(Sch: t. 80; 1. 60'0" (on the gun deck); b. 16'0"; dph. 5'11"; cpl. 40; a. 4 guns)
The first Alligator—a schooner built in 1809 at Wilmington, N.C., by Ames Perry as Gunboat No. 166—was commissioned sometime in mid-1809, Master Commandant Joseph Tarbell in command.
Built and commissioned as a part of the Democratic-Republican Party's defensive "Gunboat Navy," Gunboat No. 166 served on the coast of the Carolinas protecting coastal commerce and was still operating on that station when the War of 1812 opened. That same year, she received the name Alligator. On 29 January 1814, she was anchored in the mouth of the Stone River, S.C., when two British ships—a frigate and a brig—sailed close inshore. It was quite apparent from their movements that they would send a boat expedition in to cut her out during the night. Alligator made her preparations to ward off the expected attack. At about 1915 that evening, lookouts spied seven boats approaching with muffled oars. Alligator hailed the newcomers whereupon they raised a cheer and opened with their boat carronades and small arms. Alligator cut her cable, made sail, and opened a withering fire on the intruders. The return fire stopped the attackers cold, but, in the darkness, Alligator ran aground. Fortunately, her assailants had lost heart and rowed back downstream to their ships, apparently having suffered heavy casualties. Alligator lost two men killed and two wounded. She was soon refloated and returned to service. In July, however, she sank in Port Royal Sound during a heavy storm. Refloated once again, the schooner resumed service and continued her labors for the Navy until sold on 12 June 1815