July 7, 1798, The Quasi-War with France

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Quasi-War with Republican France in 1798. As most of us know, the Navy was virtually non-existent. The first three frigates were being completed just as the war began. New cutters with more potential as warships were replacing the original ten and Cutters Pickering and Eagle proved particularly useful. Eagle captured or assisted in the capture of 22 vessels and Pickering captured or recaptured 18 including four privateers. Pickering’s capture of the l’Egypte Conquise was particularly notable because the French privateer was much more heavily armed and had a crew reported as large as 350 compared to Pickering’s crew of about 70. Ultimately Pickering was lost with all hands in a hurricane in  September 1800 that also sank the frigate Insurgent which had been captured by the Constellation and taken into US service.

The Coast Guard History web site has an excellent article (pdf), “Benjamin Hiller & the Cutter Pickering in the Quasi-War with France.” William Thiesen, Sea History 122 (Spring, 2008), pp. 24-27; published with the permission of the National Maritime Historical Society.

Perhaps it is time to have cutters named for Benjamin Hiller and the Revenue Cutter Pickering.