Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Friendship That Gave the US Navy Its Motto~

Captain James Lawerence
Image result
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry

"Don’t Give Up The Ship”                
Are the paraphrased words of a dying Captain James Lawrence just before his ship the USS Chesapeake surrendered to the HMS Shannon in 1813.  Lawrence had been a good friend of Oliver Hazard Perry:

·         Lawrence was four years older than Perry; they first served together against the Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean
·         Lawrence (together with Stephen Decatur) was on the court martial of Captain Barron after the infamous Chesapeake Leopard affair of 1807 (the disgraced Barron eventually killed Decatur in a duel)
·         Later, Perry and Lawrence each commanded a division of gun boats in defense of New York Harbor
·         Afterward they each commanded a ship in the same squadron based out of New York – Lawrence the Argus; Perry the Revenge.  Lawrence would achieve early recognition for his actions in the Atlantic in 1812 while Perry, who had lost the Revenge on a reef would have to beg for a job with the lowly Great Lakes Fleet
·         At the beginning of the War of 1812 Lawrence set examples of compassionate treatment of captured sailors that Perry would later emulate after his victory in the Battle of Lake Erie
·         Lawrence was made a Captain (highest rank in the Navy) at age 32 and was given command of the ill-fated USS Chesapeake
·         Lawrence was captured with his ship after a rash encounter with the HMS Shannon off Boston in June 1813 (at the time, Perry was kedging ships up the Niagara River to Buffalo). Lawrence admonished his crew, “Don’t give up the ship …Lawrence died four days after the battle with the Shannon
·         In July 1813 the US Navy ordered that one of the brigs being built in Erie be named for Lawrence; Perry chose this ship as his flagship
·         In July 1813 the phase, “Don’t give up the ship, was on every tongue.” At a July 4th banquet in Baltimore it was said “May the inspiring words of the illustrious Lawrence “Don’t give up the ship be the eternal motto of every American.”
·         Perry commissioned the creation of the Don t Give Up The Ship banner for his flagship Lawrence
·         A popular verse of that time:

Up went the union jack, never up there before,
Don’t give up the ship was the motto it bore,
and as soon as that motto our gallant lads saw,
they thought of their Lawrence, and shouted huzzah!
Lawrence's grave is the most prominent in
 Manhattan's Trinity Church Cemetery

·         First buried in Halifax, Lawrence was given a full military funeral by the British (as would Perry years later). The British then allowed Lawrence’s remains to be returned for burial in New York City. Just days after the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813, Lawrence was re-interred in Trinity Cemetery where it is said 30,000 people attended his funeral procession
·         Lawrence’s conduct, death and “Don’t give up the ship” admonition, inspired the nation at the time. The victory on Lake Erie avenged not only the disgraceful American surrender of Fort Detroit but also the death of Lawrence and the insult to and loss of the USS Chesapeake
·         In 1820 the Chesapeake was broken into timber that was used to build a mill – that structure still exists in England with the battle-scarred wood of the ship still visible

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