James Lawrence



Occupation 1

American Captain


NA/New England region


Maritime Republic (1751-1815)








U.S. naval officer� After his father's death in 1796, he chose a naval career� and entered the navy with a midshipman's warrant on 4 September 1798. He served in the Caribbean during the Quasi-War against France. Retained under the Peace Establishment Act, he was commissioned lieutenant on 6 April 1802 and appointed to the schooner Enterprise for service in the Mediterranean.

Lawrence distinguished himself in the war with Tripoli. He was second in command in a boat attack that burned several feluccas on shore near Tripoli, and he saw close action against a 22-gun corsair. He was Stephen Decatur's (1779-1820) first lieutenant in the ketchIntrepid's successful mission (16 Feb. 1804) to destroy the U.S. ship of the linePhiladelphia, which had fallen into the hands of the Tripolitans� He commanded theEnterprise and gunboat Number 5 in several attacks on Tripoli that summer. Made first lieutenant of the frigate John Adams, he returned to the United States, arriving in March 1805. In May he sailed the 72-foot gunboat Number 6 across the Atlantic for Syracuse, Italy. At C�diz, in the presence of the British fleet, he was forced, under protest, to release three crew members who claimed protection of the British flag.

In 1807 Lawrence oversaw the transfer of gunboats built at Portland, Maine, to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he was stationed for a time. In January 1808 he sat as a member of the court-martial on the Chesapeake-Leopard affair� In 1810, participating in trials of Robert Fulton's experimental spar-torpedo, he used antiboarding netting to foil its effect. On 3 November 1810 he was promoted to master commandant. In November 1811, in command of the sloop of war Hornet, he carried to Europe diplomatic messengers who vainly sought to accommodate America's differences with England and France.

The outbreak of the War of 1812 found Lawrence at New York in command of Hornet, part of Commodore John Rodgers's (1773-1838) squadron�

Lawrence took command of the frigate Chesapeake in Boston on 20 May with orders for a cruise� Lawrence died of his wounds on board Chesapeake at sea, as the British sailed their prize toward Halifax, where they buried Lawrence's body with military honors. Afterward, his corpse was transferred, by a flag of truce, to New York, where it was interred on 16 September. Tenacious of his rights, Lawrence was motivated throughout his career by concern for his reputation, professional pride, and devotion to duty and honor.