William Ware, added to ‘hero’ list?

Note:  The following is an article sent by Marti Martin of the Woodford Co. Historical Society.  It was written in The Post Frederick, Maryland, September of 1977 by Nick Wood, a Staff Writer.

“Who is William Ware?

‘I certainly think we ought to put him alongside our other illustrious sons from Frederick County.’

This was the opinion of Harry Decker, who revealed a little-known local ‘hero’ to the Historical Society of Frederick County Tuesday evening.

The ‘hero’ is William Ware, a native of the Pipe Creek region, which was solidly within Frederick County long before Carroll County was formed.  He was a principal, if reluctant, character in a drama which might have led the United States into a war with Great Britain, and which did lead Thomas Jefferson to take the single most destructive and hated act of his presidency.

Ware spent his youth working in this area; first in a mill along Pipe Creek, later at Ellicotts’s Mill (at Ellicott City); and finally as a drover making weekly trips between Baltimore and Hagerstown.  Eager for adventure, he enlisted in the British Navy and spent an unhappy 15 months on a British vessel.  Because of poor food and poor living conditions , he determined to desert and when his ship visited Hampton Roads, Va. Ware and four friends jumped ship.

Still attracted to the sea, Ware then enlisted in the American Navy, and was assigned to one of six major warships in the fledgling  navy, the schooner Chesapeake.  On June 22, 1807, sailing from Norfolk to the Mediterranean Sea, the Chesapeake was stopped by a British frigate Leopard, which insolently demanded the right to search the Chesapeake’s crew for deserters.  When Commodore James Barron refused, the Leopard opened fire and the Chesapeake, unprepared for action, surrendered after 15 minutes of fierce action.

The Chesapeake was boarded, and after a lengthy search, four men suspected of having deserted the British fleet were taken prisoner.  (This was a common occurrence.  A number of American merchant vessels had been stopped and searched.)

Ware  and his unhappy companions were taken to Nova Scotia and placed in jail.  Decker had been unable to learn the fate of the men, learning from one source that they were freed, with abject apologies sent to the United States; from another (and from the source Decker is inclined to believe) that two of the men were hanged by the British, another died in prison, and the fourth escaped.  Whether this man was Ware, Decker has not learned.

Limping back to Norfolk, the Chesapeake was refitted and, under a new commander, fought the H.M.S. Shannon with equally disastrous results.

The battle is well – remembered for the dying words of the Chesapeake’s commander, ‘Don’t give up the ship.’  Unfortunately, they did, and Decker told the society that no other ship in the American Navy has ever born the name ‘Chesapeake.’

Commodore Barron was given a humiliating demotion, and he soon resigned from the service.

The indignity of the Chesapeake affair so inflamed the nation that Thomas Jefferson issued the Embargo Act, which effectively banned exports from the United States.  The effort, designed to bring economic pressure against England and France and force them to honor American shipping, kept American ships from the sea.

Being a nation dependent upon maritime professions, however, the country’s exports plummeted, the price of imports soared, merchants and seamen were jobless, and smuggling became a respected profession once more.  Although the act was economically disastrous, Jefferson refused to abolish it until his final week in office, causing considerable discontent.”


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