Enterprise was a schooner built by the famous
shipbuilder Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland in
On 17 December 1799, schooner Enterprise departed
for the Caribbean to protect United States
merchantmen from French privateers during the
Quasi-War with France. Within only one year, she
captured eight privateers and liberated 11 American
vessels from captivity. That kind of achievement assured
her inclusion in a fleet of 14 ships retained in the
US Navy after the Quasi-War.
duel came on 1 August 1801. Commanded by captain Sterret,
the Enterprise carrying12 six-pounders and 90 men met the Tripoli of
14 six-pounders and manned by 80 men.
At this time the Enterprise bore British colors.
Captain Sterret asked the commander of the Tripoli
on the purpose of his cruise. He replied that
he was cruising after the Americans, and continued
that he had not come alongside of any. Captain
Sterret replied by hoisting the American flag and
immediately discharged a volley of musketry which
was returned by a partial broadside from the
Tripoli. The battle thus started 9 am
and continued for three hours.
during the action, the Tripoli attempted to board
the Enterprise, and was as often repulsed with great
slaughter. Three times, also, the Tripoli
struck her colors, and treacherously renewed the
action. For the third time, captain Sterret
gave orders to sink the Tripoli. And furious
combat ensued until the enemy cried for mercy.
Captain Sterret, then ordered the Tripoli's captain either to
come himself, or to send some of his officers on
board the Enterprise. The enemy said that the
boat of the Tripoli was badly damaged during battle.
After many supplications & protestations from
the Tripoli, the Enterprise's boat was sent.
Under the superior
management of Captain Sterrett, not a single
individual of the crew of the schooner Enterprise
was in the least degree injured. On the
perilous Tripoli, having 18 shot holes on the hull,
found a most deplorable condition of the crew: 20
were killed and 30 wounded. After helping
the wounded, Captain Sterrett had the Tripoli
dismantled. Her masts were cut down, and guns
thrown to sea. In that condition the USS
Enterprise sent the battered pirate into port.
As a side note, on the
arrival at Tripoli, the wounded captain was ordered
by the authority to be mounted on a Jack Ass and
paraded thru the streets as an object of public
scorn. After which he received 500 whips on
his foot soles. After this event, Tripolitan sailors for the government all deserted.
Not a man could be procured to navigate the ships.
On 23 December 1803,
schooner Enterprise joined with frigate USS
Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico.
The captured vessel was then refitted and renamed
Intrepid. Command was then turned over to
Enterprise's commander Lieutenant Decatur.
Because of Intrepid regional appearance the ketch
was well suited for making its way into Tripoli's
harbor without raising suspicion, it was used in a
daring expedition to board, capture and burn the
frigate Philadelphia which was American and captured
earlier by the Tripolitans. Decatur and
volunteers from the Enterprise carried out their
mission almost perfectly, destroying the frigate and
depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship.
Then war was declared on
Britain. On September 5th, 1813, the USS
Enterprise sighted HMS Boxer
(had captured seven American schooners) of 14 guns
with 66 men off Pemaquid Point, Maine. Unable
to escape the Enterprise's fast speed, British
Captain Samuel Blythe (an officer of distinguished
merit of the Royal Navy) prepared for a fight to the
finish, nailing a flag to the foremast. On the
Enterprise, Lieutenant William Burrows demonstrated
similar resolve. He moved one of his two long
9-pounders from the bow to a stern port, declaring:
"We are going to fight both ends and both sides of
this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold
At about 3 pm, the British
warship fired. The American responded, and her
very first broadside killed the British skipper. On
the USS Enterprise, Captain Burrows received a
mortal wound not too long after. Coastal
spectators from Pemaquid Point down to Portland
could watch as the two ships blasted each other at
close range. For about 40 minutes, the two
ships stood side by side and fired broadside after
broadside, hurling iron balls and grape shot into
The combat was shrouded in
heavy smoke. Spectators did not know who won
the fight until both vessels started to sail south
toward Portland. The Boxer had 3 killed,
16 wounded, while the Enterprise had 4 killed and 15
wounded. The dying Lieutenant Burrows declined
to accept Captain Blyth's sword, directing it to be
sent to the family of the British captain. "I am
satisfied, I die contented," Lieutenant Burrows
Newspapers in the United
States rejoiced in "another brilliant naval
victory," one of the few American successes during
the second summer of the War of 1812. The two
commanders received impressive state funeral and
rested side by side in Portland's Eastern Cemetery.