Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Essex vs HMS Alert

USS Essex and HMS Alert engagement took place on August 13th 1812.  The light frigate, USS Essex, commanded by Captain David Porter encountered and captured the British sloop Alert, commanded by Captain T.L.P. Laugharne. Alert became the first American capture of the war.

The battle lasted eight minutes, during which Essex fired only one broadside. Porter kept his gunports closed making Laugharne believe that Essex was a merchantman. Laugharne maneuvered his ship within pistol shot range of Essex, which in turn ran out her carronades and devastated Alert.

Porter allowed Laugharne to sail his ship to Newfoundland so he could disembark his crew, after which he was honor-bound to surrender Alert to American authorities in New York.

Alert remained in United States service until 1829.