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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

Virginia (I)

  • One of 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775
  • Laid down in 1776 at Fells Point, MD., by George Wells
  • Launched in August 1776
  • Commissioned in the spring of 1777, CAPT. James Nicholson in command
  • The newly commissioned frigate's first orders directed her to attempt a run through the strong British naval blockade at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and sail south to the West Indies in search of English merchantmen
  • After five failed attempts to break out from May to December 1777 many of the crew had deserted to join the numerous privateers scattered about the wharves of nearby Baltimore
  • Recrewed in January 1778 Virginia again attempted to break free of the British blockage only to run afoul of HMS Emerald near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay
  • HMS Emerald give chase back up the Chesapeake Bay towards Baltimore with the Virginia taking refuse in the Patapasco River, MD.
  • Failing again later in the month Virginia returned to Baltimore for repairs and reprovisioning
  • During a final attempt to break free the frigate attempted a night passage down the Chesapeake Bay 30 March only to run hard aground on the 31st on the so-called Middle Ground opposite the city of Hampton, VA.
  • Pulled off the reef with damage to her stern and a missing rudder the frigate was anchored for repair
  • At dawn lookouts spotted frigates HMS Emerald and HMS Conqueror approaching from seaward
  • Later that morning Virginia surrendered to CAPT. Caldwell of HMS Emerald
  • The frigate was soon repaired and eventually purchased by the Royal Navy for use as the 32-gun frigate HMS Virginia
  • Operating along the American coast she participated in the Penobscot operations of 1779 and the capture of Charleston, S.C., in 1780
  • At the end of the war she was condemned and sold
    Displacement 681t.
    Length 126' 3"
    Beam 34 4"
    Depth of Hull 10' 5"
    Speed unknown
    Complement unknown
    twenty-four 12-pdrs
    six 4-pdrs
    six swivel guns
    Propulsion sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Virginia 107k Lines of Virginia, as re-drawn by Howard I. Chappelle, from "The History of the American Sailing Navy". This is based on the Admiralty draft made after her capture. Tommy Trampp
    Virginia 125k Continental Navy frigate Virginia on the stocks at Fellís Point, MD. Painting from "The American Navies of the Revolutionary War". by the author Nowland Van Powell. Tommy Trampp
    Virginia 19k A modern painting of Virginia under sail. Tommy Trampp

    Virginia (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 15 January 2016