An American frigate built in New York City in 1794; became flag-ship of the squadron commanded by Capt. John Rodgers
at the beginning of the War
of 1812. Minister Pinkney
, at the British Court, had arranged the difficulties concerning the affair of the Chesapeake
), by which full atonement by the British
government was secured.
A favorable arrangement with the French
by the United States
had caused British cruisers on the American
coast to become more and more annoying to American commerce.
A richly laden vessel bound to France
was captured within 30 miles of New York, and early in May, 1811, a British frigate, supposed to be the Guerriere
, stopped an American brig only 18 miles from New York.
The government then resolved to send out one or two of the new frigates to protect American commerce from British cruisers.
, lying at Annapolis
, was ordered (May 6) to put to sea at once, under the command of Commodore Rodgers
exchanged signals with the stranger who bore off southward.
Thinking she might be the Guerriere
Early in the evening of May 16 Rodgers
was so near that he inquired, “What ship is that?”
The question, repeated, came from the stranger.
immediately reiterated his question, which was answered by a shot that lodged in the mainmast of the President
was about to respond in kind when a single gun from his ship was accidentally discharged.
It was followed by three shots from his antagonist, and then by a broadside, with musketry.
, “equally determined,” he said, “not to be the aggressor, or suffer the flag of my country to be insulted with impunity,” gave orders for a general fire.
His antagonist was silenced within six minutes, and the guns of the President
ceased firing, when suddenly her antagonist opened fire anew.
Again she was silenced, and at dawn the President
saw her several miles to the
He ascertained that she was his Majesty's ship Little Belt
, Capt. A. B. Bingham
, which was searching for the Guerriere
on the American
was in the port of New York when war was declared, in command of a small squadron—the President
(his flag-ship), forty-four guns; the Essex
, thirty-two, Captain Porter
; and the Hornet
, eighteen, Captain Lawrence
He received orders (June 21, 1812) to sail immediately on a cruise.
He had received information that a fleet of West India
merchantmen had sailed for England
under a convoy, and he steered for the Gulf
Stream to intercept them.
He had been joined by a small squadron under Commodore Decatur
—the United States
(flagship), forty-four guns; Congress
, thirty-eight, Captain Smith
; and Argus
, sixteen, Lieutenant-Commander St. Clair
Meeting a vessel which had been boarded by the British ship Belvidera
, thirty-six, Capt. R. Byron
pressed sail, and in the course of thirty-six hours he discovered the Belvidera
, gave chase, and overtook her off Nantucket Shoals.
pointed and discharged one of the forecastle chase-guns of the President
, and his shot went crashing through the stern-frame into the gunroom of his antagonist, driving her people from it. That was the “first hostile shot of the war fired afloat.”
A few moments afterwards one of the President's
guns burst, killed and wounded sixteen men, blew up the forecastle, and threw Rodgers
several feet in the air. As lie fell his leg was broken.
Then a shot from a stern-chaser came from the Belvidera
, killing a midshipman and one or two men. the Belvidera
now lightened her burden by cutting away anchors and casting heavy things overboard.
She gained on the President
, and at twilight (June 23) the chase was abandoned.
lost twenty-two men (sixteen by accident) killed and wounded.
lost about twelve men killed and wounded.
In the summer of 1814 Commodore Decatur
, who had long been blockaded in the Thames
, above New London, was transferred to the President
, forty-four guns, which Commodore Rodgers
had left for the new ship Guerriere
In November he had under his command at New York a squadron composed of his flag-ship; the Hornet
, eighteen guns,. Captain Biddle
; the Peacock
, eighteen, Captain Warrington
, and Tom Bowline
He had been watching the British
who had ravaged the coasts in the vicinity of Chesapeake Bay
Finally he received orders to prepare for a cruise in the East Indies
to spread havoc among the British shipping there.
On the night of June 14, 1815, the President
dropped down to Sandy Hook
, leaving the other vessels of the squadron at anchor near Staten Island
, and before morning she evaded the British
blockaders and cleared the coast.
kept the President
close along the Long Island
shore for a while, believing that a gale that blew on the 14th had driven the blockaders to the leeward.
Then he sailed boldly out to sea, and by starlight that evening he saw a strange sail ahead, within gunshot distance.
Two others soon made their appearance, and at dawn the President
was chased by four British ships-of-war, two on her quarter and two astern.
These were the Endymion
, forty guns; Pomone
, thirty-eight; Tenedos
, thirty-eight, and Majestic
, razeeZZZ, which had been blown off the coast by the gale.
, deeply laden with stores for a long cruise, soon found the Endymion
, Captain Hope
, rapidly overtaking her. Decatur
lightened his ship to increase her speed, but to little purpose.
At three o'clock in the afternoon (Sept. 16) the Endymion
came down with a fresh breeze, which the President
did not feel, and opened her bow guns upon the latter, which she quickly returned.
At five o'clock the Endymion
gained an advantageous position and terribly bruised the President
, while the latter could not bring a gun to bear on her antagonist.
It was evident that the Endymion
was endeavoring to gradually bring the President
to an unmanageable wreck, and so secure a victory.
Perceiving this, Decatur
resolved to run down upon the Endymion
and seize her as a prize by a hand-to-hand fight.
But the commander of the British vessel, wary and skilful, was not to be caught so, and managed his vessel so that they were brought abeam of each other, when both delivered
Every attempt of Decatur
to lay the President
alongside the Endymion
was foiled by Captain Hope
, who adroitly kept his ship a quarter of a mile from his antagonist.
now determined to dismantle his antagonist.
The two frigates ran side by side for two hours and a half, discharging broadsides at each other, until the Endymion
, having had most of her sails cut from the yards, fell astern, and would have struck her colors in a few minutes.
At that moment the other vessels in chase were seen by the dim starlight approaching, when the President
kept on her course and vainly tried to escape.
The pursuers closed upon her, and at eleven o'clock made a simultaneous attack.
Further resistance would have been useless, and the colors of the President
were hauled down.
delivered his sword to Captain Hayes
, of the Majestic
, which was the first vessel that came alongside the President
lost twenty-four men killed and fifty-six wounded. the Endymion
had eleven killed and fourteen wounded. the Endymion
, with her prize, sailed for Bermuda
, and both vessels were dismasted by a gale before reaching port.
When the details of the whole battle became known, the praise of Decatur
and his men was upon every lip.