Theodore Roosevelt.

The naval war of 1812; or, The history of the United States navy during the last war with Great Britain, to which is appended an account of the battle of New Orleans; online

. (page 26 of 42)
Online LibraryTheodore RooseveltThe naval war of 1812; or, The history of the United States navy during the last war with Great Britain, to which is appended an account of the battle of New Orleans; → online text (page 26 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sunk, most of the wounded being saved, as the
shore was so near ; two others were captured, and
but three of the scattered flotilla returned to the
ships. Of the Americans, two were killed, includ-
ing the second lieutenant, Alexander O. Williams,
and 7 were wounded, including the first and
third Heutenants, Frederick A. Worth and Rjobert
Johnson. Of the British, 34 were killed and 86
were wounded; among the former being the
Rota's first and third lieutenants, William Matter-
face and Charles R. Norman, and among the
latter her second lieutenant and first lieutenant
of marines, Richard Rawle and Thomas Park.
The schooner's long 24 had been knocked off its
carriage by a carronade shot, but it was replaced
and the deck cleared for another action. Next
day the Carnation came in to destroy the priva-
teer, but was driven off by the judicious use the
latter made of her "Long Tom." But affairs
being now hopeless, the General Armstrong was
scuttled and burned, and the Americans retreated
to the land. The British squadron was bound

Naval War of 1 812 71

for New Orleans, and on account of the delay
and loss it had suffered, it was late in arriving,
so that this action may be said to have helped
in saving the Crescent City. Few regular com-
manders could have done as well as Captain Reid.

On October 6th, while Gunboat No. 160 was
convoying some coasters from Savannah, it was
carried by a British tender and nine boats.' The
gun vessel was lying at anchor about eight
leagues from St. Mary's, and the boats approached
with muffled oars early in the morning. They
were not discovered till nearly aboard, but the
defence though short was spirited, the British
losing about 20 men. Of the gunboat's 30 men
but 16 were fit for action; those, under Sailing-
master Thomas Paine, behaved well. Mr. Paine,
especially, fought with the greatest gallantry;
his thigh was broken with a grape-shot at the
very beginning, but he hobbled up on his other
leg to resist the boarders, fighting till he was thrust
through by a pike and had received two sabre
cuts. Any one of his wounds would have been
enough to put an ordinary man hors de combat.

On October nth, another desperate privateer
battle took place. The brigantine Prince de
Neufchdtel, Captain Ordronaux, of New York,
was a superbly built vessel of 310 tons, mounting

'Letter from Commander H. G. Campbell, October 12,

12 Naval War of 1812

17 guns, and originally possessing a crew of 150
men.* She had made a very successful cruise,
having on board goods to the amount of $300,000,
but had manned and sent in so many prizes that
only 40 of her crew were left on board, while 37
prisoners were confined in the hold. One of her
prizes was in company, but had drifted off to such
a distance that she was unable to take part in the
fight. At mid-day, on the nth of October, while
off Nantucket, the British frigate Endymion, 40,
Captain Henry Hope, discovered the privateer
and made sail in chase. ^ At 8.30 p.m., a calm
having come on, the frigate despatched 5 boats,
containing in men,3 under the command of the
first lieutenant, Abel Hawkins, to take the brig-
antine; while the latter triced up the boarding
nettings, loaded the guns with grape and bull-
ets, and prepared herself in every way for the
coming encounter. She opened fire on the boats
as they drew near, but they were soon alongside,
and a most desperate engagement ensued. Some
of the British actually cut through the nettings
and reached the deck, but were killed by the

' History of American Privateers, by George Coggeshall,
p. 241, New York, 1876. ^ james, vi., p. 527.

3 According to Captain Ordronaux; James does not give
the number, but says 28 were killed, 37 wounded, and the
crew of the launch captured. Ten of the latter were un-
wounded, and 18 wounded. I do not know if he included
these last among his "37 wounded."

Naval War of 1812 73

privateersmen ; and in a few minutes one boat
was sunk, three others drifted off, and the launch,
which was under the brigantine's stern, was taken
possession of. The slaughter had been frightful,
considering the number of the combatants. The
victorious privateersmen had lost 7 killed, 15
badly and 9 slightly wounded, leaving but 9 un-
touched! Of the Endymion's men, James says
28, including the first lieutenant and a midship-
man, were killed, and 37, including the second
lieutenant and a master's mate, wounded; "be-
sides which the launch was captured and the crew
made prisoners." I do not know if this means
37 wounded, besides the wounded in the launch,
or not'; of the prisoners captured 18 were
wounded and 10 unhurt, so the loss was either
28 killed, 55 wounded, and 10 unhurt prisoners;
or else 28 killed, 37 wounded, and 10 prisoners;
but whether the total was 93 or 75 does not much
matter. It was a most desperate conflict, and,
remembering how short-handed the brigantine
was, it reflected the highest honor on the American
captain and his crew.

