Isaac Hull Captain of the Argus, Constitution, and Enterprise

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My great grandfather captained three ships that took part in the Barbary Wars after the Treaty of Tripoli was made. Adams said this to President Thomas Jefferson;

“We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever,”

Bill Bennett authored a book that claims Captain Isaac Hull battled and dispatched Islamic Terrorists. Bennett, in his new book, “America, the Last Best Hope”, describes it this way:

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.

Joshua E. London’s description of the meeting in his book:

“The response was unnerving. As Adams and Jefferson later reported to the Continental Congress, the ambassador said the raids were a jihad against infidels. Muslim privateers felt “it was their duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could as Prisoners, and that every Mussleman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

The Americans now had two choices: pay tribute or fight the pirates.”

President Barack Obama called up the President of Tunisia after the terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum that was once the home of the Beys this Democracy went to war with. The United States Navy was born of this War Against Terrorism. Here is the account of Captain Hull:


DERNE 28th April 1805

SIR, I have the honor to inform you, that at 9 O.Clock in the morning of the 27th being about 10 Miles to the Eastward of the Town of Derne, with the Hornet in Company, we discovered the Nautilus at Anchor very close to the shore, which led us to suppose that Capt. Dent had fallen in with Mr. Eatons Army, as he had been sent in shore for that purpose the day before. — We made all sail for the Nautilus, and at 1/2 past 10 spoke her, and was informed by Capt. Dent that he had, had communication with Mr. Eaton the night before, and that he wished to have the field Pieces landed as soon as possible, and that Mr. Eaton intended to make an attack upon Derne as soon as he could get possession of them, being then about two and a half miles from the Town, and the Enemy having sent him a chalenge, hoisted out our Boat to send the field Pieces on shore with such supplies as Mr. Eaton was in want of, but on approaching the shore we found that it was impossible to land the Guns without hauling them up an almost perpendicular rock Twenty feet above the Boat. But with the perseverence of the Officer and men sent on this service, they effected the landing one of them, by hauling them u the steep Rock. Mr. Eaton finding that we should loose time in landing the other, sent it off again informing me that he should march for the Town as soon as he could possibly mount the field Piece that he had on shore, gave Lieutenant Evans Orders to stand close in shore, and cover the Army while they were preparing to march, in case the Enemy should come out against them, as they had already made their appearance in large numbers outside of the Town, gave Orders for the necessary preparations to be made for the attack by Sea upon the Town and Batteries, and stood down very close to the Town. — At 2 P.M. Mr. Eaton began the attack by Land, at same time the Hornet Lieut. Evans Anchored with Springs on his Cables, within One hundred Yards of the Battery of eight Guns, and commenced a heavy fire upon it.

The Nautilus took her station to the Eastward of the Hornet, at 1/2 a miles distance from shore, and opened upon the Town & Battery. The Argus Anchored without, and a little to the Eastward of the Nautilus, and began firing on the Town and Battery — The fort kept up a heavy fire for about an hour, after which the shot flying so thick about them, they abandoned it, and run into the Town and Gardens back — The Guns of the Vessels were turned on the Beach, and kept a heavy fire upon the Enemy to clear the way for the few brave Christians Mr. Eaton had with him, to enter the fort as they were gaining ground very fast though a heavy fire of Musquetry was constantly kept upon them from behind the Houses and old Walls near the shore. At about half past 3 we had the satisfaction to see Lieut. O.Bannon, and Mr. Mann Midshipman of the Argus, with a few brave fellows with them, enter the fort, haul down the Eenemys flag, and plant the American Ensign on the Walls of the Battery, and on turning the Guns of the Battery upon the Town, they found that the Enemy had left them in great haste, as they were found primed and loaded at their hand. —

