USS Duncan (DDR - 874)

United States Frigate President

Midshipman Duncan's first warship

Image USS_President

Lieutenant Duncan's Log Aboard the Frigate President

United States Frigate "President" sailed from New York 21 June 1812 with US Frigates United States, Congress, Hornet, and the Brigantine Argus on a cruise in the North Atlantic. Commodore John Rodgers, Squadron Commander, commanded President. Two days later she fell in with H.B.M. Frigate Belvidera, and after a running fight of 8 hours Belvidera escaped. President put into Boston This action at sea is described through the personal writings of then Midshipman Silas Duncan serving on his first Navy warship. These descriptions are contained in a rare personal journal he kept during the years 1812 and 1813 while aboard President. Click on the thumbnails to view the full images and the text therein.

Image silas_header

Image Silas_Journal1

Image Silas_Sketch

Image Silas_Journal2

Saturday, June 20, 1812

Commenced, moderate & cloudy. At half past 2 spoke a ship from Richmond (no news). Discharged Lawrence May, Rod Palmer, Henry Williamson, Sam Rosch and Jacob Minor. At 4 spoke a pilot boat And learnt the United States & Congress Frigates and Brigantine Argus had anchored off Sandy Hook. At 8 light airs from the south and westward and cloudy. At 8 bells sent up top sail and royal yard. At 11 secured information that a declaration of war had been made against Great Britain. At half past 10 General Bloomfeld came on board. At 11 General left the ship, fired a salute and manned the yards. At meridian moderate breezes from the south. I mustered people employed, getting ready for sea.

Image Silas_Journal3

Sunday, June 21, 1812

Commenced with moderate breezes from South and Westward. At 2 brought the fast cutter from the gallant, unlent the old sails, then lent the new ones. Hoisted in the launch and fast cutter. At half past 12 the Brig Argus came to off the Battery. At 8 hrs, 900 gallons water onboard. Boarded the ship Powhatan bound for Bourdeaux with passengers. At half past 4 a.m. we got underway, made sail and stood down the bay. At 5 passed the narrows. At 6 discovered two large ships at anchor in Sandy Hook Bay. Proved to be the Frigates United States and Congress. At 7 came to with us the inboard because in 7 fathoms water with 27 fathoms cable. Furled sail. At quarter before 8 Commodore Decatur came onboard. At 8 moderate breezes from the northwest and westward and clear weather. At meridian light air from the southward. Opened the magazine and pulled 21 cartridges for the 2nd deck guns.

Image Silas_Journal4

Monday, June 22 1812

Commenced with moderate weather. Made the signal 12 degrees 5 minutes and got underway. Frigates United States, Congress, Hornet and Argus in company. At quarter past 4 tacked mizzen top sail and sent the 5th cutter on board the Revenue. At quarter past 5 filled the mizzen top sails and tacked the main. At half past 5 discovered a strange sail bearing east standing to the northward. Received information from a pilot boat that she was a British ship of war. Made sail and boat to quarter proved to be the Powhatan bound to France. At 4 bells tacked ship. At half past 5 the Commodore left. The ship tacked main and mizzen top sails. At 7 the Commodore returned on board. At Meridian all the Squadron in Company. Lat. Observation 40o 16 N Long. 70o 00' W.

Image Silas_Journal5

Tuesday, June 23rd 1812

Commenced calm and clear. At half past 12, Capt. Sinclair (of the Argus) came on board. At a quarter before 1 Capt. Lawrence came on board. At 1 Capt. Smith came on board. At quarter past 1 a light breeze springing up - squared away. At half past made the signal N 60o At a quarter before 3 Hornet made the signal W: 12125 At 4 moderate breezes from the westward. At half past 4 made the signal W 67 degrees. At 6 made the signal N longitude 36 degrees. At 7 the Argus made the signal 037. At half past 11 the United States made the night signal N: longitude 36 degrees - Tack 1o and Cardinal tack 3o. At a quarter past 3 bells spoke with Brig from Madeira who informed she fell in with a fleet of English merchantmen convoyed by a Frigate and Brig four days

Image Silas_Journal6

Tuesday, June 23rd (continued)

since in the latitude of 36o 30' N and Longitude 67o West steering ENE. At half past 3 closed down Top Gallant Sails and spoke with the United States and Congress. At 4 squared away to the eastward - At daylight made the signal to the Squadron to make sail and set fore and main Top Gallant Sails. Discovered a small sail on our Starboard bow, made the signal to the Hornet to chase. At 6 bells discovered a large sail on the Starboard bow standing to the Southward and Westward, made the signal of recall to the Hornet and to the squadron to haul on a wind on the larboard tack. At quarter before, the strange sail tacked to the northward and eastward. Perceiving her to be a ship of war made the signal for the squadron to chase. At half past 8 the chase made private signals and crowded sails. At 11 perceived her to be a Frigate, cleared ship for action. At Meridian Congress made the signal a strange sail in sight.

