It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Continuing this holiday weekend’s dose of seasonal posts is this concluding part of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at America’s undeclared naval war with France from 1798 to 1801. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE .
MAY ?, 1800: (Some sources place this action in late April) The USS Boston, commanded by “the American Horatio Nelson” himself, Captain George Little, was in the Bight of Leogane, where it fought and sank a force of six French-allied ships in the navy of Hyacinth Rigaud. (Rigaud’s infamy was covered in Part One)
MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured an unidentified vessel which had previously been taken by the French and converted for its navy’s use.
MAY ??, 1800: The Insurgent and the Adams teamed up to liberate an unidentified British privateer ship from the French craft which had captured it.
MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured the Nancy (one of many vessels with that name), a ship previously seized by the French for their own navy.
MAY ??, 1800: The Adams defeated and captured the French ship Grinder.
MAY ??, 1800: A very busy month for the Adams came to an end as the feisty vessel overcame three to one odds to defeat and capture the French ships the Dove, the Renommee and a third ship whose name has not come down to us.
MAY 31st, 1800: The John Adams (separate vessel from the Adams) recaptured the American brig Olive from the French.
JUNE 6th, 1800: The Merrimack battled the French vessel L’Hazard in order to free the French ship’s latest capture – the American Ceres. The Merrimack succeeded in liberating the Ceres.
JUNE 13th, 1800: The John Adams defeated and captured the French naval vessel Decade.
JUNE 17th, 1800: Becalmed off Guadeloupe, the USS Enterprise, still commanded by Lt John Shaw, was attacked by the French privateer vessel Le Cygne. The Enterprise defeated and captured the French craft in roughly twenty minutes.
JUNE ?, 1800: The Enterprise clashed with another French privateer, Citoyenne, and after a much longer fight this time, defeated and captured it, too .
JULY 4th, 1800: Elsewhere in the West Indies the Enterprise (yes, again) marked America’s 24th birthday by attacking, fighting and seizing the French vessel L’Aigle.
JULY 19th, 1800: Off the coast of Cuba, the USS Ganges defeated and captured the vessel Prudent. That captured vessel was – among other things – illegally transporting 135 Africans to become slaves. The Ganges hauled the Prudent to Philadelphia, a strongly ANTI-slavery city. The Africans received medical treatment and went on to become part of Philadelphia’s population of Free Blacks.
JULY 20th, 1800: While hauling the Prudent north to Philadelphia, the Ganges fought an unidentified French vessel and freed its latest capture – the USS Dispatch.
JULY 21st, 1800: For an unbelievable third day IN A ROW the Ganges saw action. This time the American ship – still hauling the Prudent north – defeated and captured the Phoebe. This craft was also transporting slaves who were likewise taken to Philadelphia, treated and went on to live as Free Blacks there.
JULY 22nd, 1800: The French launched an amphibious invasion of the Dutch island of Curacao, where many American and British ships anchored in between missions against the French vessels in the West Indies. The excuse for the invasion was Dutch Curacao’s refusal to help the damaged French ship Vengeance after it was defeated by the USS Constellation back in February.
By September of 1800 the French controlled virtually the entire island and had taken two forts at Willemstad. The Dutch forces still held the other two forts near the city but were unable to stop the French from mercilessly harassing and stealing from American civilians who lived on Curacao. Many Americans, having lost everything, enlisted in the Dutch military units holed up in the pair of fortresses.
JULY 26th, 1800: The USS Maryland liberated the Portuguese brig Gloria de Mar from the French vessel which had captured it – the Cherry.
JULY 28th, 1800: The Ganges battled and defeated the French privateer vessel La Fortune et Louis.
AUGUST ?, 1800: The USS Louisa, commanded by Captain Thomas Hoggard, clashed with at least three French privateers off Gibraltar. The Louisa drove off its many attackers but Captain Hoggard was killed during the action.
AUGUST 20th, 1800: The Pickering set sail from New Castle, Delaware for Guadeloupe. This ship, which between November 1799 and May 1800 had defeated and captured the French ships Voltigeuse, Atalanta, L’Active and Fly as well as liberated the captured American merchant ship Portland, vanished. It was believed lost with all hands in a storm during September.
SEPTEMBER 1st, 1800: The Experiment, famous from its exploits in Part One, was now under its new commander, Lt Charles Stewart. The ship’s storied First Officer, Lt David Porter, was back after his months commanding the Amphitheater. On September 1st the Experiment fought and captured the French privateer Deux Amis.
