Battle Between the Constitution and the Guerriere [1812] By Theodore Roosevelt - History

Battle Between the Constitution and the Guerriere [1812] By Theodore Roosevelt - History



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On August 2 the Constitution made sail from Boston and stood to the eastward, in hopes of falling in with some of the British cruisers. She was unsuccessful, however, and met nothing. Then she ran down to the Bay of Fundy, steered along the coast of Nova Scotia, and thence toward Newfoundland, and finally took her station off Cape Race in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where she took and burned two briars of little value. On the 15th she recaptured an American brig from the British ship-sloop Avenger, tho the latter escaped; Capt. Hull manned his prize and sent her in. He then sailed southward, and on the night of the 18th spoke a Salem privateer which gave him news of a British frigate to the south; thither he stood, and at 2 P. M. on the 19th, in lat. 41° 30' N. and 55° W., made out a large sail bearing E. S. E. and to leeward, which proved to be his old acquaintance, the frigate Guerriere Captain Dacres.

It was a cloudy day and the wind was blowing fresh from the northwest. The Guerriere was standing by the wind on the starboard tack, under easy canvas; she hauled up her courses, took in her topgallantsails, and at 4:30 backed her maintopsail. Hull then very deliberately began to shorten sail, taking in topgallantsails, staysails, and flying jib, sending down the royal-yards and putting another reef in the topsails. Soon the Englishman hoisted three ensigns, when the American also set his colors, one at each masthead, and one at the mizzen-peak.

The Constitution now ran down with the wind nearly aft. The Guerriere was on the starboard tack, and at five o'clock opened with her weatherguns, the shot falling short, then wore round and fired her port broadside, of which two shots struck her opponent, the rest passing over and through her rigging. As the British frigate again wore to open with her starboard battery, the Constitution yawed a little and fired two or three of her port bow guns. Three or four times the Guerriere repeated this maneuver, wearing and firing alternate broadsides, but with little or no effect, while the Constitution yawed as often to avoid being raked, and occasionally fired one of her bow guns. This continued nearly an hour, as the vessels were very far apart when the action began, hardly any loss or damage being inflicted by either party. At 6:00 the Guerriere bore up and ran off under her topsails and jib, with the wind almost astern, a little on her port quarter; when the Constitution set her maintopgallantsail and foresail, and at 6:05 closed within half pistol-shot distance on her adversary's port beam.

Immediately a furious cannonade opened, each ship firing as the guns bore. By the time the ships were fairly abreast, at 6 : 20, the Constitution shot away the Guerriere's mizzen-mast, which fell over the starboard quarter, knocking a large hole in the counter, and bringing the ship round against her helm. Hitherto she had suffered very greatly and the Constitution hardly at all. The latter finding that she was ranging ahead, put her helm aport and then luffed short round her enemy's bows, delivering a heavy raking fire with the starboard guns and shooting away the Guerriere's mainyard. Then she wore and again passed her adversary's bows, raking with her port guns. The mizzenmast of the Guerriere, dragging in the water, had by this time pulled her bow round till the wind came on her starboard quarter; and so near were the two ships that the Englishman's bowsprit passed diagonally over the Constitution's quarter-deck, and as the latter ship fell off it got foul of her mizzen-rigging, and the vessels then lay with the Guerriere's starboard-bow against the Constitutions port, or lee quartergallery. The Englishman's bow guns played havoc with Captain Hull's cabin, setting fire to it; but the flames were soon extinguished by Lieutenant Hoffmann. On both sides the boarders were called away; the British ran forward, but Captain Dacres relinquished the idea of attacking when he saw the crowds of men on the American's decks.

Meanwhile, on the Constitution, the boarders and marines gathered aft, but such a heavy sea was running that they could not get on the Guerriere. Both sides suffered heavily from the closeness of the musketry fire; indeed, almost the entire loss on the Constitution occurred at this juncture.

As Lieutenant Bush, of the marines, sprang upon the taffrail to leap on the enemy's decks, a British marine shot him dead; Mr. Morris, the first lieutenant, and Mr. Alwyn, the master, had also both leapt on the taffrail, and both were at the same moment wounded by the musketry fire. On the Guerriere the loss was far heavier, almost all the men on the forecastle being picked off. Captain Dacres himself was shot in the back and severely wounded by one of the American mizzentopmen, while he was standing on the starboard forecastle hammocks cheering on his crew; two of the lieutenants and the master were also shot down.

The ships gradually worked round till the wind was again on the port quarter, when they separated, and the Gueirrere's foremast and mainmast at once went by the board, and fell over on the starboard side, leaving her a defenseless hulk, rolling her main-deck guns into the water. At 6:30 the Constitution hauled aboard her tacks, ran off a little distance to the eastward, and lay to. Her braces and standing and running rigging were much cut up and some of the spars wounded, but a few minutes sufficed to repair damages, when Captain Hull stood under his adversary's lee, and the latter at once struck, at 7:00 P. M., just two hours after she had fired the first shot. On the part of the Constitution, however, the actual fighting, exclusive of six or eight guns fired during the first hour, while closing, occupied less than 30 minutes.

The Constitution had, about 456 men aboard, while the Guerriere's crew, 267 prisoners, were received aboard the Constitution; deducting 10 who were Americans and would not fight, and adding the 15 killed outright, we get 272; 28 men were absent in prizes. The loss of the Constitution included Lieutenant William S. Bush, of the marines, and six seamen killed, and her first lieutenant, Charles Morris, Master, John C. Alwyn, four seamen, and one marine, wounded. Total, seven killed and seven wounded. Almost all this loss occurred when the ships came foul, and was due to the Gueirrere's musketry and the two guns in her bridle-ports.

The Guerriere lost 23 killed and mortally wounded, including her second lieutenant, Henry Ready, and 56 wounded severely and slightly, including Captain Dacres himself the first lieutenant, Bartholomew Kent, Master Robert Scott, two master's mates, and one midshipman....

The British laid very great stress on the rotten and decayed condition of the Guerriere mentioning in particular that the mainmast fell solely because of the weight of the falling foremast. But it must be remembered that until the action occurred she was considered a very fine ship. Thus, in Brighton's "Memoir of Admiral Broke," it is declared that Dacres freely express the opinion that she could take a ship in half the time the Shannon could. The fall of the mainmast occurred when the fight was practically over; it had no influence whatever on the conflict. It was also asserted that her powder was bad, but on no authority, her first broadside fell short, but so, under similar circumstances, did the first broadside of the United States.

None of these causes account for the fact that her shot did not hit. Her opponent was of such superior force—nearly in the proportion of 3 to 2 —that success would have been very difficult in any event and no one can doubt the gallantry and pluck with which the British ship was fought; but the execution was very greatly disproportioned to the force. The gunnery of the Guerriere was very poor, and that of the Constitution excellent; during the few minutes the ships were yardarm and yard-arm, the latter was not hulled once, while no less than thirty shot took effect on the former's engaged side, five sheets of copper beneath the bends. The Guerriere, moreover, was out-maneuvered; "in wearing several times and exchanging broadsides in such rapid and continual changes of position, her fire was much more harmless than it would have been if she had kept more steady." The Constitution was handled faultlessly; Captain Hull displayed the coolness and skill of a veteran in the way in which he managed, first to avoid being raked, and then to improve the advantage which the precision and rapidity of his fire had gained.

The disparity of force, 10 to 7, is not enough to account for the disparity of execution, 10 to 2.

Of course, something must be allowed for the decayed state of the Englishman's masts, altho I really do not think it had any influence on the battle, for he was beaten when the mainmast fell; and it must be remembered, on the otherhand, that the American crew was absolutely new while the Guerriere was manned by old hands. So that, while admitting and admiring the gallantry, and, on the whole, the seamanship, of Captain Dacres and his crew, and acknowledging that he fought at a great disadvantage, especially in being short-handed, yet all must acknowledge that the combat showed a marked superiority, particularly in gunnery, on the part of the Americans. Had the ships not come foul, Captain Hull would probably not have lost more than three or four men as it was, he suffered but slightly That the Guerriere was not so weak as she was represented to be can be gathered from the fact that she mounted two more main-deck guns than the rest of her class; thus carrying on her maindeck 30 long 18 pounders in battery to oppose to the 30 long 24's, or rather (allowing for the short weight of shot) long 22's, of the Constitution. Characteristically enough, James, tho he carefully reckons in the long bow-chasers in the bridleports of the Argus and Enterprise, yet refuses to count the two long eighteens mounted through the bridle-ports on the Guerriere's main-deck. Now, as it turned out, these two bow guns were used very effectively, when the ships got foul, and caused more damage and loss than all of the other main-deck guns put together.

THE REPORT OF CAPT. WILLIAM ORME, WHO WAS ON BOARD THE "GUERRIERE"

I commanded the American brig Betsey, in the year 1812, and was returning home from Naples, Italy, to Boston. When near the western edge of the Grand Bank of Newfoundland, on the 10th of August, 1812, I fell in with the British frigate Guerriere, Captain Dacres, and was captured by him. Myself and a boy were taken on board of the frigate; the remainder of my officers and men were left in the Betsey, and sent into Halifax, N.S., as a prize to the Guerriere.

