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Thread: USS Essex.

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    Admiral of the Blue.

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    Default USS Essex.

    Here is a special to thank my American friends for all the support and advice given to me during my project in building up my American Naval squadron.

    USS Essex. (1799)

    USS Essex

    The first USS Essex was a James Hackett designed 36 or 32? gun Frigate, built by Enos Briggs of Salem Massachusetts, Laid down on the 13th of April 1799, and launched on the 30th of September in that same year, she was completed on the 17th of December at a cost of $139,362, subscribed by the people of Salem and Essex County.

    Name: USS Essex
    Builder: Enod Briggs, Salem Massachusetts
    Cost: $139,362
    Laid down: 1798
    Launched: 30 September 1799
    Commissioned: 17 December 1799
    Captured: 28 March 1814
    Name: HMS Essex
    Acquired: 28 March 1814
    Fate: Sold at Public Auction, 6 June 1837
    General characteristics
    Type: Fifth rate Frigate
    Displacement: 850 tons
    Tons burthen: 897 ​2294(bm)
    • 141 ft 9 in (42.2 m) (overall)
    • 118 ft (35.7 m)
    Beam: 37 ft (11.4 m) (keel)
    Draft: 12 ft 3 in (3.7 m)
    Depth of hold: 11 ft 9 in (3.6 m)
    Propulsion: Sail
    Sail plan: Full rigged ship
    Speed: 11.4 knots (21.1 km/h; 13.1 mph)

    General characteristics American service


    Post 1810
    • 300 officers and enlisted
    • 26 x 12 pdrs
    • 10 x 6 pdrs

    315 officers and enlisted men

    • 40 × 32 pdr Carronades
    • 6 × 12 pdrs

    General characteristics British service
    • Upper deck: 26 × 18-pounder guns
    • QD: 12 × 32-pounder carronades
    • Fc:
    • 2 × 9-pounder guns
    • 2 × 32-pounder carronades
    Service record


    Battle of Derne

    USS Essex vs HMS Alert
    Action off George Island
    Battle of Valaparaiso


    On the 17th of December, 1799 USS Essex was presented to the United States Navy and accepted by Captain Edward Prebble.

    The Quasi war.

    With the United States involved in naval action against France, on the 6th of January, 1800, Essex, under the command of Captain Preble, departed from Newport, Rhode Island, in company with the 36 gun USS Congress to rendezvous with a convoy of merchant ships returning from Batavia in the Dutch East Indies. Shortly after commencement of her journey, Essex became the first US 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 US man-of-war to double the Cape of Good Hope, both in March and then in the August of that year prior to successfully completing her convoy mission in November.

    First Barbary War.

    Captain William Bainbridge took command of Essex for her second cruise, when she sailed to the Mediterranean accompanying 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 the 1st of 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.

    Congress passed an Act of 25th March 1804. – stating that the President was authorized to employ such of the armed vessels as he might deem requisite for protecting the Commerce and Seamen of the United States and for carrying on warlike operations against the Regency of Tripoli, and any other of the Barbary Powers which might commit hostilities against the United States. Whereupon the President directed to be put in Commission, to be under the Command of Commodore S. Barron, the following Vessels, to wit:-

    J. Adams - Store Ship, armed en Flute.

    The President further directed that the United States' Vessels of War in the Mediterranean under Commodore Preble, consisting of, Constitution, Siren Brig, Argus Brig, Vixen Schooner, Nautilus Schooner, Enterprise Schooner, should be under the Command of Commodore Samuel Barron.
    In the August of that year Essex resumed her duties in the Mediterranean under Captain James Barron, and on the 27th of April 1805, she took part in the Battle of Derne, remaining in those waters until the conclusion of the peace terms of 1806.
    Returning to the Washington Navy Yard in the July of that year, she was placed into Ordinary until the Februaryof 1809, when she was recommissioned for sporadic use in patrolling American waters and a single cruise to Europe. USS Essex with her prizes.

    The War of 1812.

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

    Essex capturing Alert.

