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Guerriere I (frigate)

(Fr: t. 1,508; l. 175'; b. 45'6"; dph. 14'6"; cpl. 400; a. 33 24-pdrs., 20 42-pdrs.)

The name of a fast 49-gun British frigate captured and destroyed in a half-hour battle by U.S. frigate Constitution 19 August 1812. This celebrated victory fired the nation with fresh confidence and courage at the outset of the War of 1812.


The first Guerriere was the first frigate built in the United States since 1801. She launched in the Philadelphia Navy Yard 20 June 1814. After fitting out, she became the flagship of a squadron assembled at New York under Captain Stephen Decatur. She sailed from New York 20 May 1815 to lead the squadron in terminating piratical acts against American merchant commerce by Algiers and other Barbary States.

On 17 June 1815, off the Algerian coast, famed frigate Constellation drove the 44-gun frigate Meshuda under the guns of Decatur's flagship, Guerriere. With two broadsides, the American frigate drove below all who were not killed or disabled on Meshuda's decks. The flagship of the Algerian Fleet, Meshuda surrendered. Among her fatalities was Algiers' ranking naval officer. Two days later Guerriere led the squadron in driving the 22-gun Algerian brig Estedio ashore.

Guerriere arrived at Algiers 28 June 1815, ready to act with her squadron for the capture of every Algerian ship that entered port unless the Dey ratified the terms of a peace treaty sent him by Decatur. The treaty was negotiated on board Guerriere 30 June 1815, ending the payment of tribute Algiers and exacting full payment for injuries to American commerce.

Guerriere next led the squadron in a show of force that resulted: in a peace settlement with Tunis 13 July 1815 and with Tripoli 9 August 1815. Having enforced the peace in less than 6 weeks from time of sailing from the United States, she combined with the entire naval force assembled at Gibraltar under Commodore William Bain-bridge. The 18 warships, including ship-of-the-line Independence, 5 frigates, 2 sloops-of-war, 7 brigs, and 3 schooners, was the largest fleet ever collected under the American flag in the Mediterranean to that time. It marked the beginning of a permanent naval fleet in the Mediterranean which has evolved into the powerful 6th Fleet of today. Then, as today, the fleet was a mighty factor for keeping the peace and strengthening the international diplomacy of the nation.

Guerriere returned to New York 12 November 1815 and was laid up in the Boston Navy Yard for repairs 4 March 1816. She recommissioned under Captain Thomas Macdonough 22 April 1818 for fitting out. On 24 July 1818 she put to sea, carrying the American Minister to Russia to his new post. After calls at Gibraltar, Cowes and Copenhagen, she debarked the American Minister and his family at Cronstadt, Russia, 17 September 1818. She then cruised throughout the Mediterranean until 26 July 1819 when she departed Leghorn for Norfolk, Va., arriving 4 October 1819. She remained and was placed in ordinary there 8 November 1820. For the next 7 years she served as a schoolship in the Norfolk Navy Yard, training classes of midshipmen before the permanent establishment of a naval academy.

Guerriere terminated her schoolship duties late in November 1828 when she was ordered to fit out as the flagship of a U.S. Navy squadron destined for duty in the Pacific. She sailed 13 February 1829, landing passengers at Rio de Janeiro before rounding Cape Horn for Callao, Peru. In the following two years she watched over American commerce, including the whaling fleet, along the western seaboard of South America and westward to the Hawaiian Islands. She departed Callao 8 September 1831 and arrived in Norfolk 29 November 1831. Guerriere decommissioned 19 December 1831 and remained in ordinary at the Norfolk Navy Yard until broken up in 1841.

Published: Mon Jul 13 18:09:12 EDT 2015