Whilst our men were turning the Guns of the Battery upon the Town, Hamet Bashaw had taken possession of the back part of it, which brought the Enemy between two fires, which soon silenced them, and about four in the Afternoon we had complete possession of the Town and Fort, sent all our Boats on shore, for the purpose of carrying Amunition to the Fort, and to bring off the wounded men, as soon as possible, that they might be dressed. — Mr. Eaton gave the necessary Orders at the Fort, and went into the Town to see every thing quiet, and to make arrangements for the Towns being well guarded during the night. At half past five, he returned on board to get his wound dressed, having received a Musquet Ball thro’ his left wrist. — On collecting our men we found one killed and Thirteen Wounded, a list of which I have the honor to send you. — (Signed) ISAAC HULL

John Wilton, a Marine…Killed

William Eaton Esqr…Wounded

David Thomas, Marine…Wounded

Bernard O’Brian, Marine…Wounded

George Emanuel (Greek)…Wounded

Spedo Levedo (Greek)…Wounded

Bernardo Jamase (Greek)…Wounded

Nicholo George (Greek)…Wounded

George Goree (Greek)…Wounded

Capt. Lucca (Greek)…Wounded

Names unknown 3 (Greek)…Wounded

Angelo Fermosa (Maltee)…Wounded

A monster with a hundred eyes supposedly slain by the Greek mythological messenger of the gods, Hermes.


The first Argus-a brig-was laid down as Merrimack on 12 May 1803 at Boston, Mass., by Edmund Hartt; renamed Argus on 4 June 1803; and launched on 21 August 1803.

Though no document recording the date of her commissioning has been found, Argus set sail from Boston on 8 September 1803. She put into Newport on the 18th in some unspecified state of distress and remained there for 10 days. The brig returned to sea on the 28th, set a course for the Mediterranean Sea, and arrived at Gibraltar on 1 November. There, her first commanding officer, Lt. Stephen Decatur, relinquished command to Lt. Isaac Hull and assumed command of Hull’s former ship, Enterprise. She made a brief cruise to the east and then returned to Gibraltar to watch the Moroccans while the rest of Commodore

Preble’s squadron sailed east to blockade Tripoli. During the early part of 1804, she cruised the western Mediterranean in an unsuccessful search for a Tripolitan cruiser reportedly operating in that area. In March 1804, she received orders to join the rest of the squadron off Tripoli.

She arrived at Tripoli in company with Constitution and Enterprise on 19 June, but left the blockade late in the month to join a neutral ship at Syracuse and escort her back to Tripoli with supplies for the captive officers and crew of the frigate Philadelphia which had been taken by the Tripolitans after she had run aground on an uncharted reef off that port the previous October.

Argus resumed her blockade duties on 7 July. At that point, Preble began preparations to chastise the Tripolitans with a shore bombardment. Heavy weather, however, postponed the action until early August. On 3 August, 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 Tripoli than hoped for, though the American gunboat crews boarded and carried several of the Tripolitan vessels sent out to engage them. The squadron conducted another ineffectual bombardment of Tripoli on the 7th; and, two days later, Commodore Preble embarked in Argus to reconnoiter Tripoli harbor. During that mission, shore batteries fired upon the brig, and she was struck below the waterline by a single shot. Fortunately, the shot did not pass all the way through her hull; and she remained on station off Tripoli following the attack. On the 28th of August, the squadron conducted a third bombardment of the defenses of Tripoli in which its guns inflicted severe damage. A week later, on the night of 4 September, Argus was among the ships that escorted the ill-fated fire ship Intrepid to the entrance of Tripoli harbor. When Intrepid blew up prematurely, Argus remained there to pick up survivors, but none had appeared by sunrise when she mournfully returned to her blockade station.

