Chesapeake Affair

February 1807 Officers aboard the HMS Melampus, anchored at Hampton Roads, took the opportunity to throw a party of fine entertainment. While the toasting and singing was at its height, five sailors, seeing that the officer’s gig had not been secured went over the side and rowed for shore. Once observed pulling for shore fire was opened upon them bullets filled the air, whistled about the deserters and plunked into the water.  Reaching the shore the fugitives gave three cheers and disappeared to Norfolk. William Ware, John Little, Ambrose Watts, John Straehan, Daniel Martin had made their escape.

Martin, Ware, and Straehan would be enlisted to serve aboard the USS Chesapeake by Lieutenant Sinclair. A demand for their arrest and return as deserters was presented to the Secretary of the Navy, who deferred to Commodore Baron. After an investigation the Commodore determined that not one of them was subject of King George. Martin was a Negro from Massachusetts, Straehan was white, Ware a mulatto, both from Maryland. Ware and Martin had been impressed at the same time. Of Little and Watts noting was known no enlisting officer had returned their names.