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Origins: Chesapeake and Shannon

DigiTrad:
SHANNON AND CHESAPEAKE


Related thread:
happy? - June 22 (UK board US frigate 'Chesapeak') (11)


GUEST,Justin 14 May 13 - 05:56 AM
Keith A of Hertford 14 May 13 - 06:36 AM
GUEST 14 May 13 - 07:22 AM
Snuffy 14 May 13 - 09:47 AM
breezy 14 May 13 - 11:37 AM
Jim Dixon 14 May 13 - 01:24 PM
Jim Dixon 14 May 13 - 05:43 PM
Jim Dixon 14 May 13 - 08:29 PM
Jim Dixon 14 May 13 - 10:58 PM
Jim Dixon 14 May 13 - 11:05 PM
Keith A of Hertford 15 May 13 - 02:49 AM
GUEST 15 May 13 - 04:14 AM
GUEST 15 May 13 - 06:17 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 15 May 13 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,Justin. 15 May 13 - 07:09 AM
Gibb Sahib 26 May 13 - 07:24 PM
Joe Offer 27 May 13 - 01:12 AM
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Subject: Chord Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: GUEST,Justin
Date: 14 May 13 - 05:56 AM

Can anybody help me? After singing the Chesapeake and Shannon for a while now I wondered if anybody knows what the guitar chords are so I can now take it one step further and play along too?

Many king regards!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 14 May 13 - 06:36 AM

No, but Fair Maid of Fyvie is the same tune if that helps.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 13 - 07:22 AM

Many Thanks, Keith.
After a google search I have managed to find the chords under the Maid of Fyvie and in the notes - D, C or A. Now to find which one best suits my voice!


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Snuffy
Date: 14 May 13 - 09:47 AM

June 1st sees the 200th anniversary of the battle - Capture of USS Chesapeake


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: breezy
Date: 14 May 13 - 11:37 AM

I hadnt realised but now you come to mention it the first 2 lines are similar

In my daily express songbook its in G

top note being E above mid C

if thats too high capo 3rd fret and play D ir lower until you can hit the top note of the song

1st 2 lines stay on the main/tonic/1st chord whatever you call it lets say D

at the line of the 2nd line chord changes to A on handy-O

G On 'The People of the ...

D on 'Out to see...

G on music

A on yankee

D on dan G dy D O


refrain you ready ?

follows the same pattern , listen and anticipate the chord changes as you sing and good luck

I was singing this song 25 years ago and met an ex US naval officer here in England who had gone into teaching and he gave me an insight to the battle.

i still see him though he is now retired from teaching too

Its always interesting who one meets through song

hello Keith , whats on in Hertford these days?


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Subject: Lyr Add: SHANNON & CHESAPEAKE (from Bodleian)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 13 - 01:24 PM

There is a version of this in the DT here: SHANNON AND CHESAPEAKE.

A broadside in the Bodleian collection has some different wording: 2806 c.17(383):

[I have modernized the spelling and punctuation.]


SHANNON & CHESAPEAKE

The Chesapeake, quite bold,
Out from Boston, as we're told,
Sailed to take a British frigate, neat and handy, O,
And the people all in port,
Came out to see the sport,
With their music playing Yankee Doodle Dandy, O.

Before the fight begun,
The Yankees, with much fun,
Said, "We'll tow her into Boston neat and handy, O,
And after that we'll dine,
Treat our sweethearts all to wine,
And we'll dance the jig of Yankee Doodle Dandy, O."

The British frigate's name,
That for the purpose came,
Of cooling Yankee courage neat and handy, O,
Was the Shannon, Captain Broke,
And his crew were hearts of oak,
Who at fighting, all allow, are quite the dandy, O.

The engagement scarce begun,
Till they flinchéd from their guns,
Which at first they thought of working neat and handy, O,
When brave Broke he waved his sword,
Crying, "Come, my boys; we'll board,
And we'll stop their playing Yankee Doodle Dandy, O."

When the British heard the word,
They all sprang quick on board,
And pulled the Yankee's ensign down so and handy, O.
Notwithstanding all their brag,
The glorious British flag
At the Yankee's mizzen peak is quite the dandy, O.

