a gallant and accomplished youth, with about forty men, was drawn by his impetuosity too far, and was surrounded by British and Indians. The greater part resisted until they were killed; but Lieutenant Eldridge, and ten others, were taken, prisoners, and never afterwards heard of. General Boyd, induced by the same considerations which weighed with General Harrison (p. 185) determined to accept the services of the Seneca warriors under Cornplanter, an intelligent and educated chief. The same stipulation, however, in regard to the unresisting and the defenceless was expressly insisted on, and we believe was observed by the Indians during the war.

On the 11th of July, the British made an attack on Black Rock, but were driven back, losing nine of their men and Colonel Bishop their commander. On the 28th of July, an expedition was undertaken against York, which had been re-captured by the enemy after the battle of Stony Creek. Three hundred men, under Colonel Winfield Scott, embarked in Commodore Chauncey's fleet, ■ and suddenly landing at that place, destroyed the public stores and property, released a number of Colonel Boerstler's men, and returned to Sackett's Harbor, with only a trifling loss.

General Dearborn, whose age and increasing infirmities rendered him quite unfit for the arduous duties of his post, retired from the service, in July, by direction of the executive. Much, and we doubt not sincere, regret was expressed by the whole body of the officers at Fort George in consequence of

this event. General Boyd now took command of the forces at the Fort; and towards the latter part of August, General Wilkinson was appointed to the command of the army of the centre.

The Americans as well as the English had made diligent efforts to gather a naval force on Lake Champlain. The few armed barges and schooners of the former, early in July, fell in with a superior force of the enemy and were captured. This opened the way for an attack on Plattsburgh, where, on the 31st of July, twelve hundred men landed, and meeting with almost no opposition from the militia hastily collected, proceeded to the destruction of the public buildings, of large amounts of private property, etc., beside carrying off a rich booty. Similar outrage was committed afterwards at Swanton, in Vermont. These acts served only to provoke the inhabitants, and render them better disposed to give the enemy a warm reception at some other period.

In Europe, the declining power and greatness of Napoleon were already producing their effect, and the state of things was verging to the point which gave England an opportunity to devote more attention to the war in America. The naval victories of the United States had not only mortified British pride, but had also naturally excited a strong desire to punish so audacious a competitor on the ocean. Early in the year it was known, that a British squadron had arrived at Bermuda, with a body of troops on board, and a large supply of bombs and other means of attacking the cities and towns on the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

sea coast. With the same mistake in judgment which was made in the Revolution, it was determined, to devastate the coast, and lay waste the towns and villages in every accessible direction. The necessary effect in such cases, must be, of course, to rouse the spirit of any people; and in the result, we find, that the outrages of the British under Cockburn, and his willing assistants, stirred up intense indignation, and incited the Americans to deeds of revenge.

Early in February, a squadron appeared in Delaware Bay, which destroyed many vessels and blockaded the Bay. On the 10th of February, Lewiston, in Delaware, was bombarded, because the inhabitants refused to supply the enemy with fresh provisions; and a month later, the militia succeeded in driving away a number of barges which had been sent to obtain water. It was, however, in the Chesapeake principally, that this new and discreditable species of warfare was carried on by the British ships. Admiral Cockburn was in command of the squadron here, and he rendered his name and character notorious, on account of the numerous piratical incursions in which he indulged, the houses he robbed, the families he plundered, the wanton destruction of property he authorized, and the shameful insults and injuries he inflicted upon defenceless women and children. The militia did good service in meeting the invaders whenever possible, but they were not able, of course, to do much in the way of effectual resistance. Frenchtown was assaulted, and plundered; Havre de Grace, early in May, shared the same fate; as did also Georgetown


and Fredericktown, a few davs later. The details of outrage and injury of every kind are such as excite astonishment and shame, that men calling themselves Englishmen could have sunk so low as to be guilty of conduct to be looked for only in pirates and savages.

