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The name of a famous United States frigate that will always be memorable because of her interest-absorbing career. In the spring of 1807 a small British squadron lay (as they had lately) in American waters, near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, watching some French frigates blockaded at Annapolis. Three of the crew of one of the British vessels, Melampus, and one of another, Halifax, had deserted, and enlisted on board the Chesapeake, lying at the Washington navy-yard. The British minister made a formal demand for their surrender. The United States government refused compliance, because it was ascertained that two of them (colored) were natives of the United States, and there was strong presumptive evidence that the third one was, likewise. The commodore of the British squadron took the matter into his own hands. the Chesapeake, going to sea on the morning of June 22, 1807, bearing the pennant of Commodore Barron, was intercepted by the British frigate Leopard, whose commander, hailing, informed the commodore that he had a despatch for him. A British boat bearing a lieutenant came alongside the Chesapeake. The officer was politely received by Barron, in his cabin, when the former presented a demand from the captain of the Leopard to allow the bearer to muster the crew of the Chesapeake, that he might select and carry away the alleged deserters. The demand was authorized by instructions received from Vice-Admiral Berkeley, at Halifax.

Barron refused compliance, the lieutenant withdrew, and the Chesapeake moved on. the Leopard followed, and her commander called out through his trumpet, “Commodore Barron must be aware that the vice-admiral's commands must be obeyed.” This insolent announcement was repeated. the Chesapeake moved on, and the Leopard sent two shots athwart her bow. These were followed by the remainder of the broadside, poured into the hull of the Chesapeake. Though Barron, suspecting mischief, had hastily tried to prepare his ship for action, he was unable to return the shots, for his guns had no priming-powder. After being severely injured by repeated broadsides, the Chesapeake struck her colors. The vice-admiral's command was obeyed. The crew of the Chesapeake were mustered by British officers, and the deserters were carried away; one of them, who was a British subject, was hanged at Halifax, and the lives of the Americans were spared only on condition that they should re-enter the British service.

This outrage caused fiery indignation throughout the United States. The President issued a proclamation, at the beginning of July, ordering all British armed vessels to leave the waters of the United States, and forbidding any to enter until ample satisfaction should be given. A British envoy extraordinary was sent to Washington to settle the difficulty. Instructed to do nothing until the President's proclamation should be withdrawn, the matter was left open more than four years. In 1811 the British government disavowed the act. Barron, found guilty of neglect of duty in not being prepared for the attack, was suspended from the service for five years, without pay or emolument.

While the Hornet, Captain Lawrence, was on her homeward-bound voyage with her large number of prisoners, the Chesapeake was out on a long cruise to the Cape de Verde Islands, and the coast of South America. She accomplished nothing except the capture of four British merchant vessels; and as she entered Boston Harbor, in the spring of 1813, in a gale, her topmast was carried away, and with it several men who were aloft, three of whom were drowned. Among the superstitious sailors she acquired the character of an “unlucky” ship, and they were loath to embark in her. Evans was compelled to leave her on account of the loss of the sight of one of his eyes; and [115] Lawrence, who had been promoted to captain for his bravery, was put in command of her, with the Hornet, Captain Biddle, as her consort.

At the close of May the British frigate Shannon, thirty-eight guns, Capt. Philip

The Shannon and Chesapeake entering the Harbor of Halifax.

Bowes Vere Broke, appeared off Boston Harbor, in the attitude of a challenger. She then carried fifty-two guns. He wrote to Lawrence, requesting the Chesapeake to meet the Shannon, “ship to ship, to try the fortunes of their respective flags.” He assured Lawrence that the Chesapeake could not leave Boston without the risk of being “crushed by the superior force of the British squadron,” then abroad, and proposed that they should meet in single combat, without the interference of other vessels.

Lawrence accepted the challenge, and, with Lieut. Augustus Ludlow as second in command, he sailed out of Boston Harbor to meet the Shannon, at mid-day, June 1, 1813. The same evening, between five and six o'clock, they engaged in a close conflict. After fighting twelve minutes, the Shannon so injured the spars and rigging of the Chesapeake that she became unmanageable. This misfortune occurred at the moment when the latter was about to take the wind out of the sails of her antagonist, shoot ahead, lay across her bow, rake her, and probably secure a victory. Her mizzen rigging was entangled in the fore-chains of the Shannon, in which position the decks of the Chesapeake were swept with terrible effect by the balls of her antagonist. Lawrence ordered his boarders to be called up. There was some delay, when a musket-ball mortally wounded the gallant young commander, and he was carried below. As he left the deck he said, “Tell the men to fire faster, and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks.” These words of the dying hero slightly paraphrased to “Don't give up the ship,” became the battle-cry of the Americans, and the formula of an encouraging maxim in morals for those who are struggling in life's contests.

Broke's boarders now swarmed upon the deck of the Chesapeake, and Lieutenant Ludlow, the second in command, was mortally wounded by a sabre cut. After [116] a severe struggle, in which the Americans lost, in killed and wounded, 146 men, vietory remained with the Shannon. The British lost eighty-four men. Broke sailed immediately for Halifax with his prize, and the day before his arrival there (June 7) Lawrence expired, wrapped in the flag of the Chesapeake.

England rang with shouts of exultation because of this victory. An American writer remarked: “Never did any victory —not even of Wellington in Spain, nor those of Nelson—call forth such expressions of joy on the part of the British” ; a proof that our naval character had risen in their estimation. Lawrence fought under great disadvantages. He had been Chesney, in command of the ship only about ten days, and was unacquainted with the abilities of her officers and men; some of the former were sick or absent. His crew were almost mutinous because of disputes concerning prize-money, and many of them had only recently enlisted; besides, the feeling among the sailors that she was an “unlucky” ship was disheartening.

The remains of Lawrence and Ludlow were conveyed to Salem, Mass., where funeral honors were paid to them on Aug. 23. Early in September they were conveyed to New York, and were deposited (Sept. 16) in Trinity church-yard. The corporation of the city of New York erected a marble monument to Lawrence, which becoming dilapidated, the vestry of Trinity Church erected a handsome mausoleum of brown freestone (1847), neat the southeast corner of Trinity Church, close by Broadway, in commemoration of both Lawrence and Ludlow, and eight trophy cannon were placed around it. Captain Lawrence's coat, chapeau, and sword are now in possession of the New Jersey Historical Society.

The freedom of the city of London and a sword were given to Captain Broke by the corporation; the Prince Regent knighted him; and the inhabitants of his native county (Suffolk) presented him with a gorgeous piece of silver as a testimonial of their sense of his eminent services. the Chesapeake was taken to England and sold to the government for about $66,000, and in 1814 was put in commission. In 1820 she was sold to a private gentleman for a very small sum, who broke her up and sold her timbers for building purposes, much of it for making houses in Portsmouth, and a considerable portion for the erection of a mill at Wickham, 9 miles from Portsmouth.

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