USRC Argus

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Career (United States)  United States
Name: Argus
Namesake: A giant with 100 eyes, from Greek mythology
Operator: Revenue Cutter Service
Launched: 1791
Commissioned: 1791
Decommissioned: 1804
Fate: Sold, 1804
General characteristics
Class and type: Sloop
Displacement: 48 8/95 Tons
Length: 47 ft 9 in
Beam: 16 ft 3 in
Draft: 6 ft 2 in
Propulsion: Sail
Crew: 4 officers, 4 enlisted, 2 boys
Armament: Probably ten muskets with bayonets; twenty pistols; two chisels; one broad axe.

USRC Argus was one of the first ten cutters operated by the United States' Revenue Cutter Service (later to become the US Coast Guard). Of the ten cutters, she was the longest to serve in this role.

Operational service

Argus was a sloop, built in New London, for service in Connecticut and Rhode Island waters. She began her first patrol on 16 October 1791, soon after being fitted-out, under the command of Jonathan Maltbie, a veteran of the Continental Navy. He died on 11 February 1798 and was replaced by Elisha Hinman on 13 March of that year. Hinman was also a veteran of the Continental Navy and the former commanding officer of the famous frigate Alfred. Fortunately two journals describing her actions have turned up; one from the second mate Nathaniel Nichols, who kept a journal from 1791-1795; and Hinman's journal, dated from 1799 through 1803. These journals do provide a glimpse into what life was like on board a Revenue cutter during these early years of the new republic.[1]

Argus stayed in service for a total of thirteen years, by far the longest of any of the original ten cutters. She was sold to two New London based merchants and was sold five months later in a foreign port.[2]

Commanding Officers

Captain Jonathan Maltbie, Master; 1791-1798.
Captain Elisha Hinman, Master; 1798-1803.
Captain George House, Master; 1803-1804.

Crew (as of October, 1791)

George House, First Mate; Took over as Master in 1803; Ebenezer Perkins was promoted to First Mate.
Jere Greenman, Second Mate; he left the Argus in 1799 and was replaced by Ebenezer Perkins.
Vacant, Third Mate [No third mate at this time]; Ebenezer Perkins was appointed as third mate in December, 1792; Perkins was promoted to Second Mate in 1799 and Nathaniel Saltonstall was appointed as Third Mate.
David Poole, Mariner.
Gabriel Calvon, Mariner.
Wm. McNeal, Mariner.
Henry Owen, Mariner.
Sam Robertson, Boy.
Chas Williams, Boy.


  1. Kern, p. 34. Kern notes that these manuscripts are at the Federal Records Center in Waltham, Massachusetts (ARGUS, p. 34).
  2. Kern, p. 20


  • Argus, 1791, US Coast Guard website.
  • Canney, Donald, 1995: U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
  • Stephen H. Evans, 1949: The United States Coast Guard, 1790-1915: A Definitive History (With a Postscript: 1915-1950). Annapolis: The United States Naval Institute.
  • Kern, Florence, 1976: "One for Connecticut": Jonathan Maltbie's U.S. Revenue Cutter Argus, 1791-1804", Washington, DC: Alised Enterprises.
  • U.S. Coast Guard, 1934: Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office (reprinted 1989).