Isaac Chauncey

Isaac Chauncey (February 20, 1772 January 27, 1840)[1][2][3] was an officer in the United States Navy who served in the Quasi-War, The Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. In the latter part of his naval career he was President of the Board of Navy Commissioners.

Isaac Chauncey
Born(1772-02-20)February 20, 1772
Black Rock, Province of Connecticut, British America
DiedJanuary 20, 1840(1840-01-20) (aged 67)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Place of burial
Congressional Cemetery Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1798–1840
Commands held
Other workPresident of the Board of Navy Commissioners (1837-40)


Chauncey, born in Black Rock, Connecticut, was appointed a lieutenant in the Navy from 17 September 1798. He fought with gallantry in the West Indies during the Quasi-War with France; in the Mediterranean during the First Barbary War; and commanded John Adams (18045), Hornet (18056), Washington and the Mediterranean Squadron (18151820). He was promoted to captain in 1806.

Perhaps his most outstanding service was during the War of 1812 when he commanded the naval forces on Lake Ontario, conducting amphibious operations in cooperation with the Army, and containing the British fleet under the command of Sir James Yeo stationed there.[4]

He also served twice as commandant of the New York Naval Shipyard. Isaac Chauncey played a prominent role in the creation of the navy yard. His service there, began prior to its official designation as a shipyard. Chauncey went on to be Brooklyn’s longest serving commandant 13 July 1807 – 16 May 1813, and again 21 December 1824 – 10 June 1833.[5] His letters to the Secretary of the Navy provide perhaps the fullest picture and most candid portrait by a career naval officer of the early yard. These letters deliver rich detail about the officers and employees, and the problems he encountered making the new yard a viable concern. Writing 27 November 1807 to the Secretary of the Navy, Chauncey pleads for maintenance funds " The following things are almost indispensable to promote the public service and for the accommodation of the yard. Two wells to be sunk, in the yard, with pumps in them, windows in the armory, a horse & cart to transport stores, fill holes about the wharf &c &c The tide ebbs & flows in 24 hours consequently leaving a dampness that must destroy the timber next to the ground very soon There is sufficient for the horse in the yard Six wheel barrows with more other little conveniences which I will hope you will leave to my discretion I will not abuse you’re your confidence."[6] Commodore Chauncey was particularly tough when negotiating wages. Writing on 5 January 1808 to Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith he explained "Some of them ( in consequence of Mr.Buckland having mentioned publicly that twenty three gun boats was to be built)immediately had an idea that we could not do without them and would not go to work. I however was able to find a sufficient number willing to work at the reduced wages and these who refused will in a week come back and beg for work and I shall be able to reduce their wages 25 cents more for the merchants have no work for them to do therefore they must either work for us at our price or go unemployed."[7] In May 1829, while in command of the shipyard, Chauncey led a series of searches for the body of George Washington Adams, who committed suicide by jumping from the deck of the steamship Benjamin Franklin.[8] In December 1835 Chauncey led navy yard marines and sailors in suppressing the Great Fire of New York by blowing up buildings in the fire's path.[9]

His last service was as member, and, for four years, President, of the Board of Navy Commissioners. Commodore Chauncey died in Washington, on 27 January 1840.



  1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chauncey, Isaac" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 18.
  2. Spencer Tucker. Almanac of American Military History. 1. p. 482. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  3. "Isaac Chauncey (1772-1840)". NY History. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  4. Marsh, Ruth (October 1942). "War on Lake Ontario: 1812–1815" (PDF). IV (4). Rochester Public Library: 6–19. Retrieved 2009-01-20. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. John G.M. Sharp A Documentary History of the New York (Brooklyn) Navy Yard 1806-1856,2019 pp 5-6, accessed 17 May 2109
  6. Sharp Ibid p.18
  7. Sharp Ibid p.20
  8. Kaplan, Fred (2014). John Quincy Adams: American Visionary. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 441. ISBN 9780061915413.
  9. Sharp Ibid p.80


Further reading

  • Dudley, William S.; Cogar, William B., Ed. (1989) "Commodore Isaac Chauncey and U.S. Joint Operations on Lake Ontario, 1813–14."
    In New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers From the Eighth Naval History Symposium
    Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.
  • Hickey, Donal R. (1989). The War of 1812, A Forgotten Conflict. Chicago:
    University of Illinois Press, Chicago and Urbana. ISBN 0-252-01613-0.
  • Paine, Ralph Delahaye (2010) [1920]. The fight for a free sea: a chronicle of the War of 1812.
    Yale University Press, New Haven, 1920. p. 235. ISBN 1-59114-362-4.

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.