James Fenimore Cooper.

A collection of sundry publications, and other documents, in relation to the attack made during the late war upon the private armed brig General Armstrong, of New-York, commanded by S. C. Reid, on the night of the 26th of September, 181 online

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperA collection of sundry publications, and other documents, in relation to the attack made during the late war upon the private armed brig General Armstrong, of New-York, commanded by S. C. Reid, on the night of the 26th of September, 181 → online text (page 1 of 5)
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May 1913


It may not be amiss to bring- to the recollection of
the reader, circumstances showing- the influence
which the action of the Armstrong at Fayal, had
on the movements, and final success of General
Jackson at New-Orleans, although Jackson and
Reid were neither of them conscious of it at the

The action with the Armstrong, commanded by
Capt. Reid, was on the 26th, of Sept. 1814. The
fleet commanded by Admiral Cochrane and des-
tined for the expedition against New-Orleans, was
at that moment waiting at Jamaica for the Squa-
dron commanded by Capt. Lloyd, which had been
dispatched from England with orders to join the
fleet at Jamaica, w^ith all convenient speed. Capt,
Lloyd however, v>ith an honest zealfor his Britannic
Majesty's service, on being informed of the fact,
that the Gen. Armstrong was then actually lying-
in the harbour of Fayal, very naturally concluded
that such a vessel might be useful to the expedition
of which he was to compose a part ; and ordered
the immediate capture of this Rebellious Yankee
vessel. The attack was accordingly made — the
result of which appears in the following pages.

When Lloyd arrived at Jamaica, and it was told
to the Admiral and to General Packenham, what
had befallen him, that he had sustained a loss
of about 200 of his best men, and had in con-
sequence been detained at Fayal above ten days,
they were exceedingly indignant ; and loaded Lloyd
with bitter reproaches.


To show more clearly the influence of Captain
Reid's action upon the expedition intended for
New-Orleans, it is necessary to notice the following

Cochrane's fleet arrived off New-Orleans on the
5th of December, and General Jackson arrived at
the City on the lOih of the same month.

Now it is manifest that if Cochrane and Lloyd
liad arrived 10 days sooner, (say 25th, Nov.) the
British army might have marched into and taken
possession of New Orleans, before the American
forces could by any possibility have arrived.


Letter from the American Consul to Captain Reid,

You have performed a most brilliant action in beat-
ing off Fourteen Boats of the British ships, in this
Road. They say they will carry the Brig, cost what
it will, and that the Brig will haul in to attack you at
the same time the boats do. My dear fellow do not
uselessly expose yourself if attacked hy an overwhelm-
ing force, but scuttle the Brig near the beach and
come on shore with your brave crew.
Yours truly,

J, B. Dabney.

Two d Clock, Tuesday Mornings
Sept, 27 1814.

Savan7iah, Nov. 26, 1814.

Arrived here, on Thursday evening last, from Fayal,
via Amelia, fourteen of the crew of the privateer Gen.
Armstrong, Capt. Reid, who report, that 18 days after
leaving New- York they put into Fayal ; that about 2
hours after coming to anchor, the British brig Carnation
of 18 guns, came in and anchored within gun-shot of
the Armstrong, and immediately manned three of her

barges, at which time the Rota frigate and Plantagenet
74 also stood into port. When the brig's boats came
within hail, Capt. R. ordered them to keep off — they,
however, continued pulling for the A. when the boats
were fired into from her, which killed 8 or 10 of the
enemy. The 74 and frigate perceiving this, forthwith
manned 16 barges, with about 450 men: the G. A.
then cut her cables, and warped in directly under the
guns of the fort. Between 11 and 12 o'clock at night,
the whole number of barges were discovered from the
Armstrong, within pistol shot, when at the moment,
they were about dividing into four divisions, a broadside
from the long torn and 3 long 9's were fired into them,
which put the enemy into much confusion, killing the
1st lieut. of the frigate, who commanded the barges,
and many others. The whole of the barges then came
under the Armstrong's bow, keeping up a continual
fire, which was returned from on board with great
spirit. Several attempts were made to board the Arm-
strong, but were repulsed, with great destruction to the
enemy. The barges finding that they could not carry
her, hauled off until morning, when they renewed the
attack, the brig in company. The G. A. commenced
with a brisk fire on the brig and barges, and continued
it for some time ; but finding the force of the enemy
was too great, and seeing no hopes of saving the ship,
Capt. Reid gave orders to cut away the masts and rig-
ging, and to fire three nine pounders, through her bot-
tom. This was promptly executed, when the crew
then abandoned her, and arrived safe on shore. Thus
fell the Armstrong into the hands of the British, after
a resistance worthy the cause which animated her gal-
lant officers and crew. The enemy, on taking posses-
sion of the Armstrong, finding her so much injured
and in a sinking condition, set her on fire. The G. A.
had killed, A. O. Williams, 1 seamen, and 7 wounded.
Loss of the enemy, 100 killed, and 150 wounded, as
acknowledged by them — the number, however, sup-
posed to be greater.

