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  • ID: I2013
  • Name: Stephen Decatur
  • Prefix: Commodore
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 5 JAN 1779 in Sinepuxent, , Maryland, of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Note: Sinepuxent was destroyed by hurricane in 1818 and never rebuilt 1 2 3
  • Death: 22 MAR 1820 in Bladensburg, Prince George, Maryland
  • Note: In a duel with a Navy Officer 4
  • Burial: 1846 St. Peter's Churchyard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Note: Buried next to his parents
  • Burial: 24 MAR 1820 Vault, Joel Bartlett Estate, near Washington, D.C. 3
  • Note: 5 "This week February 16, 1804, a young United States Navy Lieutenant named Stephen Decatur led a group of navy personnel on a dangerous mission in Tripoli Harbor to destroy a US vessel, the USS Philadelphia, which had been captured by pirates in the Barbary Wars. He was promoted to Captain and went on to become a national hero, served with distinction in the War of 1812 eventually achieving the rank of Commodore. He is famous for the toast ‘Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong’. An interesting side note to Commodore Decatur's life is his tragic death, at the young age of 41, in a duel with another Navy officer that he had helped court martial. This week's web pick is a short biography of Stephen Decatur from the Navy website of one of his many namesakes, the ship USS Decatur."
  • Note: 3 "......Childless themselves, they [Stephen and Susan Decatur] were devoted to Decatur's widowed sister, Mrs. McKnight."
  • Note: 6 SEE ALSO
  • Note: Burned the USS Philadelphia in Tripoli Harbor during the Barbary War, which had been captured by pirates.
  • Note: 1 "Between then and the War of 1812, he sat on the court-martial of James Barron for the Leopard-Chesapeake affair, voting for Barron's guilt. The vote came back to haunt him later, after he had further distinguished himself in command of the frigate United States and of a squadron against the Algerians. The combination of Barron's vindictiveness, Decatur's pride, and probably some sharp practices by Decatur's professional enemies led to the duel in which Barron fatally shot Decatur."
  • Note: 7 His home on Lafayette Square in Washington, DC., was designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1818. It is now a museum. Many famous people have lived in the house including Henry Clay and Vice President George M. Dallas.
  • Note: 3 Born in a log cabin
  • Note: 3 He was born in Sinepuxent because his mother had gone there during the British occupation of Philadelphia.
  • Note: 3 Portrait by Sully in New York City Hall.
  • Note: BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES: Stephen Decatur (1779-1820), an American naval officer and War of 1812 hero, was born in Sinepuxent, near Berlin, Maryland in 1779. The son of American naval officer and privateer Stephen Decatur (1752-1808), he was commissioned a midshipman in the U.S. Navy in 1798. After rising to his first command in 1803, Stephen Decatur participated in the Tripolitan War (1801-1805). During that war, he became famous for his daring capture and burning of the U.S. frigate "Philadelphia" in Tripoli harbor in 1804. For that action he was promoted to captain. He took part in the bombardment of Tripoli and negotiated with the bey of Tunis. Decatur returned to America in 1805 and assumed command of naval forces on the southeastern coast in 1808. It was in 1808 that Decatur served as one of the judges on the court-martial that suspended Captain James Barron following the "Chesapeake-Leopard" incident. Decatur distinguished himself during the War of 1812, especially when the U.S.S. "United States," under his command, captured the H.M.S. "Macedonian" off Madeira on October 25, 1812. The British blockaded him with his prize in New London, Connecticut not long thereafter. In early 1815, he boldly attempted to run the blockade of New York with the U.S.S. "President." This action led to an engagement with several British vessels and his surrender. As a commodore in the Algerine War in 1815, he dictated a treaty with Algiers. He also exacted settlements from Tunis and Tripoli. From 1815 to 1820, Decatur held a powerful role as a navy commissioner, and he and his wife lived in the nation's capital and played an integral role in Washington's social and political life during that period. Initially, they