H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

History of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: online

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by commodore Hardy.

The loss of the Chesapeake has been attributed to the acci-
dent of her falling on board the Shannon, and to the mutinous
state of her crew. She was somewhat inferior in force also:
but this ought not to be taken into consideration; for until the
fatal accident, the advantage in the contest was decidedly hers.

Never did any victory — not the victories of Wellington in
Spain, nor even those of Nelson — call forth such expres-
sions of joy, on the part of the British ; a proof that our naval
character had risen somewhat in their estimation. In the
United States it was regarded as an occurrence which proved
no superiority in the enemy : and it was lamented chiefly for
the loss of our brave officers.

The tide of fortune seemed for a short time to set in favour of
Great Britain. On the 4th of August, another of our national
vessels was captured by the enemy. The Argus, after carrV'


The Pelican captures the Argus.

ing out Mr Crawford, our minister to France, in the spring of
1813, proceeded, early in June, to cruise in the British chan-
nel, where she continued for two months to commit great ha-
vock on the British shipping. So much uneasiness did she
cause, that the English merchants were unable to effect an in-
surance on their vessels, under three times the usual premium.
The British government was induced, at last, to adopt mea-
sures for driving off this daring enemy. On the 14th, at four
in the morning, the Pelican, a British sloop of war of greater
force than the Argus, obtained sight of her by the light of a brig
then on fire ; and immediately prepared to attack her. At five
o'clock, the action commenced at the distance of musket shot ;
the Pelican having the weather gage. At the first broadside
captain Allen, of the Argus, fell, severely wounded, but remained
on deck until several broadsides were exchanged, when he was
carried below, leaving the command to lieutenant Watson. At
half past six, the rigging of the Argus was so cut up, as to ren-
der her almost unmanageable; and the lieutenant was severely
wounded in tlie head. The command now devolved on lieutenant
William H. Allen, Jun., who for some lime, by great exertion,
defeated the attempts of the Pelican to gain a raking position.
At thirty-five minutes past six, the Argus, having lost her wheel
ropes and running rigging could no longer be manoeuvred; and
the Pelican having chosen a position in which none of the guns
of the Argus could be brought to bear upon her, the latter had no-
thing but musketry to oppose to the raking broadsides of the other.
At forty-seven minutes past six, she surrendered, with the loss
of six killed and seventeen wounded. On board the Pelican,
there were three killed, and five wounded. Captain Allen, and
midshipmen Delphy and Edwards, died soon afterwards in
England, and were all interred with the honours of war. The
Pelican was a sloop of twenty guns, the Argus of eighteen ; but
the victory, in tliis instance, may fairly be awarded to the
English. Our officers and men did their duty; but were com-
pelled to submit to a more fortunate adversary. Captain Allen
was justly a fiivourite in this country, and his memory is dear
to his countrymen.

By letters dated early in July, news reached the United States
from captain Porter, that he had captured several British vessels
in the South Seas, and was then cruising with great success.
He had actually created a fleet of nine sail, by means of vessels
captured on those seas, eight of which had been letters of
marque ; and was completely master of the Pacific ocean. This
may be regarded as a novelty in naval history; and there is lit-
tle doubt, had it been performed by an English naval com-


Cruise of Porter in the South Seas The Enterprise captures the Boxer.

mnncler, that it would have been applauded to the skies. By
none of our commanders was there so much injury done to
British commerce; and against none of them wera our enemies
so profuse in their invectives. On the list of his captures were
two fine English ships, pierced for twenty guns and carrying be-
tween them sixteen, with fifty-five men, and having on board
a considerable sum in specie. On the 26lh of March, he fell
in with a Spanish ship, the Nereyda, which had been engaged
in capturing American ships: he took tiie liberty of throwing
her guns overboard, and liberating the ships and prisoners which
the pirate had captured. This is probably one of the grounds
upon which commodore Porter was denominated a bucanier by
the British.

