Major Battles in 1812
All Engagements
May 16 - Attack on Ft Moosa (Mose)
Jun 23 - USS President vs. HMS Belvidera
Jul 02 - Capture of Cuyahoga Packet
Jul 04 - Lachine Riots
Jul 17 - Occupation of Sandwich
Aug 16 - Siege of Ft Mackinac
Aug 16 - Siege of Ft Detroit
Aug 19 - USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere
Sep 04 - Siege of Ft Harrison
Sep 05 - Siege of Ft Wayne
Sep 21 - Raid on Gananoque
Sep 27 - Raid on Alachua Seminole
Oct 13 - Battle of Queenstown Heights
Oct 18 - USS Wasp vs. HMS Frolic
Oct 25 - USS United States vs. HMS Macedonia
Nov 09 - Attack on Kingston Harbor
Nov 20 - Battle of Lacolle Mills
Dec 17 - Battle of the Mississinewa
Dec 29 - USS Constitution vs. HMS Java
Dec 30 - Battle of Black Rock

USS Constitution vs. HMS Java

December 29, 1812 off the coast of Brazil

American Forces Commanded by
Commodore William Bainbridge
Strength Killed Wounded Missing/Captured
? ? ? ??
British Forces Commanded by
Capt. Henry Lambert
Strength Killed Wounded Missing/Captured
? ? ? ??
Conclusion: American Victory

On December 29, the British frigate, HMS Java, commanded by Capt. Henry Lambert, was en route to India when she met the USS Constitution, commanded by Commodore William Bainbridge, off the coast of Brazil. Although the Java was smaller and heavily laden with supplies and personnel for the Indian station, she was faster than the Constitution. Both sides were eager to do battle.

The battle opened at long range shortly after 2:00 P.M. The Java was on Constitution‘s larboard quarter and the wind nearly on the beam as the 2 ships sailed to the southeast. The British shooting was quite good, and bainbridge was wounded in his thigh early in the battle. When he saw the Java moving ahead of him and threatening to turn across his bow, he fired a broadside and wore round to the southwest, placing the Java once more astern, this time to starboard. Again, the Java came charging up and ahead, and again bainbridge wore-back to the southeast. Yet a third time, the Java began closing from the larboard quarter but instead, on drawing abeam, suddenly wore to starboard and delivered raking fire at the Constitution‘s stern. Bainbridge was hit a second time, and the Constitution‘s wheel was shot away. Since the Constitution failed to maneuver, Lambert assumed she was running and turned to pursue up her windward side.

Supported by a pair of midshipmen, Bainbridge arranged a temporary steering rig and prepared to close on the Java as she came abeam. As she did, a lucky shot from the Constitution tore away her jibbon and caused her to turn up into the wind, out of control. Seeing this, Bainbridge wore the injured Constitution around and got in a rake of Java‘s larboard quarter before reversing his swing and resuming his original course. Lambert brought the Java under control and attempted to grapple the Constitution amidships and board her. The plan misfired, however, as the Java struck the Constitution farther aft and had her foremast shot away before falling astern.

The balance was now in bainbridge’s favor. He wore his ship across Java‘s bow, raking her, and continued on around to cross her stern and do it again before reversing coarse for another stern rake. Then, he took up a position off Java‘s starboard quarter from which he could pound her with impunity. When he had beaten her virtually mastless, he drew off ahead and spent some time making emergency rigging repairs. Shortly after 5:00 P.M., he was about to rake her again from ahead when Java surrendered, Lambert mortally wounded.
When the British Admiralty learned of the defeat, it ordered that henceforth American frigates should be fought only by 2 or more Britons of similar force. bainbridge earned himself a congressional gold medal and became another U.S. naval hero.