USS Lexington (1776)

Painting of Lexington raising the early Stars and Stripes American flag in 1776. Painting by F. Muller, c.1900, original in the collection of the US Navy History and Heritage Command.

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Wild Duck was a brigantine merchantman, purchased by Maryland in February, 1776, and subsequently purchased by the Continental Congress' Marine Committee in March. Renamed USS Lexington, she was fitted out as a warship, with fourteen 4-pounder guns, two 6-pounder guns, and a dozen swivel guns. This appears to have been done in some sort of record time, because less than two weeks later Lexington had escaped the British blockade of Baltimore. On 7 April, she captured the sloop HMS Edward, and took her prize to Philadelphia. Lexington was at sea again by the end of the month, but was chased back in to port by HM Frigates Liverpool and Roebuck in early May. Lexington captured the Tory privateer Lady Susan on 27 July, and the sloop Betsy in early September, before she was struck by lightning and had to put in for repairs. On 20 December, Lexington was captured by HMS Pearl, and was put under a prize crew. Lexington's crew recaptured the ship, however, and brought her into Baltimore. She was sent to France in February, 1777, and participated in raids on British shipping around Ireland. She was blockaded into a French port during the Summer, leaving on 13 September after the French ordered all American vessels out of their ports. Lexington made slow progress in light winds, and was intercepted on the 19th by the 10-gun cutter HMS Alert. Becalmed and unable to flee, Lexington struck her colors after running out of powder. She does not appear to have been taken into the Royal Navy, probably due to extensive damage to her rigging during the fight.