John Shaw (naval officer)

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John Shaw (1773 – September 17, 1823) was a captain in the early years of the United States Navy.

John Shaw, painted by Gilbert Stuart 1793


He was born at Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland, in 1773, and moved to the United States in 1790, where he settled in Philadelphia, and entered the merchant marine.

Appointed Lieutenant in the United States Navy on August 3, 1798, he first served in Montezuma in Commodore Thomas Truxtun's squadron in the West Indies during the early part of the Quasi-War with France. On October 20, 1799, he was given command of the schooner Enterprise in which, during the next year, he captured seven armed French vessels and recaptured several American merchantmen. By the time he was relieved of command due to ill health in October 1800, he had made Enterprise one of the most famous vessels of the Navy.

During the First Barbary War, Shaw commanded frigate Adams in the Mediterranean under Commodore John Rodgers from May to November 1804. He was promoted to Captain in August 1807.

Shaw helped suppress the 1811 German Coast Uprising.

During the War of 1812, Shaw commanded the New Orleans naval post as well as the frigate United States.

Captain Shaw died at Philadelphia, where he was interred in the Christ Church Burial Ground, along with Benjamin Franklin and other signers of the Declaration of Independence. His epitaph reads:

In Memory of John Shaw

Late a captain in the Navy of the U.S.
For courage and humanity
Discipline without rigor
Skill with good conduct
Integrity above suspicion
And honour without a blemish,
He gave to the world a noble spectacle
Of a man who without patronage raised
Himself among men of the highest merit
To be the first rank in the service of
His adopted country
Enjoying the confidence of the Government
Beloved in a rare degree by those
Under his parental command and
Blest with friends of kindred worth and feeling.
He died as he lived
Without fear and without reproach

On the 17th day of September 1823 aged 50 years

Shaw's daughter was married to Francis Hoyt Gregory (1780–1866), an officer in the United States Navy during the War of 1812 through the Civil War, serving then as a Rear Admiral.

US Navy vessels named in honor of Shaw[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.


  • Cooper, James Fenimore (1846). Lives of distinguished American naval officers.
    Carey and Hart, Philadelphia. p. 436. OCLC 620356.
  • Cooper, James Fenimore (1856). History of the navy of the United States of America.
    Stringer & Townsend, New York. p. 508. OCLC 197401914.

External links[edit]