The Armstrong's force was 6 long 9's and a 42
pounder midships, with a complement of 90 men.


The commandant at Fayal despatched a boat to the
enemy, forbidding an attack on the Gen. Armstrong,
The answer returned, was, that if he attempted to pro-
tect her, they would fire on the town.

Capt. Reid is expected in town from St. Mary's,
when we shall, no doubt, have a further and more par-
ticular account of this affair.

Copy of a letter from our Consul at Fayal to the Secre-
tary of State.

Fayal, 5th October, 1814.

Sir — I have the honour, to state to you that a most
outrageous violation of the neutralityof this port, in utter
contempt of the laws of civilized nations, has recently
been commited here by the cummanders of his Britannic
majesty's ships Plantagenet, Rota and Carnation,
against the American private armed brig General Arm«
strong, Sam. C. Reid commander, but I have great
satisfaction in being able to add, that this occurrence
terminated in one of the most briUiant actions on the
part of Captain Reid, his brave officers and crew, that
can be found on naval record.

The American brig came to anchor in this port in
the afternoon of the 26th of September, and at sunset
of the same day, the above named ships suddenly ap-
peared in these roads ; it being nearly calm in the port,
it was rather doubtful if the privateer could escape if she
got under way, and relying on the justice and good
faith of the British captains it was deemed most pru-
dent to remain at anchor. — A little after dusk Captain
Reid, seeing some suspicious movements on the part of
the British, began to warp his vessel close under the
guns of the castle, and while doing so, he was at
about eight o'olock, P. M. approached by four boats
from the ships filled v/ith armed men. After hailing
them repeatedly and warning them to keep off, he order*

€d his men to fire on them, and killed and wounded
several men. The boats returned the fire and killed
one man and wounded the first Lieutenant of the priva-
teer, and returned to their ships, and, as it was now
light moonlig-ht, it was plainly perceived from the brig
as well as from the shore, that a formidable attack was
premeditating. Soon after midnight, twelve or more
large boats crowded with men from the ships and
armed with carronades, swivels and blunderbusseS;
small arms, &c. attacked^ the brig; a severe contest
ensued which lasted tibout forty minutes, and ended in
the total defeat and partial destruction of the boats,
with a most unparalleled carnage on the part of the
British. It is estimated by good judges that near 40O
men were in the boats when the attack commenced^
and no doubt exists in the minds of the numerous spec-
tators of the scene that more than half of them were
killed or wounded ; several boats were destroyed ; two
of them remained alongside of the brig literally loaded
with their own dead. From these two boats only 17
reached the shore alive ; most of them were severely
wounded. The whole of the following day the British
were occupied in burying their dead ; among them
were two lieuts. and one midshipman of the Rota —
the first lieut. of the Plantagenet, it is said, cannot
survive his wounds, and many of the seamen who
reached their ships were mortally wounded, and have
been dying daily. — The British, mortified at this signal
and unexpected defeat, endeavour to conceal the extent
of the loss ; they admit however that they lost in kill-
ed and who have died since the engagement, upwards
of 120 of the flower of their officers and men. Tli^
captain of the Rota told me he lost 70 men from his
ship. Two days after this afl^air took place the British
sloops of war Thais and Calypso came into port, when
Capt. Lloyd immediately took them into requisition to
carry home the wounded officers and seamen — they
have sailed for England, one on the 2d and the other
on the 4thinst. each carried 25 badly wounded. Those
who were slightly wounded, to the number, as I am in-

formed, of about 30, remained on board of their respec-
tive ships, and sailed last evening for Jamaica. Strict
orders were given that the sloops of war should take
no letters whatever to England, and those orders were
rigidly adhered to.

