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In 1809, the U.S. Navy launched Gunboat 166 near Wilmington, North Carolina. It was the first of three small warships built in North Carolina before the War of 1812. Gunboat 166 was later converted from a sloop to a schooner sailing rig and renamed ALLIGATOR. It was activated for patrol duty in the Cape Fear River and protected American merchant ships from British warships along the North Carolina coast.