USS Essex of the United States Navy was a 36-gun or 32-gun
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).
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
States and accepted by Captain Edward Preble.
United States involved in naval action against France on 6 January
1800, Essex, under Captain Preble, departed New York in company
with to rendezvous with and convoy merchant
ships returning from Batavia, Dutch East
Shortly after commencement of her journey,
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
First Barbary War
Captain William Bainbridge
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
Returning to the Washington Navy Yard in July, she was placed
until February 1809 when she
was recommissioned for sporadic use in patrolling American waters
and a single cruise to Europe.
War of 1812
Essex capturing the
When war was declared against Britain on 18 June, 1812,
, 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
On 13 August she encountered and captured the sloop
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.
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.
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
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, (36 guns) and the sloop-of-war (18 guns) under Captain
. 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. For 2½ hours, Essex
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, while the British casualties were 5 dead, 10
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
, who later became a
prominent Federal naval officer in the American Civil War
, served as a midshipman
aboard the Essex
- Frances Robotti and James Vescovi, The USS Essex and the
Birth of the American Navy (Adams, 1999)