USS Duncan (DDR - 874)

" Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast ".

The Duncan Namesake

Lieutenant Silas Duncan

War of 1812 Hero
Battle of Lake Champlain,
September 6, 1814

Representative Image - 1812 Naval Officer
Searching for Painting or Lithograph of Lt. Duncan


Silas Duncan was born in Rockaway, New Jersey in 1788. He was commissioned as a midshipman on November 15, 1809 and served on the frigate "President," flagship of Capt. John Rodgers, North Atlantic and West India Squadrons, from November 1810 - February 1814. He took part in an engagement with the British Frigate "Belvidera" off Nantucket Shoals, Atlantic Ocean, on June 23, 1812.

He was ordered to duty on Lake Champlain on April 18, 1814 and assigned as Acting Lieutenant on the Flagship "Saratoga" under Capt. Thomas Macdonough. On September 6th, 1814, He was detached from the squadron under orders from Macdonough to arrest the progress of the British fleet advancing against the harbor at Plattsburg, NY. His mission was successful thus setting the stage for the American defeat of the enemy fleet some 5 days later. During this action he was nearly mortally wounded by a cannon ball in his right shoulder, permanently disabling his right arm. He received the thanks of and a sword of honor by Resolution of Congress approved on Oct. 20, 1814 for gallant services with his action.

The Battle of Lake Champlain depicted.

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Duncan was made Lieutenant on Dec. 9, 1814. He subsequently served during the War of Algiers. He was ordered to Schooner "Torch" under Lieutenant Wolcott Chauncey at New York, NY on March 17, 1815. He next served under Master Commandant William Lewis, on the Frigate "Guerriere," Flagship of Capt. Stephen Decatur, Mediterranean Squadron. He engaged in the capture of the Algerian Ship "Mashouda" off Cape DeGatt, Spain, on June 17, 1815, and the Algerian Brig "Estedio" off Cape Palos, Spain, on June 19, 1815. His following duty was on Ship-of-the-Line "Independence" under Capt. John Downes, for a three-year period, and then came shore duty in New York City from January 1, 1820 through 1822.

On New Years Day, 1823, Lt. Duncan reported aboard the Sloop-of-War "Cyane" under Capt. Robert Trail Spence, West India Squadron. On January 1, 1824, he received his first command, the Schooner "Ferret," West India Squadron, under Capt. David Porter.

Once again he took sick leave beginning Jan. 1, 1825 and then spent the next three years awaiting orders, at the end of which time he was promoted to Master Commandant, on Mar. 1, 1829. His next assignment was command of the Receiving Ship "Congress" at Norfolk, Virginia, from May 1829 to February 1831.

On February 3, 1831, He married Martha Dandridge Aylett, granddaughter of American patriot Patrick Henry, third youngest of six daughters from among the 13 children of Philip Aylett, of King William County, VA. Martha died in 1833. There appears to have been no children from this marriage as no children were listed among the many entries in the Philip Aylett family bible.

Master Commandant Duncan concluded his naval service as Commanding Officer of the frigate USS Lexington from 1831 until late 1832.

Following a third sick leave period begun on January 1, 1833, He remained ill at his home in Aylett, Virginia until his death on September 14, 1834.

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The Duncan Homes, Aylett, Virginia.

United States Naval History Museum
Official Naval Biography
Silas M. Duncan, U.S. Navy 1809 - 1834

Silas H. Duncan was born in Rockaway, N.J., in 1788. He was appointed a midshipman November 12, 1810 to date from November 15, 1809. Appointed a lieutenant April 28, 1815 to date from December 9, 1814, ranking No. 8 on the list. Master Commandant (Commander) March 1, 1829. Died at White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., September 14, 1834.

November 12, 1810
Ordered to duty on board the U.S.S. President.. Reported on board November 28th. His name is carried on the rolls of this vessel as Silas M. Duncan. After that no initial is found. According to his own statement he was captured in one of the President's prizes late in 1815, a few miles off New York and held prisoner.

March 26, 1814
(At New York) Writes that the President is undergoing repairs so he would like to be ordered to active duty on the Lakes or elsewhere. Also asks for promotion.

