- "Who is she? Why the Aquila, boy! The Ghost of the North Seas! ... She's a ship, boy, and make no mistake about it!"
- ―Robert Faulkner to Connor regarding the Aquila, 1770.[src]
During the American Revolution, the vessel was captained by the Colonial Assassin Ratonhnhaké:ton, with Robert Faulkner as his first mate. Under their command, the Aquila helped to capture Continental Army captain and Templar Nicholas Biddle, who had been raiding locations along the coast. The pair also patrolled several trade routes along the Eastern Seaboard and the Caribbean Sea, engaging in multiple privateer contracts.
- "She's still the fastest in the Atlantic – sure she needs some attention... minor things mostly but with a little affection she'll fly again."
- ―Robert Faulkner discussing the repairs needed on the Aquila.[src]
While small in design, the Aquila was a fast ship for its size, capable of twelve knots in good wind, according to Faulkner, making her one of the fastest in her region of service. Armed with heavy cannons and accurate swivel guns, the Aquila had a versatile and powerful arsenal that made her a force to be reckoned with.
In 1754, by which point she had become the flagship of the Assassin fleet, the Assassins spread the word that the Aquila had been destroyed after suffering heavy damage pursuing the Providence, which was transporting the Templar Grand Master Haytham Kenway, through a storm. In reality, she had only sustained minor damage and was soon refitted for combat.
Over the next decade, the Aquila plagued the Templar fleets, earning herself the moniker of "Ghost of the North Seas", an illusion spread both by the ship avoiding major harbors and by the exceptional sailing ability of her acting captain, Robert Faulkner.
Eventually, the Templars uncovered the fact that the Aquila had not been destroyed and, in 1768, three British frigates ambushed the ship, nearly destroying it. Both the Aquila and Faulkner survived and managed to escape to the Davenport Homestead, where they would remain until the arrival of the Assassin Connor, who elected to defray the cost of the vessel's repairs. Coincidentally, he had invited lumberjacks Terry and Godfrey to live on the Homestead, so the Aquila had the resources necessary for repairs.
After six months, Connor and Faulkner found a crew for the Aquila and sailed to Martha's Vineyard in search of cannons and officers. Faulkner recruited some of his old shipmates, David and Richard Clutterbuck, as gunnery officers, and tutored Connor in sailing the Aquila as captain. After practicing to fire the cannons at an old shipwreck, the Aquila saw her first fight in years against a patrol of British gunboats and a frigate.
Following this battle, Connor used the Aquila to defend trade routes along the Colonial seaboard and the Caribbean. The Aquila was called upon to defend a number of trading vessels, such as the Henderson and Independence, securing trade routes for the colonists and reducing the risk for merchants.
Privateers and English frigates were terrorizing the coast, and the Aquila's patrols put her in a premier position to eliminate the threats. Gunboats and frigates were among the privateers' favored ships, though they occasionally had a few larger ships to rival the Aquila, such as the Dartmoor, Saint James, and Prospector.
While these battles were relatively brief, their effects were far-reaching. Civilian traders were affected by the patrols of the Aquila and her crew, as they were less likely to lose goods to the raiders. This meant that prices to trade goods were lowered across the colonies, making the Aquila not only a military force but an indirect economic one as well.
The ship also served as transport for her captain when Connor sought out the hidden treasure of Captain William Kidd and traveled in pursuit of Templars. Often, this meant the Aquila waited offshore while Connor and Faulkner went ashore in a rowboat to explore the maps Peg Leg had given Connor in exchange for trinkets.
These locales varied greatly, from a jungle beach to the frigid north. However, on some occasions, the Aquila was directly used in hunting a Templar. Haytham Kenway and Connor, during their brief armistice, used the Aquila in the hunt for Benjamin Church and the Welcome in the Caribbean Sea, eventually boarding the ship, retrieving her stolen cargo for the Patriots at Valley Forge, and killing her passenger. In the process, the Aquila had decimated the Welcome and her crew, proving to be a resounding victory for her captain.
The Welcome was not her only prey – Nicholas Biddle had been raiding Martha's Vineyard in the USS Randolph. Issues first arose when privateer frigates threatened merchant vessels near the Vineyard, and the Aquila successfully found and defeated their fort headquarters.
When another merchant vessel was threatened, the Randolph was spotted leading the privateers, though she escaped in the cover of a storm. For several years thereafter between 1776 and 1778, Connor and the Aquila hunted Biddle and the Randolph, thought to be the party responsible for inciting the privateers to raid the Vineyard and the ships visiting it.