lived next door to the Madisons in a house in one of the "Seven Buildings." In 1818-1819, Benjamin Henry Latrobe built the couple a house, which came to be known as Decatur House, next to Lafayette Square (then known as President's Square). Stephen Decatur lived in that house but 14 months as he was killed in a duel at Bladensburg, Maryland by his longtime enemy Captain James Barron on March 22, 1820. Susan Decatur was born the daughter of Luke Wheeler, who served for a time as mayor of Norfolk, Virginia. In 1826, several years after her husband's death, she began her efforts to obtain the prize money owed her husband for his capture of the "Philadelphia." In time, Susan Decatur became one of Georgetown College's most important benefactors at a time when the college experienced financial trouble. In 1834, she decided to donate $7,000 to the college, and she provided that sum of money in 1837 after being awarded a federal pension. Under the agreement with Georgetown College, Mrs. Decatur received an annuity payment of $644 per year until her death. At the time of her death on July 21, 1860, her claim for the prize money from the "Philadelphia" was still unresolved by Congress. Susan Decatur lived for a time in a house known as Decatur Cottage, which was located on land adjacent to Georgetown College on a site close to what is now the site of the White-Gravenor building. While the land is now part of Georgetown University, in Mrs. Decatur's time it was not on college grounds. The Decatur Cottage was built by William Brook, the father of carpenter Joseph Brook. For a history of Decatur Cottage and a description of its many inhabitants, see the "Georgetown College Journal" (Vol. 5, No. 7, p. 73-4, April 1877; Vol. 6, No. 3, p. 34, December 1877; and Vol. 6, No. 5, p. 52, February 1878). A photograph of Decatur Cottage is preserved in the University Archives photo file. Falling into disrepair by 1877, the house was torn down on November 21 and 22 of that year. Susan Decatur converted to the Catholic faith in 1828. Rev. John Curley, S.J. was her confessor. She was buried in the Old Georgetown College Cemetery located immediately to the northwest of the current White-Gravenor building. Her remains were subsequently moved to Holy Rood Cemetery and subsequent to that to St. Peter's churchyard in Philadelphia, where she rests beside her husband. The records of Holy Rood Cemetery are stored in the Georgetown University Library Special Collections Division. Sources: Curran, Robert Emmett, S.J. "The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University: From Academy to University, 1789-1889." Volume 1. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1993. "Concise Dictionary of American Biography." New York: Scribner's, 1964. "Decatur House." Eds. Helen Duprey Bullock et al. Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1968. "Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume, 1607-1896." Chicago: Marquis, 1963..................
  • Note: 'Known for his reckless bravery and stubborn patriotism, he is also remembered for the toast, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”'
  • Note: 8 Painting by Edward Moran (1829-1901) 1897 of "Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia in the Harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804" Painting in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection. Gift of Paul E. Sutro, 1940.
  • Change Date: 31 AUG 2007

    Father: Stephen Decatur b: 1752
    Mother: Ann Pine

    Marriage 1 Susan Wheeler b: ABT 1778 in of Norfolk, Norfolk, Virginia
    • Married: 8 MAR 1806 3

    1. Type: Periodical
      Publication: American Library Association
      Author: Roland Green
      Title: Booklist
    2. Type: Web Site
      Title: Stephen and Susan Decatur Paper
      Author: Georgetown College
    3. Type: Book
      Title: Dictionary of American Biography
    4. Type: Book
      Title: A Rage for Glory : The Life of Commodore Stephen Decatur, USN
      Author: by James Tertius de Kay
    5. Type: Web Site
      Author: W. Murray
      Title: Hourglass Newsletter
      Date: 18 Feb 2004
    6. Type: Book
      Title: Stephen Decatur: A Life Most Bold And Daring (Library of Naval Biography)
      Author: by Spencer Tucker
    7. Type: Web Site
      Title: The Stephen Decatur House Museum
    8. Type: Web Site
      Title: Wikipedia
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