HOPEWELL AND THE U.S.F. CHESAPEAKE
1794, Congress authorized the building of six frigates, primarily
for use against the Barbary Coast pirates. One of those frigates
was the Chesapeake, built at Gosport (now Norfolk),
Virginia. Construction began immediately, but was halted the
following year when peace treaties were signed with some of
the Barbary nations. Construction began again in 1798, however,
when France began seizing U.S. ships.
the Chesapeake became known as a "hard luck" ship.
She was launched on December 2, 1799 under the command of
Captain Samuel Barron. It was reported that when the blocks
were removed from under the ship, she started, but went only
a few feet and that one of the workmen was killed during the
first wartime cruise began on May 24, 1800. Captain Barron
was ordered by Benjamin Stoddert, Secretary of the Navy (and
a native of Charles County) to Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware,
and then to return to port no later than December since the
one-year enlistment of more than half of the crew expired
then. Captain Thomas Truxtun, the senior officer at Norfolk,
countermanded Secretary Stoddert's directive and ordered that
the ship remain at sea until the following June. The crewmen,
whose term of service was to expire in December, rebelled.
Those deemed to be the worst offenders were flogged and then
put ashore at St. Thomas. Captain Barron died in 1810, at
the relatively early age of 45.
Chesapeake was called to service again in 1802 after Tripoli
declared war on the U.S. This time, she was the flagship of
Commodore Richard Morris. Within a few days of their departure,
the mainmast broke. After their arrival in the Mediterranean,
things got no better and in 1804 Captain Morris was court
martialed for injudicious conduct and dismissed from the service
by President Jefferson.
spending an undistinguished ten months in the Mediterranean,
the ship returned to the U.S., this time under the command
of Captain James Barron, the brother of Captain Samuel Barron.
The Chesapeake saw no further service until 1807 when
it would become embroiled in one of the worst scandals of
1807, Captain James Barron was assigned the Chesapeake
as his flagship for his new appointment as Commander of the
Mediterranean Squadron. Captain Barron made little or no preparations
for the upcoming voyage of the ship. When the Chesapeake
left port, it was confronted by the British ship Leopard,
the captain of which demanded the return of three British
deserters believed to be on board. Neither the crew nor the
guns of the Chesapeake were ready to defend themselves.
The Leopard fired three shots into the Chesapeake,
boarded her, and took off four crewmen (only one of whom was
a British deserter). Three crewmen were killed and 18 wounded.
The end result was that Captain Barron was court martialed
and suspended from all naval command for five years.
next commander of the Chesapeake was Stephen Decatur,
Jr. who would later be killed in a duel by none other than
Captain James Barron who harbored a grudge against Decatur
for having served at his court martial. Decatur commanded
the Chesapeake from 1807 until 1809 when he was ordered
to turn her over to Captain Isaac Hull. From 1809 until 1812,
the Chesapeake was in moth balls at the Boston Navy
Yard. From 1812 to 1813, the Chesapeake, under the
command of Captain Samuel Evans patrolled the Atlantic in
search of British merchant ships. Captain Evans, who had previously
been partially blinded while serving at Tripoli, began losing
sight in his other eye while in command of the Chesapeake
and would never again serve at sea.
next, and last American commander of the Chesapeake
was Captain James Lawrence who was assigned on April 9, 1813.
Captain Lawrence asked to be assigned to the Constitution
instead, but his request was denied. He was ordered to sea
as soon as repairs were completed on the Chesapeake.
On June 1, 1813, just off the coast of Boston, the British
frigate Shannon was waiting, anxious for a confrontation with
an American ship. Indeed, the commander of the Shannon sent
a boat with a challenge to Captain Lawrence, but before the
challenge could be delivered, the Chesapeake coincidentally
left port and was immediately attacked.
of the crew aboard the Chesapeake had already stated
they would not fight until they had received prize money from
a previously captured ship. The battle between the Chesapeake
and the Shannon was over in 15 minutes. 146 crewmen of
the Chesapeake were killed or wounded including Captain
Lawrence whose last orders were "Don't give up the ship!".
These words would become the rallying cry for the War of 1812.
Oliver Hazard Perry, who was a friend of Captain Lawrence,
had the motto sewn onto a private battle flag which was flown
during the Battle of Lake Erie.
those killed on the Chesapeake was Pollard Hopewell,
Jr., a midshipman from St. Mary's County. Pollard Hopewell,
Jr. was the only child of Pollard Hopewell and his wife, Catherine
Hebb who were married December 19, 1785. Pollard, Jr. was
born sometime between 1786 and 1789. He was orphaned at an
early age. His father died in 1796 and his mother died on
August 5, 1799. Pollard, Jr. was left in the care of his uncle,
James Hopewell. As far as I have been able to determine, Pollard,
Jr. never married. It would seem almost destined for a boy
who had a short, sad life to die on this "hard luck" ship.
Chesapeake served in the Royal Navy until 1816. It
was dismantled in 1820 and its timbers used as building materials
for houses in Portsmouth, England. The gun deck timber was
used to build "Chesapeake Mill" which still stands in Wickham,
one other naval ship has borne the name Chesapeake
and because of the fate of the original ship, its Captain
successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Navy to change
by: Linda Reno, 9/10/2000
you know that....
Basil Hayden, a native of St. Mary's County who moved to Kentucky,
was the creator of the "Old Grandad" whiskey?
Janet Herbert Wilkinson, whose family lived in St. Mary's
and Charles County, was known as "Daughter of Maryland,
Wife of Mississippi, and Mother of Texas"?
Maryland Line, comprised of many men from St. Mary's
County, was called upon by George Washington to cover
the retreat ot the American forces at the Battle of
Long Island. The small force of 400 withstood the repeated
charges of over 30,000 British troops and refused to
surrender. 256 of these brave men lie buried beneath
the pavement and buildings at Third Avenue and Eighth
Street in Brooklyn, New York?