Belvidera vs President

23rd June 1812
Part of : The War of 1812 (1812 - 1814)
Next action : Constitution vs Guerriere 19.8.1812


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Belvidera (36) Richard Byron (1769-1837) 9 casualties

United States of America

Ship NameCommanderNotes
President (44) John Rodgers (d.1838), Charles Ludlow 22 casualties

Notes on Action


Rodgers put to sea on June 21st, hoping to strike the West Indies' homeward-bound fleet. Two days out of the port he encountered the British frigate Belvidera, 36, Captain Richard Byron. Byron had been informed of the likelihood of war by a New York pilot boat; and as soon as he made out the strange ships he stood away before the wind. The Americans made all sail in chase, the President, a very fast ship off the wind, leading, and the Congress coming next.

At noon the President was within less than three miles of the Belvidera, steering N.E. by E. As the President kept gaining, Byron cleared for action, and shifted to the stern ports two long 18's on the main-deck and two 32-pound carronades on the quarter-deck. At 4.30 6 Commodore Rodgers himself fired the President's starboard forecastle bow-chaser; the corresponding main-deck gun was next discharged; and then Rodgers fired his gun again. All three shots struck the stern of the Belvidera, killing and wounding nine men; but when the President's main-deck gun was discharged for the second time it burst, blowing up the forecastle deck and killing and wounding sixteen men, among them the Commodore himself, whose leg was broken. Nothing causes more panic than such an explosion, for every gun is at once distrusted; and in the midst of the confusion Byron opened his stern-chaser, and killed or wounded six men more. Had the President pushed steadily on, using only her bow-chasers until she closed, she would probably have run abreast of the Belvidera, which could not then have successfully withstood her; but, instead of doing this, she bore up and fired her port broadside, doing little damage; and this manoeuvre she repeated again and again; while the Belvidera kept up a brisk and galling fire with her stern-chasers, and her active seamen repaired the damage done by the President's guns as fast as it occurred. Byron cut away his anchors, the barge, yawl, gig, and jolly-boat, and started fourteen tons of water, gradually shifting his course, and beginning to draw ahead, and the President, which had lost much ground by yawing to deliver her broadsides, could not regain it. The upshot of it was that Captain Byron escaped and got safely into Halifax on June 27th, having shown himself to be a skilful seaman and resolute commander. Subsequently, when engaged in the blockade of the Chesapeake, he proved himself to be as humane and generous to non-combatants as he was formidable to armed foes.

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Fred Bird on Saturday 15th of March 2014 20:07

According to family records, an ancestor of mine, John Herman Bird (b. 1790), served on the President and was killed in the action with the Belvidera on 6/23/1812. Are there any crew manifests from that period?

Fred Bird

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