Shannon was under the command of Captain Philip Broke from her first commission to 1813. Broke drilled his crew to an extremely high standard of gunnery. Following the shocking series of three consecutive defeats of British frigates in actions against the heavy American 44-gun "super-frigates", most notably against the USS Constitution, Broke was determined to engage an American warship in single combat. So he chose to burn captured American merchant vessels rather than send them to Halifax as a valuable prizes, since that would cost him essential crew. Broke found his opportunity with the 38-gun USS Chesapeake, which was refitting in Boston harbor under the command of Captain James Lawrence.
Soon before the Shannon's battle with the Chesapeake, Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers escaped in a small boat from Boston and are picked up by Shannon just before her action with the Chesapeake. Despite his still unhealed wound, Aubrey assists in boarding the Chesapeake while Maturin treats the injured with the ship's surgeon. The British crew takes the Chesapeake as a prize, the first British victory over a American frigate. She sails into Halifax along with her prize, Chesapeake, in the first chapter of The Surgeon's Mate. Captain Lawrence dies of his wounds and is buried with full military honours in Halifax. Jack Aubrey attends the graveside funeral for the American captain.