USS Enterprise, a schooner, was built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore,
Maryland, in 1799, and placed under the command of
ship was overhauled and rebuilt several times, effectively changing
from a twelve gun schooner to a fourteen gun topsail schooner and
eventually to a brig rigged ship.
First Caribbean tour
December 1799, Enterprise departed the Delaware Capes for
the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the
depredations of French privateers during
the Quasi-War with France.
the following year, Enterprise
captured eight privateers
and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achievements
which assured her inclusion in the 14 ships retained in the Navy
after the Quasi-War
. Placing her for sale
was suggested in mid-March, 1801.
First arrival in Mediterranean
Lieutenant Shaw, due to ill health, was relieved by Lieutenant
Andrew Sterett, Enterprise
sailed to the Mediterranean.
Being delayed by getting new masts, she
left Baltimore in early May 1801. Raising Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S.
warships in the First Barbary
Battle with corsair Tripoli
Enterprise's first action came on 1
August 1801 when, just west of Malta, she
defeated the 14-gun Tripolitan corsair
Tripoli, after a fierce but one-sided battle.
sent the battered pirate into port
since the schooner's orders prohibited taking prizes.
The action was described in Washington City's National Intelligencer & Adv.
18 November 1801.
Yesterday captain Sterret, commander of the schooner
Enterprize, part of the Mediterranean squadron, arrived
here, with dispatches for the Secretary of the Navy.
Captain Sterret is bearer of dispatches from commodore
Dale, which exhibit a detailed account of the proceedings and
situation of the Mediterranean squadron.
On the 1st of August, the schooner
Enterprize, commanded by captain Sterret, and carrying 12
six pounders and 90 men, bound to Malta for a supply
of water, fell in with a Tripolitan cruizer, being a ship of 14 six
pounders, manned by 80 men.
At this time the Enterprize bore British
colours. Captain Sterret interrogated the commander of the
Tripolitan on the object of his cruize. He replied that he came out
to cruise after the Americans, and that he lamented that he had not
come alongside of some of them. Captain Sterret, on this reply,
hoisted American, in the room of British colours; and discharged a
volley of musquetry; which the Tripolitan returned by a partial
broadside.—This was the commencement of a hard fought action, which
commenced at 9 A.M. and continued for three hours.
Three times, during the action, the Tripolitan
attempted to board the Enterprize, and was as often
repulsed with great slaughter, which was greatly increased by the
effective aid afforded by the Marines. Three times, also, the
Tripolitan struck her colours, and as often treacherously renewed
the action, with the hope of disabling the crew of captain Sterret,
which, as is usual, when the enemy struck her colours, came on
deck, and exposed themselves, while they gave three cheers as a
mark of victory.
When for the third time, this treacherous attack was
made, captain Sterret gave orders to sink the Tripolitan, on which
a scene of furious combat ensuded, until the enemy cried for
Captain Sterret, listening to the voice of humanity,
even after such perfidious conduct, ordered the captain either to
come himself, or to send some of his officers on board the
Enterprize. He was informed that the boat of the
Tripolitan was so shattered as to be unfit for use. He asked, what
security there was, that if he should send his men in his own boat,
they would not be murdered?
After numerous supplications & protestations the
boat was sent: The crew of the Tripolitan was discovered to be in
the most deplorable state. Out of eighty men, 20 were killed, and
30 wounded. Among the killed were the second lieutenant and
Surgeon; and among the wounded were the Captain and first
lieutenant. And so decisive was the fire of the Enterprize
that the Tripolitan was found to be in a most perilous condition,
having received 18 shot between wind and water.
When we compare this great slaughter, with the fact
that not a single individual of the crew of the Enterprise
was in the least degree injured, we are lost in surprise at the
uncommon good fortune which accompanied our seamen, and at the
superior management of Captain Sterrett.
All the officers and sailors manifested the truest
spirit, and sustained the greatest efforts during the engagement.
All, therefore, are entitled to encomium
for their valour and good conduct. The marines, especially, owing
to the nearness of the vessels, which were within pistol shot of
each other, were eminently useful.
After administering to the relief of the distresses of
the wounded Tripolitans, and the wants of the crew, Capt. Sterrett
ordered the ship of the enemy to be completely dismantled. Her
masts were accordingly all cut down, and her guns thrown overboard.
A spar was raised, on which was fixed, as a flag, a tattered sail;
and in this condition the ship was dismised.
