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.
(Destroyer No. 8: displacement 430 tons; length 246'3"; beam 22'3"; draft 6'8"; speed 30 knots; complement 72; armament 2 3-inch guns, 5 6-pounder guns, 2 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Lawrence)
The third Lawrence, first of a two-ship class of 400-ton destroyers built at Weymouth, Massachusetts, was laid down 10 April 1899 by Fore River Ship & Engine Co.; launched 7 November 1900; sponsored by Miss Ruth Lawrence, great-niece of Capt. James Lawrence; and commissioned 7 April 1903, Lt. Andre M. Proctor in command.
Assigned to the 2d Torpedo Flotilla, Lawrence served along the East Coast and in the Caribbean for over four years, taking part in training and exercises off New England in the summer and out of Key West, Fla., in the winter. She decommissioned at Philadelphia 14 November 1906.
Recommissioned on 23 July 1907, Lawrence resumed operations with the Torpedo Flotilla out of Norfolk until the following spring, when the flotilla conducted a long voyage around South America to San Diego to support the circumnavigation of the world by the battleships of the "Great White Fleet." Arriving there on 28 April 1908 she helped escort the battleships into San Francisco Bay on 6 May.
Assigned to the 3d Torpedo Flotilla, Lawrence served on the Pacific Coast for nearly a decade, patrolling as far north as Canada and south to Panama. The destroyer served off Mexico during the summer of 1914, protecting American and foreign nationals during the unrest accompanying the Mexican revolution. Following the United States' entry into the First World War in April 1917, Lawrence moved to Central America, where she protected the entrances to the Panama Canal out of Balboa. This duty lasted until the end of May 1918, when she was transferred to Key West, Florida. Early in 1919, with the "Great War" at an end, she steamed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she remained until decommissioning 20 June. The old warship was sold to Joseph G. Hitner of Philadelphia on 3 January 1920.
20 July 2005