The ship's hunt was delayed by needing to help La Belladonna, a vessel vital to the war effort, and other constraints on her captain's time. Eventually, however, in 1778, Connor and the Aquila managed to corner the Randolph.
The Aquila proved the hardier ship compared to the larger Randolph; Connor's superior seamanship and the Aquila's firepower allowed her to disable the Randolph, kill her captain, and scuttle her, securing the Vineyard and stopping the Templars from encouraging further attacks. With Biddle out of the way, the seaboard was safe once more for neutral traders to conduct business with the colonies.
When the Battle of Chesapeake Bay began, General Marquis de Lafayette requested the Aquila give support in the battle. The French Admiral de Grasse believed that he would receive a large fleet and experienced captains, but instead he received only the Aquila and her captain Connor.
While irritated at the concept, de Grasse gave Connor two frigates for assistance, the Marsellois and the Saint Espirit, and asked them to engage the encroaching fleet. During the battle, the trio of ships sank several gunboats and at least four English frigates, before the Marsellois was destroyed by an English vessel midway through the battle.
Once all the English frigates had been destroyed, a Man-of-War sailed into the battle and sank the Saint Espirit, before she managed to disable the Aquila's guns. Due to lacking any other means of attack, Connor decided to destroy the Man-of-War by ramming her, getting on board in hand-to-hand combat, and killing her captain. Ultimately proving successful, the battle ended with the French as the victors.
Connor also loaned the Aquila to his apprentices for various contracted missions. The ship was present at the Battle of Gloucester in 1775 and the Frederica naval action of 1778, and she also aided Caesar Rodney in holding control of the Delaware River.
In an alternate timeline created by an Apple of Eden, the Aquila and Faulkner were located in Boston. When George Washington crowned himself the King of the United States, Benjamin Franklin had the ship confiscated.
However, Franklin was eventually freed from Washington's influence by Ratonhnhaké:ton, and suggested acquiring the Aquila to reach Washington's palace in New York. Franklin and the Assassin struck a bargain with Faulkner, having him gather a crew while Ratonhnhaké:ton untied the ship's moorings and assassinated the snipers guarding her. Faulkner's crew stormed the docks and swam to the Aquila, which had gone adrift. Ratonhnhaké:ton held off the soldiers firing on the sailors, and eventually climbed on board with Kanen'tó:kon to sail for New York.
During the approach, the Aquila was attacked by Washington's fleet. Ratonhnhaké:ton took the wheel and destroyed the attackers before taking their flags to sail into the lower bay unimpeded. The Aquila then navigated through the naval mines and launched a surprise attack on the remaining ships.
However, the ship's ammunition was depleted shortly after, with more of the King's ship on their way. Ratonhnhaké:ton ordered everyone to jump overboard as he rammed the Man-of-War in the lower bay, providing distraction for the others, but also destroying the Aquila in the process.
- "We've fitted her with a modest amount of guns to start but rest assured there's ample room to add more should you feel the need."
- ―Robert Faulkner on the Aquila's first fitting under Connor.[src]
Although relatively well built, even when initially repaired by Connor, the Aquila underwent several major improvements during his captaincy.
In addition to the warship's standard round shot and swivel guns, the Aquila was eventually upgraded to include several more projectile types: chain-shot to destroy a ship's sails, disabling them; grapeshot to target the crew; and heated shot to start fires among the hull.
The Aquila also received improvements in her hull strength via reinforcements, an improved rudder for sharper turns, and the addition of a naval ram. Fully upgraded, the Aquila was armed with 60 main cannons, 30 on each side.
This would have made her equivalent in firepower to a third-rate ship of the line, which meant that she would have been a smaller ship of the line but larger than a frigate. Most contemporary 60-gun ships carried those guns on only two decks; however, the Aquila carried them on two dedicated gun decks with a few cannons and the swivel guns also present on the weather deck.
- Aquila is Latin and Italian for "eagle", and it was a reference to the eagle motif of the Assassins.
- In an interview, Mission Director Philippe Bergeron stated that Connor could freeroam the seas with the ship between missions. However, this was not possible in the final version of Assassin's Creed III.
- The Aquila had lifts attached to her central mast, with the pulley handles shaped like Assassin insignias.
- By the number of guns the Aquila would be considered a third-rate ship-of-the-line. While not as massive as a first-rate or second-rate, the third-rate ships were considered to be the ideal balance in sailing warships in terms of speed and firepower. This would also mean that she had a crew complement between three and five hundred men.
- The Aquila typically flies the British flag, even during the Battle of the Chesapeake when she fights alongside French ships.