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Full text of "The naval war of 1812; or, The history of the United States navy during the last war with Great Britain"














27 & 29 WEST 23D STREET 


%' MAY ""/ 




Press of 

G. p. Futnatn^s Sons 

New York 


The history of the naval events of the War of 
1812 has been repeatedly presented both to the 
American and the English reader. Historical 
writers have treated it either in connection with a 
general account of the contest on land and sea, or 
as forming a part of the complete record of the 
navies of the two nations. A few monographs, 
whiich confine themselves strictly to the naval occur- 
rences, have also appeared. But none of these works 
can be regarded as giving a satisfactorily full or 
impartial account of the war — some of them being 
of the " popular " and loosely-constructed order, 
while others treat it from a purely partisan stand- 
point. No single book can be quoted which would 
be accepted by the modern reader as doing justice 
to both sides,, o>', indeed, as telling the whole story. 
Any one specii^y interested in"', th^e subject must 
read all; and then^it\vill see'rti almost a hopeless 
task to reconcile the man)'; an.a widely contradictory 
statements he willin^'^t.wivjri. , V 

There appear to be three works which, taken in 
combination, give the best satisfaction on the subject. 
First, in James' " Naval History of Great Britain " 



(which supplies both the material and the opinions 
of almost every subsequent English or Canadian his- 
torian) can be found the British view of the case. 
It is an invaluable work, written with fulness and 
care ; on the other hand it is also a piece of special 
pleading by a bitter and not over-scrupulous parti- 
san. This, in the second place, can be partially 
supplemented by Fenimore Cooper's " Naval His- 
tory of the United States." The latter gives the 
American view of the cruises and battles ; but it is 
much less of an authority than James*, both because 
it is written without great regard for exactness, and 
because all figures for the American side need to be 
supplied from Lieutenant (now Admiral) George E. 
Emmons' statistical " History of the United States 
Navy," which is the third of the works in question. 
But even after comparing these three authors, 
many contradictions remain unexplained, and the 
truth can only be reached in such cases by a careful 
examination of the navy " Records," the London 
'* Naval Chronicle," " Niles' Register," and other 
similar documentary publications. Almost the 
only good critici^^ \)fv^' tH^'^c^cti'^iGi are those inci- 
dentally given in stj^ndard^work-s on other subjects, 
such as Lord Howar/i SDougfes's' ^* Naval Gunnery," 
and Admiral Jurie^f 4e ik (Sjii^vMre^.s " Guerres Mari- 
times." Much of the ma'teriarin our Navy Depart- 
ment has never been touched at all. In short, no 
full, accurate, and unprejudiced history of the war 
has ever been written. 


The subject merits a closer scrutiny than it has 
received. At present people are beginning to real- 
ize that it is folly for the great English-speaking 
Republic to rely for defence upon a navy composed 
partly of antiquated hulks, and partly of new ves- 
sels rather more worthless than the old. It is 
worth while to study with some care that period 
of our history during which our navy stood at the 
highest pitch of its fame ; and to learn any thing from 
the past it is necessary to know, as near as may be, 
the exact truth. Accordingly the work should be 
written impartially, if only from the narrowest mo- 
tives. Without abating a jot from one's devotion 
to his country and flag, I think a history can be 
made just enough to warrant its being received as 
an authority equally among Americans and English^ 
men. I have endeavored to supply such a work. 
It is impossible that errors, both of fact and opinion, 
should not have crept into it ; and although I have 
sought to make it in character as non-partisan as 
possible, these errors will probably be in favor of 
the American side. 

As my only object is to give an accurate 
narrative of events, I shall esteem it a particular 
favor if any one will furnish me with the means of 
rectifying such mistakes ; and if I have done injus- 
tice to any commander, or officer of any grade, 
whether American or British, I shall consider my- 
self under great obligations to those who will set 
me right. 

vi NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

I have been unable to get access to the original 
reports of the British commanders, the logs of the 
British ships, or their muster-rolls, and so have been 
obliged to take them at second hand from the 
" Gazette," or " Naval Chronicle," or some standard 
history. The American official letters, log-books, 
original contracts, muster-rolls, etc., however, being 
preserved in the Archives at Washington, I have 
been able, thanks to the courtesy of the Hon. Wm. 
H. Hunt, Secretary of the Navy, to look them over. 
The set of letters from the officers is very complete, 
in three series, — '* Captains* Letters," ^' Masters' 
Commandant Letters," and "Officers' Letters," 
there being several volumes for each year. The 
books of contracts contain valuable information as 
to the size and build of some of the vesselso The 
log-books are rather exasperating, often being very 
incomplete. Thus when I turned from Decatur's 
extremely vague official letter describing the cap- 
ture of the Macedonian to the log-book of the 
Frigate United States, not a fact about the fight 
could be gleaned. The last entry in the log on the 
day of the fight is " strange sail discovered to be a 
frigate under English colors," and the next entry 
(on the following day) relates to the removal of the 
prisoners. The log of the Enterprise is very full 
indeed, for most of the time, but is a perfect blank 
for the period during which she was commanded by 
Lieutenant Burrows, and in which she fought the 


Boxer. I have not been able to find the Peacock's 
log at all, though there is a very full set of letters 
from her commander. Probably the fire of 1837 
destroyed a great deal of valuable material. When 
ever it was possible I have referred to printed 
matter in preference to manuscript, and my au- 
thorities can thus, in most cases, be easily consulted. 
In conclusion I desire to express my sincerest 
thanks to Captain James D. Bulloch, formerly of 
the United States Navy, and Commander Adolf 
Mensing, formerly of the German Navy, without 
whose advice and sympathy this work would prob- 
ably never have been written or even begun. 

New York City, 1882. 



Fig. 3. — Section of flush-decked corvette or sloop, carrying long guns. 
Such was the armament of the Pike and Adams, but most flush-decked 
ships mounted carronades. 


Fig 4.— Section of frigate-built ship, with long gun on main- 
deck and carronade on spar-deck. Taken f^-^^^he ''American 
Artillerist's Companion," by Louis de Toussard (Philadelphia. 


(see also in alphabetical place in index.) 

American State Papers. 

Brenton, E. P. Naval History of Great Britain, 1783 to 1836. 2 
vols., octavo. London, 1837. 

Broke, Adm., Memoir of, by Rev. J. G. Brighton. Octavo. 
London, 1866. 

" Captains' Letters " in Archives at Washington. 

Codrington, Adm. Sir E. Memoirs, edited by his daughter. 2, 
vols., octavo. London, 1873. 

Coggeshall, George. History of American Privateers. New York, 

Cooper, J. F. Naval History of the United States. New York, 

Dundonald, Earl. Autobiography of a Seaman. London, i860. 

Douglass, Lord Howard. Naval Gunnery. Octavo. London, 

Emmons, Lieut. G. E. Statistical History of United States 
Navy, 1853. 

Farragut, Adm. D. G., Life of, by his son, Loyall Farragut. 
Octavo. New York, 1878. 

Graviere, Adm., J. de la. Guerres Maritimes. 2 vols., octavo. 
Paris, 1881. 

James, "William. Naval History of Great Britain. 6 vols., octavo, 
London, 1837. 

James, William. Naval Occurrences with the Americans. Octavo, 
London, 181 7. 

Lossing, Benson J. Field-book of the War of 1812. Octavo. 
New York, 1869. 

Low, C. R. History of the Indian Navy, 1613 to 1863. 2 vols., 
octavo. London, 1877. 

London Naval Chronicle. 

Marshall. Royal Naval Biography. 12 vols., octavo. London, 


" Masters-Commandant Letters " in the Archives at Washington. 

Morris, Com. Charles. Autobiography. Annapolis, 1880. 

Naval Archives at Washington. 

Niles. Weekly Register. 

Pielat, B. La Vie et les Actions Memorables du St. Michel de 
Ruyter. Amsterdam, 1677. 

Riviere, Lieut H. La Marine Fran9aise sous le Regime de Louis 
XV. Paris, 1859. 

Tatnall, Commod., Life, by C. C. Jones, Jr. Savannah, 1878. 

Toussard, L. de. American Artillerists' Companion. Phila., 

Troude, O, Batailles Navales de la France. Paris, 1868. 

Ward, Com. J. H. Manual of Naval Tactics. 1859. 

Yonge, Charles Duke. History of the British Navy 3 vols., 
octavo. London, i866. 



Preface , . . iii 



Causes of the war of 1812 — Conflicting views of America and 
Britain as regards neutral rights — Those of the former power right — 
Impossibility of avoiding hostilities — Declaration of war June 18, 
1812 — Slight preparations made — General features of the contest — 
Race identity of combatants — The treaty of peace nominally leaves 
the situation unchanged — But practically settles the dispute in our 
favor in respect to maritime rights — The British navy and its reputa- 
tion prior to 181 2 — Comparison with other European navies — British 
and American authorities consulted in the present work . . i 


Overwhelming naval supremacy of England when America de- 
clared war against her — Race identity of the combatants — American 
navy at the beginning of the war — Officers well trained — Causes 
tending to make our seamen especially efficient — Close similarity be- 
tween British and American sailors — Our ships manned chiefly by 
native Americans, many of whom had formerly been impressed into 
the British navy — Quotas of seamen contributed by the different 
States — Navy yards — Lists of officers and men — List of vessels — 
Tonnage — Different ways of estimating it in Britain and America — 
Ratings — American ships properly rated — Armaments of the frig- 
ates and corvettes — Three styles of guns used — Difference between 
long guns and carronades — Short weight of American shot — Com- 
parison of British frigates rating 38 and American frigates rating 
44 guns — Compared with a 74 . . . . . .22 




Commodore Rodgers' cruise and unsuccessful chase of the Belvi- 
ciera — Engagement between Belvidera and President — Hornet capt- 
ures a privateer — Cruise of the Essex — Captain Hull's cruise and 
escape from the squadron of Commodore Broke — Constitution capt- 
ures Guerriere — Marked superiority shown by the Americans — Wasp 
captures Frolic — Disproportionate loss on British side — Both after- 
ward captured by Poictiers — Second unsuccessful cruise of Commo- 
dore Rodgers — United States captures Macedonian — Constitution 
captures Java — Cruise of Essex — Summary 72 





Preliminary, — The combatants starting nearly on an equality — 
Difficulties of creating a naval force — Difficulty of comparing the 
force of the rival squadrons — Meagreness of the published accounts — 
Unreliability of authorities, especially James. — Ontario — Extraordi- 
naiy nature of the American squadron — Canadian squadron a kind 
of water militia — Sackett's Harbor feebly attacked by Commodore 
Earle — Commodore Chauncy attacks the Royal George — Aijd bom- 
bards York. — Erie — Lieutenant Elliot captures the Detroit <i.wd. Cale- 
donia — Lieutenant Angus' unsuccessful attack on Red House bar- 
racks — Brutal sacking of Hampton , . . . . . 139 



ON the ocean. 

Blockade of the American coast — Commodore Porter's campaign 
with the Essex in the South Pacific — Hornet chased by Bonne Citoy^ 
enne' — Hornet captures Resolution — Hornet captures Peacock — Gen- 
erous treatment shown to'the conquered — Viper captures Narcissus — 
American privateers cut out by British boats — Third cruise of Com- 
modore Rodgers — United States, Macedonian, and Wasp blockaded 
in New London — Broke's challenge to Lawrence — The Chesapeake 
captured by the Shannon — Comments and criticisms by various 
authorities — Surveyor captured by Narcissus — Futile gun-boat ac- 


tions — British attack on Craney Island repulsed — Cutting out expe- 
ditions — The Argus captured by the Pelican — The Enterprise 
captures the Boxer — Ocean warfare of 1813 in favor of British — 
Summary i6o 




Ontario — Comparison of the rival squadrons — Yeo's superior in 
strength — Chauncy takes York and Fort George — Yeo is repulsed at 
Sackett's Harbor, but keeps command of the lake — The Lady of the 
Lake captures Lady Murray — Hamilton and Scourge founder in a 
squall — Yeo's partial victory off Niagara — Indecisive action off the 
Genesee — Chauncy's partial victory off Burlington, which gives him 
the command of the lake — Yeo and Chauncy compared — Reasons for 
American success. — Erie — Perry's success in creating a fleet — His 
victory — "Glory" of it overestimated — Cause of his success. — 
Champlain — The Growler and Eagle captured by gun-boats — Sum- 
mary of year's campaign - 221 



on the ocean. 

Strictness of the blockade — Cruise of Rodgers — Chased into Mar- 
blehead — Cruise of the Constitution — Attempt to cut-out the Alligator 
— The Essex captured after engagement with Phoebe and Cherub — 
The Frolic captured — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Commo- 
dore Barney's flotilla afloat — The British in the Chesapeake — Capture 
of Washington, and burning of the public buildings — The Wasp capt- 
ures \}[iQ. Reindeer — The Wasp sinks the Avon — Cruise and loss of the 
Adams — The privateer General Armstrong — The privateer Prince de 
Neufchatel — Loss of the gun-boats on Lake Borgne — Fighting near 
New Orleans — Summary 284 



Ontario — The contest one of ship-building merely — Statistics of 
the two squadrons — Serious sickness among the Americans — Extreme 

xviii CONTENTS. 

caution of the commanders, verging on timidity — Yeo takes Oswego 
and blockades Sackett's Harbor — British gun-boats captured — Chaun- 
cy blockades Kingston. — Erie — Captain Sinclair burns St. Joseph — 
Makes unsuccessful expedition against Mackinaw — Daring and suc- 
cessful cutting-out expeditions of the British — Capture of the Ohio 
zxidiSomers. — Champlain — Macdonough's and Downie's squadrons — 
James' erroneous statements concerning them — Gallant engagement 
and splendid victory of Macdonough — Macdonough one of the great- 
est of American sea-captains ...... 353 



The President captured by Captain Hayes' squadron — Successful 
cutting-out expedition of the Americans — American privateer Chas- 
seur captures St. Lawrence — The Constitution engages the Cyane and 
XhQ Levant and captures both^Escapes from a British squadron — The 
Hornet captures the Penguin and escapes from pursuit of the Corn- 
wallis — The Peacock captures the Nautilus — Wanton attack on 
American gun-boat after treaty of peace — Summary of events in 18 15 
■ — Remarks on the war — Tables of comparativeloss, etc — Compared 
with results of Anglo-French struggle 400 

Appendix ...**..«. 454 



Causes of the War of 1812— Conflicting views of America and Britain as re- 
gards neutral rights — Those of the former power right — Impossibility of avoid- 
ing hostilities — Declaration of war — General features of the contest — Racial 
identity of the contestants— The treaty of peace nominally leaves the situation 
unchanged — But practically settles the dispute in our favor in respect to mari- 
time rights — The British navy and its reputation prior to 1812 — Comparison 
with other European navies— British and American authorities consulted in the 
present work. 

THE view professed by Great Britain in 1812 
respecting the rights of beUigerents and neu- 
trals was diametrically opposite to that held by the 
United States. " Between England and the United 
States of America," writes a British author, '' a 
spirit of animosity, caused, chiefly by the impress- 
ment of British seamen, or of seamen asserted to be 
such, from on board of American merchant vessels, 
had unhappily subsisted for a long time " prior to 
the war. " It is, we believe," he continues, '* an ac- 
knowledged maxim of public law, as well that no 
nation but the one he belongs to can releas^^sub- 


ject from his natural allegiance, as that, pro Wcd" thc 
jurisdiction of another independent state h&Wjg^gj^ 
fringed, every nation has a right to enforce tl^^rer- 
vices of her subjects wherever they may be found. 
Nor has any neutral nation such a jurisdiction over 
her merchant vessels upon the high seas as to ex- 
clude a belligerent nation from the right of search- 
ing them for contraband of war or for the property 

2 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

or persons of her enemies. And if, in the exercise 
of that right, the belligerent should discover on 
board of the neutral vessel a subject who has with- 
drawn himself from his lawful allegiance, the neu- 
tral can have no fair ground for refusing to deliver 
him up ; more especially if that subject is proved to 
be a deserter from the sea or land service of the for- 
mer." ^ 

Great Britain's doctrine was " once a subject al- 
ways a subject." On the other hand, the United 
States maintained that any foreigner, after five 
years' residence within her territory, and after having 
complied with certain forms, became one of her citu- 
zens as completely as if he was native born. Great 
Britain contended that her war ships possessed the 
right of searching all neutral vessels for the proper- 
ty and persons of her foes. The United States, re- 
sisting this claim, asserted that " free bottoms made 
free goods," and that consequently her ships when 
on the high seas should not be molested on any pre- 
text whatever. Finally, Great Britain's system of 
impressment,'^ by which men could be forcibly seized 
and made to serve in her navy, no matter at what 
cost to themselves, was repugnant to every Ameri- 
can idea. 

Sji^J^wide differences in the views of the two na- 
tions produced endless difficulties. To escape the 
pi?^»ipng, or for other reasons, many British sea- 
men took service under the American flag ; and if 
they were demanded back, it is not likely that they 
or their American shipmates had much hesitation 

^ " The Naval History of Great Britain," by William James, vol. iv, 
p. 324. (New edition by Captain Chamier, R. N., London, 1837.) 

^ The best idea of which can be gained by reading Marryatt's 


in swearing either that they were not British at all, 
or else that they had been naturalized as Americans. 
Equally probable is it that the American blockade- 
runners were guilty of a great deal of fraud and 
more or less thinly veiled perjury. But the wrongs 
done by the Americans were insignificant compared 
with those they received. Any innocent merchant 
vessel was liable to seizure at any moment ; and 
when overhauled by a British cruiser short of men 
was sure to be stripped of most of her crew. The 
British officers were themselves the judges as to 
whether a seaman should be pronounced a native of 
America or of Britain, and there was no appeal from 
their judgment. If a captain lacked his full comple- 
ment there was little doubt as to the view he would 
take of any man's nationality. The wrongs inflict- 
ed on our seafaring countrymen by their impress- 
ment into foreign ships formed the main cause of the 

There were still other grievances which are thus 
presented by the British Admiral Cochrane.' *' Our 
treatment of its (America's) citizens was scarcely in 
accordance with the national privileges to which 
the young Republic had become entitled. There 
were no doubt many individuals among the Ameri- 
can people who, caring little for the Federal Gov- 
ernment, considered it more profitable to break 
than to keep the laws of nations by aiding and sup- 
porting our enemy (France), and it was against 
such that the efforts of the squadron had chiefly 
been directed ; but the way the object was carried 
out was scarcely less an infraction of those national 

^ " Autbiography of a Seaman," by Thomas, tenth Earl of Dun- 
donald, Admiral of the Red ; Rear-Admiral of the Fleet, London, 
i860, vol. i, p. 24. 

4 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

laws which we were professedly enforcing. The prac- 
tice of taking English (and American) seamen out 
of American ships without regard to the safety of 
navigating them when thus deprived of their hands 
has been already mentioned. To this may be 
added the detention of vessels against which noth- 
ing contrary to international neutrality could be es- 
tablished, whereby their cargoes became damaged ; 
the compelling them, on suspicion only, to proceed 
to ports other than those to which they were des- 
tined ; and generally treating them as though they 
were engaged in contraband trade. * -^ * Amer- 
ican ships were not permitted to quit English ports 
without giving security for the discharge of their 
cargoes in some other British or neutral port." On 
the same subject James' writes : " When, by the 
maritime supremacy of England, France could no 
longer trade for herself, America proffered her ser- 
vices, as a neutral, to trade for her ; and American 
merchants and their agents, in the gains that flowed 
in, soon found a compensation for all the perjury 
and fraud necessary to cheat the former out of her 
belligerent rights. The high commercial impor- 
tance of the United States thus obtained, coupled 
with a similarity of language and, to a superficial 
observer, a resemblance in person between the 
natives of America and Great Britain, has caused 
the former to be the chief, if not the only sufferers 
by the exercise of the right of search. Chiefly in- 
debted for their growth and prosperit}^ to emigra- 
tion from Europe, the United States hold out every 
allurement to foreigners, particularly to British 
seamen, whom, by a process peculiarly their own, 

^ L. c.y iv, 325. 


they can naturalize as quickly as a dollar can ex- 
change masters and a blank form, ready signed and 
sworn to, can be filled up/ It is the knowledge of 
this fact that makes British naval officers when 
searching for deserters from their service, so harsh 
in their scrutiny, and so sceptical of American 
oaths and asseverations." 

The last sentence of the foregoing from James is 
an euphemistic way of saying that whenever a Brit- 
ish commander short of men came across an Amer- 
ican vessel he impressed all of her crew that he 
wanted, whether they were citizens of the United 
States or not. It must be remembered, however, 
that the only reason why Great Britain did us 
more injury than any other power was because she 
was better able to do so. None of her acts were 
more offensive than Napoleon's Milan decree, b}^ 
which it was declared that any neutral vessel which 
permitted itself to be searched by a British cruiser 
should be considered as British, and as the lawful 
prize of any French vessel. French frigates ai)d 
privateers were very apt to snap up any American 
vessel they came across, and were only withheld at 
all by the memory of the sharp dressing they had 
received in the West Indies during the quasi-war of 
1 799-1 800. What we undoubtedly ought to have 
done was to have adopted the measure actually pro- 
posed in Congress, and declared war on both France 
and England. As it was, we chose as a foe the 
one that had done, and could still do, us the greatest 

The principles for which the United States con- 
tended in 181 2 are now universally accepted, and 

' This is an exaggeration. 

6 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

those so tenaciously maintained by Great Britain 
find no advocates in the civilized world. That Eng- 
land herself was afterward completely reconciled to 
our views was amply shown by her intense indigna- 
tion when Commodore Wilkes, in the exercise of the 
right of search for the persons of the foes of his 
country, stopped the neutral British ship Trent ; 
while the applause with which the act was greeted 
in America proves pretty clearly another fact, that 
we had warred for the right, not because it was the 
right, but because it agreed with our self-interest to 
do so. We were contending for '' Free Trade and 
Sailors' Rights": meaning by the former expres- 
sion, freedom to trade wherever we chose without 
hindrance save from the power with whom we were 
trading ; and by the latter, that a man who happened 
to be on the' sea should have the same protection 
accorded to a man who remained on land. Nomi- 
nally, neither of these questions was settled by, or 
even alluded to, in the treaty of peace ; but the 
immense increase of reputation that the navy ac- 
quired during the war practically decided both 
points in our favor. Our sailors had gained too 
great a name for any one to molest them with im- 
punity again. 

Holding views on these maritime subjects so 
radically different from each other, the two nations 
could not but be continually dealing with causes of 
quarrel. Not only did British cruisers molest our 
merchant-men, but at length one of them, the 50- 
gun ship Leopard, attacked an American frigate, 
the CJiesapeake, when the latter was so lumbered 
up that she could not return a shot, killed -or dis- 
abled some twenty of her men and took away four 


others, one Briton and three Americans, who were 
claimed as deserters. For this act an apology was 
offered, but it failed to restore harmony between the 
two nations. Soon afterward another action was 
fought. The American frigate President^ Com- 
modore Rodgers, attacked the British sloop Little 
Belt, Captain Bingham, and exchanged one or two 
broadsides with her, — the frigate escaping scot-free 
while the sloop was nearly knocked to pieces. Mu- 
tual recriminations followed, each side insisting that 
the other was the assailant. 

When Great Britain issued her Orders in Council 
forbiddincr our tradinsf with France, we retaliated 
by passing an embargo act, which prevented us 
from trading at all. There could be but one result 
to such a succession of incidents, and that was war. 
Accordingly, in June, 1812, war was declared ; and 
as a contest for the rights of seamen, it was largely 
waged on the ocean. We also had not a little fight- 
ing to do on land, in which, as a rule, we came out 
second-best. Few or no preparations for the war 
had been made, and the result was such as might 
have been anticipated. After dragging on through 
three dreary and uneventful years it came to an 
end in 1815, by a peace which left matters in almost 
precisely the state in which the war had found 
them. On land and water the contest took the 
form of a succession of petty actions, in which the 
glory acquired by the victor seldom eclipsed the 
disgrace incurred by the vanquished. Neither side 
succeeded in doing what it intended. Americans 
declared that Canada must and should be conquered, 
but the conquering came quite as near being the 
other way. British writers insisted that the Ameri- 

8 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

can navy should be swept from the seas; and, 
during the sweeping process it increased fourfold. 

When the United States declared war, Great 
Britain was straining every nerve and muscle in a 
death struggle with the most formidable military 
despotism of modern times, and was obliged to en- 
trust the defence of her Canadian colonies to a mere 
handful of regulars, aided by the local fencibles. 
But Congress had provided even fewer trained sol- 
diers, and relied on militia. The latter chiefly ex- 
ercised their fighting abilities upon one another in 
duelling, and, as a rule, were afflicted with conscien- 
tious scruples whenever it was necessary to cross the 
frontier and attack the enemy. Accordingly, the 
campaign opened with the bloodless surrender of an 
American general to a much inferior British force, 
and the war continued much as it had begun ; we 
suffered disgrace after disgrace, while the losses we 
inflicted, in turn, on Great Britain were so slight as 
hardly to attract her attention. At last, having 
crushed her greater foe, she turned to crush the 
lesser, and, in her turn, suffered ignominious defeat. 
By this time events had gradually developed a small 
number of soldiers on our northern frontier, who, 
commanded by Scott and Brown, were able to con- 
tend on equal terms with the veteran troops to 
whom they were opposed, though these formed 
part of what was then undoubtedly the most for- 
midable fighting infantry any European nation pos- 
sessed. The battles at this period of the struggle 
were remarkable for the skill and stubborn courage 
with which they were waged, as well as for the 
heavy loss involved ; but the number of combatants 
was so small that in Europe they would have been 


regarded as mere outpost skirmishes, and they 
wholly failed to attract any attention abroad in that 
period of colossal armies. 