The enemy were not long permitted to rejoice in the con-
quest of the Argus: victory once more returned to the side of
justice, " free trade and sailors' rights." The American brig
Enterprize, lieutenant commandant William Burrows, sailed
from Portsmouth on a cruise, about the 1st of September. On
the 5th, a large man of war brig was discovered, to which she
gave chase. The enemy, after firing some guns, stood for
the Enterprize with several ensigns hoisted. She proved to be
the Boxer, of a force somewhat superior to that of the Enter-
prize. A little after three, the firing commenced on both sides,
within pistol shot. After the action had continued fifteen min-
utes, the Enterprize ranged ahead, and raked her for the space
of twenty minutes. At the end of this period, the enemy
ceased firing, and cried for quarter; being unable to haul down
her flag, as it had been nailed to the mast. The Enterprize had
thirteen wounded and one killed, but that one was the lamented
Burrows. He fell at the commencement of the action, but
refused to quit the deck. He had requested that the flag might
never be struck; and when the sword of the enemy was pre-
sented to him, he clasped it to his breast, and exclaimed with
enthusiasm, "I die contented." Then, and not till then, would
he permit himself to be carried below. The British loss was
much more considerable, but was not properly ascertained : it
was supposed, however, that between thirty and forty of the
crew of the Boxer were killed and wounded; among the former
her commander, captain Blythe. Tiie bravado of nailing the
flag to the mast was an additional proof of the new light in
which the Americans were now held by an enemy, which be-
fore afiected to desj)ise them. The two commanders, both most
promising young men, were interred beside each other, at Port-
land, with military honours.

On the 26th of September, the President, commodore Rod-


Cniise of Rodgers— of the Congress Conduct of American Privateers.

gers, arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, after a cruise of un-
usual length. lie had put to sea on the 30th of April, in company
with the Congress, captain Smith. After cruising ofl" our coast
without any important occurrence, the commodore parted from
the Congress on the 8th of May, and shaped his course so as
to intercept the British trade in the West Indies. Meeting with
no success, he stood towards the Azores, where he continued
until the 6th of June, without encountering any of the enemy's
vessels. He now sailed in the direction of England ; and
made four captures between the 9th and 13th of June. Tie
next cruised in the track from Newfoundland to St George's
Channel, without meeting a single vessel; and being short
of provisions, put into North Bergen on the 27th of June.
Thence he steered towards the Orkneys, to intercept a convoy
from Archangel; but about the middle of July, when in mo-
mentary expectation of meeting with it, he was chased by a
ship of the line and a frigate for s(!veral days. Having effected
his escape, he next placed himself in the direction of the trade
passing out of and into the Irish Channel. In this position he
made three captures ; when finding that the enemy harl a supe-
rior force near at hand, he made a circuit round Ireland, and
steering for the BanivS of Newfounthand, made two captures
there. On the 23d of September he captured, in a sino-ular
manner, the British sr*hooner Ilij^hnyer, tender to admiral War-
ren. On her approach to the President, she lioisted a private
signal, which was answered by one that chanced to be the
British signal for that day : she accordingly bore down and
was captured. By this means tlie British private signals,
and admiral \^'arren's instructions, were obtained ; and the
commodore was enabled to avoid their squadrons on the coast.
He soon after arrived at Newpf>rt.

The Congress, afier parting from the Fiesident, continued
at sea until the Tiih of December, when she arrived at
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She had cruised chieflvon the
coast of South America, and had captured a number of the
enemy's vessels, among which were two armed brigs of ten
guns each.

It has already been said, that the character of our flag at
sea, was supported not merely by our national vessels : there
were numerous instances in which our private cruisers acquit-
ted themselves in a manner which entiUed them to honourable
notice. The public attention, however, was so much occupied
with the former, that the latter perhaps did not receive a due
share of applause. A few instances may now be selected from
Umong many. Perhaps no action during the war displayed


American Privateers The Decatur captures the Dominica.

more tlaring courage, and greater superiority of seamanship,
than the engagement of captain Boyle, of the Comet, with a Por-
tuguese brig, and three armed merchantmen. After encounter-
ing them all, and fighting them for several hours, he compelled
one of the merchantmen to surrender, and the brig to sheer off,
although of double the force of the Comet. This would appear
almost incredible, if the details were not perfectly authenticated.

On the 11th of March, off Surinam, the General Armstrong
discovered a sail which she supposed to be a letter of marque,
and after giving her a broadside, and wearing to give another,
to her surprise she found herself alongside of a frigate, which
soon opened such a heavy fire, as would have sunk the
schooner, had she not succeeded in making her escape.

