Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

USS Essex (Frigate)

The frigate, USS Essex, was built at Enos Briggs, Salem, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on December 17, 1799.  During the Quasi-War with France, she became the first U.S. Navy warship to double (sail around) the Cape of Good Hope to protect merchant ships to the East Indies.  In the First Barbary War, 1801-05, she protected American trade and seamen in the Mediterranean.  While serving in the Atlantic, the United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812.   During the War of 1812, besides capturing HMS Alert that August, she had great success in deterring the British whaling fleet and became the first U.S. Navy warship in February 1813 to sail into the Pacific Ocean.  In January 1814, Essex entered neutral waters at Valparaiso, Chile, and was trapped for six weeks by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Phoebe and sloop-of-war HMS Cherub.  Determined run the blockade on March 28, Captain David Porter ordered the frigate to depart but lost her top-mast due to foul weather and ran aground.   The Royal Navy ships engaged Essex for 2 1/2 hours, resulting in her capture.    Following her arrival in England, she was repaired and renamed HMS Essex after being taken into the Royal Navy.   Essex served as a troopship in Ireland and Kingstown, Jamaica, until sold at public auction in June 1837.   

A model of Essex can be found in The Forgotten Wars of 19th Century at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.    

Image: NH 554:  USS Essex.  Artwork of her rounding Cape Horn in 1814.  NHHC Photograph Collection.