The largest city in Maryland and one of the major seaports of the United States.
Adriana, a merchant ship built in 1795 at Baltimore, Md. was acquired by the Navy on 3 May 1798 through funds donated by the citizens of Baltimore; renamed Baltimore on 29 June 1798 in honor of their generous patriotism; and placed in commission later that summer, Capt. Isaac Phillips in command.
Late in August, Baltimore moved south to Hampton Roads, Va., where she joined Constellation. The two warships set sail for Cuba on 4 September, reached Havana on 21 September, and began preparations to escort a convoy of American merchant ships back to the United States. At the time warships and privateers of the new French republic had begun capturing American merchant ships in what later became known as the Quasi-War with France. On 29 September, Baltimore and Constellation departed Havana escorting over 40 American merchantmen back home. On 9 October, the convoy split and Baltimore shepherded the Charleston bound portion safely into port. She then cruised off that port for about two weeks in company with Constitution waiting for a Charleston to Havana convoy to form. The fleet sailed for Havana on 24 October with Baltimore and Constitution in escort. However, Constitution sprang her bowsprit on 28 October and had to head for Boston for repairs. Baltimore continued on with the convoy as its lone escort.
On 16 November, when but a short distance from its destination, the convoy encountered a British squadron consisting of three ships of the line and two frigates. Capt. Phillips ordered the ships of the convoy to scatter and make it into Havana as best they could while Baltimore diverted the British squadron's attention. Capt. Phillips went on board the British flagship at the invitation of the squadron commodore. Thereupon, he learned that the British intended to impress those of Baltimore's crew who could not prove their American citizenship. Capt. Phillips protested the proposed action and returned to his ship. When he arrived back on board Baltimore, he found a British officer mustering his crew for inspection and impressment. Capt. Phillips then retrieved his muster roll from the British officer, ordered his crew to quarters, and requested time to consider his course of action. Finally, he allowed the British officer to take off 55 members of his crew while striking his colors at the same time. The British ignored Baltimore's surrender attempt and, later, returned all but five of her impressed crewmen. Baltimore then continued on to Havana where she gathered another homeward bound convoy. She returned to the United States sometime in late December 1798 or early January 1799. Capt. Phillips hurried to Philadelphia in a futile attempt to explain and to justify his actions. For allowing such a flagrant violation of American sovereignty, he was summarily dismissed from the Navy on 10 January 1799.
Temporarily under the command of her first lieutenant, Josias M. Speake, Baltimore set sail for the West Indies sometime in March and arrived at St. Christopher's Island late in the month. On 26 March 1799, Capt. Samuel Barron assumed command from Lt. Speake, and Baltimore got underway for Antigua two days later to rendezvous with a merchant convoy. She returned on 18 May having escorted the convoy from Antigua to the latitude of Bermuda. At that point, the merchant ships were relatively safe from the French who concentrated their activities in the Caribbean. On 21 May, the warship put to sea from St. Christopher's bound for station off the French island of Guadaloupe. While cruising there early in June, she joined Eagle in capturing a small French privateer.
Later that month, or perhaps at the beginning of July, Baltimore headed back to the United States, was at Norfolk by 15 July, and began repairs in preparation for her return to sea. The warship put to sea again sometime in late August or early September and arrived back off Guadaloupe late in the latter month. She remained on that station for the remainder of the year and into 1800. On the morning of 20 December, Baltimore captured the French brig L'Esperance, bound from Guadaloupe to St. Thomas, and took her prize into St. Christopher's on 21 December. The Frenchman was later condemned by a prize court in Norfolk and was sold at auction. On 12 January, Baltimore encountered and captured the French schooner La Brillant Jeunesse. The very next day, Baltimore had a sharp engagement with a 16 gun French privateer. She chased the Frenchman all day and into the night, but had to give up the pursuit for fear of losing the prize she had already captured.
Baltimore continued to cruise the West Indies in search of French privateers through the spring and summer of 1800. In May, she recaptured an American schooner, name now unknown, that had been taken by the French. On 21 June, she fell in with the polacre Emmanuel, put a prize crew on board, and sent her into Norfolk for adjudication by a prize court. Two days later, the ship recaptured another American schooner, Jolly Robin and sent her into St. Christopher's. She made another recapture, of the schooner Sea Flower, sometime in July. Baltimore continued to cruise the West Indies into the fall of 1800, but she appears to have taken no more prizes. She returned to Baltimore in mid November 1800. Her crew was discharged and paid off, and Baltimore was made ready for disposal. She was sold at her namesake city sometime in 1801.
Raymond A. Mann
16 December 2005