When Great Britain seriously turned her attention 
to her transatlantic foe, and assembled in Canada an 
army of 14,000 men at the head of Lake Champlain, 
Congressional forethought enabled it to be opposed 
by soldiers who, it is true, were as well disciplined, 
as hardy, and as well commanded as any in the 
world, but who were only a few hundred strong, 
backed by more or less incompetent militia. Only 
McDonough's skill and Sir George Prevost's inca- 
pacity saved us from a serious disaster; the sea- 
fight reflected high honor on our seamen, but the re- 
treat of the British land-forces was due to their 
commander and not to their antagonists. Mean- 
while a large British fleet in the Chesapeake had 
not achieved much glory by the destruction of local 
oyster-boats and the burning of a few farmers' 
houses, so an army was landed to strike a decisive 
blow. At Bladensburg' the five thousand British 
regulars, utterly worn out by heat and fatigue, by 
their mere appearance, frightened into a panic double 
their number of American militia well posted. But 
the only success attained was burning the public 
buildings of Washington, and that result was of dubi- 
ous value. Baltimore was attacked next, and the 
attack repulsed, after the forts and ships had shelled 
one another with the slight results that usually at- 
tend that spectacular and harmless species of warfare. 

The close of the contest was marked by the ex- 
traordinary battle of New Orleans. It was a per- 

^ See the " Capture of Washington," by Edward D. Ingraham 
(Philadelphia, 1849). 

lO NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

fectly useless shedding of blood, since peace had 
already been declared. There is hardly another 
contest of modern times where the defeated side 
suffered such frightful carnage, v/hile the victors 
came off almost scatheless. It is quite in accord- 
ance with the rest of the war that the militia, 
hitherto worse than useless, should on this occasion 
win against great odds in point of numbers ; and, 
moreover, that their splendid victory should have 
been of little consequence in its effects upon the re- 
sult. On the whole, the contest by land, where we 
certainly ought to have been successful, reflected 
greater credit on our antagonists than upon us, in 
spite of the services of Scott, Brown, and Jackson. 
Our small force of regulars and volunteers did ex- 
cellently ; as for the militia, New Orleans proved 
that they could fight superbly, and the other battles 
that they generally would not fight at all. 

At sea, as will appear, the circumstances were wide- 
ly different. Here we possessed a small but highly 
effective force, the ships well built, manned by 
thoroughly trained men, and commanded by able 
and experienced officers. The deeds of our navy 
form a part of history over which any American 
can be pardoned for lingering. 

Such was the origin, issue, and general character 
of the war. It may now be well to proceed to a 
comparison of the authorities on the subject. Al- 
lusion has already been made to them in the pref- 
ace, but a fuller reference seems to be necessary in 
this connection. 

At the close of the contest, the large majority of 
historians who wrote of it were so bitterly rancorous 
that their statements must be received with caution. 


For the main facts, I have relied, wherever it was 
practicable, upon the official letters of the com- 
manding officers, taking each as authority for his 
own force and loss.' For all the British victories 
we have British official letters, which tally almost 
exactly, as regards m.atters o\ fact and not of opi?iio?iy 
with the corresponding American accounts. For 
the first year the British also published official ac- 
counts of their defeats, which in the cases of the 
Guerriere, Macedonian and Frolic, I have followed 
as closely as the accounts of the American vic- 
tors. The last British official letter published an- 
nouncing a defeat v/as that in the case of the Java, 
and it is the only letter that I have not strictly 
accepted. The fact that no more were published 
thereafter is of itself unfortunate ; and from the 
various contradictions it contains it would appear to 
have been tampered with. The surgeon's report 
accompanying it is certainly false. Subsequent to 
1812 no letter of a defeated British comm.ander was 
published," and I have to depend upon the various 
British historians, especially James, of whom more 

The American and British historians from whom 
we are thus at times forced to draw our material 
regard the war from very different stand-points, and 
their accounts generally differ. Each writer natu- 

^ As where Broke states his own force at 330, his antagonists at 
440, and the American court of inquiry makes the numbers 396 and 
379, I have taken tliem as being 330 and 379 respectively. This is 
the only just method ; I take it for granted that each commander 
meant to tell the truth, and of course knew his own force, while he 
might very naturally and in perfect good faith exaggerate his antago- 

* Except about the battles on the Lakes, where I have accordingly 
given the same credit to the accounts both of the British and of the 

12 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

rally so colored the affair as to have it appear favor- 
able to his own side. Sometimes this was done 
intentionally and sometimes not. Not unfrequently 
errors are made against the historian's own side ; as 
when the British author, Brenton, says that the 
British brig Peacock mounted 32's instead of 24's, 
while Lossing- in his '' Field Book of the War of 
1812 " makes the same mistake about the arma- 
ment of the American brig Argus. Errors of 
this description are, of course, as carefully to be 
guarded against as any others. Mere hearsay re- 
ports, such as " it has been said," " a prisoner on 
board the opposing fleet has observed," " an Ameri- 
can (or British) newspaper of such and such a 
date has remarked," are of course to be rejected. 
There is a curious parallelism in the errors on both 
sides. For example, the American, Mr. Low, writ- 
ing in 181 3, tells how the Constitution, 44, cap- 
tured the Giicrriere of 49 guns, while the British 
Lieutenant Low, writing in 1880, tells how the 
Pelican^ 18, captured the Argus of 20 guns. Each 
records the truth but not the whole truth, for 
although rating 44 and 18 the victors carried respec- 
tively 54 and 21 guns, of heavier metal than those 
of their antagonists. Such errors are generally in- 
tentional. Similarly, most American writers men- 
tion the actions in which the privateers were vic- 
torious, but do not mention those in which they 
were defeated ; while the British, in turn, record 
every successful '' cutting-out " expedition, but ig- 
nore entirely those which terminated unfavorably. 
Other errors arise from honest ignorance. Thus, 
James in speaking of the repulse of the Ejidyvii- 
oiis boats by the Neufchatel gives the latter 



a crew of 120 men; she had more than this number 
originally, but only 40 were in her at the time of 
the attack. So also when the captain of the PelU 
can writes that the officers of the Argus report 
her loss at 40, when they really reported it at 24 
or when Captain Dacres thought the Constitu- 
Hon had lost about 20 men instead of 14. The 
American gun-boat captains in recounting their 
engagements with the British frigates invariably 
greatly overestimated the loss of the latter. So that 
on both sides there were some intentional misstate- 
ments orgarblings, and a much more numerous class 
of simple blunders, arising largely from an inca- 
pacity for seeing more than one side of the question. 
Among the early British writers upon this war, 
the ablest was James. He devoted one work, his 
"Naval Occurrences," entirely to it; and it occupies 
the largest part of the sixth volume of his more ex- 
tensive '' History of the British Navy." ' Two other 
British writers, Lieutenant Marshall "^ and Captain 
Brenton,^ wrote histories of the same events, about 
the same time ; but neither of these naval officers 
produced half as valuable a work as did the civilian 
James. Marshall wrote a dozen volumes, each filled 
with several scores of dreary panegyrics, or memoirs 
of as many different officers. There is no attempt 
at order, hardly any thing about the ships, guns, or 
composition of the crews ; and not even the pre- 
tence of giving both sides, the object being to make 
every Englishman appear in his best light. The 
work is analogous to the numerous lives of Decatur, 

' A new edition, London, 1826. 

'^ " Roval Naval Biography," by John Marshall (London, 1823- 

'"Naval History of Great Britain," by Edward Pelham Brenton 
(new edition, London, 1837). 

14 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Bainbridge, Porter, etc., that appeared in the United 
States about the same time, and is quite as untrust- 
worthy. Brenton made a far better and very inter- 
esting book, written on a good and well-connected 
plan, and apparently with a sincere desire to tell 
the truth. He accepts the British official accounts 
as needing nothing whatever to supplement them, 
precisely as Cooper accepts the American officials'. 
A more serious fault is his inability to be accurate. 
That this inaccuracy is not intentional is proved by 
the fact that it tells as often against his own side as 
against his opponents. He says, for example, that 
the guns of Perry's and Barclay's squadrons " v/ere 
about equal in number and weight," that the Pea- 
cock (British) was armed with 32's instead of 24's, 
and underestimates the force of the second Wasp. 
But the blunders are quite as bad when distributed 
as when confined to one side ; in addition, Bren- 
ton's disregard of all details makes him of but little 

James, as already said, is by far the most valua- 
ble authority on the war, as regards purely British 
affairs. He enters minutely into details, and has 
evidently laboriously hunted up his authorities. He 
has examined the ships' logs, the Admiralty reports, 
various treatises, all the Gazette reports, gives very 
well-chosen extracts, has arranged his work in chron- 
ological order, discriminates between the officers 
that deserve praise and those that deserve blame, 
and in fact writes a work which ought to be con- 
sulted b}^ every student of naval affairs. But he is 
unfortunately afflicted with a hatred toward the 
Americans that amounts to a monomania. He 
Vvishes to make out as strong a case as possible 



against them. The animus of his work may be 
gathered from the not over complimentary account 
of the education of the youthful seafaring Amer- 
ican, which can be found in vol. vi, p. "113, of his 
"History." On page 153 he asserts that he is an 
" impartial historian " ; and about three lines before 
mentions that " it may suit the Americans to invent 
any falsehood, no matter how barefaced, to foist a 
valiant character on themselves." On page 419 he 
says that Captain Porter is to be believed, " so far 
as is borne out by proof (the only safe way where 
an American is concerned)," — which somewhat 
sweeping denunciation of the veracity of all of 
Captain Porter's compatriots would seem to indi- 
cate that James was not, perhaps, in that dispas- 
sionate frame of mind best suited for writing 
history. That he should be biassed against indi- 
vidual captains can be understood, but when he 
makes rabid onslaughts upon the American people 
as a whole, he renders it difficult for an American, 
at any rate, to put implicit credence in him. His 
statements are all the harder to confute when they 
are erroneous, because they are intentionally so. _ It 
is not, as with Brenton and Marshall, because he 
really thinks a British captain cannot be beaten, ex- 
cept by some kind of distorted special providence, 
for no man says worse things than he does about 
certain officers and crews. A writer of James' un- 
doubted ability must have known perfectly well that 
his statements were untrue in many instances, as 
where he garbles Hilyar's account of Porter's loss, 
or misstates the comparative force of the fleets on 
Lake Champlain. 

When he says (p. 194) that Captain Bainbridge 

l6 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

wished to run away from the Java, and would 
have done so if he had not been withheld by the 
udvice of his first lieutenant, who was a renegade 
Englishman/ it is not of much consequence whether 
his making the statement was due to excessive cre- 
dulity or petty meanness, for, in either case, whether 
the defect was in his mind or his morals, it is enough 
to greatly impair the value of his other *' facts.' 
Again, when James (p. 165) states that Decatur ran 
away from the Macedonian until, by some mar- 
vellous optical delusion,^ he mistook her for a 32, he 
merely detracts a good deal from the worth of his 
own account. When the Americans adopt boarding 
helmets, he considers it as proving conclusively 
that they are suffering from an acute attack of cow- 
ardice. On p. 122 he says that ''had the Presi- 
dent, when she fell in with the Belvidera, been 
cruising alone ^ ^ ^ Commodore Rodgers 
would have magnified the British frigate into a line- 
of-battle ship, and have done his utmost to avoid 
her," which gives an excellent idea of the weight to 
be attached to the various other anecdotes he relates 
of the much-abused Commodore Rodgers. 

But it must always be remembered that untrust- 
worthy as James is in any thing referring purely to 
the Americans, he is no worse than his compeers of 
both nationalities. The misstatements of Niles in 
his " Weekly Register " about the British are quite as 
flagrant, and his information about his own side 
even more valuable." Every little American author 

^ Who, by the way, was Mr. Parker, born in Virginia, and never in 
England in his life. 

' In Niles, by the way, can be found excellent examples of the tra- 
ditional American " spread-eagle " style. In one place I remember his 
describing " The Immortal Rodgers," baulked of his natural prey, the 



crowed over Perry's " Nelsonic victory over a 
greatly superior force." The Constitution was de- 
clared to have been at a disadvantage when she 
fought the Gtierri^re, and so on ad infinitum. 
But these writers have all faded into oblivion, and 
their writings are not even referred to, much less 
believed. James, on the contrary, has passed 
through edition after edition, is considered as un- 
questionable authority in his own country, and 
largely throughout Europe, and has furnished the 
basis for every subsequent account by British au- 
thors. From Alison to Lieutenant Low, alm.ost 
every English work, whether of a popular character 
or not, is, in so far as it touches on the war, simply 
a *' rehash " of the works written by James. The 
consequence is that the British and American ac- 
counts have astonishingly little resemblance. One 
ascribes the capture of the British frigates simply to 
the fact that their opponents were " cut down line- 
of-battle ships " ; the other gives all the glory to 
the " undaunted heroism," etc., of the Yankee 

One not very creditable trait of the early Amer- 
ican naval historians gave their rivals a great ad- 
vantage. The object of the former was to make 
out that the Constitution, for example, won her 
victories against an equal foe, and an exact state- 
ment of the forces showed the contrary ; so they 
always avoided figures, and thus left the ground 

British, as " soaring about like the bold bald eagle of his native land," 
seeking whom he might devour. The accounts he gives of British 
line-of-battle ships fleeing from American 44's quite match James' 
anecdotes of the latter's avoidance of British 38's and 36's for fear 
they might mount twenty-four-pounders. The two works taken to- 
gether give a very good idea of the war ; separately, either is utterly 
unreliable, especially in matters of opinion. 

1 8 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

clear for James' careful misstatements. Even when 
they criticised him they never went into details, 
confining themselves to some rem.ark about " hurl- 
ing " his figures in his face with '' loathing." Even 
Cooper, interesting though his work is, has gone 
far less into figures than he should, and seems to 
have paid little if any attention to the British 
official statements, which of course should be re- 
ceived as of equal weight with the American. His 
comments on the actions are generally very fair, 
the book never being disfigured by bitterness 
toward the British ; but he is certainly wrong, for 
example, in ascribing the loss of the Chesapeake 
solely to accident, that of the Argus solely to 
her inferiority in force, and so on. His disposition 
to praise all the American commanders may be gen- 
erous, but is nevertheless unjust. If Decatur's 
surrender of the President is at least impliedly 
praised, then Porter's defence of the Essex can 
hardly receive its just award. There is no weight in 
the commendation bestowed upon Hull, if commen- 
dation, the same in kind though less in degree, is be- 
stowed upon Rodgers. It is a great pity that 
Cooper did not write a criticism on James, for no 
one could have done it more thoroughly. But he 
never mentions him, except once in speaking of 
Barclay's fleet. In all probability this silence arose 
from sheer contempt, and the certainty that most of 
James' remarks were false ; but the effect was that 
very many foreigners believe him to have shirked 
the subject. He rarely gives any data by which 
the statements of James can be disproved, and it is 
for this reason that I have been obliged to criticise 
the latter's work very fully. Many of James' re- 



marks, however, deiy criticism from their random 
nature, as when he states that American midship- 
men were chiefly masters and mates of merchant- 
men, and does not give a single proof to support 
the assertion. It would be nearly as true to assert 
that the British midshipmen were for the most part 
ex-members of the prize-ring, and as much labor 
would be needed to disprove it. In other instances 
it is quite enough to let his words speak for them- 
selves, as where he says (p. 155) that of the Amer- 
ican sailors one third in number and one half in 
point of effectiveness were in reality British. That 
is, of the 450 men the Constitution had when she 
fought the Java 150 were British, and the re- 
maining 300 could have been as effectively re- 
placed by 150 more British. So a very little logic 
works out a result that James certainly did not in- 
tend to arrive at ; namely, that 300 British led by 
American officers could beat, with ease and com- 
parative impunity, 400 British led by their own 
officers. He also forgets that the whole consists of 
the sum of the parts. He accounts for the victories 
of the Americans by stating (p. 280) that they were 
lucky enough to meet with frigates and brigs who 
had unskilful gunners or worthless crews ; he also 
carefully shows that the Macedonian was incom- 
petently handled, the Peacock commanded by a 
mere martinet, the Avo?is crew unpractised at 
the guns, the Epervier s mutinous and cowardly, 
the Penguin s weak and unskilful, the Javas ex- 
ceedingly poor, and more to the same effect. 
Now the Americans took in single fight three 
frigates and seven sloops, and when as many 
as ten vessels are met it is exceedingly probable 

20 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

that they represent the fair average ; so that James' 
strictures, so far as true, simply show that the 
average British ship was very apt to possess, com- 
paratively speaking, an incompetent captain or un- 
skilful crew. These disadvantages were not felt 
when opposed to navies in which they existed to 
an even greater extent, but became very apparent 
when brought into contact with a power whose few 
officers knew how to play their own parts very 
nearly to perfection, and, something equally im- 
portant, knew how to make first-rate crews out of 
what was already good raw material. Finally, a 
large proportion of James' abuse of the Americans 
sufficiently refutes itself, and perhaps Cooper's 
method of contemptuously disregarding him was 
the best ; but no harm can follow from devoting a 
little space to commenting upon him. 

Much the best American work is Lieutenant 
George E. Emmons' statistical " History of the 
United States Navy." Unfortunately it is merely a 
mass of excellently arranged and classified statistics, 
and while of invaluable importance to the student, 
is not interesting to the average reader. Almost 
all the statements I have made of the force, ton- 
nage, and armament of the American vessels, though 
I have whenever practicable taken them from the 
Navy Records, etc., yet could be just as well 
quoted from Emmons. Copies of most of the 
American official letters which I have quoted can be 
found in "Niles' Register," volumes i to lo, and all 
of the British ones in the " London Naval Chronicle" 
for the same years. It is to these two authorities 
that I am most indebted, and nearly as much so to 
the "American State Papers," vol. xiv. Next in order 


come Emmons, Cooper, and the invaluable, albeit 
somewhat scurrilous, James ; and a great many 
others whose names I have quoted in their proper 
places. In commenting upon the actions, I have, 
whenever possible, drawn from some standard 
work, such as Jurien de la Graviere's " Guerres 
Maritimes," Lord Howard Douglass' "Naval Gun- 
nery," or, better still, from the lives and memoirs of 
Admirals Farragut, Codrington, Broke, or Durham. 
The titles of the various works will be found given 
in full as they are referred to.^ In a few cases, 
where extreme accuracy was necessary, or where, as 
in the case of the Prcsidenf s capture, it was de- 
sirable that there should be no room for dispute as 
to the facts, I have given the authority for each 
sentence ; but in general this would be too cumber- 
some, and so I have confined myself to referring, at 
or near the beginning of the account of each action, 
to the authorities from whom I have taken it. For 
the less important facts on which every one is 
agreed I have often given no references. 

^ To get an idea of the American seamen of that time Cooper's 
novels, " Miles Wallingford," "Home as Found," and the " Pilot," 
are far better than any history ; in the " Two Admirals" the descrip- 
tion of the fleet manoeuvring is unrivalled. His view of Jack's life is 
rather rose-colored however. " Tom Cringle's log " ought to be read 
for the information it gives. Marrj-att's novels will show some of the 
darker aspects of sailor life. 


Overwhelming naval supremacy of England when America declared war 
against her— Race identity of the combatants— The American navy at the be- 
ginning of the war — Officers well trained— Causes tending to make our seamen 
especially efficient— Close similarity between the British and American sailors 
— Our ships manned chiefiy by native Americans, many of whom had 
formerly been impressed into the British navy — Quotas of seamen contributed 
by the different States— Navy-yards — Lists of officers and men — List of vessels 
— Tonnage — Different ways of estimating it in Britain and America — Ratings 
— American ships properly rated — Armaments of the frigates and corvettes — 
Three styles of guns used — Difference between long guns and carronades — 
Short weight of American shot — Comparison of British frigates rating 38, and 
American frigates rating 44 guns — Compared with a 74. 

DURING the early years of this century Eng- 
land's naval power stood at a height never 
reached before or since by that of any other nation. 
On every sea her navies rode, not only triumphant, 
but with none to dispute their sway. The island 
folk had long claimed the mastery of the ocean, and 
they had certainly succeeded in making their claim 
completely good during the time of bloody warfare 
that followed the breaking out of the French Rev- 
olution. Since the year 1792 each European 
nation, in turn, had learned to feel bitter dread of 
the weight of England's hand. In the Baltic, Sir 
Samuel Hood had taught the Russians that they 
must needs keep in port when the English cruisers 
were in the ofifing. The descendants of the Vikings 
had seen their whole navy destroyed at Copenhagen. 
No Dutch fleet ever put out after the day when, 
off Camperdown, Lord Duncan took possession of 
De Winter's shattered ships. But a few years 


NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 23 ,^_. 

before 18 12, the greatest sea-fighter of all time had 
died in Trafalgar Bay, and In dying had crumbled 
to pieces the navies of France and of Spain. 

From that day England's task was but to keep in ' 
port such of her foes' vessels as she had not de- 
stroyed. France alone still possessed fleets that 
could be rendered formidable, and so, from the 
Scheldt to Toulon, her harbors were watched and 
her coasts harried by the blockading squadrons of 
the English. Elsewhere the latter had no fear of 
their power being seriously assailed ; but their vast 
commerce and numerous colonies needed ceaseless 
protection. Accordingly in every sea their cruisers 
could be found, of all sizes, from the stately ship- 
of-the-line, with her tiers of heavy cannon and her 
many hundreds of men, down to the little cutter 
carrying but a score of souls and a couple of light 
guns. All these cruisers, but especially those of 
the lesser rates, were continually brought into con- 
tact with such of the hostile vessels as had run 
through the blockade, or were too small to be af- 
fected by it. French and Italian frigates were often 
fought and captured when they were skirting their 
own coasts, or had started off on a plundering cruise 
through the Atlantic, or to the Indian Ocean ; and 
though the Danes had lost their larger ships they 
kept up a spirited warfare with brigs and gun-boats. 
So the English marine was in constant exercise, at- 
tended with almost invariable success. — 

Such was Great Britain's naval power when the 
Congress of the United States declared war upon 
her. While she iCould number her thousand sail, 
the American navy included but half a dozen frig- 
ates, and six or eight sloops and brigs ; and it is 

24 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

small matter for surprise that the British officers 
should have regarded their new foe with contemptu- 
ous indifference. Hitherto the American seamen 
had never been heard of except in connection with 
two or three engagements with French frigates, 
and some obscure skirmishes against the Moors of 
Tripoli ; none of which could possibly attract atten- 
tion in the years that saw Aboukir, Copenhagen, 
and Trafalgar. And yet these same petty wars were 
the school which raised our marine to the highest 
standard of excellence. A continuous course of 
victory, won mainly by seamanship, had made the 
English sailor overweeningly self-confident, and 
caused him to pay but little regard to manoeuvring 
or even to gunnery. Meanwhile the American 
learned, by receiving hard knocks, how to give them, 
and belonged to a service too young to feel an over- 
confidence in itself. One side had let its training 
relax, while the other had carried it to the highest 
possible point. Hence our ships proved, on the 
whole, victorious in the apparently unequal struggle, 
and the men who had conquered the best seamen 
of Europe were now in turn obliged to succumb. 
Compared with the great naval battles of the pre- 
ceding few years, our bloodiest conflicts were mere 
skirmishes, but they were skirmishes between the 
hitherto acknowledged kings of the ocean, and new 
men who yet proved to be more than their equals. For 
over a hundred years, or since the time when they 
had contended on equal terms with the great Dutch 
admirals, the British had shown a decided supe- 
riority to their various foes, and /luring the latter 
quarter of the time this superiority, as already said, 
was very marked, indeed ; in consequence, the victo- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 2$ 

ries of the new enemy attracted an amount of atten- 
tion altogether disproportionate to their material 
effects. And it is a curious fact that our little navy, 
in which the art of handling and fighting the old 
broadside, sailing frigate in single conflict was 
brought to the highest point of perfection ever 
reached, that this same navy should have contained 
the first representative of the modern war steamer, 
and also the torpedo — -the two terrible engines 
which were to drive from the ocean the very white- 
winged craft that had first won honor for the starry 
flag. The tactical skill of Hull or Decatur is now of 
merely archaic interest, and has but little more 
bearing on the manoeuvring of a modern fleet than 
have the tactics of the Athenian gallies. But the 
war still conveys some most practical lessons as to 
the value of efificient ships and, above all, of effi- 
cient men in them. Had we only possessed the 
miserable gun-boats, our men could have done noth- 
ing ; had we not possessed good men, the heavy 
frigates would have availed as little. Poor ships 
and impotent artillery had lost the Dutch almost 
their entire navy ; fine ships and heavy cannon had 
not saved the French and Spanish from the like fate. 
We owed our success to putting sailors even better 
than the Dutch on ships even finer than those built 
by the two Latin seaboard powers. 

