Isaac Chauncey was an American naval commander who enjoyed a long career serving his nation. By age 19, he had spent seven years at sea working for a shipping company out of New York Harbor. His naval career began in 1799, when he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Navy. After serving on the Mediterranean Sea during the First Barbary War, he was given command of the frigate John Adams (1804), and was made a captain in 1806.
When war broke out in 1812, Chauncey was given overall command of American naval forces on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. At his base at Sackett's Harbor, Chauncey assembled a significant American naval force to assist General Henry Dearborn's attack on York (present-day Toronto). Chauncey defeated the British squadron under the command of Sir James Yeo and succeeded at keeping the British fleet at bay in 1813. Superior British resources and shipbuilding on Lake Ontario forced Chauncey to concede control of that lake to Yeo towards the end of the war even as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British fleet on Lake Erie in September 1813.
After the War, Chauncey became commander of the Mediterranean Squadron and led diplomatic efforts abroad to help end the Second Barbary War. He returned to New York in 1816, and commanded the New York Navy Yard for two terms. Finally, he was appointed president of the Board of Navy Commissioners, and held this position until his death in 1840. His three children, Naval Lieutenant Charles W. Chauncey, sailor John S. Chauncey, and Reverend Peter S. Chauncey of St. James's Church in New York, survived him.
SUBMITTED BY: NYSM Intern Kaylee Steck (University of Chicago)