On the 15th of August, the privateer Decatur, being on a
cruise, discovered a ship and a schooner : the first proved to
be the British packet, the Princess Charlotte; the other the
British vessel of war, the Dominica. Siie immediately stood
towards them, and soon found herself abreast of the schooner.
Both vessels continued to manoeuvre for two or three hours ;
the Dominica endeavouring to escape, and the Decatur to
board : during which time several broadsides were fired by the
former, and some shot from the large gun of the latter. The
Decatur at last succeeded in boarding ; a number of her men
passing by means of her bowsprit into the stern of the enemy.
The fire from the artillery and musquetry was now terrible,
being well supported on both sides. The Dominica not being
able to disengage herself, dropped alongside, and was boarded
by the whole crew of the Decatur. Firearms now became
useless, and the crews fought hand to hand with cutlasses.
The officers of the Dominica being all killed or wounded, she
was forced to surrender. As soon as the combat was over, the
Princess Charlotte tacked about and escaped.

The Decatur was armed with six twelve-pound carronades,
and one eighteen-pounder on a pivot, with one hundred and
three men. Her loss was three killed, and sixteen wounded.
The Dominica had twelve twelve-pound carronades, two long
sixes, one brass four-pounder, and one thirty-two pound car-
ronade on a pivot, with eighty-three men. She had thirteen
killed, and forty-seven ^vounded. The surviving officers of
the Dominica attributed their defeat to the masterly manoeu-
vring of the Decatur, and the superior skill of her crew in the
use of musketry. The captain of the Dominica, a young
man of about twenty-five years of age, was wounded early in
the action ; but he fought to the last moment, declaring that he
would surrender his vessel only with his life.


Affairs of the West Patriotic Enthusiasm of Ohio and Kentucky.

The Decatur arrived at Charlestown with her prize, on the
20th of August. It is pleasing to record, that in this instance
our brave tars did not depart from their accustomed generosity.
The surviving officers of the Dominica spoke in the highest
terras of the humanity and attention which they experienced
from the victors.


Affairs of the West— Patriotic Enthusiasm of Ohio and Kentucky— Governor Shelby
—Character of the Kentuckians— Gallant Defence of Fort Sandusky by Major Croghan
—Humane Conduct of the Besieged- Tecumseh raises the Siege of Fort Meigs— Naval
Preparations on Lake Erie— Commodore Perry sails with his Fleet— Battle of Lake
Erie— Gallant Behaviour of Perry— Capture of the Enemy's whole Squadron— Xorfh-
western Army reinforced— Capture of Maiden— Skirmish at Chatham— Battle of the
Thames— Capture of the British Regulars— Colonel Johnson wounded— Death of Te-
cumseh— Character of Tecumseh — Escape of General Proctor — Public Testimonials
of Respect to General Harrison — Generous Treatment of the British Prisoners — of the
Savages — Correspondence between General Harrison and General Vincent.

In the midst of the various occurrences of the war on the
northern frontier, on the seabord and on \he ocean, important
preparations were making to the westward; and aUhougli the
spring and summer had elapsed without the occurrence of any
incident in this quarter worthy of record, they had not passed
inactively. The general attention was now turned towards it
with much anxiety ; and the armies of the Niagara and the St
Lawrence remained almost with folded arms, awaiting the respec-
tive results of Harrison's campaign, and of the contest for the
command of Lake Erie. 'IMie British, aware of the conse-
quences of defeat, laboured with great assiduity to strengthen
themselves; and the reinforcements continually arriving at Fort
George, were evidently destined to follow up the advantages
which Proctor, in conjunction with the commander on the lake,
might gain.

