The Story Of The United States Navy Quotes

"Don't Give Up The Ship"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: During the war of 1812, or more precisely, on June 1, 1813, Commander James Lawrence, in the Chesapeake, attempted to run the British blockade of Boston. His mission was to station his ship off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he would intercept British troop and supply ships. Two blockading ships awaited him out of Boston Harbor–one, the Shannon, commanded by one of Britain's most capable seamen, Captain Broke, and the other the Tenedos. Broke had written a letter challenging Lawrence to a ship-to-ship combat with the Shannon, but it had not been received. When Lawrence emerged from the harbor, he was promptly intercepted by the Shannon, and the ensuing battle lasted only nine minutes. The Chesapeake was in an unmanageable position too close to the Shannon, and her decks were so swept with withering fire that the crew was driven below. Lawrence was mortally wounded. His attending surgeon, Dr. John Dix, testified in a Court of Inquiry later that the dying commander had charged him with directions to pass on to the crew, and that these directions had been altered somewhat to make the popular slogan, "Don't give up the ship!" Other versions reported by historians are "Don't give up the ship! Sink her, blow her up!" or "Don't give up the ship! Blow her up!" Still another version reads:

"Tell the men to fire faster, and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks!"