Joining the Navy as a midshipman at the age of 18 in January 1800, Lewis Warrington’s subsequent career was in many ways typical of the time. He saw his first action in the frigate Chesapeake during the Quasi-War with France, when she captured the French privateer La Jeune Creole . Subsequent service included more than five years in the Mediterranean Squadron and two successful war cruises as first lieutenant of the frigate Congress during the War of 1812.
Having earned command of the sloop-of-war Peacock , Captain Warrington put to sea in March 1814. A month later, while patrolling off the coast of Florida, lookouts spotted a small convoy of British merchant ships, escorted by the brig Epervier . Warrington gave chase for four hours until he was able to close to pistol range, then opened fire on the brig. After losing her fore-topmast, suffering at least 20 damaging hits to her hull, and losing 8 men killed and 15 wounded, the Epervier struck her colors. The American prize crew was delighted to discover $120,000 in the brig’s lock room, and after evading two British frigates and a brig in hot pursuit, both victor and vanquished arrived safely in Savannah, Georgia. Congress awarded Warrington a gold medal, while his commissioned officers received silver medals, and the midshipmen and sailing master were awarded swords.