Stephen Decatur - Command of USS Chesapeake

Command of USS Chesapeake

On June 26, 1807, Decatur was appointed to command the USS Chesapeake, a 44-gun frigate, along with command of all gunboats at Norfolk. The Chesapeake had just returned to Norfolk after repairs to damage incurred during the Chesapeake–Leopard affair. Commodore Barron had just been relieved of command following his court martial over the incident. Decatur was a member of that court martial, which had found Barron guilty of "unpreparedness", barring him from command for five years. Consequently Barron's previous orders to sail for the Mediterranean were canceled and the Chesapeake was instead assigned to Commodore Decatur, with a squadron of gunboats, to patrol the New England coast enforcing the Embargo Act throughout 1809. Unable to command, Barron left the country for Copenhagen and remained there through the War of 1812. Before Decatur assumed command of the Chesapeake he learned from observers, and then informed the Navy Secretary, that the British ships HMS Bellona and HMS Triumph were lightening their ballasts to prepare for a blockade at Norfolk.

During this segment of his life Decatur's father, Stephen Decatur Sr., died in November 1808 at the relatively young age of 57, with his mother's death following the next year. Both parents were buried at St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia.

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