Chinese Pirates Vs Royal & US Navies : Battle of Ty-ho Bay, China, 1855
There was little love lost between the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy in the aftermath of the War of 1812.
However, on occasion, the two navies found cause to cooperate, and suppressing piracy was something on which everyone could agree.
USS Powhatan (1848-87) (NH 63305).
On 4 August 1855, the steam vessel HMS Eaglet commanded by Commodore William Fellowes towed six boats with about 180 U.S. Marines and armed Sailors.
Moreover, Eaglet had roughly an equal number of British Marines and Sailors, into the shallow water of Ty-ho Bay. Eaglet was originally a civil vessel chartered for British naval service between 1855 and 1857, to tow British vessels through shallow water.
The bay was on Lantau Island which is in present-day Hong Kong.
They Royal Navy and US Navy wanted to attack a Chinese pirate force of 14 cannon-armed large junks and 22 smaller junks with a total of about 1,500 pirates.
The Sailors were from the paddle-wheel steam frigate USS Powhatan and screw steam sloop HMS Rattler, neither of which could enter the bay due to its shallow waters.
Cannon fire from the pirate ships was heavy, but wildly inaccurate.
Cannon and howitzer fire from the British and U.S. small boats was not (the U.S. boats were equipped with the new Dahlgren boat howitzers, considered the best boat guns of the day).
Six pirate junks(pictured above) were sunk before the “Allied” boats grappled alongside.
When the Battle of Ty-ho Bay was over, all 14 of the large pirate junks were sunk or burned, along with six smaller pirate junks. About 500 pirates were killed, drowned, or wounded, and 1,000 captured; 16 small pirate junks escaped.
The U.S. suffered five dead and six wounded, while the British suffered four dead and several wounded.
The Battle of Ty-ho Bay would be the last major pitched battle between Chinese pirates and Western navies, and would be one of the very first “combined” operations by the U.S. and Royal Navies.
Although it wouldn’t be until World War I, with a few individual exceptions, when relations could accurately be characterized as “friendly.”
USS Columbia (1836-61). Primitive watercolor, showing the frigate dressed with flags during her cruise around the world, 1838-40 (NH 85087-KN).