USS PRESIDENT Chasing HMS BELVIDERA, June 1812
On 23 June 1812, Commodore Rodgers in the 44-gun, 24-pounder frigate USS PRESIDENT, with the 26-gun, 18-pounder frigate USS CONGRESS, Captain Smith, the 20-gun ship USS HORNET, Captain James Lawrence, and the 16-gun brig USS ARGUS, Lieutenant Sinclair, having heard that the homeward bound West India Fleet had been seen steering to the eastward, directed his course accordingly. At 6am, they gained sight of the 18-pounder, 36-gun British frigate HMS BELVIDERA, Captain Richard Byron, standing toward the American squadron. At 11:30am, BELVIDERA hoisted her colors, as did the American ships. Captain Byron got two main deck guns to the stern ports by cutting away the cabin windows and two quarter deck carronades pointed through the chase ports. At 4:20pm, the PRESIDENT, at 600 yards commenced firing her bow guns with 3 shots taking effect in BELVIDERA's counter and the 4th struck the muzzle of the larboard chase gun. At 4:25pm, BELVIDERA opened fire on PRESIDENT and, shortly afterward, one of PRESIDENT's guns exploded, killing and wounding 16 persons, including Commodore Rodgers (broken leg). It being evident that PRESIDENT was able to run alongside at pleasure, Captain Byron cut away all her anchors except her best bower. At 6:30pm, CONGRESS commenced firing but her shot fell short. To get rid of this second adversary, BELVIDERA's yawl, barge, gig, and jolly boats were thrown overboard or cut away and 14 tons of water was started over the side. At 8pm, the pursuing frigates had dropped two miles and, at 11:25pm, PRESIDENT, then three miles astern of her chase, hove to and rejoined her consorts.
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Watercolor Painting, BW Photo