On 23 September 1779 off Flamborough Head, England, during the Revolutionary War, Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard, under the command of John Paul Jones, captured HMS Serapis. When asked to surrender his ship during the battle, Jones replied “I have not yet begun to fight!” This painting by Anton O. Fischer depicts the battle at sea. NHHC image NH 56467-KN.

On 14 August 1813, U.S. Brig Argus was captured by H.M. Brig Pelican during a battle off the coast of Britain. Among the casualties was Commander William Henry Allen, commanding officer of Argus. He was buried by the British in an elaborate full honors funeral at Plymouth, England.

On 6 August 1862 during the American Civil War, the ironclad CSS Arkansas was destroyed by her commanding officer to prevent capture by USS Essex. Arkansas suffered a severe machinery breakdown during an engagement with Essex, drifted ashore, and was burned to prevent capture. Sepia wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1904. NHHC image NH 61912-KN.

On 3 August 1804, Commodore Edward Preble’s Mediterranean Squadron launched the first of a series of bombardments on the harbor of Tripoli. Designed to destroy the defending batteries and sink enemy ships, the bombardments were a part of the blockade that Preble had established in 1803. During the course of the day-long bombardment, US forces also engaged Tripolitan gunboats which were harassing the blockading squadron. In the course of the battle Lieutenant James Decatur was killed along with two other officers wounded and 10 Seamen and Marines wounded.In this painting by Dennis Malone Carter, Decatur’s famous brother Stephen is depicted in mortal combat with the Tripolitan Captain. NHHC image NH 44647-KN.

On 13 July 1943, during the Battle of Kolombangara, destroyer USS Gwin (DD 431) was torpedoed amidships. After a losing struggle to save their critically damaged ship, her crew was taken off and the ship was scuttled. In this photo, Gwin is shown underway in 1941. NHHC image NH 97913.

On 1 June 1813, during the War of 1812, United States Frigate Chesapeake was captured in a bloody battle with HMS Shannon, off Boston. Captain James Lawrence, mortally wounded, uttered the now famous phrase “Don’t Give Up The Ship!” as he was carried below. This 19th century engraving depicts the scene, NHHC image NH 48251.

On 10 May 1775 a force commanded by Ethan Allan and Benedict Arnold crossed Lake Champlain and captured the British fort at Ticonderoga, New York. Five U.S. Navy warships have since been named in honor of this victory, including the most recent, the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS Ticonderoga (CG 47). This low angle starboard bow view of Ticonderoga was taken while she was underway during sea trials. US Navy photo DN-SC-84-00165.

BOOK REVIEW – The Privateering Stroke: Salem’s Privateers in the War of 1812

By Michael Rutstein, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Salem, MA (2012).

Reviewed by James C. Bradford, Ph.D.

Despite its important role in American defense policy from the Revolution through the War of 1812, privateering has never been the subject of a comprehensive study.  This accounts, in part, for the fact that privateering, i.e., the system of licensing privately-owned vessels and individuals to capture enemy shipping, remains so poorly understood. Popular histories and the general public, more often than not, conflate privateering and its practitioners with piracy and/or commerce raiding by national navies. Historians of the War of 1812 have long understood that economic considerations, as much as military and naval defeats, led British leaders to seek peace in 1815. The 500 privateers licensed by the U.S. government contributed significantly to that pressure by capturing an average of 33 vessels per month worth a wartime total value of $40 million. These losses drove the price of British imports upward and pushed insurance rates to unprecedented levels.

(read the full review)

On 1 May 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron, commanded by Commodore George Dewey, crushed Spanish naval forces at the Battle of Manila Bay. This halftone reproduction of an artwork by J.D. Gleason, circa 1898, depicts the action as seen from alongside the forward 8” gun turret of USS Olympia. NHHC image NH 1269.

On 29 April 1814, during the War of 1812, United States Sloop-of-War Peacock captured the British Brig Epervier off Florida.This oil on canvas by Tomiro depicts the battle. NHHC image NH 83139-KN.