Free History Studies: Captain James Lawrence

Captain James Lawrence is best known as the naval officer whose last command was “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” a battle cry later carried on a flag  by Oliver Perry.

Read the current chapter online: “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
    • New Jersey
    • Burlington, New Jersey (where he was born)
    • Massachusetts
    • Boston, Massachusetts (where the Chesapeake left port)
    • Nova Scotia (where the British took the captured Chesapeake)
  • “Don’t give up the ship!” is considered an idiom — a figurative phrase in common usage whose meaning differs from its literal meaning.  So when someone says to you, “don’t give up the ship,” what are they really saying?
  • Create a list of five common idioms and their meanings.
  • Use “Grandfather’s Rhyme” as copywork.
  • Learn more about the Chesapeake, the ship James Lawrence captained.
  • Oliver Hazard Perry used his friend Captain Lawrence’s words to create a battle flag during the Battle of Lake Erie when he captured an entire British fleet during the War of 1812.  Create a banner with an inspirational saying.
  • More about Captain Lawrence from the Book of Knowledge:

    The capture of the British sloop of war Peacock by the American boat Hornet, under Master Commander James Lawrence, was much like the preceding victories in its results.  The fire of the American was rapid and accurate.  In eleven minutes from the time the firing began the Peacock was disabled and sank in spite of every effort to save her….

    Never had the English suffered such a series of defeats as the Americans inflicted upon their navy….  One Englishman said that there was scarcely an American ship that could not boast a victory.

    The first ship was lost when the frigate Chesapeake surrendered to the Shannon.  The Chesapeake was at anchor in Boston Harbor, where Captain James Lawrence was sent to fit her out for sea.  When he arrived there he found that nearly all of her old crew had left the ship, and Captain Lawrence was forced to man the vessel with a crew of untrained, riotous men.

    While he was gathering them together Captain Broke of the Shannon sent a challenge to the Chesapeake asking for a ship duel in any place that the American captain named.  He accepted the challenge and met the Shannon at sea.  After a short, fierce fight the fire of the Shannon proved too much for the shattered Chesapeake.  Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded and his dying words were, “Don’t give up the ship,” but this surrender could not be prevented.

    “Navel Heroes of Young America,” The Book of Knowledge

Further Investigation

Captain James Lawrence, USN
Biography from the Naval Historical Center.

Don’t Give Up the Ship
Another biography at

Perry’s “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Flag
Photo and description.


New Jersey Map/Quiz Printout

Massachusetts Map/Quiz Printout

Label the Canadian Provinces Map

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Make your own maps.

Captain James Lawrence Code
Well, you’ll know what the code is, but cute coloring page from Crayola in any case!

My Motto
Also from Crayola, a neat way to create the inspirational banner mentioned above.


“The Shannon and the Chesapeake”
Chapter from The Struggle for Sea Power by M. B. Synge.

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”
Chapter from American History Stories by Mara Louise Pratt.

Don’t Give Up the Ship by George Sheldon
Short public domain account of Captain Lawrence and the Chesapeake.

James Lawrence by Albert Gleaves
Complete biography in the public domain.

“Oliver Hazard Perry”
A chapter from Builders of Our Country by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth that tells about the Battle of Lake Erie and Perry’s tribute to his friend, Captain Lawrence.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Future, Present, and Past: Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie
Lesson plan from the Smithsonian analyzing Perry’s victory over the British at Lake Erie via paintings.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map map for locating New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Canada map for locating Nova Scotia.

New Jersey State Map
Map for locating Burlington.

Massachusetts State Map
Map for locating Boston.

Captain Lawrence & “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans

Don’t Miss a Thing!

Subscribe to receive updates and additions.

Learn to Write. Write.:

Write Something Every Day

Tools for the Homeschool Handy-Mom

At DIY Homeschooler we provide encouragement and resources to those homeschool handy-moms paving their own way — solutions to help you “do-it-yourself” when it comes to tutoring your children. Learn more.

The Latest

Affiliate Disclosure

Throughout this site you will find affiliate links to items that we trust and enthusiastically recommend. If you decide to use these links to make a purchase, we do receive a small compensation that helps support this site. Thank you! Read our full affiliate disclosure to learn more.

Keep Reading

Create a website or blog at