On the arrival of the Tripolitan ship at Tripoli, so
strong was the sensations of shame and indignation excited there,
that the Bey ordered the wounded captain to be
mounted on a Jack Ass, and paraded thro' the
streets as an object of public scorn. After which he received 500
So thunderstruck were the Tripolitans at this event,
and at the apprehended destruction of their whole marine force,
that the sailors, then employed at Tripoli on board of cruisers
that were fitting out by the government, all deserted them, and not
a man could be procured to navigate them.
On 3 February 1802, the U.S. Congress resolved that a commemorative
sword should be given to Sterrett, and a month's pay to the others
on the Enterprise
Remainder of Mediterranean patrol
At Gibraltar on 3 October 1801, Enterprise
was ordered to
return to Baltimore with dispatches for the Secretary of the Navy.
While in port, Sterrett was ordered on November 17
to pay off and discharge the crew,
and that Sterrett would be given a furlough and replaced after he
oversaw the ship's refitting. Master Commandant Cyrus Talbot was
offered the command, but he was discharged 23 October 1801, under
the Peace Establishment Act
Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying
despatches, convoying merchantmen, and patrolling the
Mediterranean. On 17 January, she
captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship under
charter to the Bashaw of Tripoli,
and on 22 May, she ran a 30-ton craft ashore
on the coast of Tripoli.
the next month Enterprise
and other ships of the squadron
cruised inshore, bombarding the coast and sending landing parties
to destroy enemy small craft.
December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising,
Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch
Mastico. Refitted and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was given
to Enterprise's commanding officer, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., for use in a
daring expedition to burn frigate Philadelphia, captured by
the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli.
and his volunteer crew carried out their mission perfectly,
destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a
powerful warship. Enterprise continued to patrol the
Barbary Coast until July 1804 when she
joined the other ships of the squadron in general attacks on the
city of Tripoli over a
period of several weeks.
Enterprise passed the winter in
Italy, where she was practically rebuilt by May
She rejoined her squadron in July and resumed patrol
and convoy duty until August 1807. During that period she fought
(15 August 1806) a brief engagement off Gibraltar with a group of
Spanish gunboats who attacked her but were driven off.
returned to the United States in late 1807, and
cruised coastal waters until June 1809. After a brief tour in
the Mediterranean, she sailed to New York where she was laid up for nearly a
at the Washington
Navy Yard, Enterprise was recommissioned there in
April 1811, then sailed for operations out of Savannah,
Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.
She returned to Washington on 2 October
and was hauled out of the water for
extensive repairs and modifications: when she sailed on 20 May
1812, she had been rerigged as a brig
when war was declared on Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first
year of hostilities.
On 5 September 1813,
sighted and chased the brig HMS Boxer
. The brigs opened fire
on each other, and in a closely fought, fierce and gallant action
which took the lives of both commanding officers,
Enterprise captured Boxer and took her into
Maine, with Edward McCall in
Here a common funeral was held for Lieutenant
, and Captain Samuel
, both well-known and highly respected in
Second Caribbean patrol
After repairing at Portland, Enterprise
sailed in company
with brig , for the Caribbean. The two ships took three prizes
before being forced to separate by a heavily armed ship on 25
February 1814. Enterprise
was compelled to jettison most
of her guns in order to outsail her superior antagonist.
reached Wilmington, North Carolina, on 9 March 1814, then passed the remainder of the
war as a guardship off Charleston, South Carolina.
Second Mediterranean tour
served one more short tour in the Mediterranean
(July-November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until
November 1817. From that time on she sailed the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slaves; in
this duty she took 13 prizes.
An attack on Cape Antonio
, Cuba in October 1821 resulted in
the rescue of three vessels taken by pirates and the breaking up of
an outlaw flotilla reputedly commanded by James D. Jeffers
, aka Charles Gibbs
. Her long career ended on 9 July 1823,
when, without injury to her crew, she stranded and broke up on
Little Curacao Island in the
In 1799 she was built as a fast-sailing schooner with a complement
of 70, mounting twelve 6-pounders.
- Length along the deck: 85 ft. 7 in. (25.8 m)
- Length of the keel: 60 ft. (18.29 m)
- Beam: 22 ft. 6 in. (6.86 m)
- Depth of Hold: 10 ft. (3.0 m)
- Tonnage: 135 tons
The first commanding officer of the Enterprise thought that she was
too lightly built and that her quarters in particular, should be
bullet proofed. In 1800, her armament was increased to fourteen
guns, and at this time her dimensions are given as:
- Length along the deck: 83 ft. 6 in. (25.45 m)
- Length of the keel: 60 ft. (18.29 m)
- Beam: 22 ft. 6 in. (6.86 m)
- Depth of Hold: 11 ft. 6 in. (3.5 m)
- Tonnage: 165 tons