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    In the midst of his correspondence arranging the duel in which he would be mortally wounded, Commodore Decatur requests a change in a cannon's design

    Stephen Decatur Manuscript Letter Signed "Stephen Decatur", one page, 7.75" x 9.75". Navy Commissioners Office, November 12, 1819. With integral leaf addressed to "Gouvr. Kemble Esqr/West point foundry/New York." In full, "The Board of Navy Commissioners transmit herewith, a sectional view of the breach of a carronade. The red line designating an alteration they wish made in the vent field of the same - it is made with a view to the more perfectly adapting the lock to them, & doing away the necessity of chiseling away the Gun for that purpose. - They have to request that the carronades, to be cast thereafter, shall conform to the alteration pointed out." Partially strengthened at folds on verso; hole, not touching text, repaired. Chipped at right edge. Penned on brown paper, light soiling. Overall, in fine condition.

    In 1815, sailing in the Mediterranean, Commodore Stephen Decatur's ships captured the Algerian pirate frigates Mashouda and Estedio and he swiftly compelled the Dey of Algiers to make peace. In 1816, he was appointed a commissioner on the Navy Board. In April 1816, in Norfolk, Virginia, at a banquet given to celebrate his victory over Algerian Barbary pirates, Decatur proposed a toast "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!"

    Gouverneur Kemble
    was appointed United States Consul at Cádiz, Spain, in 1816, and, fascinated with the Spanish government's process of casting cannon, studied the procedure. On his return to the United States in 1817, he established a cannon foundry at Cold Spring, N.Y., the West Point Foundry, across the Hudson River from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Kemble later served in Congress (1837-1841).

    In 1808, Decatur had sat on the court-martial board that suspended Commodore James Barron for five years without pay after the Chesapeake-Leopard affair. Barron spent the next ten years abroad, returning in December 1818. He unsuccessfully sought a naval command and blamed Decatur for preventing him from obtaining one. On November 30, 1819, just 18 days after Decatur wrote this letter, Commodore James Barron wrote a letter to Decatur. Since June, initiated by Barron, each had written three contentious letters to each other, each answering the other. On November 30th, Barron wrote, in part, "Your last voluminous letters is alone sufficient proof, if none other existed, of the rancorous disposition you entertain towards me, and the extent to which you have carried it...If my life will give it you, you shall have an opportunity of obtaining it...I have only to add, that if you will make known your determination, and the name of your friend, I will give that of mine, in order to complete the necessary arrangements to a final close of this affair." On January 24, 1820, Decatur wrote Barron, "If you intend it as a challenge, I accept it, and refer you to my friend Commodore Bainbridge, who is fully authorized by me to make any arrangements he pleases, as regards weapons, mode, or distance." On March 22, 1820, Decatur met Barron in Bladensburg, Maryland, where dueling was not outlawed; dueling was illegal in the District of Columbia. They paced off eight steps, turned, and fired. Each had been struck in the hip, but the bullet that struck Decatur bounced up into his abdomen, slashing several blood vessels. Decatur died that night. He was 41.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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