In face of the testimony t)f all Fayal and a number
of respectable strangers who happened to be in this
place at the moment, the British commander endeavours
to throw the odium of this transaction on the American
captain, Reid, alleging that he sent the boats merely
to reconnoitre the brig, and without any hostile inten-
tions. The pilots of the port did inform them of the
privateer the moment they entered the port. To recon-
noitre an enemy's vessel in a friendly port, at night,
with four boats, carrying by the best accounts 120 men
is certainly a strange proceeding! The fact is, they ex-
pected as the brig was warping in, that the Americans
would not be prepared to receive them, and they had
hopes of carrying her by a " coup de main." If any
thing i30uld add to the baseness of this transaction on
the part of the British commander, it is want of can-
dour openly and boldly to avow the facts. In vain can
he expect by such subterfuge to shield himself from
the indignation of the world and the merited resentment
of his own government and nation for thus trampling
on the sovereignty, of their most ancient and faithful
ally and for the wanton sacrifice of British lives.

On the part of the Americans the loss was compara-
tively nothing, two killed and seven slightly wounded :
of the slain, we have to lament the loss of the second
Lieut. Mr. Alexander O. Williams of New- York, a
brave and meritorious officer.

Among the wounded are Messrs. Worth and John-
ston, first and third Lieutenants; Capt. Reid was thus
deprived, early in the action, of the services of all his
Lieutenants; but his cool and intrepid conduct secured
him the victory.

On the morning of the 27th ult. one of the British
ships placed herself near the shore and commenced a
heavy cannonade on the privateer. Finding further


resistance unavailing, Capt. Reid ordered her to be
abandoned, after being partially destroyed, to prevent
her falling into the hands of the enemy, who soon after
sent their boats and set her on fire.

At 9 o'clock in the evening, (soon after the first at-
tack) I applied to the Governor requesting his Excel-
lency to protect the privateer either by force or by such
remonstrance to the commander of the squadron as
would cause him to desist from any further attempt.
The Governor indignant at what had passed, but feel-
ing himself totally unable, with the slender means he
possessed, to resist such a force, took the part of re-
monstrating, which he did in forcible but respectful
terms. His letter to Captain Lloyd had no other ef-
'fect than to produce a menacing reply, insulting in the
highest degree. Nothing can exceed the indignation
of the public authorities, as well as of all ranks and
description of persons here, at this unprovoked enormity.
Such was the rage of the British to destroy this vessel,
that no regard was p?id to the safety of the town;
some of the inhabitants were wounded and a number
of houses were much damaged. The strongest repre-
sentations on this subject are prepared by the Gover-
nor for his court.

Since this affair the commander, Lloyd, threatened
to send on shore an armed force and arrest the privateer's
crew, saying there were many Englishmen among
them, and our poor fellows afraid of his vengeance
have fled to the mountains several times and have been
harassed extremely. At length Captain Lloyd fearful
of losing more men if he put his threats in execution,
adopted this stratagem ; he addressed an official letter
to the Governor, stating that in the American crew
were two men who deserted from his squadron in
America, and as they were guilty of high treason, he
required them to be found and given up. Accordingly
a force was sent into the country, and the American
seamen were arrested and brought to town, and as they
could not designate the said pretended deserters, all the
seamen here passed an examination of the British offi-

cers, but no such persons were to be found amon^ them.
1 was requested by the Governor and British Consul to
attend this humiliating examination, as was also Cap-
tain Reid ] but we declined to sanction by our presence
any such proceedings.

Capt. Reid has protested against the British com-
manders of the squadron for the unwarrantable de-
struction of his vessel in a neutral and friendly port,
as also against the government of Portugal for their
inability to protect him.

No doubt this government will feel themselves bound
to niake ample indemnification to the owners, officers
and crew of this vessel, for the great loss they have
severally sustained.

I shall as early as possible transmit a statement of
this transaction to our Minister at Rio Janerio for this

I have the honour to be, -v^ith great respect, sir, your
most obedient servant.


To the Secre ary of State of U. S.
Wash ino'ton.

