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USS United States vs HMS Macedonian
Part of the War of 1812
BirchBattleBetweenTheUnitedStatesAndTheMacedonian.jpg
Naval Battle Between the United States & The Macedonian on Oct. 25, 1812 by Thomas Birch, 1813
Date25 October 1812
LocationAtlantic Ocean
Result American victory
Belligerents
Naval jack of the United States (1795–1818).svg United States Navy United Kingdom Royal Navy
Commanders and leaders
Stephen Decatur John Surman Carden
Strength
1 frigate
428 crew[1]
1 frigate
301 crew[1]
Casualties and losses
7 killed
5 wounded[1]
43 killed
71 wounded
1 frigate captured[1]


The capture of HMS Macedonian was a naval action fought near Madeira on 25 October 1812 between the frigates USS United States, commanded by Stephen Decatur, and HMS Macedonian, under the command of John Surman Carden. The American vessel won the long bloody battle, capturing and bringing the Macedonian back to the United States. It was the first British warship to ever be brought into an American harbor.[2]

Background[edit | edit source]

The United States declared war on the United Kingdom on 18 June 1812. United States, the frigate Congress, and the brig Argus joined Commodore John Rodgers's squadron at New York City and put to sea immediately, cruising off the east coast until the end of August. The squadron again sailed on 8 October 1812, this time from Boston. Three days later, after capturing Mandarin, the United States parted company and continued to cruise eastward.[3]

Battle[edit | edit source]

At dawn, on 25 October, five hundred miles south of the Azores, lookouts on board United States reported seeing a sail 12 miles (19 km) to windward. As the ship rose over the horizon, Captain Decatur made out the fine, familiar lines of HMS Macedonian, which was on its way to its station in the West Indies.[4]

Both ships were immediately cleared for action and commenced maneuvers at 0900. Captain Carden elected not to risk crossing the bows of United States to rake her, but chose instead to haul closer to the wind on a parallel course with the American vessel. For his part, Decatur intended to engage Macedonian from fairly long range, where his 24 pounders would have the advantage over the British 18 pounders, and then move in for the kill.

The actual battle developed according to Decatur's plan. United States began the action at 0920 by firing an inaccurate broadside. This was answered immediately by the British vessel, bringing down a small spar of United States. Decatur's next broadside had better luck, as it destroyed Macedonian's mizzen top mast, letting her driver gaff fall and so giving the maneuvering advantage to the American frigate. United States next took up position off Macedonian's quarter and proceeded to riddle the hapless frigate methodically with shot. She hailed the Macedonian demanding the name of her antagonist and whether or not she surrendered.[5] By noon, Macedonian was a dismasted hulk. When the United States closed for another broadside, Carden was forced to strike her colors and surrender. She had suffered over one hundred casualties, one third of her crew, while the United States only suffered 12 and had over 100 round shots lodged in her hull.[6] Because of the greater range of the guns aboard the United States, she got off seventy broadsides to the Macedonian's thirty, and emerged from the battle relatively unscathed.[2][7]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The two ships lay alongside each other for over two weeks while Macedonian was repaired sufficiently to sail.[8] United States and her prize entered New York Harbor on 4 December amid tumultuous national jubilation over the spectacular victory. Wherever they went, Captain Decatur and his crew were lionized and received special praise from both Congress and President James Madison. Macedonian was subsequently purchased by the United States Navy, and was renamed the USS Macedonian. It had a long and honorable career under the American flag.

After repairs, the United States sailed from New York on 24 May 1813, accompanied by USS Macedonian and the sloop Hornet. On 1 June, the three vessels were driven into New London, Connecticut, by a powerful British squadron, and United States and Macedonian were kept blockaded there until the end of the war. However, Decatur was transferred to the frigate President in the spring of 1814, and he took the officers and crew of United States with him to his new command. Hornet managed to slip through the blockade on 14 November 1814 and escaped to sea.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Borneman p.91
  2. 2.0 2.1 Borneman, 2004 p.91
  3. Borneman p.90
  4. Borneman, 2004 p.90
  5. Cooper, 1856 p.11
  6. Canney, 2001 p.30
  7. Hickey, 1989 p.94
  8. Canney, 2001 p.60

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Cooper, James Fenimore (1826
    Stringer & Townsend, New York). History of the navy of the United States of America. pp. 508. OCLC 197401914.
      Url
  • Abbot, Willis John (1886). The Naval History of the United States. OCLC 1667284.  Url
  • Borneman, Walter R. (2004
    Harper Colins, New York). 1812:the war that forged a nation. pp. 349. ISBN 0-06-053112-6.
      Url
  • Canney, Donald L. (2001
    Chatham Publishing / Naval Institute Press). Sailing warships of the US Navy. pp. 224. ISBN 1-55750-990-5.
      Url

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