Skip to main content
<p>To the Captain, Officers and Brave Crew of His Majesty's Frigate Endymion – as an Humble Record of British Skill and Valor of the Gallant Action on the 15<sup>th</sup> day of January &nbsp;With The United States Ship President Commanded by Commodore Decatur</p>

USS President vs HMS Endymion

Related Content
USS President vs HMS Endymion

USS President was in New York Harbor with USS Peacock and USS Hornet, and the tender USS Tom Bowline. They were preparing to break out past the British blockade to embark on cruises against British merchant shipping. A storm blew up from the northwest on January 13 1815. The British ships were blown off their station to the southeast. Decatur determined to take advantage of the situation by breaking out with President alone. The plan was that the smaller warships would break out later and rendezvous with President off Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic.

Decatur immediately met with disaster and President grounded on the bar and remained stuck there for almost two hours, enduring a pounding from the wind and heavy sea. The frigate sustained damaged by the time that it worked free, some copper was stripped away from the hull, the masts were twisted and some of them had developed long cracks. He decided that it was impossible for President to return to port, the wind was not favorable.

While President and the crew were struggling to float off the sand bar, the British blockading squadron was fighting to return to their station. As the winds slowed, the British regrouped. They realized that American ships might have taken the opportunity to leave port unobserved, so Tenedos was sent to watch the Sandy Hook passage and the rest headed north to watch the Long Island passage, rather than heading back to the harbor entrance.

The British squadron sighted President at dawn on January 14. The winds had waned but they were still strong. In heavy seas and high winds, the largest ship will have the advantage in speed and HMS Majestic, commanded by Commodore John Hayes gained on President. After Majestic had fired some ranging shots that fell short, Pomone overtook Majestic and led the pursuit, but Tenedos appeared unexpectedly to the south and Pomone was sent to investigate in case the ship was another American ship. HMS Endymion overtook the rest of the British squadron. Endymion was the fastest ship in the Royal Navy.

In the afternoon, Endymion and President began exchanging fire. Endymion was position on President's starboard quarter. From this position, Endymion engaged President. Decatur attempted to close on Endymion, but he discovered that President's damage limited her maneuverability.

Decatur ordered bar- and chain-shot to be fired to disable Endymion's sails and rigging. But President was trapped; Decatur could not escape to the north, as he would have reached the Long Island shore and been forced to the east once more; nor could he escape to the south, as Endymion would most likely slow President enough that the rest of the British squadron would catch up.

Endymion raked President's hull, then quickly returned to position on President's quarter where President's guns could not fire. The broadside sent splinters flying in the President's deck where Decatur was standing.  A large splinter hit him in the chest and knocked him over. Endymion repeated the maneuver three more times and did considerable damage. Decatur had hoped to put Endymion out of the chase and escape, but Endymion aimed into President's hull, specifically targeting the gun ports. Many members of President's gun crews were killed or wounded, significantly reducing President's ability to fire back at Endymion. By contrast, President primarily directed her fire at Endymion's rigging in order to slow her down.

The President surrendered. Her rigging crippled Endymion ceased fire. Endymion could not immediately take possession, as she had no usable boats. Decatur took advantage of the situation, and made off to escape. Endymion completed repairs and resumed the chase. Pomone and Tenedos came up to the heavily damaged President and fired two ineffective broadsides. At this point, Decatur hailed to say that he had surrendered. Pomone took possession of President. President sustained 24 killed and 55 wounded. Endymion had 11 killed and 14 wounded.