Copyright
H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

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

. (page 23 of 32)
Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 23 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Passamaquoddy Bay. On the 1st of September, the governor
of Nova Scotia, and admiral Griffith, entered the Penobscot,
and seized the town of Castine, which the garrison had previ-
ously evacuated. A proclamation was then issued, declaring
that possession of that portion of Maine which lies east of the
Penobscot was formally taken in the name of his Britannic
majesty. The country, which contained about thirty thousand
inhabitants, was then gradually occupied, and was retained
until the termination of the war.

A few days before the occupation of Castine, the frigate John
Adams, captain Morris, entered the Penobscot river, after a
successful cruise; and having run upon the rocks near that port,
was obliged to be hove down at Hampden, thirty-five miles up
the river, for the purpose of being repaired. On the 3d of
September, several of the British vessels, and ten barges, man-
ned by about one thousand men, ascended from Castine for the
purpose of capturing the frigate. Captain Morris, apprized of
their approach, erected several batteries on eminences near his
vessel, and armed the militia. Finding, however, that there was
no possibility of successfully resisting the enemy, he ordered the
greater part of his crew to retreat under lieutenant Wadsworth,
while he himself and a few men remained, to blow up the ship.
This they effected ; and then plunged into the river, and reached
a place of safety by swimming. The British, disappointed in
this undertaking, retired to Castine.



204 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Naval Events The President The Constitution.



CHAPTER XVI.



Naval Events— The Plantagenet Seventy-Four declines a Contest with Commo-
dore Rodgers— Captain Stewart chases a British Frigate of equal force— Cruise of
Commodore Porter in the Essex— He captures twelve armed British Whale Ships —
Arrives at the Island of Nooaheevah — Takes possession in the name of the American
Government— His Difficulties with the Savages there— He burns the Typee Villages —
British Abuse— Commodore Porter arrives at Valparaiso— Is attacked by the Phoebe
and Cherub— His Desperate Resistance— Capture of the Essex and Essex Junior—
The Peacock captures the British Brig Epervier— The Wasp captures the Reindeer —
The Wasp sinks the Avon — Mysterious Loss of the Wasp— Cruise of the President,
the Peacock and the Hornet— The President captured by a British Squadron — The
Constitution engages and captures the Cyane and the Levant— The Hornet, Captain
Biddle, captures the Penguin — Exploits of Privateers — Capture of the American Priva-
teer Armstrong, after a dreadful Carnage of the Enemy.

The naval incidents of eighteen hundred and fourteen, were
as grateful to the feelings of the nation as those of the two pre-
vious years.

An occurrence took place in the beginning of it, which afforded
much mortification to the enemy. In the month of February,
commodore Rodgers, on his return from a cruise in the Presi-
dent, found himself off Sandy Hook, in the neighbourhood of
three large British ships of war, the nearest of which was the
Plantagenet, a seventy-four. Believing that an engagement
with one, or all of them, was unavoidable, he immediately cleared
for action, determining not to surrender his ship without selling
it as dearly as he could. But notwithstanding he fired a gun to
windward as a proof of his willingness to engage, the British
vessels did not think proper to approach, and he reached New
York safely. Captain Lloyd, of the Plantagenet, after return-
ing to England, accounted for his conduct, by alleging a mutiny
in his ship ; and several of his sailors were executed on the
charge.

In the month of April, captain Stewart was on his return in
the Constitution from a cruise, when he was chased by two
British frigates and a brig, but escaped by superior seamanship
into Marblehead. Some time before, after capturing the pub-
lic schooner Pictou, he fell in with the British frigate La Pique,



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 205



Cruise of Commodore Porter in the Essex His Arrival at Nooaheevah.

captain Maitland, which fled on the approach of the Constitu-
tion, and finally escaped during the night, after a long chase.
Captain Maitland, on his arrival in England, was complimented
by the board of admiralty, for thus obeying their instructions,
in not fighting an American frigate. The enemy had become
equally shy of the gun-boat flotilla. Commodore Lewis re-
peatedly beat off" the British vessels near Sandy Hook, and
facilitated the return of the American ships. The brig Regent,
laden with a very valuable cargo, was chased by the Belvidera,
when commodore Lewis, throwing himself with eleven of his
gun-boats between them, the frigate moved off without return-
ing the shot of the gun-boats.