Through the winter of 1804 and 1805, the brig alternated between blockade duty off Tripoli and periods in port at Malta and Syracuse. In the spring of 1805, Argus participated in one of the more celebrated episodes of American naval history, the capture of Derna. During the preceding months, she had made severalvoyages to Egypt in support of Consul Eaton’s efforts to raise a force of men to take Derna in conjunction with the deposed, but rightful, pasha. After a march of over 600 miles across the desert in what is now known as Libya, the polyglot army-there were only 10 Americans in the whole force-arrived at Derna on 25 April 1805. Argus had met the army a day or two earlier at the Bay of Bptnba to provide provisions. Now, she made preparations to provide bombardment assistance for the landward assault.

The “American” force launched its attack on the 27th. Argus and Nautilus anchored about half a mile to the eastward of the fortifications. The Tripolitans opened fire almost immediately upon Argus and upon Hornet, anchored quite a bit nearer than her two consorts. By 2:45 that afternoon, gunfire from the ships silenced all of the guns in the city. A desperate charge led by Lt. O’Bannon, USMC, managed to carry the gun batteries by storm and breathed new life into the assault. After hoisting the American flag over the battlements, he ordered the already loaded captured guns to be turned on the town. By 4:00 that afternoon, the entire town had fallen to Eaton’s army, and the enemy fled to the hinterland. The capture of Derna has been immortalized in the words of the Marine’s Hymn, “. . . to the shores of Tripoli.”

Eaton’s mixed force held the town until almost the middle of June. However, after Eaton’s and O’Bannon’s victory, aTripolitan army, which had been sent to reinforce the town, arrived and began preparations to retake Derna. There, Argus remained offshore to provide gunfire support in the defense of the f own throughout the occupation of Derna. When the Tripolitans finally assaulted the town on 13 May, Argus joined in the fray and enabled the defensive forces narrowly to beat back the charging enemy troops. Argus’ guns wreaked havoc among the enemy forces during their headlong retreat. Between that time and early June, the Tripolitans made a few more half-hearted approaches during which Argus’ long 12-pounders came into play. However, things remained relatively quiet, for negotiations with the pasha in power were already underway. On 11 June, orders arrived to evacuate Derna as negotiations had been concluded. The Christian troops and the deposed pasha were embarked in Constellation that evening, and the American ships quitted the area.

Argus continued to cruise the Mediterranean until the summer of 1806. She returned to the United States at the Washington Navy Yard on 13 July and was laid up there in ordinary until 1807. At that time, she was fitted out at the Washington Navy Yard and began a series of cruises along the Atlantic coast of the United States. Those cruises lasted into 1813 after America’s entry into war against Great Britain. 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 English force.

On 18 June 1813, Argus put to sea from New York bearing the honorable William H. Crawford, the United States minister to France. She arrived in L’Orient, France, on 11 July, disembarked the minister, and put to sea again on the 14th. She spent the next month conducting a highly successful anticommerce cruise in the English Channel, thence around the southern coast of England and into St. George’s Channel. At that point, early in the morning of 14 August, Argus ran afoul of HMS Pelican. Failing to gain the weather gage, Argus shortened sail and ran along the starboard tack as Pelican came up from behind. Argus wore ship and opened with her port battery. Pelican answered with her starboard guns. Soon into the action, Argus’ commanding officer, William H. Allen, suffered a mortal wound when a round shot amputated his right leg. The captain, however, remained at his station until he fainted from loss of blood. Pelican’s gunfire did fierce damage to Argus’ rigging. Within 15 minutes, Argus was unmanageable for all practical purposes, and Pelican raked her at will. At 6:45, the British ship was in position to board; but, as her seamen began to storm on board, Argus struck her colors. During the 45-minute action, Argus lost 10 men killed- including her captain-and 13 wounded.


During the War of 1812, Argus-an 18-gun sloop of war laid down at the Washington Navy Yard in 1813-was still on the ways when the British advanced on the National Capital late in the summer of 1814. To prevent her capture by the enemy, she was burned on the ways on 24 August 1814.

