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 home >> mary sheppard burton collection >> view all rugs >> commentary

Day's End on the Sinepuxent Bay
Richard Dale

Image: Rug 11 - Day’s End on the Sinepuxent Bay
Day’s End on the Sinepuxent Bay, Richard Dale
Tell Me ‘Bout Series, 2001.
Dimensions: 19.25 x 34.5 inches, Hooked on twelve-thread-count linen
Views: 800px - 1024px - Zoom

Commentary by Mary Sheppard Burton

Shadows of history encompassed the brave lives of two men named Richard Dale. The first Richard Dale and his very best friend, Stephen Decatur, were neighbors. Stephen's father (Stephen Decatur, Sr.) saw to it that these boys were schooled sailors. They became incredibly skilled in the art of sailing.

Both young men were still in their teens during the frantic time that the British, the French, and the pirates of Tripoli were confiscating merchant marine ships and cargo, and sometimes sinking the ships of the United States' merchants. The best of American seamen became privateers at the request of the Congress. Richard Dale became a midshipman at the age of twelve. Both young Stephen and Richard sailed the eastern shores of the United States, and were sent to European and Mediterranean ports to protect the ships of the young country.

They were among the first sailors in the newly created United States Navy. Gaining commissions, both Richard Dale and young Stephen Decatur (Stephen Decatur, Jr.) were sent to help John Paul Jones and his crew in Tripoli. The crews were made up of many of the best sailors of the Chesapeake. Arriving late at night, they moored their ships just far enough from the only other ship outside the harbor, in order to study the situation.

The Americans decided to sink one of their vessels across the mouth of the harbor. Disguising themselves as pirates, they blended into the array of pirate ships. At the narrowest point of entrance to the Bay of Tripoli, the little American vessel was sunk. Their pirate disguise enabled them, then, to swim to and board the derelict pirate vessel just beyond the entrance.

Fighting furiously, hand-to-hand, they won, and confiscated the ship. Barely afloat, the sailors from the Chesapeake struggled to get the ship back across the Atlantic to the safety of our beloved Bay. This old pirate ship, the Bonhomme Richard, may be seen today at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, Jr., and Richard Dale were given the titles of Commodore-and also given small ships to command in return for their leadership and bravery. Decatur decided to attack British ships in the North Sea. Richard Dale was sent to the Barbary Coast where pirates were attacking American ships and seeking large sums of money in tribute. Both Dale and Decatur were able to do important things to save our country. Richard Dale resigned his commission and set forth with the East India Company for a yearlong journey to China. When he returned, he settled in Philadelphia, and raised a family. His two sons, (one of them named Richard Dale, Jr.) carried on in their father's tradition, joining the Navy at young ages and gaining commissions.

Young Richard Dale, Jr. sailed to the Caribbean area to attack British ships near Bermuda. The people of Bermuda watched the battle of the little dilapidated American ship and the English warship. The Americans limped into Old St. George, on the island of Hamilton, with their beloved young skipper. Richard Dale's leg had been blown off. The Bermudans loved this young man for his daring efforts to defend the islanders against the British, and nursed him affectionately, as best they could. Sadly, at age 21, he succumbed to blood poisoning, and died seventeen days later. With great sorrow, they laid their young hero to rest at the foot of the steps to Old St. Johns Church at Hamilton. A mausoleum there preserves the memory of the young American who died to free Bermudians of the terrors of the British ships.

(Footnote: Richard Dale, Jr. died at age 21. He had no direct heirs. The great, great grandmother of Mary Sheppard Burton was Lavinia Dale, of the same family. She is buried in Delmar on Line Road in a private burial ground.)

"Footsteps on History: Tell Me 'Bout Series"
Family Portraits by Mary Sheppard Burton. Undated


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   May 15, 2015
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