William Henry Allen

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William Henry Allen
William Henry Allen (cropped).png
Lieutenant William Henry Allen, USN
Born (1784-10-21)October 21, 1784
Providence, Rhode Island
Died August 18, 1813(1813-08-18) (aged 28)
Plymouth, England
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1800–1813
Rank Master Commandant
Commands held USS Argus (1803)

Master Commandant William Henry Allen (21 October 1784 - 18 August 1813) was an American naval officer during the War of 1812.

Early life[edit]

Allen was born in Providence, Rhode Island and was appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy on 28 April 1800. Between 1800 and 1807, he served successively in George Washington[1] and Philadelphia. On 17 February 1807, he was promoted to lieutenant and was transferred to Chesapeake.

On 21 June 1807, he participated in the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair in which the Chesapeake was boarded by the British and four sailors were taken captive on suspicion of being deserters from the Royal Navy.[1] Allen was credited with firing the only gun discharged in her own defense by the American ship. The incident was a key development in building American resentment toward the British which eventually resulted in the War of 1812.

War of 1812[edit]

By 1812, Allen was first lieutenant of the frigate United States, under the command of Captain Stephen Decatur, and took part in the engagement with HMS Macedonian. At the conclusion of that capture, he was named to command the prize crew which took Macedonian into New York.[1]

On 24 July 1813, he was promoted to master commandant (equivalent to the modern day Navy rank of commander) and took command of the brig Argus.[1] On 14 August, he led his ship in the engagement with HMS Pelican during which he received mortal wounds. A round shot cut off his right leg, but he remained at his station until he fainted from blood loss. After Argus' surrender, Allen was taken to the hospital at Plymouth's Millbay Prison where he died on 18 August 1813.[1]

Master Commandant Allen was buried with full military honors in the churchyard of St Andrew's, Plymouth, England.[2]


In 1814 a small row galley was named the USS Allen in his honor.

The destroyer USS Allen (DD-66) was also named after him. The Allen served during World War I and was present at Pearl Harbor during the attack on 7 December 1941. The Allen was the oldest destroyer in the Navy during World War II. She was assigned to training duties and spent the remainder of the war at Pearl Harbor. After the war, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap.


His father, William Allen, soon after the start of the American Revolution in June 1775, was commissioned an ensign in the 3rd Rhode Island Regiment in the Continental Army. His regiment served in the Siege of Boston and was disbanded on December 31, 1775. In January 1776, he was promoted to 1st lieutenant in the 11th Continental Infantry Regiment and served until the regiment was disbanded at the end of the year. In January 1777 he was promoted to captain in the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. He commanded a company of the Rhode Island line of troops at the Battle of Saratoga. He transferred to the 1st Rhode Island Regiment when the two Rhode Island regiments were consolidated on January 1, 1781. William Allen was present and actively engaged in many of the battles which were fought during our Revolutionary War. In recognition of his service, he was advanced to the brevet (honorary) rank of major on September 30, 1783. He served until the Continental Army was disbanded on November 3, 1783. In 1786, Allen was appointed by Congress, senior officer of the legionary corps raised in Rhode Island. In the year 1799, he was appointed by the Rhode Island General Assembly a brigadier general of militia.

The mother of William Henry Allen, was the sister of William Jones, who served as Governor of Rhode Island.[4]

See also[edit]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Naval History & Heritage Command.
  1. ^ a b c d e Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. P. 8 ISBN 0837932017 OCLC 657162692
  2. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore: The Naval War of 1812; G. P. Putnam's Sons [1882] Naval Institute Press [1987]:
    ISBN 0-87021-445-4: pp. 125–126; 198-200; 203; 399.
  3. ^ Moscow, Henry: The Street Book; Fordham University Press 1978: ISBN 0-8232-1275-0 p. 22.
  4. ^ Frost, John, LL.D., "The Pictorial Book Of The Commodores; Comprising Lives Of Distinguished Commanders In The Navy Of The United States." Nafis & Cornish, New York, 1845. p. 247

External links[edit]