That brave and adventurous seaman, commodore Porter, of
the Essex, terminated this year his glorious cruise in the Pacific.
From Lima, in the neighbourhood of which he had chastised
the pirates of the ship Nereyda, he proceeded to the Galli-
pagos, where he cruised from April until October 1813; and
in the course of that time captured twelve armed British whale
ships, carrying in all one hundred and seven guns, and three
hundred and two men. Several of these he fitted out as
American cruisers and store ships; and one of tliem, the
Atlantic, wliich he called the Essex Junior, he equipped with
twenty guns and sixty men, and assigned it to lieutenant
Downes, his first oflicer. Those prizes which were to be
laid up were convoyed by this latter oflicer to Valparaiso.
On his return, he brought intelligence to commodore Porter,
that a British squadron, consisting of one frigate and two sloops
of war, and a store ship of twenty guns, had sailed in quest of
the Essex. The commodore, having been almost a year at
sea, with little intermission, found it absolutely necessary that
his ship should undergo considerable repairs. With this view,
he steered to the island of Nooaheevah, of which he took pos-
session in the name of the American government ; calling it
Madison's Island, in honour of the president. Here he found
a fine bay, and a situation in every other respect suitable to
his wishes. The inhabitants at first were apparently friendly;
but it was not long before he perceived that his situation would
be unsafe, in consequence of a war which prevailed between the
inhabitants of a neighbouring village, and those by whom he
had been received. The latter insisted upon his joining them
in their wars, and threatened to drive him away if he did not.
Compelled by a regard to his own safety, the commodore sent
a party of sailors with the natives, who, by their assistance,
defeated their enemies. At his instance, a peace was brought
about between them : in return for which, the natives erected



206 BRACKENRIDGE^S

Commodore Porter burns the Typee Villages at Nooaheevah.

a village for his accommodation, and freely traded with him
for provisions ; and for some time the greatest harmony pre-
vailed.

His security was again menaced by tVie hostile conduct of
the Typees, one of the most warlike tribes on the island, who
were continually urging the friendly savages to destroy the
strangers. Finding his situation growing every day more
critical, and being very unwilling to engage in a war with them ;
the commodore sent them presents, and requested that they
would remain quiet and be at peace. This had no other effect
than to increase their insolence to the Americans, whom they
represented as cowardly, or they would not have condescended
to beg for peace. He now discovered that his safety depended
entirely upon making these people feel his strength ; as it was
impossible for him to leave the island until his vessel could be
repaired, and while the greater part of his effects were actually
on shore. He therefore set off against them at the head of
thirty-five men, determined to give them battle, and, by showing
the efficacy of his weapons, to compel them to a pacific course.
The necessity for this step was great, as those tribes which had
hitherto been friendly were on the point of breaking out into
hostilities. But the force with which he marched, was insuffi-
cient to make any impression on his savage enemies. Their
country being exceedingly mountainous, and abounding in thick-
ets, it was easy for them to escape. The commodore was,
therefore, compelled to return from this expedition without
achieving his object. To prevent the friendly savages from
rising, he found it necessary to inform them, that he would
proceed the next day with a much larger body of men. He
now, with the greater part of his crew, marched across the
mountains, notwithstanding the extreme difficulties of the route,
and penetrated into the valleys of the natives. Being unable
to come at them, as they again took refuge in their inaccessible
fastnesses, he burnt nine of their villages, and then retreated.
The Typees now gladly accepted terms of peace ; and all the
tribes on the island vied with each other in friendship towards
the whites, as long as the commodore remained.

The destruction of the Typee villages furnished the British
writers with occasion for the most scandalous abuse of com-
modore Porter and the American people. The burning by an
American officer, in self defence and for the sake of peace, of a
few wigwams covered with palm leaves, erected merely for shelter
from the heats or rains of the torrid zone, v/as to be viewed
with horror; while the conduct of the British government in
India, in America, and throughout the world, without any motive



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 207



He arrives at Valparaiso.

but that of a base rapacity, was to be passed over unnoticed !
There is one part of commodore Porter's conduct which could not
be approved; and that was the taking possession of the island in
the name of the American government. This, although it gave
satisfaction to the natives, who regarded it as an expression of
friendship, was following the evil example of European states,
which have usually considered themselves entitled, by the right
of prior discovery, to territories inhabited only by uncivilized
men. Had the Typee war ensued in consequence of this act,
it could have found no justification.

