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USS Beagle (I)

  • Built, date and location unknown
  • Launched, date unknown'
  • Purchased by the Navy, 20 December 1822 at Baltimore, MD.
  • Commissioned USS Beagle in early in 1823, LT. John T. Newton in command
  • Beagle departed Hampton Roads, 15 February 1823, in company with Commodore David Porter's squadron, bound for the West Indies
  • Porter's squadron arrived at the island of St. Thomas on 3 March and soon thereafter began searching for pirates
  • On 21-22 July Beagle and schooner USS Greyhound were reconnoitering Cape Cruz on the southern coast of Cuba locating a pirate base
  • The two schooners put landing parties ashore and destroyed the pirate base although the buccaneers' were able to evade capture and escape
  • In the autumn of 1823 an outbreak of yellow fever forced Beagle to return home for a new crew
  • Beagle returned to the West Indies sometime in 1824
  • The Fajardo Incident
    Late in October 1824 while the schooner was at St. Thomas pirates from Fajardo, Puerto Rico, stole about $5,000s worth of merchandise from an American-owned store One of the store's owners requested LT. Platt, then commanding Beagle, to help recover the goods On 26 October Beagle set sail for Fajardo anchoring in the outer harbor there for the night On 27 October 1824, Platt and a party of men ashore, in civilian garb to avoid arousing an already hostile populace, after having identified himself and his ship to local authorities . In a meeting with those same local authorities, he received assurances that the merchandise would be found and returned to its rightful owners. Satisfied that his mission was going well, Platt took his party to a public house for breakfast. At mid meal, summoned back to the mayor's office, Platt soon learned that the mood of the Spanish authorities had changed markedly. In response to the captain of the port’s demand that he produce Beagle's register, he declared that a warship carried no register. Thereupon, the captain of the port stated that Platt would be imprisoned if he did not come up with one. Platt attempted to leave the office, but a detail of soldiers barred his way. Finally, the lieutenant succeeded in getting permission for one of his party to return to Beagle to retrieve his commission and uniform. When the designated Sailor returned, Platt donned his uniform and presented his commission. The Spanish authorities, however, pronounced the commission a forgery, denounced Platt as a pirate, and briefly imprisoned him in a filthy guardhouse. However, he raised such a hue and cry that he was taken back to the mayor’s office where the authorities granted him permission to send for his orders as Beagle’s commanding officer. After examining Platt’s orders, the Spaniards finally released him. Platt returned to Beagle and immediately set sail for St. Thomas to report this affront to the American flag and to the Navy to Commodore Porter. On 12 November 1824, Porter reached St. Thomas in the frigate USS John Adams. Platt’s report of the incident enraged the commodore, and he at once resolved to extract a public apology from the Spanish authorities. The next morning, Beagle headed back to Fajardo in company with John Adams and USS Grampus. Only Beagle and Grampus completed the short voyage since shallow water at the halfway point forced the commodore to complete the journey in Grampus and leave John Adams to await his return. The two smaller ships, reinforced by about 100 men from John Adams, arrived at Fajardo just after sunrise on 14 November. Porter then sent Lt. Cornelius K. Stribling and a small advance party under a flag of truce to deliver a letter to the Spanish authorities demanding a suitable public apology. Later, Porter led the remainder of his large, well armed landing party inland toward the town. When he arrived near the town, he drew up his force and moved forward alone to confer with the officer in charge of an advance party of his Marines. About 15 minutes later, Lt. Stribling appeared accompanied by Fajardo’s mayor, captain of the port, and several leading citizens. After some heated haggling in which the mayor indicated that he had been coerced by the pirates and factions favorable to them, he and the captain of the port finally made acceptable apologies to Lt. Platt. The commodore and his landing party returned to the beach, enjoyed some refreshments, and reembarked. He penned a report of the entire incident to the Secretary of the Navy. Confident that he had done his duty, Porter thought no more of it. Later, however, he would be recalled, court martialed, and suspended from the Navy for six months. Instead, Porter resigned his commission.
  • After the conclusion of the Fajardo incident, Beagle resumed her patrols against pirates.
  • In March 1825 the schooner reentered Chesapeake Bay and sailed up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.
  • Upon arriving at the Washington Navy Yard, Beagle was decommissioned, and she was sold soon thereafter
  • Final Disposition, fate unknown
    Displacement 52 t.
    Length unknown
    Beam unknown
    Depth of Hold unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement 31
    Armament 3 guns
    Propulsion sail

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    John Adams 250k "Fajardo Incident".
    An oil painting by RADM. John W. Schmidt showing frigate USS John Adams and schooners USS Grampus and USS Beagle off the east coast of Puerto Rico, 14 November 1824.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 123338
    US Naval History and Heritage Command

    USS Beagle (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 14 April 2017