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July 11, 2013

American Frigate Lost

Cooperstown Crier


From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, July 10, 1813

Compiled, with comments


USS Chesapeake vs. HMS Shannon

Letter from the Surgeon’s mate of USS Chesapeake, to a friend, dated Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 8, 1813

“The whole number of killed and wounded are estimated at about 160 or 170. I need not inform you of our misfortune in losing the Chesapeake, as you already too well know it; nor will I attempt to state to you the particulars of the action ... The captain is dead, & was buried here this morning in a becoming manner.”


Letter from the Surgeon of USS Chesapeake, same date and place

“About 44 minutes past 5, when within pistol shot of the Shannon, we received her broadside which we returned, and at the first Capt. Lawrence was wounded in the leg. Three or four broadsides were exchanged, when the ship had her head topsail tie shot away and her spanker brails fouled by cut rigging.

“Captain Lawrence was wounded through the body mortally by a musket ball ... The ship being unmanageable, she fell on board the Shannon, when they immediately threw 200 men on our decks. Our boarders were called away, but the man whose duty it was to give the signal from fright or some other cause did not give it. Lieut. Budd was informed...that the boarders were called away — he instantly ... sprang on deck, but was severely wounded, having but a part of his men; the rest having followed a rascally boatswain’s mate into the hold. I have not time to be more particular.... Capt. Lawrence mortally wounded — died the 4th of June ... We lost from 40 to 60 killed and 104 wounded, 15 mortally. Capt. Broke of the Shannon is like to recover.”

COMMENT: The British Frigate HMS Shannon defeated and captured the American Frigate USS Chesapeake on June 1, 1813, in the Atlantic near Boston. The two ships were about equally matched and the duel lasted only a few minutes. The Shannon then took the captured Chesapeake to the British naval base at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it became a British warship.

American Captain James Lawrence (1781-1813) was an American hero for his bravery during the first Barbary War in 1804. He was mortally wounded during the combat with the Shannon, and as he lay dying called out “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” which — though not heeded in this case — became a favorite U.S. Navy slogan.

British Captain Philip Broke (1776-1841) had given his men unusually rigorous training in gunnery, and as the ships approached instructed his gunners to: “Throw no shot away. Aim every one. Keep cool. Work steadily. Fire into her quarters – main-deck to main-deck, quarterdeck to quarterdeck. Don’t try to dis-mast her. Kill the men and the ship is yours.” Broke led the men who boarded and captured the Chesapeake, suffering a serious head wound, from which he only partially recovered.

This was very welcome news for the British, after the victories won by the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) the previous year. British Captain Broke became an instant British hero; he was created a Baronet, given a rare gold medal, and eventually became a Rear Admiral. A well-known ballad was written about the fight.

Bye-Bye Dearborn

Letter from Major General Lewis to the Secretary of War, June 14, 1813.

SIR—You will perceive by the enclosed copy of orders...that Gen. Dearborn, from indisposition, has resigned his command, not only of the Niagara army but the District. I have doubts whether he will ever again be fit for service. He had been repeatedly in a state of convalescence; but relapses on the least agitation of mind ... MORGAN LEWIS

COMMENT: Major General Henry Dearborn (1751-1829) was at this time “Senior Officer of the United States Army,” in charge of the Northeast sector. A distinguished veteran of the Revolution, in which he served from the Battles of Bunker Hill to Yorktown, he was Secretary of War under President Jefferson from 1801-1809, where he worked on a project to send Native Americans to the other side of the Mississippi River. Called to active duty in the War of 1812, his performance ranged from doubtful to incompetent.

As this article suggests, General Dearborn was sent home in 1813 and reassigned to administrative duties. President Madison tried to get him reinstalled as Secretary of War, but the Senate refused to confirm him. After the War of 1812 he served briefly as American Minister to Portugal. Major General Morgan Lewis (1754-1844) was a New York politician (Governor from 1804-1807) and served as Quarter-master General during the War of 1812, as well as on active duty. In New York State Lewis County, and the Towns of Lewiston and Lewis, are named after him.

Twenty Cents Reward

RUN away from the subscriber on the 30th of June last, an apprentice boy, named John Burrell, in the sixteenth year of his age; this is therefore, to forbid all persons harboring or trusting him on the penalty of the law — whoever will return said apprentice, shall receive the above reward and no charges paid. ASAEL WHIPPLE, Hartwick, July 5, 1813.

COMMENT: Asael (Asahel) Whipple (1764-1846) died in Hartwick on July 1, 1846 and is buried in the old Hartwick and Robinson Cemetery. He came from Providence, Rhode Island, married Lucy Wood (1762-1847) in 1784, and had three children. He settled in Hartwick in 1795, and in 1818 became a Justice of the Peace.

Another Runaway

Left the subscriber, on the 25th of June last, Stephen Thorn, an indented servant, 14 years of age. Whoever will return said Thorn shall be entitled to three cents reward and no charges paid. SETH POPE. Burlington, July 2, 1813.

COMMENT: Seth Pope (1775-1857) came from Plainfield, Conn., and inherited the farm in Burlington, that his father had purchased from William Cooper. There he cared for his mother until her death. He had two wives, 12 children, and died in Cortland.