On the 19th of the same month, the wind being fresh from the northward, the Guerriere was under double-reefed topsails during all the forenoon of this day. At 2 P. we discovered a large sail to windward, bearing about north from us. We soon made her out to be a frigate. She was steering off from the wind, with her head to the southwest, evidently with the intention of cutting us off as soon as possible.

Signals were soon made by the Guerriere, but as they were not answered, the conclusion of course was, that she was either a French or an American frigate. Captain Dacres appeared anxious to ascertain her character, and after looking at her for that purpose, handed me his spyglass, requesting me to give him my opinion of the stranger. I soon saw from the peculiarity of her sails, and from her general appearance, that she was, without doubt, an American frigate, and communicated the same to Captain Dacres. He immediately replied, that he thought she came down too boldly for an American, but soon after added, "The better he behaves, the more honor we shall gain by taking him."

The two ships were rapidly approaching each other, when the Guerriere backed her maintopsail, and waited for her opponent to come down, and commence the action. He then set an English flag at each masthead, beat to quarters, and made ready for the fight. When the strange frigate came down to within two or three miles distance, he hauled upon the wind, took in all his light sails, reefed his topsails, and deliberately prepared for action. It was now about five o'clock in the afternoon, when he filled away and ran down for the Guerriere. At this moment, Captain Dacres politely said to me: "Captain Orme, as I suppose you do not wish to fight against your own countrymen, you are at liberty to go below the waterline." It was not long after this before I retired from the quarterdeck to the cockpit. Of course I saw no more of the action until the firing ceased, but I heard and felt much of its effects; for soon after I left the deck, the firing commenced on board the Guerriere, and was kept up almost constantly until about six o'clock, when I heard a tremendous explosion from the opposing frigate. The effect of her shot seemed to make the Guerriere reel and tremble as tho she had received the shock of an earthquake. Immediately after this, I heard a tremendous crash on deck, and was told the mizzenmast was shot away. In a few moments afterward the cockpit was filled with wounded men.

At about half-past six o'clock in the evening, after the firing had ceased, I went on deck and there beheld a scene which it would be difficult to describe: all the Guerriere's masts were shot away, and as she had no sails to steady her, she lay rolling like a log in the trough of the sea. The decks were covered with blood, the gun tackles were not made fast, and several of the guns got loose, and were surging to and fro from one side to the other.

Some of the petty officers and seamen, after the action, got liquor, and were intoxicated; and what with the groans of the wounded, the noise and confusion of the enraged survivors on board of the ill fated ship, rendered the whole scene fearful beyond description.


T. R. the Rough Rider: Hero of the Spanish American War

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba- 1898

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Among Theodore Roosevelt's many lifetime accomplishments, few capture the imagination as easily as his military service as a "Rough Rider" during the Spanish-American War. America had become interested in Cuba's liberation in the 1890s as publications portrayed the evil of Spanish Rule. No one favored Cuban independence more than Roosevelt. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he beat the war drum and prepared the Navy for war with Spain. The battleship USS Maine was dispatched to Havana, Cuba. After a few quiet months, anchored in Havana Harbor, the Maine suddenly exploded, killing 262 American sailors. Spain denied blowing up the Maine, but a US Navy investigation concluded that the explosion was caused by a mine. The cause of the explosion remains a mystery, but American journalists and Assistant Secretary Roosevelt, at the time, felt certain that it was a Spanish act of war. Shortly thereafter, war was declared.

Roosevelt served gallantly during this brief conflict, which lasted from May to July, 1898. An eager Roosevelt resigned his post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy and petitioned Secretary of War Alger to allow him to form a volunteer regiment. Although he had three years of experience as a captain with the National Guard, Roosevelt deferred leadership of the regiment to Leonard Wood, a war hero with whom he was friendly. Wood, as Colonel, and Roosevelt, as Lt. Colonel, began recruiting and organizing the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. They sorted through twenty-three thousand applications to form the regiment! Roosevelt's fame and personality turned him into the de-facto leader of this rag-tag group of polo players, hunters,cowboys, Native Americans, and athletic college buddies. The regiment of "Roosevelt's Rough Riders" was born.

The Rough Riders participated in two important battles in Cuba. The first action they saw occurred at the Battle of Las Guasimas on June 24, where the Spanish were driven away. The Rough Riders lost seven men with thirty-four wounded. Roosevelt narrowly avoided bullets buzzing by him into the trees, showering splinters around his face. He led troops in a flanking position and the Spanish fled. American forces then assembled for an assault on the city of Santiago through the San Juan Hills. Colonel Wood was promoted in the field, and in response, Roosevelt happily wrote,"I got my regiment."

The Battle of San Juan Heights was fought on July 1, which Roosevelt called "the great day of my life." He led a series of charges up Kettle Hill towards San Juan Heights on his horse, Texas, while the Rough Riders followed on foot. He rode up and down the hill encouraging his men with the orders to "March!" He killed one Spaniard with a revolver salvaged from the Maine. Other regiments continued alongside him, and the American flag was raised over San Juan Heights.

Hostilities ceased shortly after Santiago fell to siege, and the Treaty of Paris gave the United States its first possessions: Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

The war had lasting impacts. The "splendid little war" lasted ten weeks. It destroyed the Spanish Empire and ushered in a new era of American Empire. Roosevelt's political career ignited as he returned a war hero and national celebrity. He charged on horseback to victory at Kettle Hill and, collectively, San Juan Heights, and continued riding that horse all the way to the White House just three years later. Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, one hundred years later, for what was described as "…acts of bravery on 1 July, 1898, near Santiago de Cuba, Republic of Cuba, while leading a daring charge up San Juan Hill."

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

We hope you enjoy reading TR's own words about the Charge on San Juan Hill, or his reflections on the Rough Riders and the images that accompany them. If you are primarily interested in images relating to Theodore Roosevelt's experience in Cuba, please visit our Spanish American War & Rough Riders photo album !

The video shown below this text is of Theodore Roosevelt leaving his job as Assistant Secretary to the Navy. It is a silent film, apart from the introduction, which informs the viewer that this video is from the Library of Congress. In the scene, TR, in formal dress with hat, walks down the steps of the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. and turns and walks toward the stationary camera. The south portico of the White House is visible through trees in background. #TRleaving


Sacket's Harbor is located on the southeast shore of Lake Ontario in Northern New York State. It was developed as the chief shipbuilding yard for the United States during the War of 1812, and twelve warships were completed there. With a good strategic position on the lake, abundant resources, and an excellent natural harbor, the small village of several hundred people was engulfed as it developed as the center of military and naval operations for the war's northern theater. Following the first battle, the village and harbor were developed and fortified as a large and centralized military complex, served by several thousand troops [2] and 3,000 workers at the shipyard. The complex became the fourth largest center of population in the state in this period.

On July 19, 1812, Captain Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, of USS Oneida, discovered from the masthead of his brig five enemy vessels sailing up to Sacket's Harbor. The British vessels, which belonged to the Provincial Marine, were Royal George (24 guns), Prince Regent (22 guns), Earl of Moira (20 guns), Governor Simcoe (10 guns), and Seneca (2 guns). The British captured a merchant ship carrying flour nearby and sent its crew shore with the demands that the US surrender USS Oneida and Lord Nelson, a merchant ship that US forces had captured before war was declared. They said that if a shot was fired at them, the British would burn the village of Sacket's Harbor. [3]

The first shots were fired by the British at the brig Oneida, which attempted to escape the incoming British vessels but failed and returned to Navy Point. The British continued on and dropped anchor. Back at the point, Oneida was moored with one broadside of nine guns to the enemy, while the others were taken out and hastily placed on a breastwork along the shoreline, near where a 32-pounder cannon, intended for Oneida, but found too heavy, had been mounted on a pivot. Below the cannon a protective mound had been constructed about 6 feet (1.8 m) high. [4]

Alarm guns were fired and expresses were sent to call in the neighboring militias. Most of the militia did not arrive in time to render assistance however, by the end of the day, some 3,000 local militia had assembled but they did not engage. The British had been misinformed about the defenses of the harbor and assumed there was nothing to be feared in the way of ordnance. The force at that time in town was, besides the crew of Oneida, a regiment under Colonel Bellinger, a volunteer company of artillery under Captain Camp, and the militia.

Captain Woolsey, leaving his brig in charge of a lieutenant, took command on shore, the 32-pounder being in charge of William Vaughan, a sailing master, and the other guns under that of Captain Camp. There was no shot in town larger than 24-pound (11 kg) balls, which were used with the aid of patches made of carpet, in the 32-pounder. By the time these arrangements were made, the enemy had arrived within range, nearly in front of the battery.

The action was commenced the first shot was fired from the 32-pounder, which failed to hit any of the British ships. A shout of laughter was heard from the fleet just after, indicating that the American's first shot fell too short of target. The British returned a salvo briskly at the American battery and continued for two hours. Most of the British shots were reportedly accurate. The Americans returned fire throughout the bombardment Oneida ' s broadsides and their 32-pounder inflicted many hits or near hits on the Royal Navy vessels. [5]

Towards the close of the action, as the flagship Royal George was maneuvering to fire another broadside, a 24-pound shot struck her stern and raked her whole length, killing eight men, and doing much damage. Royal George also had severe damage to her top mast and rigging. Other British warships were damaged but the extent is unknown. Upon this, the signal of retreat was given and the British fleet bore away for Kingston, Upper Canada, without ceremony. The American band struck up the national tune of "Yankee Doodle," and the troops yelled three cheers of victory.