The first point to be remembered in order to 
write a fair account of this war is that the difference 
in fighting skill, which certainly existed between the 
two parties, was due mainly to training, and not to 
the nature of the men. It seems certain that the 
American had in the beginning somewhat the ad- 
vantage, because his surroundings, partly physical 

26 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

and partly social and political, had forced him into 
habits of greater self-reliance. Therefore, on the 
average, he offered rather the best material to start 
with ; but the difference was very slight, and totally 
disappeared under good training. The combatants 
were men of the same race, differing but little from 
one another. On the New England coast the Eng- 
lish blood was as pure as in any part of Britain ; 
in New York and New Jersey it was mixed with 
that of the Dutch settlers — and the Dutch are by 
race nearer to the true old English of Alfred and 
Harold than are, for example, the thoroughly angli- 
cized Welsh of Cornwall. Otherwise, the infusion 
of new blood into the English race on this side of 
the Atlantic has been chiefly from three sources — 
German, Irish, and Norse ; and these three sources 
represent the elemental parts of the composite Eng- 
lish stock in about the same proportions in which 
they were originally combined,— mainly Teutonic, 
largely Celtic, and with a Scandinavian admixture. 
The descendant of the German becomes as much an 
Anglo-American as the descendant of the Strath- 
clyde Celt has already become an Anglo-Briton. 
Looking through names of the combatants it would 
be difificult to find any of one navy that could not 
be matched in the other — Hull or Lawrence, Allen, 
Perry, or Stewart. And among all the English 
names on both sides will be found many Scotch, 
Irish, or Welsh— McDonough, O'Brien, or Jones. 
Still stranger ones appear : the Huguenot Tattnall is 
one among the American defenders of the Constella- 
tion, and another Huguenot Tattnall is among the 
British assailants at Lake Borgne. It must always 
be kept in mind that the Americans and the British 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 2/ 

are two substantially similar branches of the great 
English race, which both before and after their 
separation have assimilated, and made Englishmen 
of many other peoples.' The lessons taught by the 
war can hardly be learned unless this identity is kept 
in mind.' 

To understand aright the efficiency of our navy, it 
is necessary to take a brief look at the character and 
antecedents of the officers and men who served in it. 

When war broke out the United States Navy was 
but a few years old, yet it already had a far from 
dishonorable history. The captains and lieutenants 
of 1812 had been taught their duties in a very prac- 
tical school, and the flag under which they fought 
was endeared to them already by not a few glorious 
traditions — though these, perhaps, like others of 
their kind, had lost none of their glory in the telling. 
A few of the older men had served in the war of the 
Revolution, and all still kept fresh in mind the 
doughty deeds of the old-time privateering war 
craft. Men still talked of Biddle's daring cruises 
and Barney's stubborn fights, or told of Scotch 
Paul and the grim work they had who followed his 

^The inhabitants of Great Britain are best designated as " Brit- 
ish " — English being either too narrow or too broad a term, in one case 
meaning the inhabitants of but apart of Britain, and in the other the 
whole Anglo-Saxon people. 

"^ It was practically a civil war, and was waged with much harsh- 
ness and bitterness on both sides. I have already spoken of the 
numerous grievances of the Americans ; the British, in turn, looked 
upon our blockade-runners which entered the French ports exactly as 
we regarded, at a later date, the British steamers that ran into Wil- 
mington and Charleston. It is curious to see how illogical writers 
are. The careers of the Argus and Alabama for example, were 
strikingly similar in' many ways, yet the same writer who speaks of 
one as an "heroic little brig," will call the other a "black pirate.' 
Of course there can be no possible comparison as to the causes for 
which the two vessels were fighting ; but the cruises themselves were 
very much alike, both in character and history. 

28 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

fortunes. Besides these memories of an older gen- 
eration, most of the officers had themselves taken 
part, when younger in years and rank, in deeds not 
a whit less glorious. Almost every man had had a 
share in some gallant feat, to which he, in part at 
least, owed his present position. The captain had 
perhaps been a midshipman under Truxton when 
he took the Vengeance, and had been sent aboard 
the captured French frigate with the prize-master ; 
the lieutenant had borne a part in the various attacks 
on Tripoli, and had led his men in the desperate 
hand-to-hand fights in which the Yankee cutlass 
proved an overmatch for the Turkish and Moorish 
scimitars. Nearly every senior officer had extri- 
cated himself by his own prowess or skill from the 
dangers of battle or storm ; he owed his rank 
to the fact that he had proved worthy of it. 
Thrown upon his own resources, he had learned 
self-reliance ; he was a first-rate practical seaman, 
and prided himself ' on the way his vessel was 
handled. Having reached his rank by hard work, 
and knowing what real fighting meant, he was care- 
ful to see that his men were trained in the essentials 
of discipline, and that they knew how to handle the 
guns in battle as well as polish them in peace. Be- 
yond almost any of his countrymen, he wor- 
shipped the " Gridiron Flag," and, having been 
brought up in the Navy, regarded its honor as his 
own. It was, perhaps, the Navy alone that thought 
itself a match, ship against ship, for Great Britain. 
The remainder of the nation pinned its faith to the 
army, or rather to that weakest of weak reeds, the 
militia. The officers of the navy, with their strong 
esprit de corps, their jealousy of their own name and 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


record, and the knowledge, by actual experience, 
that the British ships sailed no faster and were no 
better handled than their own, had no desire 
to shirk a conflict with any foe, and having tried 
their bravery in actual service, they made it doubly 
formidable by cool, wary skill. Even the younger 
men, who had never been in action, had been so 
well trained by the tried veterans over them that the 
lack of experience was not sensibly felt. 

The sailors comprising the crews of our ships 
were well worthy of their leaders. There was no 
better seaman in the world than American Jack ; he 
had been bred to his work from infancy, and had 
been ofT in a fishing dory almost as soon as he 
could walk. When he grew older, he shipped on a 
merchant-man or whaler, and in those warlike times, 
when our large merchant-marine was compelled to 
rely pretty much on itself for protection, each craft 
Jiad to be well handled ; all who were not were soon 
weeded out by a process of natural selection, of 
which the agents were French picaroons, Spanish 
buccaneers, and Malay pirates. It was a rough 
school, but it taught Jack to be both skilful and 
self-reliant ; and he was all the better fitted to be- 
come a man-of-war's man, because he knew more 
about fire-arms than most of his kind in foreign 
lands. At home he had used his ponderous duck- 
ing gun with good effect on the flocks of canvas- 
backs in the reedy flats of the Chesapeake, or 
among the sea-coots in the rough water off the New 
England cliffs ; and when he went on a sailing voy- 
age the chances were even that there would be 
some use for the long guns before he returned, for 
the American merchant sailor could trust to no 
armed escort. 

30 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The wonderful effectiveness of our seamen at the 
date of which I am writing as well as long subse- 
quently to it was largely due to the curious condition 
of things in Europe. For thirty years all the Euro- 
pean nations had been in a state of continuous and 
very complicated warfare, during the course of 
which each nation in turn fought almost every 
other, England being usually at loggerheads with 
all. One effect of this was to force an enormous 
proportion of the carrying trade of the world into 
American bottoms. The old Massachusetts town 
of Salem was then one of the main depots of the 
East India trade ; the Baltimore clippers carried 
goods into the French and German ports with small 
regard to the blockade ; New Bedford and Sag 
Harbor fitted out whalers for the Arctic seas as well 
as for the South Pacific ; the rich merchants of 
Philadelphia and New York sent their ships to all 
parts of the world ; and every small port had some 
craft in the coasting trade. On the New England 
seaboard but few of the boys would reach manhood 
without having made at least one voyage to the 
Newfountdland Banks after codfish ; and in the 
whaling towns of Long Island it used to be an old 
saying that no man could marry till he struck his 
whale. The wealthy merchants of the large cities 
would often send their sons on a voyage or two 
before they let them enter their counting-houses. 
Thus it came about that a large portion of our 
population was engaged in seafaring pursuits of a 
nature strongly tending to develop a resolute and 
hardy character in the men that followed them. 
The British merchant-men sailed in huge convoys, 
guarded by men-of-war, while, as said before, our 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 3 1 

vessels went alone, and relied for protection on 
themselves. If a fishing smack went to the Banks 
it knew that it ran a chance of falling in v/ith some 
not over-scrupulous Nova Scotian privateer. The 
barques that sailed from Salem to the Spice Islands 
kept their men well trained both at great guns and 
musketry, so as to be able to beat off either Malay 
proas, or Chinese junks. The New York ships, 
loaded for the West Indies, were prepared to do 
battle with the picaroons that swarmed in the Span- 
ish main ; while the fast craft from Baltimore could 
fight as well as they could run. Wherever an 
American seaman went, he not only had to contend 
with all the legitimate perils of the sea, but he had 
also to regard almost every stranger as a foe. 
Whether this foe called himself pirate or privateer 
mattered but little. French, Spaniards, Algerines, 
Malays, from all alike our commerce suffered, and 
against all, our merchants were forced to defend 
themselves. The effect of such a state of things, 
which made commerce so remunerative that the 
bolder spirits could hardly keep out of it, and so 
hazardous that only the most skilful and daring 
could succeed in it, was to raise up as fine a set of 
seamen as ever manned a navy. The stern school 
in which the American was brought up, forced him 
into habits of independent thought and action 
which it was impossible that the more protected 
Briton could possess. He worked more intelligently 
and less from routine, and while perfectly obedient 
and amenable to discipline, was yet able to judge 
for himself in an emergency. He was more easily 
managed than most of his kind — being shrewd, 
quiet, and, in fact, comparatively speaking, rather 

32 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

moral than otherwise ; if he was a New Englander, 
when he retired from a sea life he was not unapt to 
end his days as a deacon. Altogether there could 
not have been better material for a fighting crew 
than cool, gritty American Jack. Moreover, there 
was a good nucleus of veterans to begin with, who 
were well fitted to fill the more responsible positions, 
such as captains of guns, etc. These were men who 
had cruised in the little Enterprise after French 
privateers, who had been in the Constellation in 
her two victorious fights, or who, perhaps, had fol- 
lowed Decatur when with only eighty men he cut 
out the Philadelphia^ manned by fivefold his force 
and surrounded by hostile batteries and war vessels, 
— one of the boldest expeditions of the kind on 

It is to be noted, furthermore, in this connection, 
that by a singular turn of fortune, Great Britain, 
whose system of impressing American sailors had 
been one of the chief causes of the war, herself be- 
came, in consequence of that very system, in some 
sort, a nursery for the seamen of the young Repub- 
lican navy. The American sailor feared nothing 
more than being impressed on a British ship — dread- 
ing beyond measure the hard life and cruel disci- 
pline aboard of her ; but once there, he usually did 
well enough, and in course of time often rose to be 
of some little consequence. For years before 1 8 12, 
the number of these impressed sailors was in reality 
greater than the entire number serving in the Amer- 
ican navy, from which it will readily be seen that 
they formed a good stock to draw upon. Very 
much to their credit, they never lost their devotion 
to the home of their birth, more than two thousand 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


of them being imprisoned at the beginning of the 
war because they refused to serve against their 
country. When Commodore Decatur captured the 
Macedonian^ that officer, as we learn from Mar- 
shall's " Naval Biography " (ii, 1019), stated that 
most of the seamen of his own frigate, the United 
States, had served in British war vessels, and that 
some had been with Lord Nelson in the Victory^ 
and had even been bargemen to the great Admiral, 
— a pretty sure proof that the American sailors did 
not show at a disadvantage when compared with 

Good seaman as the impressed American proved 
to be, yet he seldom missed an opportunity to escape 
from the British service, by desertion or otherwise. 
In the first place, the life was very hard, and, in the 
second, the American seaman was very patriotic. 
He had an honest and deep affection for his own 
flag ; while, on the contrary, he felt a curiously strong 
hatred for England, as distinguished from English- 
men. This hatred was partly an abstract feeling, 
cherished through a vague traditional respect for 
Bunker Hill, and partly something very real and 
vivid, owing to the injuries he, and others like 

^ With perfect gravity, James and his followers assume Decatur's 
statement to be equivalent to saying that he had chiefly British sea- 
men on board ; whereas, even as quoted by Marshall, Decatur merely 
said that "his seamen had served on board a British man-of-war," 
and that some "had served under Lord Nelson." Like the Con- 
stitution^ the United States had rid herself of most of the British 
subjects on board, before sailing. Decatur's remark simply referred 
to the number of his American seamen who had been impressed 
on board British ships. Whenever James says that an American 
ship had a large proportion of British sailors aboard, the explana- 
tion is that a large number of the crew were Americans who had been 
impressed on British ships. It would be no more absurd to claim 
Trafalgar as an American victory because there was a certain number 
of Americans in Nelson's fleet, than it is to assert that the Americans 
were victorious in 1812, because there were a few renegade British on 
board their ships. 

34 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

him, had received. Whether he lived in Mary- 
land or Massachusetts, he certainly knew men 
whose ships had been seized by British cruisers, 
their goods confiscated, and the vessels condemned. 
Some of his friends had fallen victims to the odious 
right of search, and had never been heard of after- 
ward. He had suffered many an injury to friend, 
fortune, or person, and some day he hoped to re- 
pay them all ; and when the war did come, he fought 
all the better because he knew it was in his own 
quarrel. But, as I have said, this hatred was against 
England, not against Englishmen. Then, as now, 
sailors were scattered about over the world without 
any great regard for nationality ; and the resulting 
intermingling of natives and foreigners in every 
mercantile marine was especially great in those of 
Britain and America, whose people spoke the same 
tongue and wore the same aspect. When chance 
drifted the American into Liverpool or London, he 
was ready enough to ship in an Indiaman or whaler, 
caring little for the fact that he served under the 
British flag; and the Briton, in turn, who found him- 
self in New York or Philadelphia, willingly sailed in 
one of the clipper-built barques, whether it floated 
the stars and stripes or not. When Captain Porter 
wrought such havoc among the British whalers in 
the South Seas, he found that no inconsiderable 
portion of their crews consisted of Americans, some 
of whom enlisted on board his own vessel ; and 
among the crews of the American whalers were 
many British. In fact, though the skipper of each 
ship might brag loudly of his nationality, yet in 
practical life he knew well enough that there was 
very little to choose between a Yankee and a Brit- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


on.' Both were bold and hardy, cool and intelli- 
gent, quick with their hands, and showing at their 
best in an emergency. They looked alike and spoke 
alike ; when they took the trouble to think, they 
thought alike ; and when they got drunk, which was 
not an infrequent occurrence, they quarrelled alike. 
Mingled with them were a few seamen of other 
nationalities. The Irishman, if he came from the 
old Dano-Irish towns of Waterford, Dublin, and 
Wexford, or from the Ulster coast, was very much 
like the two chief combatants ; the Celto-Turanian 
kern of the west did not often appear on shipboard. 
The French, Danes, and Dutch were hemmed in at 
home ; they had enough to do on their own sea- 
board, and could not send men into foreign fleets. 
A few Norse, however, did come in, and excellent 
sailors and fighters they made. With the Portu- 
guese and Italians, of whom some were to be found 
serving under the union-jack, and others under the 
stars and stripes, it was different; although there were 

^ What choice there was, was in favor of the American. In point 
of courage there was no difference whatever. The Essex and the 
Lawrence, as well as the Frolic and the Reindeer, were defended 
with the same stubborn, desperate, cool bravery that marks the 
English race on both sides of the Atlantic. But the American was a 
free citizen, any one's equal, a voter with a personal interest in his 
country's welfare, and, above all, without having perpetually before 
his eyes the degrading fear of the press-gang. In consequence, he 
was more tractable than the Englishman, more self-reliant, and pos- 
sessed greater judgment. In the fight between the Wasp and 
the Frolic, the latter's crew had apparently been well trained at the 
guns, for they aimed well ; but they iired at the wrong time, and 
never corrected the error ; while their antagonists, delivering their 
broadsides far more slowly, by intelligently waiting until the proper 
moment, worked frightful havoc. But though there was a certain 
slight difference between the seamen of the two nations, it must never 
be forgotten that it was very much less than that between the various 
individuals of the same nation ; and when the British had been 
trained for a few years by such commanders as Broke and Manners, 
it was impossible to sux-pass them, and it needed our best men to 
equal them. 

36 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

many excellent exceptions they did not, as a rule, 
make the best kind of seamen. They were treach- 
erous, fond of the knife, less ready with their hands, 
and likely to lose either their wits or their courage 
when in a tight place. 

In the American navy, unlike the British, there 
was no impressment ; the sailor was a volunteer, 
and he shipped in whatever craft his fancy selected. 
Throughout the war there were no " picked crews" 
on the American side,^ excepting on the last two 
cruises of the Constitution. In fact (as seen by 
the letter of Captains Stewart and Bainbridge to 
Secretary Hamilton), there was often much diffi- 
culty in getting enough men." Many sailors pre- 
ferred to serve in the innumerable privateers, and, 
the two above-mentioned officers, in urging the ne- 
cessity of building line-of-battle ships, state that it 
was hard work to recruit men for vessels of an in- 

^ James' statements to the contrary being in every case utterly with- 
out foundation. He is also wrong in his assertion that the American 
ships had no boys ; they had nearly as many in proportion as the 
British. The Constitution had 31, the Adams if;, etc. So, when he 
states that our midshipmen were generally masters and mates of 
merchantmen ; they were generally from eleven to seventeen years 
old at the beginning of the war, and, besides, had rarely or never been 
in the merchant marine. 

^ Reading through the volumes of ofificial letters about this war, 
which are preserved in the ofhce of the Secretary of the Navy, one of 
the most noticeable things is the continual complaints about the diffi- 
culty of getting men. The Adams at one time had a crew of but 
nineteen men — " fourteen of whom are marines," adds the aggrieved 
commander. A log-book of one of the gun-boats records the fact that 
after much difficulty tzvo men were enlisted — from the jail, with a 
parenthetical memorandum to the effect that they were both very 
drunk. British ships were much more easily manned, as they could 
always have recour>e to impressment. 

The Constitution on starting out on her last cruises had an ex- 
traordinary number of able seamen aboard, viz., 218, Avith but 92 
ordinary seamen, 12 boys, and 44 marines, making, with the officers, 
a total of 440 men. (See letter of Captain Bainbridge, Oct. 16, 1814; 
it is letter No. 51, in the fortieth volume of "Captains' Letters," in 
the clerk's office of the Secretary of the Navy.) 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 37 

ferior grade, so long as the enemy had ships of the 

One of the standard statements made by the 
British historians about this war is that our ships 
were mainly or largely manned by British sailors. 
This, if true, would not interfere with the lessons 
which it teaches ; and, besides that, it is not true. 

In this, as in every thing else, all the modern 
writers have merely followed James or Brenton, and 
I shall accordingly confine myself to examining 
their assertions. The former begins (vol. iv, p. 470) 
by dififidently stating that there is a " similarity " 
of language between the inhabitants of the two 
countries — an interesting philological discovery that 
but few will attempt to controvert. In vol. vi, p. 
154, he mentions that a number of blanks occur in 
the American Navy List in the column '' Where 
Born " ; and in proof of the fact that these blanks 
are there because the men were not Americans, he 
says that their names " are all English and Irish." ' 
They certainly are; and so are all the other names 
in the list. It could not well be otherwise, as the 
United States Navy was not officered by Indians. 
In looking over this same Navy List (of 18 16) it 
will be seen that but a little over 5 per cent, of the 

^ For example, James writes : "Out of the 32 captains one only, 
Thomas Tingey, has England marked as his birthplace. . . . 
Three blanks occur, and we consider it rather creditable to Captains 
John Shaw, Daniel S. Patterson, and John Ord Creighton, that they 
were ashamed to tell where they were born." I have not been able 
to find out the latter's birth-place , but Captain Shaw was born in 
New York, and I have seen Captain Patterson incidentally alluded to 
as "born and bred in America." Generally, whenever I have been 
able to fill up the vacancies in the column "Where Born," I have 
found that it was in America. From these facts it would appear 
that James was somewhat hasty in concluding that the omission of 
the birth-place proved the owner of the name to be a native of Great 

38 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ofificers were born abroad — a smaller proportion by 
far than would exist in the population of the coun- 
try at large — and most of these had come to Amer- 
ica when under ten years of age. On p. 155 James 
adds that the British sailors composed " one third 
in number and one half in point of effectiveness" of 
the American crews. Brenton in his " Naval His- 
tory " writes : *' It was said, and I have no reason to 
doubt the fact, that there were 200 British seamen 
aboard the Constitution} These statements are 
mere assertions, unsupported by proof, and of such 
a loose character as to be difficult to refute. As our 
navy was small, it may be best to take each ship in 
turn. The only ones of which the British could 
write authoritatively were, of course, those which 
they captured. The first one taken was the 
Wasp. James says many British were discovered 
among her crew, instancing especially one sailor 
named Jack Lang; now Jack Lang was born in the 
town of Brunswick, New Jersey, but had bee7i im- 
pressed and forced to serve in the British Navy. The 
same was doubtless true of the rest of the *' many 
British " seamen of her crew ; at any rate, as the 
only instance James mentions (Jack Lang) was an 
American, he can hardly be trusted for those whom 
he does not name. 

Of the 95 men composing the crew of the Nauti- 
lus when she was captured, '* 6 were detained and 
sent to England to await examination as being sus- 
pected of being British subjects." ^ Of the other 

^ New edition, London, 1837, vol. ii, p. 456, 

^ Quoted from letter of Commodore Rodgers of September 12, 
1812 (in Naval Archives, "Captains' Letters," vol xxv, No. 43), 
enclosing a " List of American prisoners of war discharged out of 
custody of Lieutenant William Miller, agent at the port of Halifax." 
in exchange for some of the British captured by Porter. This list, 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 39 

small brigs, the Viper, Vixen, Rattlesnake, and 
Syren, James does not mention the composition of 
the crew, and I do not know that any were claimed 
as British. Of the crew of the Argus " about 10 
or 12 were believed to be British subjects; the 
American officers swore the crew contained none" 
(James, ''Naval Occurrences," p. 278). From o to 
10 per cent, can be allowed. When the Frolic 
was captured " her crew consisted of native Ameri- 
cans" {do. p. 340). James speaks (" History," p. 418) 
of " a portion of the British subjects on board the 
Essex,'' but without giving a word of proof or stat- 
ing his grounds of belief. One man was claimed 
as a deserter by the British, but he turned out to be 
a New Yorker. There were certainly a certain num- 
ber of British aboard, but the number probably did 
not exceed thirty. Of the President' s crew he 
says ("Naval Occurrences," p. 448): ''In the opinion 
of several British officers there were among them 
many British seamen " ; but Commodore Decatur, 
Lieutenant Gallagher, and the other officers swore 
that there were none. Of the crew of the Chesa- 
peake, he says, "about 32" were British subjects, 
or about 10 per cent. One or two of these were 
afterward shot, and some 25, together with a Portu- 
guese boatswain's mate, entered into the British 
service. So that of the vessels captured by the 
British, the Chesapeake had the largest number of 
British (about 10 per cent, of her crew) on board, 
the others ranging from that number down to none 
at all, as in the case of the Wasp. 

by the way, shows the crew of the Nautilus (counting the six men 
detained as British) to have been 95 in number, instead of 106, as 
stated by James. Commodore Rodgers adds that he has detained 12 
men of the Gtierriere's crew as an offset to the 6 men belonging to the 

40 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

As these eleven ships would probably represent a 
fair average, this proportion, of from o to lo per cent., 
should be taken as the proper one. James, however, 
is of the opinion that those ships manned by Ameri- 
cans were more apt to be captured than those manned 
by the braver British ; which calls for an examination 
of the crews of the remaining vessels. Of the 
American sloop Peacock, James says (" Naval Oc- 
currences," p. 348) that "■ several of her men were 
recognized as. British seamen"; even if this were 
true, " several " could not probably mean more than 
sixteen, or 10 per cent. Of the second Wasp he 
says, '' Captain Blakely was a native of Dublin, and, 
along with some English and Scotch, did not, it 
may be certain, neglect to have in his crew a great 
many Irish." Now Captain Blakely left Ireland 
when he was but 16 months old, and the rest 
of James' statement is avowedly mere conjecture. 
It was asserted positively in the American news- 
papers that the Wasp, which sailed from Ports- 
mouth, was manned exclusively by New Englanders, 
except a small draft of men from a Baltimore priva- 
teer, and that there was not a foreigner in her crew. 
Of the Hornet James states that " some of her 
men were natives of the United Kingdom " ; but he 
gives no authority, and the men he refers to were in 
all probability those spoken of in the journal of one 
of the Hornef s officers, which says that " many of 
our men (Americans) had been impressed in the Brit- 
ish service." As regards the gun-boats, James asserts 
that they were commanded by "Commodore Joshua 
Barney, a native of Ireland." This of^cer, how- 
ever, was born at Baltimore on July 6, 1759. As to 
the Constitution, Brenton, as already mentioned, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 4 1 

supposes the number of British sailors in her crew to 
have been 200; James makes it less, or about 150. 
Respecting this, the only definite statements I can 
find in British works are the following: In the "Naval 
Chronicle," vol. xxix, p. 452, an officer of the Java 
states that most of the Constitittion s men were Brit- 
ish, many being from the Guerriere ; which should 
be read in connection with James' statement (vol. vi, 
p. 156) that but eight of the Guerriere s crew de- 
serted, and but two shipped on board the Constitu- 
tion, Moreover, as a matter of fact, these eight men 
were all impressed Americans. In the " Naval Chron- 
icle " it is also said that the Chesapeake's surgeon Avas 
an Irishman, formerly of the British navy; he was 
born in Baltimore, and was never in the British navy 
in his life. The third lieutenant "was supposed to 
be an Irishman " (Brenton, ii, 456). The first lieu- 
tenant " was a native of Great Britain, we have been 
informed" (James, vi, 194); he was Mr. George 
Parker, born and bred in Virginia. The remaining 
three citations, if true, prove nothing. "One man 
had served under Mr. Kent " of the Guerriere 
(James, vi, p. 153). " One had been in the AcJiille " 
and "one in the Eurydice'' (Brenton, ii, 456). 
These three men were most probably American sea- 
men who had been impressed on British ships. 
From Cooper (in " Putnam's Magazine," vol. i, p. 593) 
as well as from several places in the Constitution s 
log,^ we learn that those of the crew who were Brit- 

^ See her log-book (vol. ii, Feb. I, 1812 to Dec. 13, 1S13); especially 
on July I2th, when twelve men were discharged. In some of Hull's 
letters he alludes to the desire of the British part of the crew to serve 
on the gun-boats or in the ports ; and then writes that ' ' in accordance 
with the instructions sent him by che Secretary of the Navy" he had 
allowed the British-born portion to leave the ship. The log-books 
are in the Bureau of Navigation. 

