HMS Shannon captures USS Chesapeake, 1 June 1813



On 9 April 1813 the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake returned to Boston after a cruise against British commercial shipping. Over the next several weeks she was refitted and received a new Commanding Officer, the recently promoted Captain James Lawrence. Many of her officers were replaced and a large percentage of her crew was newly enlisted. Though the ship was a good one, with a well-seasoned Captain, time would be necessary to work her men into a capable and disciplined combat team.

However, the time was not available. Blockading off Boston was HMS Shannon, commanded for the past seven years by Captain Philip Broke, whose attention to gunnery practice and other elements of combat readiness was extraordinary. Shannon and Chesapeake were of virtually identical strength, though the American ship's crew was rather larger, and a duel between the two was attractive to both captains. Broke even issued a formal challenge, though it did not reach Lawrence, whose previous experience with British warships had convinced him that they were not likely to be formidable opponents.

Chesapeake left Boston Harbor in the early afternoon of 1 June 1813. The two ships sailed several miles offshore, where Shannon slowed to await her opponent, who approached flying a special flag proclaiming "Free Trade and Sailors' Rights" in recognition of America's prewar grievances against British policies. Though Lawrence had a brief opportunity to rake, he did not do so, but closed to place his port broadside against Shannon's starboard battery. Somewhat before 6 PM the ships opened fire, both hitting, but the British guns did more damage and produced crippling casualties on Chesapeake's quarterdeck. Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded by small arms fire and had to be taken below, giving his final order "Don't give up the ship!"

The American ship was soon out of control. The two frigates came together. Captain Broke led his boarding party onto Chesapeake's quarterdeck, where they met fierce but disorganized resistance. Assisted by cannon and small arms fire from on board Shannon, they soon gained control above decks, though Captain Broke was badly wounded in the process. Some fifteen minutes after the battle began, Chesapeake was in British hands.

Casulaties were heavy: more than sixty killed on Chesapeake; about half that many on Shannon. The latter's cannon had made more than twice as many hits, and her boarding party demonstrated decisive superiority in hand-to-hand fighting. The action, which greatly boosted British morale, provided another of the War of 1812's many convincing examples of the vital importance of superior training and discipline in combat on sea and land.

This page features, and provides links to, all the views we have related to the action between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake.

Other images related to this battle, see:

  • HMS Shannon captures USS Chesapeake, 1 June 1813 - Views on board Chesapeake during the action.



    Click the photograph to prompt a larger view.

    Photo #: NH 63177-KN (color)

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

    Colored lithograph by L. Haghe, after a painting by J.C. Schetky based on a design by Captain R.H. King, RN. Published by Smith, Elder & Company, London, in 1830.
    This print (Plate No. 1 of four) depicts the commencement of the action, with the two frigates exchanging gunfire at close range.
    See Photo # NH 63181 for a detailed description of the action and the activity seen in each of the four prints. The series is dedicated to Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, R.N., Shannon's Commanding Officer.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 174KB; 740 x 645 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 63179-KN (color)

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

    Colored lithograph by L. Haghe, after a painting by J.C. Schetky based on a design by Captain R.H. King, RN. Published by Smith, Elder & Company, London, in 1830.
    This print (Plate No. 2 of four) depicts the scene soon after the action began, with Chesapeake "crippled and thrown into utter disorder" by Shannon's first two broadsides.
    See Photo # NH 63181 for a detailed description of the action and the activity seen in each of the four prints. The series is dedicated to Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, R.N., Shannon's Commanding Officer.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 176KB; 740 x 640 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 63178-KN (color)

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

    Colored lithograph by L. Haghe, after a painting by J.C. Schetky based on a design by Captain R.H. King, RN. Published by Smith, Elder & Company, London, in 1830.
    This print (Plate No. 3 of four) depicts Shannon "carrying by boarding" Chesapeake "after a cannonade of five minutes".
    See Photo # NH 63181 for a detailed description of the action and the activity seen in each of the four prints. The series is dedicated to Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, R.N., Shannon's Commanding Officer.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 147KB; 740 x 635 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 63180-KN (color)

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

    Colored lithograph by L. Haghe, after a painting by J.C. Schetky based on a design by Captain R.H. King, RN. Published by Smith, Elder & Company, London, in 1830.
    This print (Plate No. 4 of four) depicts Shannon "leading her prize ... into Halifax Harbour, on the 6th June 1813", with the Royal Navy's "White Ensign" flown above the United States Ensign on board Chesapeake
    See Photo # NH 63181 for a detailed description of the action and the activity seen in each of the four prints. The series is dedicated to Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, R.N., Shannon's Commanding Officer.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 137KB; 740 x 635 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 63181

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813


    Text accompanying the four lithographs by L. Haghe, published by Smith, Elder & Company, London, in 1830.
    This text provides general background information on the battle, plus detailed descriptions of the actions represented in each of the prints.
    For reproductions of the lithographs, see:

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 515KB; 1200 x 1045 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 42907

    Action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813


    Artwork depicting the two frigates exchanging gunfire early in the battle, which took place off Boston, Massachusetts.
    The text below the image is reproduced in Photo # NH 42907 (extended caption).

    Courtesy of Mr. Beverly R. Robinson, March 1937.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 121KB; 740 x 600 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 1995

    Engagement between U.S. Frigate Chesapeake and His Britannic Majesty's Frigate Shannon, off Boston, Massachusetts, 1 June 1813


    Oil painting in the collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, depicting the two ships exchanging broadsides early in the action.
    Note the "A Free Trade - Sailors Rights" flag flown from Chesapeake's forepeak.

    Courtesy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 113KB; 690 x 605 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 42905

    Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813


    Aquatint by Jeakes after a painting by Thomas Whitcombe, published 1 May 1814 by Hassell and Rickards, London. Dedicated by the publishers to Lord Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty.
    The print depicts the boarding and capture of Chesapeake by Shannon's crew.
    Note the "A Free Trade and Sailors Rights" flag flown from Chesapeake's forepeak.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection, March 1937.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 114KB; 740 x 620 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 42906

    Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813


    Print painted, engraved and published by W. Elmes, London, August 1813.
    It depicts the capture of Chesapeake off Boston, Massachusetts, after a sharp engagement and boarding by Shannon's crew. Boston light house is shown in the left background.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Beverly R. Robinson Collection, March 1937.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 127KB; 740 x 615 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 43128

    Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813


    Print published by R. Dodd, London, August 1813.
    It depicts Chesapeake at the moment of striking her flag to Shannon.

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Eberstadt Collection.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 172KB; 740 x 555 pixels

     
    Photo #: NH 55248-KN (color)

    Engagement between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, 1 June 1813

    Aquatint by Joseph Jeakes, after a painting by G. Webster made under the direction of Captain Falkner, late Lieutenant of the Shannon during the action. Published by G. Webster, 21 White Lion Street, Penton Ville.

    Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of Beverly R. Robinson, March 1937.

    U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

    Online Image: 155KB; 740 x 595 pixels

     



    For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

    To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.





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