On July 24, 1812, General Jacob Brown attributed the success of the day to the officers Woolsey, Bellinger, and Camp, in their respective capacities, and especially to the crew of the 32-pounder. William Vaughan, who had commanded the 32-pounder, claimed the honor of having fired the first hostile gun in the war. Julius Torry, one of the men at this gun, was an African American better known as Black Julius, and a great favorite in the camp. He served at his post with remarkable activity and courage. As there was no opportunity for the use of small arms, the greater part of the troops who were drawn up, were spectators of the engagement.

The American Battlefield Trust and its partners have acquired and preserved 25 acres (0.10 km 2 ) of the Sacket's Harbor battlefield. [6]


Defeat on Land, Victory at Sea: The Hull Family and the USA in 1812

This post follows on from this one on the origins of the War of 1812 between the USA and Britain.

In mid August 1812 the USA suffered a defeat on land and gained a victory at sea in its war with Britain. On 16 August the US garrison of Detroit surrendered to the British. Three days later the USS Constitution captured HMS Guerriere.

The US commanders in these two actions were closely related. Constitution’s captain Isaac Hull’s father died when he was a child. He was then adopted by his uncle William Hull, the man who surrendered Detroit. William was a veteran of the American War of Independence, but had been a civilian ever since. He was appointed a Brigadier-General and given command of the US Northwestern Army because he was governor of Michigan Territory.

The Americans planned to invade Canada early in the war. Major General Isaac Brock, the British commander in Upper Canada and acting administrator in absence of Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore, did not want to give up territory. He strengthened the militia and looked for Native American support, which he saw as vital. He immediately attacked Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan and took it on 17 July.

General Hull invaded Canada on 12 July at western end of Lake Erie with a force of only 2,500 men, who were untrained.[1] He advanced on Fort Amherstburg on Lake Erie, which had a garrison of only 300 and lacked civilian support. Hull, whose supplies were threatened by Native Americans, hesitated. Captured papers gave the British had intelligence of his plans and strength.

Four skirmishes between 16 and 26 July decided nothing. Colonel Henry Procter rallied the garrison of Amherstburg and, with the help of the Native American leader Tecumseh, obtained the support of the Wyandot tribe. Hull’s supply line was cut at Brownston on 5 August and at Maguaga 4 days later. He retreated to Detroit. The small US garrison of Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) tried to do the same, accompanied by some civilians, but were attacked and massacred by the Potawatomis.

Hull believed that he faced a large force of Native Americans, so surrendered on 16 August to Brock in order to avoid a massacre. Brock actually had 300 regulars, 400 militia and 600 Natives. Jeremy Black quotes Shadrach Byfield of the British 41st Foot as saying that when asked for a 3 day ceasefire ‘our general replied that if they did not yield in three hours, he would blow up every one of them.’[2]

Hull was court-martialled in August 1814 and sentenced to death for neglect of duty and cowardice, but the court’s recommendation of mercy accepted. Brock was knighted just before being killed at the battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October.

The British did not exploit their success at Detroit. Fort Wayne was besieged by 500 Native Americans in late August, but it was relieved on 12 September. Captain Zachary Taylor, the future US President, beat off an attack on Fort Harrison by Tecumseh on 4 September.

The British captures of Detroit and Fort Mackinac impressed the Native Americans and maintained geographical links with them. They were important to the defence of Canada’s western flank. However, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, governor-in-chief of British North America and C-in-C of all British forces in North America, moved Brock and many of his troops from Detroit to defend in Niagara.

Black argues that Prevost wanted a ceasefire now that the repeal of the British Orders-in-Council had removed one of the causes of the war. This damaged relations with the Native Americans, as Tecumseh realised that a negotiated peace would be bad for them.[3]

Three days later Hull’s nephew Isaac restored the pride of both his country and his family when his frigate the USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

Captain Hull had been ordered to join Commodore John Rodger’s squadron off New York on the first day of war. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton wanted Rodgers to act cautiously and defend US merchant shipping, but Rodgers saw a chance to act aggressively before British reinforcements arrived. He set sail before Hamilton’s orders arrived, intending to attack a West India convoy.

Rodgers’s squadron consisted of the 44 gun frigate USS President and the 18 gun sloop USS Hornet. He also commanded Commodore Stephen Decatur’s squadron of the 44 gun frigate USS United States, the 38 gun frigate USS Congress and the 16 gun brig USS Argus.

On 23 July Rodgers’s five ships met the 36 gun frigate HMS Belvidera, captained by Richard Byron. He did not know war had been declared, but realised that the US ships were hostile. Belvidera escaped after a brief engagement in which Rodgers was wounded when a gun on the USS President exploded.

Rear Admiral Herbert Sawyer, commanding RN forces at Halifax Nova Scotia, was advised by Augustus Foster, British Minister in Washington, and Andrew Allen, British Consul in Boston, to act cautiously, attacking only US warships, foreign trade and privateers. They hoped for negotiations. US supplies were vital to the British army in Spain. Sawyer in any case had too weak a force to enforce a full blockade.

Captain Philip Broke left Halifax on 5 July. He was captain of the 38 gun frigate HMS Shannon, and also had the elderly 64 gun 3rd rate HMS Africa and the 32 gun frigate HMS Aeolus under his command. He intended to meet HMS Belvidera and Guerriere and then engage and defeat Rodgers’s squadron. On 15 July Shannon captured the 14 gun brig USS Nautilus, which became HMS Emulous.

Broke met the USS Constitution on 17 July. The wind was initially light, and four days of manoeuvring ensued, before Hull’s ship escaped thanks to what Andrew Lambert describes as ‘a brilliant display of seamanship, skill and resolve.’[4]

Broke joined a convoy of 60 merchantmen escorted by HMS Thetis, an old 38 gun frigate, on 29 July. He expected Rodgers to attack it, but he was pursuing another convoy, 1,000 miles to the east. Broke escorted the convoy to safety before returning to the American coast, sending Guerriere back to Halifax to repair her masts, which had been damaged by lightning.

Guerriere had been captured from the French in 1806 and was in a poor state of repair. In this period captured ships were often pressed into service by their captors, usually retaining their names unless the captor already had a ship by the original name or found it offensive.

Hull headed for Boston. In the absence of orders he then sailed for the Gulf of St Lawrence to raid British shipping. He planned a long cruise, knowing that he was about to be replaced by William Bainbridge, and bought charts of the Caribbean, Brazil, West Africa and the River Plate.

On 19 August his 44 gun frigate encountered HMS Guerriere, a 38 gun frigate. The number of guns given is an indication of the size of the ship rather than the actual armament carried. The Constitution had 56 guns and the Guerriere 51. The US ship’s main armament comprised 24 pounders, compared with 18 pounders on her British opponent.

Both ships also carried carronades. These were short barrelled guns of great power but short range, so-called because they were first produced by the Carron Ironworks in Scotland. Some US 44 gun frigates carried 42 pound carronades, but both these ships had 32 pound carronades.

According to Alfred Mahan, the USS Constitution’s broadside was 736 pounds versus 570 pounds for HMS Guerriere.[5] Theodore Roosevelt claimed that US shot was shown to be 5-9 per cent lighter than its nominal value .He took the midpoint of 7 per cent and reduced the Constitution’s broadside to 684 pounds, compared to 556 pounds for Guerriere. He stated that the American ship had a crew of 456 against 272 on the British vessel, excluding 10 Americans who took no part in the fighting[6]. Andrew Lambert describes the Constitution as being 50 per cent more powerful than Guerriere.[7] [p. 79]

The official reports of both Hull and Captain James Dacres, commanding Guerriere, are available online. The two ships sighted each other at 2 pm on 19 August. Dacres realised that the other ship was a warship at 3 pm and beat to quarters, the sailing age equivalent of the modern sounding of action stations/general quarters. Hull recognised Guerriere to be what he called ‘a large frigate’ at 3:30.

At 4:30 Hull shortened sail, making his ship slower but easier to manoeuver and a steadier gun platform. Dacres claimed that he opened fire at 4:10 with his starboard batteries. He then manoeuvred to bring his port batteries into action port was then referred to as larboard. He times the USS Constitution’s reply at 4:20. Hull says that the first British broadside came at 5:05. Roosevelt puts the first broadside at 5 pm, citing HMS Guerriere’s log, so it is likely there is an error in Dacres’s report. Times quoted hereafter are from Hull’s report.

Until 6 pm HMS Guerriere manoeuvred so as to bring both her batteries into action, but caused little damage. Hull took great care to ensure that his ship was not raked, which means firing down the length of a ship from its bows or stern. The target is smaller than if the side is fired on, so is harder to hit, but hits will pass through more of the ship, thus causing more damage. A stern rake is more damaging than a bow one, because the bow is curved and stronger, so deflects some of the shots.