42 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ish deserters were discharged from the Constitu- 
tion before she left port, as they were afraid to 
serve in a war against Great Britain. That this 
fear was justifiable may be seen by reading Jarhes, 
vol. iv, p. 483. Of the four men taken by the 
Leopard from the Chesapeake^ as deserters, one 
was hung and three scourged. In reality the crew 
of the Constitution probably did not contain a 
dozen British sailors; in her last cruises she was 
manned almost exclusively by New Englanders. 
The only remaining vessel is the United States, 
respecting whose crew some remarkable statements 
have been made. Marshall (vol. ii, p. 1019) writes 
that Commodore Decatur '* declared there was not a 
seaman in his ship who had not served from 5 to 12 
years in a British man-of-war," from which he con- 
cludes that they were British themselves. It may 
be questioned whether Decatur ever made such an 
assertion ; or if he did, it is safe to assume again 
that his men were long-impressed Americans.^ 

^ At the beginning of the war there were on record in the American 
State Department 6,257 cases of impressed American seamen. 
These could represent but a small part of the whole, which must 
have amounted to 20,000 men, or more than sufficient to man our 
entire navy five times over. According to the British Admiralty 
Report to the House of Commons, February i, 181 5, 2,548 impressed 
American seamen, who refused to serve against their country, were 
imprisoned in i8i2. According to Lord Castlereagh's speech in the 
House, February 18, 1813, 3,300 men claiming to be American sub- 
jects were serving in the British navy in January, 181 1, and he 
certainly did not give any thing like the whole number. In the 
American service the term of enlistment extended for two years, and 
the frigate, United States, referred to, had not had her crew for any 
very great length of time as yet. If such a crew were selected at 
random from American sailors, among them there would be, owing to 
the small number serving in our own navy and the enormous number 
impressed into the British navy, probably but one of the former to 
two of the latter. As already mentioned the American always left a 
British man-of-war as soon as he could, by desertion or discharge ; 
but he had no unwillingness to serve in the home navy, where the pay 
was larger, and the discipline far more humane, not to speak of mo- 



Of the Carolinds crew of 70 men, five were 
British. This fact was not found out till three 
deserted, when an investigation was made and the 
two other British discharged. Captain Henly, in 
reporting these facts, made no concealment of his 
surprise that there should be any British at all in 
his crew.' 

From these facts and citations we may according- 
ly conclude that the proportion of British seamen 
serving on American ships after the war broke out, 
varied between none, as on the Wasp and Consti- 
tution, to ten per cent., as on the Chesapeake and 
Essex. On the average, nine tenths of each of our 
crews were American seamen, and about one twen- 
tieth British, the remainder being a mixture of 
various nationalities. 

On the other hand, it is to be said that the British 
frigate Gjierriere had ten Americans among her 
crew, who were permitted to go below during ac- 
tion, and the Macedonian eight, who were not al- 
lowed that privilege, three of them being killed. 
Three of the British sloop Peacock's men were 
Americans, who were forced to fight against the 
Hornet ; one of them was killed. Two of the Eper- 
viers men were Americans, who were also forced to 
fieht. When the crew of the Nautilus was ex- 
changed, a number of other American prisoners 
were sent with them ; among these were a number 
of American seamen who had been serving in the 
Shannon, Acasta, Africa, and various other vessels. 

lives of patriotism. Even if the ex-British man-of-war's man kept 
out of service for some time, he would be very apt to enlist when a 
war broke out, which his country undertook largely to avenge his own 

^See his letter in " Letters of Masters' Commandant," 1814, i. 
No. 116. 



So there was also a certain proportion of Americans 
among the British crews, although forming a smaller 
percentage of them than the British did on board 
the American ships. In neither case was the num- 
ber sufficient to at all affect the result. 

The crews of our ships being thus mainly native 
Americans, it may be interesting to try to find out 
the proportions that were furnished by the different 
sections of the country. There is not much dififi- 
culty about the officers. The captains, masters 
commandant, lieutenants, marine officers, whose 
birthplaces are given in the Navy List of 1816, — 
240 in all, — came from the various States as fol- 
lows : 

fN, H., 5l 

I TV/Toco ^^ I 

■KT -r' 1 J ; Mass., zu \ 
New England^ R T tt r 4^ 


fN. Y., 
Middle States^ ^- J'' 

I Del., 4 J 

District of Columbia fD. C, 4: 








I N. C. 

Southern States^ S. C, 




Total of given birthplaces 



16 ^116 

4 I 


Thus, Maryland furnished, both absolutely and 
proportionately, the greatest number of officers, Vir- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 45 

ginia, then the most populous of all the States, com- 
ing next ; four fifths of the remainder came from the 
Northern States. 

It is more difficult to get at the birthplaces of 
the sailors. Something can be inferred from the 
number of privateers and letters of marque fitted out. 
Here Baltimore again headed the list ; following 
closely came New York, Philadelphia, and the New 
England coa^t towns, with, alone among the South- 
ern ports, Charleston, S. C. A more accurate idea 
of the quotas of sailors furnished by the different 
sections can be arrived at by comparing the total 
amount of tonnage the country possessed at the out- 
break of the war. Speaking roughly, 44 per cent, of 
it belonged to New England, 32 per cent, to the 
Middle States, and 11 per cent, to Maryland. This 
makes it probable (but of course not certain) 
that three fourths of the common sailors hailed 
from the Northern States, half the remainder fromx 
Maryland, and the rest chiefly from Virginia and 
South Carolina. 

Having thus discussed somewhat at length the 
character of our officers and crews, it W\\\ now be 
necessary to present some statistical tables to give 
a more accurate idea of the composition of the 
navy; the tonnage, complements, and armaments of 
the ships, etc. 

At the beginning of the war the Government pos- 
sessed six navy yards (all but the last established 
in 1 801) as follows : ' 

' Report of Naval Secretary Jones, Nov. 30, 1814. 

4.6 , NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 


Original cost. 

Minimum numb 
of men employed. 


Portsmouth, N. 


S 5,500 



Charleston, Mass., 




New York, 















In 1 81 2 the following was the nunnSer of officers 
in the navy : ' 

12 captains 

10 masters commandant 
73 lieutenants 
53 masters 
310 midshipmen 
42 marine ofificers 


At the opening of the year, the nunaber of sea- 
men, ordinary seamen, and boys in service was 
4,010, and enough more were recruited to increase it 
to 5,230, of whom only 2,346 were destined for the 
cruising war vessels, the remainder being detailed 
for forts, gun-boats, navy yards, the lakes, etc/ The 
marine corps was already ample, consisting of 1,523 

No regular navy lists were published till 18 16, 
and I have been able to get very little information 
respecting the increase in officers and men during 

' " List of Vessels," etc., by Geo. H. Preble, U. S. N. (1874), 
'^ Report of Secretary Paul Hamilton, Feb. 21, 1812. 
'■' Ibid, 



1813 and 1814; but we have full returns for 1815, 
which may be summarized as follows :' 

30 captains, 

25 masters commandant, 
141 lieutenants, 
24 commanders, 
510 midshipmen, 
, 230 sailing-masters, 

50 surgeons, 
12 chaplains, 
50 pursers, 
10 coast pilots, 
45 captain's clerks, 
80 surgeon's mates, 
530 boatswains, gunners, carpenters, and sail- 
268 boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, etc., 
1,106 quarter gunners, etc., 
5,000 able seamen, 
6,849 ordinary seamen and boys. 

Making a total of 14,960, with 2,715 marines.^ 

Comparing this list with the figures given before, 
it can be seen that during the course of the war our 
navy grew enormously, increasing to between three 
and four times its original size. 

At the beginning of the year 1812, the navy of 
the United States on the ocean consisted of the fol- 
lowing vessels, which either were, or could have 
been, made available during the war.' 

^ Seybert's "Statistical Annals," p. 676 (Philadelphia, 1818). 

'^ Report of Secretary B. W. Crowninshield, April 18, 1816. 

' Letter of Secretary Benjamin Stoddart to Fifth Congress, Dec. 
24, 1798 ; Letter of Secretary Paul Hamilton, Feb. 21, 1812 ; " Amer- 
ican State Papers," vol. xix, p. 149. See also The " History of the 
Navy of the United States," by Lieut. G. E. Emmons, U. S. N. 
(published in Washington, MDCCCLHI, under the authority of the 
Navy Department.) 



(lu"S). «-- 

Where Built. 




44 United States, 





44 Constitution, 





44 President, 

New York, 




38 Constellation, 





38 Congress, 





38 Chesapeake, 





32 ^^i-^x, 





28 Adams, 

New York, 




t8 Hornet, 





18 ^^5/, 





16 Argus, 





16 Syren, 





14 Nautilus, 





14 Vixen, 





12 Enterprise, 





1 2 F2)^(?r, 




There also appeared on the lists the New York, 
36, Boston, 28, and John Adams, 28. The two 
former were condemned hulks ; the latter was en- 
tirely rebuilt after the war. The Hornet was origi- 
nally a brig of 440 tons, and 18 guns ; having been 
transformed into a ship, she was pierced for 20 
guns, and in size was of an intermediate grade 
between the Wasp and the heavy sloops, built 
somewhat later, of 509 tons. Her armament con- 
sisted of 32-pound carronades, with the exception 
of the two bow-guns, which were long 12's. The 
whole broadside was in nominal weight just 300 
pounds ; in actual weight about 277 pounds. Her 
complement of men was 140, but during the war 
she generally left port with 150.' The Wasp had 

* In the Hornet's log of Oct. 25, 1812, while in port, it is men- 
tioned that she had 158 men ; four men who were sick were left be- 


49 \ 

been a ship from the beginning, mounted the 
number of guns she rated (of the same cahbres as 
the Hornet's) and carried some ten men less. She 
was about the same length as the British i8-gun 
brig-sloop, but, being narrower, measured nearly 30 
tons less. The Argus and Syren were similar and 
very fine brigs, the former being the longer. Each 
carried two more guns than she rated ; and the 
Argus, in addition, had a couple thrust through 
the bridle-ports. The guns were 24-pound carron- 
ades, with two long 12's for bow-chasers. The 
proper complement of men was 100, but each sailed 
usually with about 125. The four smaller craft 
were originally schooners, armed with the same 
number of light long guns as they rated, and carry- 
ing some 70 men apiece ; but they had been very 
effectually ruined by being changed into brigs, with 
crews increased to a hundred men. Each was 
armed with 18-pound carronades, carrying two more 
than she rated. The Enterprise, in fact, mounted 
16 guns, having two long nines thrust through the 
bridle-ports. These little brigs were slow, not very 
seaworthy, and overcrowded with men and guns ; 
they all fell into the enemy's hands without doing 
any good whatever, with the single exception of 
the Enterprise, which escaped capture by sheer 
good luck, and in her only battle happened to be 
pitted against one of the corresponding and equally 
bad class of British gun-brigs. The Adams after sev-' 
eral changes of form finally became a flush-decked 
corvette. The Essex had originally mounted twenty- 
six long 12's on her main-deck, and sixteen 24- 

hind before she started. (See, in the Navy Archives, the Log-book, 
Hornet, Wasp, and Argus, July 20, 1809, to Oct. 6, 18 13,) 

50 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

pound carronades on her spar-deck ; but official 
wisdom changed this, giving her 46 guns, twenty- 
four 32-pound carronades, and two long 12's on the 
main-deck, and sixteen 32-pound carronades with 
four long 12's on the spar-deck. When Captain 
Porter had command of her he was deeply sensible 
of the disadvantages of an armament which put him 
at the mercy of ^any ordinary antagonist who could 
choose his distance; accordingly he petitioned sev- 
eral times, but always without success, to have his 
'ong 12's returned to him. 

The American 38's were about the size of the 
British frigates of the same rate, and armed almost 
exactly in the same way, each having 28 long i8's 
on the main-deck and 20 32-pound carronades on 
the spar-deck. The proper complement was 300 
men, but each carried from 40 to 80 more.' 

Our three 44-gun ships were the finest frigates 
then afloat (although the British possessed some as 
heavy, such as the Egyptiennc, 44). They were 
beautifully modelled, with very thick scantling, ex- 
tremely stout masts, and heavy cannon. Each car- 
ried on her main-deck thirty long 24's, and on her 

^ The Chesapeake, by some curious mistake, was frequently rated 
as a 44, and this drew in its train a number of attendant errors. 
When she was captured, James says that in one of her lockers was 
found a letter, dated in February, 181 1, from Robert Smith, the 
Secretary of War, to Captain Evans, at Boston, directing him to 
open houses of rendezvous for mannmg the Chesapeake, and enu- 
merating her crew at a total of 443. Naturally this gave British histori- 
ans the idea that such was the ordinary complement of our 38-gun 
frigates. But the ordering so large a crew was merely a mistake, as may 
be seen by a letter from Captain Bainbridge to the Secretary of the 
Navy, which is given in full in the " Captains' Letters," vol. xxv. 
No. 19 (Navy Archives). In it he mentions the extraordinary 
number of men ordered for the Chesapeake, saying, " There is a 
mistake in the crew ordered for the Chesapeake, as it equals in num- 
ber the crews of our 44-gun frigates, whereas the Chesapeake is 
■of the class of the Congress and Constellation.^' 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 5 1 

spar-deck two long bow-chasers; and twenty or 
twenty-two. carronades — 42-pounders on the Presi- 
dent and United States, 32-pounders on the Constitu- 
tion. Each sailed with a crew of about 450 men- — 
50 in excess of the regular complement.' 

It may be as well to mention here the only other 
class of vessels that we employed during the war. 
This was composed of the ship-sloops built in 1813, 
which got to sea in 18 14. They were very fine ves- 
sels, measuring 509 tons apiece," with very thick 
scantling and stout masts and spars. Each carried 
twenty 32-pound carronades and two long 12's 
with a crew nominally of 160 men, but with usu- 
ally a few supernumeraries.' 

The British vessels encountered were similiar, but 
generally inferior, to our own. The only 24-pounder 
frigate we encountered was the Endymion of about 
a fifth less force than the President. Their 38-gun 
frigates were almost exactly like ours, but with 
fewer men in crew as a rule. They were three 

^ The President when in action with the Endymion had 450 nien 
aboard, as sworn by Decatur ; the muster-roll of the Consiihidflu, a 
few days before her action with the Giierricre contains 464 names (in- 
cluding 51 marines) ; 8 men were absent in a prize, so she had aboard 
in the action 456. Her muster-roll just before the action Avith the 
Cyane and Levant shows 461 names. 

'^The dimensions were 117 feet ii inches upon the gun-deck, 97 
feet 6 inches keel for tonnage, measuring from one foot before the 
forward perpendicular and along the base line to the front of the 
rabbet of the port, deducting f of the moulded breadth of the beam, 
which is 31 feet 6 inches ; making Sogfi tons. (See in Navy 
Archives, " Contracts," vol. ii, p. 137.) 

^The Peacock had 166 men, as we learn from her commander 
Warrington's, letter of June ist (Letter No. 140 in '* Masters' Com- 
mandant Letters," 1814, vol. i). The Frolic took aboard " 10 or 
12 men beyond her regular complement " (see letter of Joseph Bain- 
bridge, No. 51, in same vol.). Accordingly when she was captured 
by the Orp/iens, the commander of the latter. Captain Hugli Pigot, 
reported the number of men aboard to be 171. The Wasp left port 
with 173 men, with which she fought her first action.; she had a 
much smaller number aboard in hex second. 

52 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

times matched acrainst our 44-gun frigates, to which 
they were inferior about as three is to four. Their 
36-gun frigates were larger than the Essex, with a 
more numerous crew, but the same number of 
guns ; carrying on the lower deck, however, long 
l8's instead of 32-pound carronades, — -a much more 
effective armament. The 32-gun frigates were 
smaller, with long 12's on the main-deck. The 
largest sloops were also frigate-built, carrying 
twenty-two 32-pound carronades on the main-deck, 
and twelve lighter guns on the quarter-deck and 
forecastle, with a crew of 180. The large flush- 
decked ship-sloops carried 21 or 23 guns, with a 
crew of 140 men. But our vessels most often 
came in contact with the British i8-gun brig-sloop ; 
this Avas a tubby craft, heavier than any of our 
brigs, being about the size of the Hornet. The 
crew consisted of from no to 135 men; ordinarily 
each was armed with sixteen 32-pound carronades, 
two long 6's, and a shifting 12-pound carronade; 
often with a light long gun as a stern-chaser, mak- 
ing 20 in all. The Reindeer and Peacock had only 
24-pound carronades ; the Epervier had but eighteen 
guns, all carronades.^ 

Among the stock accusations against our navy of 
1 8 12, were, and are, statements that our vessels 
were rated at less than their real force, and in par- 
ticular that our large frigates were " disguised line- 
of-battle ships." As regards the ratings, most ves- 
sels of that time carried more guns than they rated ; 

^ The Epervier was taken into our service under the same name 
and rate. Both Preble and Emmons describe her as of 477 tons. 
Warrington, her captor, however, says : "The surveyor of the port 
has just measured tlie Epenner and reports her 467 tons." (In the 
Navy Archives, " Masters' Commandant Letters," 1814, i, No. 125.) 

For a full discussion of tonnage, see Appendix, A, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 53 

the disparity was less in the French than in either 
the British or American navies. Our 38-gun frigates 
carried 48 guns, the exact number the British 38's 
possessed. The worst case of underrating in our 
navy was the Essex, which rated 32, and carried 
46 guns, so that her real was 44 per cent, in excess 
of her nominal force; but this was not as bad as the 
British sloop Cyane, which was rated a 20 or 22, 
and carried 34 guns, so that she had either 55 or 70 
per cent, greater real than nominal force. At the 
beginning of the war we owned two i8-gun ship- 
sloops, one mounting 18 and the other 20 guns; 
the i8-gun brig-sloops they captured mounted each 
19 guns, so the average was the same. Later 
we built sloops that rated 18 and mounted 22 guns, 
but when one was captured it was also put down in 
the British navy list as an i8-gun ship-sloop. Dur- 
ing all the comlDats of the war there were but four' 
vessels that carried as few guns as they rated. Two 
were British, the Epervier and Levant, and two 
American, the Wasp and Adams. One navy was cer- 
tainly as deceptive as another, as far as underrating 

> The force of the statement that our large frigates 
were disguised line-of-battle ships, of course depends 
entirely upon what the words " frigate " and " line-of- 
battle ship" mean. When on the loth of August, 
1653, De Ruyter saved a great convoy by beating 
off Sir George Ayscough's fleet of 38 sail, the largest 
of the Dutch admiral's *' 33 sail of the line " carried 
but 30 guns and 150 men, and his own flag-ship but 
28 guns and 134 men.' The Dutch book from 

' " La Vie et les Actions Memorables duSr, Michel de Ruyter, a 
Amsterdam, Chez Henry et Theodore Boom, mdclxxvii. The work 
is by Barthelemy Pielat, a surgeon in de Ruyter's fleet, and personally 

54 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

which this statement is taken speaks indifferently of 
frigates of i8, 40, and 58 guns. Toward the end of 
the eighteenth century the terms had crystallized. 
Frigate then meant a so-called single-decked ship ; 
it in reality possessed two decks, the main- or gun- 
deck, and the upper one, which had no name at all, 
until our sailors christened it spar-deck. The gun- 
deck possessed a complete battery, and the spar- 
deck an interrupted one, mounting guns on the 
forecastle and quarter-deck. At that time all ''two- 
decked '^ or "three-decked" (in reality three- and 
four-decked) ships were liners. But in 1812 this had 
changed somewhat ; as the various nations built 
more and more powerful vessels, the lower rates of 
the different divisions were dropped. Thus the 
British ship Cyane^ captured by the Constitiition, 
was in reality a small frigate, with a main-deck 
battery of 22 guns, and 12 guns on the spar- 
deck ; a few years before she would have been 
called a 24-gun frigate, but she then ranked merely 
as a 22-gun sloop. Similarly the 50- and 64-gun 
ships that had fought in the line at the Doggerbank, 
Camperdown, and even at Aboukir, were now no 
longer deemed fit for that purpose, and the 74 was 
the lowest line-of-battle ship. j, , 

The Constitution, President, and States must then 
be compared with the existing European vessels 
that were classed as frigates. The French in 1812 
had no 24-pounder frigates, for the very good rea- 
son that they had all fallen victims to the English 
i8-pounder's ; but in July of that year a Danish frig- 
ate, the Nayaden, which carried long 24's, was de- 
stroyed by the English ship Dictator, 64. 

present during many of his battles. It is written in French, but is in 
tone more strongly anti-French than anti-English. 



The British frigates were of several rates. The 
lowest rated 3^, carrying in all 40 guns, 26 long 12's 
on the main-deck and 14 24-pound carronades on the 
spar-deck — a broadside of 324 pounds.' The 36-gun 
frigates, like the Ph(xbe, carried 46 guns, 26 long 
i8's on the gun-deck and 32-pound carronades 
above. The 38-gun frigates, like the Macedonian, 
carried 48 or 49 guns, long i8's below and 32-pound 
carronades above. The 32-gun frigates, then, pre- 
sented in broadside 13 long 12's below and 7 24- 
pound carronades above ; the 38-gun frigates, 14 
long i8's below and 10 32-pound carronades above; so 
that a 44-gun frigate would naturally present 15 long 
24's below and 12 42-pound carronades above, as the 
United States did at first. The rate was perfectly 
proper, for French, British, and Danes already pos- 
sessed 24-pounder frigates ; and there was really less 
disparity between the force and rate of a 44 that car- 
ried 54 guns, than there was in a 38 that carried 
49, or, like the Shannon, 52. Nor was this all. 
Two of our three victories were won by the Con- 
stitution, which only carried 32-pound carronades, 
and once 54 and once 52 guns ; and as two thirds of 
the work was thus done by this vessel, I shall now 
compare her with the largest British frigates. Her 
broadside force consisted of 15 long 24's on the main- 
deck, and on the spar-deck one long 24, and in one 
case 10, in the other 1 1 32-pound carronades — a 
broadside of 704 or 736 pounds.^ There was then in 
the British navy the Acasta, 40, carrying in broad- 
side 15 long i8's and 11 32-pound carronades; when 

' In all these vessels there were generally two long 6's or 9's sub- 
stituted for the bow-chase carronades. 

"^ Nominally ; in reality about 7 per cent, less od account of the 
short weight in the metal. 

56 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

the spar-deck batteries are equal, the addition of 90 
pounds to the main-deck broadside (which is all the 
superiority of the Co?istitution over the Acastd) 
is certainly not enough to make the distinction be- 
tween a frigate and a disguised 74. But not consid- 
ering the Acasta, there were in the British navy 
three 24-pounder frigates, the Cornwallis^ Inde- 
fatigable, and Endymion, We only came in con- 
tact with the latter in 181 5, when the Constitu- 
tion- had but 52 guns. The Endymion then had 
an armament of 28 long 24's, 2 long i8's, and 
20 32-pound carronades, making a broadside of 674 
pounds,' or including a shifting 24-pound carronade, 
of 698 pounds — just six pounds, or i per cent., less 
than the force of that *' disguised line-of-battle 
ship " the Constitution ! As the Endy7nion only 
rated as a 40, and the Constitiition as a 44, 
it was in reality the former and not the latter 
which was underrated. I have taken the Constitu- 
tion, because the British had more to do with 
her than they did with our other two 44's 
taken together. The latter were both of heavier 
metal than the Constitution, carrying 42-pound 
carronades. In 1812 the United States carried 
her full 54 guns, throwing a broadside of 846 pounds ; 
when captured, the President carried 53, having 
substituted a 24-pound carronade for two of her 42's, 
. and her broadside amounted to 828 pounds, or 16 per 
cent, nominal, 2ind, on account of the short weight 
of her shot, 9 per cent, real excess over the Endym- 
ion. If this difference made her a line-of-bat- 
tle ship, then the Endymion was doubly a line-of- 

' According to James 664 pounds : he omits the chase guns for no 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 57 

battle ship compared to the Congress or Con- 
stellation. Moreover, the American commanders 
.found their 42-pound carronades too heavy ; as I 
have said the Constitution only mounted 32's, 
and the United States landed 6 of her guns. 
When, in 181 3, she attempted to break the block- 
ade, she carried but 48 guns, throwing a broadside 
of 720 pounds — just 3 per cent, more than the 
Endymion} If our frigates were line-of-battle 
ships the disguise was certainly marvellously com- 
plete, and they had a number of companions equally 
disguised in the British ranks. 