Here's to Broke and all his crew,
Who in courage stout and true,
Did work the Shannon frigate neat and handy, O,
And may they ever prove,
That in fighting or in love,
Like true British tars, they're the dandy, O.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BATTLE OF THE SHANNON AND THE CHESAPEAKE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 13 - 05:43 PM

The Bodleian Library has 3 copies of this broadside: Firth c.12(50), Firth c.13(46a), Harding B 16(17a).

The lines were printed continuously with no stanza breaks; I inserted breaks arbitrarily after each couplet. I also modernized the spelling and punctuation.


BATTLE OF THE SHANNON AND THE CHESAPEAKE

On board the Shannon frigate in the merry month of May
To watch the bold Americans off Boston lights we lay.

The Chesapeake lay in harbour, a frigate stout [and] fine.
Four hundred and forty men she had; her guns were forty-nine.

'Twas Captain Broke commanded us a challenge for to write,
To the captain of the Chesapeake to bring him on to fight.

Our captain says, "Brave Lawrence, 'tis not from enmity,
Bit 'tis to prove to all the world that we rule on the sea.

"Don't think, my noble captain, because you have had success,
That British sailors are humbled, not even in distress.

"No, we will fight like heroes, our glory to maintain,
In defiance of superior size and the number of your men."

The challenge was accepted; the Americans came down.
A finer frigate ne'er belonged unto the British crown.

They brought her into action on the true British plan,
Nor fired a shot till within hail, then they the fight began.

Broadside for broadside then did yield a most tremendous roar.
Like thunder it resounded, re-echoed from each shore.

This dreadful fire lasted near a quarter of an hour,
Then the enemy ship drove right aboard; their yards were locked in ours.

Our captain went to their ship's side to see how she did lie,
When he beheld the enemy's men who from their guns did fly.

"All hands for boarding now," he cried; "The victory is sure.
Have courage, my lads; now is your time; the prize we'll soon secure."

Like lions then we rushed on board; we fought them hand to hand,
And though they over-numbered us, they could not us withstand.

They fought in desperation, disorder, and dismay,
And in about three minutes' time were forcéd to give way.

Their captain and lieutenant, with 70 of the crew,
Were killed in this sharp action, and a hundred wounded, too.

The ship was taken to Halifax and the captain buried there,
And all the remainder of his crew as his chief mourners were.

Have courage then, all British seamen, and never be dismayed,
But put the can of grog about and drink success to trade.

Likewise to gallant Captain Broke and all his valiant crew,
Who beat the bold Americans and brought their courage too.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE SHANNON AND THE CHESAPEAKE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 13 - 08:29 PM

From The Suffolk Garland edited by James Ford (Ipswich: John Raw, 1818), page 208ff:

THE
SHANNON, AND THE CHESAPEAKE;
OR THE
Glorious Fight
OFF BOSTON LIGHT HOUSE,
On the 1st of June, 1813.


The particulars of this gallant and brilliant action are detailed in so perspicuous a manner, and in a style so truly characteristic of an intelligent English Sailor, by Capt. Sir P. B. V. Broke, Bart. in his official Letter to Capt. the Hon. T. B. Capel, that any further particulars, as introductory to the following Poems, would be superfluous and unnecessary.

"Shannon, Halifax, June 6, 1813.

"Sir,—I have the honour to inform you, that being close in with Boston Light House, in his Majesty's ship under my command, on the 1st instant, I had the pleasure of seeing that the United States frigate Chesapeake (whom we had long been watching) was coming out of the harbour to engage the Shannon; I took a position between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, and then hove to for him to join us—the enemy came down in a very handsome manner, having three American ensigns flying; when closing with us he sent down his royal yards. I kept the Shannon's up, expecting the breeze would die away. At half past five, P. M., the enemy hauled up within hail of us on the starboard side, and the battle began, both ships steering full under the topsails; after exchanging between two and three broadsides, the enemy's ship fell on board of us, her mizzen channels locking in with our fore rigging, I went forward to ascertain her position, and observing that the enemy were flinching from their guns, I gave orders to prepare for boarding. Our gallant bands appointed to that service immediately rushed in, under their respective officers, upon the enemy's decks, driving every thing before them with irresistible fury. The enemy made a desperate but disorderly resistance. The firing continued at all the gangways and between the tops, but in two minutes time the enemy were driven sword in hand from every post. The American flag was hauled down, and the proud Old British Union floated triumphant over it. In another minute they ceased firing from below and called for quarter. The whole of this service was achieved in fifteen minutes from the commencement of the action.

