The frigate U.S.S. Chesapeake commanded by Captain James Lawrence was defeated in a sea battle by the British frigate H.M.S. Shannon commanded by Captain Phillip Broke just outside of Boston Harbor. The battle which only lasted 11 minutes cost the Americans 148 killed and wounded as well as 83 British seaman killed or wounded. Almost all the American officers were casualties including Captain Lawrence who was being carried below deck after suffering from multiple wounds gave as his final order to his crew, "Don't give up the ship!, Fight her till she sinks!" Lawrence died of his wounds three days after the battle while the Chesapeake was being taken to Halifax as a prize.
The British Captain, Phillip Broke, was also severely injured in the battle. While leading a boarding party on to the Chesapeake, he suffered a cutlass slash to his head, which opened a three inch gash in his skull and exposed his brain. Captain Broke survived this terrible wound and lived for about 28 years after the battle. He stayed in the navy, but due to the nature of his wounds, was never able to have command of a ship again.
Lawrence was given a hero's funeral by the British in Halifax, and after the war ended his body was brought back to America to be buried in New York.
Laurence's fighting spirit lived on. His death would be reported to his friend and fellow officer Oliver Hazard Perry, who would order a large blue battle ensign stitched with the phrase "DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP" [sic] in bold white letters. The Perry Flag would fly from his flagship during his victorious engagement against the British on Lake Erie in September, 1813.
This flag is now displayed in Memorial Hall at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
Food for Thought – 24 June 2017
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