Don't Give Up The Ship
On 1 June 1813, the USS Chesapeake, under the command of Captain James Lawrence sallied forth from Boston Harbor to engage the HMS Shannon during the War of 1812. Shannon was 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. Chesapeake carried a crew that had only been together a few months and used only standard gunnery procedures.
Chesapeake and Shannon engaged each other with broadsides, with Shannon punishing Chesapeake and 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." Shannon ultimately captured Chesapeake that 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 flagship Lawrence after his friend, and flew a simple blue flag with the dying words of his friend emblazoned on them: “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP.” The Lawrence was badly damaged during the battle, and Perry transferred his command to the brig Niagara and won the battle. When the British struck their colors, Perry demanded the surrender be received on-board the Lawrence so 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.
- Hook Backing
- Released: 4/22/2020