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John Rodgers (naval officer, War of 1812)

From Academic Kids

Commodore John Rodgers (11 July 1772 - 1 August 1838) was an American naval officer who served in the United States Navy from its organization in the 1790s through the late 1830s. His service included the Quasi-War with France and the War of 1812.

Rodgers was born near present-day Havre de Grace, Maryland. He entered the Navy as Second Lieutenant when it was organized on 8 March 1798 and was assigned to Constellation. He helped capture French frigate L'Insurgente 9 February 1799 and took command of her as prize master. He was promoted to Captain 5 March 1799 and 3 months later took command of Maryland. In March 1801 he transported the ratified Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Mortefontaine), which ended the Quasi-War, to France. Placed in command of John Adams the following year, he sailed for the Mediterranean to attack Barbary forts and gunboats at Tripoli, as part of the First Barbary War. His brilliant record fighting the corsairs won him appointment as Commodore of the Mediterranean Squadron in May 1805.

A year later he returned to the United States to take command of the New York Flotilla. After the Embargo Act was passed at the close of 1807, Rodgers commanded operations along the Atlantic coast enforcing its provisions.

In 1811 he was in command as Commodore of President off Annapolis when he heard that an American seaman had been "impressed" by a British frigate off Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Commodore Rogers was ordered to sea to "protect American commerce", but he may have had verbal instructions to retaliate for the impressment of British subjects out of American vessels, which was causing much ill-feeling and was a main cause of the War of 1812. On the 16th of May 1811 he sighted and followed the British sloop Little Belt, and after some hailing and counterhailing, of which very different versions are given on either side, a gun was fired, each side accusing the other of the first shot, and an action ensued in which Little Belt was cut to pieces. The incident, which was represented as an accident by the Americans, and believed to be deliberate aggression by the British, had a share in bringing on the war.

On the sixth day of the War of 1812, still in President, Rodgers drove off British frigate Belvidera and chased her for 8 hours before she escaped. He was wounded during this engagement when a gun burst near him. During the remainder of the war he captured 23 prizes and on land rendered valuable service defending Baltimore during the attack on Fort Henry.

Following the war, Rodgers headed the Board of Navy Commissioners until retiring in May 1837. Commodore Rodgers died in Philadelphia 1 August 1838.

Influence and legacy

Commodore Rodgers established a naval "dynasty" that produced several other notable officers. His son John Rodgers (1812-1882) served in the Civil War, and his great-grandson John Rodgers (1881-1926) served in World War I.

Six ships have been named in their honor, three as USS John Rodgers and three as USS Rodgers.

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