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Capture of the U.S.S. "President"

The Royal Navy ruled the seas off the coast of the United States at the end of 1814. In that year Washington had been burned, and all but a few warships were able to get past the British blockade.

The British desperately wanted to catch one of the big American frigates as a matter of pride and propaganda. Captain Broke of the Royal Navy had written "We must catch one of these great American ships with our squadron, to send her home for a show, that people may see what a great creature it is, and that our frigates have fought very well, though unlucky".

The British squadron blockading the New York. port consisted of the 56 gun razee "Majestic" commanded by Captain Hayes, the 24-pounder frigate "Endymion" commanded by Captain Hope, the 18-pounder frigate "Pomone" commanded by Captain Lumly and the 18-pounder frigate "Tenedos" commanded by Captain Parker.

In January 1815 the "U.S.S. President" commanded by Commodore Decatur made it's way out to sea in a snowstorm, leaving orders for the sloops "Peacock" and "Hornet" to rendezvous with the "President" in the south Atlantic. Unfortunately, the "President" was loaded with supplies for a long voyage to the East Indies, and not far out of port she struck a bar and was laid up for at least an hour and a half. During this time the frigate received a great deal of damage.

Decatur wanted to bring the ship back to port but was unable to do so because of a westerly gale, so he first made his way to Long Island and then went south east. Although the British squadron had been blown off station, Captain Hayes was able to predict Decatur's likely course and at approximately dawn on January 15th 1815 the "U.S.S. President" ran right into the entire British squadron.

The American crew did everything possible to make their get away, they set all sails to the maximum. They threw all spare equipment overboard, such as, lifeboats and anchors. Anything to make the ship sail faster was done.

At first the British ship "Majestic" led the chase for the "U.S.S. President". By noon, with the winds becoming light it was the "Endymion" that closed, and about 2:30 that afternoon was within range and began firing with her bow chasers. The Americans returned fire with their stern chasers. By the end of the afternoon the "Endymion" had taken a position on the starboard quarter of the "President" and began a devastating fire. The "President" could only fire back with partial broadsides. The American frigate continued on the same course, east by north expecting the "Endymion" to close, but the British kept there position. For the next half hour or so the "President" suffered a great deal of damage.

Commodore Decatur had one more weapon at his disposal, Star & Chain shot.

Star & Chain shot, or Star & Bar shot when fired would open out to form flailing patterns of steel designed to cut rigging and rip the sails apart. With the weapons loaded the "President" bore up, during this time they were hit by two raking broadsides from the British figate. The Americans returned fire and the "Endymion" was struck with a hail of Stars & Bars, this tore the sails from the British ship.

The "President started to pull away leaving the "Endymion" behind. Here it appeared that the Americans would make their get away

However, three hours later the "Pomone" caught up with the "President" and fired a starboard broadside, the "Tenedos" came up on the "President" astern and began firing a raking fire. The "Pomone" moved in and fired another devastating broadside, within musket range.

Decatur had no other choice at this point, the "President" struck her colours bringing this battle to an end.

American losses were 24 dead and 55 wounded. British losses aboard the "Endymion" were 11 dead and 14 wounded.

**NOTE* The British went to great lengths to bring the captured American frigate back to England. After runnning into another gale a few days after this battle the "President" was further damaged. By the time the American frigate reached England it was severly damaged, but we will never really know if most of the damage came from the battle, the grounding on the bar or just old age.