On 1 June 1813, the USSChesapeake, under the command of Captain James Lawrence sallied forth from Boston Harbor to engage the HMSShannonduring the War of 1812.Shannonwas under the command of Captain Philip Broke, who spent the previous six years drilling his gun crews daily.Broke would reward gun crews that hit their targets with tobacco rations and outfitted the cannon and carriages with bearing markings for individual targeting.Chesapeakecarried a crew that had only been together a few months and used only standard gunnery procedures.
ChesapeakeandShannonengaged each other with broadsides, withShannonpunishingChesapeakeand her inferior crew.Ultimately, the ships were lashed together.Lawrence ordered a boarding party, but the bugler failed to give the signal.A shot from a British Marine in the rigging struck Lawrence, mortally wounding him.As he was carried below, his final words were "Don't give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks."Shannonultimately capturedChesapeakethat afternoon, fifteen minutes from the first broadside.
In September 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry, a personal friend of James Lawrence, commanded a fleet of ships on Lake Erie.Perry named his flagshipLawrenceafter his friend, and flew a simple blue flag with the dying words of his friend emblazoned on them: “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP.” TheLawrencewas badly damaged during the battle, and Perry transferred his command to the brigNiagaraand won the battle.When the British struck their colors, Perry demanded the surrender be received on-board theLawrenceso the British could see the price his men paid.
“DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP”, a battle cry from the time of wooden ships and iron men, is still remembered today.Perry’s flag is today displayed aboard the United States Naval Academy.