WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Johnston Blakely, a war hero whose namesake graces islands, cities and warships today, was a Wilmington resident for a time long ago.
Blakely was born in Ireland, but his family moved to America when he was a baby. After his mother died, Blakely moved to Wilmington with his father in 1790. The Blakelys lived at the corner of Front and Princess St, which looked dramatically different than it does today.
Johnston gained his fame after joining the Navy. He started out on the USS President and would quickly rise up the ranks, fighting in the Barbary War in the Mediterranean.
The War of 1812 broke out between the British and the States and Lieutenant Blakely had himself a brand new sloop; the USS Wasp. He would command his ship and crew to harass British ships on the English Channel.
The success of his venture brought joy to many who were war-weary on the homefront. His celebrated efforts awarded him a gold medal, but Blakely would never receive the award.
The Wasp was lost at sea, never to be seen again. It is believed to have sunk during a storm on the Atlantic, but his legacy lives on.
There have been three different USS Blakelys, and an entire "Blakely class" of torpedo boats. Blakely Island in Washington state and the city of Blakely, Georgia also bears his name.