John Rodgers, an American naval officer, born in Harford co., Md., in 1771, died in Philadelphia, Aug. 4, 1838. He entered the navy as a lieutenant, March 9, 1798, and as executive officer of the frigate Constellation, Com. Trux-tun, took possession of the French ship L'In-surgente captured by her off Nevis, Feb. 9, 1799. In March he was commissioned captain, and made a cruise in the Maryland, 20, upon the West India station. In June, 1803, in the John Adams, 28, in company with the Enterprise, 12, he successfully attacked a Tripolitan cruiser of 22 guns and several gunboats at anchor in a bay near Tripoli. In 1804 he commanded the frigate Congress, 38, in the squadron employed against Tripoli under Com. Barron, whom in 1805 he succeeded in command.
He afterward conducted successful negotiations with Tripoli and Tunis. In the spring of 1811, while lying off Annapolis in his flag ship, the President, 44, Capt. Ludlow, Com. Rodgers, received intelligence that a seaman had been impressed from an American brig off Sandy Hook by an English frigate. He sailed for that point without delay, and on May 16, when a few leagues to the southward of New York, discovered a vessel of war and gave chase to her, and a short engagement ensued. He ceased fire when his antagonist proved to be the weaker ship, and boarding her the next morning found that she was H. B. M. ship Little Belt, of 22 guns, Capt. Bingham. She had suffered severely, but declined receiving assistance, and the ships parted. The accounts of this affair given by the two commanders differed materially, particularly as to the firing of the first gun, and it widened the breach which already existed between the two nations. On June 21, 1812, on the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain, Com. Rodgers sailed from New York in command of a squadron consisting of the President, the United States, 44, Congress, 38, Hornet, 18, and Argus, 16; and on June 23 a British frigate was discovered, to which a general chase was given.
The President came at 4 P. M. within gun-shot of the English ship, when a running fight took place, in the course of which a gun of the President burst, killing and wounding 16, Com. Rodgers being among the wounded; and the enemy's ship escaped. It was afterward found that she was the Belvidera, 36, Capt. Byron, which had 7 killed and wounded, Capt. Byron among the latter. The loss of the President was 22 killed and wounded. Com. Rodgers extended this cruise for about 70 days, capturing seven British merchantmen. He subsequently captured the British packet Swallow, with a large amount of specie, and the schooner Highflier. In June, 1814, he was appointed to the new frigate Guerriere, and rendered important services in the defence of Baltimore. At his death he was senior officer of the navy.