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HMS Leopard was a British 50-gun fourth-rate warship involved in the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair. Her keel was laid down in 1775 at Portsmouth Dockyard, and she was finally launched in 1790 from Sheerness. She served during the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The Leopard is best known for her part in the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair.
In 1812, the Leopard had her guns removed and was converted to a troopship. On 28 June 1814 she was en route from Britain to Quebec, carrying a contingent of 475 Royal Scots Guardsmen, when she grounded on Anticosti Island in heavy fog. The ship was destroyed, but all hands on board survived.
The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
In early 1807, a handful of British sailors- some of American birth- deserted their respective ships, then blockading French ships in Chesapeake Bay, and joined the crew of the USS Chesapeake. In an attempt to recover the British deserters, Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys, commanding the Leopard, hailed the USS Chesapeake and requested permission to search her. Commodore James Barron of the Chesapeake refused, and the Leopard opened fire. Caught unprepared, Barron surrendered, and Humphreys sent boarders to search for the deserters. The boarding party seized four deserters from the Royal Navy— three Americans and one British-born sailor — and took them to Halifax, where the British sailor, Jenkin Ratford, was hanged for desertion. The Americans were inintially sentenced to 500 lashes, but had their sentence commuted, and Britain offered to return them to America.
The incident caused severe political repercussions in the United States, and nearly led to the two nations going to war.