The commodore ordered the young lieutenant to conduct an accurate survey of an important stretch of the New England coast. It was a plum assignment for such a junior officer, given to him because he had already demonstrated much ability and even more potential. The young man’s future looked bright.
For the task, the lieutenant commanded the schooner Revenge. Someone prone to omens might have read something into the fact that two previous American naval vessels bearing that name had come to unhappy ends during the American Revolution. But if this lieutenant had any such misgivings, he kept them to himself and went about his task with fervor.
Unfortunately, it was the dead of winter, and the weather impeded the survey such that it soon became apparent that it could not be completed by the deadline the commodore had imposed. Communications were frustratingly slow and unreliable in those early days of the 19th century, so the lieutenant decided to sail from his base of operations at Newport, Rhode Island, to New London, Connecticut, to ask the commodore for an extension.