On 9 February 1799, the USS Constellation was cruising in Caribbean waters when a lookout reported an unidentified ship just over the horizon. Captain Thomas Truxtun ordered his ship to come about, then went below to record in his log: "At noon saw a sail standing to westward, gave chase. I take her for a ship of war."
The pursuit continued for about an hour with the Constellation gradually gaining. As they drew closer, it became apparent that the other ship was a heavily-armed frigate. A lesser captain with a lesser crew might have decided to look for an easier conquest to carry out Congress' recent edict to "subdue, seize, and take any armed French vessel" in this so-called Quasi-War with France, but Truxtun was not lacking in courage, and he knew that the Constellation's crew were well-trained and ready for a fight.