The 44's were thus true frigates, with one com- 
plete battery of long guns and one interrupted one 
of carronades. That they were better than any 
other frigates was highly creditable to our ingenuity 
and national skill. We cannot, perhaps, lay claim 
to the invention and first use of the heavy frigate, 
for 24-pounder frigates were already in the service 
of at least three nations, and the French 36-pound 
carronnade, in use on their spar-decks, threw a 
heavier ball than our 42-pounder. But we had en- 
larged and perfected the heavy frigate, and were the 
first nation that ever used it effectively. The 
French Forte and the Danish Nayaden shared 
the fate of ships carrying guns of lighter calibre ; 
and the British 24-pounders, like the Endyviion 
had never accomplished any thing. Hitherto there 

Hardy refused to allow the Etidymion to meet the , States 
(James, vi, p. 470). This was during the course of some challenges 
and counter-challenges which ended in nothing, Decatur in his turn 
being unwilling to have the Macedonian meet the Statira, un- 
less the latter should agree not to take on a picked crew. He was 
perfectly right in this ; but he ought never to have sent the challenge 
at all, as two ships but an hour or two out of port would be at a 
frightful disadvantage in a fight. 

58 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

bad been a strong feeling, especially in England, 
that an 1 8-pound gun was as effective as a 24- in arm- 
ing a frigate ; we made a complete revolution in this 
respect. England had been building only 18- 
pounder vessels when she ought to have been build- 
ing 24-pounders. It was greatly to our credit that 
our average frigate was superior to the average Brit- 
ish frigate ; exactly as it was to our discredit that the 
Essex was so ineffectively armed. Captain Por- 
ter owed his defeat chiefly to his ineffective guns, 
but also to having lost hi^ topmast, to the weather 
being unfavorable, and, still more, to the admirable 
skill with which Hilyar used his superior armament. 
The Java, Macedonian, and Guerriere owed 
their defeat partly to their lighter guns, but much 
more to the fact that their captains and seamen did 
not display either as good seamanship or as good 
gunnery as their foes. Inferiority in armament was 
a factor to be taken into account in all the four 
cases, but it was more marked in that of the 
Essex than in the other three ; it would have 
been fairer for Porter to say that he had been cap- 
tured by a line-of-battle ship, than for the captain 
of the Java to make that assertion. In this last 
case the forces of the two ships compared almost 
exactly as their rates. A 44 was matched against a 
38 ; it was not surprising that she should win, but 
it was surprising that she should win with ease and 
impunity. The long 24*3 on the Constitutions 
gun-deck no more made her a line-of-battle ship than 
the 32.pound carronades mounted on an English 
frigate's quarter-deck and forecastle made her a line- 
of-battle ship when opposed to a Frenchman with 
only 8's and 6's on his spar-deck. When, a few 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 59 

years before, the English Phcebe had captured 
the French Nereide, their broadsides were re- 
spectively 407 and 258 pounds, a greater disparity 
than in any of our successful fights ; yet no author 
thought of claiming that the Phcebe was any 
thing but a frigate. So with the Clyde, throwing 
425 lbs., which took the Vest ale y throwing but 
246. The facts were that i8-pounder frigates had 
captured 12-pounders, exactly as our 24-pounders in 
turn captured the i8-pounders. 

Shortly before Great Britain declared war on us, 
one of her i8-pounder frigates, the San Florenzo, 
throwing 476 lbs. in a broadside, captured the 12- 
pounder French frigate Psyche, whose broadside 
was only 246 lbs. The force of the former was thus 
almost double that of the latter, yet the battle was 
long and desperate, the English losing 48 and the 
French 124 men. This conflict, then, reflected as 
much credit on the skill and seamanship of the 
defeated as of the victorious side; the difference in 
loss cou'ld fairly be ascribed to the difference in 
weight of metal. But where, as in the famous ship- 
duels of 1812, the difference in force is only a fifth, 
instead of a half, and yet the slaughter, instead of 
being as five is to two, is as six to one, then the 
victory is certainly to be ascribed as much to 
superiority in skill as to superiority in force. But, 
on the other hand, it should always be remembered 
that there was a very decided superiority in force. 
It is a very discreditable feature of many of our 
naval histories that they utterly ignore this superi- 
ority, seeming ashamed to confess that it existed. 
In reality it was something to be proud of. It was 
highly to the credit of the United States that her 

6o NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

frigates were of better make and armament than any 
others; it always speaks well for a nation's energy 
and capacity that any of her implements of warfare 
are of superior kind. This is a perfectly legitimate 
reason for pride. 

It spoke well for the Prussians in 1866 that they 
opposed breech-loaders to the muzzle-loaders of the 
Austrians ; but it would be folly to give all the 
credit of the victory to the breech-loaders and none 
to Moltke and his lieutenants. Thus, it must be 
remembered that two things contributed to our 
victories. One was the excellent make and arma- 
ment of our ships ; the other was the skilful sea- 
manship, excellent discipline, and superb gunnery 
of the men who were in them. British writers are 
apt only to speak of the first, and Americans only 
of the last, whereas both should be taken into con- 

To sum up : the American 44-gun frigate was a 
true frigate, in build and armament, properly rated, 
stronger than a 38-gun frigate just about in the pro- 
portion of 44 to 38, and not exceeding in strength 
an 18-pounder frigate as much as the latter ex- 
ceeded one carrying 12-pounders. They were in no 
way whatever line-of-battle ships ; but they were 
superior to any other frigates afloat, and, what is 
still more important, they were better manned and 
commanded than the average frigate of any other 
navy. Lord Codrington says (*^ Memoirs," i, p. 310) : 
" But I well know the system of favoritism and 
borough corruption prevails so very much that 
many people are promoted and kept in command 
that should be dismissed the service, and while such 
is the case the few Americans chosen for their 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 6l 

merit may be expected to follow up their successes 
except where they meet with our best officers on 
even terms." ^ The small size of our navy was 
probably to a certain extent effective in keeping it 
up to a high standard ; but this is not the only 
explanation, as can be seen by Portugal's small and 
poor navy. On the other hand, the champions or 
pick of a large navy ought to be better than the 
champions of a small one.^ 

^ To show that I arunot quoting an authority biassed in our favor I 
will give Sir Edward Codrmgton's opinion of our rural better class 
(i, 318). "It is curious to observe the animosity which prevails here 
among what is called the better order of people, which I think is 
more a misnomer here than in any other country I have ever been. 
Their whig and to>y are democrat and federalist, and it would seem 
for the sake of giving vent to that bitterness of hatred which marks 
the Yankee character, every gentleman (God save the term) who 
takes possession of a property adopts the opposite political creed to 
that of his nearest neighbor." 

^ In speaking of tonnage I wish I could have got better authority 
than James for the British side of the question. He is so bitter that 
it involuntarily gives one a distrust of his judgment. Thus, in speak- 
ing of the Penguin's capture, he, in endeavoring to show that the 
Hornet's loss was greater than she acknowledged, says, "several 
of the dangerously wounded were thrown overboard because the sur- 
geon was afraid to amputate, owing to his want of experience" 
(" Naval Occurrences," 492). Now what could persuade a writer to 
make such a foolish accusation ? No matter how utterly depraved and 
brutal Captain Biddle might be, he would certainly not throw his 
wounded over alive because he feared they might die. Again, in vol. 
vi, p. 546, he says: "Captain Stewart had caused the Cyane to be 
painted to resemble a 36-gun frigate. The object of this was to 
aggrandize his exploit in the eyes of the gaping citizens of Boston." 
No matter how skilful an artist Captain Stewart was, and no matter 
how great the gaping capacities of the Bostonians, the Cyane 
(which by the way went to New York and not Boston) could no more 
be painted to look like a 36-gun frigate than a schooner could be 
painted to look like a brig. Instances of rancor like these tv/o occur 
constantly in his work, and make it very difficult to separate what is 
matter of fact from what is matter of opinion. I always rely on the 
British official accounts when they can be reached, except in the case 
of the Java, which seem garbled. That such was sometimes the 
case with British officials is testified to by both James (vol. iv, p. 17) 
and Brenton (vol. ii, p. 454, note). From the " Memoir of Admiral 
Broke " we learn that his public letter was wrong in a number 
of particulars. See also any one of the numerous biographies of 
Lord Dundonald, the hero of the little Speedy s fight. It is very 

62 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Again, the armaments of the American as well as 
of the British ships were composed of three very 
different styles of guns. The first, or long gun, was 
enormously long and thick-barrelled in comparison 
to its bore, and in consequence very heavy ; it pos- 
sessed a very long range, and varied in calibre from 
two to forty-two pounds. The ordinary calibres in 
our navy were 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24. The second 
style was the carronade, a short, light gun of large 
bore ; compared to a long gun of the same weight 
it carried a much heavier ball for a much shorter 
distance. The chief calibres were 9, 12, 18, 24, 32, 
42, and 68-pounders, the first and the last being 
hardly in use in our navy. The third style was the 
columbiad, of an intermediate grade between the 
first two. Thus it is seen that a gun of one style 
by no means corresponds to a gun of another style 
of the same calibre. As a rough example, a long 
12, a columbiad 18, and a 32-pound carronade would 
be about equivalent to one another. These guns 
were mounted on two different types of vessel. 
The first was flush-decked ; that is, it had a single 
straight open deck on which all the guns were 
mounted. This class included one heavy corvette, 
(the Adams), the ship-sloops, and the brig-sloops. 

unfortunate that the British stopped publishing official accounts of 
their defeats ; it could not well help giving rise to unpleasant sus- 

It may be as well to mention here, again, that James' accusations 
do not really detract from the interest attaching to the war, and its 
value for purposes of study. If, as he says, the American com- 
manders were cowards, and their crews renegades, it is well worth 
while to learn the lesson that good training will make such men able 
to beat brave officers with loyal crews. And why did the British 
have such bad average crews as he makes out ? He says, for instance, 
that the jfavas was unusually bad ; yet Brenton says (vol. ii, p. 
461) it was like " the generality of our crews." It is worth while ex- 
plaining the reason that such a crew was generally better than a 
French and worse than an American one. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 63 

Through the bow-chase port, on each side> each of 
these mounted a long gun ; the rest of their guns 
were carronades, except in the case of the Adams, 
which had all long guns. Above these came the 
frigates, whose gun-deck was covered above by 
another deck ; on the fore and aft parts (forecastle 
and quarter-deck) of this upper, open deck were 
also mounted guns. The main-deck guns were all 
long, except on the Essex, which had carronades; 
on the quarter-deck were mounted carronades, and 
on the forecastle also carronades, with two long 

Where two ships of similar armament fought one 
another, it is easy to get the comparative force by 
simply comparing the weight in broadsides, each 
side presenting very nearly the same proportion of 
long guns to carronades. For such a broadside we 
take half the guns mounted in the ordinary way ; 
and all guns mounted on pivots or shifting. Thus 
Perry's force in guns was 54 to Barclay's 63 ; yet 
each presented 34 in broadside. Again, each of the 
British brig-sloops mounted 19 guns, presenting 10 
in broadside. Besides these, some ships mounted 
bow-chasers run through the bridle-ports, or stern- 
chasers, neither of which could be used in broad- 
sides. Nevertheless, I include them, both because it 
works in about an equal number of cases against 
each navy, and because they were sometimes ter- 
ribly effective. James excludes the Guerriere s 
bow-chaser ; in reality he ought to have included 
both it and its fellow, as they worked more damage 
than all the broadside guns put together. Again, 
he excludes the Endyinioii s bow-chasers, though 
in her action they proved invaluable. Yet he in- 

64 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

eludes those of the Enterprise and Argus, though 
the former's were probably not fired. So I shall 
take the half of the fixed, plus ail the movable guns 
aboard, in comparing broadside force. 

But the chief difificulty appears when guns of one 
style are matched against those of another. If a 
a ship armed with long 12's, meets one armed with 
32-pound carronades, which is superior in force? At 
long range the first, and at short range the second ; 
and of course each captain is pretty sure to insist 
that " circumstances " forced him to fight at a dis- 
advantage. The result would depend largely on 
the skill or luck of each commander in choosing 

One thing is certain ; long guns are more formid- 
able than carronades of the same calibre. There are 
exemplifications of this rule on both sides ; of course, 
American writers, as a rule, only pay attention to 
one set of cases, and British to the others. The 
Cyane and Levant threw a heavier broadside than 
the Constitution but were certainly less formidably 
armed ; and \y\Q Essex threw a heavier broadside than 
the PJiosbe, yet was also less formidable. On Lake 
Ontario the American ship General Pike threw less 
metal at a broadside than either of her two chief 
antagonists, but neither could be called her equal ; 
while on Lake Champlain a parallel case is afforded 
by the British ship Confiance. Supposing that two 
ships throw the same broadside weight of metal, one 
from long guns, the other from carronades, at short 
range they are equal ; at long, one has it all her 
own way. Her captain thus certainly has a great 
superiority of force, and if he does not take ad- 
vantage of it it is owing to his adversary's skill or 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 65 

his own mismanagement. As a mere approxima- 
tion, it may be assumed, in comparing the broad- 
sides of two vessels or squadrons, that long guns 
count for at least twice as much as carronades of 
the same calibre. Thus on Lake Champlain Cap- 
tain Downie possessed an immense advantage in 
his long guns, which Commodore Macdonough's 
exceedingly good arrangements nullified. Some- 
times part of the advantage may be willingly fore- 
gone, so as to acquire some other. Had the 
Constitution kept at long bowls with the Cyane 
and Levant she could have probably captured 
one without any loss to herself, while the 
other would have escaped ; she preferred to run 
down close so as to insure the capture of both, 
knowing that even at close quarters long guns 
are somewhat better than short ones (not to men- 
tion her other advantages in thick scantling, speed, 
etc.). The British carronades often upset in ac- 
tion ; this was either owing to their having been 
insufficiently secured, and to this remaining undis- 
covered because the men were not exercised at 
the guns, or else it was because the unpractised 
sailors would greatly overcharge them. Our bet- 
ter-trained sailors on the ocean rarely committed 
these blunders, but the less-skilled crews on the 
lakes did so as often as their antagonists. 

But while the Americans thus, as a rule, had 
heavier and better-fitted guns, they labored under 
one or two disadvantages. Our foundries were gen- 
erally not as good as those of the British, and our 
guns, in consequence, more likely to burst ; it was 
an accident of this nature which saved the British 
Belvidera ; and the General Pike, under Com- 

66 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

modore Chauncy, and the new American frigate 
Guerriere suffered in the same way ; while often 
the muzzles of the guns would crack. A more uni- 
versal disadvantage was in the short weight of 
our shot. When Captain Blakely sunk the Avon 
he officially reported that her four shot which came 
aboard weighed just 32 pounds apiece, a pound and 
three quarters more than his heaviest; this would 
make his average shot about 2^^ pounds less, or 
rather over 7 per cent. Exactly similar statements 
were made by the officers of the Constittition in 
her three engagements. Thus when she fought 
the Java, she threw at a broadside, as already 
stated, 704 pounds ; the Java mounted 28 long 
iS's, 18 32-pound carronades, 2 long 12's, and one 
shifting 24-pound carronade, a broadside of 573 
pounds. Yet by the actual weighing of all the 
different shot on both sides it was found that the 
difference in broadside force was only about JJ 
pounds, or the Constitution s shot were about 7 per 
cent, short weight. The long 24's of the United 
States each threw a shot but 4^ pounds heavier 
than the long i8's of the Macedonia?i ; here again 
the difference was about 7 per cent. The same dif- 
erence existed in favor of the Penguin and Epervier 
compared with the Wasp and Hornet. Mr. Feni- 
more Cooper ^ weighed a great number of shot 
some time after the war. The later castings, even, 
weighed nearly 5 per cent, less than the British shot, 
and some of the older ones, about 9 per cent. The 
average is safe to take at 7 per cent, less, and I shall 
throughout make this allowance for ocean cruisers. 
The deficit was sometimes owing to windage, but 

^ See "Naval History," i, p. 380. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 6/ 

more often the shot was of full size but defective 
in density. The effect of this can be gathered from 
the following quotation from the work of a British 
artillerist : " The greater the density of shot of like 
calibres, projected with equal velocity and elevation, 
the greater the range, accuracy, and penetration." ' 
This defectiveness in density might be a serious in- 
jury in a contest at a long distance, but would make 
but little difference at close quarters (although it may 
have been partly owing to their short weight that 
so many of the Chesapeake s shot failed to penetrate 
the Shannon s hull). Thus in the actions with the 
Macedonian and Java the American frigates showed 
excellent practice when the contest was carried on 
within fair distance, while their first broadsides at 
long range went very wild ; but in the case of the 
Gtierrtere, the Constitntion reserved her fire for close 
quarters, and was probably not at all affected by the 
short weight of her shot. 

As to the officers and crew of a 44-gun frigate, 
the following was the regular complement estab- 
lished by law : ^ 

I captain. 

I purser, 

4 lieutenants, 

I surgeon, 

2 lieutenants of marines, 

2 surgeon's mates, 

2 saihng-masters, 

I clerk, 

2 master's mates, 

I carpenter, 

7 midshipmen, 

2 carpenter's mates, 

^ " Heavy Ordnance," Captain T. F, Simmons, R. A., London, 1837. 
James supposes that the "Yankee captains" have in each case 
"hunted round till they could -get particularly small American shot to 
weigh ; and also denies that short weight is a disadvantage. The 
last proposition carried out logically would lead to some rather as- 
tonishing results. 

" See State Papers, vol. xiv, 159 (Washington, 1834). 

68 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

I boatswain, 



2 boatswain'; 
I yeoman of 

3 mates, 




I gunner, 


1 1 quarter gunners, 


able seamen, 

I coxswain, 


ordinary seamen, 

I sailmaker, 



I cooper, 



I steward, 

I armorer, 


in all. 

I master of 


An i8-gun ship had 32 officers and petty ofificers, 
30 able seamen, 46 ordinary seamen, 12 boys, and 
20 marines — 140 in all. Sometimes ships put to sea 
without their full complements (as in the case of 
the first Wasp), but more often with supernu- 
meraries aboard. The weapons for close quarters 
were pikes, cutlasses, and a few axes ; while the ma- 
rines and some of the toomen had muskets, and 
occasionally rifles. 

In comparing the forces of the contestants I have 
always given the number of men in crew ; but this 
in most cases was unnecessary. When there were 
plenty of men to handle the guns, trim the sails, 
make repairs, act as marines, etc., any additional 
number simply served to increase the slaughter on 
board. The Guerriere undoubtedly suffered from 
being short-handed, but neither the Macedonian nor 
Java would have been benefited by the presence of 
a hundred additional men. Barclay possessed about 
as many men as Perry, but this did not give him an 
equality of force. The Penguin and Fj'oHc would 
have been taken just as surely had the Hornet and 
Wa'ip had a dozen men less apiece than they did. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 69 

The principal case where numbers would help would 
be in a hand-to-hand fight. Thus the Chesapeake 
having fifty nriore men than the SJiannon ought to 
have been successful ; but she was not, because the 
superiority of her crew in numbers was more than 
counterbalanced by the superiority of the Sha?i- 
11071 s crew \i\ other respects. The result of the 
battle of Lake Champlain, which was fought at 
anchor, with the fleets too far apart for musketry to 
reach, was not in the slightest degree affected by 
the number of men on either side, as both com- 
batants had amply enough to manage the guns and 
perform every other service. 

In all these conflicts the courage of both parties 
is taken for granted ; it was not so much a factor in 
gaining the victory, as one which if lacking was 
fatal to all chances of success. In the engagements 
between regular cruisers, not a single one was grained 
by superiority in courage. The crews of both the 
Argus and Epervier certainly flinched ; but had they 
fought never so bravely they were too unskilful to 
win. The Chesapeake's crew could hardly be said to 
lack courage ; it was more that they were inferior 
to their opponents in discipline as well as in skill. 

There was but one conflict during the war where 
the victory could be said to be owing to superiority 
in pluck. This was when the NeiifeJiatel privateer 
beat off the boats of the Enelymion. The privateers- 
men suffered a heavier proportional loss than their 
assailants, and they gained the victory by sheer 
ability to stand punishment. 

For convenience in comparing them I give in 
tabulated form the force of the three British 38's 
taken by American 44's (allowing for short weight 
of metal of latter). 




30 long 24's, 

2 long 24's, 

22 short 32's. 

Broadside, nominal, 736 lbs. 
real, 684 lbs. 


30 long i8's, 
2 long 12's, 

16 short 32's, 
I short 18. 

Broadside, 556 lbs. 


30 long 24's, 

2 long 24's, 

2 2 short 42 's. 

Broadside, nominal, 846 lbs. 
real, 786 lbs. 


28 long i8's, 
2 long 12's, 
2 long 9's, 

16 short 32's, 
I short 18. 

Broadside, 547 lbs. 


■20 long 24's, 

2 long 24's, 

20 short 32's. 

Broadside, nominal, 704 lbs. 
real, 654 lbs. 


28 long i8's, 
2 long 12's, 

18 short 32's, 
I short 24. 

Broadside, 576 lbs. 

The smallest line-of-battle ship, the 74, with only 
long iS's on the second deck, was armed as follows: 

28 long 32's, 

28 " i8's, 

6 " 12's, 

14 short 32's, 

or a broadside of 1,032 lbs., 736 from long guns, 296 
from carronades ; while the Constitution threw (in 
reality) 684 lbs., 356 from long guns, and 328 from 
her carronades, and the United States 102 lbs. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 7T 

more from her carronades. Remembering the dif- 
ference between long guns and carronades, and con- 
sidering sixteen of the 74's long i8's as being 
replaced by 42-pound carronades^ (so as to get the 
metal on the ships distributed in similar proportions 
between the two styles of cannon), we get as the 
74's broadside 592 lbs from long guns, and 632 from 
carronades. The United States threw nominally 
360 and 486, and the Constitution nominally 360 
and 352 ; so the 74 was superior even to the former 
nominally about as three is to two ; while the Con- 
stitutioTi, if " a line-of-battle ship," was disguised 
to such a degree that she was in reality of but little 
more than one half the force of one of the smallest 
true liners England possessed ! 

* That this change would leave the force about as it was, can be 
gathered from the fact that the Adams and Johft Adaiiis both of 
which had been armed with 42-pound carronades (which were sent to 
Sackett's Harbor), had them replaced by long and medium 18- 
pounders, these being considered to be more formidable ; so that the 
substitution of 42-pound carronades would, if any thing, reduce the 
force of the 74. 



Commodore Rodgers' cruise and unsuccesful chase of the Belvidera — Cruise 
of the ^i'j^x— Captain Hull's cruise, and escape from the squadron of Com- 
modore Broke — Co7istitution captures Guerriere — Wasp captures Frolic — 
Second unsuccessful cruise of Commodore Rodgers — United States cap- 
tures Macedonian— Constitution captu es Java — Essex starts on a cruise- 

AT the time of the declaration of war, June 18, 
181 2, the American navy was but partially 
prepared for effective service. The Wasp, 18, was 
still at sea, on her return voyage from France ; the 
Constellation 38, was lying in the Chesapeake river, 
unable to receive a crew for several months to come ; 
the Chesapeake, 38, was lying in a similar condition in 
Boston harbor ; the Adams, 28, was at Washington, 
being cut down and lengthened from a frigate into a 
corvette. These three cruisers were none of them 
fit to go to sea till after the end of the year. The 
Essex, 32, was in New York harbor, but, having some 
repairs to make, was not yet ready to put out. The 
Constitution, 44, was at Annapolis, without all of 
her stores, and engaged in shipping a new crew, the 
time of the old one being up. The Nautilus, 14, 
was cruising off New Jersey, and the other small 
brigs were also off the coast. The only vessels im- 
mediately available were those under the command 
of Commodore Rodgers, at New York, consisting of 


NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 73 

his own ship, the President, 44, and of the United 
States, 44, Commodore Decatur, Congress, 38, Cap- 
tain Smith, Hornet, 18, Captain Lawrence, a.nd Argus, 
16, Lieut. Sinclair. It seems marvellous that any 
nation should have permitted its ships to be so scat- 
tered, and many of them in such an unfit condition, 
at the beginning of hostilities. The British vessels 
cruising off the coast were not at that time very nu- 
merous or formidable, consisting of the Africa, 64, 
Acasta, 40, Shannon, 38, Guerriere, 38, Belvidera, 36, 
Mollis, 32, SoiitJianipton, 32, and Minerva , 32, with a 
number of corvettes and sloops ; their force was, 
however, strong enough to render it impossible for 
Commodore Rodgers to make any attempt on the 
coast towns of Canada or the West Indies. But 
the homeward bound plate fleet had sailed from 
Jamaica on May 20th, and was only protected by 
the Thalia, 36, Capt. Vashon, and Reindeer, 18, 
Capt. Manners. Its capture or destruction would 
have been a serious blow, and one which there 
seemed a good chance of striking, as the fleet would 
have to pass along the American coast, running -with 
the Gulf Stream. Commodore Rodgers had made 
every preparation, in expectation of war being de- 
clared, and an hour after official intelligence of it, 
together with his instructions, had been received, his 
squadron put to sea, on June 21st, and ran off toward 
the south-east^ to get at the Jamaica ships. Having 
learned from an American brig that she had passed 
the plate fleet four days before in lat. 36° N., long. 
6^° W., the Commodore made all sail in that direc- 
tion. At 6 A.M. on June 23d a sail was made out 

' Letter of Commodore John Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy, 
Sept. I, 1812. 

74 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

in the N. E., which proved to be the British frigate 
Belvidera, 36, Capt. Richard Byron/ The latter 
had sighted some of Commodore Rodgers' squadron 
some time before, and stood toward them, till at 6.30 
she made out the three largest ships to be frigates. 
Having been informed of the likelihood of war by 
a New York pilot boat, the Belvidera now stood 
away, going N. E. by E., the wind being fresh from 
the west. The Americans made all sail in chase, the 
President^ a very fast ship off the wind, leading, and 
the Congress coming next. At noon the President 
bore S. W., distant 2^ miles from the Belvidera, 
Nantucket shoals bearing 100 miles N. and 48 miles 
E.'^ The wind grew lighter, shifting more toward 
the south-west, while the ships continued steadily 
in their course, going N. E. by E. As the President 
kept gaining. Captain Byron cleared his ship for ac- 
tion, and shifted to the stern ports two long eighteen 
pounders on the main-deck and two thirty-two pound 
carronades on the quarter-deck. 