"I have to lament the loss of many of my gallant shipmates, but they fell exulting in their conquest. My brave First Lieutenant Mr. Watt was slain in the moment of victory, in the act of hoisting the British colours: his death is a severe loss to the service. Mr. Aldham, the Purser, who had, spiritedly, volunteered the charge of a party of small-arm men, was killed at his post on the gangway. My faithful old Clerk, Mr. Dunn, was shot by his side; Mr. Aldham has left a widow to lament his loss. I request the Commander in Chief will recommend her to the protection of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. My veteran boatswain, Mr Stephens, has lost an arm. He fought under Lord Rodney on the 12th April. I trust his age and services will be duly rewarded. I am happy to say, that Mr. Samwell, a midshipman of much merit, is the only other officer wounded besides myself, and he not dangerously. Of my gallant seamen and marines we had twenty-three slain, and fifty-six wounded. I subjoin the names of the former. No expressions I can make use of can do justice to the merits of my valiant officers and crew; the calm courage they displayed during the cannonade, and the tremendous precision of their fire, could only be equalled by the ardour with which they rushed to the assault. I recommend them all warmly to the protection of the Commander in Chief.

"Having received a severe sabre wound at the first onset, whilst charging a party of the enemy who had rallied on their forecastle, I was only capable of giving command till assured our conquest was complete, and then directing Second Lieutenant Wallis to take charge of the Shannon, and secure the prisoners, I left the Third Lieutenant, Mr. Falkiner (who had headed the main-deck boarders) in charge of the prize. I beg to recommend these officers most strongly to the Commander in Chief's patronage, for the gallantry they displayed during the action, and the skill and judgement they evinced in the anxious duties which afterwards devolved upon them. To Mr. Etough, the acting master, I am much indebted for the steadiness in which he conn'd the ship into action. The Lieutenants Johns and Law, of the Marines, bravely boarded at the head of their respective divisions. It is impossible to particularize every brilliant deed performed by my officers and men, but I must mention when the ships' yard arms were locked together, that Mr. Cosnahan, who commanded in our main top, finding himself screened from the enemy by the foot of the topsail, laid out at the main-yard arm to fire upon them, and shot three men in that situation. Mr. Smith, who commanded in our fore-top, stormed the enemy's fore-top from the fore-yard arm, and destroyed all the Americans remaining in it. I particularly beg leave to recommend Mr. Etough, the acting master, and Messrs. Smith, Leake, Clavering, Raymond, and Littlejohn, midshipmen. The latter officer is a son of Captain Littlejohn, who was slain in the Berwick. The loss of the enemy was about seventy killed, and one hundred wounded. Among the former were the four lieutenants, a lieutenant of marines, the master, and many other officers. Captain Lawrence is since dead of his wounds. The enemy came into action with a complement of four hundred and forty men; the Shannon, having picked up some recaptured seamen, had three hundred and thirty. The Chesapeake is a fine frigate, and mounts forty nine guns, eighteens on her main deck, two-and-thirties on her quarter deck and forecastle. Both ships came out of action in the most beautiful order, their rigging appearing as perfect as if they had only been exchanging a salute.

"I have the honour to be, &c.

(Signed) "P. B. V. BROKE."

"To Captain the Hon. T. B. Capel, &c. Halifax.


An elegant and spirited Poem, descriptive of this memorable event, from the Pen of Mr. Montagu, appeared under the following title; viz. "Tributary Verses upon the Capture of the American Frigate Chesapeake by the British Frigate Shannon, June 1, 1813; addressed to Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, Baronet, of Nacton, Suffolk. By Lieutenant M. Montagu of the Royal Navy. To which is prefixed a correct Copy of Captain Brake's Letter from the London Gazette. London, 1814," sm. 4to.

THE SHANNON AND CHESAPEAKE:
OR THE RIVAL FRIGATES.


"She comes, she comes, in glorious style,
    To quarters fly, my hearts of oak!
Success shall soon reward our toil,"
    Exclaim'd the gallant Captain Broke.
"Three cheers, my brave lads shall our ardour bespeak,
    Then give them a taste of our cannon;
And soon, my bold fellows, the proud Chesapeake
    Shall lower her flag to the Shannon."