Admiral Warren soon after arrived in the Chesapeake, which increased the enemy's force to seven ships of the line, and twelve frigates, with a proportionate number of smaller vessels. The appearance of this formidable armament created much alarm in the more considerable towns along the neighboring coast. Baltimore, Annapolis, and Norfolk were threatened; and it soon became evident, that the latter of these places was selected to receive the first blow. Commodore Cassin, on the 20th of June, aided by Captain Tarbell with a number of gunboats, made a gallant attack upon a British frigate at Craney Island, but did not succeed in capturing her. On the 2 2d, it having been determined to open the way to Norfolk, a large British force was detailed against Craney Island. They were bravely met by the Americans, some six hundred in number, partly marines and Virginia volunteers, and after a sharp fight, they were completely defeated, with a loss of over two hundred killed and wounded. Enraged at this unlooked-for result, the British determined to fall upon Hampton and destroy it, so as, if possible, to cut off the communication between Norfolk and the upper part of Virginia. lgl8 On the 25th of June, Cockburn advanced against the town with his barges, and kept up a constant cannonade, while about two thousand men, under Sir Sidney Beckwith, landed below intending to attack the Americans in the rear. The force stationed at Hampton was not more than four hundred, and though they made a gallant resistance, they were compelled to give way, and the enemy took possession of the town. Contemporary accounts are full of details of the shocking and detestable conduct of the lawless and inhuman invaders. Neither age nor sex was spared; and we cannot wonder that the feelings of the people were wrought up almost to frenzy, in the prospect of war to be carried on in this manner by the British commanders.

During the summer, other places, as Washington, Annapolis, Baltimore, etc., were threatened, but with no material result. Cockburn, in July, proceeded further south, and exercised his peculiar ability in marauding expeditions on the coast of North Carolina, where, beside the usual plunder, he inveigled a number of slaves on board his ship, and afterwards sold them in the West Indies.

At the north, attacks on the ooast were conducted by the blockading force whenever practicable, but in a manner much more to the credit of the British name. This was due, no doubt, to Commodore Hardy, who was in command north of the Chesapeake, and who was a manly and generous-hearted enemy. The city of New York was strictly blockaded. The frigates United States and Macedonian, and the sloop Hornet, attempted to sail on a cruise from that port about the beginning of

May, but finding the force at the Hook much superior to theirs, they put back and passed through Hell Gate, with the intention of getting out by the Sound. In this they were also frustrated; and on the 1st of June, after another attempt, they were chased into New London. Six hundred militia were immediately called in from the surrounding country, for the protection of the squadron; and Commodore Decatur, landing some of his guns, mounted a battery on the shore, and at the same time so lightened his vessels, as to enable them to ascend the river out of the reach of the enemy. This town was so well fortified, however, that no attempt was made upon it, although the blockade was kept up for several months.

Incensed by the depredations committed on our coasts by the blockading squadrons, Congress passed an act, by which a reward of half their value was offered for the destruction of ships belonging to the enemy by means other than thoaie of the armed or commissioned vessels of the United States. This measure was intended to encourage the use of torpedoes, of which, it will be remembered, Bushnell was the inventor during the Revolution. (See vol. i., p. 518.) On the 18th of July, and' during several nights subsequently, attempts were made to blow up the Plantagenet, a British seventy-four, at anchor in Lynnhaven Bay; but without success. The last effort was made on the 24th, when, within a hundred yards of the ship, the torpedo was dropped into the water, and the same moment the sentinel cried "all's well:" the tide

Ch. IX.]

swept it towards the vessel, but it exploded a few seconds too soon. A column of water fifty feet in circumference was thrown up thirty or forty feet. Its appearance was a vivid red, tinged with purple at the sides. The summit of the column burst with a tremendous explosion, and fell on the deck of the Plantagenet in torrents, while she rolled into the yawning chasm below, and nearly upset. She however received no material injury. Other attempts of the kind were made in different quarters, the principal result of which was to cause the enemy to be very cautious in approaching our harbors and selecting stations for their ships. The use of this mode of destroying an invading force was strongly condemned by Commodore Hardy, and by a number of our own people, as dishonorable and unmanly; but, as Mr. Hale says, no one was able to show why it was more dishonorable or unfair than the resort to surprizes, ambushes, and mines.

