James Lawrence was born in Burlington, New Jersey, on 1 October 1781. Though educated in the field of law, he joined the infant United States Navy in September 1798 as a Midshipman and served in the ship Ganges and frigate Adams during the undeclared war with France. Commissioned in the rank of Lieutenant in 1802, he served in the schooner Enterprise during the War with Tripoli, taking part in a successful attack that burned enemy craft ashore on 2 June 1803. In February 1804 he was second in command of ketch Intrepid during the daring expedition to destroy the captured frigate Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor. Later in the conflict he commanded Enterprise and a gunboat in battles with the Tripolitans. He was also First Lieutenant of the frigate John Adams and, in 1805, commanded the small Gunboat Number 6 during a voyage across the Atlantic to Italy.
Subsequently, Lieutenant Lawrence commanded the warships Vixen, Wasp and Argus. In 1810 he also took part in trials of an experimental spar-torpedo. Promoted to the rank of Master Commandant in November 1810, he took command of the sloop of war Hornet a year later and sailed her to Europe on a diplomatic mission. From the beginning of the War of 1812, Lawrence and Hornet cruised actively, capturing the privateer Dolphin on 9 July 1812. Later in the year Hornet blockaded the British sloop Bonne Citoyenne at Bahia, Brazil, and on 24 February 1813 captured HMS Peacock.
Upon his return to the United States in March, Lawrence learned of his promotion to Captain. Two months later he took command of the frigate Chesapeake, then preparing for sea at Boston, Massachusetts. She left port on 1 June 1813 and immediately engaged the Royal Navy frigate Shannon in a fierce battle. Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by small arms fire, ordered "Don't give up the ship" as he was carried below. However, his crew was overwhelmed by British boarders shortly afterwards. James Lawrence died of his wounds on 4 June, while Chesapeake was being taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by her captors. His body was later repatriated to New York for burial.
(Brig: displacement 364 tons; length 109'9"; depth 13'3"; complement 80; armament 2 32-pounders, 8 short 32-pounder carronades)
The second Lawrence was launched by Langley B. Culley at Baltimore 1 August 1843 and commissioned 19 September 1843, Comdr. William H. Gardner in command.
After sailing to the Norfolk Navy Yard on 11 October 1843, Lawrence fitted out for a cruise to the West Indies. Underway 16 November, the ship cruised along the northern coast of South America until returning to Pensacola, Fla., 25 January 1844. She began a second cruise on 5 February, visiting Havana, Cuba, before proceeding north to Hampton Roads 8 March for repairs at the Norfolk Navy Yard.
As tensions escalated in the Gulf of Mexico, Lawrence sailed south to join the Home Squadron on 14 June. She spent the next year cruising along the Gulf Coast, providing security to American shipping in the region and helping suppress piracy. After war broke out following a clash of arms in Texas on 25 April 1846, Lawrence cruised on a blockade station off the Mexican coast, remaining there until 17 June. In the interim, the brig landed sailors to help protect Point Isabel on 31 April. Lawrence's usefulness was limited by a deep draft that limited her to deeper water, as well as limited cargo space, and the brig was ordered to New York, arriving there via Pensacola on 3 September.
The brig decommissioned at New York on 12 September 1846 and was sold at Boston later in the year.
20 July 2005