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.
During his second cruise in the Peacock, Warrington captured 14 more prizes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and in early 1815, he began a third cruise, this time crossing the Atlantic and entering the distant waters of the Indian Ocean by sailing around the southern tip of Africa. There he captured and burned three more merchant prizes before encountering the ship that would be his opponent in what would prove to be the last naval action of the war.
On 30 June, the Peacock came upon the 14-gun brig Nautilus in the Sunda Strait near Java. Sailing under the auspices of the British East India Company, she was commanded by Lieutenant Charles Boyce. Warrington closed to hailing distance and was at first surprised to hear Boyce claim that the war had ended more than six months earlier. But noting that the Nautilus was steering a course toward a nearby British fort whose guns might provide her extra protection, Warrington suspected that the British lieutenant was simply lying to buy more time. In those days of limited communication and being so far from home, Warrington could not be certain, however. So, in what seemed to him a reasonable compromise, he offered Boyce the opportunity to surrender. Believing right to be on his side and unwilling to compromise his honor, the British officer refused the offer.
Warrington opened fire and a short but bloody fight ensued. When the wind had carried away the smoke of battle, it was clear that the British brig had gotten the worst of it. Damage was extensive, and 15 dead and wounded lay about the mangled deck, including Boyce, who ultimately lost a leg clear to the hip, and his second lieutenant, who later died of his wounds.
It was a decisive victory for Warrington, but his triumph was denied the usual glory when he learned that Boyce had been telling the truth—the war had indeed ended with the Treaty of Ghent the previous December.
Unlike Andrew Jackson, who was widely lauded for his victory at New Orleans—also a battle fought after the peace agreement—Warrington faced a court of inquiry and years of diplomatic and congressional second-guessing. Ultimately exonerated, however, he served the Navy honorably until his death in 1851, even serving as acting Secretary of the Navy for a time.