HMS Shannon

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HMS Shannon was a 38 gun frigate of the Leda class, launched in 1806.

Shannon was under the command of Captain Philip Broke from her first commission to 1813. Broke drilled his crew to an extremely high standard of gunnery. Following the shocking series of three consecutive defeats of British frigates in actions against the heavy American 44 gun "super-frigates", most notably against the USN Constitution, Broke was determined to engage an American warship in single combat. So he chose to burn captured American merchant vessels rather than send them to Halifax as a valuable prizes, since that would cost him essential crew. Broke found his opportunity with the 38 gun USN Chesapeake, which was refitting in Boston harbor under the command of Captain James Lawrence.

Shannon blockaded the harbor, and sent Captain Lawrence a formal challenge. In fact, the Chesapeake set sail before Lawrence received the letter. On June 1st 1813, Chesapeake emerged from the harbor to engage the Shannon. Broke's gunnery training paid off, their fire was effective and devastating from the outset. Within fifteen minutes the Shannon's crew had boarded and captured the Chesapeake. Captain Broke was seriously wounded while boarding, and Captain Lawrence suffered a mortal wound early in the battle. This victory against an American frigate, albeit one with a relatively untrained crew, raised the morale of the Royal Navy, and the Americans honored the heroism of Captain Lawrence, whose last order,"Don't give up the ship!" has become one of the most famous phrases in the US Navy.

SPOILER WARNING:  Plot or ending details for "The Fortune of War"  follow.

In the Canon

In Chapter 8 of The Fortune of War, Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers escape in a small boat from Boston and are picked up by Shannon just before her action with the Chesapeake. The action is described in Chapter 9. Despite his still unhealed wound, Aubrey assists in boarding the Chesapeake while Maturin treats the injured with the ship's surgeon. She sails into Halifax along with her prize, Chesapeake in the first chapter of The Surgeon's Mate. Captain Lawrence dies of his wounds and is buried with full military honours in Halifax. Jack Aubrey attends the graveside funeral.

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