Lawrence, "Columbia's pride and boast,"
    Of conquest counted sure as fate,
And thus address'd his nautic host,
    With form erect and heart elate:
"Three cheers, my brave crew, shall your courage bespeak,
    Then give them a sound of your cannon;
And soon we shall see that the proud Chesapeake
    Will lower the flag of the Shannon."

Silent as death each foe drew nigh,
    And lock'd in hostile close embrace:
Broke, with a British seaman's eye,
    Could soon the sign of terror trace,
And cried, whilst his looks did his ardour bespeak,
    "They flinch, my brave boys, from their cannon;
Board! board! my brave comrades! the proud Chesapeake
    Shall soon be a prize to the Shannon."

Swift flew the word, Britannia's sons
    Spread death and terror where they came;
The trembling foe forsook their guns,
    And call'd aloud on Mercy's name;
Brave Broke led the way, but fell wounded and weak.
    Yet exclaim'd, "They've all fled from their cannon;
Three cheers, my brave fellows, the proud Chesapeake
    Has lower'd her flag to the Shannon."

The day was won, but Lawrence fell,
    And clos'd his eyes in endless night;
And oft Columbia's sons will tell,
    Their hopes all blighted in the fight:
But brave Captain Broke, though yet wounded and weak,
    Survives again to play his cannon;
So his name, from the shores of the wide Chesapeake,
    Shall be prais'd to the banks of the Shannon.


[The Bodleian collection also contains a broadside of this song: Harding B 25(1759).]


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE CHESAPEAKE PRIZE TO THE SHANNON
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 13 - 10:58 PM

From The Suffolk Garland edited by James Ford (Ipswich: John Raw, 1818), page 212:


THE CHESAPEAKE PRIZE TO THE SHANNON.

        At Boston one day,
        As the Chesapeake lay,
The captain and crew thus began on;
        "See that ship out at sea!
        She our prize soon shall be,
'Tis the tight little frigate the Shannon:
    How I long to be drubbing the Shannon,
    We shall soon make a prize of the Shannon;
        Oh! 'twill be a good joke,
        To take Commodore Broke,
And add to our navy the Shannon."

        Then he made a great bluster,
        Calling all hands to muster,
And said, "now boys stand firm to your cannon:
        Let us get under way,
        Without further delay,
And capture the insolent Shannon.
    We soon shall bear down on the Shannon,
    The Chesapeake's prize is the Shannon:
        Within two hours space,
        We'll return to this place,
And bring into harbour the Shannon!"

        Now along-side they range,
        And broadsides they exchange,
But the Yankees soon flinch from their cannon;
        When captain and crew,
        Without further to do,
Are attack'd sword in hand from the Shannon;
    By the tight little tars of the Shannon,
    The brave Commodore of the Shannon
        Fir'd a friendly salute,
        Just to end the dispute,
And the Chesapeake struck to the Shannon.

        Let America know
        The respect she should show
To our national flag and our cannon;
        And let her take heed,
        That the Thames and the Tweed
Give us tars just as brave as the Shannon.
    Here's to Commodore Broke of the Shannon,
    To the sons of the Thames, Tweed, and Shannon:
        May the Olive of peace
        Soon bid enmity cease,
From the Chesapeake's shore to, the Shannon.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE FIGHT OFF BOSTON LIGHT HOUSE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 13 - 11:05 PM

From The Suffolk Garland edited by James Ford (Ipswich: John Raw, 1818), page 214:


THE FIGHT OFF BOSTON LIGHT HOUSE
By Edward Stewart, Lieut. R. N.

"Three fatal fights Britannia saw,
    With mix'd surprise and woe;
For thrice she saw her union flag
    By hostile hands laid low.

"Then casting round an anxious eye
    Amongst her naval men,
Her choice she made, that choice was Broke,
    To raise her flag again.

" 'Command,' she cries, 'yon gallant ship,
    And form her chosen crew,
And bid my flag victorious fly,
    Where it was wont to do.'

"The foes in warlike pride advanc'd,
    Exulting in the past;
Broke saw, serenely smil'd, and cried,
    'The Java is your last.'

"With wily art the Shannon plays;
    Hark! her artillery roars:
With equal rage the Chesapeake
    Her rattling broadside pours.

