Saucy Essex, The
DESCRIPTION: "The saucy Essex, she sailed out, To see what she could do. Her captain is from Yankee blood And so are all her crew." She sails to the Galapagos "and nabbed the slippery whalers." John Bull traps her in Valparaiso Bay. The song glosses over her failure
EARLIEST DATE: 1894 (Alfred M. Williams, _Studies in Folk-Song and Popular Poetry_, pp. 7-8); mentioned in 1867
KEYWORDS: ship battle
1799 - Building of the U. S. S. Essex
1814 - Essex forced to surrender to the Phoebe and Cherub
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Alfred M. Williams, _Studies in Folk-Song and Popular Poetry_, Houghton Mifflin, 1894, pp. 24-26, "(no title)" (1 text, probably excerpted)
NOTES: According to Lincoln P. Paine, Ships of the World: An Historical Encylopedia, Houghton Mifflin, 1997, pp. 174-175, the U.S.S. Essex was build in 1799, and served successfully in the Quasi-War with France. Taken out of commission from 1806-1809, she began the War of 1812 under Captain David Porter, she initially served well, taking ten prizes including the 18-gun H.M.S. Alert.
The song says that the Essex took the whalers in the Galapagos, and Paine confirms that she "nearly destroyed Britain's South Pacific whale fishery" and took more prizes.
However, on February 3, 1814, she was blockaded in Valparaiso by H.M.S. Phoebe and Cherub, sent to track her down. On March 28, Porter tried to escape but lost her mainmast in bad weather. The British then attacked (Paine accuses them of violating Chilean neutrailty), and Porter was forced to surrender. Among the signals he raised during the battle was "Free trade and sailors' rights" -- one of the American war slogans. This incident is alluded to in the next to last verse of the Williams text. - RBW
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