Naval officer Isaac Hull was born in Derby, Connecticut, 9 March 1773, son of Joseph Hull, and nephew of General William Hull, the revolutionary officer. His earliest American ancestor was Richard Hull, of Derbyshire, England, a freeman of Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1634, whence he removed to New Haven, Connecticut five years later, “because he would not endure Puritanism.” He was a representative to the general court of Connecticut, and died in September 1662. The line of descent runs through Richard’s son, Dr. John Hull (1640-1711), who in 1668 was one of the original twelve settlers of Pawgassett, now Derby, Connecticut, where he built the first parsonage and meeting-house, was selectman, and a member of the general assembly; through his son, Captain Joseph (1668-1744), also a representative to the general assembly and owner of large business interests in Derby, who was married in 1691 to Mary Nichols; their son Captain Joseph (1694-1778) and his wife Sarah Bennett and their son, Captain Joseph (1728-1775), and his wife Elizah Clark, who were the commodore’s grandparents.

His father, the fourth Joseph Hull, was a lieutenant of artillery in the Revolutionary War, and greatly distinguished himself in the defence of Fort Washington, where he was captured. He was exchanged in 1778 and re-entering the army was given command of a flotilla on Long Island Sound, consisting of several whale boats fitted out to annoy the enemy. On one occasion, with twenty men, in a small sloop, he captured a British armed schooner off Derby. He engaged early in life in the West India trade, and later in whale fishing, and in this practical school his son Isaac took his first lessons in seamanship. The father died from the effects of the cruel treatment inflicted by the British in the prison ship Jersey, and Isaac was adopted by his uncle, General William Hull.

The latter wished to give him a collegiate education, but the plan miscarried, owing to his unconquerable passion for the sea, and at the age of fourteen years he became cabin boy in a merchant ship. It is related that the vessel was shipwrecked some two years later, and young Hull saved the captain’s life by supporting him in the water until they reached shore.

In 1793 he was placed in command of a ship sailing to the West Indies, and while in this position gained such a reputation as a skillful mariner that upon the organization of the United States navy he was commissioned fourth lieutenant, 9 March 1798, and was assigned to the frigate Constitution. He served on that vessel two years, first under Commodore Samuel Nicholson, and then under Commodore Silas Talbot, having been promoted first lieutenant in 1799.

While cruising off Santo Domingo Captain Talbot ascertained that a valuable French letter-of-marque the Sandwich was about to leave Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, and fearing he would not be able to capture her if she once got to sea, sent Lieutenant Hull to cut her out. Taking the sloop Sally, Hull successfully boarded the Sandwich and in a few minutes secured her, while part of his force surprised the battery on shore and spiked the guns before effectual resistance could be made. “This gallant affair was conducted with much steadiness,” writes Edgar Stanton Maclay, “and reflects the highest credit on Lieutenant Hull, but the seizure was illegal as Captain Talbot learned on arrival in port and the Sandwich was returned with full compensation for losses.”

He was promoted master commandant, 19 May 1804, and as commander of the brig Argus participated with Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean squadron in the war against the Barbary States. He was made captain in 1806.

In 1811, while in command of the Constitution, he was ordered to convey Joel Barlow, the newly-appointed minister to France, and to carry specie to Holland to pay the interest on the debt due from the United States. After dispatching this business he proceeded to Portsmouth, England, in order to communicate with the legation in London, and while in this port, an incident occurred indicative of the aggression and belligerent spirit of the British, which shortly resulted in the war of 1812.

Late one night a British officer came aboard with the information that an American deserter was on the British man-of-war Havana, and that he would be given up when desired. When a boat was sent for him it was stated that the deserter claimed to be a British subject and so would not be given up. Shortly thereafter a British deserter from the Havana swam to the Constitution and on being asked his nationality replied that he was an American. The tables were now turned, and when the British sent a boat for him Lieutenant Charles Morris, in the absence of Captain Hull, refused to surrender him, giving the same reason that had been offered for not giving up the American deserter.

