When USS Essex engaged HMS Alert in the Atlantic on
August 13, 1812, she won the distinction of being
the first Yankee warship to capture a ship of the
Royal Navy during the war. During her first eight
weeks at sea before that battle, USS Essex had taken
nine British commercial ships.
In a stunning feat of naval daring, Captain David
Porter proceeded to carried off an extended cruise,
far from American waters, repairing and provisioning
both his own ship and those he had taken as prizes.
During 17 months at sea he went on to sweep the vast
reaches of the Pacific of British merchantmen,
whalers, and warships, taking 16 vessels in all.
British fleet was finally dispatched to pursue the
Essex. During a ferocious storm in the port of
Valparaiso, Chile, USS Essex lost her topmast,
putting her at a serious disadvantage in the gun
battle. Her crew fought valiantly. Of
255 men, 58 were killed and 65 wounded.
President Madison paid tribute to the USS Essex with
his words "her loss is hidden in the blaze of