotia. Leander was renowned for her speed, especially in the heavy weather conditions on the day of Rattlesnake’s capture.
There is some question as to the exact date of the capture but the Rattlesnake was sold to the Royal Navy and no further record exists.
A well-known painting by Montague Dawson titled “The Gallant Privateer the U.S.S. Rattlesnake” can be acquired online.
The Rattlesnake is a ship that has been modeled for years because of its short-lived by notorious history. Micro-Mark sells the USS Rattlesnake designed by Model Shipways. Micro-Mark also sells all the tools and supplies necessary to build the USS Rattlesnake.