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CVN-65 Enterprise
"Big E" / "Ready on Arrival"

The First Enterprise

The first USS Enterprise, a British supply sloop, was captured in May 1775 at St. Johns, Quebec, Canada, by Colonel B. Arnold, named Enterprise, and armed for use on Lake Champlain.

On 28 August 1775, Enterprise and other vessels embarked more than 1,000 troops as part of an expedition against St Johns, Montreal. and Quebec. Though St. Johns and Montreal were captured, and Quebec was besieged, the arrival of strong British reinforcements forced the Americans to withdraw from Canada in the spring of 1776. Enterprise and the other craft sailed to Isle aux Noix in the Richelieu River where they waited while Arnold directed the building of a fleet at Ticonderoga and Skenesborough (Whitehall), and the British-built ships at St Johns.

The battle was finally joined on 11 October 1776 at Valcour Island, near Plattsburg, N.Y. Arnold chose the site and deployed to await the British advance. Though markedly inferior in firepower, Arnold's fleet fought a valiant and effective action all day long, then slipped through the British line after dark. A running battle took place over the next 2 days, and resulted in the loss of all but five of the American ships. Enterprise and four others escaped to Crown Point, then sailed on to Ticonderoga. A tactical defeat, Valcour Island was nevertheless a great strategic victory for the Americans.

Arnold and his little fleet so disrupted the British invasion into New York that it was nearly a year before the advance could be renewed. In that interval American troops were recruited and trained, and on 17 October 17771 under General Horatio Gates, defeated the British decisively at Saratoga, N.Y. This victory was a primary factor in bringing about the alliance with France, and bringing the powerful French navy to the aid of the colonies.

During the British advance prior to the Battle of Saratoga, Enterprise was one of five vessels assigned to duty convoying bateaux in the evacuation of Ticon-deroga. The small American force was no match for the British fleet on Lake Champlain, and after two ships had been captured, Enterprise and the other two were run aground on 7 July 1777, and burned to prevent their capture.

The Second Enterprise

The second Enterprise. a schooner, was a successful letter-of-marque before she was purchased on 20 December 1776 for the Continental Navy. Commanded by Captain Joseph Campbell, Enterprise operated principally in Chesapeake Bay. She convoyed transports, carried out reconnaissance, and guarded the shores against foraging raids by the British. Only meager records of her service have been found; they indicate that she was apparently returned to the Maryland Council of Safety before the end of February 1777.

The Third Enterprise

The third Enterprise, a schooner, was built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Md., in 1799, and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw.

On 17 December 1799, Enterprise departed the Dela-ware Capes for the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the depredations of French privateers during the Quasi-War with France. Within the following year, Enterprise captured 8 privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achieve-ments which assured her inclusion in the 14 ships retained in the Navy after The Quasi-War.

Enterprise next sailed to the Mediterranean, raising Gibraltar on 26 June 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in writing a bright and enduring page in American naval history. Enterprise's first action came on 1 August 1801 when, just west of Malta, she defeated the 14-gun Tripolitan corsair Tripoli, after a fierce but one-sided battle. Unscathed, Enterprise sent the bat-tered pirate into port since the schooner's orders pro-hibited taking prizes.

Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying despatches, convoying merchantmen, and patrolling the Mediterranean. On 17 January, she captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship under charter to the Bashaw of Tripoli, and on 22 May she ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. For the next month Enterprise and other ships of the squadron cruised inshore, bombarding the coast and sending landing parties to destroy enemy small craft.

On 23 December 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising, Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to cap-ture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. Refitted and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was given to Enterprise's command-ing officer, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., for use in a daring expedition to burn frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli. Decatur and his volunteer crew carried out their mission perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship. Enterprise continued to patrol the Barbary Coast until July 1804 when she joined the other ships of the squadron in general attacks on the city of Tripoli over a period of several weeks.

Enterprise passed the winter in Venice where she was practically rebuilt by May 1805. She rejoined her squadron in July and resumed patrol and convoy duty until August of 1807. During that period she fought (15 August 1806) a brief engagement off Gibraltar with a group of Spanish gunboats who attacked her but were driven off. Enterprise returned to the United States in late 1807, and cruised coastal waters until June 1809. After a brief tour in the Mediterranean, she sailed to New York where she was laid up for nearly a year.