At 4:30^ the President's starboard forecastle bow- 
gun was fired by Commodore Rodgers himself ; 
the corresponding main-deck gun was next dis- 
charged, and then Commodore Rodgers fired again. 
These three shots all struck the stern of the Bel- 
videra, killing and wounding nine men, — one of 
them went through the rudder coat, into the after 
gun-room, the other two into the captain's cabin. 
A few more such shots would have rendered the 
Belvidera s capture certain, but when the Presi- 

* Brenton, v. 46. 

^ Log of Belvidera, June 23, r8i2. 

' Cooper, ii, 1 5 1. According to James, vi, 117, the President 
was then 600 yards distant from the Belvidera, half a point on her 
weather or port quarter. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 75 

dent's main-deck gun was discharged for the second 
time it burst, blowing up the forecastle deck and 
killing and wounding 16 men, among them the Com- 
modore himself, whose leg was broken. This saved 
the British frigate. Such an explosion always causes 
a half panic, every gun being at once suspected. 
In the midst of the confusion Captain Byron's stern- 
chasers opened with spirit and effect, killing or 
wounding six men more. Had the Preside^it 
still pushed steadily on, only using her bow-chasers 
until she closed abreast, which she could probably 
have done, the Belvidera could still have been 
taken ; but, instead, the former now bore up and 
fired her port broadside, cutting her antagonist's 
rigging slightly, but doing no other damage, while 
the Belvidera kept up a brisk and galling fire, 
although the long bolts, breeching-hooks, and 
breechings of the guns now broke continually, 
wounding several of the men, including Captain 
Byron. The President had lost ground by yaw- 
ing, but she soon regained it, and, coming up 
closer than before, again opened from her bow- 
chasers a well-directed fire, which severely wounded 
her opponent's main-top mast, cross-jack yard, and 
one or two other spars ;' but shortly afterward 
she repeated her former tactics and again lost 
ground by yawing to discharge another broadside, 
even more ineffectual than the first. Once more 
she came up closer than ever, and once more yawed ; 
the single shots from her bow-chasers doing consid- 
erable damage, but her raking broadsides none.'* 
Meanwhile the active crew of the Belvidera repaired 

* James, vi, 119. He says the President was within 400 yards. 
'^Lord Howard Douglass, " Naval Gunnery," p. 419 (third edition). 

'j6 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

every thing as fast as it was damaged, while under 
the superintendence of Lieutenants Sykes, Bruce, 
and Cannpbell, no less than 300 shot were fired 
from her stern guns.' Finding that if the President 
ceased yawing she could easily run alongside, Cap- 
tain Byron cut away one bower, one stream, and 
two sheet anchors, the barge, yawl, gig, and jolly 
boat, and started 14 tons of water. The effect of 
this was at once apparent, and she began to gain ; 
meanwhile the damage the sails of the combatants 
had received had enabled the Congress to close, 
and when abreast of his consort Captain Smith 
opened with his bow-chasers, but the shot fell short. 
The Belvidera soon altered her course to east by 
south, set her starboard studding-sails, and by mid- 
night was out of danger ; and three days afterward 
reached Halifax harbor. 

Lord Howard Douglass' criticisms on this en- 
counter seem very just. He says that the Presi- 
dent opened very well with her bow-chasers (in 
fact the Americans seem to have aimed better and 
to have done more execution with these guns than 
the British with their stern-chasers) ; but that she lost 
so much ground by yawing and delivering harmless 
broadsides as to enable her antagonist to escape. 
Certainly if it had not been for the time thus lost 
to no purpose, the Commodore would have run 
alongside his opponent, and the fate of the little 
36 would have been sealed. On the other hand it 
must be remembered that it was only the bursting 
of the gun on board the President, causing such 
direful confusion and loss, and especially harmful 
in disabling her commander, that gave the Belvi- 

' James, vi, 118. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


dera any chance of escape at all. At any rate, 
whether the American frigate does, or does not, de- 
serve blame, Captain Byron and his crew do most 
emphatically deserve praise for the skill with which 
their guns were served and repairs made, the 
coolness with which measures to escape were 
adopted, and the courage with which they resisted 
so superior a force. On this occasion Captain 
Byron showed himself as good a seaman and as 
brave a man as he subsequently proved a humane 
and generous enemy when engaged in the blockade 
of the Chesapeake.* 

This was not a very auspicious opening of hostil- 
ities for America. The loss of the Belvidera was 
not the only thing to be regretted, for the distance 
the chase took the pursuers out of their course prob- 
ably saved the plate fleet. When the Belvidera 
was first made out. Commodore Rodgers was in' 
latitude 39° 26' N., and longitude 71° 10' W.; at noon 
the same day the Thalia and her convoy were in lat- 
itude 39° N., longitude 62° W. Had they not 
chased the Belvidera the Americans would probably 
have run across the plate fleet. 

The American squadron reached the western edge 
of the Newfoundland Banks on June 29th,^ and on 
July 1st, a little to the east of the Banks, fell in with 
large quantities of cocoa-nut shells, orange peels, 
etc., which filled every one with great hopes of 
overtaking the quarry. On July 9th, the Hornet 
captured a British privateer, in latitude 45° 30' N., 

^ Even Niles, unscrupulously bitter as he is toward the British, • 
does justice to the humanity of Captains Byron and Hardy — which 
certainly shone in comparison to some of the rather buccaneering ex- 
ploits of Cockburn's followers in Chesapeake Bay, 

* Letter of Commodore Rodgers, Sept. ist. 

y% NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

and longitude 23° W., and her master reported that 
he had seen the Jamaica-men the previous evening; 
but nothing further was heard or seen of them, and 
on July 13th, being within twenty hours' sail of the 
English Channel, Commodore Rodgers reluctantly 
turned southward, reaching Madeira July 21st. 
Thence he cruized toward the Azores and by the 
Grand Banks home, there being considerable sick- 
ness on the ships. On August 31st he reached 
Boston after a very unfortunate cruise, in which he 
had made but seven prizes, all merchant-men, and 
had recaptured one American vessel. 

On July 3d the Essex, 32, Captain David Porter, 
put out of New York. As has been already ex- 
plained she was most inef^ciently armed, almost en- 
tirely with carronades. This placed her at the mer- 
cy of any frigate with long guns which could keep at 
a distance of a few hundred yards ; but in spite of 
Captain Porter's petitions and remonstrances he was 
not allowed to change his armament. On the nth 
of July at 2 A. M., latiLude 33° N., longitude 66° 
W., the Essex fell in with the Minerva, 32, Cap- 
tain Richard Hawkins, convoying seven transports, 
each containing about 200 troops, bound from Bar- 
badoes to Quebec. The convoy was sailing in open 
order, and, there being a dull moon, the Essex 
ran in and cut out transport No. 299, with 197 sol- 
diers aboard. Having taken out the soldiers, Cap- 
tain Porter stood back to the convoy, expecting 
Captain Hawkins to come out and fight him ; but 
this the latter would not do, keeping the convoy in 
close order around him. The transports were all 
armed and still contained in the aggregate 1,200 
soldiers. As the Essex could only fight at close 



quarters these heavy odds rendered it hopeless for 
her to try to cut out the Minerva. Her carron- 
ades would have to be used at short range to be 
effective, and it would of course have been folly to 
run in right among the convoy, and expose herself 
to the certainty of being boarded by five times as 
many men as she possessed. The Minerva had 
three less guns a side, and on her spar-deck carried 
24-pound carronades instead of 32's, and, moreover, 
had fifty men less than the Essex, which had 
about 270 men this cruise ; on the other hand, her 
main-deck was armed with long 12's, so that it is 
hard to say whether she did right or not in refusing 
to fight. She was of the same force as the South- 
ampton whose captain, Sir James Lucas Yeo, sub- 
sequently challenged Porter, but never appointed 
a meeting-place. In the event of a meeting, the ad- 
vantage, in ships of such radically different armaments, 
would have been with that captain who succeeded 
in outmanoeuvring the other and in making the 
fight come off at the distance best suited to him- 
self. At long range either the Minerva or South- 
ampton would possess an immense superiority ; but 
if Porter could have contrived to run up within 
a couple of hundred yards, or still better, to board, 
his superiority in weight of metal and number of 
men would have enabled him to carry either of 
them. Porter's crew was better trained for board- 
ing than almost any other American commander's ; 
and probably none of the British frigates on the 
American station, except the Shannon and Tene- 
dos, would have stood a chance with the Essex 
in a hand-to-hand struggle. Among her youngest 
midshipmen was one, b^' name David Glas- 

80 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

gow Farragut, then but thirteen years old, who 
afterward became the first and greatest admiral of 
the United States. His own words on this point 
will be read with interest. " Every day," he says/ 
" the crew were exercised at the great guns, small 
arms, and single stick. And I may here mention 
the fact that I have never been on a ship where the 
crew of the old Essex was represented but that 
I found them to be the best swordsmen on board. 
They had been so thoroughly trained as boarders 
that every man was prepared for such an emergency, 
with his cutlass as sharp as a razor, a dirk made by 
the ship's armorer out of a file, and a pistol." ^ 

On August 13th a sail was made out to windward, 
which proved to be the British ship-sloop A/ert 
16, Captain T. L. O. Laugharne, carrying 20 eighteen- 
pound carronades and lOO men." As soon as the 
Essex discovered the Alert she put out drags astern, 

^ '* Life of Farragut " (embodying his journal and letters), p. 31. 
By his son, Loyall Farragut, New York, 1879. 

^ James says : "Had Captain Porter really endeavored to bring 
the Minerva to action we do not see what could have prevented the 
Essex with her superiority of sailing, from coming alongside of her. 
But no such thought, we are sure, entered into Captain Porter's' 
head." What "prevented the Essex'' was the Minerva's not 
venturing out of the convoy, Farragut, in his journal writes : " The 
captured British officers were very anxious for us to have a fight with 
the Minerva, as they considered her a good match for the Essex, 
and Captain Porter replied that he should gratify them with pleasure 
if his majesty's commander was of their tastel So we stood toward 
the convoy and when within gunshot hove to, and awaited the Min- 
erva, but she tacked and stood in among the convoy, to the utter 
amazement of our prisoners, who denounced the commander as abase 
coward, and expressed their determination to report him to the Ad- 
miralty." An incident of reported " flinching" like this is not worth 
mentioning ; I allude to it only to show the value of James' sneers. 

^ James (History, vi, p. 128) says "86 men." In the Naval 
Archives at Washington in the " Captains' Letters " for 1 812 (vol. 
ii. No. 182) can be found enclosed in Porter's letter the parole of the 
officers and crew of the Alert signed by Captain Laugharne ; it 
contains either 100 or loi names of the crew of the Alert besides 
those of a number of other prisoners sent back in the same cartel. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 8l 

and led the enemy to believe she was trying to 
escape by sending a few men aloft to shake out 
the reefs and make sail. Concluding the frigate to 
be a merchant-man, the Alert bore down on her; 
while the Americans went to quarters and cleared 
for action, although the tompions were left in the 
guns, and the ports kept closed.' The Alert fired 
a gun and the Essex hove to, when the former 
passed under her stern, and when on her lee quarter 
poured in a broadside of grape and canister; but the 
sloop was so far abaft the frigate's beam that her 
shot did not enter the ports and caused no damage. 
Thereupon Porter put up his helm and opened as 
soon as his guns would bear, tompions and all. The 
Alert now discovered her error and made off, but 
too late, for in eight minutes the Essex was along 
side, and the Alert fired a musket and struck, 
three men being wounded and several feet of 
water in the hold. She was disarmed and sent as a 
cartel into St. Johns. It has been the fashion 
among American writers to speak of her as if she 
were *' unworthily ' given up, but such an accusa- 
tion is entirely groundless. The Essex was four 
times her force, and all that could possibly be ex- 
pected of her was to do as she did — exchange broad- 
sides and strike, having suffered some loss and dam- 
age. The Essex returned to New York on Septem,- 
ber 7th, having made 10 prizes, containing 423 men.^ 

* " Life of Farragut," p. 16. 

^ Before entering New York the Essex fell in with a British force 
which, in both Porter's and Farragut's works, is said to have been 
composed of the A casta and Shannon, each of fifty guns, and Ring- 
dove, of twenty. James says it was the Shannon, accompanied by a 
merchant vessel. It is not a point of much importance, as nothing 
came of the meeting, and the Shannon, alone, with her immensely 
superior armament, ought to have been a match twice over for the 
Essex ; although, if James is right, as seems probable, it gives rather 
a comical turn to Porter's account of his " extraordinary escape," 

82 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

Th.Q Belvidera, as has been stated, carried the news 
of the war to Halifax. On July 5th Vice-Admiral 
Sawyer despatched a squadron to cruise against the 
United States, commanded by Philip Vere Broke, of 
the SJiannoii^ 38, having under him the Belvidera, 36, 
Captain Richard Byron, Africa, 64, Captain John 
Bastard, and ^Eolus, 32, Captain Lord James Town- 
send. On the 9th, while off Nantucket, they were 
joined by the Guerriere, 38, Captain James Richard 
Dacres. On the i6th the squadron fell in with and 
captured the United States brig Nautilus^ 14, Lieu- 
tenant Crane, which, like all the little brigs, was 
overloaded with guns and men. She threw her lee 
guns overboard and made use of every expedient to 
escape, but to no purpose. At 3 P. M. of the follow- 
ing day, when the British ships were abreast of 
Barnegat, about four leagues off shore, a strange sail 
was seen and immediately chased, in the south {yy 
east, or windward quarter, standing to. the north- 
east. This was the United States frigate Co7t- 
stittition, 44, Captain Isaac HuU.^ When the war 
broke out he was in the Chesapeake River getting a 
new crew aboard. Having shipped over 450 men 
(counting officers), he put out of harbor on the 12th 
of July. His crew was entirely new, drafts of men 
coming on board up to the last moment.'^ On the 
17th, at 2 P. M., Hull discovered four sail, in the 

^ For the ensuing chase I have relied mainly on Cooper ; see also 
"Memoir of Admiral Broke," p. 240; James, vi, 133; and Mar- 
shall's " Naval Biography" (London, 1825), ii, 625. 

^ In a letter to the Secretary of the Navy ("Captains' Letters," 
1812, ii. No. 85), Hull, after speaking of the way his men were arriv- 
ing, says : " The crew are as yet unacquainted with a ship of war, 
as many have but lately joined and have never been on an armed ship 
before. * * * We are doing all that we can to make them ac- 
quainted with their duty, and in a few days we shall have nothing to 
fear from any single-decked sh'p " 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 83 

northern board, heading to the westward. At 3, the 
wind being very light, the Constitution made sail 
and tacked, in 18^ fathoms. At 4, in the N. E., a 
fifth sail appeared, which afterward proved to be 
the Guerriere. The first four ships bore N. N. 
W., and were all on the starboard tack ; while by 6 
o'clock the fifth bore E. N. E. At 6.15 the wind 
shifted and blew lightly from the south, bringing the 
American ship to windward. She tnen wore round 
with her head to the eastward, set her light stud- 
ding-sails and stay-sails, and at 7.30 beat to action, 
intending to speak the nearest vessel, the Guer- 
riere, The two frigates neared one another gradu- 
ally and at 10 the Constitution began making sig- 
nals, which she continued for over an hour. At 
3.30 A. M. on the 1 8th the Guerriere, going gradu- 
ally toward the Constittition on the port tack, and 
but one half mile distant, discovered on her lee 
beam the Belvidera and the other British vessels, 
and signalled to them. They did not answer the 
signals, thinking she must know who they were — a 
circumstance which afterward gave rise to sharp re- 
criminations among the captains — and Dacres, con- 
cluding them to be Commodore Rodgers' squadron, 
tacked, and then wore round and stood away from 
the Constitution for some time before discovering 
his mistake. 

At 5 A. :m. Hull had just enough steerage way on 
to keep his head to the east, on the starboard 
tack ; on his lee quarter, bearing N. E. by N., were 
the Belvidera and Guerriere and astern the 
Shannon, ^olus, and Africa. At 5.30 it fell 
entirely calm, and Hull put out his boats to tow 
the ship, alvv^ays going southward. At the same 

84 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

time he whipped up a 24 from the main-deck, and 
got the forecastle-chaser aft, cutting away the taff- 
rail to give the two guns more freedom to work in 
and also running out, through the cabin windows, 
two of the long main-deck 24's. The British boats 
were towing also. At 6 A. M. a light breeze 
sprang up, and the Constitution set studding- 
sails and stay-sails ; the Shannon opened at her 
with her bow guns, but ceased when she found she 
could not reach her. At 6.30, the wind having 
died away, the Shannon began to gain, almost all 
the boats of the squadron towing her. Having 
sounded in 26 fathoms, Lieutenant Charles Morris 
suggested to Hull to try kedging. All the spare 
rope was bent on to the cables, payed out into the 
cutters, and a kedge run out half a mile ahead and 
let go ; then the crew clapped on and walked away 
with the ship, overrunning and tripping the kedge 
as she came up with the end of the line. Mean- 
while, fresh lines and another kedge were carried 
ahead, and the frigate glided away from her pur- 
suers. At 7.30 A. M. a little breeze sprang up, when 
the Constitution set her ensign and fired a shot 
at the Shannon. It soon fell calm again and the 
Shannon neared. At 9.10 a light air from the 
southward struck the ship, bringing her to wind- 
ward. As the breeze was seen coming, her sails 
were trimmed^ and as soon as she obeyed her helm 
she was brought close up on the port tack. The 
boats dropped in alongside ; those that belonged to 
the davits were run up, while the others were just 
lifted clear of the water, by purchases on the spare 
spars, stowed outboard, where they could be used 
again at a minute's notice. Meanwhile, on her lee 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 85 

beam, the Guerriere opened fire ; but her shot fell 
short, and the Americans paid not the sHghtest 
heed to it. Soon it again fell calm, when Hull had 
2000 gallons of water started, and again put out 
his boats to tow. The SJiannon with some of the 
other boats of the squadron helping her, gained 
on the Constitution but by severe exertion was 
again left behind. Shortly afterward, a slight wind 
springing up, the Belvidera gained on the other 
British ships, and when it fell calm she was nearer 
to the Constitution than any of her consorts, their 
boats being put on to her.^ At 10.30, observing 
the benefit that the Constitution had derived from 
warping. Captain Byron did the same, bending all 
his hawsers to one another, and working two kedge 
anchors at the same time by paying the warp out 
through one hawse-hole as it was run in through the 
other opposite. Having men from the other frigates 
aboard, and a lighter ship to work, Captain Byron, 
at 2 P. M. was near enough to exchange bow- and 
stern-chasers with the Constitution^ out of range 
however. Hull expected to be overtaken, and made 
every arrangement to try in such case to disable the 
first frigate before her consorts could close. But 
neither the Belvidera nor the Shannoji dared to tow 
very near for fear of having their boats sunk by the 
American's stern-chasers. 

The Constitution's crew showed the most excellent 
spirit. Officers and men relieved each other regu- 
larly, the former snatching their rest any where on 

' Cooper speaks as if this was the Shamion ; but from Marsiiall's 
' ' Naval Biography " we learn that it was the Belvidera. At other 
times he confuses the Belvidera with the Gnerriere. Captain Hull, of 
course, could not accurately distinguish the names of his pursuers. 
My account is drawn from a careful comparison of Marshall, Cooper, 
and James. 

S6 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

deck, the latter sleeping at the guns. Gradually 
the Constitution drew ahead, but the situation con- 
tinued most critical. All through the afternoon the 
British frigates kept towing and kedging, being 
barely out of gunshot. At 3 P.M. a light breeze 
sprung up, and blew fitfully at intervals ; every 
puff was watched closely and taken advantage of to 
the utmost. At 7 in the evening the wind almost 
died out, and for four more weary hours the worn- 
out sailors towed and kedged. At 10.45 ^ little 
breeze struck the frigate, when the boats dropped 
alongside and were hoisted up, excepting the first 
cutter. Throughout the night the wind continued 
very light, the Bclvidcra forging ahead till she was 
off the Constitntio7i s lee beam ; and at 4 A. M. on 
the morning of the 19th, she tacked to the east- 
ward, the breeze being light from the south by 
east. At 4.20 the Constitntion tacked also ; and at 
5.15 the y-Eolus, which had drawn ahead, passed on 
the contrary tack. Soon afterward the wind fresh- 
ened so that Captain Hull took in his cutter. The 
Africa was now so far to leeward as to be almost 
out of the race ; while the five frigates were all 
running on the starboard tack with every stitch of 
canvas set. At 9 A. M. an American merchant-man 
hove in sight and bore down toward the squadron. 
The Belvidera, by way of decoy, hoisted American 
colors, when the Constitution hoisted the British 
flag, and the merchant vessel hauled off. The 
breeze continued light till noon, when Hull found 
he had dropped the British frigates well behind ; 
the nearest was the Belvidera, exactly in his wake, 
bearing W. N. W. 2\ miles distant. The Shannon 
was on his lee, bearing N. by W. \ W. distant 3|- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 8/ 

miles. The other two frigates were five miles off on 
the lee quarter. Soon afterward the breeze fresh- 
ened, and "old Ironsides" drew slowly ahead from 
her foes, her sails being watched and tended with 
the most consummate skill. At 4 P. M. the breeze 
again lightened, but even the Belvidera was now 
four miles astern and to leeward. At 6.45 there 
were indications of a heavy rain squall, which once 
more permitted Hull to show that in seamanship he 
excelled even the able captains against whom he 
was pitted. The crew were stationed and every 
thing kept fast till the last minute, when all was 
clewed up just before the squall struck the ship. 
The light canvas was furled, a second reef taken in 
the mizzen top-sail, and the ship almost instantly 
brought under short sail. The British vessels see- 
ing this began to let go and haul down without 
waiting for the wind, and were steering on different 
tacks when the first gust struck them. But Hull as 
soon as he got the weight of the wind sheeted 
home, hoisted his fore and main-top gallant sails, 
and went off on an easy bowline at the rate of 11 
knots. At 7.40 sight was again obtained of the 
enemy, the squall having passed to leeward ; the 
Belvidera, the nearest vessel, had altered bear- 
ings two points to leeward, and was a long way 
astern. Next came the Shannon ; the Guerriere and 
Mollis were hull down, and the Africa barely visi- 
ble. The wind now kept light, shifting occasion- 
ally in a very baffling manner, but the Constitution 
gained steadily, wetting her sails from the sky-sails 
to the courses. At 6 A. M, on the morning of the 
20th the pursuers were almost out of sight ; and 
at 8.15 A. M. they abandoned the chase. Hull at 

88 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

once stopped to investigate the character of two 
strange vessels, but found them to be only Ameri- 
cans ; then, at midday, he stood toward the east, 
and went into Boston on July 26th. 

In this chase Captain Isaac Hull was matched 
against five British captains, two of whom. Broke 
and Byron, were fully equal to any in their navy ; 
and while the latter showed great perseverance, 
good seamanship, and ready imitation, there can be 
ho doubt that the palm in every way belongs to 
the cool old Yankee. Every daring expedient 
known to the most perfect seamanship was tried, 
and tried with success ; and no victorious fight 
could reflect more credit on the conqueror than 
this three days' chase did on Hull. Later, on two 
occasions, the Constitution proved herself far su- 
perior in gunnery to the average British frigate ; 
this time her officers and men showed that they 
could handle the sails as well as they could the 
guns. Hull out-manoeuvred Broke and Byron as 
cleverly as a month later he out-fought Dacres. 
His successful escape and victorious fight were 
both performed in a way that place him above any 
single ship captain of the war. 

On Aiig. 2d the Constitution made sail from Bos- 
ton' and stood to the eastward, in hopes of falling 
in with some of the British cruisers. She was un- 
successful, however, and met nothing. Then she 
ran down to the Bay of Fundy, steered along the 
coast of Nova Scotia, and thence toward New- 
foundland, and finally took her station off Cape 
Race in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where she took 
and burned two brigs of little value. On the 15th 

^Letter of Capt. Isaac Hull, Aug. 28, 1812. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 89 

she recaptured axi American brig from the British 
ship-sloop Avenger, though the latter escaped ; 
Capt. Hull manned his prize and sent her in. He 
then sailed southward, and on the night of the 18th 
spoke a Salem privateer which gave him news of a 
British frigate to the south ; thither he stood, and 
at 2 P. M. on the 19th, in lat. 41° 30' N. and 55° W., 
made out a large sail bearing E. S. E. and to leeward,' 
which proved to be his old acquaintance, the frigate 
Guerriere Captain Dacres. It was a cloudy day and 
the wind was blowing fresh from the northwest. The 
Guerriere was standing by the wind on the starboard 
tack, under easy canvas"; she hauled up her courses, 
took in her top-gallant sails, and at 4.30 backed her 
main-top sail. Hull then very deliberately began 
to shorten sail, taking in top-gallant sails, stay-sails, 
and flying jib, sending down the royal yards' and 
putting another reef in the top-sails. Soon the 
Englishman hoisted three ensigns, when the Amer- 
ican also set his colors, one at each mast-head, and 
one at the mizzen peak. 

