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What’s in a name? | “Don’t Give Up the Ship!”

Which city in Gwinnett was named after a naval war hero?

Commodore James Lawrence, a naval hero, commanded the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812.

a) Snellville 
b) Lawrenceville
c) Lilburn

The correct answer is (b), the city of Lawrenceville. Lawrenceville, the county seat of Gwinnett County, was established and incorporated by the Georgia General Assembly on December 15, 1821, and named after American Captain James Lawrence, who commanded the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake during the War of 1812.

On June 1, 1813, the USS Chesapeake sailed out of Boston Harbor to battle the blockading Royal Navy ship, Shannon. After suffering a mortal wound during the attack, Captain Lawrence ordered the Surgeons Mate to tell the crew, “to fire faster and not give up the ship!” Soon after, the crew was over-taken and the British redirected the ship to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Three days later, Captain Lawrence died at sea at the age of thirty-one on June 4, 1813. Bostonians, expecting an easy victory, were stunned to learn of the outcome of the battle when the ship never returned. 

Commodore James Lawrence was buried with military honors in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then re-interned at Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City.

After Lawrence’s death, author and historian, Washington Irving wrote, “He passed before the public eye like a star, just beaming on it for a moment, and falling in the midst of his brightness.”

His dying command, “Don’t give up the ship,” remains a popular naval battle cry to this day.

Did you know? Lawrenceville is the oldest city in Gwinnett County.