SEPTEMBER 2nd, 1800: On convoy duty the USS Maryland captured the Aerial, one of the ships evading international law through a game of alternating French, American or NO papers.
SEPTEMBER 22nd, 1800: Two American ships – the Patapsco and the original Merrimack – arrived at Curacao to drive out the French. U.S. Marines were sent ashore to reinforce the Dutch-held forts alongside the American volunteers already serving there. The Marines also established a battery in Willemstad and positioned themselves throughout the town.
SEPTEMBER 23rd – 24th, 1800: The Merrimack and the Patapsco exchanged fire all day and all night with the two French-held forts and the fifteen French vessels at Willemstad. The Marines and American volunteers in the Dutch-held forts and in Willemstad proper likewise spent the two days exchanging fire with the French vessels and land forces besieging them. The French were thoroughly defeated and, under cover of darkness, slunk away overnight of the 24th into the 25th.
OCTOBER 5th, 1800: The Merrimack and the Patapsco jointly captured a French warship in the West Indies and hauled it into St Kitts.
OCTOBER 12th, 1800: The Boston, which had been patrolling the American coastline since June 25th, had returned to the West Indies in September. On October 12th, roughly 600 miles northeast of Guadeloupe, the Boston battled the French Berceau. Fighting started around 5pm, with the French driving off the Americans just after 6pm. The Boston did repairs on the fly and attacked the Berceau again at 9pm. An hour later the French surrendered their heavily damaged craft littered with the dead and wounded.
OCTOBER 20th, 1800: The Merrimack defeated and captured the French sloop Phoenix.
OCTOBER 25th, 1800: Off Dominica, the Enterprise clashed with the French ship Flambeau the morning after both vessels had spotted each other. After roughly forty-five minutes the French were defeated and captured. Lt John Shaw’s health was shot, however, and he stepped down afterward, to be replaced by Lt Andrew Sterett.
OCTOBER 29th, 1800: After a 7 hour chase, the Delaware defeated and captured a French privateer brig whose name has not survived in the records. Thirty American prisoners being held on the French craft were freed.
NOVEMBER 16th, 1800: Near Antigua, the Experiment came alongside the schooner Louisa Bridger, fired a warning shot and advised the ship to heave to so that its exact nationality and purpose could be determined. The Louisa Bridger ignored this and a four hour battle commenced, ending with the Americans accepting the surrender of the foreign vessel.
In one of the strangest episodes of sea warfare it turned out the Louisa Bridger was really a British ship and, after mutual apologies were exchanged, nothing more was made of this encounter. I always picture the scene in National Lampoon’s European Vacation where Chevy Chase’s car hits the bicycling Eric Idle and Idle is thoroughly British about the whole thing. You can imagine the Louisa Bridger’s captain saying things like “Oh, think nothing of it, Yanks. Probably our own deuced fault for not heeding your request to heave to.” (Which was true.) “Splendid marksmanship from your artillery, by the way … Made absolute hash of our hulls, sails and rigging … Apologies? Not a bit of it, old thing! These types of repairs are what our carpenters get paid for, don’t you know!”
NOVEMBER ?, 1800: The Merrimack defeated and captured the French brig Brilliant.
NOVEMBER ??, 1800: The Adams defeated and recaptured the Grendin, a British ship previously seized by the French and converted for its own navy’s use.
DECEMBER 5th, 1800: The John Adams (separate vessel from the Adams) set sail from the West Indies to Charleston, SC, escorting a convoy of merchant ships. The craft would see no further action during the Quasi-Naval War with the French.
JANUARY 1st, 1801: The Chesapeake defeated and captured the French privateer ship La Jeune Creole after a 50-hour chase near the West Indies.
JANUARY 31st, 1801: The Ganges – which had been back in port at Philadelphia since September when much of its crew fell ill with Caribbean Fever – set out to sea again, this time convoying some merchant ships to Havana. In February a storm left the Ganges so damaged it pulled into St Kitts for repairs and saw no further action in the conflict with France.
FEBRUARY 18th, 1801: The Senate ratified the treaty with France ending the Quasi-Naval War. During the conflict the U.S. had defeated 116-120 French vessels and had recaptured 71 American merchant ships that had been taken by French privateers.
FOR THE TOP FOUR FORGOTTEN WARS IN AMERICA’S HISTORY CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/05/21/the-top-four-forgotten-conflicts-in-american-history-2/
FOR THE TOP 14 U.S. NAVAL BATTLES OF WORLD WAR ONE: https://glitternight.com/2013/05/25/the-top-forgotten-u-s-naval-battles-of-world-war-one/
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