USS Enterprise (1799)

Last updated

Enterprise capturing Tripolitan Corsair. 1801
US flag 24 stars.svgUnited States
Name: USS Enterprise
Builder: Henry Spencer
Cost: $16,240
Launched: 1799
Fate: Lost 9 July 1823
General characteristics 1799
Tons burthen: 135 [1] (bm)
Length: 84 ft 7 in (25.78 m)
Beam: 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)
Depth of hold: 10 ft (3.0 m)
Sail plan: Schooner
Complement: 70 officers and enlisted
Armament: 12 × 6 pounder guns (2.7 kg)
General characteristics 1800
Tons burthen: 165 (bm)
Length: 83 ft 6 in (25.5 m)
Beam: 22 ft 6 in (6.9 m)
Depth of hold: 11 ft 6 in (3.5 m)
Armament: 14 guns

The third US ship to be named Enterprise was a schooner, built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1799. Her first commander thought that she was too lightly built and that her quarters, in particular, should be bulletproofed. Enterprise was overhauled and rebuilt several times, effectively changing from a twelve-gun schooner to a fourteen-gun topsail schooner and eventually to a brig. Enterprise saw action in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean again, capturing numerous prizes. She wrecked in July 1823.


First Caribbean tour

Lieutenant John Shaw commissioned Enterprise. On 17 December 1799, during the Quasi-War with France, Enterprise departed the Delaware Capes for the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the depredations of French privateers. Within the following year, Enterprise captured eight privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achievements that 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. [2]

First arrival in Mediterranean

After Lieutenant Shaw, due to ill health, was relieved by Lieutenant Andrew Sterett, Enterprise sailed to the Mediterranean. The need for new masts delayed her departure from Baltimore until early May 1801. [2] She reached Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in the First Barbary War.

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. Enterprise emerged unscathed and sent the battered pirate into port.

The action was described in Washington City's National Intelligencer & Adv. on 18 November 1801.

Naval Victory

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 am 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 mercy.
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 dismissed.
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 bastinadoes.
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. [2]

On 3 February 1802, the U.S. Congress resolved that Sterett receive a commemorative sword; the rest of Enterprise's crew received a month's pay. [2]

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, Sterett received orders on 17 November to pay off and discharge the crew. He was advised that he would receive 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. [2] [3]

Enterprise's 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 (Pasha) of Tripoli, and on 22 May, she ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. For the next month Enterprise and other ships of the squadron cruised inshore, bombarding the coast and sending landing parties to destroy enemy small craft.

USS Enterprise (the first on the right) participating in the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804, painting by Michele Felice Corne, 1752-1845 Bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804.tif
USS Enterprise (the first on the right) participating in the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804, painting by Michele Felice Cornè, 1752-1845

On 12 November 1803 Stephen Decatur assumed command of Enterprise. [4] On 23 December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising, Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. The captured vessel was taken back to Syracuse and refitted and renamed Intrepid. Command was then turned over to Enterprise's commander Lieutenant Decatur. Because of her regional appearance the ketch was well suited for making its way into Tripoli's harbor without raising suspicion and was used in a daring expedition to board, capture and burn the frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli. [5] [6] Decatur and volunteers from Enterprise carried out their mission almost perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship. [7]

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 Venice, Italy, where she was practically rebuilt by May 1805. 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 that attacked her but which she was able to drive off. Enterprise 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 year.

Engraving by Abel Bowen NavalMonument9 byAbelBowen 1838.png
Engraving by Abel Bowen

1811 recommissioning

Repaired 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.

At sea when war was declared on Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first year of hostilities. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise sighted and chased the brig 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 nearby Portland, Maine, with Edward McCall in command. Here a common funeral was held for Lieutenant William Burrows, Enterprise, and Captain Samuel Blyth, Boxer, both well-known and highly regarded in their respective naval services. [8]

Second Caribbean patrol

After repairing at Portland, Enterprise sailed in company with brig Rattlesnake, 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. The brig reached Wilmington, North Carolina, on 9 March 1814, then passed the remainder of the war as a guardship off Charleston, South Carolina.

Mediterranean, New Orleans, and West Indies Squadrons

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Mediterranean Squadron (July–November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. In 1818 she was under the command of Lieutenant Lawrence Kearny of the New Orleans Squadron, who evicted Jean Lafitte from Galveston, Texas. From that time on she sailed the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico as one of the founding vessels of what later became the West Indies Squadron in 1821. She was active in suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slavers; 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.