The Constitution now ran down with the wind 
nearly aft. The Guerriere was on the starboard 
tack, and at five o'clock opened with her weather- 
guns,^ the shot falling short, then wore round and 
fired her port broadside, of which two shot struck her 
opponent, the rest passing over and through her rig- 
ging." As the British frigate again wore to open with 

^ Do., Aug. 30th. 

'^ Letter of Capt. James R. Dacres, Sept. 7, 1812. 

^ Log of Guerriere. 

* See in the Naval Archives (Bureau of Navigation) the Constitutions 
Log-Book (vol. ii, from Feb. I, 1812, to Dec. 13, 1813). The point 
is of some little importance because Hull, in his letter, speaks as if 
both the first broadsides fell short, whereas the log distinctly says that 
the second went over the ship, except two shot, which came home. 

90 NAVAL WAR OF l8j2, 

her starboard battery, the Constitution yawed a Httle 
and fired two or three of her port bow-guns. Three 
or four times the Guerriere repeated this manoeuvre, 
wearing and firing alternate broadsides, but with 
Httle or no effect, while the Constitution yawed as 
often to avoid being raked, and occasionally fired 
one of her bow guns. This continued nearly an 
hour, as the vessels were very far apart when the ac- 
tion began, hardly any loss or damage being in- 
flicted by either party. At 6.00 the Gueri'iere bore 
up and ran off under her top-sails and jib, with the 
wind almost astern, a little on her port quarter; 
when the Constitution set her main-top gallant sail 
and foresail, and at 6.05 closed within half pistol- 
shot distance on her adversary's port beam.' Im- 
mediately a furious cannonade opened, each ship 
firing as the guns bore. By the time the ships were 
fairly abreast, at 6.20, the Constitution shot away the 
Guerriere s mizzen-mast, which fell over the star- 
board quarter, knocking a large hole in the counter, 
and bringing the ship round against her helm. 
Hitherto she had suffered very greatly and the Con- 
stitution hardly at all. The latter, finding that 
she was ranging ahead, put her helm aport and then 
luffed short round her enemy's bows,'^ delivering a 
heavy raking fire with the starboard guns and shoot- 
ing away the G^ierriere' s main-yard. Then she wore 
and again passed her adversary's bows, raking with 
her port guns. The mizzen-mast of the Guerriere, 
dragging in the water, had by this time pulled her 

The hypothesis of the Guerriere having damaged powder was founded 
purely on this supposed falling short of the first two broadsides. 

^"Autobiography of Commodore Morris" (Annapolis, 1880), p. 

* Log of ConstittitioJi, 



bow round till the wind came on her starboard 
quarter ; and so near were the two ships that the 
Englishman's bowsprit passed diagonally over the 
Constitutioii s quarter-deck, and as the latter ship fell 
off it got foul of her mizzen-rigging, and the vessels 
then lay with the Gucrrierc s starboard bow against 
the Constitution s port, or lee quarter-gallery/ The 
Englishman's bow guns played havoc with Captain 
Hull's cabin, setting fire to it ; but the flames were 
soon extinguished by Lieutenant Hoffmann. On 
both sides the boarders were called away ; the Brit- 
ish ran forward, but Captain Dacres relinquished the 
idea of attacking" when he saw the crowds of men 
on the American's decks. Meanwhile, on the Constitn- 
tion, the boarders and marines gathered aft, but such 
a heavy sea was running that they could not get on 
the Gnerriere. Both sides suffered heavily from the 
closeness of the musketry fire ; indeed, almost the 
entire loss on the Constitution occurred at this junct- 
ure. As Lieutenant Bush, of the marines, sprang 
upon the taffrail to leap on the enemy's decks, a 
British marine shot him dead ; Mr. Morris, the first 
Lieutenant, and Mr. Alwyn, the master, had also 
both leaped on the taffrail, and both were at the 
same moment wounded by the musketry fire. On 
the Gnerriere the loss was far heavier, almost all the 
men on the forecastle being picked off. Captain 
Dacres himself was shot in the back and severely 
wounded by one of the American mizzen topmen, 
while he was standing on the starboard forecastle 
hammocks cheering on his crew"; two of the lieu- 

^ Cooper, in " Putnam's Magazine," i, 475. 

■■'Address of Captain Dacres to the court-rnartial at Halifax. 

^ James, vi, 144. 

92 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

tenants and the master were also shot down. The 
ships gradually worked round till the wind was again 
on the port quarter, when they separated, and the 
Giierriere s foremast and main-mast at once went by 
the board, and fell over on the starboard side, leav- 
ing her a defenseless hulk, rolling her main-deck 
guns into the water/ At 6.30 the Constitution 
hauled aboard her tacks, ran off a little distance to the 
eastward, and lay to. Her braces and standing and 
running rigging were much cut up and some of the 
spars wounded, but a few minutes sufificed to repair 
damages, when Captain Hull stood under his ad- 
versary's lee, and the latter at once struck, at 7.00 
P. M.,^ just two hours after she had fired the first 
shot. On the part of the Constitution, however, the 
actual fighting, exclusive of six or eight guns fired 
during the first hour, while closing, occupied less 
than 30 minutes. 

The tonnage and metal of the combatants have 
already been referred to. The Constitution had, as 
already said, about 456 men aboard, while of the 
Guerri^re s crew, 267 prisoners were received aboard 
the Constitution ; deducting 10 who were Americans 
and would not fight, and adding the 15 killed out- 
right, we get 272 ; 28 men were absent in prizes. 


Broad- Comparative loss 

Tons. Guns. side. Men. Loss. Force. Indicted. 

Constitution 1576 27 684 456 14 1. 00 1. 00 

Guerriere 1338 25 556 272 79 .70 .18 

The loss of the Constitution included Lieutenant 

' Brenton, v, 51. 

' Los: of the Constitution. 





This diagram is taken from Commodore 
Morris' autobiography and the log of the 
Gicerriere ; the official accounts apparently 
consider "larboard" and "starboard" as 
interchangeable tenns. 








/ . 



• A 


e./s y X fso 



94 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

William S. Bush, of the marines, and six seamen 
killed, and her first lieutenant, Charles Morris, Mas- 
ter, John C. Alwyn, four seamen, and one marine, 
wounded. Total, seven killed and seven wounded. 
Almost all this loss occurred when the ships came 
foul, and was due to the Gucrrierc s musketry and 
the two guns in her bridle-ports. 

The Guerriere lost 23 killed and mortally wounded, 
including her second lieutenant, Henry Ready, and 
56 wounded severely and slightly, including Captain 
Dacres himself, the first lieutenant, Bartholomew 
Kent, Master, Robert Scott, two master's mates, 
and one midshipman. 

The third lieutenant of the ConstiUition, Mr. 
George Cam'pbell Read, was sent on board the prize, 
and the Const itittioii remained by her during the 
night ; but at daylight it was found that she was in 
danger of sinking. Captain Hull at once began re- 
moving the prisoners, and at three o'clock in the af- 
ternoon set the Guerrierc on fire, and in a quarter of 
an hour she blew up. He then set sail for Boston, 
where he arrived on August 30th. " Captain Hull 
and his officers," writes Captain Dacres in his ofifi- 
cial letter, " have treated us like brave and generous 
enemies ; the greatest care has been taken that we 
should not lose the smallest trifle." 

The British laid very great stress on the rotten 
and decayed condition of the Guerriere ; mention- 
ing in particular that the main-mast fell solely be- 
cause of the Vi^eight of the falling foremast. But it 
must be remembered that until the action occurred 
she was considered a very fine ship. Thus, in 
Brighton's " Memoir of Admiral Broke," it is de- 
clared that Dacres freely expressed the opinion that 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


she could take a ship in half the time the SJiannon 
could. The fall of the main-mast occurred when the 
fight was practically over; it had no influence what- 
ever on the conflict. It was also asserted that her 
powder was bad, but on no authority ; her first 
broadside fell short, but so, under similar circum- 
stances, did the first broadside of the United States. 
None of these causes account for the fact that her 
shot did not hit. Heropponent v/as of such superior 
force — nearly in the proportion of 3 to 2 — that suc- 
cess would have been very difficult in any event, and 
no one can doubt the gallantry and pluck with which 
the British ship was fought ; but the execution was 
very greatly disproportioned to the force. The gun- 
nery of the Giierriere was very poor, and that of the 
Constitution excellent ; during the few minutes the 
ships were yard-arm and yard-arm, the latter was not 
hulled once, while no less than 30 shot took effect 
on the former's engaged side,' five sheets of copper 
beneath the bends. The Giierriere, moreover, was 
out-manoeuvred ; '' in wearing several times and ex- 
changing broadsides in such rapid and continual 
changes of position, her fire was much more harm- 
less than it would have been if she had kept more 
steady." '" The Constitution was handled faultless- 
ly ; Captain Hull displayed the coolness and skill of 
a veteran in the way in which he managed, first to 
avoid being raked, and then to improve the advan- 
tage which the precision and rapidity of his fire had 
gained. '* After making every allowance claimed by 
the enemy, the character of this victory is not es- 
sentially altered. Its peculiarities were a fine dis- 

''■ Captain Dactes' address to the court-martial. 
^Lord Howard Douglass, *' Treatise on Naval Gunnery" (London, 
1851), p. 454. 

96 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

play of seamanship in the approach, extraordinary 
efficiency in the attack, and great readiness in re- 
pairing damages ; all of which denote cool and ca- 
pable officers, with an expert and trained crew; in a 
word, a disciplined man-of-war." ' The disparity of 
force, 10 to 7, is not enough to account for the dis- 
parity of execution, 10 to 2. Of course, something 
must be allowed for the decayed state of the Eng- 
lishman's masts, although I really do not think it 
had any influence on the battle, for he was beaten 
when the main-mast fell ; and it must be remem- 
bered, on the other hand, that the American crew 
was absolutely new, while the Guerriere was manned 
by old hands. So that, while admitting and admir- 
ing the gallantry, and, on the whole, the seamanship 
of Captain Dacres and his crew, and acknowledging 
that he fought at a great disadvantage, especially in 
being short-handed, yet all must acknowledge that 
the combat showed a marked superiority, particular- 
ly in gunnery, on the part of the Americans. Had 
the ships not come foul. Captain Hull would prob- 
ably not have lost more than three or four men ; as 
it was, he suffered but slightly. That the Guerriere 
was not so weak as she was represented to be can 
be gathered from the fact that she mounted two 
more main-deck guns than the rest of her class; thus 
carrying on her main-deck 30 long i8-pounders in 
battery, to oppose to the 30 long 24's, or rather (al- 
lowing for the short weight of shot) long 22*s, of the 
Constitution, Characteristically enough, James, 
though he carefully reckons in the long bow- 
chasers in the bridle-ports of the Argus and 
Enterprise^ yet refuses to count the two long 
* Cooper, ii, 173. 



eighteens mounted through the bridle-ports on the 
Guerrieres main-deck. Now, as it turned out, these 
two bow guns were used very effectively, when 
the ships got foul, and caused more damage and 
loss than all of the other main-deck guns put to- 

Captain Dacres, very much to his credit, allowed 
the ten Americans on board to go below, so as not 
to fight against their flag; and in his address to 
the court-martial mentions, among the reasons for 
his defeat, '' that he was very much weakened by 
permitting the Americans on board to quit their 
quarters." Coupling this with the assertion made 
by James and most other British writers that the 
Constit2Ltion was largely manned by Englishmen, we 
reach the somewhat remarkable conclusion, that the 
British ship was defeated because the Americans on 
board would not fight against their country, and 
that the American was victorious because the Brit- 
ish on board would. However, as I have shown, 
in reality there were probably not a score of British 
on board the Constitution. 

In this, as well as the two succeeding frigate ac- 
tions, every one must that there was a 
great superiority in force on the side of the victors, 
and British historians have insisted that this superi- 
ority was so great as to preclude any hopes of a 
successful resistance. That this was not true, and 
that the disparity between the combatants was not 
as great as had been the case in a number of en- 
counters in which English frigates had taken French 
ones, can be best shown by a few accounts taken 
from the French historian Troude, who would cer- 
tainly not exaggerate the difference. Thus on 


98 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

March i, 1799, the English 38-gun i8-pounder 
frigate Sybils captured the French 44-gun 24-pounder 
frigate Forte, after an action of two hours and ten 
minutes.' In actual weight the shot thrown by one 
of the main-deck guns of the defeated Forte was 
over six pounds heavier than the shot thrown by 
one of the main-deck guns of the victorious Consti- 
tution or United States?' 

There are later examples than this. But a very 
few years before the declaration of war by the 
United States, and in the same struggle that was 
then still raging, there had been at least two vic- 
tories gained by English frigates over French foes as 
superior to themselves as the American 44's were to 
the British ships they captured. On Aug 10, 1805, 
the Phoenix, 36, captured the Didon, 40, after 3|- 
hours' fighting, the comparative broadside force 
being :^ 



2X 9 




2X 8 


21 guns, 444 lbs. 

23 guns, 522 lbs. 
(nominal; about 
600, real). 

On March 8, 1808, the San Florenzo, 36, captured 
the Piedmontaise, 40, the force being exactly what it 
was in the case of the Phoenix and Didon? Com- 

^ "Batailles Navales de la France." O. Troude (Paris, 1868), iv, 
^ See Appendix B, for actual weight of French shot. 
"^ Ibid, J iii, 425. ^ Ibid., iii, 499. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. gg 

paring the real, not the nominal weight of metal, 
we find that the Didon and Piedmontaisc were 
proportionately of greater force compared to the 
Phoenix and San Florenzo, than the Constitution was 
compared to the Gnerriere or Java. The French 
i8's threw each a shot weighing but about two 
pounds less than that thrown by an American 24 of 
18 12, while their 36-pound carronades each threw a 
shot over 10 pounds heavier than that thrown by 
one of the Constitution s spar-deck 32's. 

That a 24-pounder can not always whip an 18- 
pounder frigate is shown by the action of the 
British frigate Eurotas with the French frigate 
Chlorinde, on Feb. 25, 1814.' The first with a crew 
of 329 men threw 625 pounds of shot at a broad- 
side, the latter carrying 344 men and throwing 463 
pounds; yet the result was indecisive. The French 
lost 90 and the British 60 men. The action showed 
that heavy metal was not of much use unless used 

To appreciate rightly the exultation Hull's vic- 
tory caused in the United States, and the intense 
annoyance it created in England, it must be re- 
membered that during the past twenty years the 
Island Power had been at war with almost every 
state in Europe, at one time or another, and in the 
course of about two hundred single conflicts be- 
tween ships of approximately equal force (that is, 
where the difference was less than one half), waged 
against French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Algerine, 
Russian, Danish, and Dutch antagonists, her ships 
had been beaten and captured in but five instances. 
Then war broke out with America, and in eight 

'James, vi, 391. 

100 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

months five single-ship actions occurred, in every 
one of which the Britisli vessel was captured. 
Even had the victories been due solely to superior 
force this would have been no mean triumph for 
the United States. 

On October 13, 18 12, the American i8-gun ship- 
sloop Wasp, Captain Jacob Jones, with 137 men 
aboard, sailed from the Delaware and ran off south- 
east to get into the track of the West India vessels ; 
on the 1 6th a heavy gale began to blow, causing the 
loss of the jib-boom and two men who were on it. 
The next day the weather moderated somewhat, 
and at 11.30 P. M., in latitude 37° N., longitude 65° 
W., several sail were descried.' These were part of 
a convoy of 14 merchant-men which had quitted the 
bay of Honduras on September 12th, bound for Eng- 
land," under the convoy of the British i8-gun brig- 
sloop Frolic, of 19 guns and no men. Captain 
Thomas Whinyates. They had been dispersed by 
the gale of the i6th, during which th^ Frolic s main- 
yard was carried away and both her top-sails torn to 
pieces ' ; next day she spent in repairing damages, 
and by dark six of the missing ships had joined her. 
The day broke alrriost cloudless on the 18th (Sun- 
day), showing the convoy, ahead and to leeward of 
the American ship, still some distance off, as Captain 
Jones had not thought it prudent to close during 
the night, while he was ignorant of the force of his 
antagonists. The Wasp now sent down her top-gal- 
lant yards, close reefed her top-sails, and bore down 
under short fighting canvas ; while the Frolic removed 

' Capt. Jones' official letter, Nov. 24, 1812. 

^ James' History, vi, 158. 

^ Capt. Whinyates' official letter, Oct. 18, 1812 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


ning of the fight.' A minute or two afterward both 
the Frolic s masts went by the board — the foremast 
about fifteen feet above the deck, the other short 
of?. Of her crew, as already said, not twenty men 
had escaped unhurt. Every officer was wounded ; 
two of them, the first Heutenant, Charles McKay, 
and master, John Stephens, soon died. Her total 
loss was thus over 90""; about 30 of whom were 
killed outright or died later. The Wasp suffered 
very severely in her rigging and aloft generally, but 
only two or three shots struck her hull ; five of her 
men were killed — two in her mizzen-top and one in 
her maintop-mast rigging — and five wounded,^ 
chiefly while aloft. 

The two vessels were practically of equal force. 
The loss of the Frolic s main-yard had merely con- 
verted her into a brigantine, and, as the roughness 
of the sea made it necessary to fight under very 
short canvas, her inferiority in men was fully com- 
pensated for by her superiority in metal. She had 
been desperately defended ; no men could have 
fought more bravely than Captain Whinyates and 
his crew. On the other hand, the Americans had 
done their work with a coolness and skill that could 
not be surpassed ; the contest had been mainly one 
of gunnery, and had been decided by the greatly 
superior judgment and accuracy with which they 
fired. Both officers and crew had behaved well ; 
Captain Jones particularly mentions Lieutenant 
Claxton, who, though too ill to be of any service, 

^ Capt. Jones' letter. 

^ Capt, Whinyates' official letter thus states it, and is, of course, to 
be taken as authority ; the Bermuda account makes it 69, and James 
only 62. 

" Capt. Jones' letter. 

I04 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

persisted in remaining on deck throughout the en- 
gagement. DIAGRAM/ 


1132 f 


II. *2 

X'W 12.00 


Yi F/iOL/C 

" 12.15 

' It is difficult to reconcile the accounts of the manoeuvres in this 
action. James says "larboard" where Cooper says ''starboard"; 
one says the Wasp wore, the other says that she could not do so, etc. 

The Wasp was armed with 2 long 12's and 16 
32-pound carronades ; the Frolic with 2 long 6's, 16 
32-pound carronades, and i shifting 12-pound car- 


Tons. No. Guns. Weight Metal. Crews. Loss. 
Wasp 450 9 250 135 10 

Frolic 467 10 274 no 90 

Vice-Admiral Jurien de la Graviere comments on 
this action as follows ^: 

" The American fire showed itself to be as accu- 
rate as it was rapid. On occasions when the rough- 
ness of the sea would seem to render all aim exces- 

*" Guerres Maritimes," ii, 287 (Septieme Edition, Paris, 1881). 



sively uncertain, the effects of their artillery were 
not less murderous than under more advantageous 
conditions. The corvette Wasp fought the brig 
Frolic in an enormous sea, under very short canvas, 
and yet, forty minutes after the beginning of the 
action, when the two vessels came together, the 
Americans who leaped aboard the brig found on the 
deck, covered with dead and dying, but one brave 
man, who had not left the wheel, and three officers, 
all wounded, who threw down their swords at the 
feet of the victors." Admiral de la Graviere's criti- 
cisms are especially valuable, because they are those 
of an expert, who only refers to the war of 1812 in 
order to apply to the French navy the lessons which 
it teaches, and who is perfectly unprejudiced. He 
cares for the lesson taught, not the teacher, and is 
quite as willing to learn from the defeat of the 
Chesapeake as from the victories of the Constitution 
— while most American critics only pay heed to the 

The characteristics of the action are the practical 
equality of the contestants in point of force and 
the enormous disparity in the damage each suffered ; 
numerically, the Wasp was superior by 5 per cent., 
and inflicted a ninefold greater loss. 

Captain Jones was not destined to bring his prize 
into port, for a few hours afterward the Poictiers, a 
British 74, Captain John Poer Beresford, hove in 
sight. Now appeared the value of the Frolic s des- 
perate defence; if she could not prevent herself 
from being captured, she had at least ensured her 
own recapture, and also the capture of the foe. 
When the Wasp shook out her sails they were 
found to be cut into ribbons aloft, and she could 

I06 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

not make off with sufficient speed. As the Poictiers 
passed the Frolic^ rolling like a log in the water, she 
threw a shot over her, and soon overtook the Wasp. 
Both vessels were carried into Bermuda. Captain 
Whinyates was again put in command of the Frolic, 
Captain Jones and his men were soon exchanged ; 
25,000 dollars prize-money was voted them by Con- 
gress, and the Captain and Lieutenant Biddle were 
both promoted, the former receiving the captured 
ship Macedonian. Unluckily the blockade was too 
close for him to succeed in getting out during the 
remainder of the war. 

On Oct. 8th Commodore Rodgers left Boston on 
his second cruise, with the President, United States, 
Congress, and Argus ^ leaving the Hornet in port. 
Four days out, the United States and Argus sepa- 
rated, while the remaining two frigates continued 
their cruise together. The Argiis^ Captain Sinclair, 
cruised to the eastward, making prizes of 6 valua- 
ble merchant-men, and returned to port on January 
3d. During the cruise she was chased for three 
days and three nights (the latter being moonlight) 
by a British squadron, and was obliged to cut away 
her boats and anchors and start some of her water. 
But she saved her guns, and was so cleverly han- 
dled that during the chase she actually succeeding 
in taking and manning a prize, though the enemy 
got near enough to open fire as the vessels sepa- 
rated. Before relating what befell the United States, 
we shall bring Commodore Rodgers' cruise to an 

On Oct. loth the Commodore chased, but failed 

^ Letter of Commodore Rodgers, Jan. I, 1813. 
* Letter of Capt. Arthur Sinclair, Jan. 4, 1813. 



to overtake, the British frigate Nymphe, 38, Captain 
Epworth. On the 18th, off the great Bank of New- 
foundland, he captured the Jamaica packet Szval- 
lozu, homeward bound, with 200,000 dollars in 
specie aboard. On the 31st, at 9 A.M., lat. 33° N., 
long. 32"^ W., his two frigates fell in with the British 
frigate Galatea, 36, Captain Woodley Losack, con- 
voying two South Sea ships, to windward. The 
Galatea ran down to reconnoitre, and at 10 A. M., 
recognizing her foes, hauled up on the starboard 
tack to escape. The American frigates made all sail 
in chase, and continued beating to windward, tack- 
ing- several times, for about three hours. Seeing 
that she was being overhauled, the Galatea now 
edged away to get on her best point of sailing ; at 
the same moment one of her convoy, the Argo, 
bore up to cross the hawse of her foes, but was in- 
tercepted by the Congress^vjho lay to to secure her. 
Meanwhile the President kept after the Galatea; 
she set her top-mast, top-gallant m.ast and lower 
studding-sails, and when it was dusk had gained 
greatly upon her. But the night was very dark, 
the President lost sight of the chase, and, toward 
midnight, hauled to the wind to rejoin her consort. 
The two frigates cruised to the east as far as 22° W., 
and then ran down to 17° N. ; but during the month 
of November they did not see a sail. They had 
but slightly better luck on their return toward 
home. Passing 120 miles north of Bermuda, and 
cruising a little while toward the Virginia capes, 
they reentered Boston on Dec. 31st, having made 
9 prizes, most of them of little value. 

When four days out, on Oct. 12th, Commodore 
Decatur had separated from the rest of Rodgers' 

I08 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

squadron and cruised east ; on the 25th, in lat. 29° 
N., and long. 29° 30', W. while going close-hauled on 
the port tack, with the wind fresh from the S. S. 
E., a sail was descried on the weather beam, 
about 12 miles distant/ This was the British 38- 
gun frigate Macedonian, Captain John Surnam Car- 
den. She was not, like the Giterriere, an old ship 
captured from the French, but newly built of oak, 
and larger than any American i8-pounder frigate; 
she was reputed (very wrongfully) to be a '' crack 
ship." According to Lieut. David Hope, " the 
state of discipline on board was excellent ; in no 
British ship was more attention paid to gunnery. 
Before this cruise the ship had been engaged almost 
every day with the enemy ; and in time of peace 
the crew were constantly exercised at the great 
guns." ^ How they could have practised so much 
and learned so little is certainly marvellous. 

The Macedonian set her foretop-mast and top- 
gallant studding sails and bore away in chase, ^ edg- 
ing down with the wind a little aft the starboard 
beam. Her first lieutenant wished to continue on 
this course and pass down ahead of the United 
States,* but Captain Carden's over-anxiety to keep the 
weather-gage lost him this opportunity of closing.^ 
Accordingly he hauled by the wind and passed 
way to windward of the American. As Commo- 
dore Decatur ^ot within range, he eased off and 
fired a broadside, most of which fell short^ ; he then 

' Official letter of Commodore Decatur, Oct. 30, 1812. 
^ Marshall's " Naval Biography," vol. iv, p. 1018. 
^'Capt. Garden to Mr. Croker, Oct, 28, 1812. 
''James, vi, 166. 

