Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
USS George Washington (1798)
The USS George Washington, the first U.S. warship named after President George Washington was built as a merchant vessel at Providence, R.I., in 1793; purchased by the Congress at Providence 12 October 1798 from John Brown and John Francis for use in the developing 1798–1800 undeclared Naval War (the so-called Quasi-War) with France, and converted to a warship under the supervision of Captain Silas Talbot with Captain Patrick Fletcher in command.
George Washington proceeded in early December to Dominica, West Indies, to join Commodore John Barry's squadron for the protection of American commercial interests in the area. She rendezvoused with Barry in the United States at sea 29 December and arrived Dominica next day. For the next months she convoyed American ships in the West Indies, sailing from St. Christopher's Island to Tobago. During this time, in company with revenue cutter Pickering, she recaptured two American ships from the French brig Fair American 29 April 1799, and schooner Francis 1 May 1799.
She departed the Caribbean in mid-1799, arriving Newport, R.I., 12 June 1799, and after a short stay sailed again 2 July. On this cruise she searched the coast for French privateers as far south as Charleston, S.C., and then took station off Santo Domingo protecting American commerce. George Washington returned to the United States in October 1799 for extensive repairs.
She was taken to Philadelphia in April 1800 and there prepared for sea under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. Lacking a strong navy, the United States accepted the questionable alternative of trying to protect its commerce from the Barbary pirates by paying tribute (extortion). Bainbridge sailed with a load of stores and timber for the Dey of Algiers 8 August. George Washington arrived safely in September, the first American warship to enter the Mediterranean. Unhappily, Bainbridge had to accede to threats and carry the Dey’s presents to the Sultan at Constantinople. He protested vigorously but, in the face of concentrated guns ashore and credible threats of retaliation against American shipping, he departed 20 October. George Washington returned to Algiers 21 January 1801, and after a visit to Alicant, France, arrived back in the United States 19 April 1801.
The ship underwent repairs and was again fitted to carry stores and timber to Algiers. Manned with only a partial crew, she sailed 20 July 1801 and arrived Algiers via Malaga, Spain, 5 October 1801. After calling at Italian and French ports she returned to Philadelphia about 15 April 1802. George Washington was sold in May 1802 by the Navy agent in Philadelphia, George Harrison.
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