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Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex, 1812 (approximate): Finding Aid

Published in April 2020

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 65
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex
  • Dates: 1812 (approximate)
  • Size: 0.17 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 85 leaves
  • Creator: Essex (Frigate)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: U.S.S. Essex was a United States Navy frigate. The Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex were compiled in approximately 1812, while Essex was under the command of David Porter.

History of U.S.S. Essex (Frigate)

The first U.S.S. Essex was launched on September 30, 1799 and presented to the United States as a gift from the people of Salem and Essex County, Massachusetts on December 17, 1799. Commissioned while the United States was embroiled in the Quasi-War with France, Essex, under the command of Captain Edward Preble, departed New York on January 6, 1800, in company with U.S.S. Congress to escort merchant ships returning from Batavia, Dutch East Indies. Congress was demasted only a few days out, and Essex continued her voyage alone, making her mark as the first U.S. man-of-war to double the Cape of Good Hope, both in March and in August 1800, prior to successfully completing her convoy mission in November.

Captain William Bainbridge commanded Essex on her second cruise as part of Commodore Richard Dale's squadron in the Mediterranean protecting American trade and seamen against the Barbary Powers. Arriving at Gibraltar on July 1, 1801, the squadron spent the ensuing year convoying American merchantmen and blockading Tripolitan ships. Following repairs at the Washington Navy Yard in 1802, Essex resumed her duties in the Mediterranean under Captain James Barron in August 1804. She participated in the Battle of Derna on April 27, 1805 and remained in these waters until the conclusion of peace terms in 1806.

Returning to the Washington Navy Yard in July 1806, she was placed in ordinary until February 1809, when she was recommissioned for sporadic patrols of home waters and a single cruise to Europe. When war was declared against Britain on June 18, 1812, Essex, commanded by Captain David Porter, made a successful cruise to the southward, including the capture of a British transport in July and H.M.S. Alert on August 13. By September, when she returned to New York, Essex had taken ten prizes.

Essex sailed in South Atlantic waters and along the coast of Brazil until January 1813, when Captain Porter moved against English whale fisheries in the Pacific. After rounding Cape Horn, she anchored at Valparaiso, Chile, on March 14, having seized schooners Elizabeth and Nereyda en route. The next five months brought Essex thirteen prizes, including Essex Junior (exAtlantic).

In January 1814, Essex sailed into neutral waters at Valparaiso, Chile, but was trapped there for six weeks by H.M.S. Phoebe and H.M.S. Cherub. Crippled by a heavy squall during an escape attempt, Essex was bombarded by the British for over two hours during the ensuring Battle of Valparaiso before surrendering on March 28, 1814. Essex was repaired by the British, sent to England, and in 1833 served as a prison ship at Kingston, Jamaica. On June 6, 1837 she was sold at public auction.

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Description of Contents

The Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex, comprising 0.17 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 85 leaves, were compiled in approximately 1812, while Essex was under the command of David Porter.

As written, the various bills begin from both ends of the volume. Beginning from the front of the volume are sections for the quarter bill; watch bill and hammock list; watch bill in three watches; reefing, loosing, and furling sails; dimensions of the standing and running rigging of the Essex; and the general dimensions of the Essex. Beginning from the back of the volume are sections for a quarter bill and watch bill.

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The Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex comprise a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm and digital surrogates.

Copyright and Permission

The Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of David Dixon Porter in 1866. Accession No. 9858.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

Digital copies of the Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex are available in the USNA Digital Collections at

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

A description of one of U.S.S. Essex's engagements, written by David Porter, is available in this repository as MS VF 95.

Official logbooks of U.S.S. Essex may be available in Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, ca. 1801 - 1940, Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798-2007 at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex, MS 65

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

"e/essex-i.html." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2019,

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in April 2020.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Essex (Frigate)
  • Porter, David, 1780-1843
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Ships' logs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Watch- and Quarter-Bills of the U.S.S. Essex, 1812 (approximate)

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