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Elliott, Jesse Duncan

Elliott, Jesse Duncan, naval officer, was born in Maryland, July 14, 1785; 
son of Robert Elliott of Franklin county, Pa., a Revolutionary patriot, who 
was killed by the Indians in 1794 while conducting supplies to the army under 
General Wayne. Jesse studied at Carlisle, Pa., and pursued a course of law. 
He was given a warrant as midshipman on the frigate Essex in 1804 and saw his 
first service under Preble with the Mediterranean squadron. On his return to 
the United States in 1807 he was assigned to the frigate Chesapeake and was 
acting lieutenant on the schooner Enterprise in 1809, engaged in enforcing 
the embargo laws. In 1810, he was promoted to a lieutenancy and was the 
bearer of important messages to William Pinkney, U.S. minister at the court 
of St. James. On his return from England he was ordered to the frigate John 
Adams, and was subsequently transferred to the Argus. While on leave of 
absence to be married to a daughter of William Vaughn of Norfolk, Va., war 
was declared with Great Britain and the Argus was ordered to sea. He hastened 
to New York but arrived after his vessel had sailed, and thereupon he joined 
Commodore Chauncey at Sacket Harbor. He was ordered to the Upper lakes to 
superintend the construction of a fleet to meet the necessities of defence. 
On his arrival off Fort Erie he found the British ships Detroit and Caledonia 
anchored under the guns of the fort and with a small body of sailors in two 
open boats he captured the vessels. Finding it impossible to navigate the 
Detroit he removed the armament and provisions, held her crew as prisoners 
and burned the vessel He secured the Caledonia with a cargo valued at 
$200,000, safely bringing her to the American shore. For this action he was 
voted a sword and the thanks of the nation by congress. He was then ordered 
to join Commodore Chauncey's fleet, commanded the Madison at the capture of 
York, April 27, 1813, was promoted in July to the rank of master, and 
commanded the Niagara in the battle of Lake Erie, being second in command of 
the naval forces engaged. The official report of Captain Perry gave him 
eulogistic praise for his action in this engagement, and congress voted him a 
gold medal. He afterward heard of insinuations reflecting on his action in 
this engagement and asked for a court-martial to investigate the matter. The 
court pronounced him "a brave and skilful officer." In October, 1813, he 
succeeded Perry in the command of the fleet and finding no active enemy to 
oppose he asked to be transferred to the squadron of Decatur operating 
against Algiers, where in 1815 he commanded the sloop-of-war Ontario. Upon 
his return he was promoted captain in 1818 and engaged in the coast service 
till 1825, when he commanded the Cyane in the South Atlantic squadron. In 
1829-32 he commanded the West Indian squadron and in 1833 was commandant at 
the Charlestown navy yard, Boston harbor. Subsequently on board the 
Constitution as flag-ship he commanded the Mediterranean squadron and visited 
in that historic ship the most important ports of the old world. Returning in 
1840 he was court-martialed and suspended from active service for four years. 
in September, 1843, President Tyler remitted part of the sentence, and he had 
charge of the Philadelphia navy yard, where he died Dec. 18, 1846.

The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume III
Submitted by: Submitted by: Sharon Lantzy Wygant

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