(Brig: t. 143; 1. 73'; b. 23'8"; dph. 7'6"; cpl. 64; a. 12 guns)
The first Viper—originally the cutter Ferret designed by naval architect Josiah Fox and built at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., between 1806 and 1809 —was commissioned under her old name on 18 April 1809, Lt. Christopher Gadsden, Jr., in command.
Shortly after her commissioning, Ferret cruised along the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia to aid in the enforcement of the Embargo Act of 1807. She was renamed Viper during rerigging as a brig at the Washington Navy Yard in 1809 and 1810, and from Washington sailed to New Orleans, La., arriving there on 15 March 1811. Viper remained off the Gulf Coast enforcing the Embargo Act until the outbreak of the War of 1812. During the war, Viper proved woefully inadequate in deep water operations against the larger more heavily gunned British warships and was captured by the 32-gun frigate HMS Narcissus off the coast of Belize, British Honduras, on 17 January 1813 and taken to New Providence in the Bahama Islands. Nothing is known of her subsequent career.