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Full text of "A paper on Commodore Thomas Macdonough, United States Navy"

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AHen County Public I il 

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PO Box 2270 

Fort Wayns, IN 45801 -2270 



ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY 



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GENEALOGY 

929.2 

M147MA 



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PAPERS OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF DELAWARE. 

XVIII. 



1 



A PAPER 



COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOCGH, 



UNITED STATES NAVY. 



BY HIS GRANDSON 

RODNEY MACDONOUGH, 

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. 



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Read before the Historical Society of Delaware, January iS, 1S97. 






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THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF DELAWARE, 

WILMINGTON. 
1897. 



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Press of J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia. 



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Commodore Thomas Macdonough. 



Though small in area, Delaware has furnished her full 
proportion of those who have counted it a privilege to serve 
their country in their country's need. In the stormy days 
which preceded the birth of the young Republic and in the 
stirring times that followed, her voice was heard in the halls 
of Congress, and her arm was bared on land and sea in sup- 
port of liberty, justice, and equality. 

Delaware may well be proud of her children and they of 
her. Among those who were proud to call themselves her 
sons was one who was a Delawarean by birth, a Delawarean 
by training, and, above all, a Delawarean in his intense love 
and loyalty to his country and in the undaunted courage 
with which he maintained her honor at home and abroad, — 
Thomas Macdonough, United States Navy. 

HIS ANCESTORS. 

Delaware born and bred, his family was of Scotch origin. 
His great-grandfather Thomas lived in the district known as 
Salmon Leap, on the river Liffey, county Kildare, Ireland. 
Either he or his father, I am unable to ascertain which, was 
a native of Scotland, but, on account of the disturbed con- 
dition of the country, had emigrated to Ireland and settled 
there. This Thomas had several children, two of whom, 

3 



"'T ;; 



4 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

John and James, came to this country about 1730, — John 
settling on Long Island, and James, the ancestor of the 
Delaware line, settling in St. George's Hundred, New 
Castle County, this State, at the place then called the Trap, 
but to which the post-office department in 1844 gave the 
name McDonough. Here he lived to a good old age, dying 
in 1792, eighty years old, and was buried in the family lot 
on the farm on which he lived. His wife was Lydia, 
daughter of Peter Laroux, also of St. George's Hundred. 
She was buried beside her husband. James and Lydia left 
several children, among whom was Thomas, the commo- 
dore's father, born in 1747. 

Thomas lived in stirring times. He had adopted the 
practice of medicine, but when there came the call to arms 
in '76 he threw away the lancet and buckled on the sword. 
On March 22, 1776, he was commissioned by Congress 
major in Colonel John Haslet's regiment of Delaware troops 
in the Continental service. 

Five months later the regiment took the field. The first 
engagement in which it took part was the battle of Long 
Island. In the absence of the colonel and lieutenant- 
colonel, Major Macdonough was in command, and acquitted 
himself so as to receive the thanks of General Washington. 
During this engagement he was wounded. Then followed 
the battles of White Plains, Trenton, and Princeton, in all of 
which the regiment participated. Its loss in officers and 
men in the battle of Princeton was so great, and the time of 
most of the men having expired, the regiment was disbanded 
and never reorganized, and the major returned to his home. 

In 1782 he was colonel of the Seventh Regiment, Dela- 






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""" ... 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 5 

ware Militia. In 1788 he was appointed Third Justice of 
the Court of Common Pleas and Orphans' Court by Gov- 
ernor Collins. In 1791 Governor Clayton appointed him 
Second Justice of the Court of Common Pleas and Orphans' 
Court, and in 1793 he was again appointed by the same gov- 
ernor one of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas. 

His wife was Mary, daughter of Samuel Vance. He 
died a comparatively young man in 1795, and he and his 
wife are buried side by side in the family lot. Thomas and 
Mary left a number of children, among whom was Thomas 
junior, the subject of this paper. 

HIS EARLY LIFE AT THE TRAP. 

