One of the most heroic men who fought for the United States during the War of 1812 was the French privateersman, Commodore John Ordroneaux. The War of 1812 was fought mainly between ships on the Atlantic Ocean. William Maclay, a historian of the American Navy, describing Ordroneaux's remarkable feats at sea, said of him that "he commanded respect by his ability and bravery during battle."
Ordroneaux was a short man and it was hard to believe that he could command and convince a weather-beaten, hardy and experienced crew to accept his authority. It is told that he once halted a retreat by his men in the face of a British boarding party by running to the powder magazine with a lighted match and threatening to blow up the ship if his crew retreated further.
Ordroneaux commanded an armed private ship named Prince de Neufchatel, which was fitted out with private funds. One of the most remarkable actions of the War of 1812 took place when the Prince de Neufchatel encountered the 40-gun British frigate, Endymion. A battle ensued between the two ships with many cannon shots being exchanged. The much more heavily armed British Endymion kept pounding Odroneaux's.
The commander of the ENDYMION became frustrated as he lost as many men as if he fought a man-of-war of equal force. He privately acknowledged the heroism displayed by the crew members of the privateer was a fierce and skillful defense. It is said that Commodore Ordroneaux himself fired some 80 rounds at the enemy.
The British tried many times to have their men board the Prince de Neufchatel, but they were repulsed with every attempt. The casualties were high for the British and after 20 minutes they cried out for quarter. The Americans ceased firing and captured the ship and its crew.
Commodore John Ordroneaux proved himself to a brave and adroit leader. He continued to roam the seas looking for the British ships until the war came to an end.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
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