The first Active—a brigantine-rigged packet built at Marsh-field, Massachusetts, on the orders of the Continental Congress—was launched in July 1779. Under the command of Capt. Corbin Barnes, she made voyages to Bilbao, Spain, in 1780 and to Nantes, France, in 1781. On 23 March 1782, while sailing from Philadelphia to Havana, Cuba, she encountered the British man-of-war HMS Proserpine and was captured. The British warship took her into Jamaica where she was condemned as a prize and sold.
Active—a cutter chartered by the Revenue Cutter Service in 1812—took some part in the War of 1812 in the vicinity of New London, Connecticut, apparently as a part of the naval flotilla blockaded there by a British squadron. However, there is no evidence that she ever served as a Navy ship, and no documents that give the details of her operations have been found.