Wooster, Charles Whiting (1780–1848)

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Wooster, Charles Whiting (1780–1848)

Charles Whiting Wooster (b. 1780; d. 1848), officer in the Chilean navy. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, he was the nephew of David Wooster, hero of the Battle of Danbury during the American Revolution. Wooster went to sea at an early age. During the War of 1812 he served on board the U.S. privateer Saratoga. Having earned substantial prize money and gained significant influence, he was named captain of the Port of New York after the war. With the death of his young wife he chose to join the fight for independence in Chile.

Investing his entire fortune, Wooster purchased the brigantine Columbus, which he outfitted with sixteen guns. He carried a cargo of rifles to Chile, arriving 25 April 1818. Wooster was commissioned into the Chilean navy as a commander and put in charge of the frigate Lautaro. The Lautaro along with the San Martín intercepted a Spanish squadron on 25 October at Talcahuano and captured the frigate Reina María Isabel, which was escorting reinforcements for the royalist army in Peru. The following day the Chilean squadron captured the transports one by one. This was a significant victory for the patriots.

When Thomas A. Cochrane was hired by the Chileans to command their fleet, Wooster resigned rather than serve under the British officer, a former enemy. Between 1818 and 1822 Wooster engaged in commercial pursuits, including whaling. When Cochrane resigned from the Chilean navy, Wooster was recommissioned with the rank of captain and again took command of the Lautaro. Between 1822 and 1826 he campaigned against the royalists in Chiloé and southern Peru. In 1829 he was promoted to rear admiral.

Following the capture of Chiloé, the Chilean navy, except for the Aquiles, was sold off. In 1829, while Wooster was ashore, the crew mutinied against the selection of Joaquín Vicuña as vice president. At the direction of the Chilean government, Wooster boarded the British frigate Thesis, which captured the Aquiles and returned it to Chilean control. However, on 8 December Vicuña was driven from the capital and took refuge on the Aquiles. The forts at Valparaíso, also in the hands of the rebels, drove the ship out of port. Wooster sailed to Coquimbo, where Vicuña surrendered. These events ended Wooster's career in the navy. Wooster settled in California, where he had become one of the most powerful property owners in San Francisco.

See alsoWars of Independence: South America .


Claudio Collados Nuñez, ed., El poder naval chileno, 2 vols. (1985).

Rodrigo Fuenzalida Bade, Marinos ilustres y destacados del pasado (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Arancibia Clavel, Patricia, Isabel Jara Hinojosa, and Andrea Novoa Mackenna. La marina en la historia de Chile. Santiago de Chile: Sudamericana, 2005.

                                            Robert Scheina

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