USS President and USS Congress vs. HMS Belvidera
June 23, 1812
On June 23rd, at 6:00 A.M., the British frigate,HMS Belvidera, moves close to check out what she believes to be an American squadron. The crew had been informed by a merchant ship that war may have been declared. One half hour later the British crew sees 3 large American frigates and tries to steer the Belvidera away.
Commodore Rodgers is commanding the U.S. squadron. The USS President and the USS Congress both make sail and go after the Belvidera. The President is much faster and closes with the British frigate first, while the Congress follows. The British commander, Capt. Byron orders the Belvidera ready for battle. Rodgers fires the bow gun of the President himself. The President fires again from their main-deck guns. Three shot have all found their mark, killing or wounding 9 men. This battle would have most likely ended with the next few shots fired except that the President's main-deck gun blew up when it fired for the second time, killing or wounding 16 men. Rodgers himself was injured with a broken leg. The Belvidera opened fire with her stern guns killing or wounding 6 men. The President responded with a port broadside that did minor damage to the British frigate's rigging. The Belvidera continued to fire. The President moved close and fired her bow-chasers damaging the main top mast and cross-jack yard of the British ship.
The President fell back a short distance and fired another broadside, this did little damage. Again, the Americans closed and fired the bow-chasers, these shots did much more damage than the broadsides.
The crew of the British frigate worked hard and repaired the damage quickly. But the damage to the sails gave the Congress the time it needed to catch up. The Congress opened fire, these shots splashed harmlessly into the ocean. The Belvidera changed coarse and escaped. Three days later, it reached Halifax Harbour.
It must be pointed out that had the American gun not burst on the President, this battle surely would have been over quickly. It also should be pointed out that the repairs made by the British crew while under fire enabled them to make their escape.