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Songs re. USS Essex 1799

Fergie 09 Mar 11 - 06:13 AM
MartinRyan 09 Mar 11 - 06:34 AM
Charley Noble 09 Mar 11 - 07:24 AM
Diva 11 Mar 11 - 08:07 AM
Fergie 14 Mar 11 - 10:17 AM
EBarnacle 14 Mar 11 - 11:26 AM
sioux30 30 May 11 - 11:05 PM
Charley Noble 31 May 11 - 07:37 AM
Fergie 31 May 11 - 08:27 PM
GUEST 31 May 11 - 10:41 PM
Charley Noble 03 Jun 11 - 09:41 PM
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Subject: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Fergie
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 06:13 AM

Hi all

Built in Salem, Massachusetts for the American fleet in 1799, the Essex was a 32-gun frigate that was at one time the pride of the American Navy. The Essex had an illustrious service record being involved in naval action against France in 1800 and against the Barbary pirates in 1805. In 1812 she was involved in a series of engagements against British naval, merchant and whaling ships. She was eventually captured in 1814, by a superior British force off Valparaiso, Chile.
The Essex was towed to Plymouth in England where she was repaired and taken into the British Navy. In 1824 she was brought to anchor in the harbour at Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire),near to Dublin, the masts were removed and she was converted into a prison ship or hulk. Between 250 and 300 male prisoners at a time were housed on the Essex, most of them convicts awaiting transportation to Australia. The Essex was sold off in 1839 and it was broken up and stripped for salvage and scrap metal.

I am writing a radio documentary on the history of the Essex and intend to include some songs associated with some of the convicts that were held captive on the Essex when she was anchored at Kingstown.

As part of the project I am seeking leads to any songs that may have been composed in her honour when she was part of the United States fleet.


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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 06:34 AM


This book may be a good source for details of the Essex's career. I'm not sure how strong a song tradition there would have been in the (new) American navy at that stage. You may have more luck coming at its engagements from the Royal Navy side? On the other hand, the ship name is still preserved in the USN - so there may be something there.

Good luck with the project. Sounds interestin.


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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Mar 11 - 07:24 AM


Nothing comes immediately to mind but there may at least be a poem about young David Farragut (Civil War Admiral), who was a midshipman aboard her at the time as well as the step-son of Capt. David Porter.

The may also be a tribute poem to the Essex when she was launched at Salem.

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Diva
Date: 11 Mar 11 - 08:07 AM

Nothing in the broadside collection at ITMA (you've probably checked?) Look forward to hearing this sounds like a great project!

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Fergie
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 10:17 AM

Hi all

There must be a nautical song about the Essex. Where are all our US 'age of sail' enthusiasts?


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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: EBarnacle
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 11:26 AM

You might try contacting Dewey Lambdin through his publishers. He has an international scholarly reputation in this era, as well as having written good naval fiction of the period.

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: sioux30
Date: 30 May 11 - 11:05 PM


Hello Fergus,

Here are some songs & poems re: the USS Frigate Essex.
(attached below)

I'd love to hear about the radio documentary your doing
on the history of the Essex!

My 4th Great-Grandfather, Enoch M. Miley served as a
Quartergunner on the Frigate Essex during the War of 1812!
He was severely wounded during their capture on March 28, 1814.

My Dad & I have found lots of interesting records & articles
about the Essex. I'd be happy to share any of the information
we found if your interested.

Do you know when your documentary will air? (I hope I
haven't missed it already!)

Please email me at


From googlebooks:

Memoir of Commodore David Porter
(Song by the crew of the Essex-pg. 225-226)

Union Song Book by Kessinger Publishing Company
("Ode Addressed to David Porter", pg. 95-99)

Philip Freneau, the poet of the revolution wrote an ode to Captain
David Porter and the Essex, one stanza of which was:

"War doomed the vast expanse to plow
Of ocean with a single prow,
Midst hosts of foes, with lynx's eyes,
And lion fang close hovering by,
You, Porter, dared the dangerous course,
Without a home, without resource,
Save that which heroes always find
In nautic skill and power gained,
Save where the stars in conquest shone
And stripes made wealth of foes your own."

Another popular poet wrote:

"From the laurel's fairest bough
Let the muse her garland twine
To adorn our Porter's brow,
Who beyond the burning line
Let his caravan of tars o'er the tide.
To the pilgrims fill the bowl,
Who around the Southern pole
Saw new constellations roll
For their guide!"