The Essex being completely repaired and supplied with
provisions for four months, the commodore sailed for Valpa-
raiso on the r2th of December, accompanied by lieutenant
Downing with the Essex Junior, and arrived tliere on the I2th
of January 1814. He left behind him three of his prizes,
secured under a fort which he had erected, in the charge of
lieutenant Gamble, of the marines, witlr orders to proceed to
Valparaiso after a certain time.

It was not long after the arrival of commodore Porter at Val-
paraiso, when commodore Hillyar appeared lliere in the Phoebe
frigate, accompanied by the Ciierub sloop of war. These ves-
sels had been equipped for the purpose of meeting the Essex;
and carried Hags bearing the motto, " God and our country,
British sailors' best riglits : traitors offend them.^^ This was
in allusion to Porter's celebrated motto, " Free trade and sailors'
rights." He now hoisted at his mizzen, "God, our country,
and liberty: tyrants offend them."

The British vessels soon after stood out, and cruised ofl' the
port about six weelvs, rigorously blockading the Essex. Their
united force amounted to eighty-one guns, and five hundred
men; Avhile that of the Essex and Essex Junior was only
sixty-six guns, and three hundred and twenty men. Commo-
dore Porter, being prevented by this great disparity of power
from engaging, made repeated attempts to draw the Phcebe
singly into action, as well by manoeuvring as by sending formal
challenges; but commodore Hillyar carefully avoided it. The
American commander, hearing that an additional British force
was on its way, and having discovered that his vessel could
outsail those of the British, determined to put to sea, and, by
diverting the pursuit to himself, to enable the Essex Junior
to escape to a place of rendezvous previously appointed.

On the 28th of March, the wind blowing fresh from the south-
ward, the Essex parted her starboard cable, and dragged her
larboard anchor to sea. Not a moment was lost in getting sail
on the ship. In endeavouring to pass to the windward of the



208 BRACKENRIDGE'S



Commodore Porter is attacked by the Phoebe and Cherub.

enemy, a squall struck the American vessel, just as she was
doubling tlie point forming the western side of the har-
bour, which carried away her main topmast. Both British
ships immediately gave chase. Being unable to escape in his
crippled state, the commodore endeavoured to put back into
the harbour; but finding this impracticable, he ran into a small
bay, about three quarters of a mile to the eastward of the har-
bour, and anchored within pistol shot of the shore, where, from
a supposition that the enemy would continue to respect the
neutrality of the port, he thought himself secure. He soon
found, however, by the manner in which they approached,
that he was mistaken. With all possible despatch, therefore,
he prepared his ship for action, and endeavoured to get a spring
on his cable : he had not accomplished this when the enemy com-
menced the attack, at fifty-four minutes past three P. M. At
first, the Phoebe placed herself on his stern, and the Cherub on
his larboard bow ; but the latter, finding herself exposed to a hot
fire, soon changed her position, and with her consort kept up
a raking fire under his stern. The Americans, being unable to
bring their broadside to bear on the enemy, were obliged to rely
for defence against this tremendous attack, on three long twelve-
pounders, which they ran out of the stern ports. These were
worked with such bravery and skill, and so much injury to the
enemy, as in half an hour to compel them to haul ofif and re-
pair. It was evident that commodore Hillyar meant to risk
nothing from the daring courage of the Americans ; all his
manoeuvres were deliberate and wary: his antagonist was in
his power, and his only concern was to succeed with as little
loss to himself as possible. The situation of the Essex was
now most deplorable : already many of the gallant crew were
killed and wounded ; and the crippled state of their ship ren-
dered it impracticable for them to bring her guns to bear upon
the enemy. Still they were not disheartened : aroused to des-
peration, they expressed their defiance to the enemy, and their
determination to hold out to the last.

