Hear the Key West "Voices of History™" on our Phone Tour (305) 507-0300

The Mosquito Fleet

CIRCA 1822

On February 7, 1822 Lieutenant Navy Commander M. C. Perry was given the order to survey the coast and inspect the Florida Keys.  A little over a month later, on March 25, 1822 the first US flag was planted on Key West soil by Commodore David Porter and the U.S. Navy officially staked claim to the island.Porter’s mission was two-fold: to establish a naval base in Key West, or Thompson’s Island as it was known at the time, and to eradicate the “Brethren of the Coast” the original pirates of the Caribbean.  Porter took his duties quite seriously and carried them out perfectly, a bit too perfectly.  When it came to erecting the naval base, Porter quickly established a storehouse, workshop, hospital, and living quarters for his men.  Under his command the West Indian Squadron was fast, lethal, and efficient.  Like a mosquito in a room, you knew it is somewhere but you never knew when or where it will sting, hence the fleet was nicknamed the Mosquito Fleet.  Porter decimated piracy throughout the Caribbean.  He chased the few pirates that remained back to a port in Puerto Rico, at the time controlled by the Spanish Empire.  Porter, under no direct command from the Navy, demanded that the Spanish turn over the remaining pirates to be dealt with.  When the Spanish refused, Porter marched his soldiers ashore and “taught the Spanish a lesson.” So as not to cause an international incident, the Navy court-martialed Porter.  He promptly left the U.S. and entered the service of the Mexican Navy.  Wanting to acknowledge the purported injustice done to him, the U.S. government appointed Porter as the consular agent to Turkey decades later.  Porter eventually died in 1843 in Turkey