HMS Terror

Jan 09, 2015, 7:00AM EST
HMS Terror
An unlucky ship that participated in a number of historic events

 HMS Terror was a bomb ship constructed by the Royal Navy in 1813.  Intended specifically for carrying and firing large mortars (the shells were 10 and 13 inches in diameter), the hull was heavily reinforced.  It first saw action in the bombardment of Stonington, Connecticut on 9-12 August 1814.  Stonington at the time was a modestly fortified rebel stronghold.  The rebels refused a surrender demand and bombardment by the four warships (including Terror) went on for four days.  The Royal Navy forces, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, lacked sufficient marines to attempt a landing, and eventually sailed away.  Terror next participated in its most famous engagement – the Battle of Baltimore on 13-14 September 1814.  This time, there were nineteen Royal Navy warships, including four other bomb ships.  There was also a substantial detachment of troops ashore.  After shelling Fort McHenry most of the night (and inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the poem “Star Spangled Banner”), the warships withdrew, the troops ashore also having failed to achieve their objective.  In January 1815, after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, but before official ratification and notification of combatants in the field, Terror participated in the successful British attack on Fort Point Peter, on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River, which was the southern Atlantic boundary of the United States at the time.  British forces withdrew when the War of 1812 officially ended.  Reactivated for service in the Mediterranean in 1828, Terror encountered heavy weather en route and ran aground near Lisbon, incurring significant damage.  Reactivated again in 1836, Terror was dispatched on an expedition to northern Hudson Bay.  Beset in the ice, it was forced up against a cliff, again being damaged.  Returning to Britain the next year, it collided with an iceberg and almost sank.  After extensive repairs, it was assigned to the 1840-1843 Ross expedition to the Antarctic.  That extended voyage is remembered by the volcanic Mount Terror on Ross Island.  After being fitted with a steam engine, Terror was assigned to the Franklin expedition in search of the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada.  Terror and its compatriot HMS Erebus were last seen entering Baffin Bay in August 1845.  There were no survivors from the ill-fated expedition.  The hull of Erebus was located on the bottom of Victoria Strait in 2014.  The wreck of HMS Terror has yet to be located.

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