At 6:05 Hull commenced a heavy fire with all his guns from pistol shot range. This caused heavy damage, whilst the British reply did little damage. Some British shots reputedly bounced off the Constitution’s wooden sides, giving her the nickname of “Old Ironsides”.

A TV documentary called Master and Commander: The True Story attributed this to the quality and thickness of the wood used in her construction. It came partly from southern live oak. a type of tree found only in the Americas, which is much stronger than the white oak used in British ships. The programme was shown in the UK by Channel 5 on 12 April 2012, but was made by the Discovery Channel.

Within 15 minutes Guerriere’s mizzen mast, the rear of her three masts, fell to starboard. It dragged in the water, slowing her and acting like a rudder to turn her to starboard. Hull then manouevred the Constitution to rake Guerriere. The rigging of the two ships became entangled and both prepared boarding parties. A number of men, including Dacres, were wounded by musket fire, but the sea was too heavy for either side to board the other.

Guerriere’s fore and main masts than fell, leaving her helpless. Hull decided to back off and repair the damage to his ship. Half an hour later he returned to the Guerriere. It was too dark to see if she was still flying her colours, so Hull sent Lieutenant Reed in a boat to see if Guerriere had surrendered. Reed returned with Dacres, who had surrendered as his ship was immobile.

The British prisoners were taken on board the Constitution the next day. The Guerriere was too badly damaged to take to port so at 3 pm, so Hull had her set on fire and destroyed at 3 pm. US casualties were seven killed and seven wounded. British ones were 23 killed and 56 wounded. The Constitution ought to have won, given her greater strength, but a less skilful captain than Hull could have lost more men in doing so.

Hull returned to Boston on 30 August as a hero, his ship full of prisoners and wounded. This was the first good news for the USA in the war. The British were not used to defeat at sea and took the news badly, ignoring the fact that Guerriere had been beaten by a stronger ship. According to Andrew Lambert:

Hull had handled his ship very well, exploiting his advantages to the full. Amid the euphoria, and without the prize to prove otherwise, most chose to celebrate Hull’s victory as a fair and equal contest…Instead of pausing for reflection, an unthinking British press blindly accepted the idea of humiliating defeat the Times blustered that the Navy’s ‘spell of victory’ had been shattered.’[8]

The Americans needed a victory and defeats for the RN were rare in this period. Focus on the fact than the Constitution versus Guerriere was not a contest of equals obscures the major impact of the US victory on American morale.

Dacres was court-martialled, a normal procedure for RN captains who had lost their ships. He was acquitted and given another command in 1814 and later promoted. Lambert points out that his only way of saving his ship was to run away, in which case he would have been ‘cashiered or shot.’ He adds that the Admiralty, short of sailors, were more worried about the loss of men than the loss of an old and worn out ship.’[9]

Rodgers returned to Boston the day after Hull, having captured only 7 merchantmen. His cruise was curtailed by scurvy. Most US frigates were in Boston by early September. The exceptions were the USS Constellation, which was under repair at Washington DC, and the USS Essex.

The Essex, captained by David Porter, carried out a successful cruise, capturing 10 prizes. Porter valued them at $300,000, a figure that Lambert suspects is too high, while accepting that the cruise was very successful.[10] Porter encountered HMS Shannon and a prize that he misidentified as another warship on 4 September. He evaded them and, unable to get into Boston or New York, made for the Delaware River.

[1] Force sizes are from J. Black, The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), pp. 61-64.


Tag Archives: HMS Guerriere

This post follows on from this one on the origins of the War of 1812 between the USA and Britain.

In mid August 1812 the USA suffered a defeat on land and gained a victory at sea in its war with Britain. On 16 August the US garrison of Detroit surrendered to the British. Three days later the USS Constitution captured HMS Guerriere.

The US commanders in these two actions were closely related. Constitution’s captain Isaac Hull’s father died when he was a child. He was then adopted by his uncle William Hull, the man who surrendered Detroit. William was a veteran of the American War of Independence, but had been a civilian ever since. He was appointed a Brigadier-General and given command of the US Northwestern Army because he was governor of Michigan Territory.

The Americans planned to invade Canada early in the war. Major General Isaac Brock, the British commander in Upper Canada and acting administrator in absence of Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore, did not want to give up territory. He strengthened the militia and looked for Native American support, which he saw as vital. He immediately attacked Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan and took it on 17 July.

General Hull invaded Canada on 12 July at western end of Lake Erie with a force of only 2,500 men, who were untrained.[1] He advanced on Fort Amherstburg on Lake Erie, which had a garrison of only 300 and lacked civilian support. Hull, whose supplies were threatened by Native Americans, hesitated. Captured papers gave the British had intelligence of his plans and strength.

Four skirmishes between 16 and 26 July decided nothing. Colonel Henry Procter rallied the garrison of Amherstburg and, with the help of the Native American leader Tecumseh, obtained the support of the Wyandot tribe. Hull’s supply line was cut at Brownston on 5 August and at Maguaga 4 days later. He retreated to Detroit. The small US garrison of Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) tried to do the same, accompanied by some civilians, but were attacked and massacred by the Potawatomis.

Hull believed that he faced a large force of Native Americans, so surrendered on 16 August to Brock in order to avoid a massacre. Brock actually had 300 regulars, 400 militia and 600 Natives. Jeremy Black quotes Shadrach Byfield of the British 41st Foot as saying that when asked for a 3 day ceasefire ‘our general replied that if they did not yield in three hours, he would blow up every one of them.’[2]

Hull was court-martialled in August 1814 and sentenced to death for neglect of duty and cowardice, but the court’s recommendation of mercy accepted. Brock was knighted just before being killed at the battle of Queenston Heights on 13 October.

The British did not exploit their success at Detroit. Fort Wayne was besieged by 500 Native Americans in late August, but it was relieved on 12 September. Captain Zachary Taylor, the future US President, beat off an attack on Fort Harrison by Tecumseh on 4 September.

The British captures of Detroit and Fort Mackinac impressed the Native Americans and maintained geographical links with them. They were important to the defence of Canada’s western flank. However, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost, governor-in-chief of British North America and C-in-C of all British forces in North America, moved Brock and many of his troops from Detroit to defend in Niagara.

Black argues that Prevost wanted a ceasefire now that the repeal of the British Orders-in-Council had removed one of the causes of the war. This damaged relations with the Native Americans, as Tecumseh realised that a negotiated peace would be bad for them.[3]

Three days later Hull’s nephew Isaac restored the pride of both his country and his family when his frigate the USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere.

Captain Hull had been ordered to join Commodore John Rodger’s squadron off New York on the first day of war. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton wanted Rodgers to act cautiously and defend US merchant shipping, but Rodgers saw a chance to act aggressively before British reinforcements arrived. He set sail before Hamilton’s orders arrived, intending to attack a West India convoy.

Rodgers’s squadron consisted of the 44 gun frigate USS President and the 18 gun sloop USS Hornet. He also commanded Commodore Stephen Decatur’s squadron of the 44 gun frigate USS United States, the 38 gun frigate USS Congress and the 16 gun brig USS Argus.

On 23 July Rodgers’s five ships met the 36 gun frigate HMS Belvidera, captained by Richard Byron. He did not know war had been declared, but realised that the US ships were hostile. Belvidera escaped after a brief engagement in which Rodgers was wounded when a gun on the USS President exploded.

Rear Admiral Herbert Sawyer, commanding RN forces at Halifax Nova Scotia, was advised by Augustus Foster, British Minister in Washington, and Andrew Allen, British Consul in Boston, to act cautiously, attacking only US warships, foreign trade and privateers. They hoped for negotiations. US supplies were vital to the British army in Spain. Sawyer in any case had too weak a force to enforce a full blockade.

Captain Philip Broke left Halifax on 5 July. He was captain of the 38 gun frigate HMS Shannon, and also had the elderly 64 gun 3rd rate HMS Africa and the 32 gun frigate HMS Aeolus under his command. He intended to meet HMS Belvidera and Guerriere and then engage and defeat Rodgers’s squadron. On 15 July Shannon captured the 14 gun brig USS Nautilus, which became HMS Emulous.

Broke met the USS Constitution on 17 July. The wind was initially light, and four days of manoeuvring ensued, before Hull’s ship escaped thanks to what Andrew Lambert describes as ‘a brilliant display of seamanship, skill and resolve.’[4]

Broke joined a convoy of 60 merchantmen escorted by HMS Thetis, an old 38 gun frigate, on 29 July. He expected Rodgers to attack it, but he was pursuing another convoy, 1,000 miles to the east. Broke escorted the convoy to safety before returning to the American coast, sending Guerriere back to Halifax to repair her masts, which had been damaged by lightning.

Guerriere had been captured from the French in 1806 and was in a poor state of repair. In this period captured ships were often pressed into service by their captors, usually retaining their names unless the captor already had a ship by the original name or found it offensive.

Hull headed for Boston. In the absence of orders he then sailed for the Gulf of St Lawrence to raid British shipping. He planned a long cruise, knowing that he was about to be replaced by William Bainbridge, and bought charts of the Caribbean, Brazil, West Africa and the River Plate.

