USS Enterprise vs. HMS Boxer

Ship battle

Sept 5th 1813

Medal commemorating the action between USS ‘Enterprise’ and HMS ‘Boxer’, 1813

Obverse: A funeral urn upon a tomb chest inscribed: ‘W BURROWS’, a trophy of various small arms and flags and cannon behind, an anchor (left) and pile of shot (right) in front. Legend: ‘VICTORIAM TIBI CLARAM . PATRIAE MAESTAM.’ (The Victory meant fame for thee, but for thy country sorrow.)

Reverse: Port broadside view of USS ‘Enterprise’, brig (left), and port-quarter view of HMS ‘Boxer’, brig (right), her main topmast carried away. Legend: ‘VIVERE SAT VINCERE.’ (Victory is life enough.) Exergue: ‘INTER ENTERPRIZE NAV. AMERI. ET BOXER NAV. BRIT. DIE IV SEPT. MDCCCXIII.’ (Between the American ship Enterprize and the English ship Boxer, 4 September 1813.) Fought off Portland, Maine, both captains were killed in action. Signed ‘FURST.F.’ below the ground line on the obverse and in the exergue on the reverse.

One of a series of 27 medals commemorating American successes during the War of 1812, struck by special resolution of Congress. They were awarded to naval commanders in gold and to their officers in silver. The bronze examples are restrikes.

USS Enterprise versus HMS Boxer was a ship battle on September 5th 1813 off the coast of Maine. The United States Navy brig USS Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant William Burrows, defeated the Royal Navy gun-brig HMS Boxer, led by Commander Samuel Blyth.
On September 5th 1813, USS Enterprise sighted HMS Boxer off Pemaquid Point, Maine. After six hours of maneuvering, the ship battle commenced. Blyth prepared for a fight to the finish. He ordered a Union Jack nailed to the foremast and two on the mainmast. In Enterprise, Burrows moved one of his two long 9-pounders from the bow to a stern port. When the firing commenced, the ships were eight miles southeast of Seguin.

When the two brigs opened fire. Blyth exclaimed “Great God, what shots!” an instant before he was killed in the first shots of the battle. Moments later, while helping his crew run out a carronade, a musket ball tore into Burrow’s thigh, a fatal wounded, but stayed on deck. The fierce contest ended in 30 minutes. Command of Enterprise devolved to Lieutenant Edward McCall, while Lieutenant David McGrery had assumed command of the battered Boxer. Towards the end, McGrery described his ship as a complete wreck with three feet of water in the hold. The flags on the mainmast were shot away, but the Englishman’s colors remained nailed to the foremast. McCall returned to Portland, Maine to the southwest with the two ships and the casualties.

Newspapers in the United States rejoiced in “another brilliant naval victory.” After two days of planning, authorities conducted an impressive state funeral for the two commanders, and they rest side by side in Portland Main’s Eastern Cemetery.