Jupiter Captures Lyon

Massachusetts Privateer Ship Jupiter Captures British Schooner Lyon
[15] June 1781

Massachusetts Privateer Ship Jupiter was under Commander William Orne of Salem, Massachusetts. Serving aboard the Jupiter as First Lieutenant was Luther Little (formerly of the Massachusetts Navy). According to Little the Jupiter was a 500-ton brigantine, armed with twenty guns and a crew of 180 men. Little went aboard about April 1781.1 According to another source she was armed with twenty guns, with a crew of 150 men.2 However, it seems likely that this was the former prize ship Jupiter, advertised for sale by Richard Derby of Salem, on 27 November 1780. She was listed as 180 tons and built very specifically for the Greenland trade.3

Luther Little. Note the scars from a previous battle. From Paine, 111-112.


Jupiter sailed for the West Indies with a cargo of flour aboard, as a letter-of-marque vessel. To the windward of Turks Island she sighted a large schooner, the Lyon, sailing out of Jamaica, but showing no colors.4 Little takes up the story: “Our boatswain and gunner had been prisoners a short time before in Jamaica, and they told Captain Orne that she was the Lyon schooner, bearing eighteen guns. Our boatswain piped all hands to quarters and we prepared for action. Captain Orne, not being acquainted with a warlike ship, told me I must take the command, advising me to run from her. I told him in thus doing we should surely be taken. I ordered the men in the tops to take in the studdingsails. We then ran down close to her, luffed, and gave her a broadside, which shot away both of her topmasts. She then bore away and made sail and ran from us, we in chase. We continued thus for three hours, then came alongside. I hailed and told them to shorten sail or I’d sink them on the spot. Our barge was lowered and I boarded her; all this time she had no colours set. I hailed our ship and told Captain Orme I thought her a clear prize, and bade the men prepare to board her. But the captain hailed for the boat to return. I obeyed and told him she had a good many men and several guns. The captain said he would have nothing to do with her, as he feared they might rise upon us. Much to my reluctance we left her.”5

No casualties were reported in this action.

Summary Table


















Time: 20 minutes to 3 hours

1 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 188

2 Paine, Ralph D., The Ships and Sailors of Old Salem, Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1912, 113

3 The Independent Ledger and the American Advertiser [Boston], Monday, November 27, 1780

4 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 188

5 Paine, 113-114

Posted 6 November 2015 ©