This refusal aroused much angry comment on the part of the British: threats to use force were freely expressed, and two British frigates bore down on the Constitution and anchored so close that it was almost impossible to get away without fouling them. When, on the following day, Hull sailed for Cherbourg, France, several men-of-war were seen in chase, but the Constitution outsailed all except one, and upon gaining a safe distance she hove to, beat to quarters, and waited to learn the Englishman’s intentions. The man-of-war sailed close to the Constitution but no hostilities were offered, and after exchanging a few common-place hails stood about on a different course. Soon after, war with Great Britain was declared, the Constitution was cleaned and coppered at Annapolis, and ordered to join the squadron of Commodore Rodgers at New York.

She sailed from Annapolis 12 July 1812, and on the 17th fell in with a small blockading squadron under Captain Broke, when one of the most remarkable sea chases ever recorded occurred. On the following day there was a dead calm, and the Constitution as well as the English vessels drifted independent of their helm. Hull launched and manned the boats to tow; all the light canvas that would draw was set, and soon he was slowly moving away in a manner that puzzled his pursuers. Every effort that ingenuity and experience could suggest was made to increase the Constitution’s headway. The sails were wet to make them hold better whenever wind might come, and even the hammocks were removed from their hangings and the clothes rolled up to prevent unfavorable action. At length the British discovered the secret, and thereupon their ships were urged onward by the same means.

At the suggestion of Lieutenant Morris kedging was now tried, and by this means and by towing, the pursuit continued for another day and night. At sunset on 19 July a squall struck the American frigate, and Hull determined on a stratagem by which he hoped to make his escape. All the light sails were furled, a double reef was put in the top-sail and every preparation was made as if for a heavy blow. Observing these precautions, the English commanders supposed, as Hull judged they would, that a squall of unusual violence was approaching, and they began shortening sail and bore up before the wind, which headed them in an opposite direction for the Constitution. The squall as Captain Hull could see was light, and as soon as the rain shut in his vessel from the enemy’s view he made sail, and was soon fleeing from his pursuers at the rate of eleven knots an hour. At midnight the British fired two guns, and the next morning gave up the pursuit, which had lasted sixty-six hours.

On reaching Boston, Captain Hull was given a public reception, the newspapers were filled with praises of him and his ship, and the English themselves paid a high tribute of admiration to his indomitable and skillful seamanship. The British newspapers, sneering at the American Navy, had spoken of the Constitution as “a bundle of pine boards sailing under a bit of striped bunting,” and had also declared that “a few broadsides from England’s wooden hulls would drive the paltry striped bunting from the ocean.”

Hull was eager to pluck out the sting of these insults, and fearing that the timid policy of the Navy Department might detain him in port, sailed from Boston 2 August 1812. A few days later instructions arrived in that city for him “to remain in port until further orders.” “Had the Constitution been captured on this cruise,” remarked Rear-Admiral Bell, “Hull would have been hanged or shot for sailing without orders.”

Reaching the bay of Fundy, he cruised eastward of Nova Scotia, where he captured a number of British vessels and on the afternoon of 19 August fell in with the British frigate Guerriere, Captain Dacres. Some firing began long range, but Hull soon discontinued it and pressed sail to get his vessel alongside. When the Guerriere began to pour shot into the Constitution, Lieutenant Morris, second in command, was impatient to reply to the attack, and several times asked permission to open fire, but was repeatedly restrained by Hull, notwithstanding that the shots began to tell on the Constitution.

When at last the vessels were very close, Hull, with intense excitement shouted, “Now, boys, pour it into them,” and his command was instantly obeyed. The guns of the Constitution were double-shotted with round and grape, and their execution was terrible. Fifteen minutes after the contest began the Guerriere’s mizzen-mast was shot away, her main-yard was in strings, and her hull, spars, sails and rigging were torn in pieces. The ships now grappled, and both parties attempted to board, but the sea was so rough and the musketry fire so deadly that this was found to be impossible. Soon after the vessels fell apart, the Guerriere’s main-mast fell into the sea, bringing down the fore-mast, and an enormous weight of yards and rigging. Captain Dacres reluctantly surrendered and too badly injured to be saved, the Guerriere was set on fire and blown up after her men were removed.

