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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Captain James Lawrence

  • [An American naval officer; born at Burlington, N.J., 1781; served with Decatur in the Mediterranean; captured “The Peacock” from the British, 1813; encountered “The Shannon,” in “The Chesapeake,” near Boston, where he was mortally wounded, and the vessel taken by the English, June 1, 1813.]
  • Don’t give up the ship!

  • The shorter form of the last words of the rash but intrepid Lawrence, as he was carried below after his second and mortal wound. The surgeon’s mate, Dr. John Dix, testified on the trial of Lieut. Cox, April 14, 1814, that Capt. Lawrence “ordered me to go on deck, and tell the men to fire faster, and not to give up the ship.” He had been in command of the “Chesapeake” but a few days, and was a stranger to the crew, who were not well disciplined.
  • The laconic form of the order floated at the mast-head of Commodore Perry’s flag-ship, “The Lawrence,” during the battle of Lake Erie, Sept. 13, 1813. Perry had said, “If a victory is to be gained, I’ll gain it!” and in his despatch to Gen. Harrison he announced the result with a brevity worthy of Cæsar: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours!”
  • Another saying in this war became proverbial. When, during the battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 25, 1814, Gen. Brown noticed the fire of a British battery on a hill in the enemy’s centre, and saw that unless it were stopped it would destroy the whole American force, or compel it to fall back, he asked Col. James Miller, commanding the Twenty-first Regiment, if he could silence it. “I’ll try, sir,” was the modest but unflinching reply. Ascending the hill by a flank movement, the regiment poured one volley into the battery; his men moved forward with the bayonet, the hill was immediately cleared, and the battery captured.
  • Franklin recommended Kosciusko, a young Polish officer, to Washington; who asked him, when he offered his services, “What can you do?”—“Try me,” was the laconic answer. Washington made him his aide-de-camp; and he superintended the construction of the works at West Point, where a monument was afterwards erected to his memory.