Stephen Decatur

By | Jan 5, 2012

Stephen Decatur was born on January 5, 1779 in Berlin, Maryland and was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 19 he joined the newly formed U.S. Navy, and rose rapidly in rank.

He was the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the United States Navy. He also was the first American to be a national military hero who had not played a role in the American Revolution.

As a Lieutenant, Decatur lead a a night raid on February 16, 1804 into Tripoli harbor to destroy the previously captured U.S. frigate Philadelphia. Admiral Lord Nelson is said to have called his raid “the most bold and daring act of the Age”.

During the War of 1812 he commanded several ships including the USS United States in which he defeated one of Great Britain’s finest ships, the Macedonian. After the War he served as a Navy Commissioners in Washington DC.

The house that was built for Stephen Decatur and his wife Susan in the Capital city still remains as one of the oldest surviving homes in Washington. Across from the White House it is one of three remaining houses that were designed by the father of American architecture, Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Stephen Decatur and James Barron had once been friends. When Barron was court martial in 1808 Decatur agreed with the verdict that expelled Barron from the Navy for five years. Throughout the next 12 years the two dueled through letters until on March 22, 1820, Commodore Stephen Decatur and Commodore James Barron met on the dueling ground in Bladensburg, Maryland. Both men were wounded, but it was Decatur who died later in the day at his home on Lafayette Square.


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