Thomas Macdonough, junior, was born December 31, 
1783, at the Trap, on the farm on which his father and 
grandfather had lived before him. For sixteen years he 
lived at or near his home, happy and contented and doing 
the duty that came to his hand. He always retained a 
lively recollection and affection for the home of his youth, 
and in a letter written to his sister Lydia from Middletown, 
Connecticut, in after years, he says, " I should like to visit 
the old home where I have spent some youthful happy 
hours ; to stroll about the fields and woods as I used to do." 
Just after completing his sixteenth year he entered the navy. 
It is not hard to understand why he should have chosen 
this course. His early associations were all of such a char- 
acter as to make the choice a perfectly natural one for one 
of his temperament and disposition. Many a time, no 
doubt, in the long winter evenings, seated before the gen- 
erous fireplace filled with blazing logs, with his children 







6 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 




around him, his father had told the story of the war ; told 


of the long and weary march, of the camp-fire 


and the 



bivouac, the cold, hunger, and fatigue, the battle, and then 
the victory, beside which all their sufferings were as nothing. 
How the boy's heart must have throbbed as he heard the 
story from his father's lips! His Uncle Patrick had been 
a soldier, too, and had seen service as an officer under St. 
Clair in his ill-fated expedition against the Indians in 1 79 1. 
His own elder brother, James, was a midshipman in the 
navy, and had taken part in the engagement between the 
" Constellation" and the " Insurgente." He, no doubt, had 
often poured into the boy's willing ears the stories of the 
sea. With such influences surrounding him, it needed but 
a breath to fan the spark of patriotism into a bright and 
steady flame. 

ENTERS THE NAVV. 

"On the 5th of February, 1800," as he himself writes, 
" I received a Warrant as Midshipman in the Navy of the 
United States from John Adams, then President, through 
the influence of Mr. Latimer, a Senator from the State of 
Delaware. Soon after my appointment I joined the U. S. 
Ship ' Ganges' at New Castle and proceeded on a cruise in 
the West Indies against the French with whom the States 
were at war. On this cruise we captured two Guineamen 
and a French privateer and sent them to the United States. 
The privateer was run on shore. After considerable firing 
on her, her crew deserted her and got on shore. She was 
boarded by our boats, on board of one I was. 

" About this time the yellow fever made its appearance 
on board and many of the men and officers fell victims after 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH., . 7 

a few hours' illness to its destructive ravages. Several Mid- 
shipmen and myself, with a number of men, having caught 
this fever were sent on shore at Havanna and put into a 
dirty Spanish hospital. Nearly all of the men and officers 
died and were taken out in carts as so many hogs would 
have been. A Midshipman, a surgeon's mate and myself, 
through the blessing of divine providence, recovered and 
took passage for the U. States, destitute of all the com- 
forts and even conveniences of life. The consul, however, 
supplied us with shirts and some other articles of clothing. 
Off the capes of Delaware we were captured by an English 
ship of war on account of our vessel (a Merchantman be- 
longing to Phila.) having Spanish property on board. I, 

with the other gentlemen, were put on board the , 

an American ship, and landed at Norfolk, Virginia. 

" There the consul supplied us with money, etc., to enable 
us to join the ' Ganges,' which ship had left Havanna on 
account of the fever which raged on board of her and with 
difficulty reached the States with the loss of many men and 
officers. Took passage on board the ferry boat, crossed 
the Chesapeake bay and travelling up through the country 
got out of the stage at the Trap, my native place, after an 
absence of nearly a year, with straw hat, canvas shoes and 
in other respects poor enough. My relatives and friends 
were much surprised to see me as my death was, if not 
published, it was stated that I could not recover. 

" I remained some short time at the Trap ; then joined 
the 'Ganges' again. Took a short cruise in the West 
Indies and returned to Phila., where the ship was sold and 
the Navy, by law, reduced, and almost all the officers dis- 



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8 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

missed. Through the influence of C. A. Rodney, Esq., my 
father's and my friend, I was continued. 

THE WAR WITH TRIPOLI. 

" When I quitted the ship ' Ganges' I joined the Frigate 
' Constellation,' Commodore Murray, and sailed for the 
Mediterranean, where we remained for about twelve months. 
Visited many ports in that sea and had a brush with the 
Gun Boats off Tripoli." 