April 18, 1814
Ordered to repair to Vergennes, Vermont and report to the commanding officer for duty on Lake Champlain.

September 6, 1814
Acting as the third lieutenant on the Flagship Saratoga on Lake Champlain. Sent in the gig to order the gunboats to retire during an engagement . He received the concentrated fire of the enemy, but succeeded in delivering the orders to the commander of the USS Allen. In doing so he was severly wounded and lost use of his right arm. Due to the fact that he was confined to the hospital as a result of this wound, he did not take part in the famous Battle of Lake Champlain, September 11, 1814 and was not included with the officers who were awarded silver medals for that action. On May 13, 1826, however, the Resolution of Congress of October 20, 1814 was so modified as to include Lieutenant Duncan and a silver medal was presented to him.

March 17, 1815
(On Lake Champlain) Ordered to repair to New York for duty on board the Schooner USS Torch. However, owing to his physical condition he was released April 21st and allowed to remain on shore.

April 28, 1815
He joined the USS Guerriere fitting out as the flagship of the squadron which was about to sail for the Mediterranean under Stephen Decatur. While serving on this vessel he participated in the capture of two Algerian vessels, sharing in the prize money.

February 26, 1816
The Guerriere having returned to Boston, Duncan was detached.

December 16, 1816
Ordered to duty on board the USS Independence at Boston.

April 15, 1819
Detached from the Independence and ordered to the New York Station.

September 15, 1819
(At New York) Ordered to report to Commodore Isaac Chauncey at the New York Station for duty under his command.

June 13, 1822
Detached from New York Station.

June 14, 1822
Ordered to duty on board the USS Cyane preparing for a cruise on the coast of Africa.

May 11, 1823
Detached from USS Cyane.

August 15, 1823
(At New York) Ordered to proceed to Washington, D.C. and report to Commodore Tingey for command of the schooner Ferret, one of Porter's squadron engaged in the suppression of piracy in the West Indies.

***June 25, 1824
(Granted leave from Ferret for two months. No record found of further service until May, 1829.

May 16, 1829
Serving on board Receiving Ship Congress at Norfolk, Virginia until March 18, 1831.

March 18, 1831
Appointed to the command of the USS Lexington preparing for a cruise.

June 10, 1831
Instructed by the Secretary of the Navy to proceed to the coast of Brazil to relieve the Vandalia. He was told "It will be your duty to protect the commerce of the citizens of the United States, and maintain the national character by all the lawful and honorable means in your power, and until the arrival of the Commander of the US Squadron for that station (from whom you will receive more full and particular instructions) to keep the Department advised", etc.

October 17, 1831
Lexington arrived at Rio de Janeiro. (Commodore Cassin had departed for the United States July 12.)

October 31, 1831
The arrival of USS Warren makes Master Commandant Benjamin Cooper senior officer present and he orders Duncan and the USS Lexington to proceed to Montevideo and Buenos Ayres.

November 9, 1831
Lexington departed for the Falklands.

February 2, 1832
Duncan back at Montevideo from the Falklands.

February 3, 1832
Duncan made a report relative to affairs there. Report sent to the Secretary of the Navy direct "for the reason that I have been separated from the Senior Officer of the Brazil Station, and have deemed it proper to give the Department the earliest information of these proceedings."

March 5, 6, 12 and 25, 1832
Wrote that he would like to have permission to return home to settle the estate of his late father-in-law, Philip Aylett, King William County, Virginia. In March 25th correspondance with Navy Department, also asked for an investigation of his conduct in the Falkland Islands affair.

March 15, 1832
Commodore George W. Rodgers arrived at Rio de Janeiro and took command of the Squadron with the USS Warren as his flagship.

May 21, 1832
Commodore Rodgers died at Buenos Ayres.

June 19, 1832
Lexington at Rio de Janeiro. Duncan renews his request for permission to return home.

October 4, 1832
Duncan arrived at New York 35 days from Rio de Janeiro.

September 14, 1834
On leave at White Sulpher Springs, Virginia. Died.

The Secretary of the Navy wrote the following to Master Commandant Duncan April 4, 1832: "Under the circumstances detailed in your letter, the President of the United States approves the course which you pursued, and is much gratified at the promptness, firmness and the efficiency of your measures."

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