USS Argus (1803)

Lithograph depicting Argus burning British ships during the War of 1812. Original in the collection of the US Library of Congress.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

Laid down 12 May, 1803, USS Merrimack (no not that one) was a 20-gun brig. She was renamed USS Argus on 4 June, before she was launched in August, and commissioned in September the same year. Argus was sent to the Mediterranean to assist US Navy efforts against the Barbary corsairs. She participated in the blockade of Tripoli, and supported the Marines' capture of Derna, 26 April, 1805. Argus returned to the United States in mid-1806, and was out of commission for a year, before deploying off the US coast to enforce the Embargo Act of 1807. She continued cruising the coast after the War of 1812 was declared, and captured six prizes between October and January. In June, 1813, Argus was sent to France to deliver William Crawford, the new US Minister to France. After successfully delivering him in July, Argus wandered into British waters and spent the next month raiding. After capturing twenty-one ships, most of which were burned, Argus was intercepted by the 18-gun HMS Pelican on the morning of 14 August. Upon receiving command, Argus' captain, William Allen, had boasted that he could "take any British 22-gun sloop-of-war in ten minutes." Instead, he lost a leg within the first four minutes of battle, and the battle dragged on for forty-five minutes. Argus' rigging was demolished, and she struck her colors when Pelican came into contact and was about to board. Argus was taken into port, but does not appear to have been adopted by the Royal Navy. Captain Allen died a week later.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Pelican's captain, Commander John Maple, had joined the Royal Navy two years before Allen was born.