Essex Junior

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For ships with a similar name, see USS Essex.
Career (US)
Name: Essex Junior
Namesake: USS Essex
Acquired: 29 April 1813 by capture
Captured: 12 January 1814
Fate: sold on 26 August 1814
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 355 (bm)[1]
Complement: As Atlantic:24 men[1] As Essex Junior: 60 officers and men
Armament: As Atlantic: 8 × 18-pounder carronades
[1] As Essex Junior: 10 × 6-pounder guns + 10 × 18-pounder carronades
Notes: War of 1812

The sloop Essex Junior, formerly the British whaler Atlantic, Captain Obadiah (or Obed) Wier (or Wyer, of Nantucket), was captured by the frigate Essex, Captain David Porter, off the Galapagos Islands on 29 April 1813. Porter took Atlantic to use as a tender, named her Essex Junior, and placed her under the command of Commander John Downes. The British recaptured her on 28 March 1814 when the captured Essex. They then sent Essex Junior to New York as a cartel.


From 1804 to August 1806 Obadiah Web had sailed the whaler Fame to the Pacific, returning to Nantucket with 1000 barrels of sperm oil.[Note 1] On this voyage, Atlantic had left Nantucket earlier in 1813.[3]

Atlantic was already pierced for 20 guns though only mounting six, so Porter augmented her existing armament with 6-pounder guns and additional 18-pounder carronades.[Note 2] He also put on board a crew of 60 officers and men.[1]

Encounter with the Royal Navy[edit]

After cruising in the waters off the western coast of South America Essex Junior accompanied Essex to the island of Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas Group where repairs were made. Essex Junior returned with Porter in Essex, leaving on 12 December and reaching the coast of Chile on 12 January 1814.

On 8 February 1814 HMS Phoebe and HMS Cherub arrived at Valparaíso, a neutral port, where Essex and her prizes were anchored. Having trapped Essex in the harbour, the British waited six weeks for her to come out and thwarted all her efforts to escape. Eventually, on 28 March, Porter attempted to break out of the harbour. A squall took off his main topmast and he attempted to return to harbour but Phoebe and Cherub drove Essex into a nearby bay and defeated her in a short engagement. Phoebe and Cherub also captured Essex Junior.

Main article: Battle of Valparaiso

In the engagement, Phoebe had four men killed, including her first lieutenant, and seven men wounded. Cherub had one killed and three wounded, including her captain. The British reported that Essex had 24 killed and 45 wounded, though the Americans reported higher casualties. Lieutenant Pearson of Phoebe commanded the prize crew that sailed Essex back to Britain, where he was promoted to Commander.

Her captors used Essex Junior as a cartel to transport their prisoners of war to New York. Just outside New York, a British warship detained them overnight. Porter took the view that the detention abrogated the cartel he had signed with Hillyer of Phoebe, and contrived to escape on shore. The British released Essex Junior, and she sailed into harbour, past various forts that mistook her for an enemy ship and fired on her, without effect.[Note 3]

When she arrived at New York in July 1814, the marshal of the district seized her. She was condemned, and sold for US$25,000 on 26 August.[Note 4]


  1. ^ In July 1813, HMS Mercury captured Fame on her fifth whaling voyage.[2]
  2. ^ The Americans had already captured a number of British whalers, most armed, which presumably were the source of the additional guns.[1]
  3. ^ One the crew members of the Essex present at this action was the young teenage Midshipman David Farragut, the foster son of Captain Porter, who would rise to the rank of Admiral and achieve renown during the American Civil War. He remarked at some point that forts' ineffective fire suggested that shore batteries were far less formidable than they appeared, an experience that may have influenced his tactics during the Civil War.
  4. ^ Porter's share was US$1875.[4] However, this is curious because the cartel rules were designed to encourage the swift repatriation of prisoners and so specified that after a cartel had delivered her prisoners, she was to be free to sail to her captor's country.


  • Benton, Thomas Hart (1873) Thirty years' view: or, A history of the working of the American government for thirty years, from 1820 to 1850. Chiefly taken from the Congress debates, the private papers of General Jackson, and the speeches of ex-Senator Benton, with his actual view of the men and affairs; with historical notes and illustrations, and some notices of eminent deceased contemporaries, Volume 2. (D. Appleton and company).
  • Robotti, Francis Diane, and James Vescovi (1999) '"The USS Essex: and the birth of the American Navy (Adams Media Corp.). ISBN 1-58062-112-0
  • This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.