Enterprise's career ended on 9 July 1823, when she stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies. Her crew suffered no casualties.

Preceded by
USS Enterprise
Succeeded by

See also


Related Research Articles

William Bainbridge Commodore in the United States Navy (1774-1833)

William Bainbridge was a Commodore in the United States Navy. During his long career in the young American Navy he served under six presidents beginning with John Adams and is notable for his many victories at sea. He commanded several famous naval ships, including USS Constitution and saw service in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. Bainbridge was also in command of USS Philadelphia when she grounded off the shores of Tripoli in North Africa, resulting in his capture and imprisonment for many months. In the latter part of his career he became the U.S. Naval Commissioner.

Andrew Sterett United States Navy officer

Andrew Sterett was an officer in the United States Navy during the nation's early days. He saw combat during the Quasi-War with France and in the Barbary Wars, commanding the schooner USS Enterprise in both conflicts.

USS Adams was a 28-gun (rated) sailing frigate of the United States Navy. She was laid down in 1797 at New York City by John Jackson and William Sheffield and launched on 8 June 1799. Captain Richard Valentine Morris took command of the ship.

First Barbary War War between United States and the Barbary states, 1801-1805

The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitanian War and the Barbary Coast War, was the first of two Barbary Wars, in which the United States and Sweden fought against the four North African states known collectively as the "Barbary States". Three of these were nominal provinces of the Ottoman Empire, but in practice autonomous: Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis. The fourth was the independent Sultanate of Morocco.

USS <i>Philadelphia</i> (1799) United States 36-gun sailing frigate

USS Philadelphia, a 1240-ton, 36-gun sailing frigate, was the second vessel of the United States Navy to be named for the city of Philadelphia. Originally named City of Philadelphia, she was built in 1798–1799 for the United States government by the citizens of that city. Funding for her construction was the result of a funding drive which raised $100,000 in one week, in June 1798. 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. She was laid down about November 14, 1798, launched on November 28, 1799, and commissioned on April 5, 1800, with Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr. in command. She is perhaps best remembered for her burning after being captured in Tripoli.

USS <i>President</i> (1800) ship

USS President was a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, nominally rated at 44 guns. She was launched in April 1800 from a shipyard in New York City. President was one of the original six frigates whose construction the Naval Act of 1794 had authorized, and she was the last to be completed. The name "President" was among ten names submitted to President George Washington by Secretary of War Timothy Pickering in March of 1795 for the frigates that were to be constructed.Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so President and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. Forman Cheeseman, and later Christian Bergh were in charge of her construction. Her first duties with the newly formed United States Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi War with France and to engage in a punitive expedition against the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.

USS <i>Intrepid</i> (1798) 1798 United States ketch

The first USS Intrepid was a captured ketch in the United States Navy during the First Barbary War.

USS <i>Argus</i> (1803)

The first USS Argus, originally named USS Merrimack, was a brig in the United States Navy commissioned in 1803. She enforced the Embargo Act of 1807 and fought in the First Barbary War – taking part in the blockade of Tripoli and the capture of Derna – and the War of 1812. During the latter inflict, she had been audaciously raiding British merchant shipping in British home waters for a month, when the heavier British Cruizer-class brig-sloopHMS Pelican intercepted her. After a sharp fight during which Argus's captain, Master Commandant William Henry Allen, was mortally wounded, Argus surrendered when the crew of Pelican were about to board.

USS <i>Syren</i> (1803)

USS Syren was a brig of the United States Navy built at Philadelphia in 1803. She served during the First Barbary War and the War of 1812 until the Royal Navy captured her in 1814. The British never commissioned her but apparently used her for a year or so as a lazaretto, or a prison vessel. She then disappears from records.

USS <i>Nautilus</i> (1799)

Nautilus was a schooner launched in 1799. The United States Navy purchased her in May 1803 and commissioned her USS Nautilus; she thus became the first ship to bear that name. She served in the First Barbary War. She was altered to a brigantine. The British captured Nautilus early in the War of 1812 and renamed her HMS Emulous. After her service with the Royal Navy, the Admiralty sold her in 1817.

