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In 1798 he had been appointed one of the first six Post Captains in the new United States Navy and as commander of a newly launched frigate, the USS Congress, saw service in what is known as the Quasi War.

This was the ‘undeclared’ war of 1798-1800 that involved conflict between the USA and France – mostly in the Caribbean and off the Atlantic coasts.

As relations deteriorated, French privateers began attacking merchant ships in American waters and Congress responded by authorising retaliation against French warships

America also co-operated informally with the Royal Navy, chiefly in allowing merchant ships to join each other’s convoys, and as the British had many more ships available, they focused on escort duties while the US Navy concentrated on attacking French warships.