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.
(DD-250: displacement 1,190 tons; length 314'5"; beam 31'8"; draft 9'3"; speed 35 knots; complement 101; armament 4 4-inch guns, 1 3-inch guns, 2 depth charge tracks, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Clemson)
The fourth Lawrence, a 1190-ton Clemson class destroyer built at Camden, New Jersey, was laid down 14 August 1919 by New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched 10 July 1920; sponsored by Miss Ruth Lawrence; and commissioned 18 April 1921, Lt. Comdr. John H. Wellbrock in command.
After shakedown, Lawrence was assigned to the Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in June 1922, arriving off Constantinople on 4 July. For the next year, the destroyer cruised in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea as U.S., British, French and other Allied forces rendered aid to refugees and humanitarian crises caused by the Russian Civil War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In addition to assisting Red Cross workers and U.S. Food Administration officials in the region, Lawrence and the other destroyers of her squadron helped evacuate thousands of Greek refugees from Asia Minor which had been occuppied by Turkish troops. Lawrence returned to New York on 30 October 1923 and resumed local operations.
From late 1923 until early 1931 Lawrence served with the Scouting Fleet in the Atlantic and Caribbean, with occasional transits through the Panama Canal to take part in exercises in the Pacific. She also made several Naval Reserve training cruises and was employed off Central America in February and March during unrest in Nicaraguan Civil War in 1927. Returned to Philadelphia later that year, Lawrence decommissioned there on 6 January 1931.
Recommissioned 13 June 1932, Lt. Comdr. Thomas F. Downey in command, Lawrence sailed to San Diego, where she reported for duty on 8 September. She operated there for almost six years, conducting fleet exercises and tactical training drills until she again went out of commission on 13 September 1938.
The outbreak of World War II in Europe brought her back into the active fleet on 26 September 1939, Comdr. Horace D. Clarke in command. The rest of that year, and nearly all of 1940, saw Lawrence operating in the Caribbean and Atlantic on patrol and anti-submarine warfare training service. Returning to the Pacific on 27 December 1940 and later assigned to the Sound School at San Diego, she began convoy escort work soon after the United States entered the Second World War on 7 December 1941. During much of 1942 she shepherded shipping along the West Coast, steaming from San Francisco as far north as the Aleutian Islands. From September 1942 until the end of the war, Lawrence provided patrol and escort services out of San Francisco. On 31 May 1944 she rescued nearly 200 men from the steamship Henry Bergh, which had gone aground in the nearby Farralon Islands. Sent to the East Coast in late August 1945, Lawrence was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 24 October 1945 and sold to Boston Metal Co., Baltimore, Md., for scrapping on 1 October 1946.
20 July 2005