John Rodgers - Encyclopedia


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JOHN RODGERS (1771-1838), American sailor, was born in Harford county, Maryland, on the 11th of July 1771. He entered the United States navy when it was organized in 1798. He was second in command to Commodore James Barron (1769-1851) in the expedition against the Barbary pirates, and succeeded him in the command in 1805. In this year he brought both Tunis and Tripoli to terms, and then returned to America. In 1811 he was in command as commodore of the U.S. frigate "President" (44) off Annapolis when he heard that an American seaman had been "pressed" by a British frigate off Sandy Hook. Commodore Rodgers was ordered to sea "to protect American commerce," but he may have had verbal instructions to retaliate for the impressment of real or supposed British subjects out of American vessels, which was causing much ill-feeling and was a main cause of the War of 1812. On the 16th of May 1811 he sighted and followed the British sloop "Little Belt" (22), and after some hailing and counterhailing, of which very different versions are given on either side, a gun was fired, each side accusing the other of the aggression, and an action ensued in which the "Little Belt" was cut to pieces. The incident, which was represented as an. accident by the Americans, and believed to be a deliberate aggression by the British navy, had a share in bringing on war. When hostilities broke out Rodgers commanded a squadron on the coast of America, and was wounded by the bursting of one of his guns while pursuing the British frigate "Belvedere." He was subsequently President of the Board of Navy Commissioners in1815-1824and in 1827-1837, and acting secretary of the navy in 1823 for two weeks. He died in Philadelphia on the 1st of August 1838.

His brother, George Washington Rodgers (1787-1832), a brother-in-law of Commodore Perry, served in the War of 1812 and in the war with Algiers (1815). Rear-Admiral John Rodgers (1812-1882), a son of Commodore John Rodgers, served in the Union navy and in1877-1882was superintendent of the Naval Observatory at Washington. G. W. Rodgers had two sons who were naval officers, Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers (1819-1892) and George Washington Rodgers (1822-1863).

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