On August 1, 1814, at the shipyard of Messrs, William Parson and William Flannigan in Fell’s Point, the U.S. Navy’s newest frigate rated at 44 guns, was launched in the elegant naval tradition of her day. As she entered the water she was saluted by numerous discharges from U.S. Barges and the U.S. sloops of war, the Erie and Ontario that were launched a year earlier.
“She moved into her ‘destined element’ (as the phrase is ) in a very handsome style, amidst general and joyful cheers; that a very numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen attended…the Yager Band of music enliven the scene with appropriate marches and airs…”
Twenty thousand spectators, nearly one half the population of Baltimore had turned out to greet her and her commander Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, the “Hero of Lake Erie.”
The skilled craftsmen who built the Java, and those who cheered her at this moment, were unaware of other frigates and ships of war that were now moving under a full press of sail towards the Chesapeake from the British naval base in Bermuda. The festive spirit subsided as the war clouds approached Baltimore harbor.
Among the citizens who cheered her was John Murray, a free black ship’s carpenter. Born in Baltimore, the sixty-three old had been a caulker to shipbuilders since the inception of that craft on the Point. His well known self attained skill in playing a “few imperfect tunes” on the violin had earned him the name of “Fiddler Jack.”
She would take no part in the Battle for Baltimore as she was yet to be fitted with the armaments of war and her masts and rigging. Her commander stated, “It is, at this moment, said the enemy are now standing up the river for this place with about 40 sail. I shall stay by my ship and take no part in the militia fight. I expect to have to burn her.”
Sources: The Sun, December 20, 1861; Baltimore Patriot, August 1, 1814; American & Commercial Daily Adv., August 2, 1814. Dillon, Richard, We have met the Enemy (New York: 1980, 188.