HMS Colibri was the French naval Curieux-class brig Colibri, launched in 1808, that the British captured in 1809 and took into the Royal Navy under her existing name. Her time in British service was spent on the North American station based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the War of 1812, Colibri served mostly in blockading the American coast and capturing privateers and merchant ships. She foundered in 1813 in Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, but without loss of life.
Between 1 October and 14 December 1808, Colibri was under the command of lieutenant de vaisseau Deslandes, who sailed her from Havre to Cherbourg. In December or January he then left Cherbourg for San Domingo.
On 16 January 1809 Melampus, under Captain Edward Hawker, captured Colibri off Barbuda, after her captain had the "temerity" to put up a fight as Melampus was sailing alongside. Colibri was armed with fourteen 24-pounder carronades and two 8-pounder guns, and had a crew of 92 men. In the engagement, Colibri had three men killed and 11 wounded before she struck. She was sailing from Cherbourg with a cargo of 570 barrels of flour and a great quantity of gunpowder intended for the relief of San Domingo. On her way she had captured and sunk two British brigs that had been sailing from Newfoundland to Lisbon, the Hannibal and the Priscilla, both of Dartmouth. The Royal Navy took Colibri into service under her existing name.
The British commissioned Colibri in October under Lieutenant Henry Jane. He received his promotion to Commander, a rank more in keeping with the size of his vessel, on 10 May 1810. In October 1809, Commander John Thomson replaced Jane. He remained in command until her loss in August 1813 apart from a short period between December 1812 and February 1813 when he acted as Port Captain in Halifax and George Brooke-Pechell held acting command.
Colibri was in company with Melampus on 9 October 1810 when she captured the Fortuna. On 15 March 1811, Colibri captured the American slaver Carolina (alias Atrevido) off Amelia Island with some 200 slaves. Atrevido, de Leon, master, was sailing from Loanga to Amelia Island; Colibri sent her into Nassau. Later, the Vice Admiralty Court in Bermuda appears to have decided that the vessel’s putative Spanish nationality was fraudulent and that she was, in fact, American. The number of slaves freed at Nassau turned out to be 204
On 25 March 1811, Little Belt captured the Spanish vessel Empressa. Colibri was either accompanying Little Belt or in sight of the capture and so shared in the prize money.
On 28 June 1812 Colibri was despatched from Halifax under a flag of truce to New York, carrying news that the Orders in Council had been repealed. On 9 July she anchored off Sandy-Hook, and three days later sailed on her return with a copy of the declaration of war, the British ambassador, Mr. Foster, and consul, Colonel Barclay. She then arrived in Halifax eight days later.
On 23 July Colibri captured the U.S. privateer sloop Gleaner, of Kennebunk, Maine, off Cape Sable. Gleaner was armed with six guns and had a crew of 40 men under the command of Captain N. Lord. She was on her first cruise.
On 24 July 1812, Colibri sighted three vessels off Cape Sable and gave chase to one, a schooner. When Colibri got close she exchanged signals with the schooner, which turned to be Bream. Colibri then chased and took two other vessels, which turned out to be an American privateer and a bark, her prize. The privateer was the Catherine; eight days out of Boston; she had taken only the bark. Catherine, under the command of Francis A. Burnham, was pierced for 16 guns but mounted fourteen 6-pounder guns and had a crew of 88 men. She had suffered one man killed and one wounded before she surrendered after a 15-minute action. Her casualties were low as the crew had taken refuge below decks. In contrast to Thomson’s official report, one American newspaper reported that the action had lasted one and a half hours and that Colibri had six men killed and several wounded.
On 2 August 1812 Colibri met up with Emulous and reported that an American privateer was said to be sheltering nearby. The two set out together and as they approached the coast Emulous suddenly grounded. During the efforts to get her off, Colibri took off all non-essential crew and the prisoners she had on board. Shortly thereafter Emulous fell over onto her beam-ends and became unsalvageable. Her position was some 19 miles from Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. This incident coincidentally foreshadowed Colibri's own fate the following year.
On 11 August 1812 Colibri captured the American privateer schooner Polly in the Bay of Fundy. Polly was armed with four guns and had a crew of with 35 men. That same day, Colibri was in company with Statira for the capture of the American privateer Buckskin. The next day Colibri captured two more small American privateers, both off Cape Sable. One was the schooner Regulator. She was armed with just one gun and had a crew of 40 men. The second was the Dolphin, for which Colibri shared the capture with Maidstone. Dolphin had two guns and a crew of 48 men. On 13 August Colibri shared with Maidstone, Spartan and Indian in the capture of the American vessel John.
Ten days later, Colibri captured the ship Monk, of 253 tons. She was sailing from Rio de Janeiro to Salem with a cargo of sugar, hides, and horns. San Domingo, Dragon, Statira and Colibri shared the capture of three vessels at the beginning of 1813. These were the American schooners Scyron (16 January) and American Eagle (18 January), and the Swedish brig Hanosand (13 February). On 10 February Statira shared with five other warships in the capture of the St. Michael. However, Statira had to divide up her portion because she was in a prize-money sharing agreement with Colibri, Dragon, and San Domingo. Then Colibri captured 10 small merchantmen, most of them American.Brig Commerce, of 120 tons and 11 men, carrying lumber, from Rhode Island to Havana, captured on 14 March and burnt.
Schooner Female, of 95 tons and six men, carrying flour, butter, and lard, from Baltimore to La Guira, captured 27 March and sent to Bermuda.
Swedish schooner Minerva, of 130 tons and 13 men, carrying molasses and sugar from Charleston to St. Bartholomew, captured on 29 March and sent to Providence.
Schooner Portsmouth, carrying lumber, from Cuba to Rhode Island, captured on 16 April and sent to Providence.
Schooner Eliza, of 95 tons, carrying sundries from Wilmington to Savannah,' captured 1 May and sent to Bermuda.
Schooner Nancy carrying sundries from Georgetown to Savannah, captured 1 May, burnt after the transfer of her cargo to the Eliza.
Schooner Sampit, carrying sundries from Georgetown to Savannah, captured 1 May and burnt after the transfer of her cargo to the Eliza.
Schooner Wingaw, carrying sundries from Georgtown to Savannah, captured 1 May, burnt after the transfer of her cargo to the Eliza.
Spanish ship El de Padato in Cortes, of 160 tons and 14 men, carrying molasses, sugar, etc. from New York to Matanza’s, captured 27 May and sent to Providence.
Swedish schooner Gustava, of 140 tons and 8 men, carrying flour, meal, &c. from Carthagena to Savannah, captured 17 June and sent to Providence.
Colibri shared with Morgiana in the capture of the American vessel Minerva on 2 April.
In August 1813, Colibri and Moselle were blockading the U.S. coast between Charleston and Georgetown. There was little shipping so the pair conducted a number of boat raids along the coast. They then decided to sail south of Charleston and on August they entered Port Royal Sound, South Carolina (not Port Royal, Jamaica as stated in some sources),. They anchored, but resistance by the local militia, which had erected shore batteries, forestalled any raids. Colibri and Moselle then decided to return to sea on August 23. However, the weather was poor and Colibri grounded on a sandbar as she led Moselle out. Attempts to lighten her and get her off were unsuccessful and as the tide went out she fell over to larboard. Her crew cut away her masts, but she was stuck fast. Moselle then rescued Colibri's crew, who abandoned the wreck. A hurricane on 27 August 1813 destroyed Colibri and her boats. Moselle was able to find a passage and navigate across the bar to the open sea on 29 August. Thomson and his officers and crew were subsequently acquitted of any wrongdoing at the court martial into the loss of Colibri.