Monday, October 10, 2011

The Schooner Enterprise

The schooner USS Enterprise, commanded by Lt. Sterrett, was the first American ship to engage the Barbary Pirates, taking on the corsair Tripoli in a one-sided battle that left the pirate ship destroyed. Later, under the command of Lt. Stephen Decatur, the Enterprise captured the pirate ship Mastico, which was rechristened the USS Intrepid, and used by Decatur to sink the captured US frigate Philadelphia and by Richard Somers on his last mission into Tripoli harobr, where he remains today.

“The Schooner Enterprise 1799” A “Salty Seascapes Driftwood Drawing” by Daniel Revere Hedges.
From “Cavalier Creations.” The 1799 U.S.S. Enterprise, off the American coast, has been drawn into the surface of a piece of genuine driftwood gathered from the shore of Connecticut. The piece is signed by the artist and measures roughly 12" x 3" x 3/4"

USS Enterprise 1799

The third USS Enterprise, a schooner, was built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1799, and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw. This ship was overhauled and rebuilt several times, effectively changing from a twelve gun schooner to a fourteen gun topsail schooner and eventually to a brig rigged ship.

On 17 December 1799, Enterprise departed the Delaware Capes for the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the depredations of French privateers during the Quasi-War with France. Within the following year, Enterprise captured eight privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achievements which assured her inclusion in the 14 ships retained in the Navy after the Quasi-War. Placing her for sale was suggested in mid-March, 1801.

After Lieutenant Shaw, due to ill health, was relieved by Lieutenant Andrew Sterett, Enterprise sailed to the Mediterranean. Being delayed by getting new masts, she left Baltimore in early May 1801. Raising Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in the First Barbary War. Enterprise's first action came on 1 August 1801 when, just west of Malta, she defeated the 14-gun Tripolitan corsair Tripoli, after a fierce but one-sided battle. Unscathed, Enterprise sent the battered pirate into port since the schooner's orders prohibited taking prizes.

Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying dispatches, convoying merchantmen, and patrolling the Mediterranean. On 17 January, she captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship under charter to the Bashaw (Pasha) of Tripoli, and on 22 May, she ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. For the next month Enterprise and other ships of the squadron cruised inshore, bombarding the coast and sending landing parties to destroy enemy small craft.

On 23 December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising, Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. Refitted and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was given to Enterprise's commanding officer, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., for use in a daring expedition to burn frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli. Decatur and his volunteer crew carried out their mission perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship. Enterprise continued to patrol the Barbary Coast until July 1804 when she joined the other ships of the squadron in general attacks on the city of Tripoli over a period of several weeks.

Enterprise passed the winter in Venice, Italy, where she was practically rebuilt by May 1805. She rejoined her squadron in July and resumed patrol and convoy duty until August of 1807. During that period she fought 15 August 1806 a brief engagement off Gibraltar with a group of Spanish gunboats who attacked her but were driven off. Enterprise returned to the United States in late 1807, and cruised coastal waters until June 1809. After a brief tour in the Mediterranean, she sailed to New York where she was laid up for nearly a year.

Repaired at the Washington Navy Yard, Enterprise was recommissioned there in April 1811, then sailed for operations out of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. She returned to Washington on 2 October and was hauled out of the water for extensive repairs and modifications: when she sailed on 20 May 1812, she had been rerigged as a brig.

At sea when war was declared on Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first year of hostilities. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise sighted and chased the brig HMS Boxer. The brigs opened fire on each other, and in a closely fought, fierce and gallant action which took the lives of both commanding officers, Enterprise captured Boxer and took her into nearby Portland, Maine, with Edward McCall in command. Here a common funeral was held for Lieutenant William Burrows, Enterprise, and Captain Samuel Blyth, Boxer, both well-known and highly respected in their services.

After repairing at Portland, Enterprise sailed in company with brig Rattlesnake, for the Caribbean. The two ships took three prizes before being forced to separate by a heavily armed ship on 25 February 1814. Enterprise was compelled to jettison most of her guns in order to outsail her superior antagonist. The brig reached Wilmington, North Carolina, on 9 March 1814, then passed the remainder of the war as a guardship off Charleston, South Carolina.

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Mediterranean (July-November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. From that time on she sailed the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slaves; in this duty she took 13 prizes. An attack on Cape Antonio, Cuba in October 1821 resulted in the rescue of three vessels taken by pirates and the breaking up of an outlaw flotilla reputedly commanded by James D. Jeffers, aka Charles Gibbs. Her long career ended on 9 July 1823, when, without injury to her crew, she stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies.


Alex said...

Hi, is really the plan in this post from the schooner Enteprise ? Where did you get the plan ? Could you post a more large image ? Thanks ! Alex

Bill Kelly said...

Labeled: Enterprise (1799) Plan A
Andrea Salvini's plans of what may be the US Navy schooner Enterprise , which he oversaw...

Alex said...

Ok Bill, thanks a lot !

Bill Kelly said...

Hey Alex, what would it take to build that ship today? Do you know. Email me at

Chris said...

Could anyone tell me if the given length of Enterprise is 85'7" includes the bowsprit? I'm building a scale model and am unsure about this. Many thanks.

Hunter said...

Hey Chris, just saw your comment. Enterprise was 85' 7" on the deck. I don't know how long she was with bowsprit and prow, but I hope that helps!

Adam Kelleher said...

I wonder what it would take to build a full size replica. Many ships have been built as replica's, why not the 1799 USS Enterprise?

Charlie Charr Zardoz said...

Greetings! I would really love to find larger copy of the Enterprise plans you've posted. Any information as to where I need to look would be greatly appreciated. Nice article!