"Our Seamen in 1812"- The Sunday Inter Ocean, February 14, 1892

Quote by Captain David Porter:
"The Cherub being quite near to the Essex, the respective crews
occasionally amused themselves with singing songs, selecting those
most appropriate to their situation and feelings. Some of these were
of their own composition. The songs from the Cherub were better sung,
but those of the Essex were more witty, and more to the point. The
national tune of "Yankee Doodle" was the vehicle through which the
crew of the Essex, in full chorus, conveyed their nautical sarcasms;
while "The Sweet Little Cherub that sits up Aloft", was generally
selected by their rivals. These things were not only tolerated, but
encouraged, by the officers, through the whole of the first watch of
the calm, delightful nights of Chili; much to the amusement of the
people of Valparaiso, and the frequent annoyance of the crew of the
Cherub. At length, Captain Hillyar requested me to put a stop to this
practice, and I informed him I certainly should not do so while the
singing continued on board the Cherub."

- Old Salamander: The Life and Naval Career of Admiral David Farragut
by Rev. P.C. Headley, p. 171

Enoch M. Miley & the Frigate Essex

My 4th Great-Grandfather, Enoch M. Miley served as a Quarter Gunner on
the Frigate Essex during the War of 1812.

The Essex sailed from New York under Captain David Porter in July,
1812. They captured 10 prizes in their first cruise, including the
Alert (the 1st British vessel captured in the War of 1812) and the
Atlantic (which they renamed the Essex Junior)

After rounding Cape Horn in the winter of 1813, they captured a dozen
British whalers. They were so successful that by the time they
captured the Barclay off the coast of Peru, the Essex was so depleted
of officers and men who had become prize crews that Captain Porter
could only spare a half-dozen men to board the whaler. He made his
youngest officer and foster son- 12 year old David Farragut Prize
Master of the Barclay!

Unfortunately their luck was to change.-The Frigate Essex was captured
by British Ships Phoebe and Cherub in the Bay of Valparaiso, Chile on
March 28, 1814.

The Essex suffered great losses during their capture. Of the 255 men
crew-155 were killed, wounded, or missing in action. Enoch Miley was
severely wounded in the leg.
It was said that: "When the first British officer boarded the Essex,
so shocking was the sight that met his eyes that, used to scenes of
carnage though he was, he staggered back and almost fainted, struck
with the sickening horror."

Captain Porter and the his remaining crew were paroled and allowed to
return home in the Essex Junior. They were detained off the coast of
Long Island by the British Frigate Saturn. Captain Porter and 6 crew
escaped in a whale-boat and landed in Babylon, Long Island. He arrived
in New York a day after the Essex Jr. & was given a hero's welcome.

Enoch Miley returned home to his wife, Mary in Marblehead,
Massachusetts. They had 7 children and eventually settled in Boston.
He was given a Navy Pension of $8 a month.

Although he was disabled from his wounds, he survived one of the
bloodiest battles in naval history, and went on to live a long life.
He died in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1864 at the age of 81.

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 May 11 - 07:37 AM


Excellent work!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Fergie
Date: 31 May 11 - 08:27 PM

Hi Sioux30

Thanks so much for your efforts and your interesting story of your connection to the Essex. I'm under pressure at the moment so this is just to acknowledge your help. I'll have time to give a more detailed response in a day or two.


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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
Date: 31 May 11 - 10:41 PM

Not to be confused with

In the HEART of the SEA - The Tragedy of the Whaleship Esssex
By Nathaniel Philbrick

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm refers to it as "one of the most horrifying stories in maritime history."

Melville based his book on the tale of the 238 ton Essex that set sail from Nantucket in 1819.

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Subject: RE: Songs re. USS Essex 1799
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Jun 11 - 09:41 PM


Here's a curious taunting ditty supposedly composed by the American sailors on the eve of their battle with the British in Valparaiso Bay:

Essex - Valparaiso

You found us here and here you'll stay
A riddled hulk beneath the Bay
And few of you will get away
To carry the news to London.

You'll die and curse the wind that blew
You here to face a freemen's crew
And of your crew we'll free a few
To carry the news to London.

So blame the cause for which you bled
The blame's not on a seaman's head
And those of you who won't be dead
Can carry the news to London.

Aye, swallow your rum and spill your song
For higher up belongs the wrong
And those of you we take along
Can carry the news to London.


From DAVID FARRAGUT, SAILOR, by Ferdinand Reyher, J. B. Lippincott Co., New York, © 1953, pp. 222-223.

This is most likely a composed song by Ferdinand Reyher.

Charley Noble

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