Chesapeake Affair

Nor was Leopard on station long before an opportunity to act upon the admirals orders was to make itself available. There are many accounts of the actual incident available on line. Presented here is what appears to this writer what most likely occurred.

 The Chesapeake having been mostly supplied and fit out up river, took on her heavy guns and cargo at Norfolk. Commodore Baron having been aboard about 24hrs, and from some reports ill for that time, was under orders to relieve the USS Constitution as flag ship of the Mediterranean fleet. At this time he was already 4 months late in the execution of this order.

Captain Charles Gordon was in command of the Chesapeake, and my research would suggest that the day to day operations of his command had been left to him. Prior to the Leopard setting sail some accounts have her anchored near the Chesapeake, with some of her officer core scrutinizing her preparations with telescopes.

Be that as it may, the crew of the Chesapeake was undermanned, and untrained. Her decks clogged with sails, cargo, and supplies intended for the Mediterranean fleet. She would have appeared more like a disorganized, undisciplined merchant ship than an American ship of war to any observing British officers. The fact that she was setting out on a peaceful mission, on a sea containing no declared enemy, might explain her apparent lack of  readiness but nothing can excuse it. It has been stated that her condition as she left harbor on that June day is a disgrace to the government that sent her out and the officer that commanded her.