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James Lawrence


Born in Burlington, New Jersey. Married in 1808 to Julia Montaudevert. They had two children.

Entered the navy as a midshipman September 4, 1798. Commissioned as acting lieutenant in 1801. Promoted to lieutenant in 1802. He was second in command under Stephen Decatur during the Tripoli raid. Promoted to Master Commandant in 1811. Given command of the Hornet in 1812.

On February 24, 1813, the Hornet engaged the Peacock. Lawrence achieved a victory with little cost to his own ship. For this action he received the thanks of Congress and a gold medal.

In May 1813 Lawrence was in command of the Chesapeake. He was mortally wounded in an engagement with the Shannon. His last words are frequently quoted as "Don't give up the ship." In truth his words were probably "Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks."

Congress honored Lawrence with a gold medal (Julian NA-14) by resolution January 1814. Dies were by Moritz Furst. Modern copies (USM 512) were also produced.

bio: ApCAB; DAB; Drake; Failor; Loubat; NCAB 8; TCBDA; WAB; WWWA-H

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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