The enemy having repaired his damages, now placed him-
self, with both ships, on the starboard quarter of the Essex,
where none of her guns could be brought to bear; and the
commodore saw no hope of injuring him but by getting under
way, and becoming the assailant. The flying-jib was the only
sail he had left : causing this to be hoisted, and cutting his cable, he
ran down on both ships, with the intention of laying the Phoebe on
board. For a short time he was enabled to close with the enemy.
Although the decks of the Essex were strewed with dead, and
her cockpit was filled with the wounded ; although she had been



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 209



His Desperate Resistance.

several times on fire, and was, in fact, a perfect wreck ; a feeble
hope now arose that she might yet be saved, in consequence
of the Cherub being so much crippled as to be compelled to haul
off. She did not return to close action again; but she kept up
herfireata distance, with her long guns. The Essex was unable,
however, to take advantage of the circumstance; as the Phcebe
edged off, and also kept up, at a distance, a destructive fire.
Commodore Porter, finding that the enemy had it in his power
to choose his distance, at last gave up all hope of again coming
to close quarters, and attempted to run his vessel on shore.
The wind at that moment favoured the design; but it suddenly
changed, turning her head upon the Phoebe, and exposing her
to a raking fire. Tlie ship was totally unmanageable; but as
she drifted with her head to the enemy, commodore Porter
again encouraged the hope of being able to board. At this
moment lieutenant-commandant Downes, of the Essex Junior,
came on board, to receive orders, in the expectation that his com-
mander would soon be a prisoner. His services could be of no
avail in the present deplorable state of the Essex; and finding,
from the enemy's putting up his helm, that the last attempt at
boarding would not succeed, he directed Downes to repair to
his ship, to be prepared for defending her in case of attack, and,
if necessary, of destroying her.

The slaughter on board the Essex now became liorrible, the
enemy continuing to rrike her, while she was unable to bring
a single gun to bear. Still her commander refused to yield
while a ray of hope appeared. Every expedient that a fertile
and inventive genius could suggest was resorted to, in the for-
lorn chance, that he might be able, by some lucky circumstance,
to escape from the grasp of the foe. A hawser was bent to the
sheet anchor, and the anchor cut from the bows to bring the
ship's head round. This succeeded ; and the broadside of the
Essex was again brought to bear. As the enemy was much
crippled and unable to hold his own, it was hoped that he
might drift out of gun-shot, before he discovered that the Es-
sex had anchored: but alas! this last expedient failed; the
hawser parted, and with it went the last lingering hope of the
Essex. At this moment her situation was awful beyond de-
scription. She was on fire both before and aft; the flames were
bursting up each hatchway ; a quantity of powder had exploded
below ; and word was given that the fire was near her magazine.
Thus surrounded by horrors, with no probability of maintaining
his ship, the commodore directed his attention to saving as many
of his gallant companions as he could : and as the distance to the
shore did not exceed three quarters of a mile, he hoped that



aiO BRACKENRIDGE'S



Capture of the Essex and Essex Junior.

many of them would make their escape before the ship blew up.
The boats had been destroyed by the enemy's shot: he
therefore ordered such as could swim to jump overboard and
endeavour to gain the land. Some reached it, some were taken
by the enemy, and some perished in the attempt; but the greater
part of his generous crew resolved to stay by the ship, and
share the fate of their commander.

They now laboured to extinguish the flames, and succeeded.
After this, they again repaired to their guns, but their strength
had become so much exhausted, that an effort at further resistance
was vain. Commodore Porter then summoned a consultation
of the officers ; but was surprised to find only one acting lieu-
tenant, Stephen Decatur M'Knight, remaining. The accounts
from every part of the ship were deplorable indeed : she was
in imminent danger of sinking, and so crowded with the
wounded, that the cockpit, the steerage, the wardroom and
the birth deck could hold no more. In the meantime the
enemy, at a secure distance, continued his fire ; and the water
having become smooth, he struck the hull of the Essex at every
shot. At last, despairing of saving his ship, the commodore
was compelled, at twenty minutes past six P. M., to give the
painful orders to strike the colours. The enemy, not seeing
probably that this had taken place, continued to fire for ten
minutes after ; and Porter, under a belief that they intended to
give no quarter, was about to direct the colours to be again
hoisted, when the firing ceased. The loss on board the
Essex was fifty-eight killed, thirty-nine wounded severely,
twenty-seven slightly, and thirty-one missing. The loss of
the British was five killed, and ten wounded. Their vessels
were both much cut up in their hulls and rigging ; and the Phcebe
could scarcely be kept afloat until she anchored in the port of
Valparaiso next morning.

