Action of 9 November 1822

Action of 9 November 1822
Part of West Indies Anti-Piracy Operations, Piracy in the Caribbean
USS Alligator.jpg
USS Alligator
Date9 November 1822
Location
Approximately 45 mi (72 km) east of Matanzas, Cuba
Result

Indecisive

  • Prizes recaptured
  • Pirates escape
Belligerents
United States United StatesRed flag.svg Pirates
Commanders and leaders
Naval jack of the United States (1795–1818).svg William Howard Allen unknown
Strength
1 schooner
3 boats
3 schooners
Casualties and losses
4 killed
3 wounded
1 schooner captured
~14 killed
  • Five captured merchant ships were liberated by American forces after the action.

The Action of 9 November 1822 was a naval battle fought between the United States Navy schooner USS Alligator and a squadron of three pirate schooners off the coast of Cuba during the Navy's West Indies anti-piracy operation. Fifteen leagues from Matanzas, Cuba, a large band of pirates captured several vessels and held them for ransom. Upon hearing of the pirate attacks, Alligator under Lieutenant William Howard Allen rushed to the scene to rescue the vessels and seize the pirates.

Upon arriving at the bay where the pirates were said to be, Alligator dispatched boats to engage the enemy vessels, as the water was too shallow for the warship to engage them directly. With Allen personally commanding one of the boats, the Americans assaulted the schooner Revenge. Although the Navy was able to force the pirates into abandoning Revenge, the buccaneers managed to fight their way out of the bay and inflict seven casualties. With their commander mortally wounded, the boats ceased pursuit of the pirates, but were able to recover the vessels that had been held in the bay.

Background

In early November 1822, the schooner USS Alligator, under the command of Lieutenant Allen, put into Matanzas, Cuba, intending to patrol the area as part of the United States Navy's West Indian Anti-Piracy Campaign. Upon arriving at the port, Allen discovered two Americans attempting to raise $7,000 in order to pay a ransom to pirates that had captured their vessels. If the ransom was not delivered, the pirates threatened to destroy the ships and assault their crews. Learning from these men that the pirates were located some 15 leagues away, Allen took the civilians aboard, deciding to attempt to recover their ship.[1]

The band of pirates was relatively large, consisting of around 125 men and three armed schooners. One schooner, Revenge, was an 80-ton vessel armed with five cannon and 35 men; a second, 90-ton schooner had six guns and 30 men; a third vessel measured 60 tons, was armed with three cannon and manned by 60 men.[2] The pirates also manned five American prizes. These were the ship rigged vessel William Henry from New York, the brigs Iris and Sarah Morril from Boston, and a pair of merchant schooners, one hailing from Rochester, Massachusetts, and the other from Salem.[3]

Allen's force of 100 was outnumbered and also outgunned, with Alligator mounting only 12 six-pounders, compared to the pirates' 14 cannon. However, Alligator and her crew were experienced, having taken forcibly the Portuguese brig Marianna Flora the year before. Allen was an experienced commander who had taken command of USS Argus during her engagement with HMS Pelican in the War of 1812.[4] Though Alligator's draft was too deep to chase pirate craft inshore, she could send her cutter, gig, and launch out with boarding parties.[5]

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