Early in 1814, Capt. David Porter entered the harbor of Valparaiso, Chile. Three British men-of-war ships appeared, and one of them, the HMS Phoebe and its commander, Capt. James Hilyer, came in and took a berth beside the USS Essex. Porter was friendly with the British officers, but began to fear that they meant to violate the neutrality of the port. What remained of Porter's flotilla was no match for the British warships. Knowing this, Procter sought to engage Phoebe in a single-ship duel. Even when the crew of the Essex sang insulting songs for the benefit of the British crew, Hilyer would not agree to a fight.
Finally, on March 28, 17 months to the day after his departure from Delaware Bay, Porter made a run for the open sea. He was in poor luck, for a squall struck him, partially disabled the Essex, and forced it on a course close to the neutral shore.
Two of the British warships now openly attacked Porter. he had only one chance to board the Phoebe, but he could not sail close enough to do it. Because of damage to the sailing gear and fire, he could not even run Essex ashore. So, he allowed those of the crew who wanted to try it to jump overboard and swim the 3/4 mile to freedom.
Finally, at 6:20 P.M., full of bitterness, both ships at the breach of neutrality and of the gentleman's code of naval warfare, he had to strike his colors. he impugned the honor of the British, but they insisted that their conduct had been ethical in all ways.
Hilyer elected to parole Porter and his crew, and send them to the United States. Adm. Alexander F.I. Cochrane protested this, for he considered Porter to be a menace at large. He called on Porter to give himself up, which he did not do.