Telescope used to observe USS Chesapeake vs HMS Shannon
Caleb Pratt, nephew of Massachusetts Governor John Brooks, used this telescope to observe the battle between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon off Boston Light on June 1, 1813. A small plaque on the telescope notes its origin as a gift to Pratt from Brooks on April 18, 1802. The plaque, presumably added later by Pratt, commemorates the telescope’s apparent use in observing the battle from the hills overlooking outer Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. HMS Shannon had been stationed off Boston for some time, hoping to lure USS Chesapeake out of the harbor. Shannon’s captain, Philip Broke, had been in command of his ship for seven years, during which he focused extensively on gunnery training with his crew and dramatically improved their efficiency and deadliness. Captain James Lawrence, on the other hand, had taken command of USS Chesapeake just 12 days earlier. He had an inexperienced crew, many of whom had not been in battle before. Despite this, Lawrence boldly sailed out to meet the Shannon. In less than 15 minutes, as crowds watched from the shore, Chesapeake was disabled and overrun by British boarders. As the wounded Lawrence was carried below, he issued his famous order, “Don’t give up the ship!” Although Chesapeake was lost to the British, Lawrence’s phrase became renowned as a battle cry of the United States Navy.