Torpedo was designed and partially constructed in New York City by inventor Robert Fulton for the purpose of towing "torpedoes" against British ships engaged in blockading New York harbor during the War of 1812.
Work commenced on the ship in 1814, but Fulton died before she was completed. His workmen proved incapable of proceeding without him, so the work was suspended. Although never launched or formally christened, she was carried on the Navy register from 1814 to 1818. Her unfinished hulk remained in a corner of the New York Navy Yard nearly totally submerged, at least until 1820.