The " Constellation" returned to the United States in the 
latter part of 1802. In May, 1S03, he was ordered to the 
frigate " Philadelphia," then being fitted for Mediterranean 
service. The " Philadelphia" sailed in July and reached 
Gibraltar August 24. Continuing, the Commodore says, — 

" Soon after our arrival in that sea we captured a Moorish 
vessel of 30 guns without resistance, and I was put on board 
to assist in taking her to Gibraltar. The United States were 
at this time at war with the Regency of Tripoli and not 
with the Moors, though the latter had commenced depreda- 
tions on our commerce. I was left at Gibraltar on board 
the Moorish ship and the ' Philadelphia' went up the Medi- 
terranean to cruise off Tripoli, where she was lost by run- 
ning on shore in chase and was taken possession of by the 
enemy, the officers and men put into close confinement and 
kept there for 19 months. Thus was I providentially saved 
from this prison and the apprehension of death which sur- 
rounded those of my shipmates in the power of a merciless 
foe. 

" About this time Commodore Preble came out and took 
the command of the Squadron, under whom, a daring and 






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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. g 

vigilant officer, may be considered the first impulse given 
to the Navy in his conduct before Tripoli. He took his 
Squadron to Tangier, had negotiations opened with the 
Emperor of Morocco, and coming to an arrangement of 
the difficulties the prize ship was given up. I then quitted 
her, not caring to be in his Majesty's service, and joined the 
Commodore's ship as passenger until we met with the 
' Philadelphia.' On our passage up we spoke a British 
Frigate who informed us of her loss as stated. 

" I then, in the harbor of Syracuse, joined the Schooner 
' Enterprise,' Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, commander. 
Was with him when the Frigate ' Philadelphia' was burned 
in the harbor of Tripoli and when he captured, by board- 
ing, the Gun Boats in one of the actions with the enemy's 
vessels and batteries." 

In the general plan which had been formed for the 
capture and destruction of the " Philadelphia," Lieutenant 
Lawrence and ten men, with midshipmen Laws and Mac- 
donough, were directed by Decatur to fire the berth deck 
and forward store-room, and they did their duty coura- 
geously and well. Admiral Nelson at this time was in com- 
mand of the English fleet blockading Toulon, and when he 
heard of the destruction of the " Philadelphia" and the way 
it was effected he declared it to be " the most bold and 
daring act of the age." For his services on this occasion 
the young midshipman was promoted to the rank of lieu- 
tenant, his commission being dated May 18, 1804. The 
young Delawarean was among those especially mentioned 
for gallantry in the bombardment of Tripoli, August 3, 
1804. 



10 COMMODORE THOMAS MACD0N0UGH. 

" Here I consider," the commodore writes, referring to 
the operations in the Mediterranean, " was the school where 
our Navy received its first lessons, and its influence has re- 
mained to this day and will continue as long as the Navy 
exists. I remained in the Squadron during all its opera- 
tions against Tripoli, presented the Flags of the captured 
Boats to Com. Preble at the request of Capt. Decatur, and 
was in 1805 or 6 appointed by the Commodore a Lieuten- 
ant of the Schooner ' Enterprise.' 

" Captain Robinson now took the command of this 
vessel and sailed up the Adriatic to Trieste, thence to 
Venice, where she was hauled up in the arsenal and repaired. 
Passed the winter of, I think, 1805 in Venice. From 
Venice I went to Ancona and prepared four small vessels 
for Gun Boats to be employed against Tripoli. Thence 
sailed to Syracuse and joined the Squadron with the Boats. 
On our arrival at Syracuse found peace had been made 
with Tripoli. Joined the Schooner, Capt. David Porter as 
commander. Soon after I exchanged my station as first 
Lieutenant of the ' Enterprise' for the first Lieutenancy of 
the United States Brig ' Syren,' Capt. John Smith, with 
Lieutenant Warrington. 

" Having now not much to do, visited many of the inter- 
esting ports and places along the shores of this sea. From 
Naples I went to Rome by land, visited Pompeii, Hercu- 
laneum, Mount ^Etna, Malta and the towns of the Barbary 
powers and returned to the United States. 

