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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Nautilus (I)

  • Built in 1799 as a merchant vessel by Mr. Henry Spencer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland
  • Launched, date unknown
  • Purchased by the Navy in May, 1803, at Baltimore, MD, from Mr. Thomas Tennant
  • Commissioned USS Nautilus, 24 June 1803, LT. Richard Somers, in command
  • Nautilus was assigned to the Mediterranean Squadron, to protect the interests of the United States and its citizens residing or trading in that area, and threatened at that time by the Barbary States
  • Nautilus arrived at Gibraltar 27 July 1803 joining the squadron on 12 September 1803
  • Nautilus participated in the siege of Tripoli and saw action in five general attacks between 3 August and 3 September 1804
  • Nautilus participated in the attack,capture and occupation of the town of Dernei
  • The ship remained in the Mediterranean sailing in June 1806 for the United States, arriving Washington, D.C., in mid-July where she was placed in ordinary
  • Reactivated in 1808, she was employed on the East Coast until decommissioned upon entering the Navy Yard in 1810
  • While in the Washington Navy Yard, Nautilus was altered to a brig, with a battery of 12 18–pdr. carronades
  • Recommissioned in 1811 the ship joined the squadron commanded by Stephen Decatur.
  • On 17 July 1812, Nautilus gained the dubious distinction of being the first vessel lost on either side during the War of 1812
  • Captured off northern New Jersey by a squadron built around HMS Shannon (38 guns), HMS Africa (64 guns), and HMS Aeolus (32 guns), the brig was taken into possession for the use of the King’s service
  • Final Disposition, fate unknown
    Displacement 185 t.
    Length 87' 6"
    Beam 23' 8"
    Draft unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement 103
    Armament twelve 6-pdr carronades
    Propulsion sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Argus 129k Bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804
    Oil by Michael Felice Corne, depicting Commodore Edward Preble's squadron engaging the Tripolitan gunboats and fortifications during the afternoon of 3 August 1804. U.S. Navy vessels shown in the foreground are, from left to right:
    schooner USS Enterprise,
    schooner USS Nautilus,
    brig USS Argus,
    brig USS Syren,
    schooner USS Vixen,
    mortar boat Dent,
    gunboat Somers,
    frigate USS Constitution (Preble's flagship),
    mortar boat Robinson, and
    gunboat Blake.
    Attacking the enemy flotilla in the center background are LT.Stephen Decatur's three gunboats and a gunboat commanded by LT. James Decatur, who was killed in this action.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 65536-KN. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command

    USS Nautilus (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 31 March 2017