On 19 August his 44 gun frigate encountered HMS Guerriere, a 38 gun frigate. The number of guns given is an indication of the size of the ship rather than the actual armament carried. The Constitution had 56 guns and the Guerriere 51. The US ship’s main armament comprised 24 pounders, compared with 18 pounders on her British opponent.

Both ships also carried carronades. These were short barrelled guns of great power but short range, so-called because they were first produced by the Carron Ironworks in Scotland. Some US 44 gun frigates carried 42 pound carronades, but both these ships had 32 pound carronades.

According to Alfred Mahan, the USS Constitution’s broadside was 736 pounds versus 570 pounds for HMS Guerriere.[5] Theodore Roosevelt claimed that US shot was shown to be 5-9 per cent lighter than its nominal value .He took the midpoint of 7 per cent and reduced the Constitution’s broadside to 684 pounds, compared to 556 pounds for Guerriere. He stated that the American ship had a crew of 456 against 272 on the British vessel, excluding 10 Americans who took no part in the fighting[6]. Andrew Lambert describes the Constitution as being 50 per cent more powerful than Guerriere.[7] [p. 79]

The official reports of both Hull and Captain James Dacres, commanding Guerriere, are available online. The two ships sighted each other at 2 pm on 19 August. Dacres realised that the other ship was a warship at 3 pm and beat to quarters, the sailing age equivalent of the modern sounding of action stations/general quarters. Hull recognised Guerriere to be what he called ‘a large frigate’ at 3:30.

At 4:30 Hull shortened sail, making his ship slower but easier to manoeuver and a steadier gun platform. Dacres claimed that he opened fire at 4:10 with his starboard batteries. He then manoeuvred to bring his port batteries into action port was then referred to as larboard. He times the USS Constitution’s reply at 4:20. Hull says that the first British broadside came at 5:05. Roosevelt puts the first broadside at 5 pm, citing HMS Guerriere’s log, so it is likely there is an error in Dacres’s report. Times quoted hereafter are from Hull’s report.

Until 6 pm HMS Guerriere manoeuvred so as to bring both her batteries into action, but caused little damage. Hull took great care to ensure that his ship was not raked, which means firing down the length of a ship from its bows or stern. The target is smaller than if the side is fired on, so is harder to hit, but hits will pass through more of the ship, thus causing more damage. A stern rake is more damaging than a bow one, because the bow is curved and stronger, so deflects some of the shots.

At 6:05 Hull commenced a heavy fire with all his guns from pistol shot range. This caused heavy damage, whilst the British reply did little damage. Some British shots reputedly bounced off the Constitution’s wooden sides, giving her the nickname of “Old Ironsides”.

A TV documentary called Master and Commander: The True Story attributed this to the quality and thickness of the wood used in her construction. It came partly from southern live oak. a type of tree found only in the Americas, which is much stronger than the white oak used in British ships. The programme was shown in the UK by Channel 5 on 12 April 2012, but was made by the Discovery Channel.

Within 15 minutes Guerriere’s mizzen mast, the rear of her three masts, fell to starboard. It dragged in the water, slowing her and acting like a rudder to turn her to starboard. Hull then manouevred the Constitution to rake Guerriere. The rigging of the two ships became entangled and both prepared boarding parties. A number of men, including Dacres, were wounded by musket fire, but the sea was too heavy for either side to board the other.

Guerriere’s fore and main masts than fell, leaving her helpless. Hull decided to back off and repair the damage to his ship. Half an hour later he returned to the Guerriere. It was too dark to see if she was still flying her colours, so Hull sent Lieutenant Reed in a boat to see if Guerriere had surrendered. Reed returned with Dacres, who had surrendered as his ship was immobile.

The British prisoners were taken on board the Constitution the next day. The Guerriere was too badly damaged to take to port so at 3 pm, so Hull had her set on fire and destroyed at 3 pm. US casualties were seven killed and seven wounded. British ones were 23 killed and 56 wounded. The Constitution ought to have won, given her greater strength, but a less skilful captain than Hull could have lost more men in doing so.

Hull returned to Boston on 30 August as a hero, his ship full of prisoners and wounded. This was the first good news for the USA in the war. The British were not used to defeat at sea and took the news badly, ignoring the fact that Guerriere had been beaten by a stronger ship. According to Andrew Lambert:

Hull had handled his ship very well, exploiting his advantages to the full. Amid the euphoria, and without the prize to prove otherwise, most chose to celebrate Hull’s victory as a fair and equal contest…Instead of pausing for reflection, an unthinking British press blindly accepted the idea of humiliating defeat the Times blustered that the Navy’s ‘spell of victory’ had been shattered.’[8]

The Americans needed a victory and defeats for the RN were rare in this period. Focus on the fact than the Constitution versus Guerriere was not a contest of equals obscures the major impact of the US victory on American morale.

Dacres was court-martialled, a normal procedure for RN captains who had lost their ships. He was acquitted and given another command in 1814 and later promoted. Lambert points out that his only way of saving his ship was to run away, in which case he would have been ‘cashiered or shot.’ He adds that the Admiralty, short of sailors, were more worried about the loss of men than the loss of an old and worn out ship.’[9]

Rodgers returned to Boston the day after Hull, having captured only 7 merchantmen. His cruise was curtailed by scurvy. Most US frigates were in Boston by early September. The exceptions were the USS Constellation, which was under repair at Washington DC, and the USS Essex.

The Essex, captained by David Porter, carried out a successful cruise, capturing 10 prizes. Porter valued them at $300,000, a figure that Lambert suspects is too high, while accepting that the cruise was very successful.[10] Porter encountered HMS Shannon and a prize that he misidentified as another warship on 4 September. He evaded them and, unable to get into Boston or New York, made for the Delaware River.

[1] Force sizes are from J. Black, The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009), pp. 61-64.


10 little-known facts about President Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was one of most dynamic Presidents in White House history, and on the occasion of his birthday, here are 10 fascinating facts about the 26th President.

Roosevelt came from a wealthy New York family, but he didn&rsquot take an easy path through life. Born on October 27, 1858 in Manhattan, Roosevelt survived the tragedy of losing his wife and his own mother to illness on the same day in 1884, an assassination attempt in 1912, and an extremely dangerous military charge in Cuba in 1898.

The former President passed away in 1919 at the age 60 from a blood clot that had lodged in his heart. He had been in declining health for several years.

Here are some interesting facts about the most dynamic of American Presidents.

1. As a child, Roosevelt witnessed the Abraham Lincoln funeral procession. There is a photo of the young Roosevelt perched in a window watching the procession in New York City in April 1865 that surfaced in the 1950s. Young TR and his brother were at his grandfather&rsquos mansion.

2. Theodore Roosevelt had a really, really good memory. Roosevelt claimed he had a photographic memory, but it is a statement that can&rsquot be easily proven today. But biographer and historian Edmund Morris cited several documented cases where Roosevelt was able to recite obscure poetry and other content well over a decade after he read the documents.

3. What&rsquos the deal with how the Roosevelts were related? Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were fifth cousins. Eleanor Roosevelt was Theodore&rsquos niece. And Uncle Theodore presented the bride at Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt&rsquos wedding.

4. The Republican leaders really didn&rsquot want Roosevelt as President. As a young Bull Moose Republican in politics, TR had angered top GOP honchos by refusing to appoint Republicans to bureaucratic positions. Party bosses Mark Hanna and Thomas Platt were able to &ldquokick Roosevelt upstairs&rdquo as the vice presidential nominee in 1900 for the incumbent President, William McKinley. Roosevelt agreed because he was thinking of running for President in 1904. No one thought that Roosevelt would take over for McKinley later in 1901.

5. Roosevelt was the first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize. As President, Roosevelt adopted an aggressive foreign policy, but he also saw America as deserving a role as a global peacemaker. In 1906, he convinced Japan and Russia to attend a peace conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to end their conflict. TR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Roosevelt also settled a dispute between France and Germany over the division of Morocco.

6. Roosevelt was a prolific writer. Aided by his excellent memory and his always-high energy level, TR wrote about 35 books in his lifetime and an estimated 150,000 letters. And he did write an autobiography!

7. He was also the father of the modern U.S. Navy. To say Roosevelt was obsessed with naval power would be an understatement. As an undergrad at Harvard, Roosevelt&rsquos scholarship on the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812 is still cited today. He also served as the Undersecretary of the Navy as the conflict started with Cuba in 1898, and he sent the American navy on a worldwide tour in 1907 as a show of strength. And then there was his ultimate naval power achievement: the Panama Canal.

8. Roosevelt was a grad college dropout. While Roosevelt graduated from Harvard, he left law school at Columbia without receiving a degree. Roosevelt had become focused on local politics and lost interest in a legal career.

9. Roosevelt was blind in one eye after a boxing injury in the White House. The President continued with his hobby of boxing well into his presidency. He suffered a detached retina in a bout in 1908, and stopped fighting. He switched to jiu-jitsu instead.

