A carved and painted Bellamy-type head and wings of an eagle and shiel

Much like Captain John Paul Jones' immortal battle cry, “We have not yet begun to fight!,” the expression, “Don’t give up the ship!” is also associated with the early years of the United States. 

During the War of 1812, a war with England on the matter of free trade and the impressment of American sailors into the British Navy, Captain Lawrence of New Jersey engaged in a sea battle off the shore of Boston. The English frigate Shannon encountered the United States Chesapeake on June 1 of 1813 and the battle quickly escalated, killing hundreds of men within minutes. The English had a clear upper hand, which has been attributed to superior gunnery amongst other factors. Captain Lawrence received a fatal gunshot wound and that’s when he appealed to his men “Don’t give up the ship!” The phrase was adopted throughout the rest of the War of 1812, most notably as the motto on Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag at the Battle of Lake Erie, and remains an adage for the United States Navy today.

The carved eagle (1998.4) in the Strawbery Banke collection was created about 100 years after the War of 1812.  Once attributed to artist and Kittery Point native John Haley Bellamy (1836-1914), the carving is now believed to be a copy done after his distinct style. Bellamy’s talent was celebrated in his own lifetime and continues today. Amongst his recognizable eagles, Bellamy carved mast heads and stern boards for the Navy and private vessels, as well as eagles for both government buildings and private collections. His eagle carvings are distinguished by widespread wings, talons gripping a patriotic shield and an upturned wide-mouth look at a banner, often reading “Don’t Give Up the Ship!”  This example was clearly carved by an individual inspired by Bellamy’s design.