The first USS ARGUS, originally named USS MERRIMACK, was a brig in
United States Navy
* 1 Construction and commissioning
* 3 Operations, 1805–1812
* 4.1 Capture by HMS Pelican
* 4.1.1 Prelude * 4.1.2 Battle and capture * 4.1.3 Aftermath
* 5 See also * 6 References * 7 Bibliography
CONSTRUCTION AND COMMISSIONING
United States Congress
On 14 May 1803, two days after Merrimack's keel was laid, United
States Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith assigned Preble to duty as
commanding officer of the frigate
Smith found that U.S. Navy officers disliked the name Merrimack for
the new brig, and he directed that she be renamed Argus, the first
U.S. Navy ship of that name, on 4 June 1803. Although work on her
construction proceeded quickly at first, Decatur reported on 11 July
1803 soon after arriving to take command that her construction had
fallen behind schedule, although her builders assured him that she
would be launched before the end of July. Decatur recruited her crew
and procured her armament from Providence ,
In service, Argus was reported to sail swiftly and easily, although prone to heavy pitching when lying to (i.e., when her sails were arranged so as to counteract each other). On more than one occasion, observers described her as a remarkably handsome ship.
FIRST BARBARY WAR
Argus set sail from Boston on 8 September 1803, bound for the
Mediterranean and service with the Mediterranean Squadron in the First
Barbary War . She soon suffered a badly sprung bowsprit in
exceptionally heavy seas, and Decatur put into Newport , Rhode Island,
on 18 September 1803 to have it fixed, reasoning that repairs would be
far easier in the
Argus made a brief cruise to the east and then, in accordance with
orders from now-Commodore Preble, commander of the Mediterranean
Squadron, returned to
BLOCKADE OF TRIPOLI
Argus arrived at
Argus resumed her blockade duties on 7 July 1804. At that point,
Preble began preparations for a shore bombardment . Heavy weather,
however, postponed the action until early August. On 3 August 1804,
the squadron moved in to provide long-range support for the gunboats
and mortar boats actually engaged in the bombardment. The bombardment
was considerably less damaging to the defensive works protecting
On 28 August 1804, the squadron conducted a third bombardment of the
CAPTURE OF DERNA
Through the winter of 1804-1805, Argus alternated between blockade
Eaton's force launched its attack on Derna on 27 April 1805. Argus
and the schooner USS Nautilus anchored about half a mile (800 meters)
to the eastward of the fortifications. The Tripolitans opened fire
almost immediately upon Argus and the sloop-of-war USS Hornet ,
anchored quite a bit nearer than Argus and Nautilus. By 14:45 that
afternoon, gunfire from the ships silenced all of the guns in the
city. A desperate charge led by
After Eaton's and O'Bannon's victory, a Tripolitan army, which had been sent to reinforce the town, arrived and began preparations to retake Derna. Argus remained offshore to provide gunfire support in the defense of the town throughout the occupation of Derna. When the Tripolitans finally assaulted the town on 13 May 1805, Argus joined in the fray and enabled the defensive forces narrowly to beat back the charging enemy troops. Argus's guns wreaked havoc among the enemy forces during their headlong retreat. Between that time and early June 1805, the Tripolitans made a few more half-hearted approaches during which Argus's long 12-pounders (5 kg) came into play. However, things remained relatively quiet, for negotiations with the pasha in power were already underway. On 11 June 1805, orders arrived for Eaton's force to evacuate Derna as negotiations had been concluded. The troops and the deposed pasha were embarked in Constellation that evening, and Argus and the other American ships quit the area.
Argus continued to cruise the Mediterranean until the summer of 1806.
She returned to the
WAR OF 1812
After the outbreak of war, Argus continued her cruises off the U.S. Atlantic coast. During one cruise between 8 October 1812 and 3 January 1813, she captured six valuable prizes and eluded an entire British squadron during a three-day stern chase. Through clever handling, she even managed to take one of the prizes as she was fleeing from the overwhelmingly superior British force.