After their repulse before Baltimore, the British
concentrated their forces for an attack upon
New Orleans. Accordingly, a great fleet of line-

^ I think James does not include the wounded in the launch,
as he says 28 wounded were sent aboard the Saturn; this could
hardly have included the men who had been captured.

74 Naval War of 1812

of -battle ships, frigates, and smaller vessels, under
Vice-Admiral Cochrane, convoying a still larger
number of store-ships and transports containing
the army of General Packenham, appeared off
the Chandeleur Islands on December 8th. The
American navy in these parts consisted of the ship
Louisiana and schooner Carolina in the Miss-
issippi River, and in the shallow bayous a few-
gunboats, of course without quarters, low in the
water, and perfectly easy of entrance. There ^
were also a few tenders and small boats. The
British frigates and sloops anchored off the broad
shallow inlet called Lake Borgne on the 12th;
on this inlet there were 5 gunboats and 2 small
tenders, under the command of Lieutenant
Thomas Catesby Jones. It was impossible for
the British to transport their troops across Lake
Borgne, as contemplated, until this flotilla was
destroyed. Accordingly, on the night of the 1 2th,
42 launches, armed with 24-, 18-, and 12-pounder
carronades, and 3 unarmed gigs, carrying 980
seamen and marines, under the orders of Captain
Lockyer,' pushed off from the Armida, 38 in three
divisions; the first under the command of Captain
Lockyer, the second under Captain Montresor,
and the third under Captain Roberts.'' Lieuten-

' James, vi., 521.

2 Letter of Captain Lockyer to Vice-Admiral Cochrane,
December 18, 1814.

Naval War of 1 812 75

ant Jones was at anchor with his boats at the
Malheureux Islands, when he discovered, on the
13th, the British flotilla advancing toward Port
Christian. He at once despatched the Seahorse
of one 6-pounder and 14 men, under Sailing-
master William Johnston, to destroy the stores
at Bay St. Louis. She moored herself under the
bank, where she was assisted by two 6-pounders.
There the British attacked her with seven of their
smaller boats, which were repulsed after sustain-
ing for nearly half an hour a very destructive fire.'
However, Mr. Johnston had to burn his boat to
prevent it from being taken by a larger force.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Jones got under way with
the five gun vessels, trying to reach Les Petites
Coquilles, near a small fort at the mouth of a
creek. But as the wind was light and baffling,
and the current very strong, the effort was given
up, and the vessels came to anchor off Malheureux
Island passage at i a.m. on the i4th.^ The other
tender, the Alligator, Sailing-master Sheppard, of
one 4-pounder and 8 men, was discovered next
morning trying to get to her consorts and taken
with a rush by Captain Roberts and his division.
At daybreak. Lieutenant Jones saw the British
boats about nine miles to the eastward, and
moored his five gun vessels abreast in the channel,

' James, vi., 521.

^Official letter of Lieutenant Jones, March 12, 1815.

76 Naval War of 1 812

with their boarding-nettings triced up, and every-
thing in readiness; but the force of the current
drifted two of them, Nos. 156 and 163, a hundred
yards down the pass and out of hne, No. 156 being
the headmost of all. Their exact force was as
follows: No. 156, Lieutenant Jones, 41 men and
5 guns (one long 24 and four 1 2 -pound carronades) ;
No. 163, Sailing-master George Ulrick, 21 men, 3
guns (one long 24 and two 12 -pound carronades) ;
No. 162, Lieutenant Robert Speddes, 35 men, 5
guns (one long 24 and four light 6's); No.
5, Sailing-master John D. Ferris, 36 men, 5 guns
(one long 24, four 12-pound carronades); No. 23,
Lieutenant Isaac McKeever, 39 men and 5 guns
(one long 32 and four light 6's). There were
thus, in all, 182 men and a broadside of 14 guns,
throwing 212 pounds of shot. The British forces
amounted, as I have said, to 980 men, and (sup-
posing they had equal numbers of 24's, i8's, and
12's) the flotilla threw seven hundred and fifty-
eight pounds of shot. The odds, of course, were
not as much against the Americans as these
figures would make them, for they were station-
ary, and had some long, heavy guns and boarding-
nettings ; on the other hand, the fact that two of
their vessels had drifted out of line was a very
serious misfortune. At any rate, the odds were
great enough, considering that he had British
sailors to deal with, to make it anything but a

