Many Americans remember the War of 1812 as a naval conflict in which, as Canadian historian C.P. Stacey put it, "the pride of the Mistress of the Seas was humbled by what an imprudent Englishman had called 'a few fir-built frigates manned by a handful of bastards and outlaws.'" There were few enough. The United States entered the War of 1812 with a navy of only 14 frigates and sloops-of-war with which to oppose the 1,000 warships of the Royal Navy. Almost immediately, however, the U.S. vessels began to score stunning victories in ship-to-ship frigate actions, most famously USS Constitution over HMS Guerrière on August 19, 1812. Songs and poems published in newspapers or as broadsides spread the welcome news of victories at a time when the land war seemed to be producing only defeats. Prints of these naval actions depicted the good news while further glorifying victorious captains and crews.
|United States defeats Macedonian. Hand-colored engraving. Graphics Division.|
|Broadside song celebrating Decatur and his crew. Book Division, Broadsides.|