USS Essex (1799)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
USS Essex
Career (USA) 100x35px
Name: USS Essex
Namesake: Essex County, Massachusetts
Cost: $139,362
Laid down: 1789
Launched: 30 September 1799
Commissioned: 17 December 1799
Fate: Lost, 28 March 1814
Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Essex
Acquired: Captured, 28 March 1814
Fate: Sold at Public Auction, 6 June 1837
General characteristics
Type: Frigate
Displacement: 850 long tons (864 t)
Length: 140 ft (43 m)
Beam: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Draft: 12 ft 3 in (3.73 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 300 officers and enlisted
Armament: • 40 × 32-pounder carronades
• 6 × 12-pounder guns
Service record
Commanders: Edward Preble (1799-1801)
William Bainbridge (1801-1802)
James Barron (1804)
David Porter (1812-1814)
Operations: Quasi-War
First Barbary War
Battle of Derne
War of 1812
*USS Essex vs HMS Phoebe
Victories: Battle of Derne

The first USS Essex of the United States Navy was a 36-gun [1] or 32-gun[2] sailing frigate that participated in the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, and in the War of 1812, during which she was captured by the British (1814).

The frigate was launched on 30 September 1799 by Enos Briggs, Salem, Massachusetts, at a cost of $139,362 subscribed by the people of Salem and Essex County. On 17 December 1799 she was presented to the United States and accepted by Captain Edward Preble.

Service history

With the United States involved in naval action against France on 6 January 1800, Essex, under the command of Captain Edward Preble, departed Newport, Rhode Island in company with Congress to rendezvous with and convoy merchant ships returning from Batavia, Dutch East Indies. Shortly after commencement of her journey, Essex became the first U.S. Naval Ship to cross the Equator. Congress was dismasted only a few days out, and Essex was obliged to continue her voyage alone, making her mark as the first U.S. man-of-war to double the Cape of Good Hope, both in March and in August 1800 prior to successfully completing her convoy mission in November.

First Barbary War

Captain William Bainbridge commanded Essex on her second cruise, whereon she sailed to the Mediterranean with the squadron of Commodore Richard Dale. Dispatched to protect American trade and seamen against depredations by the Barbary pirates, the squadron arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July 1801 and spent the ensuing year convoying American merchantmen and blockading Tripolitan ships in their ports. Following repairs at the Washington Navy Yard in 1802, Essex resumed her duties in the Mediterranean under Captain James Barron in August 1804. She participated in the Battle of Derne on 27 April 1805, and remained in those waters until the conclusion of peace terms in 1806.

Returning to the Washington Navy Yard in July, she was placed in ordinary until February 1809 when she was recommissioned for sporadic use in patrolling American waters and a single cruise to Europe.

War of 1812

File:Uss essex.jpg
Essex capturing the Alert.

When war was declared against Britain on 18 June, 1812, Essex, commanded by Captain David Porter, made a successful cruise to the southward. On 11 July near Bermuda she fell in with seven British (the HMS Silverside being one) transports and by moonlight engaged and took one of them as a prize. On 13 August she encountered and captured the sloop Alert after an engagement. By September when she returned to New York, Essex had taken ten prizes.

Essex sailed in South Atlantic waters and along the coast of Brazil until January 1813 when Captain Porter undertook the decimation of English whale fisheries in the Pacific. Although her crew suffered greatly from a shortage of provisions and heavy gales while rounding Cape Horn, she anchored safely at Valparaíso, Chile, on 14 March, having seized schooners Elizabeth and Nereyda along the way. The next five months brought Essex thirteen prizes, including Essex Junior, (ex-Atlantic) which cruised in company with her captor to the Island of Nukahiva for repairs. Porter put his executive officer John Downes in command of that ship.

In January 1814, Essex sailed into neutral waters at Valparaíso, only to be trapped there for six weeks by the British frigate, Phoebe (36 guns) and the sloop-of-war Cherub (18 guns) under Captain James Hillyar. On 28 March 1814, Porter determined to gain the open sea, fearing the arrival of British reinforcements. Upon rounding the point, Essex lost her main top-mast to foul weather and was brought to action just north of Valparaíso.[3] [4] For 2½ hours, Essex, armed almost entirely with powerful, but short range carronades (which Porter had complained to the Navy about on several occasions), resisted the enemy's superior fighting power and longer gun range. A fire erupted twice aboard the Essex, at which point about fifty men abandoned the ship and swam for shore; only half of them landing. Eventually, the hopeless situation forced the frigate to surrender. The Essex suffered 58 dead and 31 missing of her crew of 154,[3] while the British casualties were 5 dead, 10 wounded. One the crew members of the Essex present at this action was 12 year old Midshipman David Farragut, the foster son of Captain Porter, who would rise to the rank of Admiral and achieve renown during the American Civil War.

Essex was repaired and taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Essex, and in 1833 served as a prison ship at Kingston, Ireland. On 6 June 1837 she was sold at public auction. During some recent resurfacing work on the east pier of Dún Laoghaire harbour the permanent mooring anchor of the Essex was discovered embedded in the pier.[5]

External links

John Edward Jennings - John Edward Jennings a Historical novelist who wrote about the USS Essex, titled "The Salem Frigate" in 1946.


  • Frances Robotti and James Vescovi, The USS Essex and the Birth of the American Navy (Adams, 1999)

This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

de:USS Essex (1799) nl:USS Essex (1799)