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Rodgers, John 1771-1838

Naval officer; born in Harford county, Md., July 11, 1771; entered the navy as lieutenant in 1798, and was executive officer of the frigate Constellation, Commodore Truxtun, which captured L'Insurgente. He did good service in the Mediterranean from 1802 to 1806, commanding the squadron of Commodore Barron in 1804. In the spring of 1811 he was in command of the President, forty-four guns, and in May had a combat with the Little Belt (see President, the). His services during the War of 1812-15 were very important. When war was declared he was in the port of New York with a small squadron. He at once put to sea in pursuit of a British squadron convoying the West Indian fleet of merchantmen to England. Rodgers's flagship, the President, fell in with the Belvidera, and chased her several hours. News of this affair reaching Rear-Admiral Sawyer, at Halifax, he sent out a squadron under Captain Broke to search for Rodgers and his frigate. Broke's flag-ship was the Shannon, thirty-eight guns. This squadron appeared near New York early in [452] July, and made several captures, among them the United States brig Nautilus, fourteen guns, Lieutenant-Commander Crane. She had arrived at New York just after Rodgers left, and went out immediately to cruise in the track of the West Indian fleet. The next day she was

Commodore John Rodgers.

captured by the Shannon, and her 106 men were made prisoners. This was the first vessel of war taken on either side in that contest. A prize-crew was placed in her, and she was made one of Broke's squadron. the Nautilus was retaken by Captain Warrington, June 30, 1815, between Java and the islands of the East India Archipelago. She was also the last vessel captured on either side during the war. Informed of the proclamation of peace, Warrington gave up the Nautilus to the English and returned home.

While Commodore Porter was on his extended cruise in the Pacific Ocean (see Essex, the), Commodore Rodgers was on a long cruise in the North Atlantic in his favorite frigate, the President. He left Boston on April 27, 1813, in company with the Congress, thirty-eight guns, and, after a cruise of 148 days, arrived at Newport, R. I., having captured eleven merchant vessels and the British armed schooner Highflyer. Rodgers sailed northeastward, in the direction of the southern edge of the Gulf Stream, until May 8, when the President and Congress separated, near the Azores. For weeks Rodgers was singularly unsuccessful, not meeting with a vessel of any kind. When his presence in British waters became known, it produced great excitement among the English shipping. Many cruisers were sent out to capture or destroy the President. Rodgers's supplies finally began to fail in the Northern seas, and he put into North Bergen, Norway, for the purpose of replenishment. In this, too, he was disappointed. An alarming scarcity of food prevailed all over the country, and he could only get water. He cruised about in those high latitudes, hoping to fall in with a fleet of English merchantmen that were to sail from Archangel; but, instead of these, he suddenly fell in with two British ships-of-war. Unable to contend with them, the President fled, hotly pursued. Owing to the perpetual daylight there, they were enabled to chase her for fully eighty hours. She finally escaped. Rodgers had got some supplies from two merchantmen which he had captured just before meeting the men-of-war, and he turned westward to intercept such vessels coming out of the Irish Channel.

He soon afterwards met and captured these (July and August), and, after making a complete circuit of Ireland, he steered for the Banks of Newfoundland. Towards evening, Sept. 23, the President fell in with the British armed schooner Highflyer, the tender to Admiral Warren's flagship St. Domingo. She was a stanch vessel and fast sailer, and was commanded by Lieutenant Hutchinson, one of Cockburn's subalterns when he plundered and burned Havre de Grace, the home of Rodgers. By stratagem, the latter decoyed the Highflyer alongside the President. Rodgers had obtained some British signalbooks before leaving Boston, and he had caused some signal-flags to be made on his ship. When he came in sight of the Highflyer, he raised a British ensign, [453] which was responded to, and a signal was also displayed at the mast-head of the Highflyer. Rodgers was delighted to find he possessed its complement. He signalled that his vessel was the Sea Horse, one of the largest of the British vessels of its class in American waters. the Highflyer bore down and hove to close to the President, and received one of Rodgers's lieutenants on board, who was dressed in British naval uniform. He bore an order from Rodgers, under an assumed name, to send his signal-books on board the Sea Horse to be altered, as the Yankees, it was alleged had obtained possession of some of them. Hutchinson obeyed, and Rodgers was put in possession of the whole signal correspondence of the British navy.

