Isaac Chauncey
Born(1772-02-20)February 20, 1772
Black Rock, Province of Connecticut, British America
DiedJanuary 20, 1840(1840-01-20) (aged 67)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Congressional Cemetery Washington, D.C., U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1798–1840
Commands held
Other workPresident of the Board of Navy Commissioners (1837-40)

Isaac Chauncey (February 20, 1772 – January 27, 1840)[1][2][3] was an officer in the United States Navy who served in the Quasi-War, The Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. In the latter part of his naval career he was President of the Board of Navy Commissioners.


Chauncey, born in Black Rock, Connecticut, was appointed a lieutenant in the Navy from September 17, 1798. He fought with gallantry in the West Indies during the Quasi-War with France; in the Mediterranean during the First Barbary War; and commanded John Adams (1804–5), Hornet (1805–6), Washington and the Mediterranean Squadron (1815–1820). He was promoted to captain in 1806.

Perhaps his most outstanding service was during the War of 1812 when he commanded the naval forces on Lake Ontario, conducting amphibious operations in cooperation with the Army, and containing the British fleet under the command of Sir James Yeo stationed there.[4]

He also served twice as commandant of the New York Naval Shipyard. Isaac Chauncey played a prominent role in the creation of the navy yard. His service there, began prior to its official designation as a shipyard. Chauncey went on to be Brooklyn’s longest serving commandant July 13, 1807 – May 16, 1813, and again December 21, 1824 – June 10, 1833.[5] His letters to the Secretary of the Navy provide perhaps the fullest picture and most candid portrait by a career naval officer of the early yard. These letters deliver rich detail about the officers and employees, and the problems he encountered making the new yard a viable concern. Writing November 27, 1807 to the Secretary of the Navy, Chauncey pleads for maintenance funds – "The following things are almost indispensable to promote the public service and for the accommodation of the yard. Two wells to be sunk, in the yard, with pumps in them, windows in the armory, a horse & cart to transport stores, fill holes about the wharf &c &c The tide ebbs & flows in 24 hours consequently leaving a dampness that must destroy the timber next to the ground very soon There is sufficient for the horse in the yard Six wheel barrows with more other little conveniences which I will hope you will leave to my discretion I will not abuse you’re your confidence."[6] Commodore Chauncey was particularly tough when negotiating wages. Writing on January 5, 1808 to Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith he explained "Some of them (in consequence of Mr. Buckland having mentioned publicly that twenty three gun boats was to be built) immediately had an idea that we could not do without them and would not go to work. I however was able to find a sufficient number willing to work at the reduced wages and these who refused will in a week come back and beg for work and I shall be able to reduce their wages 25 cents more for the merchants have no work for them to do therefore they must either work for us at our price or go unemployed."[7] In May 1829, while in command of the shipyard, Chauncey led a series of searches for the body of George Washington Adams, who committed suicide by jumping from the deck of the steamship Benjamin Franklin.[8] In December 1835 Chauncey led navy yard marines and sailors in suppressing the Great Fire of New York by blowing up buildings in the fire's path.[9]

His last service was as member, and, for four years, President, of the Board of Navy Commissioners. Commodore Chauncey died in Washington, on January 27, 1840.



  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chauncey, Isaac" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 18.
  2. ^ Spencer Tucker (2013). Almanac of American Military History. 1. p. 482. ISBN 9781598845303. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "Isaac Chauncey (1772-1840)". NY History. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  4. ^ Marsh, Ruth (October 1942). "War on Lake Ontario: 1812–1815" (PDF). IV (4). Rochester Public Library: 6–19. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2009. Retrieved January 20, 2009. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ John G.M. Sharp A Documentary History of the New York (Brooklyn) Navy Yard 1806-1856, 2019 pp 5-6, accessed January 17, 2021
  6. ^ Sharp Ibid p.18
  7. ^ Sharp Ibid p.20
  8. ^ Kaplan, Fred (2014). John Quincy Adams: American Visionary. New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 441. ISBN 9780061915413.
  9. ^ Sharp Ibid p.80

Further reading

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.