File:Commodore Stephen Decatur (118102136).jpg

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H St. on the NW corner of Layfayette Square NW

Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. (January 5, 1779 ? March 22, 1820) was an American naval officer notable for his heroism in actions at Tripoli, Libya in the Barbary Wars and in the War of 1812.

He was born in Sinepuxent, Maryland and attended the Abercrombie School in Philadelphia at Dr. Abercrombie's Academy with future naval heroes Richard Somers and Charles Stewart. He was appointed midshipman in the Navy on April 30, 1798, serving on USS United States. His father, Stephen Decatur, Sr., was also a Naval officer, having commanded several ships. Another Stephen Decatur (1815?76) claimed to be his nephew and was an incorporator of Decatur, Nebraska.

He married Miss Susan Wheeler, the daughter of the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia, on March 8, 1806. In 1818, in Washington, D.C., he built a house designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. The house, now a museum, was located on President's Square (Lafayette Square).

Decatur is famed for his toast: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong."

In 1820, Commodore James Barron challenged Decatur to a duel, relating in part to comments Decatur had made over what he considered Barron's poor conduct in the "Chesapeake-Leopard Affair" of 1807. The two officers fought in Bladensburg, Maryland, on 22 March 1820. Decatur was mortally wounded and died shortly afterwards. He died childless. Though he left his widow $75,000 dollars (a considerable sum in 1820), she died penniless in 1860.

He is said to have fired upon the Jersey Devil in front of guests, who were amazed to see the creature remain unharmed.

"Decatur's Conflict with the Algerine at Tripoli. Reuben James Interposing His Head to Save the Life of His Commander." Copy of engraving by Alonzo Chappel, August, 1804Active during the undeclared war with France, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1799. Given command of the brig Argus in 1803, he took it to the Mediterranean for service in the First Barbary War against Tripoli. Once in the combat zone, Lieutenant Decatur commanded the schooner Enterprise and, on 23 December 1803, captured the enemy ketch Mastico. That vessel, taken into the U.S. Navy under the name Intrepid, was used by Decatur on 16 February 1804 to execute a night raid into Tripoli harbor to destroy the former U.S. frigate Philadelphia, which had been captured after running aground at the end of October 1803. Admiral Lord Nelson is said to have called this "the most bold and daring act of the age."

This daring and extremely successful operation made Lieutenant Decatur an immediate national hero, a status that was enhanced by his courageous conduct during the 3 August 1804 bombardment of Tripoli. In that action, he led his men in hand-to-hand fighting while boarding and capturing an enemy gunboat. Decatur was subsequently promoted to the rank of Captain, and over the next eight years had command of several frigates.

On October 25, 1812, while commanding United States, he captured HMS Macedonian. In 1814 he flew a pennant as Commodore commanding USS President and three smaller vessels in the West Indies. The day after setting sail from New York, he encountered the British West Indies Squadron January 15, 1815, and was forced to surrender the frigate President after a fierce fight.

In May 1815, Commodore Decatur sailed his squadron to the Mediterranean Sea to conduct the Second Barbary War, which put an end to the international practice of paying tribute to pirate states. For this campaign he became known as "the Conqueror of the Barbary Pirates."

Between 1816 and 1820, Decatur served as a Navy Commissioner.

Five U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Decatur in his honor, along with numerous locations. Numerous schools also bear his name.

An engraved portrait of Decatur appears on U.S. paper money on series 1886 20.00 silver certificates.

Forty-six communities in the United States have been named after Stephen Decatur, including: Decatur, Alabama Decatur, Illinois Decatur, Texas Decatur, Georgia Decatur Township, Indiana

Source Commodore Stephen Decatur
Author dbking


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