Commodore Porter was permitted, on his parol, to return to
the United States in the Essex Junior, which was converted
into a cartel for the purpose. On arriving oft' the port of New
York, he was brought to and detained by the Saturn razee ; and,
to the disgrace of the British arms, compelled to give up his
parol, and declared a prisoner of war. The Essex Junior was
ordered to remain under the lee of the Saturn. Commodore
Porter now determined to attempt his escape, though thirty
miles from shore. Manning a boat with a suflicient crew, he put
off; and notwithstanding that he was pursued from the Saturn,
he arrived safely in New York. His countrymen received him
with open arms ; and the most unbounded demonstrations of



HISTORY OF THE WAR. 211

The Peacock captures the British Brig Epervier.

joy prevailed wherever he appeared. Certainly his services
to his country justly claimed its gratitude and esteem.

Perhaps a more dreadful example of determined, unconquer-
able courage than the unsuccessful defence of the Essex was
never exhibited: to an American, no victory could afford more
grateful and proud recollections. It was pleasing to see the
spontaneous expression of human feeling in favour of the weak,
when contending against superior force. Thousands of the
inhabitants of Valparaiso covered the neighbouring heights, as
spectators of the conflict. Touched with the forlorn situation
of the Essex, and filled with admiration at the unflagging spirit
and persevering bravery of her commander and crew, a gene-
rous anxiety animated the multitude for their fate. Bursts of
delight arose when, by any vicissitude of battle or prompt ex-
pedient, a change seemed to be taking place in their favour ;
and the eager spectators were seen to wring their hands and to
utter groans of sympathy, when the transient hope was de-
feated.

During the third year of the war, every naval combat, without
a single exception, where there was any thing like equality of
force, terminated in favour of the Americans. The sloop of
war Peacock, captain Warrington, launched in October 1813,
performed a cruise during the winter, and on her return, was
chased into St Mary's. She soon after put to sea again, and
on tlie 29lh of April discovered the British brig of war Epervier,
captain Wales, with several vessels under convoy which im-
mediately made sail on her approacli. An engagement between
the two vessels of war followed soon afterwards. At the first
broadside, the foreyard of the Peacock was totally disabled by
two round shot in the starboard quarter. By this, she was
deprived of the use of her fore and foretop sails, and was obliged
to keep aloof during the remainder of the action, which lasted
forty-two minutes. In this time, she received considerable
damage in her rigging, but her hull was not at all injured.
The Epervier struck with five feet water in her hold, her top-
mast over the side, her main boom shot away, her foremast
cut nearly in two, her fore rigging and stays shot away, and
her hull pierced by forty-five shot, twenty of which were within
a foot of her water line. Of her crew eleven were killed, and
her first lieutenant and fourteen men wounded. She was im-
mediately taken possession of by lieutenant Nicholson, first
officer of the Peacock, who, with lieutenant Voorhees of the
same ship, had been already distinguished in another naval
action. The sum of one hundred and eighteen thousand dollars,
in specie, was found in her, and transferred to the Peacock.



213 BRACKENRIDGE'S



The Wasp captures the Reindeer Sinks the Avon.



Captain Warring-ton immediately set sail, with his prize, for
one of the southern ports. The day following, the captain dis-
covered two frigates in chase. At the suggestion of lieutenant
Nicholson, he took all the prisoners on board the Peacock; and
leaving only sixteen men on board the Epervier, directed her
to seek the nearest port. By skilful seamanship the captain
succeeded in escaping from the enemy's ships, and reaching
Savannah. Here he found his prize ; lieutenant Nicholson
having brought her in, after beating off a launch well manned
and armed, which had been despatched from the frigates to
overtake him.

Captain Blakely, of the new sloop of war the Wasp, sailed
from Portsmouth on the 1st of May. After seizing seven mer-
chantmen, on the 6th of July, while in chase of two other vessels,
he fell in with the British brig of war Reindeer, captain Manners,
and immediately altered his course, and hauled by the wind, in
chase of her. At fifteen minutes past one P. M., he prepared
for action ; but it was two hours later, in consequence of their
manoeuvring and the endeavours of the Reindeer to escape, ere



Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeHistory of the late war between the United States and Great Britain: → online text (page 23 of 32)