James Lawrence (1781-1813), American naval officer, became a symbol of bravery to the American Navy during the War of 1812 with his dying words, "Don't give up the ship."
James Lawrence was born in Burlington, N. J., on Oct. 1, 1781, and was educated in the local grammar school. Disliking the law, which he had begun to study, Lawrence entered the Navy as a midshipman in 1798. He survived President Thomas Jefferson's naval cutback in 1801 and rose to lieutenant's rank by early 1802. Lawrence established his reputation during the Tripolitan War as second in command during Capt. David Porter's daring boat raid on Tripoli and again when Capt. Stephen Decatur burned the American frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured by the enemy.
Lawrence was promoted to master commandant in December 1811 and was captain of the Hornet at the outbreak of the War of 1812 with England. Under Commodore William Bainbridge, Lawrence met the British brig Peacock off the coast of South America on Feb. 24, 1813. The Peacock was comparable in size to the Hornet but carried about two-thirds of its armament. Fifteen minutes after the battle commenced, the Peacock surrendered and sank almost at once with part of its crew.
Lawrence had been promoted to captain before news of his victory reached America. In May he was ordered to Boston to assume command of the frigate Chesapeake. His orders were to sail at once in order to intercept badly needed British supplies bound for Canada. He unwisely disregarded these instructions, instead fighting the British frigate Shannon, then blockading Boston. Although the ships were matched in armaments, the Chesapeake's crew was inexperienced and undisciplined. The Shannon's crew was superior both in seamanship and gunnery practice. The battle, 30 miles off Boston Harbor, lasted less than 15 minutes. The Chesapeake was forced to surrender and was taken to Halifax as a prize.
As he was being carried belowdecks, mortally wounded, Lawrence called out, "Don't give up the ship," a rallying cry soon taken up by the American Navy and used as Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry's battle flag in the Battle of Lake Erie. Lawrence was buried with military honors in Halifax, but his body was returned to the United States under flag of truce and reinterred in Trinity Churchyard, New York City, on Sept. 16, 1813.
Source accounts of Lawrence's activities in the war with Tripoli are in Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, published by the U.S. Office of Naval Records and Library (7 vols., 1939-1946). A lively secondary account of these same years is Glenn Tucker, Dawn like Thunder (1963). For a critical evaluation of Lawrence's role in the War of 1812 see either Theodore Roosevelt, The Naval War of 1812 (1882), or Alfred Thayer Mahan, Sea Power in its Relation to the War of 1812 (2 vols., 1905). □
"James Lawrence." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/james-lawrence
"James Lawrence." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/james-lawrence
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.
James Lawrence, 1781–1813, American naval hero, b. Burlington, N.J. He entered the navy in 1798 and saw his first important service in the Tripolitan War. In the War of 1812, as commander of the Hornet, he defeated and sank (1813) the British Peacock. He was promoted to captain and was given command of the Chesapeake at Boston. On his way out of Boston harbor he met, engaged, and was defeated by the British frigate Shannon, which had been blockading Boston. His words
"Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship"
shouted as he was carried from the deck, mortally wounded, became the popular naval battle cry
"Don't give up the ship!"
See biography by A. Gleaves (1904); P. Padfield, Broke and the Shannon (1968).
"Lawrence, James." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lawrence-james
"Lawrence, James." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lawrence-james