Hutchinson soon followed his signalbooks, putting into Rodgers's hands a bundle of despatches for Admiral Warren. He told the commodore that the chief object of the admiral then was to capture the President, which had spread alarm in British waters. “What kind of a man is Rodgers?” asked the commodore. The unsuspecting lieutenant replied, “I have never seen him, but I am told he is an odd fish, and hard to catch.” “Sir!” said Rodgers, with emphasis that startled Hutchinson, “do you know what vessel you are on board of?” The lieutenant answered, “Why, yes, sir, his Majesty's ship Sea Horse.” “Then, sir,” said Rodgers, “you labor under a mistake; you are on board the President, and I am Commodore Rodgers.” At that moment the band struck up Yankee Doodle on the President's quarter-deck, the American ensign was displayed, and the uniforms of the marines were suddenly changed from red to blue. The lieutenant was astonished and utterly overwhelmed with shame, for the sword at his side had been taken from Rodgers's house at Havre de Grace. He had been instructed not to fall into the hands of Rodgers, for, it was alleged, the commodore would hang him to the yard-arm. But Rodgers treated him with great courtesy, and soon afterwards released him on parole. This transaction occurred off the New England coast, and three days afterwards Rodgers entered Newport Harbor with his prize. In December he cruised southward with some success, and finally he dashed through the British blockading squadron off Sandy Hook (Feb. 14, 1814) and sailed into New York Harbor. He was entertained at a banquet in New York, at which he gave the following toast: “Peace—if it can be obtained without the sacrifice of national honor or the abandonment of maritime rights; otherwise war until peace shall be secured without the sacrifice of either.” From 1815 to 1824 he was president of the board of naval commissioners, acting as Secretary of the Navy a while in the latter part of 1823. On his return from a cruise in the Mediterranean (1824-27) he was again in the board of naval commissioners, which position he relinquished in 1837. He died in Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 1, 1838.

Naval officer; born in Harford county, Md., Aug. 8, 1812; son of the preceding; entered the navy in 1828. He was made captain in July, 1862; commanded the Hancock in an exploring expedition to the North Pacific

Rear-Admiral John Rodgers.

and China seas (1853-56), and in 1862 superintended the construction of ironclad gunboats on Western waters. In 1862 he was assigned to command an expedition up the James River. When Huger fled from Norfolk, the Confederate flotilla [454] went up the James River, pursued by Commodore Rodgers, whose flag-ship was the Galena, the round-top of which was iron-clad, so as to make it a safe lookout.

An armored Lookout.

The pursuers met with no obstructions until they approached Drury's Bluff, a bank on the right side of the James, nearly 200 feet in height, about 8 miles below Richmond. Below this point were two rows of obstructions in the river, formed by spiles and sunken vessels, and the shores were lined with rifle-pits filled with sharp-shooters. the Galena anchored within 600 yards of the battery, and opened fire upon it on the morning of May 15. A sharp fight was kept up until after eleven o'clock, when the ammunition of the Galena was nearly expended, and the flotilla withdrew. Rodgers lost in the attack twenty-seven men and a 100-pound rifled cannon, which burst on board the gunboat Naugatuck, disabling her. The Confederate loss in the battery was ten. Rodgers fell back to City Point. In June, 1863, in the monitor Weehawken, he captured the powerful Confederate ram Atlanta in Wassaw Sound. In the monitor Monadnock, he made the passage around Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1867; and in 1871 he captured the Korean forts, with the Asiatic fleet. He was promoted rearadmiral in 1869; commanded the Asiatic Squadron in 1870-72; and was superintendent of the Naval Observatory from 1877 till his death, in Washington, D. C., May 5, 1882.

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