Whilst the Anglo-American War of 1812 (-1814) is usually remembered for its several celebrated frigate actions, there was much other activity elsewhere in the Atlantic and even, on occasions, in British Home waters much to the chagrin of the Royal Navy. One of these less well-known encounters took place in the summer of 1813 in the Irish Sea, the treacherous stretch of water which separates the British mainland from Ireland.
During that summer, the U.S. 18-gun brig Argus, Captain William Allen, had been cruising the Irish Sea and had destroyed a number of defenceless British merchantmen. H.M.S. Pelican, an 18-gun brig-rigged sloop, was despatched from Queenstown to find her and soon sighted her close to a burning vessel she had just plundered. Despite the heavy weather, Pelican chased the Argus and brought her to action; within fifteen minutes, Pelican's guns had shredded most of Argus's sails and when the British sloop passed under the American's stern raking her with a merciless fire, Argus's steering gear was destroyed and she became unmanageable. Pelican's men then boarded her and Argus, having sustained heavy casualties including the death of her captain, was forced to surrender.
The Argus was built at Boston by Edmund Hartt and launched in August 1803, her first commander being the young Lieutenant Stephen Decatur Jnr., who would later assume his place in U.S. history thanks to his famous capture of H.M.S. Macedonian in the War of 1812.
H.M.S. Pelican was built at Topsham, Devon, in 1812, eventually became a customs watchvessel in 1847 and was finally sold out of the service in 1865.