"Thus as they fought, they closer drew:
    At length fast lock'd they lay;
Th' auspicious moment Broke observ'd,
    'Haste Boarders! haste! away!'

"He spake, and with the lightening's speed
    Led on the boarding crew;
In fifteen minutes, proud, aloft
    The British Union flew.

"The glorious wound, that decks thy brow,
    Your foes affrighted view;
Thy blood, that stain'd the well-earn'd prize,
    Proclaims their terrors true.

"Hail, Suffolk's pride! such fame may I,
    A son of Suffolk, share;
Or if I fall, like glorious Watt,
    To fall what hour so fair?

"Lead on, where'er your country calls,
    And glory points the way;
Wherever Ocean rolls his tides,
    Your conquering flag display;

"And prove though thrice superior force
    Might transient trophies gain,
Britannia rules the wat'ry world,
    Sole Empress of the Main."


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 15 May 13 - 02:49 AM

All well here thanks Breezy.
Same old sessions at Gt Eastern and Benington if you are passing.
Are you still hereabouts?


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: GUEST
Date: 15 May 13 - 04:14 AM

Arghh! Having difficulty inserting the chords into the correct places - just can't get it to sound right! A cheeky request, but could someone please chord out the first verse - frustratingly yours!


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: GUEST
Date: 15 May 13 - 06:17 AM

Just to clarify, re Jim's various versions posted above. There are several different songs involving the ships. They are:

The Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeake (Roud #963) - starting "On board the Shannon frigate in the fine month of May"

Shannon and Chesapeake (Roud #1583) - starting "The Chesapeake so bold out of Boston she was towed"

Chesapeake and Shannon (Roud #1891) - starting "Twas on the glorious fourth of June", which has 3 entries in the Roud index, all for the same (ie single) source, collected by Helen Creighton in Chebucto, NS.

Shannon and Chesapeake - The version starting "At Boston one day as the Chesapeake lay" appears to be print only and has no Roud number. There are 3 entries for that exact first line in the Roud index, all songsters. (I haven't checked for other similar)

Shannon and Chesapeake - starting "She come, she comes in glorious style" (Suffolk Garland version above) also has no Roud number, but has quite a few broadside entries in the index.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 15 May 13 - 06:27 AM

Sorry last post was me - didn't notice I didn't have my cookie.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: GUEST,Justin.
Date: 15 May 13 - 07:09 AM

The chord progression I have is DAD GAD?


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 26 May 13 - 07:24 PM

The anniversary coming up inspired me to learn this ballad. It's a quickie.

Shannon and Chesapeake

And I would have been remiss not to learn the ballad it takes after, first.

Constitution and Guerriere

An unsolicited opinion: 'chords' are not needed for ballads, in which, I think, text (foremost) and melodic expression of the text are more the focus.

Happy Memorial Day.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Chords Req: Chesapeake and Shannon
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 May 13 - 01:12 AM

Gee, the Traditional Ballad Index has three songs about these ships:

Chesapeake and the Shannon (I), The [Laws J20]

DESCRIPTION: The U.S.S. Chesapeake sails out of Boston Harbor, confident of victory, to engage H.M.S. Shannon. The well-trained British crew of Captain Broke quickly defeats the American ship and takes it as a prize
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (Mackenzie)
KEYWORDS: war navy ship political battle
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
June 1, 1813 - Battle between the Chesapeake and the Shannon
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar) Britain
REFERENCES (12 citations):
Laws J20, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon I"
Logan, pp. 69-72, "Chesapeake and Shannon" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 293, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 24-25, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 68-70, "The 'Chesapeake' and the 'Shannon'" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 79, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text, 1 tune)
Harlow, pp. 187-188, "Shannon and Chesapeake" (1 text, 1 tune)
Shay-SeaSongs, p. 165-166, "The Shannon and the Chesapeake" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-BoA, pp. 111-112, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 96-97, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text)
DT 398, CHESSHAN*
ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 311, "Shannon and Chesapeake" (1 text)

