Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The captured pirate ketch USS Intrepid - 1804

Photo #: NH 53249

U.S. Ketch Intrepid (1804)


Definition: not vulnerable to fear or intimidation

Synonyms: fearless, undaunted, perseverant, persistent, brave, courageous, bold, daring, heroic

The Above Contemporary sketch by Midshipman William Lewis, with a description reading:

"The Ketch Intrepid taken by the Constitution of(f) Tripoli in Dec. 1803. Was the vessel with which Capt. Decatur burnt the Philadelphia in Feby 1804. She served as a store vessel off Tripoli and was at last turned into an Infernal in order to blow up part of the Bashaw's castle. In this unfortunate attempt she was blown up & all her crew perished. Cpt. Sommers, Lieuts. Wadsworth & Israel & 10 or 12 men. 4th Septr. '04."

The original sketch was in the possession of Captain C.W. Cook, O.R.C.U.S.A., 1925.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

USS Intrepid (1804)

USS Intrepid, a 64-ton ketch, was originally built in France in 1798 for use in Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Subsequently sold to Tripoli and named Mastico, she participated in the capture of USS Philadelphia on 31 October 1803 and was herself captured by USS Enterprise while en route to Constantinople, Turkey, on 23 December of that year.

Taken into the U.S. Navy early in 1804 and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was placed under the command of Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and assigned a risky, but essential task: the destruction of the captured Philadelphia, whose presence in enemy hands threatened the U.S. Naval position in the Mediterranean. On the night of 16 February 1804, Decatur and his men sailed Intrepid into Tripoli harbor, boarded the ex-American frigate and set her afire. While the attackers made good their escape, the Philadelphia was consumed by the flames and sank.

Following this action, Intrepid was inactive for some months, but during the summer of 1804 she was employed as a hospital and supply vessel, supporting the ongoing campaign against Tripoli. In late August she was outfitted with a large explosive charge, for use in an attempt to destroy much of the enemy fleet then moored in Tripoli harbor. On 4 September 1804, under the command of Lieutenant Richard Somers, Intrepid sailed on this dangerous mission. Apparently intercepted by the enemy while entering the harbor, she was destroyed in a violent explosion. Somers and his dozen volunteer officers and men perished with her.

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