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Wild Cat

 

I

 

(Sch.: t. 48; cpl. 31; a. 3 guns)

 

The first Wild Cat, a schooner, was purchased at Baltimore, Md., late in 1822 for service with the "mosquito fleet" formed by Commodore David Porter to suppress the pirates then ravaging seaborne commerce in the West Indies. She was probably outfitted at Norfolk, Va., late in 1822 and commissioned early in 1823, Lt. Charles W. Skinner in command.

 

Wild Cat was one of eight, shallow-draft Chesapeake Bay schooners acquired to give the West Indies Squadron the capability of pursuing pirates into the shoal waters along the coasts of Cuba and Puerto Rico, where the freebooters sought refuge from justice. On 15 February 1823, she departed Hampton Roads in company with the other ships of Commodore Porter's squadron. After a brief stop at St. Thomas on 4 March, she and her consorts headed for the coast of Puerto Rico the following day. For the next 18 months, she intermittently patrolled the northern coast of Cuba and Puerto Rican waters searching for pirates and escorting convoys of merchantmen.

 

By the fall of 1823, yellow fever broke out among the crews of the squadron and reached almost epidemic proportions. Key West became untenable as a base, and most of the ships returned north—Wild Cat among them. During the remaining months of 1823, she completed repairs and recruited replacements for her decimated crew. Early in 1824—after the yellow fever subsided—she returned south with the squadron and resumed her antipiracy patrols and merchant convoy cruises. She continued that duty until the summer of 1824 when another bout with yellow fever began. Early in June, she was sent ahead of the squadron to carry word to Washington that the dreaded disease had once again forced the squadron to depart its station. Wild Cat returned to the West Indies that fall and resumed the campaign against the pirates. However, her return to duty proved brief for, during a storm in October, she sank with all hands.