ST LJ20 (Full)
Roud #1583
BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, 2806 c.17(383), "Shanon & Chesapeak" ("The Chesapeake, quite bold")[title not entirely legible], unknown, n.d.
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Constitution and the Guerriere" [Laws A6] (historical setting)
cf. "The Chesapeake and the Shannon (II) and (III)" (plot)
NOTES: The victory of the Constitution over the Guerriere (for background, see "The Constitution and the Guerriere," Laws A6) significantly improved the morale of the American navy. Other victories followed, giving the Americans still more confidence.
One of these confidence-builting victories was the fateful meeting between U.S.S. Hornet and H.M.S. Peacock, for which see "The Hornet and the Peacock." The Hornet was commanded by a bold up-and-comer by the name of James Lawrence. That earned Lawrence, who was still only 31 in 1813, command of the Chesapeake, one of only half a dozen frigates in hte U. S. Navy at the time (Borneman, p. 113).
Sadly, confidence, in Lawrence at least, quickly turned into overconfidence. In the late spring of 1813, a "single combat" was arranged between Lawrence's U.S.S. Chesapeake and Captain Philip-Bowes-Vere Broke's H.M.S. Shannon. (The challenge was supposedly written, though it's said that Lawrence did not receive the actual written challenge; Borneman, p. 115; Hickey, p. 154; Pratt, p. 83.)
The American decision was not wise. Chesapeake was already a hard-luck ship; in 1807, H. M. S. Leopard had demanded the right to search her for deserters (the right to reclaim deserters was one of the key issues of the War of 1812); being refused, Leopard fired into the American ship -- which was manned by an inexperienced and largely incompetent crew -- and had their way. (Borneman, pp. 22-24; Paine, pp. 108-109. Berton, pp. 35-36, describes the men's theft of property when they deserted and thinks that the whole thing started because the British ship commander, although he didn't want an incident, had said too much to back down. Hickey, p. 17, notes the irony that the British would disclaim the Leopard's action and returned three impressed sailors, though Berton, p. 37, adds that one was hanged at Halifax.) This led to increased tension between Britain and the U. S., but not open war -- yet.
By 1812, Chesapeake was of course seaworthy again, but her crew was hastily-assembled (many veteran sailors had refused to re-enlist due to arguments over prize money; Hickey, p. 155), and Lawrence didn't know them; only one officer had served aboard her for any length of time (Borneman, p. 115). Many of the crew weren't even English-speakers; Pratt, p. 88, reports that about three dozen were Portugese. It should have been obvious that Chesapeake's sailors were no match for an experienced British crew. The ship had had some success early in the war taking small British prizes, but that was with Samuel Evans in command.
Captain Broke, by contrast, had commanded the Shannon since 1806, and he had turned his ship and crew into one of the best in the British fleet -- and, unlike some officers, he insisted on target practice, so his gunners were unusually good shots (Pratt, p. 83). He in fact worked to improve fire control methods (inventing some sort of device to make this easier), and -- unlike most officers below the rank of admiral -- also devoted considerable attention to naval tactics (Rodger, p. 568).
The battle took place on June 1, 1813. Apparently the Chesapeake failed to clear for action properly (Rodger, p. 568), and Lawrence failed to take his one chance to cross the T on Shannon's stern, and that effectively ended the battle. Within minutes Lawrence had been mortally wounded (his last words were, "Don't give up the ship! Fight her till she sinks," but they did little good, the more so since the bugler refused to relay them; (Borneman, p. 117) and the British were boarding the Chesapeake.
The American ship's executive officer was also wounded, but survived, and he needed a scapegoat, so he filed charges blaming the defeat on the probationary officer William S. Cox, who had moved Lawrence out of the line of fire and then found himself commanding the ship after all the other officers were disabled -- though there really wasn't much Cox could have done by then. Cox was dishonorably discharged, dying 62 years later without his case being re-examined; he finally was exonerated by act of congress in 1953 (Mahon, pp. 124-125). As far as I know, no one has had the guts to formally blame Lawrence for his folly.
It was a truly brutal defeat for the Americans: Not only did they lose the ship and Captain Lawrence, but also the first lieutenant and fourth lieutenants mortally wounded, as was the marine commander, and the second and third lieutenants wounded. Total losses were 47 killed, 14 mortally wounded, and 85 with lesser wounds. The Shannon had 24 killed and 59 wounded, some mortally; Captain Broke, who had himself led the boarding parties, was too wounded to return to sea. The whole battle had taken 15 minutes. (Hickey, p. 155; Henderson, pp. 154-160, although this account is very pro-British and ignores the rather sorry state of the Chesapeake).
It is odd to note that neither Chesaapeake nor Shannon was badly damaged (they came together so quickly that both ships still had all their masts). The British had raked Chesapeake repeatedly (Rodger, p. 568), but while this caused many casualties, it did little structural damage. The British probably could have taken Chesapeake into the Royal Navy -- and, given the general quality of American ships, might have been well-advised to do so. But the Napoleonic Wars were winding down, so she was sent to England and broken up (Borneman, p. 118); according to Hickey, p. 155, her timber eventually was used to build a flour mill.
The victory meant that the British, who had been stung by the popular broadside "The Constitution and the Guerriere," finally had something to celebrate out of the naval war. The promptly produced this piece, reported by Logan to be sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" but usually printed with the tune "Landlady of France"or "Pretty Peggy of Derby, O."
To tell this song from the other "Chesapeake" ballads, consider this stanza:
The Chesapeake so bold out of Boston we've been told
Came to take the British frigate neat and handy, O.
All the people of the port they came out to see the sport,
And the bands were playing Yankee Doodle Dandy, O. - RBW
Bibliography
  • Berton: Pierre Berton, The Invasion of Canada [Volume I], 1812-1813, Atlantic-Little Brown, 1980
  • Borneman; Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War That Forged a Nation, Harper Collins, 2006
  • Henderson: James Henderson, The Frigates, 1970 (I use the 1998 Wordsworth paperback edition)
  • Hickey: Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, University of Illinois Press, 1989, 1995
  • Mahon: John K. Mahon, The War of 1812, Da Capo, 1972
  • Paine: Lincoln P. Paine, Ships of the World, Houghton Mifflin, 1997
  • Pratt: Fletcher Pratt, A Compact History of the United States Navy, third edition revised by Hartley E. Howe, Hawthorn Books, 1967
  • Rodger: N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815, Norton, 2004
Last updated in version 2.5
File: LJ20