USS <i>John Adams</i> (1799)

The first John Adams was originally built in 1799 as a frigate for the United States Navy, converted to a corvette in 1809, and later converted back to a frigate in 1830. Named for President John Adams, she fought in the Quasi-War, the First and Second Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War. At the end of her career, she participated in the Union blockade of South Carolina's ports. She then participated in a historic raid that Harriet Tubman, the former slave and Union operative, organized with Union colonel Montgomery. John Adams led three steam-powered gunboats up the Harbor River to Port Royal. The squadron relied on local black mariners to guide it past mines and fortifications. The squadron freed 750+ slaves and unsettled the Confederacy. Tubman was the first woman in U.S. history to plan and execute an armed expedition.

USS <i>Guerriere</i> (1814)

USS Guerriere was the first frigate built in the United States since 1801. The name came from a fast 38-gun British frigate captured and destroyed in a half-hour battle by USS Constitution on 19 August 1812. This victory was one of the United States' first in the War of 1812.

USS <i>Vixen</i> (1803) United States Navy schooner

USS Vixen was a schooner in the United States Navy during the First Barbary War. Vixen was one of four vessels authorized by Congress on 28 February 1803. She was built at Baltimore, Maryland, in the spring of 1803; and launched on 25 June, Lieutenant John Smith in command.

Mediterranean Squadron (United States)

The Mediterranean Squadron, also known as the Mediterranean Station, was part of the United States Navy in the 19th century that operated in the Mediterranean Sea. It was formed in response to the First Barbary War and Second Barbary Wars. Between 1801 and 1818, the squadron was composed of a series of rotating squadrons. Later, squadrons were sent in the 1820s to the 1860s to suppress piracy, primarily in Greece and to engage in gunboat diplomacy. In 1865 the force was renamed the European Squadron.

Action of 16 May 1797 Naval battle near Tripoli, Libya

The action of 16 May 1797 was a naval battle that took place near Tripoli in Ottoman Tripolitania. The Danish squadron was victorious over a Tripolitan squadron that outnumbered them in terms of the number of vessels. The result was a peace treaty between the Bey of Tripoli and Denmark.

Second Battle of Tripoli Harbor

The Second Battle of Tripoli Harbor was a naval action that occurred during the American naval blockade which took place in Tripoli Harbor on July 14, 1804. The battle was part of the First Barbary War between forces of the United States and the forces of the Eyalet of Tripolitania.

USS <i>Enterprise</i> vs <i>Flambeau</i> naval battle in 1800

USS Enterprise vs Flambeau was a single ship action fought in October 1800 during the Quasi-War, and the final battle between French and American forces. During the action, USS Enterprise defeated the French brig Flambeau off the leeward side of the island of Dominica in the Caribbean Sea. Although Enterprise was outgunned by Flambeau, she was still able to take her as a prize after a short battle. The battle helped bring to fame Enterprise's commanding officer, John Shaw, who added the capture of Flambeau to his already long list of French prizes.

Action of 1 August 1801 1801 naval battle of the First Barbary War

The Action of 1 August 1801 was a single-ship action of the First Barbary War fought between the American schooner USS Enterprise and the Tripolitan polacca Tripoli off the coast of modern-day Libya.

Stephen Decatur United States Navy officer

Stephen Decatur Jr. was a United States naval officer and commodore. He was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in Worcester County, the son of a U.S. naval officer who served during the American Revolution. His father, Stephen Decatur Sr., was a commodore in the U.S. Navy, and brought the younger Stephen into the world of ships and sailing early on. Shortly after attending college, Decatur followed in his father's footsteps and joined the U.S. Navy at the age of nineteen as a midshipman.

John Smith (naval officer) United States Navy officer (1780-1815)

Captain John Smith was a United States Navy officer, who served during the First Barbary War and later in the War of 1812. He commanded USS Vixen, USS Syren, USS Wasp, USS Essex, USS Congress, and USS Franklin.


  1. "Enterprise". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY – NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Dudley W. Knox, ed. (1939). Naval Documents related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Volume I. Washington: United States Government Printing Office.
  3. Callahan, Edward W. (7 April 2006). "US Navy Officers: 1798–1900 – "T"". Officers of the Continental and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 1775–1900. Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
  4. MacKenzie, 1846 p.60
  5. Hollis, 1900 p.95
  6. MacKenzie, 1846 p.65
  7. MacKenzie, 1846 pp.73–75
  8. Smith, Joshua (2011). Battle for the Bay: The Naval War of 1812. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions. pp. 75–91. ISBN   978-0-86492-644-9.

Further reading