Image Silas_Journal7

Wednesday, June 24 1812

At half past 1 the chase located English colors, continuing under a full of sail, often adding sail below and aloft and stay sails. At 20 minutes past 4 bells having come within gunshot of the chase and perceiving her determination not to speak to us, but to keep us in line of her stern chases and that she was bringing them to bear upon us, commenced firing on her with the starboard bow gun which she immediately returned from her stern charges. We then gave her in quick Succession the Starboard bow gun and Starboard broadside and continued fire from the bow gun of the Congress, the nearest (cont.-)

Image Silas_Journal8

Wednesday, June 24th 1812 (cont.-)

Ship was then about 3 miles astern of us. At half past 4 the starboard bow gun on the Gun Deck burst and killed and _______ wounded the following persons. * Killed: John Taylor Jr., Midshipman; wounded Commodore Rodgers, Thomas Gamble, Lieutenant, Matthew C. Perry, Midshipman, Frank Ellery, do, Lieutenant, John Barrett, Quarter Gunner, James Beasley, do, Lieutenant, Jordan Beebe, Armourer, John Clapp, Seaman, James Stewart, do, George Ross, do, William Thomas, Ordinary Seaman, do, Neil Harding, do, John Berry, do, Henry Gilbert, do, John Smith 5th Boy, do. At 5 the chase commenced a fire from her Gun Deck but without effect and continued it from her stern chases only. At half past 6 gave her two Broadsides with considerable effect, the chase finding herself in a desperate situation, threw overboard every thing they could spare to lighten her. four boats, a great number of planks, casks and barrels, etc., floated by us. Tho expedient, together with the circumstance of Bow Guns retarding our progress through the (cont.-)

Image Silas_Journal9

Wednesday June 24th (cont.-)

water while her stern charges excellerated hers, enabled her to get at too great a distance from our guns to do execution, we however continued the chase until half past 11 when perceiving her to leave us in consequence of being lightened, shortened sail. From having been exposed to a raking fire from 4 stern charges the following persons were killed and wounded. Killed: John H. Bird, Midshipman and Francis H. Dwight, Marine. Wounded: John Heath, Lieutenant, Marines, Lawrence Montgomery, Midshipman, David Bafsit, Gunner, Andrew Mathews, Lieutenant, and P. Dewey, Marine. At midnight, clear and pleasant. At 9, all hands employed repairing damages. At meridian, committed the bodies of John Taylor and John A. Bird, Midshipman to the deep.

Image Silas_Journal10

Thursday, June 25th 1812

Commenced with fresh breezes. At 3 discovered a Schooner on the Starboard bow and a Brig on the Port Bow. At 5, committed the body of David Bassett, gunner who died of his wounds, to the deep. Set the mainsail. At 6 closed down the main topsail in order to fill the yard at sea. Hauled up the Foresail. At midnight took two dress in the Topsails. At 4 took one dress out of the Topsails. At 7 a heavy squall from the northward and eastward. Closed down the Topsails and took the third dress in them. At 8, close the topsails. At half past 9 split the main Topsail. At 11 sent down Top Gallant Yards and closed Top Gallant masts. At meridian fresh gale and cloudy. All the squadron in company.

The names of crewmen killed and wounded, and the description of the battle and tatics employed were verified by an extract from Commodore Rodgers personal Journal, aboard USS President, dated 23 June 1812. This extract can be found in the two volume set "The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History", Volume one, pages 153 through 157.

Free Guestbook
My Guestbook

Created: Sunday, July 27, 1997
Last update: Tuesday, July 18

©Copyright 2001 USS Duncan DDR 874 Crew & Reunion Association The information you receive on-line from this site is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing,
retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.