" When I was first Lieutenant of the ' Syren' Brig an 
occurrence took place in the harbor of Gibraltar which 
excited a good deal of feeling both on the side of the Eng- 



COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. II 

lish and ourselves. A British Man-of-war's Boat boarded 
an American Merchantman which lay near the ' Syren' and 
took out, or impressed, one of her men. I went alongside 
the British Boat in one of ours and demanded him, which 
demand was refused. I then took hold of the man and 
took him in my Boat and brought him on board the 
' Syren.' He was an American, and of course we kept 
him." 

Before leaving the Mediterranean he met with an adven- 
ture that nearly cost him his life. While lying off Syracuse, 
he obtained permission one day to go ashore. Just as he 
was stepping into a boat to return to his ship he was set 
upon by three cut-throats armed with daggers. They 
found, however, that they had caught, not a Tartar, but an 
American, and a Delaware American. The young man 
drew his sword, and, though the odds were three to one, two 
of his assailants were soon disabled, and the third, taking to 
flight and being followed by the midshipman, ran into a 
building and upon the roof, from whence, there being no 
way of escape, he threw himself to the ground to avoid 
being taken. 

His service in the Mediterranean showed his superiors 
something of the spirit that was in him. He was the gal- 
lant Decatur's favorite midshipman, and " wherever Decatur 
led he dared to follow." 

VOYAGE IN THE MERCHANT SERVICE. 

On his return to the United States in 1806 he was de- 
tached from the " Syren" and ordered to Middletown, Con- 
necticut, under Captain Hull. Thence he was ordered to the 






12 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

" Wasp," under his old commander, Captain Smith, and sailed 
for England and France with despatches, returning by way 
of the Mediterranean. On reaching home the " Wasp" 
cruised along the coast from Boston to Charleston enforcing 
the embargo laws. From the " Wasp" he was ordered to 
the ship " John Adams" and then to the frigate " Essex." 

On May 22, 18 10, he was furloughed and ordered to 
make a voyage in the merchant service. Soon after he 
sailed from New York to Liverpool as captain of the brig 
" Gulliver." From Liverpool he proceeded to Calcutta and 
then home, being absent about fifteen months. Accord- 
ing to family tradition, an incident happened on this trip 
which was of considerable interest. 

The " Gulliver" had discharged her cargo at Liverpool, 
taken in a fresh one, and was ready to sail. On the even- 
ing preceding her departure, Tom, as he was usually 
called, went on shore. As he was about to return to the 
brig later in the evening, he was approached, in the vicinity 
of the docks, by a stranger, who asked him if he belonged 
to any of the vessels in the river. He replied that he be- 
longed to the American brig " Gulliver." Upon this the 
stranger gave a signal, and before Tom knew it he was sur- 
rounded by a press-gang, thrown into a boat, and presently 
found himself on board an English frigate lying at the 
mouth of the river. He at once demanded to see the com- 
manding officer. On being taken before him he demanded 
his release, declaring that he was not only an American 
seaman but an officer of the American navy. The only 
reply vouchsafed was an order to go forward, and forward 
he went. 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 13 

His name was entered on the purser's books, his station 
and mess assigned him, and a hammock and bedding served 
out to him, with directions to " turn in" as soon as possible. 
Accordingly he hung his hammock up and got into it, but 
without undressing, having determined to seize the first 
chance of escape. Shortly after midnight the corporal of 
the guard which had been relieved came below, unlashed 
the hammock next his own, undressed and turned in. Tom 
waited until the corporal was sound asleep, then slipped 
quietly out of his hammock, took off his own clothes and 
put on those of the sleeping corporal, and then, as soon as 
the corporal of the new guard had passed below to make 
his rounds, climbed up the ladder and gained the spar-deck. 
The officer of the deck was aft upon the starboard side and 
the sentries were walking their posts with regular tread. 
The starboard-gangway was shaded from the light of the 
moon by awnings, and walking deliberately up the ladder 
Tom looked over the ship's side. 

" Sentry," said he, " what boat is that at the boom ?" 

" The second cutter, sir," replied the marine, without dis- 
covering the identity of his questioner. 

Tom immediately walked up to the officer of the deck, 
and, being assured by the mistake of the sentry that he 
would not be discovered, touched his cap and respectfully 
said, — 

" I would like to overhaul the second cutter, sir. I think 
there is rum aboard her." 