10. What is the deal with the Teddy Bear? While on a hunting trip as President, guides in Mississippi had arranged for Roosevelt to shoot an old bear they had tied to a tree. Roosevelt refused to do so, on sporting grounds. (Instead, he had someone else shoot the bear.) The first part of the incident became a newspaper cartoon, which then inspired a shopkeeper to sell stuffed bears, with Roosevelt&rsquos permission.


Theodore Roosevelt's Broad Powers - Erin Ruth Leonard

TR had several negative examples for commanding the country. In 1798, in the wake of the French Revolution and to stave off Republican criticism, John Adams's Federalist administration passed some of the most restrictive acts in the United States' history: the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Naturalization Act mandated that immigrants live in America 14 years before becoming citizens (Brown 122). The Act Concerning Aliens (also known as the Alien Friends Act) allowed the President to "deport any alien he considered dangerous to the public peace" (Brown 122). It was only to be in effect until 1800, the next presidential election year. Under the Act Respecting Alien Enemies, the President could order the deportation of "citizens of any country with which the United States was at war" (Brown 122). These fed on early nationalistic sentiments and fear of "Jacobins" from the bloody French Revolution at a time when war with France looked probable. The Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes, which went down in history as the Sedition Act, was the most criticized of the bunch. It provided prison sentences for speaking out against the President or the administration (Brown 122). It was also set to expire when the next President took office. This was decried as an obviously unconstitutional infringement on civil rights and as an illegal expansion of central government. The Acts stood, however. They put many people in jail and fixed a definite black mark on John Adams's record in the service of his country.

Andrew Jackson was a popular president, but had dangerous ideas. Jackson wanted to remove the Native Americans (particularly such tribes as the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, and the Seminoles) from the Southern states to free up the land for white settlers. The Indians could go live in the then-unwanted land where Oklahoma now is: the 'Great American Desert.' In 1830, Congress passed a Removal Act to allow the Indians to be forced out (Wallace 66). The states in questions began passing "destructive legislation" (Wallace 75) to harrass the Native Americans off their land. Tribal governments were made illegal. "Indians were denied the right to vote, to bring suit, even to testify in court (as heathens all--despite the evidence of conversion for many--they could not swear a Christian oath)" (Wallace 75). Nevertheless, the Cherokee Nation managed to bring its case to the Supreme Court, which found in the Indians' favor. Andrew Jackson ignored the decision, overturning the all-important constitutional system of checks and balances. Over the next decade, under Jackson and Martin Van Buren, the Indians were removed tribe by tribe, often forced by troops to walk to Oklahoma. Thousands died on what became known as the Trail of Tears. The broad license Theodore Roosevelt took with his executive powers had no such destructive effects. Unlike John Adams, Roosevelt never used the government as a shield from public opinion. Unlike Andrew Jackson, he respected the people of the United States. Though Roosevelt often vehemently criticized the legislative branch, he did not blatantly ignore the system of checks and balances so vital to the government of the USA.

To Theodore Roosevelt, the executive officer by definition had to run the show. He deplored the "Buchanan-Taft" vision of the presidency, referring to two presidents who moved more cautiously. James Buchanan, TR wrote in his Autobiography in 1913, "took the . . . narrowly legalistic view that the President is the servant of Congress rather than of the people, and can do nothing . . . unless the Constitution explicitly commands the action" (198). This contrasted heavily with Roosevelt's own perspective of his duties:

One of the progressive uses Roosevelt made of his office throughout his administration was "trust-busting." In the decade before he rose to power, business had been left alone, despite the Sherman anti-trust law. This 1890 law was supposed to prevent corporations from consolidating to form monopolies on their industries, but it had been wildly ineffective. In one of the few cases when it was applied against the Sugar Trust, the Supreme Court had ruled that the government had no right to regulate the production of "commodities within a State" because it was not 'interstate commerce,' though the trust affected the whole nation's sale of sugar (Roosevelt 226). The 1890s Supreme Court was loathe to regulate industry in any way. It even ruled that a minimum wage or maximum hours law would violate workers' rights to sell their labor on their own terms (Blum 32). Roosevelt was to change that.

Theodore Roosevelt's Attorney General began proceedings against the Northern Securities Company soon after Roosevelt's inauguration. Northern Securities, an alliance between several northwestern railroads designed to stop panicked competition, had suffered from heavy criticism since its inception. Shippers had feared it as a trust. It was a vulnerable and therefore alluring first target for TR (Blum 34). He succeeded in disbanding Northern Securities.

Theodore Roosevelt's administration began forty-four antitrust proceedings, including against the American Tobacco Company and against John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company (Blum 36). The many cases established guidelines for later prosecutions that had not existed during the Northern Securities case (Blum 36). Roosevelt defined antitrust proceedings. However, he disliked the label "trust-buster." TR had no objection to consolidation for preventing "ruinous" competition (Blum 37). Roosevelt, concerned with equal treatment for all, only was opposed to monopolies designed to stifle all competition. This was the first time government effectively regulated business.

A celebrated story of Roosevelt decisiveness comes from the 1902 Anthracite Coal strike. 50,000 United Mine Workers of northern Pennsylvania walked out in May, demanding a 10-20% raise, recognition of their union, an eight-hour workday, and fringe benefits. Until October, the UMW danced around the owners of the six big mines in the region. The union continually professed its willingness to negotiate, but the owners refused. Waiting "for the union to crack" (Mowry 134), two of the owners claimed that God had granted them their extensive property rights (Mowry 135). Finally, with coal increasingly scarce, as even schools and hospitals grew cold and riots threatened in several cities, Roosevelt called the UMW and the coal operators to the White House for a meeting.

Mitchell, the union leader, offered to meet with the operators at any time or accept binding arbitration by a commission TR appointed (Mowry 136). Various operators, in contrast, railed that the President asked them "to deal with outlaws" accused the union of over 20 murders and suggested the strike be broken by the Army, violently if necessary (Mowry 136-137). 'Insulting' the President and Attorney General, never acknowledging the union's representatives, they finally left in a huff (Mowry 137). Unimpressed, Theodore Roosevelt put it to advisers that he was considering taking the federal troops the operators asked for, but to confiscate the mines from them. The troops would produce coal for the country.

This scared the operators back to the negotiating table. Never before had a President threatened "to seize and operate a major industry" (Mowry 140). Such a power was not even implied in the Constitution, and Roosevelt could probably not have carried out his threat. However, the threat did resolve the Anthracite Coal issue. On October 13, a temporary settlement was finalized. The workers went back to work, and TR appointed an arbitral board to iron out the conflicts of interest. Eventually, the union workers received a 10 percent raise, and working hours were lowered but the union remained unrecognized, and the board granted the operators the right to raise coal prices 10 percent.

In the Anthracite Coal issue, Roosevelt set a host of 'firsts' that were important in future crises. For the first time, labor and capital had come to the White House on equal terms. Government used its influence to negotiate a settlement for the first time. Never before had a President appointed an arbitral board to settle such labor questions. It was also the first time for such threats against the operators (Mowry 139). Though TR stepped beyond his legal bounds to wrangle out a settlement, it resulted in powerful precedents and fair treatment of the much-abused labor forces. In this issue Roosevelt coined the catchy phrase "square deal" referring to his treatment of the participants in the debate. In every crisis he took on, Roosevelt tried with his vigor, and according to his sensibilities, to achieve fairness for all parties involved.

Theodore Roosevelt, it may be noted, was not a wild-eyed unionist who never listened to the business side of things. He opposed labor boycotts, force during strikes (by strikers or anyone else), and unions meddling in politics (Mowry 141). On another occasion, Roosevelt sent federal troops to Morenci, Arizona, to break up a mine strike, though he did withdraw when he realized they were only good for intimidating the strikers (Mowry 140). TR "refused to condemn publicly the use of illegal force by the mining corporations in Colorado [during another crisis], although he criticized them privately. . ." (Mowry 141). Roosevelt was quite sympathetic to the corporations his support of labor stemmed mostly from a balanced view of the issues. He wrote: "I would guarantee by every means in my power the right of laboring men to join a union, and their right to work as union men without illegal interference from either capitalists or nonunion men" (qtd. in Mowry 141). Roosevelt believed in unions in principle he did not want either labor forces or capitalists to go too far in asserting their 'rights.' "Big labor, like big capital, [TR] remarked, was one of the laws of the social and economic development of the age. Unions, he believed, contributed to the general welfare" (Mowry 141).

Roosevelt occasionally did stretch his powers too far. Though supported at the time, his actions regarding the Panama Canal were not good for the nations involved and the precedents they set were dangerous. Thankfully, they have not been repeated.

Theodore Roosevelt had a dream for America to which an isthmian canal was vital. "He had a vision of his country as the commanding power on two oceans, and these joined by a canal built, owned, operated, policed, and fortified by his country. The canal was to be the first step to American supremacy at sea" (McCullough 250). TR had little patience when Colombia, whose state of Panama had been chosen as the site of the canal, hesitated.

