Happy Valentine's Day, Brethren. I am so glad to have you along on this voyage that I thought I would share an historical milestone of this day. This one unencumbered by hearts and cupids but instead wreathed with daring and courage. And all in the tradition of wooden ships and iron men.
On this day in 1813, USS Essex became the first U.S. warship to cross into the Pacific ocean. At her helm that day and through out her South Pacific cruise during the War of 1812 was our old mate Captain David Porter.
Porter wrote regular reports to the Department of the Navy back home while he swept the Pacific like a wolf, literally shutting down the British whaling operations in that part of the world. The following is an excerpt from one of these dispatches, written later in 1813:
I have completely broken up the British navigation in the Pacific. The vessels which were not captured by me were laid up and dared not venture out into the great South Sea. They have furnished me amply with sails, cordage, cables, anchors, provisions, medicines and stores of ever description; and... clothing for seamen. We have in fact lived off the enemy since I have been in that sea, every prize having proved a well-founded store-ship for me.
Porter's audacity and pompous self-admiration both come across in his writing. It is those qualities - and his unheard of success in this operation and many more - that made the great man both loved (particularly by his men) and hated (by peers like Stephen Decatur, James Barron, and others). I, as you know, shamelessly fall on the love side. I wonder if the Captain would appreciate a little Valentine from Pauline?