In several histories of the Navy, it is related that at an exchange of visits before the war, Captain Dacres made a wager of a hat with Captain Hull on the outcome of a possible meeting between their vessels. When the commander of the Guerriere came up the side of the Constitution on a rope ladder to surrender his sword, Captain Hull assisted him, saying: “Dacres, give me your hand. I know you are hurt,” and when the English commander offered his sword, Captain Hull replied: “No, no, I will not take a sword from a man who knows so well how to use it; but I’ll trouble you for that hat.”

In a paper on the life of Captain Hull, General James Grant Wilson said: “Captain Hull asked Dacres if there was anything in particular in the Guerriere which he wished to preserve. On his expressing a desire to save a large bible, the gift of his mother, Hull sent an officer for it. Many years later our hero met Dacres, then an admiral, in command of a squadron off Gibraltar. He expressed the greatest pleasure at meeting the commodore, and was constant in his courtesies and attentions. At a dinner given on board the flagship he showed Mrs. Hull the treasured bible her husband had saved. Dacres was deeply touched by Hull’s humane and generous treatment of himself and crew.”

This contest, the first frigate action of the war, won for the Constitution the name of “Old Ironsides’” because she came out of the action with so little injury. The Americans lost seven killed and seven wounded, while the enemy had fifteen killed and sixty-three wounded. The news of the victory was received with joy throughout the country, and upon her arrival in Boston the ship and all on board were welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm. The people of Boston gave Hull and his officers a banquet; the authorities of New York offered him the freedom of the city, and ordered a full-length portrait of him painted by Jarvis; other cities passed resolutions of thanks and presented their freedom; and several legislatures voted him a sword of honor. Congress awarded him a gold medal, and appropriated $50,000, to be distributed as prize-money among the officers and crew.

Resigning the command of the Constitution, Captain Hull became a member of the naval board. He subsequently had charge of the navy yards at Boston and Washington, commanded the squadrons in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, and the ship-of-the-line Ohio, flagship of the European squadron, during 1839-41, this being the last of his thirty-seven years of distinguished and faithful service afloat and ashore.

He was married in 1813 to Anna Hart, who survived him. After his retirement he made his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he died 13 February 1843. His last words were “I strike my flag.”

Adapted from: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol.13. New York: James T. White & Co., 1906. [See “Hull, Isaac” on pages 426-428.].

Chronology of Service

1798 9 March Appointed to USS Constitution as Lieutenant 6 July Commission as Lieutenant delivered 1801 8 July Ordered to remain on board USS Constitution 21 September Ordered to take charge of USS Constitution 1802 1 April Ordered to duty in USS John Adams 1803 Ordered to command of USS Enterprise Ordered to command USS Argus 1804 18 May Promoted to Master Commandant 23 November Commission issued 1806 23 April Promoted to Captain 24 July Returned to the United States in Argus and ordered to Connecticut to contract for and superintend building of four gunboats 1807 9 January Commission as Captain issued 26 June Ordered to Hampton, Virginia, to act as member of a Court of Inquiry 11 July Ordered to Norfolk under Commodore Decatur 12 September Appointed member of Board of Inquiry 1809 11 January Ordered to duty in USS John Adams 2 February Ordered to Norfolk for duty in USS Chesapeake 15 April Ordered to take command of Portland Station in addition to other duties 1812 10 October Ordered to command at New York 12 November Ordered to Washington 1813 Ordered to command of Boston Navy Yard Ordered to command of Portsmouth Navy Yard 1814 18 January Granted short leave of absence 21 January Ordered to report to Commodore Bainbridge at Charleston, SC 1815 Appointed to Board of Navy Commissioners 1824-1827 Commodore of Pacific Squadron – Flagship United States 1829-1835 Commanded Washington Navy Yard 1833 Commanded USS Constitution 1835 On leave 1838 Appointed Commodore of Mediterranean Squadron – Flagship Ohio 1841 Retired 1843 Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Source: “Isaac Hull, USN” (single-page undated typed chronology covering 1798-1814) and other items in Isaac Hull ZB file, Navy Department Library.