Naval War of 1 812 n

cheerful look-out for Lieutenant Jones ; but, nowise
daunted by the almost certain prospect of defeat,
the American officers and seamen prepared very
coolly for the fight. In this connection, it should
be remembered that simply to run the boats on
shore would have permitted the men to escape,
if they had chosen to do so.

Captain Lockyer acted as coolly as his antago-
nist. When he had reached a point just out of
gunshot, he brought the boats to a grapnel to let
the sailors eat breakfast and get a little rest after
the fatigue of their long row. When his men
were rested and in good trim, he formed the boats
in open order, and they pulled gallantly on against
the strong current. At 10.50, the Americans
opened fire from their long guns, and in about
fifteen minutes the cannonade became general
on both sides.' At 11.50, Captain Lockyer's
barge was laid alongside No. 156, and a very obsti-
nate struggle ensued, "in which the greater part
of the officers and crew of the barge were killed or
wounded,"^ including among the latter the gallant
captain himself, severely, and his equally gallant
first lieutenant, Mr. Pratt, of the Seahorse frigate,
mortally. At the same time Lieutenant Tatnall
(of the Tonnant) also laid his barge aboard the
gunboat, only to have it sunk; another shared
the same fate ; and the assailants were for the mo-
' Lieutenant Jones's letter. ^ Captain Lockyer's letter.

73 Naval War of 1812

ment repulsed. But at this time Lieutenant
Jones, who had shown as much personal bravery
during the assault as forethought in preparing for
it, received a dangerous and disabling wound,
while many of his men received the same fate;
the boarding-nettings, too, had all been cut or
shot away. Several more barges at once assailed
the boats, the command of which had devolved
on a young midshipman, Mr. George Parker; the
latter, fighting as bravely as his commander, was
like him severely wounded, whereupon the boat
was carried at 1 2 . i o. Its guns were turned on No.
163, and this, the smallest of the gunboats, was
soon taken ; then the British dashed at No. 162 and
carried it, after a very gallant defence, in which
Lieutenant Speddes was badly wounded. No. 5
had her long 24 dismouted by the recoil, and was
next carried; finally. No. 23, being left entirely
alone, hauled down her flag at 1 2.30.' The Ameri-
cans had lost 6 killed and 35 wounded ; the British
17 killed and 77 (many mortally) wounded. The
greater part of the loss on both sides occurred in
boarding No. 156, and also the next two gunboats.
I have in this case, as usual, taken each com-
mander 's account of his own force and loss. Lieu-
tenant Jones states the British force to have been
1000, which tallies almost exactly with their own
account ; but believes that they lost 300 in killed

' Minutes of the Court of Inquiry, held May 15, 1S51.

Naval War of 1 8 1 2 79

and wounded. Captain Lockyer, on the other
hand, gives the Americans 225 men and three addi-
tional light guns. But on the main points the two
accounts agree perfectly. The victors certainly
deserve great credit for the perseverance, gallantry,
and dash they displayed; but still more belongs
to the vanquished for the cool skill and obstinate
courage with which they fought, although with
the certainty of ultimate defeat before them, —
which is always the severest test of bravery. No
comment is needed to prove the effectiveness of
their resistance. Even James says that the Amer-
icans made an obstinate struggle, that Lieutenant
Jones displayed great personal bravery, and that
the British loss was very severe.