"Very well, corporal," replied the officer; "search the 
boat and see what you can find." 

Tom started quickly forward, but just as he got abreast 



14 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

of the fore hatchway he saw the real corporal's head rising 
above the combings. He ascended no higher, for with one 
blow of his fist Tom knocked him down the ladder, and 
then sprang quickly out through the port upon the swing- 
ing boom and dropped into the boat. The flood tide was 
setting up the river strongly, and quick as thought Tom cut 
the rope which secured the boat and it dropped rapidly 
astern. 

" Help ! help !" shouted he ; " the boat's loose." 

" Get out a couple of oars," cried the officer of the deck 
as the boat swept past the quarter, " and you can hold her 
against the tide." 

Tom did get out a couple of oars, but the moment they 
struck the water he began pulling rapidly up the river. 
The sentries on deck immediately discharged their muskets, 
and the third cutter was called away, but before she could 
be manned Tom had reached the shore, and shortly after 
was on board his own brig. 

The next morning the " Gulliver" dropped down with the 
ebb tide, and as she passed the frigate Tom saw the second 
cutter swinging in her usual place. As he gazed upon the 
flag that floated at the Englishman's peak, he said to him- 
self, " If I live, I'll make England remember the day she 
impressed an American sailor." 

When war was declared against Great Britain shortly 
after, the rallying cry — " No Impressment !" — must have 
appealed to him with peculiar significance, and the memory 
of this experience must have been with him on the nth of 
September, 1814. 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 1 5 

Continuing the history of his naval life, the commodore 
writes : 

" On my return from my India voyage I took charge of 
a merchant ship from New York and sailed for Lisbon, but 
the vessel springing a leak in a gale when out a few days, I 
was compelled from this circumstance to return to New 
York. The Non-intercourse law now taking place, I, of 
course, could not prosecute the voyage and quitted the 
ship. During the gale I was obliged to throw overboard 
part of the cargo. 

" War having now been declared against Great Britain 
by the United States, I applied for service, and received 
orders to repair to Washington and join the Frigate ' Con- 
stellation' as first Lieutenant. I did not remain long on 
board this ship, for it required some time to complete her 
repairs and the time was irksome there. I therefore applied 
for and obtained command of the Portland station, where 
were several fine Gun Boats. After remaining a few months 
at Portland I was ordered by Mr. Madison to take the com- 
mand of the vessels on Lake Champlain. Proceeded thither 
across the country through the Notch of the White Moun- 
tains, partly on horseback, carrying my bundle with a valise 
on behind, and a country lad only in company to return with 
my horses. Arrived fatigued at Burlington on the lake 
in about four days and took command of the vessels after 
waiting on the commanding General Bloomfield." 

The order directing him to take command of the naval 
force on Lake Champlain was dated September 12, 181 2. 
On December 1 2 of the same year he married Lucy Ann, 
daughter of Nathaniel Shaler, of Middletown, Connecticut. 






l6 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

There he afterwards made his home when absent from pro- 
fessional duty and there his children were born. One of 
them, "whom," as he writes in 1822 to his sister Lydia in 
Delaware, " I call Rodney after my friend in Wilmington," 
is now living in New York City, and another, Charlotte 
Rosella, now the widow of Mr. Henry G. Hubbard, is still 
living in Middletown. On July 24, 1813, he was commis- 
sioned master commandant. 



THE BATTLE ON LAKE CHAMPLA1N. 

War had been declared against Great Britain on June 18, 
18 1 2, and in view of the plans of the British, the command 
of Lake Champlain at the time the commodore was ordered 
there was of vital importance to American interests. Nobly 
did the young master commandant fulfil the duty intrusted 
to him. 

The morning of Sunday, September II, 1814, broke 
bright and fair. From the green slopes of Cumberland 
Head the eye takes in the gently curving shore, still clad 
in summer verdure, the sunlight dancing on the waters of 
the bay, and, just below, the American squadron skilfully 
disposed to the best advantage by its wise commander and 
waiting the coming of the foe. All is quiet and peaceful. 
Presently, around the point sweeps the British fleet, the 
red ensign of old England fluttering defiantly from every 
masthead in the morning breeze. Then comes the calm 
before the storm ; and then the smoke and shock of battle, 
the cries of the wounded, and all the horrors of war. Then 
— then the simple message, — 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. \J 

"The Almighty has been pleased to grant us a signal 
victory on Lake Champlain in the capture of i frigate, I 
brig and 2 sloops of war of the enemy. 

