Warranted a midshipman on 10 November 1799, William Burrows served in the West Indies in Portsmouth during the Quasi War with France and remained in that man of war when she sailed to Europe in 1800 to bring back the envoys of the United States who had negotiated the treaty ending that conflict. He was in charge of the frigate United States in 1801 and 1802 while that warship was laid up in the Washington Navy Yard. During American wars with the Barbary pirates, he saw Mediterranean service in Constitution, Vixen, Siren, and Essex between 1801 and 1807 and received his commission as a lieutenant on 19 March of the latter year.
At sea in command of Enterprise when war with England was declared in 1812, Burrows cruised along the east coast of the United States in that brig during the first year of the conflict. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise's lookouts sighted the Royal Navy brig Boxer, and the American warship gave chase. When she had drawn within range of her opponent, Enterprise opened fire, starting a fierce engagement in which both Burrows and the captain of the British warship were killed before Boxer surrendered.
(Galley: t. 70 (c.); l. 75'; b. 15'; dph. 4'; cpl. 40; a. 1 24-pdr. sb., 1 18-pdr. Columbiad)
The first Burrows--a row galley built by Adam and Noah Brown of New York City at Vergennes, Vt., in 1814--was launched about June 1814; placed under the command of Sailing Master Samuel Keteltas; and operated on Lake Champlain in the squadron commanded by Commodore Thomas Macdonough.
The construction of Macdonough's squadron had been undertaken in response to the British strategy of attempting a thrust down the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor, a ploy that could only succeed if the British controlled the lake. As a resuIt, the two sides embarked upon a shipbuilding race in the hope of attaining the naval superiority on that strategic body of water necessary to assure victory.
At the end of August, the British Governor General of Canada, Sir George Prevost, headed south from Canada with between 11,000 and 14,000 men and on 5 September occupied the northern part of Plattsburg, N.Y.--the main United States base in that theatre, as the hopelessly outnumbered 1,500 American troops retreated to a prepared position on the cliffs that run along the southern bank of the Saranac River.
Meanwhile, Macdonough had stationed the warships of his squadron in two lines across the entrance to Plattsburg bay. Burrows, her sister row galleys, and the other small vessels of the flotilla occupied the second or inner line where they were somewhat protected by the larger American vessels which they, in turn, supported. On the morning of 11 September, the British fleet--commanded by Commodore George Downie--sailed south past the tip of Cumberland Head, turned to starboard, and headed into the bay to attack Macdonough's warships whose broadsides faced the Britishers' bows. By slowing Downie's advance, even the wind favored the Americans who, although anchored, were in the ideal tactical position of crossing their opponent's "T." During the ensuing bloody action--in which Burrows and the other American oar-propelled vessels played a minor, but significant, role--Macdonough's force decisively defeated and captured Downie's fIeet. The victory gave the United States absolute control of Lake Champlain and forced Prevost's army to retreat to Canada, completely thwarting British strategy.
After a treaty of peace had been ratified early the following year, Burrows was laid up at Whitehall, N.Y. She was sold there on 6 June 1825.
James L. Mooney
21 November 2005