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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Argus (I)

  • Laid down as Merrimack, 12 May 1803, at Boston, MA., by Edmund Hartt
  • Renamed Argus, 4 June 1803
  • Launched, 21 August 1803
  • Commissioned, date unknown, LT. Stephen Decatur in command
  • Argus sailed from Boston setting a course for the Mediterranean, stopping at Newport, reaching Gibraltar, 1 November
  • She arrived at Tripoli 19 June but left the blockade late in the month to join a neutral ship at Syracuse and escort her back to Tripoli with supplies for the captive officers and crew of the frigate Philadelphia which had been taken by the Tripolitans after she had run aground on an uncharted reef off that port the previous October
  • Argus resumed her blockade duties on 7 July
  • On 3, 7 and 28 August Argus participated in the bombardment of Tripoli
  • On the night of 4 September Argus was among the ships that escorted the ill-fated fire ship Intrepid to the entrance of Tripoli harbor where Intrepid blew-up
  • Through the winter of 1804 and 1805, Argus alternated between blockade duty off Tripoli and periods in port at Malta and Syracuse
  • 27 April 1805 Argus participated in the capture of the Tripolian town of Derna
  • Argus continued to cruise the Mediterranean until the summer of 1806
  • The brig arrived at Washington Navy Yard, 13 July and was laid up there in ordinary until 1807
  • From 1807 to 1813 Argus cruised along the Atlantic coast
  • During one cruise between 8 October 1812 and 3 January 1813, she captured six valuable prizes and eluded an entire British squadron during a three-day stern chase
  • In June 1813 Argus carried William H. Crawford, United States minister to France
  • She disembarked the minister on 11 July put to sea again on the 14th
  • She spent the next month conducting a highly successful anti-commerce cruise in the English Channel
  • Early in the morning of 14 August, Argus ran afoul of HMS Pelican after a fierce battle Argus struck her colors after she had been demasted, her capitan mortally wounded, and losing 10 men killed including her captain and 13 wounded
    Displacement 299 t.
    Length 94'6"
    Beam 28'2"
    Depth of Hold 12'8"
    Draft unknown
    Speed speed
    Complement 142
    two 12-pdrs
    sixteen 24-pdrs
    Propulsion steam

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Argus 120k USS Argus bombarding Tripoli, 3 August 1804. Detail from the painting (see below) of this action by Michaele F. Corne, 1805.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 57041
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    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
    Argus 209k Pen and ink sketch of USS Argus bearing the inscription ... James Lawrence Esqr. Commander 1st April 1811.

    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 78671. Donation of Charles H. Taylor, circa 1935.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Argus 401k USS Argus burning British vessels during the War of 1812.
    Photo from "American naval battles", by Horace Kimball, pub. C. Gaylord, Boston, 1837, Contributing Library: The Library of Congress, Digitizing Sponsor: Sloan Foundation.
    Robert Hurst
    Argus 129k Photograph depicting the capture of USS Argus by HMS Pelican, 14 August 1813 from an engraving by T. Sutherton, after an artwork by Whitcombe. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 2284
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Argus 168k Capture of U.S. Brig Argus, Commander William H. Allen, by H.M. Brig Pelican, Commander John F. Maples, 14 August 1813/
    Photograph of a watercolor by an unknown British artist, circa 1864, depicting the two brigs exchanging broadsides near the beginning of the action. A description of the action is given below the picture.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 56759 Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Argus 549k The crew of HMS Pelican prepare to board USS Argus.
    Image from page 501 of "British Battles on Land and Sea", volume 2, by James Grant, 1 January 1873. This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections.
    Robert Hurst

    USS Argus (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    Battle of Derna, 27 April 1805 - Selected Naval Documents
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    This page is created and maintained by Gary P. Priolo
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    Last Updated 31 March 2017