Repaired at the Washington Navy Yard, Enterprise was recommissioned there in April 1811, then sailed for operations out of Savannah, Ga. and Charleston, S.C. She returned to Washington on 2 October and was hauled out of the water for extensive repairs and modi-fications: when she sailed on 20 May 1812, she had been rerigged as a brig.

At sea when war was declared on Great Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first year of hostilities. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise sighted and chased HBM Brig Boxer. The brigs opened fire on each other, and in a closely fought, fierce and gallant action which took the lives of both commanding officers, Enterprise captured Boxer and took her into nearby Portland, Maine. Here a common funeral was held for Lieutenant William Burrows, Enterprise, and Captain Samuel Elyth, Boxer, both well-known and highly respected in their services.

After repairing at Portland, Enterprise sailed in com-pany with brig Rattlesnake, for the Caribbean. The two ships took three prizes before being forced to separate by a heavily armed ship on 25 February 1814. Enterprise was compelled to jettison most of her guns in order to outsail her superior antagonist. The brig reached Wilmington, N,C., on 9 March 1814, then passed the remainder of the war as a guardship off Charleston, S.C.

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Medi-terranean (July-November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. Front that time on she sailed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slaves; in this duty she took 13 prizes. Her long career ended on 9 July 1823, when, without injury to her crew, she stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies.

The Fourth Enterprise

The fourth Enterprise, a schooner, was launched by the New York Navy Yard on 26 October 1831. and commissioned 15 December 1831, Lieutenant S. W. Downing in command. Enterprise sailed on 12 January 1832 for South America where she patrolled the Brazil Station guarding United States' interests until April of 1834. Return-ing to New York at that time, she repaired and refitted until July when she departed again for Brazil.

Ten months later she joined sloop Peacock for a cruise to the Far East by way of Africa, 1ndia and the East Indies. Continuing eastward, Enterprise called at Honolulu, Hawaii, in September of 1836, then proceeded to the west coast of Mexico, arriving at Mazatlan 28 October 1836. She cruised the west coast of South America until March of 1839 when she departed Valparaiso, Chile to round the Horn, call at Rio de Janeiro, and sail on to Philadelphia. Here she was inactivated on 12 July 1839.

Enterprise was recommissioned 29 November 1839 and on 16 March 1840, sailed from New York for South America. After 4 years of protecting U.S. commerce on this station, she turned north for home. On 20 June 1844, Enterprise entered the Boston Navy Yard and 4 days later was decommissioned for the last time. She was sold 28 October 1844.

The Fifth Enterprise

The fifth Enterprise, a bark-rigged screw sloop-of war, was launched 13 June 1874 at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, by John W. Griffith, a private contractor; and commissioned 16 March 1877, Commander G. C. Remey in command.

Enterprise's first duty after fitting out at Norfolk, Va., took her to the mouth of the Mississippi River for surveying operations. Returning to Norfolk in April 1878, she remained there only briefly, sailing 27 May for surveying duty up the Amazon and Madeira Rivers. This completed, she repaired at New York, then (December 1878) joined the U.S. naval forces in European waters, calling at numerous ports in northern Europe and in the Mediterranean. She returned to the Wash-ington Navy Yard on 9 May 1880 and was placed out of commission.

Recommissioned on 12 January 1882, she cruised the east coast until 1 January 1883 when she sailed on a 8-year hydrographic survey that took her completely around the world. Her findings on this cruise added materially to the knowledge of the oceans, their currents, and their bottoms. Enterprise was decommis-sioned at New York on 21 March 1886.

Placed back in commission on 4 October 1887, Enterprise sailed from Boston in January 1888 for 2 years in the waters of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the east coast of Africa, where she showed the flag and looked out for United States' interests. She returned to New York in March 1890 and was decommissioned on 20 May.

Enterprise was again commissioned 8 July 1890, and for the next year operated principally in the Caribbean. From September 1891 until September 1892, she served as training and practice ship at the U.S. Naval Acad-emy, Annapolis, Md. On 17 October 1892 at Boston, she was lent to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for duty as a maritime school ship. In that capacity she trained cadets for some 17 years. Returned to the Navy on 4 May 1909, Enterprise was sold on 1 October 1909.

The Sixth Enterprise

The sixth Enterprise, a motorboat, served in a noncommissioned status in the 2d Naval District during World War I.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:43:31 ZULU