" T. Macdonough." 

To this message came the following response : 

"Navy Department, Sept. 19th, 1S14. 
" Thomas Macdonough, Esq., 
" Commanding the U. S. Naval Force on Lake Champlain, 
Plattsburg. 
" Sir : — With the highest gratification which noble deeds 
can inspire, I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 
nth instant announcing the glorious victory which your 
skill and valor, aided by the intrepidity and discipline of 
your gallant associates, had achieved over a confident, vig- 
orous, and powerful foe. Our lakes, hitherto the objects 
only of natural curiosity, shall fill the page of future history 
with the bright annals of our country's fame, and the im- 
perishable renown of our Naval Heroes. 

" 'Tis not alone the brilliancy of your victory in a Naval 
view, but its importance and beneficial results that will fix 
the attention and command the gratitude of your admiring 
country. 

" Accept, sir, the assurance of the high respect and warm 
approbation of the President of the United States which I 
am commanded to present, and my sincere congratulations. 
" Very respectfully, 

" Your obedient servant, 

" W. Jones." 






1 8 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

This victory had an important effect upon the negotia- 
tions for peace, which were being carried on at this time 
between the American Commission and the English Gov- 
ernment. The latter had submitted a proposition which 
involved the acquisition of considerable new territory con- 
taining several strategic points. This proposition was 
promptly rejected by the American Commission, and the 
negotiations came to an abrupt halt. In this crisis the 
English Government appealed to the Duke of Wellington, 
who, in a letter of November 9, 1 8 14, to the Cabinet Coun- 
cil, said : 

" I confess that I think you have no right, from the state 
of the war, to demand any concession of territory from 
America. Considering everything, it is my opinion that the 
war has been a most successful one, and highly honorable 
to the British arms; but from particular circumstances, 
such as the want of the naval superiority on the lakes, you 
have not been able to carry it into the enemy's territory, 
notwithstanding your military success and now undoubted 
military superiority, and have not even cleared your own 
territory of the enemy on the point of attack. You cannot, 
then, on any principle of equality in negotiation, claim a 
cession of territory excepting in exchange for other advan- 
tages which you have in your power." 

The government took his advice, withdrew the obnoxious 
proposition, and the treaty of peace was signed soon after. 

INCIDENTS OF THE BATTLE. 

The technical details of the battle are matters of history. 
While awaiting the approach of the enemy, the commodore, 



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COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 19 

as he was then usually called, knelt on the deck of the 
" Saratoga" with his officers and crew and invoked the aid 
of the God of battles in the approaching conflict. In clear- 
ing the decks of the " Saratoga" for action some coops had 
been thrown overboard, and the poultry given their liberty. 
Just as the engagement was about to begin, a rooster flew 
up into the rigging, flapped his wings, and crowed loudly 
and defiantly. He was answered by three hearty cheers 
from the men, who regarded it as a sign of good luck. 

The first shot fired on the " Saratoga" was fired by the 
commodore himself. With his own hands he trained a 
24-pounder on the British flagship " Confiance" as she ad- 
vanced bow on, and when within range discharged the piece. 
The shot raked the " Confiance," killing and wounding sev- 
eral of her men, and carrying away her wheel. During the 
action he repeatedly assisted in working the guns, and was 
three times thrown across the deck by splinters. At one 
time, while sighting his favorite gun, a shot cut the spanker- 
boom in two, and a piece of the heavy spar, falling upon his 
back, knocked him senseless to the deck, and it was some 
minutes before he recovered consciousness. 

Soon after a shot took off the head of the captain of the 
same gun and hurled it against him, knocking him across 
the deck and into the scuppers, where he fell unconscious 
between two guns. He quickly recovered and returned to 
his post. Every one of the officers of the " Saratoga" was 
either killed or wounded except Macdonough, and when he 
was asked how he had escaped serious injury, he replied, 
" There is a power above which determines the fate of man." 

