A British name. Capt. John Lawford commanded HMS Polyphemus during the Battle of Copenhagen 2 April 1801.
DE-516 was laid down by Boston Navy Yard 9 July 1943; launched 13 August 1943; transferred to the United Kingdom under lend lease 3 November 1943; and commissioned as Lawford the same day. As one of 78 “Captain” class destroyer escorts, she served the Royal Navy in the Atlantic prior to the invasion of Europe. She supported the Normandy invasion 6 June 1944, and was bombed and sunk off Juno Beach while supporting landings 8 June 1944.
James Lawrence, born in Burlington, N.J., 1 October 1781 and entered the Navy as Midshipman, 4 September 1798. After service in frigates Ganges and Adams, he became first lieutenant of schooner Enterprise. On 2 June 1803 he put off from Enterprise as second in command of David Porter’s expedition in seven small boats and rowed for the shore of Tripoli where more than a thousand enemy had drawn up behind a barricade of 12 craft and shore structures. Musket fire from five of the American boats kept the enemy at bay while the other two went among the enemy craft and set them ablaze. They returned to their warships some 2 hours later without the loss of a life during the daring attack on the enemy’s shore. Lawrence was second in command under Stephen Decatur in the expedition to burn captured frigate Philadelphia in ketch Intrepid, 16 February 1804.
During the years that followed he commanded Gunboat Number 6, Vixen, Wasp, and Argus. He sailed for Europe as commander of Hornet in the fall of 1811 and returned the following May with the last dispatches from England before the declaration of war, 19 June 1812. Three days later he took Hornet to sea with the squadron of Commodore John Rodgers which took seven prizes including a privateer captured by Hornet offthe banks of Newfoundland on 9 July 1812. He next set sail on 27 October in company with Commodore Bainbridge in frigate Constitution for the coast of South America. He blockaded British sloop-of-war Bonne Citoyenne at Salvador (now Bahia), offering every challenge to get her out of the harbor for a fight until 24 January 1813 when 74-gun British ship Montagu made an appearance. Escaping the latter antagonist in the dark of night, he cruised northward off Pernambuco where he captured the brig Resolution. Off the mouth of the Demerara River 10 days later, he fought British brig Peacock forcing her to strike her colors, but she rapidly sank. Lawrence returned home 19 March, was promoted to captain as of 3 March 1813, and took command of Chesapeake at Boston harbor on 20 May.
On 1 June 1813 he sailed out to meet the challenge of the 38-gun British frigate Shannon. After a furious exchange of broadsides at pistol shot range for some 12 minutes, his sails were destroyed as he passed broadside and Chesapeake fouled her mizzen rigging with the Shannon’s fore chains. Unable to answer her helm, she was helpless before a raking fire. Lawrence was mortally wounded but spent his ebbing strength urging his men to “Fight her till she sinks!” and “Don’t give up the ship!”
(Brig: t. 493; l. 109'9"; b. 16'3"; dph. 4'8"; cpl. 134; a. 2 long 12-pdrs., 18 short 32-pdr. cars.)
The first Lawrence, a brig built at Presque Isle (Erie), Pa., by Adam and Noah Brown under the supervision of Sailing Master Daniel Dobbins and Capt. Oliver H. Perry, was launched 24 May 1813.
Lawrence and the other ships of Perry’s squadron were held at Erie both by British blockade and lack of crews, until 1 August, when the British squadron retired. Taken over Erie’s protective bar by ingenious use of “camels” Lawrence reached deep water 4 August; and 5 days later, Capt. Jesse D. Elliott arrived with some 100 officers and men to help man the little fleet. The squadron sailed in search of the British 12 August, located it in the mouth of the Detroit River, and waited for its sortie.
Battle came 10 September, Perry in Lawrence leading the attack, and drawing concentrated fire from the British until Lawrence became an unmanageable wreck. He then transferred to Niagara who had been unable to close the enemy in the earlier stages of the action. From her deck he regrouped his squadron and came down through the enemy line, Niagara pouring broadsides into the British ships until victory was secured, and with it control of Lake Erie, freeing the upper lakes from the threat of invasion.
Lawrence was ordered sunk for preservation in Misery Bay in July 1815. The property of Erie Station was disposed of by auction in 1825 and Lawrence was purchased by Benjamin H. Brown of Rochester, N.Y. She was resold to Capt. George Miles of Erie. He raised her in 1836 but allowed her to sink again when she was found so badly fiddled that she would require docking and thorough repair. She lay in the depth of Misery Bay until 1876, then was raised, cut in half, and transported on flatcars of a railway to the Centennial grounds at Philadelphia. She was exhibited outside the grounds in a small building and completely destroyed there by fire.