The naval affairs of the year 1813 demand our attention in this place. When Commodore Bainbridge left San Salvador, in January, for home (p. 166) he directed Captain Lawrence, in the Hornet, to blockade the Bonne Citoyenne, a British vessel in that harbor. Lawrence challenged his opponent to meet him outside the port; but his challenge was not accepted. The Hornet continued the blockade until the 24th of January, when the Montague, seventy-four, hove in sight, and compelled her to escape into port. She ran out, however, the same night, and proceeded on a cruise. Her commander Vol. TII.—25


first shaped his course to Peruambuco; and on the 4th of February, captured the English brig Resolution, of ten guns, with $23,000 in specie. He then ran down the coast of Maranham, and thence off Surinam, where he cruised for some time; and on the 22d.stood forDemerara. The next day, ho discovered an English brig of war lying at anchor outside of the bar, and on beating around the Carabana bank, to come near her, he discovered, at half past three in the afternoon, another sail on his weather quarter, edging down for him. This proved to be a large man-of-war brig, the Peacock, Captain Peake, somewhat superior to the Hornet in force. Lawrence immediately ordered his men to quarters, and had the ship cleared for action. He kept close by the wind, ir order, if possible, to get the weathergage of the Peacock. At ten minutes past five, finding he could not weather the enemy, he hoisted American colors and tacked. About a quarter of an hour after this, the ships passed each other, and exchanged broadsides within half pistol shot. Lawrence, observing the enemy in the act of wearing, bore up, received his starboard broadside, and ran him close on board on the starboard quarter. From this position he kept up a most severe and well-directed fire. So great was its effect, that, in less than fifteen minutes, the British vessel struck. She was almost cut to pieces, and hoisted an ensign, union down, from her fore rigging, as a signal of distress. Shortly after, her mainmast went by the board. The signal of distress was answered with praiseworthy humanity by the brave Americans, and erefj effort was made by the crews of both vessels to save the disabled ship. But, notwithstanding all their efforts, she went down in a few minutes, with thirteen of her own crew and three of the Hornet's, who were engaged in the noble act of striving to save their enemies. The captain of the Peacock and four men were killed, and thirty-three wounded; whilst there were but one man killed, and two wounded, on board the Hornet. Only one shot fired by the Peacock struck the hull of her adversary; and it did no more damage than that of indenting a plank beneath the cat-head.


The conduct of Captain Lawrence towards his prisoners was such as deserved the highest applause. So sensibly affected were the officers of the Peacock by the treatment they received, that, on their arrival at New York, they made a grateful acknowledgment in the public papers. To use their own expressive phrase, "they ceased to consider themselves prisoners." And the brave tars, emulating the magnanimous spirit of their commander, divided their clothes with the prisoners who were left destitute by the sinking of the Peacock*

* The intensely bitter opposition to the war, of a large party in New England, was exhibited in connection with the victory of the Hornet over the Peacock, in a resolution adopted by the Senate of Massachusetts, on the motion of Mr. Quincy, June 15th, 1813, in these words: "Resolved, as the sense of the Senate of Massachusetts, that, in a war like the present, waged without a justifiable cause, and prosecuted in a manner that indicates that conquest and ambition arc its real motives, it is not becoming a moral and religious people to express any approbation of military or naval exploits which are not immediately connected with the defence of our sea coast and soiL"

On the 10th of April, shortly after the return of the Hornet, the Chesapeake arrived at Boston, after a cruise of four months. Her commander, Captain Evans, having been appointed to the New York station, the Chesapeake was assigned to Lawrence. He accepted the post with reluctance, for the Chesapeake was looked upon as an unlucky ship, a circumstance of much moment with sailors, and her crew was ill assorted and in a disaffected and complaining state. He entered with alacrity, however, upon the duties of his post, and, had time been allowed him, he might have rendered the Chesapeake worthy of a better fate than that which befell her and her gallant commander.

The frequent and annoying disasters at sea had impressed the British government with the necessity for the most vigorous efforts, both to retrieve their naval losses, and to prevent the recurrence of mortifying defeat. "Several vessels," as Alison states, "were commenced on the model of the American frigates and sloops, which had been found by experience so swift in sailing, and so formidable in action; and secret instructions were given to the commanders of vessels on the North American station, not to hazard an encounter with an opponent nominally of the same class, unless there was something like a real, as well as an apparent, equality between them. Greater care was, at the same time, taken in the selection of crews; a larger proportion of men was given to the cannon on board; and orders were issued for the frequent exercise of the men in ball practice, both

« 上一頁繼續 »