Stephen Decatur - War of 1812

War of 1812

The desire for expansion into the Northwest Territory, the capture and impressment of American citizens into the Royal Navy along with British alliance with and recruitment of American Indian tribes against America were all events that led into the War of 1812. Intended to avoid war, the Embargo Act only compounded matters that led to war. Finally on June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. By 1814 Britain had committed nearly 100 warships along the American coast and other points. Consequently the war was fought mostly in the naval theater where Decatur and other naval officers played major roles in the success of the United States' efforts during this time.

Upon the onset of the war President James Madison ordered several naval vessels to be dispatched to patrol the American coastline. The U.S. flagship, President, with 44 guns, the Essex, with 32, with the Hornet bearing 18 guns were joined in lower New York harbor by the United States with its 44 guns, commanded by Decatur, the Congress, bearing 38 guns, and the Argus with 16 guns. Secretary of State James Monroe had originally considered a plan that would simply use U.S. naval vessels as barriers that would sit idle in various ports guarding their entrances. However, through much protest and appeal from naval officers, the plan to confine America's naval vessels to port never materialized.

Three days after the United States declared war against Britain, a squadron under the command of Commodore John Rodgers in the President, along with Commodore Stephen Decatur of the United States, the Argus, Essex and the Hornet, departed from the harbor at New York City. As soon as Rodgers received news of the declaration of war, fearing that the order to confine naval ships to port would be reconsidered by Congress, he and his squadron departed New York bay within the hour. The squadron patrolled the waters off the American upper east coast until the end of August, their first objective being a British fleet reported to have recently departed from the West Indies.

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