The United States wanted to buy the works at the site that the French Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama had already begun and become disillusioned with. Colombia demanded a piece of the pie--it was Colombia's land, after all--and would not be satisfied with the treaty that everyone in Washington was convinced was fair. The American minister to Colombia, Arthur Beaupré, wrote that the Colombians did not believe they would remain sovereign over Panama under the American treaty. He wrote that they were afraid "the [supposedly 100- year] lease is perpetual . . . the whole document is favorable to the United States and detrimental to Colombia" (qtd. in McCullough 333). The United States grew increasingly impatient. In June, 1903, the New York World carried an unsigned article stating that "information has also reached this city that the State of Panama . . . stands ready to secede from Colombia and enter into a canal treaty with the United States" (McCullough 334). It suggested that American plans to support such a revolt were already being made. While this may simply have been yellow journalism, there is no question that the United States was waiting eagerly for any resolution to the conflict.

Panama did revolt on November 3, 1903, with the only casualties being one man and a donkey (McCullough 371). This was not a minute too soon for the United States, who seems to have had foreknowledge of the coup. At 12:51 p.m., November 6, only seventy minutes after official word reached the U.S. of the "Isthmian movement's" success, the United States formally recognized the Republic of Panama. Roosevelt immediately negotiated a favorable treaty with the new nation and construction started with all speed. Roosevelt felt extremely justified in his handling of the situation. Any more formal actions, such as asking permission of Congress, would have delayed the canal unpardonably. TR explained his actions in a speech to people at the University of California at Berkely, in 1911:

But the Panama Canal would not have been started if I had not taken hold of it, because if I had followed the traditional or conservative method I should have submitted an admirable state paper occupying a couple of hundred pages detailing all of the facts to Congress and asking Congress' consideration of it.

In that case there would have been a number of excellent speeches made on the subject in Congress the debate would be proceeding at this moment with great spirit and the beginning of work on the canal would be fifty years in the future. [Laughter and applause.]

Fortunately the crisis came at a period when I could act unhampered. Accordingly I took the Isthmus, started the Canal and then left Congress not to debate the canal, but to debate me. [Laughter and applause] (qtd. in McCullough 383-384).

TR felt that the situation had demanded prompt action to the extent that it justified usurping executive powers. Though there is no doubt that Roosevelt greatly speeded the opening of the Panama Canal, it came at a fairly high price. As Thomas Jefferson did with the Louisiana Purchase, TR went around the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Constitution to gain land. This canal greatly harmed the United States' foreign relations in Latin America and tore apart Colombia. The USA recognized later with what impunity it had acted, and in 1921 paid Colombia $25,000,000 to apologize for Panama's loss (McCullough 617). Roosevelt did not live to see that apology, but he was furious when it was first proposed during Woodrow Wilson's administration. "One of the rather contemptible features of a number of our worthy compatriots," Roosevelt wrote, "is that they are eager to take advantage of the deeds of the man of action when action is necessary and then eager to discredit him when the action is once over" (qtd. in McCullough 617). TR always believed he did the best he could under the circumstances. Most times he did act correctly, but in this case he pushed his and the United States' powers beyond the limits of decency.

Politicians could not trust Theodore Roosevelt. They found him too impulsive and too individualist. Even at his inauguration, Roosevelt's own Republican party was worried about what it could expect of him. "Throughout his rise in the party, Roosevelt had shown a streak of independence and a skepticism about party dogma" (Gould 12). This did not make for good loyalties. It has been said that Senator Mark Hanna, on hearing of McKinley's death, exploded, "Now look! That damned cowboy is President of the United States" (qtd. in McCullough 247).

TR's relationship with Congress in general was strained. Roosevelt consistently insulted the time-consuming debate with which it operated and called members "scoundrels and crooks" and "fools" (Gould 11). "Roosevelt and Congress were destined for divisiveness" (Gould 10). The Senators and Representatives resented the steady rise in presidential power that had been occurring since 1877, and resented even more Theodore Roosevelt's usual tone of command. Though he never addressed the whole Congress, Roosevelt sent to Congress more than 400 presidential messages.

The legislative branch could also feel disenfranchised because of the public criticism that failure to act during Roosevelt's administration always brought. However much politicians worried about his individualism, the public always loved TR. "As a political leader, Theodore Roosevelt combined innovative and traditional characteristics that he fused into a singularly attractive public personality" (Gould 9). Roosevelt was interesting: author, historian, ornithologist, athlete, family man. He knew how to publicize himself, as well. Rosevelt was known to act as his own press secretary, using leaks, background interviews, exclusive stories, and more (Gould 9). The press adored Theodore Roosevelt as well. After his election in 1904, Roosevelt felt overjoyed no longer to be a 'political accident.' Far from that, he had been put back in office by the greatest popular majority up until that time in the nation's history.

Theodore Roosevelt's presidency was one of the most dynamic periods of the United States. Roosevelt had no troubles using his office to the fullest allowable power and beyond, but he never used it in self-interest. Roosevelt extended presidential powers because he believed that he best served his country with quick, vigorous decisions. He wrote in his Autobiography:

Works Cited

Blum, John Morton. The Progressive Presidents: Roosevelt, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson . New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.

Brown, Ralph Adams. The Presidency of John Adams . American Presidency Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1975.

Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt . American Presidency Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

McCullough, David. The Path Between the Seas: the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 1914 . New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Mowry, George E. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt . Evanston: Harper & Row, 1958.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt . Centennial edition. Ed. Wayne Andrews. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958. *Primary source.

Wallace, Anthony F.C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians . New York: Hill and Wang--Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.

Selected Bibliography

Blum, John Morton. The Progressive Presidents: Roosevelt, Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson . New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.

Brinkley, Alan. "Why Clinton Is No TR." Newsweek 27 Jan. 1997: 46.

Brown, Ralph Adams. The Presidency of John Adams . American Presidency Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1975.

Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt . American Presidency Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

McCullough, David. The Path Between the Seas: the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 1914 . New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Mitchell, Alison. "Speaking Softly in the Bully Pulpit." New York Times 19 Jan. 1997, Ohio ed., sec. 4: 1+.

Mowry, George E. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt . Evanston: Harper & Row, 1958.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt . Centennial edition. Ed. Wayne Andrews. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958. *Primary source.

------. American Ideals and Other Essays . New York: The Knickerbocker Press--G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1898. *Primary source.

Wallace, Anthony F.C. The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians . New York: Hill and Wang--Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.

Zinn, Howard. The Twentieth Century . New York: Perennial Library--Harper & Row, 1984.


Supreme Court Decision on the 26th Amendment

In the 1970 case Oregon v. Mitchell, the U.S. Supreme Court was tasked with reviewing the constitutionality of the provision. Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority decision in the case, which held that Congress did not have the right to regulate the minimum age in State and local elections, but only in federal elections. The issue left the Court seriously divided: Four justices, not including Black, believed Congress did have the right in state and local elections, while four others (again, not including Black) believed that Congress lacked the right even for federal elections, and that under the Constitution only the states have the right to set voter qualifications.

Under this verdict, 18- to 20-year-olds would be eligible to vote for president and vice president, but not for state officials up for election at the same time. Dissatisfaction with this situation𠄺s well as public reaction to the protests of large numbers of young men and women facing conscription, but deprived of the right to vote𠄻uilt support among many states for a Constitutional amendment that would set a uniform national voting age of 18 in all elections.


Battle Between the Constitution and the Guerriere [1812] By Theodore Roosevelt - History

HISTORY MATTERS

Don’t look now, but the bicentennial of the “Forgotten War” is about to kick in. On June 18, 1812, the United States Congress declared war on “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof.” President James Madison, who was lukewarm on the whole idea, was authorized to use “the whole land and naval force of the United States ” against the enemy. It was a paltry threat. (Continue below)

The 30-year old republic had no standing army at the time. When Madison declared war on the greatest naval power in the world, America had 17 official ships versus 700 active in the Royal Navy.

If you don’t recall the War of 1812, welcome to the club. Wedged between the American Revolution and the Civil War it often gets only a few paragraphs in school history books, yet it is rich with lessons, many still unlearned. Half the nation, including most New Englanders at the time, opposed the conflict as unnecessary or unwinnable. The resulting war at sea and enemy blockades played havoc with port towns that depended on international trade. Some resourceful businessmen profited during the war while others were ruined. Portsmouth would never be the same.

The vertically-challenged Mr. Madison, according to many historians, was overly influenced by a group of young politicians from southern slave states led by Henry Clay. The British, according to one estimate, had “impressed” 10,000 sailors off American ships to serve in the Royal Navy. The British desperately needed seamen in their extended war with France and both embattled European nations routinely harassed merchant ships from the United States . “Free Trade & Sailor’s Rights” became the American call to arms. According to Clay and his War Hawks, the British were also conspiring with Native Americans to prevent the United States from expanding westward.

The War Hawks planned to teach England a lesson by annexing parts of Canada . Canadians would happily throw off the British yoke, many Americans believed. Taking Quebec , Thomas Jefferson suggested, “will be a mere matter of marching.” But Canadians fought back and the United States was repulsed a dozen times. This year Canadians are celebrating the bicentennial of “The American Invasion of 1812.”

Smarter than a 5th grader?