    By September, when she returned to New York, Essex had taken a total of ten prizes. The youngest member of the Essex crew was the 10 year old midshipman David Glasgow Farragut, who would become the first admiral of the US Navy. Farragut, who was Captain Porter's foster son, remained with the ship for the next two years.

    USS Essex with her prizes.

    Towards the end of that year Essex sailed into South Atlantic waters and along the coast of Brazil. On the 11th of December she captured the Post Office Service Packet Nocton as she was returning to England from Rio de Janeiro. The Americans removed the specie that she was carrying amounting to approximately £16,000) and imprisoned some of her crew. Essex then ventured into the Pacific where she decimated the British whaling fleet there. Although her crew suffered greatly from a shortage of provisions and heavy gales while rounding Cape Horn, she anchored safely at Valparaiso in Chile, on the 14th of March, 1813, along the way having seized the whaling schooner Elizabeth, and the Peruvian man-of-war Nereyda which had captured two American whalers, Walker and Barclay, only to have the British whaler and privateer Nimrod take Walker. Nereyda had sent Barclay to Callao, where Porter was able to capture her before she could enter port. He then sent a disarmed Nereyda back to the Peruvian authorities as a gesture of good will. He searched for Nimrod and Walker, but was unable to find them. At Valparaiso Essex landed the crew members that she had taken off Nocton.

    During the following five months, Essex captured a total of thirteen British whalers, including Essex Junior, the former Atlantic, which then cruised in company with her captor. Porter placed his Executive Officer, John Downes, in command of Essex Junior. along the way. On the 25th of October in that year the two ships and nine of their prizes put in at the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas for repairs. Whilst they were there, the crews became involved in a local dispute which resulted in the Nuku Hiva Campaign, terminating in the temporary establishment of the United States' first colony and naval base in the Pacific Ocean. Essex and Essex Junior departed Nuku Hiva in mid-December of that year.

    In the January of 1814, Essex sailed into the neutral waters of Valparaíso, only to be trapped there for six weeks by the 36 gun British frigate HMS Pheobe, under the command of Captain James Hillyar, and the 18 gun Sloop of War HMS Cherub. On the 28th of March, 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.

    Battle of Valparaíso engraving by Abel Bowen

    Despite Porter's complaints to the US Navy on several occasions, Essex was armed almost entirely with powerful but short range 32 pounder Carronades which at long range gave a decisive advantage to Phoebe who was armed with long 18-pounders. For ​212 hours Phoebe and Cherub bombarded Essex from long range, where Essex was only capable of replying with her few long 12 pounders. On two separate occasions fires broke out aboard the Essex, at which point about fifty men abandoned ship and swam for shore, only half of them succeeding, the British only managing to save sixteen souls. Eventually, the hopeless situation forced Porter’s capitulation. Essex had suffered 58 dead and 31 missing from a crew of 214. The British lost four men dead and seven wounded on Phoebe, and one dead and three wounded on Cherub.
    As a footnote to the action,the then Lieutenant William Bolton Finch was said to have served with distinction aboard the Essex between 1812 and 1814.

    British service.

    Because Essex was stored and provisioned for six months, and capable of sailing to Europe without "the slightest cause for alarm", Captain Hillyar placed Lieutenant C. Pearson in command of her for the voyage to England, supported by acting lieutenant Allan Francis Gardiner. Essex arrived in England in the November of that year. She was then repaired and the Admiralty had her taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Essex.


    She was never fitted for sea, but re-classified as a 42 gun ship. From the 7th of July,1819, Essex served as a troopship. In the October of 1823 she was hulked at Cork in Ireland for service as a prison ship, and between 1824 and 1834 served in that capacity at Kingstown, By Admiralty Orders on the 6th of June 1837 she was sold out of the service at a public auction for £1,230.


    During early 21st century resurfacing work on the east pier of Dún Laoghaire harbour, Essex's permanent mooring anchor was discovered still embedded in the pier.
    Attached Images Attached Images       
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.


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