On the night of December 23d, General Jack-
son beat up the quarters of the British encamped
on the bank of the Mississippi. The attack was
opened by Captain Patterson in the schooner Caro-
lina, 14 ; she was manned by 70 men, and mounted
on each side six 12 -pound carronades and one
long 12. Dropping down the stream unobserved
till opposite the bivouac of the troops, and so
close to the shore that his first command to fire
was plainly heard by the foe, Patterson opened a
slaughtering cannonade on the flank of the British,
and kept it up without suffering any loss in re-
turn, as long as the attack lasted. But, on the
27th, the British had their revenge, attacking the


Naval War of 1812

little schooner as she lay at anchor, unable to as-
cend the stream on account of the rapid current
and a strong head-wind. The assailants had a
battery of five guns, throwing hot shot and shell,
while the only gun of the schooner's that would
reach was the long 1 2 . After half an hour's fight-
ing the schooner was set on fire and blown up;
the crew escaped to the shore with the loss of 7
men killed and wounded. The only remaining
vessel, exclusive of some small, unarmed row-boats
was the Louisiana, 16, carrying on each side eight
long 24's. She was of great assistance in the
battle of the 28th, throwing during the course of
the cannonade over 800 shot, and suffering very
little in return.' Afterward, the American seamen
and marines played a most gallant part in all the
engagements on shore; they made very efficient


The following vessels were got ready for sea during this year^ :



Where Built























New York









59.343 69












' Cooper, ii., p. 320.

^ American State Papers, xiv., p. 828; also, Emmons's Sta-
tistical History.

Naval War of 1812


SUMMARY (continued)



Where Built









Tom Bowline,










































. Eagle,
' Prometheus,



N. 0.








R. I.












^ Boxer,












The first five small vessels that are bracketed
were to cruise under Commodore Porter; the
next. four under Commodore Perry; but the news
of peace arrived before either squadron put to sea.
Some of the vessels under this catalogue were
really almost ready for sea at the end of 1 8 1 3 ;
and some that I have included in the catalogue
of 181 5 were almost completely fitted at the end of
181 4, — but this arrangement is practically the

VOL. II.- 6


Naval War of 1812


I. Destroyed by British Armies

Name Tons Guns

Columbia 1508 52 j Destroyed to prevent

Adams 760 28 > them falling into hands

Argus 509 22 ) of enemy.

Carolina 230 14 Destroyed by battery.

3007 116

2. Captured, etc., by British Navy on Ocean

Name Tons Guns

Essex 860 46 Captured by frigate and corvette.

Frolic 509 22 " by frigate and schooner.

Rattlesnake.. 258 16 " by frigate.

Syren 250 16 " by seventy-four.

4877 100
Total, 7884 tons. 216 guns.

There were also a good many gunboats, which
I do not count, because, as already said, they were
often not as large as the barges that were sunk
and taken in attacking them, as at Craney Island,


I. Captured by Atnerican Privateers

Name Tons Guns

Ballahou 86 4

Landrail 76 4

162 8

Naval War of 1812 83

2. Captured, etc., by American Navy on Ocean

Name Tons Guns '

Epervicr. . . . 477 18 Captured by sloop Peacock.

Avon 477 20 Sunk " " Wasp.

Reindeer. ... 477 19

Pictou 300 14 Captured by frigate.

1731 71

3 . Sunk in A ttacking Fort

Name Tons Guns

Hermes 500 22

Total, 2393 tons. 10 1 guns.

Taking into account the losses on the lakes,
there was not very much difference in the amount
of damage done to each combatant by the other;
but, both as regards the material results and the
moral effects, the balance inclined largely to the
Americans. The chief damage done to our navy
was by the British land forces, and consisted
mainly in forcing us to bum an unfinished frigate
and sloop. On the ocean, our three sloops were
captured in each case by an overwhelming force,
against which no resistance could be made, and
the same was true of the captured British schooner.
The Essex certainly gained as much honor as her
opponents. There were but three single-ship ac-
tions, in all of which the Americans were so su-
perior in force as to give them a very great
advantage ; nevertheless, in two of them the vic-
tory was won with such perfect impunity, and the

84 Naval War of 1812

difference in the loss and damage inflicted was so
very great, that I doubt if the result would have
been affected if the odds had been reversed. In
the other case, that of the Reindeer, the defeated
party fought at a still greater disadvantage, and
yet came out of the conflict with full as much
honor as the victor. No man with a particle of
generosity in his nature can help feeling the most
honest admiration for the unflinching courage
and cool skill displayed by Captain Manners and
his crew. It is worthy of notice (remembering
the sneers of so many of the British authors at
the "wary circumspection" of the Americans)
that Captain Manners, who has left a more hon-
orable name than any other British commander
of the war, excepting Captain Broke, behaved
with the greatest caution as long as it would serve
his purpose, while he showed the most splendid
personal courage afterward. It is this combination
of courage and skill that made him so dangerous
an antagonist; it showed that the traditional
British bravery was not impaired by refusing
to adhere to the traditional British tactics of
rushing into a fight "bull-headed." Needless
exposure to danger denotes not so much pluck as
stupidity. Captain Manners had no intention
of giving his adversary any advantage he could
prevent. No one can help feeling regret that he
was killed; but if he was to fall, what more

Naval War of 1 812 85

glorious death could he meet? It must be re-
membered that, while paying all homage to Cap-
tain Manners, Captain Blakely did equally well.
It was a case where the victory between two com-
batants, equal in courage and skill, was decided
by superior weight of metal and number of men.