CAPTURE BY HMS PELICAN
Under the command of Master Commandant
William Henry Allen , Argus
broke out of
New York Harbor
The shipping losses soon caused insurance rates for merchant shipping
to increase greatly. The cargo on the sunken ships was worth about two
million dollars. The British
On 13 August, Argus took two final prizes. One of them was from
Battle And Capture
At 05:00 on the morning of 14 August 1813, Argus and Pelican sighted
each other five leagues (about 15 miles) west of St David\'s Head .
Argus was the faster but more lightly armed vessel, with eighteen
24-pounder carronades and a 12-pounder chase gun against the Pelican's
sixteen 32-pounder carronades, one 12-pounder long gun, and two
6-pounder long guns. Allen could have used Argus's greater speed to
escape. Instead, he accepted battle. Allen's decision to accept battle
against a heavier opponent stemmed from confidence gained while he was
the first lieutenant of the frigate USS
The wind was from the south, giving Pelican the weather gauge (i.e. the windward position). Allen sailed westward on the port tack (i.e., with the wind to port) and opposed his port side battery to Pelican's starboard battery.
Four minutes after the ships exchanged their first broadsides, Allen lost a leg. His first lieutenant was also badly wounded, and Argus's rigging was badly cut up. Pelican tried to cross Argus's stern to deliver raking fire but Argus's second lieutenant, William Howard Allen (not related to the commanding officer), threw his sails aback to slow the American brig and instead raked Pelican. This did not fatally cripple the British vessel, and the two brigs continued to exchange broadsides, with Pelican now to leeward. After four more minutes, Argus's rigging was too badly damaged for the Americans to prevent Pelican from crossing Argus's stern and delivering several raking broadsides. The British prepare to board Argus
Finally, three-quarters of an hour after the action began, the two vessels came into contact, Argus's bow against Pelican's quarter. As British boarding parties mustered but before they could board Argus, the Americans surrendered.
Unusually for the War of 1812, the American gunnery in this engagement was comparatively ineffective, although Pelican's sides were "filled with grapeshot" and two of Pelican's carronades had been dismounted. British gunnery was "at least of the standard which had brought victory in a hundred victories against the French."
Pelican and the captured Argus went in to
* ^ A B C Cressman, p. 64. * ^ A B C D Cressman, p. 65. * ^ Cressman, pp. 64, 65. * ^ A B C D Roosevelt, 1882 p.114 * ^ Lamb, Martha. The History of the City of New York. p. 639. * ^ Dye, 1994 p.150 * ^ Forester, 1956 p.134 * ^ A B Roosevelt, 1882 p.115 * ^ James (1824), vol.6, p. 221. * ^ Forester, 1956 p.135
* This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships . The entry can be found here. * Cressman, Robert J. "Historic Ships:'The Handsomest Vessel of Her Rate.'" Naval History, June 2014, pp. 64–65.
* Dye, Ira (1994). The Fatal Cruise of the Argus: Two Captains in the War of 1812. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-175-0 . , Book * —— (2006). Uriah Levy: Reformer of the Antebellum Navy. University Press of Florida,. pp. 299,. ISBN 0-8130-3004-8 . Book
* Forester, Cecil Scott. The Age of Fighting Sail: the story of the naval War of 1812. Doubleday, New York. p. 296. ISBN 0-939218-06-2 . , Book
* James, William (1837). The naval history of Great Britain, 1793 - 1827...Volume 6. Richard Bentley, London,. p. 586. , E\'Book * Roosevelt, Theodore (1882). The Naval War of 1812. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York. p. 541. E\'Book * Smith, Joshua M. "'So Far Distant from the Eyes of Authority': Jefferson's Embargo and the U.S. Navy, 1807-1809," in William B. Cogar, ed. New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers from the Twelfth Naval History Symposium (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997), pp. 123–138.