The Shining Sea: David Porter and the Epic Voyage of the U.S.S. Essex during the War of 1812

By George C. Daughan

A few months after the outbreak of the warfare of 1812, Captain David Porter set out within the USS Essex on an epic, seventeen-month cruise to the South Seas. Porter was once pursuing reputation and riches, and via such a lot money owed his odyssey used to be a beautiful luck: it introduced glory to the fledgling American army, cemented Porter’s attractiveness as a bold and gifted commander, and has lengthy been celebrated as one of many maximum maritime adventures in U.S. historical past. much less popular, although, is the poor rate that the workforce of the Essex paid for his or her captain’s oversized ambitions.

In The Shining Sea, award-winning historian George C. Daughan tells the complete tale of Porter’s exciting, action-packed voyage, revealing the heights of Porter’s hubris and the real depths of his failure in this fateful cruise. reason on attaining own glory, Porter made the treacherous trip round Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean, the place he deliberate to catch a British man-of-war. From Valparaiso to the Galapagos to the Marquesas, the Essex roamed the South Seas, seizing British whaling and service provider ships, wreaking havoc on British trade, and incomes Porter and his males wealth and acclaim. Flush along with his victories, Porter welcomed the inside track British frigate—the HMS Phoebe—was on his tail, and he resolved to catch her. yet Porter couldn't conquer the Phoebe’s improved firepower. Over the process a determined, bloody conflict, he misplaced the Essex and over two-thirds of her crew—a stunning finish to a bold journey.

A swashbuckling story of hazard and spoil at the excessive seas, The Shining Sea brings to existence the monomaniacal quest of 1 of the main misunderstood commanders of the warfare of 1812. Porter’s singular voyage, Daughan exhibits, stands as a cautionary story for any chief who might placed own glory and ambition sooner than reason and countrymen.

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Catharine’s he had given Sergeant-Major Sabine a notice for Bainbridge should still he seem. there has been little chance that he may, yet at the off-chance that he may, Porter sought after him to obtain this letter. It learn partly: “Should we now not meet by way of the first of April, be guaranteed that through pursuing my very own direction, I shall were actuated by means of perspectives to the great of the carrier, and that there'll were an absolute necessity for my doing so. ” The letter was once dated January 20, 1813. it really is demanding to visualize that Porter didn't have an overpowering choice for crusing to the Pacific. He were advocating doing so for years. the chance should have been on his brain considering the fact that he left Chester. every little thing he had performed because the struggle begun indicated how fixated he used to be on distinguishing himself in a few heroic motion, and right here used to be his chance; there may possibly by no means be one other. crusing the 1st American warship into the japanese Pacific used to be his route to eternal repute. He may well ruin the British whaling fleet there—a nice accomplishment in itself—and even have a superb opportunity of conducting a one-on-one conflict with an enemy frigate, which was once regularly his major goal. way back to 1809, Porter had written to former president Jefferson offering a voyage to the Pacific. He had visions of being the Lewis and Clark of the ocean, highlighting to the US the significance of the massive Pacific. Porter despatched a duplicate of the letter to Charles Goldsborough, leader clerk of the military, who handed it directly to President Madison, yet like his predecessor, Madison by no means answered. Porter wrote back to Madison on October 31, 1810, explaining the significance of the Pacific, yet back, he was once overlooked. nonetheless no longer deterred, Porter wrote on February 7, 1811, to Secretary of the army Hamilton that are meant to battle escape he needed to be appointed commander of a squadron whose item will be to sail into the japanese Pacific and assault British whalers and merchantmen. Hamilton beloved the belief yet by no means up on it. Porter had additionally instructed his plan on Bainbridge. prior to the Essex left the Delaware River in October 1812, Bainbridge had solicited Porter’s opinion at the top mode of attacking the enemy, and Porter had laid earlier than him his plan of cruising into the Pacific. He obtained a good reaction, yet in spite of everything Bainbridge determined that patrolling the waters round St. Helena used to be a greater notion. still, Porter used to be confident that going to the South Pacific may have Bainbridge’s approval. earlier than creating a ultimate determination, Porter requested purser John R. Shaw for an accounting of the provisions on board. that they had now not been in a position to receive all of the provides they wanted at St. Catharine’s. They did procure wooden and water and a few refreshments yet stumbled on it very unlikely to acquire any sea inventory other than rum and some luggage of flour. Shaw suggested that in simple terms 3 months worthy of bread at part allowance have been aboard, and this was once indicative of the kingdom of the opposite provisions. Porter talked himself into the concept in simple terms within the japanese Pacific may possibly he resupply the Essex.

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