Documents in the Navy Department Library:

1) Autographed Letter Signed (ALS) dated 12 May 1819, Boston. To Samuel Dana, Esq., Middletown, Connecticut. Concerning Hull’s finances.

2) ALS dated 4 June 1819, at the “Navy Yard.” To Commodore Bainbridge. Regarding a “74 now building in the yard.”

3) 6 ALS while on the frigate United States. All to William Tudor, U.S. Consul to Peru.

a) 4 June 1824. Requests Tudor’s opinion on papers relative to the “blockade.”
b) 18 June 1824. Tells Tudor that situation for U.S. citizens is getting tense. He recommends they come aboard United States.
c) 12 October 1824. Requests Tudor to come aboard.
d) 10 July 1826, Callao Bay. Reports he has read Tudor’s letter about armed seizure of American merchantman Herald and proposes to provide American merchants with assistance for their defense.
e) 19 July 1826, Callao Bay. More on the subject of Herald.
f) 19 November 1826, Callao Bay. Tells Tudor that reports that Jefferson and Adams are dead are true; that a salute shall be fired and flags lowered to half mast “this day at 12 o’clock.”

4) ALS dated “Tuesday, 23rd” (no month, no year), Boston. To Thomas Chew, Esq., USN. Congratulates Chew on obtaining a Washington assignment and thanks him for inquiring about Hull’s health.

5) Two journals by Augustus R. Strong, Journal of a cruise from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Pacific Ocean, in the United States frigate United States, Isaac Hull, esq’r, commander. 1824 and 1825.

First Caribbean tour[edit]

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.[2]

First arrival in Mediterranean[edit]

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.[2] Raising Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in the First Barbary War.

Battle with corsair Tripoli[edit]

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.

The action was described in Washington City’s National Intelligencer & Adv. on 18 November 1801.

Naval Victory

Yesterday captain Sterret, commander of the schooner Enterprize, part of the Mediterranean squadron, arrived here, with dispatches for the Secretary of the Navy.

Captain Sterret is bearer of dispatches from commodore Dale, which exhibit a detailed account of the proceedings and situation of the Mediterranean squadron.

On the 1st of August, the schooner Enterprize, commanded by captain Sterret, and carrying 12 six pounders and 90 men, bound to Malta for a supply of water, fell in with a Tripolitan cruizer, being a ship of 14 six pounders, manned by 80 men.

At this time the Enterprize bore British colours. Captain Sterret interrogated the commander of the Tripolitan on the object of his cruize. He replied that he came out to cruise after the Americans, and that he lamented that he had not come alongside of some of them. Captain Sterret, on this reply, hoisted American, in the room of British colours; and discharged a volley of musquetry; which the Tripolitan returned by a partial broadside.—This was the commencement of a hard fought action, which commenced at 9 am and continued for three hours.

Three times, during the action, the Tripolitan attempted to board the Enterprize, and was as often repulsed with great slaughter, which was greatly increased by the effective aid afforded by the Marines. Three times, also, the Tripolitan struck her colours, and as often treacherously renewed the action, with the hope of disabling the crew of captain Sterret, which, as is usual, when the enemy struck her colours, came on deck, and exposed themselves, while they gave three cheers as a mark of victory.

When for the third time, this treacherous attack was made, captain Sterret gave orders to sink the Tripolitan, on which a scene of furious combat ensuded, until the enemy cried for mercy.

Captain Sterret, listening to the voice of humanity, even after such perfidious conduct, ordered the captain either to come himself, or to send some of his officers on board the Enterprize. He was informed that the boat of the Tripolitan was so shattered as to be unfit for use. He asked, what security there was, that if he should send his men in his own boat, they would not be murdered?

After numerous supplications & protestations the boat was sent: The crew of the Tripolitan was discovered to be in the most deplorable state. Out of eighty men, 20 were killed, and 30 wounded. Among the killed were the second lieutenant and Surgeon; and among the wounded were the Captain and first lieutenant. And so decisive was the fire of the Enterprize that the Tripolitan was found to be in a most perilous condition, having received 18 shot between wind and water.

When we compare this great slaughter, with the fact that not a single individual of the crew of the Enterprise was in the least degree injured, we are lost in surprise at the uncommon good fortune which accompanied our seamen, and at the superior management of Captain Sterrett.

All the officers and sailors manifested the truest spirit, and sustained the greatest efforts during the engagement. All, therefore, are entitled to encomium for their valour and good conduct. The marines, especially, owing to the nearness of the vessels, which were within pistol shot of each other, were eminently useful.

After administering to the relief of the distresses of the wounded Tripolitans, and the wants of the crew, Capt. Sterrett ordered the ship of the enemy to be completely dismantled. Her masts were accordingly all cut down, and her guns thrown overboard. A spar was raised, on which was fixed, as a flag, a tattered sail; and in this condition the ship was dismissed.

On the arrival of the Tripolitan ship at Tripoli, so strong was the sensations of shame and indignation excited there, that the Bey ordered the wounded captain to be mounted on a Jack Ass, and paraded thro’ the streets as an object of public scorn. After which he received 500 bastinadoes.

So thunderstruck were the Tripolitans at this event, and at the apprehended destruction of their whole marine force, that the sailors, then employed at Tripoli on board of cruisers that were fitting out by the government, all deserted them, and not a man could be procured to navigate them.[2]

On 3 February 1802, the U.S. Congress resolved that a commemorative sword should be given to Sterrett, and a month’s pay to the others on the Enterprise.[2]

Remainder of Mediterranean patrol[edit]

At Gibraltar on 3 October 1801, Enterprise was ordered to return to Baltimore with dispatches for the Secretary of the Navy. While in port, Sterett was ordered on 17 November to pay off and discharge the crew, and that Sterett would be given a furlough and replaced after he oversaw the ship’s refitting. Master Commandant Cyrus Talbot was offered the command, but he was discharged 23 October 1801, under the Peace Establishment Act.[2][3]

Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying despatches, 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 12 November 1803 Stephen Decatur assumed command of the Enterprise.[4] On 23 December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising, Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. The captured vessel was taken back to Syracuse and refitted and renamed Intrepid. Command was then turned over to Enterprise’s commander Lieutenant Decatur. Because of her regional appearance the ketch was well suited for making its way into Tripoli’s harbor without raising suspicion and was used in a daring expedition to board, capture and burn the frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli.[5][6] Decatur and volunteers from the Enterprise carried out their mission almost perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship.[7] 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 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.

Engraving by Abel Bowen

1811 recommissioning[edit]

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 regarded in their respective naval services.[8]

Second Caribbean patrol[edit]

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.

Mediterranean, New Orleans, and West Indies Squadrons[edit]

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Mediterranean Squadron (July–November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. In 1818 she was commanded by Lieutenant Lawrence Kearny of the New Orleans Squadron who evicted Jean Lafitte from Galveston, Texas. From that time on she sailed the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico as one of the founding vessels of what later became the West Indies Squadron in 1821. She was active in suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slavers; 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.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Isaac Hull Captain of the Argus, Constitution, and Enterprise

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    A anarchist is trying to destroy the fledgling democracy of Tunisia. A terrorist murdered 35 people on a beach. They murdered people at a museum full of tourists.

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