The Susquehanna becomes The Brandywine for Lafayette

Experience the Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Sophie Radford de Meissner wrote sketches from the naval life of her father Rear Admiral William Radford, U.S.N. These sketches were published in her 1920 book “Old Naval Days.” The illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine is from Chapter III; entitled “Lafayette.” As a young midshipman, William Radford had the honor to sail on The U.S.S. Brandywine as it conveyed General Lafayette on his final return trip from the United States to France in 1825.

The U.S.S. Brandywine was originally known as The Susquehanna when construction of the 175-foot, three-masted, 44-gun frigate began at the Washington Navy Yard. President John Quincy Adams decided to have one of Americans newest warships carry the Marquis de Lafayette back to France upon completion of his year-long visit. George C. Mason’s 1879 book “The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart,” contains memories of Stuart while in discussions with Adams about painting his portrait. One of those memories was President Adams account about the name change for this frigate; quoting from page 247:

The first of June [1825] the Superintendent of the Navy Yard came to inform me [President John Quincy Adams] that the frigate, then on the stocks, was nearly ready to be launched, and that they called her The Susquehanna. I told him to apprize me of the day, as I intended to be launched in her. Accordingly, on the 16th of June I went on board the frigate, and when all was ready, and a lieutenant, with a bottle on a string, asked me her name, I said, “The Brandywine.” Amazement appeared on every countenance. But when I explained that the Battle of the Brandywine was the first Lafayette fought in our cause, and in which he was wounded, and that I intended to send him to France in this frigate, approbation and pleasure became universal.

The next day, the 17th of June, I wrote to Lafayette, expressing my regret that I could not be with him on Bunker Hill on that day; but to prove that we had been thinking of him at Washington, I mentioned the name of the frigate to be placed at his command for the voyage home. His reply to me was that he was indeed highly delighted.

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About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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