Chesapeake and the Shannon (II), The [Laws J21]

DESCRIPTION: A sailor on H.M.S. Shannon narrates how, on the "fourth" (!) of June, his ship sailed out to meet the U.S.S. Chesapeake. After only ten minutes of fighting the British (who claim to have been outnumbered) board the American and strike her colours
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1950 (Creighton/Senior)
KEYWORDS: war sailor ship battle navy
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
June 1, 1813 - Battle between the Chesapeake and the Shannon
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Laws J21, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon II"
Creighton/Senior, pp. 266-267, "Chesapeake and Shannon" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 748, CHESHAN2

Roud #1891
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Chesapeake and the Shannon (I) and (III)" (plot)
NOTES: For the background on the Chesapeake/Shannon fight, see the notes on "The Chesapeake and the Shannon (I)" [Laws J20]. - RBW
File: LJ21

Chesapeake and the Shannon (III), The [Laws J22]

DESCRIPTION: Captain Broke of H.M.S. Shannon challenges Captain Lawrence of U.S.S. Chesapeake to battle. The Chesapeake comes out to meet the enemy; within minutes the two ships are locked together (and the British are boarding the American vessel)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1829 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 25(144))
KEYWORDS: war ship battle
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
June 1,1 813 - Battle between the Chesapeake and the Shannon
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar) Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Laws J22, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon III"
Mackenzie 80, "The Chesapeake and the Shannon" (1 text)
Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 138, "Captain Brooks and His Gallant Crew" (1 text)
DT 552, CHESSHA2
ADDITIONAL: C. H. Firth, _Publications of the Navy Records Society_ , 1907 (available on Google Books), p. 312, "Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeak" (1 text)

Roud #963
BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 25(144), "Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeak" ("On board the Shannon frigate, in the fine month of May"), T. Batchelar (London), 1817-1828 ; also Harding B 11(3541), "X"; Harding B 25(1758), Harding B 11(3476), "The Shannon and Chesapeak"; Firth c.12(50), Firth c.12(51), Harding B 11(1046), "Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeake"; Harding B 11(190), Harding B 15(82b), Johnson Ballads 183, "Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeak"
NOTES: For the background on the Chesapeake/Shannon fight, see the notes on "The Chesapeake and the Shannon (I)" [Laws J20]. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
File: LJ22

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