USS Philadelphia (1799)
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|Laid down:||14 November 1798|
|Launched:||28 November 1799|
|Commissioned:||5 April 1800|
|Fate:||Captured 1803, then burned by the Navy 1804|
|Class and type:||Philadelphia-class frigate|
|Displacement:||1,240 long tons (1,260 t)|
|Length:||130 ft (40 m)|
|Beam:||39 ft (12 m)|
|Depth:||13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)|
|Complement:||307 officers and crew|
• 28 × 18-pounder guns|
• 16 × 32-pounder carronades
Originally named City of Philadelphia, she was built from 1798–1799 for the United States government by the citizens of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was designed by Josiah Fox and built by Samuel Humphreys, Nathaniel Hutton, and John Delavue. Her carved work was done by William Rush of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia was laid down about 14 November 1798, launched 28 November 1799; and commissioned 5 April 1800, with Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr., in command.
Putting to sea for duty in the West Indies to serve in the Quasi-War with France, she arrived on the Guadaloupe Station in May 1800 and relieved the frigate Constellation. During this cruise she captured five French armed vessels and recaptured six merchant ships which had fallen into French hands.
Returning home in March 1801, Philadelphia was ordered to prepare for a year's cruise in the Mediterranean as part of a squadron commanded by Commodore Richard Dale. At his own request, Decatur was relieved of the command of Philadelphia by Captain Samuel Barron. The squadron, with Commodore Dale in the frigate President, arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July. Philadelphia was directed to cruise the Straits and blockade the coast of Tripoli, the Pasha Yusuf Karamanli having threatened to make war on the United States.
Philadelphia departed Gibraltar en route to the United States on 11 May 1802, arriving in mid-July. In ordinary until 21 May 1803, when she recommissioned, she again sailed for the Mediterranean on July 28. She arrived Gibraltar on August 24, Captain William Bainbridge in command, and two days later recaptured the American brig Celia from the Moroccan ship-of-war Mirboka, 24 guns and 100 men, and brought them both into Gibraltar.
She cruised off Tripoli until 31 October 1803, when she ran aground on an uncharted reef off Tripoli harbor. All efforts to refloat her under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitan gunboats failed, and she surrendered to the enemy; her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha.
The Philadelphia was too great a prize to be allowed to fall into the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. An assaulting party, a volunteer group of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., boarded the ship from the ketch Intrepid, under the guise of a ship in distress in need of a place to tie up after having lost all anchors in a storm. On February 16, 1804 the ship was recaptured and burned where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Horatio Nelson, himself known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this "the most bold and daring act of the age."
Her anchor was returned to the United States on 7 April 1871, when the Pasha presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.
- This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain.
- The attack and subsequent burning of the Philadelphia is a part of Clive Cusslers book Corsair: A Novel of the Oregon Files
- Documents, Official and Unofficial, Relating to the case and destruction of the frigate Philadelphia at Tripoli
- London, Joshua E. Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-471-44415-4
- Willis, Sam Fighting Ships': 1750-1850, Quercus Books, London, 2007
- Chapelle, Howard I. The American Sailing Navy, WW Norton and Co., New York, 1949
- Zachs, Richard The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805, New York, Hyperion, 2005