USS United States vs. HMS Macedonia
October 25, 1812
On October 8, Commordore Rodgers left Boston on his second cruise. The American squadron consisted of the USS President, USS United States, USS Congress, and the USS Argus. After only 4 days, the United States and the Argus separated from Commodore Rogers.
The Argus, commanded by Capt. Sinclair sailed east capturing 6 valuable merchant men and returned to port on January 3. During this cruise, the Argus was pursued for 3 days and 3 nights by a British squadron. The crew of the Argus made the ship lighter so it would sail faster. After getting rid of the ships anchors and boats, the Argus was able to pull away.
The United States was commanded by Capt. Stephen Decatur. Decatur had made a name for himself when he boarded the captured Philadelphia in Tripoli Harbour and burned her. In Adm. Nelson of the Royal Navy's view, it was one of the most daring and bold acts of the times.
The United States sailed southeast towards Madeira. On the morning of October 25, the crew sighted a large sail, this turned out to be the HMS Macedonian.
The Macedonian was commanded by Capt. John S. Carden. The British frigate was newly built of oak. Carden after seeing the United States turned towards her. At this point, there seems to have been some discussion on the tactics that should be used. The British 1st Lieutenant was in favor of crossing the United States bow and raking her from ahead. Carden decided to fight a long range battle.
At 8:30 a.m., with the 2 ships approximately one mile apart the Macedonian fired 3 ranging shots from her port battery which fell short into the ocean. The United States answered with a broadside from her 24- pounders that had some effect. After passing the Americans main battery, Carden wore his ship but Commodore Decatur pulled away and out of range of the British gunners. The United States resumed her original coarse, increasing the distance between the 2 ships. At this distance, the advantage would be in the American's favor because they were using the heavier 24-pounders.
The Macedonian took a pounding for 15 minutes when Carden decided he had to close with the United States and fight at a shorter range. Commodore Decatur manuvred the United States so the British could not get any closer.
From this position the Macedonian was slowly shot to pieces. The damage was extensive, the Macedonian lost her mizzen top mast, main yard and top sail. Despite this damage, the British crew fought on for 30 minutes more. Eventually, both the top masts and the whole of the mizzen mast came crashing down.
The United States sailed past the bow of the Macedonian and did not fire a shot, instead pulled away and made some repairs. After approximately one hour, the United States returned, the 1st Lieutenant on the Macedonian wanted to fight on to the death but cooler heads prevailed and the British ship struck her colors and surrendered.
Decatur decided that bringing the Macedonian into port would be a boost to the American war effort. They made the necessary repairs and brought the Macedonian into port where many visitors came to see her and hear stories of the battle.
**NOTE** Captain Carden was acquitted at his court martial, but he was criticized for not being able to out manoeuvre the "United States", which was also known in the American Navy as the "Wagon".