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 struggle of 1812, Captain David Porter set out within the USS Essex on an epic, seventeen-month cruise to the South Seas. Porter used to be pursuing popularity and riches, and by means of so much money owed his odyssey used to be a gorgeous good fortune: it introduced glory to the fledgling American military, cemented Porter’s recognition 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 renowned, even if, is the bad rate that the group of the Essex paid for his or her captain’s oversized ambitions.

In The Shining Sea, award-winning historian George C. Daughan tells the entire tale of Porter’s exciting, action-packed voyage, revealing the heights of Porter’s hubris and the genuine depths of his failure in this fateful cruise. purpose on reaching own glory, Porter made the treacherous trip round Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean, the place he deliberate to trap 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 triumph over 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 possibility and spoil at the excessive seas, The Shining Sea brings to existence the monomaniacal quest of 1 of the main misunderstood commanders of the struggle of 1812. Porter’s singular voyage, Daughan exhibits, stands as a cautionary story for any chief who might positioned own glory and ambition prior to reason and countrymen.

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He had no proposal on the time if what he promised may ever come to move, yet now there has been each cause to think that he may perhaps eventually do what he have been fantasizing approximately these types of years. to start with, he made up our minds to divide his fleet and ship Downes to Valparaiso whereas he went again to the Galapagos Islands. He expected that Downes may sign up for him there a little while later. extra importantly, Porter made up our minds that, after he and Downes met up back, his fleet may commute to the Marquesas Islands, the archipelago in Polynesia. There they'd adventure the mythical delights provided by way of the ladies of those unique islands. Porter additionally concept that, whereas having fun with the extreme girl companionship, he can make priceless upkeep at the ships, relatively the Essex. 4 days later, Downes departed for Valparaiso. The prize ships Hector, Catharine, coverage, and Montezuma followed him, besides the Barclay. Porter advised Downes to depart the Barclay at Valparaiso and promote the opposite ships, if attainable. The coverage used to be loaded with sperm oil. The oil from all of the ships have been divided among the coverage and the Georgiana. costs for oil at Valparaiso have been so low, although, that Porter gave Downes the choice of sending coverage to the USA, the place the oil may convey a far better rate. If she went to the US, she used to be to procedure the northern coast within the useless of wintry weather, whilst critical climate impeded the British blockade. whereas Downes used to be in Valparaiso, Porter anticipated him to acquire the most recent intelligence on any British warships searching the Essex. Porter used to be sure there will be no less than one, and much more likely or extra. Porter additionally gave Downes 3 letters addressed to Secretary of the army Paul Hamilton, dated July 2, 1813. Downes was once to offer them to Joel Poinsett for transmittal to Washington. Poinsett could certainly do his most sensible to get them there any manner he might, through land or sea through Thomas Sumter in Rio, yet how lengthy it can take, or perhaps in the event that they could get there in any respect, was once doubtful. Porter had no means of figuring out that Hamilton used to be now not accountable for the military division. President Madison had eventually requested for his resignation in December 1812, changing him with William Jones of Philadelphia, a revered service provider and banker with an extended checklist of achievement. Porter knew that Washington will be pondering what had occurred to him. He had no notion if his short letter to Bainbridge in March had reached its vacation spot. He additionally sought after his spouse and family members to grasp that he and Farragut have been faring good. And he used to be happy with his accomplishments; he sought after the army and, he was hoping, the entire state to grasp approximately them. He instructed the secretary of the army, certainly sir, while I examine my current state of affairs with what it used to be while I doubled Cape Horn i will not yet esteem myself lucky in a unprecedented degree—then my send was once shattered by means of tempestuous climate and destitute of every little thing, my officials and workforce part starved, bare and tired with fatigue—Now sir, my send is in top order abundantly provided with every thing beneficial for her.

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