David Porter, 1780–1843, American naval officer, b. Boston. Appointed a midshipman in 1798, he served in the West Indies and in the war with Tripoli. In 1803 his ship, the Philadelphia, was captured off the coast of Tripoli, and Porter was a prisoner until peace was declared in 1805. He achieved his greatest success as commander of the Essex in the War of 1812. In that year he captured several British ships carrying troops to Halifax and the British war vessel Alert. Then, accompanied by young David Farragut, he sailed the Essex around the Horn and cruised in the Pacific, warring on British commercial vessels. He took formal possession of Nuku Hiva, one of the Marquesas Islands, in Nov., 1813, but this act was not recognized by the U.S. government. In 1814 the Essex was blockaded by British ships in the harbor of Valparaiso, Chile. Porter escaped to sea, but a squall disabled his ship, forcing him back to the coast. He was attacked by two British warships and after a hard-fought battle was forced to surrender. While in the West Indies in 1824 on an expedition for suppressing piracy, Porter forced the officials of the town of Foxardo (Fajardo), Puerto Rico, to apologize for jailing an officer from his fleet. The government did not sanction Porter's act, and he was court-martialed and suspended for six months. Porter resigned and in 1826 entered the Mexican navy as its head. Disgusted with the jealous intrigues of the Mexican officers, he resigned in 1829. After his return to the United States, he became (1831) chargé d'affaires and later (1839) minister at Constantinople and held this post until his death.
See biographies by his son, David Dixon Porter (1875), and D. F. Long (1970); R. Wheeler, In Pirate Waters (1969).