The Petrel was a small sailing schooner armed with two or three small cannon. She was an older vessel, and had seen better days. She had been the U.S. Revenue Cutter William Aiken before the war and had been seized by South Carolina on December 27, 1860. South Carolina had offered the small vessel to the Confederate Navy, who declined due to the ship's advanced age. When President Jefferson Davis announced that the Confederacy would allow privateering, a small group of wealthy investors bought the William Aiken and converted her into the privateer Petrel.
As the Petrel closed in on her prey, Petrel's captain finally got a good look at the men on the big sailing ship's quarterdeck: they were obviously U.S. Navy officers. The Petrel turned to make a run for it, but it was too late--the U.S.S. St. Lawrence, a 1,726 ton sailing frigate armed with 50 cannon, was too close and too quick for the Confederates. The Confederates managed to get two or three shots off at the big warship, which ran out twelve of her guns--32 pounders and 8 inch shell guns--and gave the little Petrel a broadside. At least two of the St. Lawrence's shots hit the Petrel, including an 8 inch shell which crushed the little ship's bow. The Petrel immediately began sinking and her crew jumped overboard.
Abstract of log of U.S.S. St. Lawrence, Captain H. Y. Purviance commanding.The St. Lawrence launched her own boats, which rowed over and rescued the survivors--36 out of a crew of 44--and then promptly clapped the men in irons as suspected pirates.
July 28, 1861. Off Charleston. At 6 a.m. commenced chasing sail off lee bow. At 10 came up with her, when she hoisted the Confederate flag and fired a gun. Beat to quarters and commenced firing. The schooner tried three shots, one of which passed through the main-sail and took a splinter out of the main yard. The schooner hauled down her flag after receiving two shots, one of which struck her bows, and she sunk from the effects of it at 10:30. Got out the boats and picked up the crew. She proved to be the Petrel, of Charleston.