In the meanwhile, the people of the neighbouring states
of Kentucky and Ohio were excited in a surprising degree.
Had it been necessary, they would have risen en masse ; for
almost every man capable of bearing a musket, was ready to



Governor Shelby Character of the Kentuckians.

march. The governor of Oliio had scarce issued his procla-
mation for vohinteers (for the legal obligation to render military-
service was no longer enforced), ulien fifteen thousand men,
completely armed and equipped — a number five times greater
than was required — presented themselves. The venerable
governor of Kentucky, Shelby, a revolutionary hero, and the
Nestor of the war, made it known that he would put himself
at the head of the injured citizens of that state, and lead them
to seek revenge for the murder of their relatives and friends ;
but he limited the number of volunteers to four thousand.
The territory embraced by the state of Kentucky, called by
the natives " the dark and bloody ground," sixty years ago was
an uninliabited forest ; and had been, from time immemorial, the
theatre of sanguinary Indian wars. At this day, it blooms be-
neath the hand of agriculture ; and is filled with beautiful towns
and villages — the abodes of peace and opulence. The inha-
bitants are derived principally from those of Virginia and
North Carolina. Living in abundance and at their ease, and
remote from the seats of commerce, they had imbibed less of
foreign attachments and feelings, than any of our people ; and
were imbued with a purer enthusiasm for the institutions of
freedom. To an enlightened manliness of mind, they united a
romantic cast of character, arising from the independence of
their situation and the absence of too close an intercourse with
the sordid world. Possessing not a little of the chivalric in their
generous and hospitable deportment, and fearing dishonour more
than danger; they were benevolent and disinterested in the
extreme. Had the elder brethren of our confederacy acted in
any respect as did this younger member, the Canadas would
have been ours.

The transactions which are now to be related, may justly be
ranked among the most pleasing to our national pride, of any
M'hich took place during the war. The campaign opened with
an affair, which, though comparatively of small consequence,
was characterized by the most brilliant bravery. This was the
unparalleled defence of Fort Sandusky, by a youth of twenty-one
5''ears of age. In August, and before the arrival of the Ohio
and Kentucky volunteers, wiiich did not take place until the
following month, threatening movements had been made upon
all the different forts established by the Americans on the rivers
which fall into Lake Erie. After the siege of Fort Meigs, the
British had received considerable reinforcements of regular
troops, and also of Indians under their great leader Tecumseh.
It was all important to reduce these forts before the arrival of the
American volunteers. Major Croghan, tlien commanding at Up-


Gallant Defence of Fort Sandusky by Major Crogban.

per Sandusky, having I'eceived inlimations that the enemy were
about to invest the fort of Lower Sandusky, marclied to this
latter place with some additional force. He occupied himself
with great assiduity in placing it in the best posture of defence;
but the only addition of importance, which the time would
allow him to make, w^as a ditcli six feet deep and nine feet wide,
outside the stockade of pickets by wliich the fort was enclosed.
He had but one six-pounder; and about one liundred and sixty
men, consisting of some regulars, and of detachments of the
Pittsburgh and Petersburgh volunteers : wliile his slight and
hastily constructed fortifications afforded but a weak defence
against artillery. General Harrison, not conceiving it prac-
ticable to defend tlie place, ordered young Croghan to retire on
the approach of the enemy, after destroying the works. By a
despatch, which was intended to fall into the hands of the ene-
my, the latter declaretl his unwillingness to obey, as he was
able to defend the fort. This reaching the general, he sent for
Croghan ; and, on receiving satisfactory explanations, fully
authorised him to make the attempt.

On llio 1st of August, general Proctor, having left a large
body of Indians under Tecumseh to keep up the appearance
of a siege of Fort JMeigs, arrived at Sandusky with about five
hundred regidars, seven hundred Indians, and some gun boats.
After he had made such dispositions of his troops as rendered
the retreat of the garrison impracticable, he sent a flag by colo-
nel Elliot and major Chambers, demanding a surrender, accom-
panied with the ur^ual threats of butchery and massacre if the
garrison should hold out. Croghan, who founil that all his com-
panions, chiefly striplings like himself, would support him to
the last, returncjl a spirited ansv/er: to the eftect that, " when
the fort should be taken, there would be none left to massacre;
as it would not be given up while a man was able to fight."

