Letter from William Bainbridge to George Harrison, October 28, 1817
USS Constitution, under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge, defeated the British frigate HMS Java on December 29, 1812 in her second victory of the War of 1812. The ship made Boston on February 15, 1813, and Bainbridge and his crew were greeted with a hero’s welcome.
Bainbridge was awarded a Congressional gold medal for his victory. The medal’s obverse shows the bust of Bainbridge in uniform, and the reverse shows a starboard view of Java completely dismasted. Upon receiving a proof of the medal, however, Bainbridge was dissatisfied with the design on the reverse. He wrote to Navy Agent George Harrison on October 28, 1817 asking that changes be made to the image showing HMS Java‘s flag flying. Instead, he asked that the flag be shown lowered to indicate the British ship has surrendered.