Name of ship Number of prizes

President 3

Constitution 6

Adams lo

Frolic 2

Wasp 15

Peacock 15

Hornet i

Small craft 35




Ontario — The contest one of ship-building merely — Ex-
treme caution of the commanders, verging on timidity — Yeo
takes Oswego, and blockades Sackett's Harbor— British gun-
boats captured — Chauncy blockades Kingston. — Erie — Cap-
tain Sinclair's unsuccessful expedition — Daring and successful
cutting-out expeditions of the British. — Champlain — Mac-
donough's victory.


THE winter was spent by both parties in
preparing more formidable fleets for
the ensuing summer. All the American
schooners had proved themselves so unfit for ser-
vice that they were converted into transports, ex-
cept the Sylph, which was brig-rigged and armed
like the Oneida. Sackett's Harbor possessed but
slight fortifications, and the Americans were kept
constantly on the alert, through fear lest the
British should cross over. Commodore Chauncy
and Mr. Eckford were as unremitting in their ex-
ertions as ever. In February, two 22-gun brigs,
the Jefferson and Jones, and one large frigate of
50 guns, the Superior, were laid; afterward a


Naval War of 1 812 87

deserter brought in news of the enormous size of
one of the new British frigates, and the Superior
was enlarged to permit her carrying 62 guns.
The Jefferson was launched on April 7th, the
Jones on the loth, and the Superior on May 2d —
an attempt on the part of the British to blow her
up having been foiled a few days before. An-
other frigate, the Mohawk, 42, was at once begun.
Neither guns nor men for the first three ships had
as yet arrived, but they soon began to come in,
as the roads got better and the streams opened.
Chauncy and Eckford, besides building ships that
were literally laid down in the forest, and seeing
that they were armed with heavy guns, which,
as well as all their stores, had to be carried over-
land hundreds of miles through the wilderness,
were obliged to settle quarrels that occurred among
the men, the most serious being one that arose
from a sentinel's accidentally killing a shipwright,
whose companions instantly struck work in a
body. What was more serious, they had to con-
tend with such constant and virulent sickness,
that it almost assumed the proportions of a plague.
During the winter it was seldom that two thirds
of the force were fit for duty, and nearly a sixth
of the whole number of men in the port died be-
fore navigation opened.'

' Cooper mentions that in five months the Madison buried
a fifth of her crew.

88 Naval War of 1 812

Meanwhile, Yeo had been nearly as active at
Kingston, laying down two frigates and a huge
line-of-battle ship, but his shipwrights did not
succeed in getting the latter ready much before
navigation closed. The Prince Regent, 58, and
Princess Charlotte, 42, were launched on April
15th. I shall anticipate somewhat by giving
tabular lists of the- comparative forces, after
the two British frigates, the two American
frigates, and the two American brigs had all been
equipped and manned. Commodore Yeo's origi-
nal six cruisers had been all renamed, some of
them rearmed, and both the schooners changed
into brigs. The Wolfe, Royal George, Melville,
Moira, Beresford, and Sydney Smith, were now
named, respectively, Montreal, Niagara, Star,
Charwell, Netty, and Magnet. On the American
side, there had been but slight changes, beyond
the alteration of the Sylph into a brig armed like
the Oneida. Of the Superior's 62 guns, 4 were
very shortly sent on shore again,

chauncy's squadron

Name Rig Tonnage Crew Metal Armament

po long 32's

Superior... . Ship 1580 500 1050 lbs. ■{ 2 " 24's

1 26 short 42 's

(26 long 24's
2 " i8's
14 short 32's

Naval War of 1 8 1 2


chauncy's squadron (continued)



Tonnage Crew
875 300

Madison. . .


Jefferson. . .





Brig 500 160







Online LibraryTheodore RooseveltThe naval war of 1812; or, The history of the United States navy during the last war with Great Britain, to which is appended an account of the battle of New Orleans; → online text (page 26 of 42)