At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Haitian Revolution and the Latin American War of Independence, the 1823 United States Gazette estimated that almost 3,000 attacks had been made on merchant ships by pirates inhabiting the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Piracy in this region not only contributed to financial loss but frequently, murder and torture were seen as well. The 1820s was comprised of a resurge of pirates who had not been seen since the days of Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts in the previous century. This increase led insurance companies to raise their premiums above those charged at the height of the British blockade in 1815 which further hindered the common mariner’s ability to sail and trade.
Piracy in the early 19th century was popular with over an estimated 10,000 participants. Historians believe it was so successful predominately in this region due to the lucrative trade routes between New Orleans, South America and Puerto Rico. Pirates found it easy to travel in secret while covered by the geography of the surrounding coastline. Political turmoil in the first half of the 19th century facilitated these acts. Spanish pirates, in particular, found success due to their longtime protection from Cuba and Puerto Rico which made the Caribbean an agreeable place to repair, recruit, relax, and sell their winnings. Neutral countries, such as the United States, were drawn into this arena when privateers moved from targeting their prizes to attacking any readily available vessels in the area.
On 19 December 1818, the United States’ Vessel, the Emma Sophia was held up by a Spanish privateer in the Santaren Channel. She surrendered because she was not armed. In the struggle, an officer was taken to be hanged because the pirates were frustrated that there were no valuables aboard the ship. However, he was not hanged despite the pirates’ frustration. After released, the officer warned, “The neighborhood of Cuba will be troubled waters until our government shall seriously determine to put down this system of piracy.” Shortly after the attack on the Emma Sophia on 03 March 1819, Congress authorized President James Monroe to send naval forces south to fight off the pirates. He sent Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie and the namesake of the Fast Frigate Class the FFG7, on a mission to South America to convince them to restrict privateer activity without stepping on the diplomatic relations between the United States and those countries. Perry’s mission was successful in Venezuela, but he unfortunately died on his way home which made the mission ultimately incomplete.
In 1821, six United States Navy vessels were sent to carry out anti-piracy operations in the West Indies. These selected ships included the Hornet, Enterprise, Spark, Porpoise, Shark, and the Grampus. In the early attempts to negate Spanish piracy, the Americans found the rules of engagement were too restrictive, eliminating piracy was...