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This Month in Naval History


The extensive bay Iying between Maryland and Virginia.

(Fr: t. 1,244; 1. 162'8"; b. 41'3"; dph. 20'1"; cpl. 340;
a. 30 18-pdr., 12 32-pdr.)

The first Chesapeake, a 36-gun frigate, was launched 2 December 1799 by Gosport Navy Yard and commissioned early in the following year, Captain S. Barron in command.

Chesapeake sailed from Norfolk 6 June 1800 to join the squadron patrolling off the southern coast of the United States and in the West Indies during the QuasiWar with France. During this cruise she took as prize the French privateer La Jeune Creole on 1 January 1801. One of the handful of ships retained in the Navy at the close of the war, Chesapeake was in ordinary at Norfolk during most of 1801, then was readied for her departure from Hampton Roads on 27 April 1802, bound for the Mediterranean as flagship for Commodore Richard V. Morris. Here she led in the blockade of Tripoli and convoyed American merchantmen until 6 April 1803, when she departed Gibraltar for America. Arriving at Washington Navy Yard 1 June, Chesapeake was placed in ordinary.

As tension mounted over violations of American neutrality and the practice of impressment of American seamen by the British, Chesapeake was prepared for patrol and convoy duty, and late in June 1807 stood out of Hampton Roads, passing a British squadron operating in the area to intercept French ships then at Annapolis. One of the squadron, HMS Leopard, followed Chesapeaketo sea, and on 22 June, when Chesapeake's captain properly refused to allow search for British deserters, Leopard fired on the unready Chesapeake, killing three men, wounding 18, including the captain, damaging the ship severely, and carried off four men. The frigate returned to Norfolk for repairs, and then with Captain Stephen Decatur in command, cruised off the New England coast enforcing the embarzo laws.

With the outbreak of the War of 1812, for which Chesapeake's encounter with Leopard was one of a number of emotional preparations, Chesapeake was outfitted at Boston for a lengthy Atlantic cruise. Between 13 December 1812 and 9 April 1813, she ranged from the West Indies to Africa, taking as prizes five British merchantmen, and through skillful seamanship evading the pursuit of a British 74.

At Boston, Captain J. Lawrence took command of Chesapeake 20 May 1813, and on 1 June, put to sea to meet HMS Shannon (38), the crack frigate whose written challenge had just missed Chesapeake's sailing. With a new untrained crew, Lawrenee courageously but unwisely engaged Shannon, and suffered the misfortune of having Chesapeake's rigging eut away in the early exehange of broadsides in such a manner that she lost maneuverability. Lawrence, himself was mortally wounded, and was carried below. TLe valiant crew struggled to carry out their captain's last order, "Don't give up the ship!", but were overwhelmed. Chesapeake was taken to Halifax for repairs, and later was taken into the Royal Navy. She was sold at Plymouth, England, in 1820, and broken up.

"e sloop Chesapeake was renamed Patapsco (q.v.) in 179~,hile under construction


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