Saturday, March 22, 2014

Death of Stephen Decatur


Bladensburg, Maryland (JFK+50) Stephen Decatur, Jr.*, American hero in the war with the Barbary Pirates, was mortally wounded 194 years ago today, March 22, 1820, in a duel with James Barron here in Bladensburg.

The duel was the result of the role Decatur played in the court martial of James Barron and his opposition to Barron's reinstatement into the United States Navy.

James Barron had been found guilty of unpreparedness in the loss of the Chesapeake in 1807.

Barron challenged Decatur and their seconds set the duel for 9 o'clock.  The duelists were to stand 8 feet apart, face to face.  This arrangement virtually guaranteed both men would be shot.

James Barron was wounded in the leg while  Decatur, who suffered a wound in the abdomen, was taken to his home on Lafayette Square.

Decatur was carried into the front room where he died at 10:30 p.m. He was 41 years old.

Stephen Decatur, Jr. Home
Lafayette Square
Washington, D.C.
July 19, 2003
Photo by John White

The funeral of Stephen Decatur was attended by President James Monroe, most members of Congress and more than 10,000 citizens.
Barron was reinstated in the Navy in 1821.

*Stephen Decatur, Jr. (1779-1820), the son of a naval commander who served in the American Revolution, was born in Worcester County, MD.  He rose in the ranks of the United States Navy being appointed to Lt. by President John Adams in 1799.

After heroism during the Barbary Wars, Decatur became the youngest man to attain the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy.

Following the War of 1812, Decatur and his wife built a 3 story red brick house on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.  The home was designed by English architect Benjamin Latrobe who also designed the Capitol.

Stephen Decatur


London (JFK+50) Parliament passed the Stamp Act here in London 249 years ago today, March 22, 1765.

The act levied a direct tax on all printed materials, commercial or legal, sold in the American colonies.

The revenue raised from the tax was to be used to defray the cost of defending the vast lands in America acquired by Great Britain as a result of the French and Indian War.

The Stamp Act resulted in a storm of protest in the colonies.  The act, repealed in 1766, was a key event leading to the American War for Independence.

British Tax Stamp (1765)