USS Spitfire (1803)

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US flag 15 stars.svgUnited States
Name: USS Spitfire
Cost: $17,303
Laid down: date unknown
Completed: in Connecticut in 1803
Acquired: by the Navy at Boston, Massachusetts, on 25 April 1805
Commissioned: 25 April 1805 at Boston
Decommissioned: 3 August 1806
In service: July 1807
Out of service: December 1807
Reclassified: converted from a sloop to a bomb ketch by the Boston Navy Yard
Fate: broken up at the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1820
General characteristics
Type: bomb ketch
Displacement: 92 tons
Length: not known
Beam: not known
Draft: not known
Propulsion: Ketch sail
Speed: not known
Complement: 25
  • One 13-inch mortar
  • Two long 9-pounder guns

USS Spitfire (1803) was a bomb ketch converted from a sloop that served the U.S. Navy during the early years of the republic. She carried ammunition for the U.S. Navy warships in the Mediterranean in their battles with the Barbary pirates, and was later involved in the Little Belt affair prior to the War of 1812.


Built in Connecticut

The second ship to be so named by the Navy, Spitfire—a merchant sloop built in Connecticut in 1803—was purchased by the Navy at Boston, Massachusetts, on 25 April 1805; was commissioned the same day; and converted to a bomb ketch by the Boston Navy Yard.

Barbary Wars support

Commanded by Midshipman Daniel McNeill, Jr., Spitfire sailed for the Mediterranean on 23 June 1805 and reached Gibraltar on 1 August. The bomb ketch operated in the Mediterranean supporting American operations against the Barbary powers until sailing for home on 3 June 1806.

She arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, on 19 July and was placed in ordinary at Norfolk, Virginia, on 3 August 1806.


The ship reactivated in July 1807 under command of Midshipman F. Cornelius de Kroff but remained at Norfolk until laid up again in December.

On 1 May 1811, Spitfire was stopped by the fifth-rate HMS Guerriere off New Jersey's Sandy Hook. Guerriere impressed the apprentice sailing master of Spitfire, John Diggio, a citizen of Maine. This incident led to a confrontation fifteen days later between the frigates USS President and the HMS Little Belt (mistaken for the Guerriere), as President attempted to recover Diggio. The ensuing Little Belt affair provoked a diplomatic furor between the United States and Great Britain, and contributed to the tense atmosphere between the two powers prior to the War of 1812.

Spitfire was broken up at the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1820.

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