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Battle of Valparaiso
Part of the War of 1812
NavalMonument10 byAbelBowen 1838.png
Capture of the Essex by Abel Bowen, 1838.
Date28 March 1814
Locationoff Valparaíso, Chile
Result British victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom Royal Navy Naval jack of the United States (1795–1818).svg United States Navy
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom James Hillyar Naval jack of the United States (1795–1818).svg David Porter
Strength
1 Fifth-rate (36 guns)
1 sloop-of-war (18 guns)
1 frigate (36 guns)[1]
1 sloop-of-war (20 guns)
Casualties and losses
1 frigate damaged
1 sloop-of-war damaged
5 killed
10 wounded
Total: 15
1 frigate captured
1 sloop-of-war captured
58 killed
156 captured (45 wounded)
Total: 214


The Battle of Valparaíso, also called the Capture of USS Essex, was a naval action fought during the War of 1812. It took place off Valparaíso, Chile on March 28, 1814, between the frigate USS Essex and the sloop USS Essex Junior of the United States Navy and the frigate HMS Phoebe and sloop HMS Cherub of the Royal Navy. The British ships won the battle, and the American vessels were captured.

Battle[edit | edit source]

On March 28, 1814, Essex and Essex Junior, commanded by Captain David Porter, were brought to battle north of the Pacific port of Valparaíso, Chile. Essex had been raiding the English whaling fleets for a year during the War of 1812. The British admiralty dispatched two ships, Phoebe of 36 guns and Cherub of 18 guns under Captain James Hillyar, to go find and capture the American raiders. Essex was cornered in Valparaíso, and in the first meeting between the two ships, Phoebe came exceedingly close to the Essex, as if to start a battle and violate Chilean neutrality. Captain Porter threatened to board Phoebe if it touched one rope of the Essex.

The Essex tried to escape on March 28, and when extremely close to success, she lost a topmast, impairing maneuverability. A few hours later, Hillyar with the Phoebe and Cherub brought Essex and the Essex Junior to battle. For hours, the Essex, armed with carronades, cannons with short range, was pounded by the long cannons of Phoebe and Cherub, until the ship was an unmanageable wreck and surrendered. Out of a crew of 154 the Essex suffered 58 dead, 45 wounded and 31 missing[2] The Phoebe had 4 killed and 7 wounded. The Cherub had 1 killed and 3 wounded. David Glasgow Farragut, a future United States Admiral, was on board the Essex as a midshipman during this battle.

Essex was later repaired and commissioned into service in the Royal Navy as HMS Essex. She served for over twenty years before being de-commissioned and sold off in 1837. Herman Melville criticized Porter's refusal to strike his colors when it became clear the situation was hopeless, instead seeking to "crown himself with the glory of the shambles, by permitting his hopeless crew to be butchered before his eyes." "Nor, by thus continuing to fight, did this American frigate, one iota, promote the true interests of her country."[3]

There is a memorial for the American dead in the Dissidents Cemetery in Valparaiso.

References[edit | edit source]

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