When the flag returned, a brisk fire was opened from six-
pounders in the boats and a howitzer, which was kept up during
the night. In the morning, it was discovered that three sixes
had been planieil, under the cover of the night, within two hun-
dred antl fifty yards of the pickets; which shortly after com-
menced firing, but with little eflect. About four o'clock in the
afternoon, the enemy having concentrated his fire against the
northwest anffle of the fort, with the intention of making a breach,
it was immetliately strengthened by means of bags of flour and
sand. At the same time, the six-pounder, the only piece of
artillery in the fort, was carefully concealed in the bastion which
covered the point to be assailed, and loaded with slugs and
grape. About five hundred of the enemy now advanced to


Galla^i^t Defence of Fort Sandusky Humane Conduct of the Besieged.

assail the part where it was supposed the pickets had been
injured : at the same time making several feints, to draw the
attention of the besieged from the real point of attack. Their
force being thus disposed, a column of three hundred and fifty-
men, which were so enveloped in smoke as not to be seen until
they approached within twenty paces of the lines, advanced
rapidly to the assault. A fire of musquetry from the fort,
threw them for a moment into confusion ; but they were quickly
rallied by colonel Short their commander, who sprung over the
outer works into the ditch, and commanded his men to follow,

crying out, *' Give the d d Yankees no quarter !" Scarcely

had these words escaped his lips, when the six-pounder opened
upon them a most destructive fire ; killing their barbarous leader
and twenty others, and wounding as many more. A volley of
musketry was, at the same time, fired upon those who had not
descended. The officer wiio succeeded Short, exasperated at
being thus treated by a few boys, formed tlie broken column
anew, and again rushed to the ditch. The six-pounder was a
second time played on them with the same success as before;
and the small arms were discliarged so rapidly, that they were
again thrown into confusion, and, in spite of the exertions of
their officers, fled to an adjoining wood, whither they were soon
followed by the Indians. Shordy afterwards, the assailants
abandoned the attack. Panic-struck, they retreated to their
boats, in sullen silence; scared}^ daring to cast their eyes to-
wards the fatal spot, where tliey had been so signally chas-
tised by a force scarce a tenth of tlieirs in number.

If this gallant defence deserved the applause of the brave, the
subsequent conduct of the besieged was well entitled to the
praise of every friend of humanity. Forgetting in a moment
that they had been assailed by merciless foes, who sought
to massacre them without regarding the laws of honourable
war, the little band felt only the desire of relieving the wounded
men who had been left behind by the enemy. During the
night, provisions and buckets of water were handed over the
pickets; and, by an opening which was made, many of the
sufferers were taken in and immediately supplied with surgical
aid: and this, although a firing was still kept up with small arms
by the enemy for a part of the time.

The loss of the garrison amounted to one killed and seven
wounded. That of the enemy could not have been less than
one hundred and fifty: upwards of fifty were found in and about
the ditch. It was discovered next morning, that the enemy
had hastily retreated ; leaving a boat, a considerable quantity of
military stores, and upwards of seventy stand of arms. The


Tecumseli raises the Siege of Fort Meigs Naval Preparations on Lake Erie.

Americans were engaged, during the day, in burying the dead
with tlie honours of war, and providing for tlie wounded.

This exphjit called forth the admiration of all parlies through-
out the United States. Croghan, together with his companions,
captain Hunter, lieutenants Johnson and Baylor, and ensigns
Shipp and Duncan (the present governor of Illinois) of the
Seventeenth regiment; Anthony and Anderson, of the Twenty-
fourth ; and Meeks, of the Seventh ; and the other officers and
volunteers, were highly complimented by general Harrison.
They afterwards received the thanks of congress. Croghan
was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was pre-
sented with an elegant sword by the ladies of Ciiillicothe.

Soon after this affair, Tecumseh, having raised the siege of
Fort Meigs, followed Proctor to Detroit; and all liope was given
up by the enemy of reducing the American forts, until they
could gain the ascendency on the lake.

The utmost exertions had been made, in the meanwhile, by
captain Perry, to complete the naval armament on Lake Erie.
By the 2d of August, the fleet was equipped; but some time was
lost in getting several of the vessels over the bar at the moutli of
the harbour of Erie. On the 4th, he sailed in quest of the enemy ;
but not meeting him, he returned on the 8th. After receiving
a reinforcement of sailors brouglit by captain Elliot, he again
sailed on the 12tli, and on the 15th anchored in the bay of San-
dusky. Here he took in about twenty volunteer marines, and
again went in search of the enemy; and after cruising ofT Mai-
den, retired to Put-in-i^>ay, a distance of thirty miles. His fleet

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 16 of 32)