We this day present our readers with a copy of the
gallant Capt. Reid's Letter, detailing his late complete
victory over the enemy, in the harbour of the neutral
portof Fayal, in their late attack upon the private armed
brig General Armstrong, of this port.

We have also been favoured with Capt. Reid's pro-
test, made before our Consul, Mr. Dabney, at Fayal,
setting forth the gross violation by the British of the
neutrality of Fayal. The protest is long, and will be
published in our next.

Under the Savannah head, our readers are referred
to the British account of their attact upon the General
Armstrong, copied from a Jamaica paper. — Merc. Adv.

New-York, December 15, 1814.

The following is Captain Reid's account of his Re-


COntre with the British at Fayal, and is communicated
to the editors of tlie Mercantile Advertiser for publica-
tion : —

Fayal, Ath October, 1814.

With infinite regret I am constrained to say it has
eventually fallen to my lot to state to you the loss and
total destruction of the private armed brig Gen. Arm-
strong, late under my command.

We sailed from Sandy Hook on the evening of the
9th ult. and about midnight fell in close aboard of a
razee and ship of the line. They pursued till next day
noon, when they thought proper to give over chase.
On the 11th, after a nine hour's chase, boarded the pri-
vate armed schr. Perry, John Colman, 6 days from
Philadelphia ; had thrown over all his guns. On the
following day fell in with an enemy's gun brig; ex-
changed a few shots with, and left him. On the 24th,
boarded a Spanish brig and schooner, and a Portuguese
ship, iall from the Havanna. On the 26th following,
came too in Fayal Roads, for the purpose of filling water ;
called on the American Consul, who very politely or-
dered our water immediately sent off, it being our inten-
tion to proceed to sea early the next day. At 5 P. M.
I went on board, the consul and some other gentlemen
in company. I asked some questions concerning
enemy's cruizers, and was told there had been none at
these Islands for several weeks ; when about dusk, while
we were conversing the British brig Carnation sudden-
ly hove in sight close under the N. E. head of the har-
bour, within gunshot when first discovered. The idea
of getting under way was instantly suggested ; but
finding the enemy's brig had the advantage of a breeze
and but little wind with us, it was thought doubtful if
we should be able to get to sea without hazarding an
action. I questioned the Consul to know if in his
opinion the enemy would regard the neutrality of the
port ? He gave me to understand I might make my-
self perfectly easy, assuring me at the same time they
would never molest us while at anchor. But no sooner


did the enemy's brig understand from the pilot-boat who
we were, when she immediately hauled close in and
let go her anchor within pistol shot of us. At the same
moment the Plantagenet, and frigate Rota, hove in sight,
to whom the Carnation instantly made signal, and a
constant interchange took place for some time. The
result was the Carnation proceeded to throw out all her
boats ; despatched one on board the commodore, and
appeared otherwise to be making unusual exertions.
From these circumstances I began to suspect their real
intentions. The moon was near its full, which enabled
us to observe them very minutely ; and I now determined
to haul in nearer the shore. Accordingly, after clear-
ing for action we got under way, and began to sweep in.
The moment this was observed by the enemy's brig, she
instantly cut her cable, made sail, and despatched four
boats in pursuit of us. Being now about 8 P. M as
soon as we saw the boats approaching, we let go our
anchor, got springs on our cable, and prepared to receive
them. I hailed them repeatedly as they drew near, but
they felt no inclination to reply. Sure of their game,
they only pulled up with the greater speed. I observed
the boats were well manned, and apparently as well
armed ; and as soon as they had cleverly got alongside,
we opened our fire, which was as soon returned ; but
meeting with rather a warmer reception than they had
probably been aware of, they soon cried out for quarters,
and hauled off. In this skirmish I had one man killed
and my first lieutenant wounded. The enemy's loss
must have been upwards of twenty killed and wounded.
They had now repaired to their ships to prepare for
a more formidable attack. We, in the interim, having
taken the hint, prepared to haul close in to the beach,
where we moored head and stern within half pistol shot
of the castle. This done, we again prepared in the
best possible manner for their second reception. About
9 P. M. we observed the enemy's brig towing in a large
fleet of boats. They soon after left the brig and took
their stations in three divisions, under covert of a small
reef of rocks, within about musket shot of us. Here
they continued manoeuvring for some time, the brig still


keeping under way to act with tiie boats, should we at
any time attempt our escape.