If you’ve ever visited the USS Constitution Museum in nearby Charlestown , Massachusetts , you know the War of 1812. In a three-year conflict marked mostly by low points for America , the defeat of the British warship HMS Guerriere by “Old Ironsides” was a rare high point . Now the oldest ship in the US Navy, the often-reconstructed Ironsides keeps that August 19, 1812 victory alive. Ironsides commander Isaac Hull then took over the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that had only 18 employees in 1813. Then considered the worst shipyard in the Navy, Portsmouth blossomed under Hull ’s command and later became the region’s driving economic engine.

If you can sing the “Star Spangled Banner” or the pop song “The Battle of New Orleans” then you remember two other high points in the Forgotten War. There is no anthem about August 24, 1814, the day British forces burned the new capital city of Washington to the ground. James Madison and his wife Dolley barely escaped destruction of the “President’s House” as the enemy marched into the undefended city. What we sing about, instead, are the bombs bursting in mid-air over Fort McHenry at nearby Baltimore . Maryland . After 26 hours of bombing, the British were unable to destroy the star-shaped fort and gave up the attack. The sight of the 42-foot flag flying on the morning of September 14, 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem that has become our national anthem.

The upbeat lyrics to the pop song “The Battle of New Orleans” makes the war look like a slam dunk victory for the Americans. It was written by Arkansas high school teacher James Morris, better known as folksinger Jimmy Driftwood. The song depicts the January 8, 1815 battle in which the militia under Col. Andrew Jackson decimated the attacking British. (“We fired our guns and the British kept a comin'/There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago/We fired once more and they began a running/ Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”)

The lopsided American victory at New Orleans was the stuff of military legend. British forces suffered over 2,000 casualties including at least 278 men dead, 1,186 wounded, and 484 captured or missing. The Americans listed just 13 dead, 29 wounded and 19 missing. The battle, technically, had no impact on the war because it took place after the signing of the peace treaty at Ghent . Theodore Roosevelt called it “a perfectly useless shedding of blood.” As a direct result, the populist Andrew Jackson, who favored slavery and the deadly policy of Indian removal, became president of the United States in 1829.

Historian Sandra Rux has been boning up for the Portsmouth version of the bicentennial. As curator of an upcoming exhibit at the Portsmouth Historical Society, Rux has been reading books about the War of 1812 and studying 200-year old Portsmouth newspapers. Her exhibit, “The War of 1812: What it Meant to Portsmouth ,” opens at the John Paul Jones House Museum on May 25. The Portsmouth Athenaeum also offers a lecture series on the war.

“Most exciting is the tension of the period,” Rux says. “The whole decade before the war you have trade in shambles. Jefferson ’s Embargo [of 1807] caused a lot of disruption. So you have people making a lot of money, and people being ruined.”

Before the war around 1800, she says, Portsmouth was in its heyday as a merchant trading center. Many of the city’s grand three-story mansions were built from 1800 to 1820. The town was expanding away from its downtown center. Langley Boardman and James Rundlett, for example, were astute businessmen and real estate mavens, whose houses still stand on Middle Street .

While Rundlett and Boardman were “winners” in the war economy, Rux says, there are many sad stories. Henry Sherburne Langdon was doing well as a merchant, but made bad investments in the war and his son, a midshipman aboard the Wasp, was killed. By 1822 Langdon was broke and all of his property was, auctioned off.

Bookbinder Benjamin Floyd’s business went “dull” during the war, so he closed his shop and joined the crew of the privateer Portsmouth , hoping to recover his losses. The brig Portsmouth was lost at sea in 1814 and never heard from again.

Captain Samuel Ham, Jr. was a prosperous merchant with his fleet of 15 vessels but his business was destroyed by the outbreak of war. In 1813 he invited friends to a lavish party at his newly built Portsmouth mansion. After the guests left, he climbed to the top floor of the home he could no longer afford and hanged himself.

Regional perspectives

“I went to a southern school,” Rux says of her childhood in Virginia . “We were big on Dolley Madison rescuing things from the White House and Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans. Oddly enough, I learned about the Hartford Convention, which no one up here seems to know anything about.”

The Hartford Convention was a meeting of New England Federalists opposed to the War of 1812 and to the domination of American presidents from Virginia . The 26 delegates met secretly to discuss ways of reducing the political power of the slave states and to hamper their ability to finance the war. There was even talk of banning new slave states in the west or having New England negotiate a separate peace treaty with England .

“They taught us that the North had the first idea to secede,” Rux says of her Virginia schooling. “That’s why they don’t teach the Hartford it Convention in New Hampshire or Connecticut .’

“In Portsmouth you really have a mix, rare in New England , of people who are Jeffersonian and people who are Federalists,” Rux says, each side with its competing newspaper. While the New Hampshire Gazette offered a reasonably pro-war coverage, she points out the headline in the Federalist-leaning Oracle in 1812 announced the outbreak of hostilities as “War Horrid War!”

Among the Yankee protesters in 1812 was a young Federalist named Daniel Webster, then practicing law in Portsmouth . Webster read an anti-war paper in a field in Brentwood , NH . The enthusiastic crowd of nearly 2,000 heard Webster speak “under the great canopy of Heaven,” according to an historic marker that stands on the spot today. Webster’s rebellious address also included a hint of sedition. If President Madison continued to favor the economic survival of one region of the United States over another, Webster implied, then the offended states might discuss secession. The speech, considered treasonous by some, launched attorney Webster’s political career in Congress where he took on Henry Clay and his War Hawks. Webster’s anti-war position eventually softened as his fame and his waistline grew. Both Webster and Clay failed in their many later attempts to win the presidency.

Privateers of Portsmouth

Among the six original frigates in the US Navy, Sandra Rux points out, was the USS Congress, launched at Portsmouth Harbor in 1799. And with so few American warships, the federal government relied heavily on privately armed ships or “privateers” to harass British merchant ships. Writing to a military general, Jefferson described privateers as “our true and only weapon in a war against great Britain .”

As in the Revolution, Portsmouth entrepreneurs took to the sea to make up for lost income ashore. Young men, stirred by the drums of war joined unemployed sailors in the risky business of raiding enemy commerce. A few profited from the taking of British prizes, but many more languished or died under horrific conditions in British prisons. Local privateers like the Nancy were successful prize winners and supported the war effort, but others failed.

Historian Richard E. Winslow III, who wrote an entire book on Portsmouth privateers (Wealth and Honour, 1989), notes that many local merchants considered privateering to be an “unsavory” business and disguised their financial involvement. As in other Atlantic seaports, during two wars with England , privateering here was primarily a kneejerk reaction to the collapsing economy. “Opportunistic, self-serving and skilled at improvising,” Winslow writes, “the Portsmouth privateers operated for themselves first, Portsmouth second, New Hampshire third, and their new nation last. Their actions, however, always served a dual purpose. Not only did they enrich themselves, but they also added to their country’s war effort.”

Privation and protection

With trade interrupted, Portsmouth citizens often went without important goods during the war years. Newspapers reported the captured enemy ships and their goods for sale in the city. Commander Isaac Hull was afraid that the local privateers would draw attention to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where the US Congress was under repair and a new 74-gun warship was being built.

Fearing a Portsmouth invasion by the British, the detatched militia of New Hampshire periodically encamped around the city. Remember, Rux says, that the downtown was also devastated by a fire in 1813. With some citizens growing rich while others collapsed into poverty, these were tense times for Portsmouth . .

“So you have half the downtown destroyed by fire,” she says. “Then you have the fear the British are going to attack -- and then the militia comes, and there are soldiers all around.”

The true picture of the War of 1812 in Portsmouth is more complex and less upbeat than the iconic battles we remember in song. Historian Donald R. Hickey, a scholar of the War of 1812, says Americans technically lost this conflict. Based on President Madison’s declaration of war, the United States gained no territory, won no concessions, and failed to achieve any of its goals. The Canadians won, he says, because they successfully repelled the American invasion of their territory. Others argue that, by fighting the British to a draw, America demonstrated its emerging power – a victory in itself. For the British, the pesky American conflict was largely a footnote to their epic victory in the Napoleonic War.

Americans after the war felt more united, more successful, even righteous, and destined to grow their nation westward. Whatever the military outcome of the War of 1812, historians tend to agree, that the heat of the conflict “forged a nation” both domestically, and in world opinion.


Soundings in Narragansett Bay's Naval History

On August 19, 1812, the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution engaged the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Guerriere. The famous battle in which the American ship dismasted Guerriere and captured her crew, took place approximately 400 miles off Nova Scotia. The victory was the first of many ship-to-ship actions that displayed the impressive gunnery skills of American crews and the fortitude of American vessels. Though the Royal Navy vessels vastly outnumbered American ships and their blockade confined most merchant and naval vessels to ports, victories such as this improved morale and influenced generations of naval officers. Accordingly, this battle is one of the most often painted scenes in the Age of Sail. The museum has a wonderful oil on canvas of the engagement painted by the prolific maritime artist, Charles Robert Patterson in 1928.

The painting is one of a series of four commissioned by Edward J. Berwind who was the last surviving member of the USNA class of 1869. The other three paintings were done of the battles between Bon Homme Richard and Serapis in 1779, United States and HMS Macedonian in1812, and Constellation and L'Insurgente in 1799.


Watch the video: Famous Naval Battle War of 1812 USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere