The USS Enterprise was the third to be called Enterprise. She was a schooner, built by Henry Spencer in Baltimore, Maryland in 1799.
The ship was overhauled and rebuilt several times. It was changed from a twelve-gun schooner to a fourteen-gun, and eventually to a brig. (A two-mast sailing ship with square rigging on both masts.)
Enterprise was active in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and capturing pirates. The ship was wrecked in July 1823.
Enterprise was launched in 1799. Its length was: 84 feet 7 inches. Beam: 22 feet 6 inches. There were 70 officers and enlisted. Its’ armament consisted of 12 six-pounders guns. Lieutenant John Shaw had commissioned Enterprise on December 17, 1799, during the Quasi-War with France. The ship left Delaware Capes, to the Caribbean to protect the United States Merchantmen from the French privateers (An armed ship commissioned by a Gov. in a war to attack and capture enemy ships.)
The following year, Enterprise caught eight privateers and rescued 11 American vessels. Lieutenant Shaw was relieved of his command due to ill health. He was replaced by Lieutenant Andrew Sterett. Enterprise was delayed departure from Baltimore due to the need for new masts. This was in May 1801. She joined up with the other US warships in Gibraltar on June 26, 1801 in the First Barbary War. Enterprise saw action for the first time on August 1 1801 whenshe defeated a 14-gun Tripolitan Corsair (Tripoli). Enterprise was undamaged. This action was recorded in Washington City’s National Intelligencer-Adv. This was on November 18, 1801.
“Yesterday, Captain Sterret, commander of the schooner Enterprise, part of the Mediterranean squadron, arrived here, with dispatches for the Secretary of the Navy. Captain Sterret is the bearer of dispatches from Commodore Dale, which exhibits a detailed account of the proceedings and of the Mediterranean squadron.
On the 1st of August, the schooner Enterprise, 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 cruiser, a ship of 14 six-pounders, manned by 80 men. At this time the Enterprise bore British colors. Captain Sterret interrogated the commander of the Tripolitan on the object of his cruise. He replied that he came out to cruise after the Americans and that he lamented that he had not come alongside some of them. Captain Sterret, on this reply, hoisted American, in the room of British colors; and discharged a volley of musketry, 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 Enterprise, and was as often repulsed with great slaughter, which was greatly increased by the effective aid afforded by theMarines. Three times, also the Tripolitan struck her colors, 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 colors, 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 ensued 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 Enterprise. He was informed that the boat of the Tripolitan was so shattered as to be unfit for use. He asked, what security there was if he should send his me in his boat, they would not be murdered?
After numerous supplications and 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 Scond Lieutenant and Surgeon and among the wounded were Captain and First Lieutenant. And so decisive was the fire of the Enterprise that the Tripolitan was found to be in a most perilous condition, having received 18 shots 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 their truest spirits 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 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 scorn. After which he received 500 bastinadoes.
So thunderstruck were the Tripolitans at this event, and the apprehended destruction of their whole marine force, that the sailors, then employed at Tripoli on board cruisers that were fitting out by the government, all deserted them, and not a man could be procured to navigate them.”
On 3 February 1802, the US Congress resolved that Sterett receive a commemorative sword; the rest of the Enterprise’s crew received a month’s pay.
On October 3rd, 1801, Enterprise had orders to return to Baltimore. While in port, captain Sterett received orders to pay off and discharge the crew. He received a furlough and was replaced after the ship’s refitting.
Master Commander Cyrus Talbot was offered command but was discharged on October 28 1801 under the Peace Establishment Act. After carrying despatches while patrolling the Mediterranean in 1803, on January 17, she captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship, and on May 22nd ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. Enterprise along with other ships all cruised inshore attacking the coast and destroying enemy crafts.
Stephen Decatur became commander of the Enterprise on October 12, 1803. The ship, after joining up with the frigate called Constitution captured the Tripolitan Ketch Mistico. The ship was taken to Syracuse, worked on, and renamed Intrepid.
Commander Lieutenant Decatur then took over the Enterprise because Ketch was suited for making way into Tripolis’ harbor without suspicion. Enterprise was used for a daring job to board, capture, and burn the Philadelphia, a frigate. Decatur and volunteers from the Enterprise had succeeded in their mission, destroying the frigate and taking away from Tripoli a powerful warship.
In 1804, Enterprise patrolled the Barbary coast and then joined other ships in attacks on the city of Tripoli, which took several weeks. In 1805 during the winter in Venice Italy, she was rebuilt. Enterprise rejoined the squadron in July and continued patrolling until August 1807. In 1806, she had a brief engagement off of Gibraltar with Spanish gunboats that attacked, but she was able to escape. Enterprise returned to the US in 1807 to cruise the coastal water until June 1809. She had a brief tour in the Mediterranean, then sailed to New York to lay up for almost a year.
Enterprise was repaired at the Washington Navy Yard in April 1811, was re-commissioned, then sailed out for operations from Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. She came back to Washington on October 2nd for extensive repairs. On May 20 1812 she had been re-rigged as a brig.
While at sea, when the war started with Britain, Enterprise cruised along the east coast during the first year of conflicts. Enterprise chased the brig, Boxer. Each ship opened fire on the other. The action took the lives of both commanding officers, but Enterprise captured the Boxer, taking it to Portland, Maine. Edward McCall was in command at this time. A funeral was given for Lieutenant William Burrows of the Enterprise with Captain Samuel Blyth of the Boxer. They were both well-known and regarded for their naval services.
Enterprise had repairs at Portland. She then joined company with the brig, Rattlesnake, heading for the Caribbean. Both ships took on the enemy before retiring by an enemy ship heavily armed on February 25th, 1814.
The Enterprise had to jettison most of her guns to out-sail the enemy. She reached Wilmington, North Carolina in March 9th, 1814, then continued for the rest of the war as a guard-ship off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.
Enterprise toured once more in the Mediterranean during July to November 1815. She patrolled the northeastern sea till November 1817. In 1818 her commander was Lieutenant Lawrence Kearny of the New Orleans squadron. She then sailed the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico, which later became the West Indies squadron in 1821. She held active service in confronting pirates, smugglers, and slavers. An attack on Cape Antonio, Cuba in October 1821 resulted in rescuing three ships taken by pirates. Enterprise ended her career on July 9th, 1823 when she became stranded and crashed on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies. No one was hurt.