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ESSEX after capture by the British

Date: 1812
Overall: 450 x 550 x 33 mm, 2.65 kg
Medium: Pen, watercolour, paper, wood, glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00004607

User Terms

    Broadside view of USS ESSEX in full sail. Launched in September 1799 at Massachusetts, ESSEX was captured by the British in 1814 after a 6 week standoff in Chilean territorial waters during the War of 1812 (1812-1815).
    SignificanceThis ship portrait represents the War of 1812 and the impact a single ship with a capable captain and crew could have on an industry and nation. ESSEX was able to completely decimate the British whaling industry in the Pacific at that time.
    HistoryUSS ESSEX was built in 1799 from contributions from the residents of Massachusetts and presented to the United States government. Under the command of Captain Edward Preble and in the company of USS CONGRESS, ESSEX traveled around the Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) to help protect a convoy of American merchant ships returning to the US. Not long into the voyage CONGRESS was disabled and ESSEX continued alone.

    In 1801, ESSEX was deployed to the Mediterranean under the command of Captain William Bainbridge to protect American ships and provide a blockade on the port of Tripoli during the First Barbary War. She returned to the US for repairs in 1802 and, under the command of Captain James Barron, resumed duties in the Mediterranean until the conclusion of peace terms in 1806.

    Until 1812, ESSEX was used occasionally for patrolling territorial waters around the United States. When war was declared against Britain in June 1812, ESSEX headed south under the command of Captain David Porter. In July, ESSEX engaged seven British transports near Bermuda and took one of them as a prize. By the time she returned to New York in September 1812, ESSEX had captured ten prizes.

    During 1813 ESSEX sailed throughout the Pacific, decimating the British whale industry in the area and collected one or two of the best captured ships to use as tenders. In early 1814 Captain Porter sailed into Valparaiso, Chile, and became trapped by the British frigate PHOEBE and ship-sloop CHERUB for six weeks. Eventually, on 28 March 1814, Captain Porter attempted to gain freedom and headed out of the harbour. After rounding the point, ESSEX lost her main top mast due to bad weather and attempted to get back into the harbour without success. PHOEBE then moved in to engage the stricken ship. ESSEX was equipped with short range carronades, whilst PHOEBE possessed a long range battery. Taking advantage of her superiority, PHOEBE fired on ESSEX from afar. Fires broke out on ESSEX and approximately 50 men abandoned ship, roughly half of them making it to safety. After two and half hours of action, ESSEX surrendered with the loss of 58 men fighting and 31 drowning from a crew of 255.

    ESSEX was taken by the British Royal Navy, repaired, and became HMS ESSEX. In 1833 she was turned into a prison ship in Ireland, and in 1837 was sold at public auction.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: "ESSEX" 1812 AFTER CAPTURE BY THE BRITISH

    Web title: ESSEX after capture by the British

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