One more incident is quoted from a memoir of the com- 






20 COMMODORE THOMAS MACD0N0UGH. 

modore by one of the members of this Society. " Another 
son of Delaware, whose name should raise a feeling of ap- 
plause in the hearts of us all, has left an account of an eye- 
witness to this battle, and of his visit to the 'Saratoga' 
afterwards. Said Mr. Clayton : ' I was told by Mr. Phelps, 
a Senator from Vermont, that he was a boy living on his 
father's farm near the banks of Lake Champlain when Mac- 
donough's action of 1 8 14 with the British occurred. That 
after the English had surrendered and the action had ceased, 
he took a boat and went off to the flag-ship " Saratoga," 
that he might say he had seen Macdonough. When he 
had climbed up on deck, he found it slippery with blood 
and almost covered with the wounded and the dead. That 
he saw a man walking back and forth rapidly on the quar- 
ter-deck, his hat pulled down nearly over his eyes, and his 
face and hands almost black with powder and smoke, and, 
upon asking a seaman who that man was, he said, " That's 
Commodore Macdonough.'"" 

During the action he was the commander, cool, confident, 
and with the air of authority born of command. In the 
hour of victory he was the friend and companion-in-arms, 
his heart torn by the suffering of the gallant fellows who 
had made that victory possible. No wonder he was an object 
of love and admiration to his crew. At the time of this en- 
gagement he still lacked a few months of being thirty-one 
years old. 

HIS AFTER-LIFE. 

On November 30, 1814, he was commissioned captain, 
then the highest rank in the navy, to take rank from Sep- 
tember 11, 18 14. On the same date he was ordered to 



. .. : 






COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 21 

command the steam frigate "Fulton First." On May 13 
181 5, he was ordered to Portsmouth, N. H., to take com- 
mand of the navy-yard and superintend the equipment of 
the ship " Washington" until the arrival of Commodore 
Chauncey. On April 22, iSiS, he was directed to proceed 
to Boston, assume command of the frigate " Guerriere," and 
convey to Russia the Hon. G. W. Campbell, Minister to the 
Court of St. Petersburg. After performing this service he 
returned to the United States by way of the Mediterranean. 
" At Naples," he writes, " I was presented to the Emperor 
of Austria, Francis II., and also Ferdinand, King of Naples, 
on board the United States Ship of the Line ' Franklin,' 
which ship these Sovereigns visited." 

On March n, 1820, he was ordered to command the 
"74" building at New York. This ship was the "Ohio," 
and was launched the same year. He was attached to her 
until April, 1824, four years, but, as she was laid up in ordi- 
nary at New York during that period, he spent much of the 
time at his home in Middletown. On May 31, 1824, he 
was ordered to New York to command the " Constitution," 
of glorious memory, and on October 29 sailed once more 
for the Mediterranean under the last orders he was ever to 
receive. 

On his arrival in the Mediterranean, being the senior 
officer on the station, he assumed command of the Ameri- 
can squadron. Owing to ill-health, however, he was relieved 
of the command of the " Constitution" on October 14, 
1825, with permission to return to the United States, but he 
never lived to see his native land, dying at sea while home- 
ward bound, ten days out from Gibraltar, November IO, 



■ ■ ~ 



22 COMMODORE THOMAS MACDONOUGH. 

1825. He was buried at Middletown, Connecticut, Satur- 
day, December I, 1825, with military, civil, and Masonic 
honors. His wife had died a few months before, and they 
now lie side by side in the quaint old cemetery overlooking 
the Connecticut River. 

The simple inscription on his monument reads as fol- 
lows: 

" Sacred to the memory of Com. Thomas Macdonough 
of the U. S. Navy. He was born in the State of Delaware 
Dec. I/83, & died at sea while on his return from the com- 
mand of the American Squadron in the Mediterranean on 
the 10 Nov. 1825. He was distinguished in the world as 
the Hero of Lake Champlain; in the Church of Christ as a 
faithful, zealous, and consistent Christian ; in the community 
where he resided when absent from professional duties as 
an amiable, upright, and valuable citizen." He knew his 
duty and he did it well. 



— . 



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