The 200th anniversary of a naval encounter that spawned an immortal battle cry will be commemorated next week at the Old Scituate Lighthouse.
The June 1, 1813, clash between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, which could be seen from Scituate’s shores, is remembered for the dying words of the Chesapeake’s commander, Captain James Lawrence: “Don’t give up the ship!”
Although the Chesapeake suffered a historic loss during the War of 1812, with Lawrence making epic blunders in his pursuit of the British ship, the battle still holds a certain weight in US history, said Mat Brown, a member of the Scituate Historical Society.
“There are a lot of other lessons learned, and that battle changed the tactics of naval warfare,” Brown said. “But the key thing . . . is those words. On Lake Erie, Commander [Oliver Hazard] Perry [with the USS Lawrence] had those words put on the flag, and he used it as a rallying point for his troops, and that’s enshrined in the Naval Academy. Those words are the battle cry of the US Navy.”
Noting that history is written by the victors, Brown said that Lawrence’s famous words, which were heeded only until his death a few moments later, are now seen as a statement of bravery and tenacity.
“Lawrence, thank God he said those words; otherwise he would have gone down in ignominy,” Brown said.
The Scituate Historical Society has been working on the ceremony for more than a year, and it decided to do something special after celebrating local history during Scituate’s 375th anniversary last year, Brown said.
For the June 8 event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. and is free, organizers have arranged for Commander Matthew Bonner, the 72d officer of the USS Constitution, the Color Guard from USS Constitution, the Satuit Band, Coast Guard representatives, and town officials to present a bronze plaque that will be placed at the lighthouse.
To honor the British and American sailors and Marines who lost their lives in the battle, wreaths will be placed at sea off the Scituate coastline.
Additionally, the event will feature a contingent from Boston’s 1812 Marines reenactment group, who will arrive in period Marine uniforms and be available for questions after the ceremony.
The festivities will continue with a reception at the Dogwatch. At 4 p.m., historian George Daughan, author of “1812: The Navy’s War,” will give a lecture at Scituate’s GAR Hall.
Brown said he expects the daylong event to be moving.
“I think we’re very proud of [our history],” Brown said. “The more you delve into it . . . the more you look into the local history, the more you find out it has national implications.”
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.