Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828)
Oil on wood, c. 1812
James Lawrence was preparing to be a lawyer when his father died in 1796, leaving him free to choose a naval career. He received his midshipman’s warrant in 1798 and saw action in the Tripolitan War (1801–5) as Stephen Decatur’s first lieutenant. He had a succession of commands in 1809, and in November 1810 was promoted to master commandant.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Lawrence was in New York, in command of the Hornet. He initially sailed with Commodore John Rodgers’s squadron in an unproductive two-month cruise but later captured a ten-gun merchant brig and sank the Royal Navy brig-sloop Peacock on February 24, 1813. Lawrence took command of the frigate Chesapeake in Boston on May 20 and died in battle shortly thereafter.