Published on the 26th of September in 1814 in the Delaware Gazette & State Journal out of Wilmington, DE
[For the Delaware Gazette,]
Com. Thomas Macdonough
The hero of Champlain was born at the Trap, in New Castle County and state of Delaware, in Dec. 1783. His father, Dr. Thomas Macdonough, was born at the same place and was practising Physic there at the beginning of the revolutionary war. At the particular request of his friend, Col. Haslet, who was killed at Princeton, he took the command of a battalion of the Delaware regiment. After his tour of duty was performed, he returned to his native state, where he took the command of a regiment of militia, and where he was afterwards appointed an associate judge in the Court of Common Pleas, in which office he continued until his death in 1795. The Doctor’s father, James Macdonough, was a respectable inhabitant of the county and died at a very advanced age in 1792. Dr. Thomas Macdonough left four sons, James, Thomas, Samuel, and John – James, the elder, entered as a Midshipman on board the Constellation with Capt. Truxton; and, after distinguishing himself under that gallant commander, returned to his native state, disabled by the loss of a leg, sustained in the capture of the insurgent. – At his return Thomas was peacefully employed in a store, in Middletown, in his native state; but catching form James the Soldier’s flame, he entered as his brother had done, as a Midshipman in the naval service of his country. He was then about 17 years of age; and in a profession thus voluntarily and ardently embraced, he was not likely to remain long undistinguished. A speck of war only was seen in our political horizon, and against the Tripolitans the opportunities for enterprise, were very rare. – These, however, when they did occur were embraced by our naval heroes with and eagerness, and executed with an intrepidity and skill which not only astonished the world, but even themselves. Sympathy which gave a single force to their united action, and a generous emulation which stimulated their courage almost to desperation, gave to Great Britain an ominous presage of their future greatness, to their country the loudest and proudest hopes, and made their Barbarian enemy exclaim “ they are more than mortals.” Among such as these Macdonough was eminently, distinguished, and by his conduct in the destruction of the Philadelphia, and the subsequent capture of a Tripolitan gun boat, by the side of Decatur, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
Without the patronage of friends, our young hero advanced by his courage and conduct form the humble birth of Midshipman to a command which covered the heart of the nation, a command by the experience of former wars proved to be of vital importance – where everything was to be created by his genius and protected by his vigilance.
In a very gloomy moment he answered the hopes of his countrymen, and in a radiance of glory dispelled the menacing storm. But it was not he! It was the Lord of Hosts who stopped to show to an offending nation, in a moment of despondence, that he will listen to the prayers and nerve the arm of a Christian Hero. An habitual respect for the Christian religion is often mistaken for Christianity, and pressed into service to form the character of the Soldier. – Not such are the claims of Macdonough. His religion appears to be of the vital nature which reached the heart, tempers the affections, and regulates the actions. It may be said in spiritual, as in temporal affairs, that he has fought the good fight and came off more than conqueror. In a letter to a relative, in Delaware, written in June last, after expressing his warm regard for the place of his nativity, and friends of his youth, and promising to visit them if God should spare his life till the close of the present season, he declares the happiness he derives from his reliance upon the merits and attunement of Christ, and earnestly recommends to them a religious life as the only one, which good sense would point out to those continued that there is another world. To his Brother’s widow, left in slender circumstances, he tenders liberal pecuniary aid, and delicately released her from all obligation on that store, by declaring that it is his religion which makes him the widow’s friend. A victory, obtained under the command of such a hero, ought to inspire us with the hope, that God will stay his avenging hand if the people will look up to and acknowledge him to be their God. Let the example of Macdonough teach those to whom the nation has confided its sword, that Religion does not unnerve the arm of the brave, nor lessen the authority of its votary. Before he went into action, he prostrated himself with his crew, before the most high and confiding he the Almighty, they fearlessly met the enemy. When he saw hostile fleet approaching he observed to those around him “they are superiors in force, but by the blessing of God we can beat them.” And so indeed he did. The world has often been called upon to witness the prodigious effect of religion in exalting the human energies. Without recurring to the memorable areas of Joshua, David, and Maccabeus, when a religious dependence on the Lord of Hosts excited to almost supernatural valor, or to the histories of the Romans, Greeks, and other Pagan nations, whom favorable omens, by inspiring the even a superstitious sense of the protection of Heaven, were sure almost to lead to victory or the combats under banners of the Cross for the tomb of our Saviour, in which were strikingly displayed the triumph of religious enthusiasm over the greatest privations and dangers; we see in our day the striking effects of religion upon an army, which we call Barbarians, but to which enlightened Europe now owes its deliverance. This army, although composed principally of raw levies, yet inspired by a religious confidence, his trumped over the best appointed and discipleship army, let by the most distinguished captain of the age. The Russian gen. Suwaroff knew the poser of religion in the day of battle, and always availed himself of with and Irresistible effect, and in the solemn address of the renowned Kutusoff, and procession of the holy cross, at the battle of Bernadine, who does not see the soul of that valor, displayed by the Russians, in that most sanguinary of all conflicts.
Let, then every officer inculcate by percept and practice, a regular attention to the duties of religion and God we reward it by a gift of more than mortal strength and valor.
Various forms of religious duties have been ordered, in all armies from a conviction of their unity but they can never be effectual, unless they are felt as more than forms, by officers and soldiers.