Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828)
Oil on wood, c. 1815/1818
Thomas Macdonough saw action in the Quasi-War against France, and then against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. In the latter action he served under commander Commodore Edward Preble, as did many junior officers who achieved fame in the War of 1812.
In September 1812 Macdonough, then a master commandant, was given command of the small naval force on Lake Champlain, with orders to construct more vessels and establish control of the lake. His orders assumed greater importance after Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory on Lake Erie forced the British to shift their focus to Lower Canada and set their sights on invading New York, for which they needed control of the lake.