January 5, 1779 - Commodore Stephen Decatur (right) is born at Sinepuxent, MD. The son a naval officer, Stephen Decatur entered the service in 1798, as a midshipman. Serving during the Quasi-War with France, Decatur was promoted to lieutenant the following year. Given command of the brig USS Argus in 1803, Decatur sailed for the Mediterranean to take part in the First Barbary War. During the conflict he gained lasting fame for leading a daring raid into Tripoli harbor to burn the captured frigate USS Philadelphia. For this deed, he was promoted to captain, becoming the youngest in the service. Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, Decatur sailed in command of the frigate USS United States. Encountering the frigate HMS Macedonian on October 25, 1812, Decatur attacked and captured the British ship. Returning home, he was blockaded at New London, CT by the British and was forced to transfer his flag to USS President at New York. Departing the port in January 1815, the ship ran aground damaging her hull. The following day Decatur was attacked by four British ships and forced to surrender after a bloody fight. Released at war's end a month later, he returned to active service and took a squadron to the Mediterranean to deal with the Barbary pirates. Arriving in mid-1815, he won a speedy victory and concluded a treaty ending the conflict. Returning to Washington DC, he served as Navy Commissioner from 1816 to 1820. On March 22, 1820, he died after fighting a duel with Commodore James Barron.
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command