United States vs Macedonian, 25 October 1812

The clash between USS United States and HMS Macedonian was the second of a series of three clashes between single frigates that all ended in American victories early in the War of 1812. The reasons for this second American victory would be very similar to those that led to the first, the clash between the Constitution and the Guerrière. The United States was a 44 gun frigate carrying 24-pdr guns, while the Macedonian was a 38 gun carrying 18-pounders. The United States carried a crew of around 478 men, all volunteers, and including a number of experienced British deserters, some of whom had served under Nelson, led by Captain Stephan Decatur, a hero of the Barbary War. The Macedonian carried under 300 men, some of whom were impressed Americans, led by Captain James Surman Carden, later described as a “lover of whip discipline”.

The Macedonian was a new ship, only launched in 1810. In September 1812 she had left Spithead to escort an East Indiaman. Three days before the battle she had parted company with that ship, and sailed towards her patrol area. One alarming feature of the battle with the United States was that it took place in the eastern Atlantic, a long way from American ports. The U.S. Navy was clearly gaining confidence.

The battle began with a long range artillery duel, much to the American’s advantage. Their long range fire was more accurate than that of the Macedonian, and as a result the British ship took serious damage. Carden then decided to close on the United States, in the rather desperate hope that he could win a boarding action. Finally, Captain Decatur was able to manoeuvre his virtually undamaged ship across the bows of the Macedonian. Captain Carden was forced to strike his flag, surrendering the ship.

The aftermath of the battle was equally alarming for the British. A very large proportion of the crew, perhaps the majority, deserted to the Americans. Amongst them was the ship’s band, which later led the victory parade through New York. Although the naval war had by no means been one sided, the image of defeated British frigates would dominate. A third American victory would follow before the end of the year, when the Constitution defeated the well manned British frigate Java.

The Line upon a Wind, Noel Mostert. This is an excellent account of the greatest naval war of the age of sail. Mostert covers a wider range of topics than most books on this subject, while always remaining readable. There is a good section on the rise of American naval power and the War of 1812 [see more]
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Books on the War of 1812 | Subject Index: War of 1812

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 November 2007), United States vs Macedonian, 25 October 1812 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_united_states_vs_macedonian.html

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