The shore was lined with the in habitants, waiting
the expected attack ; and from the brightness of the
moon, they had a most favourable view of the scene.
The governor, with most of the first people of the place,
stood by and saw the whole affair.

At length about midnight, we observed the boats in
motion, (our crew having laid at their quarters during
the whole of this interval.) They came on in one di-
rect line, keeping in close order ; and we plainly counted

twelve boats. As soon as they came within proper

distance we opened our fire, which was warmly return-
ed from the enemy's carronades and small arms. The
discharge from our Long Tom rather staggered them ;
but soon recovering, they gave three cheers, and
came on most spiritedly. In a moment they succeeded
in gaining our bow and starboard quarter, and the
word was Board. Our great guns now becoming use-
less, we attacked them sword in hand, together with
our pikes, pistols, and musketry, from which our lads
poured on them a m.ost destructive fire. The enemy
made frequent and repeated attempts to gain our decks,
but were repulsed at all times, and at all points, with
the greatest slaughter. About the middle of the ac-
tion I received intelligence of the death of my second
Lieutenant ; and soon after of the third Lieutenant being
badly wounded. From this and other causes, I found
our fire had much slackened on the forecastle; and,
fearful of the event, I instantly rallied the whole of our
after division, who had been bravely defending and now
had succeeded in beating the boats off the quarters. —
They gave a shout, rushed forward, opened a fresh
fire, and soon after decided the conflict, which termi-
nated in the total defeat of the enemy, and the loss of
many of their boats : two of which, belonging to the
Rota, we took possession of, literally loaded with their
own dead. Seventeen only escaped from them both,
who had swam to the shore. In another boat under our
quarter, commanded by one of the Lieutenants of the
Plantagenet, all were killed saving four. This I have


from the Lieutenant himself, who further told me that
he jumped overboard to save his own life.

The duration of this action was about 40 minutes.
Our deck was now found in much confusion, our Long
Tom dismounted, and several of our carriages broken ;
many of our crew having left the vessel, and others
disabled. Under these circumstances, however, we
succeeded in getting Long Tom in his birth, and the
decks cleared in some sort for a fresh action, should the
enemy attack us again before daylight. — About 3 A.
M. I received a message from the American Consul,
requesting to see me on shore, where he informed me
the Governor had sent a note to Captain Lloyd,begging
him to desist from further hostilities. To which Cap-
tain Lloyd sent for answer, that he was now deterrni-ned
to have the privateer at the risk of knocking down the
whole town; and that if the Governor suffered the
Americans to injure the privateer in any manner, he
should consider the place an enemy's port, and treat it
accordingly. Finding this to be the case, I considered
all hopes of saving our vessel to be at an end. I there-
fore went on board, and ordered all our wounded and
dead to be taken on shore, and the crew to save their
eflects as fast as possible. — Soon after this it became
daylight, when the enemy's brig stood close in, and com-
menced a heavy fire on us with all her force. After
several broadsides she hauled off, having received a shot
in her hull, her rigging much cut, and her foretopmast
wounded ; (of this I was informed by the British Con-
sul.) She soon after came in again, and anchored close
to the privateer. I then ordered the Armstrong to be
scuttled, to prevent the enemy from getting her off.
She was soon after boarded by the enemy's boats, and
set on five, which soon completed her destruction.

They have destroyed a number of houses in the town,
and murdered some of the inhabitants.

By what I have been able to learn from the British
Consul and officers of the fleet, it appears there were
about 400 officers and men in the last attack by the
boats, of whicn 120 were killed and about ISO wound-
ed. Captain Lloyd, I am told by the British Consul,


is badly-wounded in the leg; a jury of Surgeons had
been held, who gave as their opinion that amputation
would be necessary to insure his life. Tis said, how-
ever, that the wound was occasioned b}'- an Ox tread-
ing on him. The fleet has remained here about a week,

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperA collection of sundry publications, and other documents, in relation to the attack made during the late war upon the private armed brig General Armstrong, of New-York, commanded by S. C. Reid, on the night of the 26th of September, 181 → online text (page 1 of 5)