Title: Navy Captain, War of 1812
Birthdate: July 14, 1782
Death Date: December 10, 1845
Plot Location: Naval Plot 5, Grave 1; GPS: 39.93687 N, 075.23899 W
Several generations of the Elliott family, whose roots were in Ireland, contributed to the defense of America. Jesse was one of two sons of Robert Elliott, an officer during the American Revolution from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, just west of Harrisburg.. He married Ann Duncan in 1781 and lived in Hagerstown, Maryland when Jesse was born in 1782. After the war, Robert was a supplier of provisions and equipment to the army.
Jesse was 12 when his father died and the family lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Ten years later he entered the Navy as a midshipman, became a lieutenant in 1810, and married Frances Vaughan in April, 1812. He was sent to the Great Lakes six months later where he captured two British ships, the first Naval success in the War of 1812.
He was promoted to Master Commandant and assigned to the Niagara in 1813, and was second to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who was in charge of building a fleet where none previously existed. In that summer’s battle of Lake Erie, Commodore Perry took heavy fire on his ship, Lawrence, so he boarded the Niagara, whose cannon fire compelled a British surrender. Perry reboarded the Lawrence where he penned the famous words, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
Jesse was awarded a gold medal by Congress and succeeded his fellow gold medal winner, Commodore Perry, in command on Lake Erie that October, although there was no longer an enemy to oppose. During those post-war years Frances gave birth to three children. Her husband became Captain Elliott in 1818. While commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, he selected sites for fortifications and lighthouses along the North Carolina coast. In 1825 he took command of the Brazil Squadron.
From 1829-1833 he led the West Indies Squadron, had charge of the Boston Navy yard in 1833, then commanded the Mediterranean Squadron from 1835-1840. His flagship was the USS Constitution, the most famous ship of the War of 1812, where she earned the nickname, “Old Ironsides.” (She is the world’s oldest ship still afloat, and operated by the Navy out of the old Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.)
Questions arose about Captain Elliott’s misconduct while at sea, leading to a suspension from duty. In 1843 he was given command of the Philadelphia Navy Yard until his death two years later.
His grave was originally marked with a black slate flat marker that has become illegible. A new marker has been added as a regulation Naval headstone. Jesse’s son, Washington Lafayette Elliott, continued the family’s military tradition as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.
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