USS Pickering (1798)
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USRC Pickering, later renamed USS Pickering
|Commissioned:||22 August 1798|
|Fate:||Lost at sea, September 1800-possibly in a gale|
|Displacement:||187 long tons (190 t)|
|Length:||77 ft (23 m)|
|Beam:||20 ft (6.1 m)|
|Draft:||9 ft (2.7 m)|
|Complement:||70 officers and enlisted|
|Armament:||14 × 4-pounder guns|
The USRC Pickering was built at Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1798 for the Revenue Cutter Service. Captain Jonathan Chapman was her first commander. Taken into the Navy in July at the outbreak of the Quasi-War, she departed Boston on her first cruise on 22 August.
In 1799 and early 1800, she was part of Commodore Barry's squadron in the West Indies. Lieutenant Edward Preble commanded the Pickering from January through June 1799, when he was promoted to captain and took command of the frigate Essex.
The Pickering was permanently transferred to the Navy on 20 May and re-designated the USS Pickering. Master Commandant Benjamin Hiller, U.S. Navy, assumed command in June, and continued command of the ship for its final years. Under Hiller's command the Pickering fought a notable engagement with the French privateer L'Egypte Conquise on October 18, 1799. The Frenchman was well fitted out and manned and should have been able to capture the Pickering. While the French ship carried fourteen 9-pounders, four 6-pounders, and crew of 250, the American cutter had only fourteen 4-pounders and seventy men. After a nine-hour battle, however, the French ship was forced to surrender. The USS Pickering continued to cruise in the West Indies, and before her return to the United States had captured four French privateers, including the Voltigeuse, Atalanta, L'Active and Fly and recaptured the American merchant ship Portland.
The Pickering departed from Boston on 10 June 1800. Ordered to join Commodore Thomas Truxton's squadron on the Guadaloupe Station in the West Indies, she sailed from Newcastle, Delaware on 20 August, and was never heard from again. She is presumed to have been lost with all hands in a gale in September, but this was never proven. This storm is also thought to have sunk the USS Insurgent, which vanished without a trace. The exact cause of the cutter's disappearance remains a mystery.