^ Sentence of Court-martial held on the San Domingo, 74, at the 
Bermudas, May 27, 1812. ^Marshall, iv, 1080. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


kept his luff, and, the next time he fired, his long 24's 
told heavily, while he received very little injury 
himself.' The fire from his main-deck (for he did 
not use his carronades at all for the first half hour)' 
was so very rapid that it seemed as if the ship was 
on fire ; his broadsides were delivered with almost 
twice the rapidity of those of the Englishman." 
The latter soon found he could not play at long 
bowls with any chance of success ; and, having al- 
ready erred either from timidity or bad judgment, 
Captain Garden decided to add rashness to the cat- 
alogue of his virtues. Accordingly he bore up, and 
came down end on toward his adversary, with the 
wind on his port quarter. The States now (10.15) 
laid her main-topsail aback and made heavy play 
with her long guns, and, as her adversary came 
nearer, with her carronades also. The British ship 
would reply with her starboard guns, hauling up to 
do so ; as she came down, the American would ease 
off, run a little way and again come to, keeping up 
a terrific fire. As the Macedonian bore down to 
close, the chocks of all her forecastle guns (which 
were mounted on the outside) were cut away* ; her 
fire caused some damage to the American's rigging, 
but hardly touched her hull, while she herself suf- 
fered so heavily both alow and aloft that she grad- 
ually dropped to leeward, while the American fore- 
reached on her. Finding herself ahead and to 
windward, the States tacked and ranged up under 
her adversary's lee, when the latter struck her col- 
ors at II. 15, just an hour and a half after the be- 
ginning of the action.' 

' Cooper, ii, 178, ^ Letter of Commodore Decatur. 

^ James, vi, 169. ' Letter of Captain Garden. 

* Letter of Commodore Decatur. 

no NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The United States had suffered surprisingly little; 
what damage had been done was aloft. Her mizzen 
top-gallant mast was cut away, some of the spars 
were wounded, and the rigging a good deal cut ; the 
hull was only struck two or three times. The ships 
were never close enough to be within fair range of 
grape and musketry,^ and the wounds were mostly 
inflicted by round shot and were thus apt to be 
fatal. Hence the loss of the Americans amounted 
to Lieutenant John Messer Funk (5th of the ship) 
and six seamen killed or mortally wounded, and 
only five severely and slightly wounded. 

The Macedonian, on the other hand, had received 
over a hundred shot in her hull, several between 
wind and water ; her mizzen-mast had gone by the 
board ; her fore- and maintop-masts had been shot 
away by the caps, and her main-yard in the slings; 
almost all her rigging was cut away (only the fore- 
sail being left); on the engaged side all of her car- 
ronades but two, and two of her main-deck guns, were 
dismounted. Of her crew 43 were killed and mor- 
tally wounded, and 61 (including her first and third 
lieutenants) severely and slightly wounded."" Among 
her crew were eight Americans (as shown by her 
muster-roll) ; these asked permission to go below 
before the battle, but it was refused by Captain 
Garden, and three were killed during the action. 
James says that they were allowed to go below, but 
this is untrue ; for if they had, the three would not 
have been slain. The others testified that they had 
been forced to fight, and they afterward entered 
the American service — the only ones of the Macedo- 
nians crew who did, or who were asked to. 

* JLetter of Commodore Decatur. "^ Letter of Captain Cardeu. 





/ k 5 


/ 5 

g ,-•-■ 


UJ \ 


NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

The Macedonian had her full complement of 301 
men ; the States had, by her muster-roll of October 
20th, 428 officers, petty officers, seamen, and boys, 
and 50 officers and privates of marines, a total of 
478 (instead of 509 as Marshall in his " Naval Bi- 
ography " makes it). 





Men. Loss. 

United States 




478 12 





301 104 


Comparative Loss 







That is, the relative force being about as three is 
to two,' the damage done was as nine to one ! 

Of course, it would have been almost impossible 
for the Macedonian to conquer with one third less 
force ; but the disparity was by no means sufficient 
to account for the ninefold greater loss suffered, and 
the ease and impunity with which the victory was 
won. The British sailors fought with their accus- 
tomed courage, but their gunnery was exceedingly 

^ I have considered the United States as mounting her full allowance 
of 54 guns ; but it is possible that she had no more than 49. In 
Decatur's letter of challenge of Jan. 17, 1814 (which challenge, by 
the way, was a most blustering affair, reflecting credit neither on De- 
catur, nor his opponent. Captain Hope, nor on any one else, excepting 
Captain Stackpole of H. M. S. Statira), she is said to have had that 
number ; her broadside would then be 15 long 24's below, i long 24, 
1 l2-pound, and 8 42'pound carronades above. Her real broadside 
weight of metal would thus be about 680 lbs., and she would be su- 
perior to the Macedonian in the proportion of 5 to 4. But it is possi- 
ble that Decatur had landed some of his guns ini8i3, as James asserts ; 
and though I am not at all sure of this, I have thought it best to be 
on the safe side in describing his force. 



poor; and it must be remembered that though the 
ship was bravely fought, still the defence was by no 
means so desparate as that made by the Essex or 
even the Chesapeake, as witnessed by their respective 
losses. The Macedonian, m.oreover, was surrendered 
when she had suffered less damage than either the 
Guerriere or Java. The chief cause of her loss lay 
in the fact that Captain Garden was a poor comman- 
der. The gunnery of the Java, Gtierriere, and Mace- 
donian was equally bad ; but while Captain Lambert 
proved himself to be as able as he was gallant, and 
Captain Dacres did nearly as well. Captain Carden, 
on the other hand, was first too timid, and then too 
rash, and showed bad judgment at all times. By 
continuing his original course he could have closed 
at once ; but he lost his chance by over-anxiety to 
keep the weather-gage, and was censured by the 
court-martial accordingly. Then he tried to remedy 
one error by another, and made a foolishly rash ap- 
proach. A very able and fair-minded English 
writer says of this action: ''As a display of cour- 
age the character of the service was nobly upheld, 
but we would be deceiving ourselves were we to ad- 
mit that the comparative expertness of the crews in 
gunnery was equally satisfactory. Now, taking the 
difference of effect as given by Captain Carden, we 
must draw this conclusion — that the comparative 
loss in killed and wounded (104 to 12), together with 
the dreadful account he gives of the condition of his 
own ship, while he admits that the enemy's vessel 
was in comparatively good order, must have arisen 
from inferiority in gunnery as well as in force." ^ 
On the other hand, the American crew, even ac- 

*Lord Howard Douglass, " Naval Gunnery," p. 525. 

114 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

cording to James, were as fine a set of men as ever 
were seen on shipboard. Though not one fourth 
were British by birth, yet many of them had served 
on board British ships of war, in some cases volun- 
tarily, but much more often because they were im- 
pressed. They had been trained at the guns with 
the greatest care by Lieutenant Allen. And final- 
ly Commodore Decatur handled his ship with ab- 
solute faultlessness. To sum up : a brave and 
skilful crew, ably commanded, was matched against 
an equally brave but unskilful one, with an in- 
competent leader ; and this accounts for the dis- 
parity of loss being so much greater than the dis- 
parity in force. 

At the outset of this battle the position of the 
parties was just the reverse of that in the case of the 
Constitution and Giierriere ; the Englishman had the 
advantage of the wind, but he used it in a very dif- 
ferent manner from that in which Captain Hull had 
done. The latter at once ran down to close, but 
manoeuvred so cautiously that no damage could be 
done him till he was within pistol shot. Captain 
Carden did not try to close till after fatal indecision, 
and then made the attempt so heedlessly that he was 
cut to pieces before he got to close quarters. Com- 
modore Decatur, also, manoeuvred more skilfully 
than Captain Dacres, although the difference was 
less marked between these two. The combat was 
a plain cannonade ; the States derived no advantage 
from the superior number of her men, for they were 
not needed. The marines in particular had nothing 
whatever to do, while they had been of the greatest 
service against the Giierriere. The advantage was 
simply in metal, as lo is to 7. Lord Howard Doug- 


lass' criticisms on these actions seem to me only ap- 
plicable in part. He says (p. 524) : " The Americans 
would neither approach nor permit us to join in 
close battle until they had gained some extra- 
ordinary advantage from the superior faculties of 
their long guns in distant cannonade, and from the 
intrepid, uncircum.spect, and often very exposed ap- 
proach of assailants who had long been accustomed 
to contemn all manoeuvring. Our vessels were 
crippled in distant cannonade from encountering 
rashly the serious disadvantage of making direct at- 
tacks ; the uncircumspect gallantry of our com- 
manders led our ships unguardedly into the snares 
which wary caution had spread." 

These criticisms are very just as regards the 
Macedonian, and I fully agree with them (possibly 
reserving the right to doubt Captain Garden's gal- 
lantry, though readily admitting his uncircumspec- 
tion). But the case of the Gnerriere differed widely. 
There the American ship made the attack, while the 
British at first avoided close combat ; and, so far 
from trying to cripple her adversary by a distant 
cannonade, the Constitiition hardly fired a dozen 
times until within pistol shot. This last point is 
worth mentioning, because in a work on " Heavy 
Ordnance," by Captain T. F. Simmons, R. A. (Lon- 
don, 1837), it is stated that the Gnerriere received 
her injuries before the closing, mentioning especially 
the " thirty shot below the water-line " ; whereas, by 
the official accounts of both commanders, the reverse 
was the case. Captain Hull, in his letter, and Lieu- 
tenant Morris, (in his autobiography) say they only 
fired a few guns before closing ; and Captain Dacres, 
in his letter, and Captain Brenton, in his '' History," 

Il6 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

say that not much injury was received by the Guer- 
riere until about the time the mizzen-mast fell, 
which was three or four minutes after close action 

Lieutenant Allen was put aboard the Macedonian 
as prize-master ; he secured the fore- and main-masts 
and rigged a jury mizzen-mast, converting the vessel 
into a bark. Commodore Decatur discontinued his 
cruise to convoy his prize back to America ; they 
reached New London Dec. 4th. Had it not been 
for the necessity of convoying the Macedonian^ 
the States would have continued her cruise, for 
the damage she suffered was of the most trifling 

Captain Carden stated (in Marshall's *' Naval 
Biography ") that the States measured 1,670 tons, 
was manned by 509 men, suffered so from shot 
under water that she had to be pumped out every 
watch, and that two eighteen-pound shot passed in 
a horizontal line through her main-masts; all of 
which statements were highly creditable to the 
vividness of his imagination. The States measured 
but 1,576 tons (and by English measurement very 
much less), had 478 men aboard, had not been 
touched by a shot under water-line, and her lower 
masts were unwounded. James states that most 
of her crew were British, which assertion I have 
already discussed ; and that she had but one boy 
aboard, and that he was seventeen years old, — 
in which case 29 others, some of whom (as we learn 
from the '' Life of Decatur ") were only twelve, must 
have grown with truly startling rapidity during the 
hour and a half that the combat lasted. 

During the twenty years preceding 18 12 there 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 11/ 

had been almost incessant warfare on the ocean, and 
although there had been innumerable single con- 
flicts between French and English frigates, there 
had been but one case in which the French frigate, 
single-handed, was victorious. This was in the 
year 1805 when the Milan captured the Cleopatra. 
According to Troude, the former threw at a broad- 
side 574 pounds (actual), the latter but 334; and the 
former lost 35 men out of her crew of 350, the lat- 
ter 58 out of 200. Or, the forces being as 100 to 
58, the loss inflicted was as 100 to 60 ; while the 
States force compared to the Maceelonians being 
as 100 to 66, the loss she inflicted was as 100 to 11. 

British ships, moreover, had often conquered 
against odds as _great ; as, for instance, when the Sea 
Horse captured the great Turkish frigate Badere- 
Zaffer ; when the Astrea captured the French frig- 
ate G loir e, which threw at a broadside 286 pounds of 
shot, while she threw but 174; and when, most 
glorious of all. Lord Dundonald, in the gallant little 
Speedy, actually captured the Spanish xebec Gaino, 
of over five times her own force ! Similarly, the 
corvette Comiis captured the Danish frigate Frcd- 
rickscoarn, the brig Onyx captured the Dutch sloop 
Manly, the little cutter Thorn captured the French 
Courier-National, and the Pasley the Spanish Virgin ; 
while there had been many instances of drawn bat- 
tles between English 12-pound frigates and French 
or Spanish i8-pounders. 

Captain Hull having resigned thecommand of the 
Constitution, she was given to Captain Bainbridge, 
of the Constellation, who was also entrusted with the 
command of the Essex and Hornet. The latter ship 
was in the port of Boston with the Constitution, un- 

Il8 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

der the command of Captain Lawrence. The Essex 
was in the Delaware, and accordingly orders were 
sent to Captain Porter to rendezvous at the Island of 
San Jago ; if that failed several other places were 
appointed, and if, after a certain time, he did not 
fall in with his commodore he was to act at his own 

On October 26th the Constitution and Hornet 
sailed, touched at the different rendezvous, and on 
December 13th arrived off San Salvador, where Cap- 
tain Lawrence found the Bonne Citoyenne^ 18, Cap- 
tain Pitt Barnaby Greene. The Bonne Citoyenne 
was armed with 18 32-pound carronades and 2 long 
nines, and her crew of 150 men was exactly equal in 
number to that of th.^ Hornet ; the latter's short 
weight in metal made her antagonist superior to 
her in about the same proportion that she her- 
self was subsequently superior to the Penguin, or, in 
other words, the ships were practically equal. Cap- 
tain Lawrence now challenged Captain Greene to 
single fight, giving the usual pledges that the Con- 
stitution should not interfere. The challenge was 
not accepted for a variety of reasons ; among others 
the Bonne Citoyenne was carrying home half a mil- 
lion pounds in specie.' Leaving the Hornet to 

^ Brenton and James both deny that Captain Greene was blockaded 
by the Hornet , and claim that he feared the' C(?«j///'«//c>;z. James 
says (p. 275) that the occurrence was one which " the characteristic 
cunning of Americans turned greatly to their advantage " ; and adds 
that Lawrence only sent the challenge because " it could not be ac- 
cepted," and so he would " suffer no personal risk." He states that 
the reason it was sent, as well as the reason that it was refused, was 
because the Constiiiitioit was going to remain in the ofifing and cap- 
ture the British ship if she proved conqueror. It is somewhat sur- 
prising that even James should have had the temerity to advance such 
arguments , according to his own account (p. 277) the Constitution 
left for Boston on Jan. 6th, and the Hornet remained blockading the 
Bonne Citoyenne till the 24th, when the Montagu, 74, arrived. Dur- 
ing these eighteen days there could have been no possible chance of 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 19 

blockade her, Commodore Bainbridge ran off to the 
southward, keeping the land in view. 

At 9 A.M., Dec. 29, 1812, while the Constitution 
was running along the coast of Brazil, about thirty 
miles off shore in latitude 13° 6' S., and longitude 
31° W., two strange sail were made,' inshore and to 
windward. These were H. B. M. frigate jfava, 
Captain Lambert, forty-eight days out of Spithead, 
England, with the captured ship William in com- 
pany. Directing the latter to make-for San Salva- 
dor, the Java bore down in chase of the Constitu- 
tion^ The wind was blowing light from the 
N.N.E., and there was very little sea on. At 10 
the Java made the private signals, English, Span- 
ish, and Portuguese in succession, none being an- 
swered ; meanwhile the Constitution was standing up 
toward the Java on the starboard tack ; a little 
after 1 1 she hoisted her private signal, and then, 
being satisfied that the strange sail was an enemy, 
she wore and stood off toward the S. E., to draw her 
antagonist away from the land,^ which was plainly 
visible. The Java hauled up, and made sail in a 
parallel course, the Constitution bearing about three 
points on her lee bow. The Java gained rapidly, 
being much the swifter. 

At 1.30 the Constitution luffed up, shortened her 

the Constitution or any other ship interfering, and it is ridiculous to 
suppose that any such fear kept Captain Greene from sailing out to 
attack his foe. No doubt Captain Greene's course was perfectly jus- 
tifiable, but it is curious that with all the assertions made by James 
as to the cowardice of the Americans, this is the only instance through- 
out the war in which a ship of either party declined a contest with an 
antagonist of equal force (the cases of Commodore Rodgers and Sir 
George Collier being evidently due simply to an overestimate of the 
opposing ships.) 

^ Official letter of Commodore Bainbridge, Jan. 3, 1813. 

^ Ofi&cial letter of Lieutenant Chads, Dec. 31, 1812. 

^ Log of the Constitution. 

120 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

canvas to top-sails, top-gallant sails, jib, and spanker, 
and ran easily off on the port tack, heading toward 
the southeast ; she carried her commodore's pen- 
dant at the main, national ensigns at the mizzen- 
peak and main top-gallant mast-head, and a Jack at 
the fore. The Java also had taken in the main-sail 
and royals, and came down in a lasking course on 
her adversary's weather-quarter,' hoisting her ensign 
at the mizzen-peak, a union Jack at the mizzen top- 
gallant mast-head, and another lashed to the main- 
riggiiig- At 2 P. M., the Constitution fired a shot 
ahead of her, following it quickly by a broadside,^ 
and the two ships began at long bowls, the English 
firing the lee or starboard battery while the 
Americans replied with their port guns. The can- 
nonade was very spirited on both sides, the ships 
suffering about equally. The first broadside of the 
Java was very destructive, killing and wounding 
several of the Constitittion s crew. The Java kept 
edging down, and the action continued, with grape 
and musketry in addition ; the swifter British ship 
soon forereached and kept away, intending to 
wear across her slower antagonist's bow and rake 
her; but the latter wore in the smoke, and the two 
combatants ran off to the westward, the Englishman 
still a-weather and steering freer than the Constitu- 
tion^ which had luffed to close. ^ The action went 
on at pistol-shot distance. In a few minutes, how- 
ever, the Java again forged ahead, out of the 
weight of her adversary's fire, and then kept off, as 
before, to cross her bows ; and, as before, the Con- 
stitution avoided this by wearing, both ships again 

^ Lieutenant Chads' Address to the Court-martial, April 23, 1813. 
* Commodore Bainbridge's letter. ^ Log of the Constitution^ 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 121 

coming round with their heads to the east, the 
American still to leeward. The Java kept the 
weather-gage tenaciously, forereaching a little, 
and whenever the Constitution luffed up to close,* 
the former tried to rake her. But her gunnery was 
now poor, little damage being done by it ; most of 
the loss the Americans suffered was early in the 
action. By setting her foresail and main-sail the 
Constitution got up close on the enemy's lee beam, 
her fire being very heavy and carrying away the 
end of the Java s bowsprit and her jib-boom." The 
Constitution forged ahead and repeated her former 
manoeuvre, wearing in the smoke. The Java at 
once hove in stays, but owing to the loss of head- 
sail fell off very slowly, and the American frigate 
poured a heavy raking broadside into her stern, at 
about two cables' length distance. The Java re- 
plied with her port guns as she fell off.^ Both 
vessels then bore up and ran ofT free, with the wind 
on the port quarter ; the Java being abreast and to 
windward of her antagonist, both with their heads a 
little east of south. The ships were less than a 
cable's length apart, and the Constitution inflicted 
great damage while suffering very little herself. 
The British lost many men by the musketry of the 
American topmen, and suffered still more from the 
round and grape, especially on the forecastle,* many 
marked instances of valor being shown on both 
sides. The Java s masts were wounded and her 
rigging cut to pieces, and Captain Lambert then 
ordered her to be laid aboard the enemy, who was 

' Log of the Constiiuiion. ^ Lieutenant Chads' letter. 

^ Lieutenant Chads' letter. 

* Testimony of Christopher Speedy, in minutes of the Court-mar- 
tial on board PL M. S. Gladiator, at Portsmouth, April 23, 1813. 

122 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

on her lee beam. The helm was put a-weather, and 
the Java came down for the Constitution s main- 
chains. The boarders and marines gathered in the 
gangways and on the forecastle, the boatswain 
having been ordered to cheer them up with his pipe 
that they might make a clean spring.' The Ameri- 
cans, however, raked the British with terrible effect, 
cutting off their main top-mast above the cap, and 
their foremast near the cat harpings.^ The stump 
of the Javas bowsprit got caught in the Constitu- 
tion s mizzen-rigging, and before it got clear the Brit- 
ish suffered still more. 

Finally the ships separated, the Java s bowsprit 
passing over the taffrail of the Consiitiition ; the 
latter at once kept away to avoid being raked. 
The ships again got nearly abreast, but the Consti- 
tution, in her turn, forereached ; whereupon Commo- 
dore Bainbridge wore, passed his antagonist, luffed 
up under his quarter, raked him with the starboard 
guns, then wore, and recommenced the action with 
his port broadside at about 3.10. Again the vessels 
were abreast, and the action went on as furiously as 
ever. The wreck of the top hamper on the Java lay 
over her starboard side, so that every discharge of 
her guns set her on fire,^ and in a few minutes her 
able and gallant commander was mortally wounded 
by a ball fired by one of the American main-top- 
men." The command then devolved on the first 
lieutenant. Chads, himself painfully wounded. The 
slaughter had been terrible, yet the British fought 
on with stubborn resolution, cheering lustily. But 
success was now hopeless, for nothing could stand 
against the cool precision of the Yankee fire. The 

^ Testimony of James Humble, in do., do. ^ Log of Constitution. 
^ Lieut. Chads' Address. * Surgeon J. C. Jones' Report. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 1 23 

stump of the Java s foremast was carried away by 
a double-headed shot, the mizzen-mast fell, the gaff 
and spanker boom were shot away, also the main- 
yard, and finally the ensign was cut down by a shot, 
and all her guns absolutely silenced ; when at 4.05 
the Constitution, thinking her adversary had struck,' 
ceased firing, hauled aboard her tacks, and passed 
across her adversary's bows to windward, with her 
top-sails, jib, and spanker set. A few minutes after- 
ward the Javas main-mast fell, leaving her a sheer 
hulk. The Cojistitution assumed a weatherly posi- 
tion, and spent an hour in repairing damages and 
securing her masts ; then she wore and stood tow- 
ard her enemy, whose flag was again flying, but 
only for bravado, for as soon as the Constitution 
stood across her forefoot she struck. At 5.25 she 
was taken possession of by Lieutenant Parker, 1st 
of the Constitution, in one of the latter's only two 
remaining boats. 

The American ship had suffered comparatively 
little. But a few round shot had struck her hull, 
one of which carried away the wheel; one 18- 
pounder went through the mizzen-mast ; the fore- 
mast, main-top-mast, and a few other spars were 
slightly wounded, and the running rigging and 
shrouds were a good deal cut ; but in an hour she 
was again in good fighting trim. Her loss amounted 
to 8 seamen and i marine killed ; the 5th lieuten- 
ant, John C. Aylwin, and 2 seamen, mortally, 
Commodore Bainbridge and 12 seamen, severely, 
and 7 seamen and 2 marines, slightly wounded ; 
in all 12 killed and mortally wounded, and 22 
wounded severely and slightly.^ 

' Log of the Constitution (as given in Bainbridge's letter). 
^ Report of Surgeon Amos E. Evans. 

124 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

" The Java sustained unequalled Injuries beyond 
the Constitution,'' says the British account.' These 
have already been given in detail ; she was a riddled 
and entirely dismasted hulk. Her loss (for discus- 
sion of which see farther on) was 48 killed (includ- 
ing Captain Henry Lambert, who died soon after 
the close of the action, and five midshipmen), and 
102 wounded, among them Lieutenant Henry Ducie 
Chads, Lieutenant of Marines David Davies, Com- 
mander John Marshall, Lieut. James Saunders, the 
boatswain, James Humble, master, Batty Robinson, 
and four midshipmen. 

In this action both ships displayed equal gal- 
lantry and seamanship. " The Java,'' says Com- 
modore Bainbridge, "was exceedingly well handled 
and bravely fought. Poor Captain Lambert was a 
distinguished and gallant of^cer, and a most worthy 
man, whose death I sincerely regret." The ma- 
noeuvring on both sides was excellent ; Captain 
Lambert used the advantage which his ship pos- 
sessed in her superior speed most skilfully, always 
endeavoring to run across his adversary's bows and 
rake him when he had forereached, and it was only 
owing to the equal skill which his antagonist dis- 
played that he was foiled, the length of the com- 
bat being due to the number of evolutions. The 
great superiority of the Americans was in their 
gunnery. The fire of the Java was both less rapid 
and less well directed than that of her antagonist; 
the difference of force against her was not heavy, 
being about as ten is to nine, and was by no means 
enough to account for the almost fivefold greater 
loss she suffered. 

^ " Naval Chronicle," xxix, 452. 

c o 













1 / 

i * 
• f 


126 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The foregoing is a diagram of the battle. It dif- 
fers from both of the official accounts, as these con- 
flict greatly both as to time and as regards some of 
the evolutions. I generally take the mean in cases 
of difference; for example, Commodore Bainbridge's 
report makes the fight endure but I hour and 55 
minutes, Lieutenant Chads' 2 hours and 25 minutes : 
I have made it 2 hours and 10 minutes, etc., etc. 

The tonnage and weight of metal of the comba- 
tants have already been stated ; I will give the 
complements shortly. The following is the 




Weight Metal. 

No. Men. Loss. 



475 34 



426 150 


Relative Loss 







In hardly another action of the war do the ac- 
counts of the respective forces differ so widely ; the 
official British letter makes their total of men at the 
beginning of the action 377, of whom Commodore 
Bainbridge officially reports that he paroled 378 ! 
The British state their loss in killed and mortally 
wounded at 24 ; Commodore Bainbridge reports that 
the dead alone amounted to nearly 60 ! Usually I 
have taken each commander's account of his own 
force and loss, and I should do so now if it were not 
that the British accounts differ among themselves, 
and whenever they relate to the Americans, are flat- 



ly contradicted by the affidavits of the latter's offi- 
cers. The British first handicap themselves by the 
statement that the surgeon of the Constitution was 
an Irishman and lately an assistant surgeon in the 
British navy ('' Naval Chronicle," xxix, 452) ; which 
draws from Surgeon Amos E. Evans a solemn state- 
ment in the Boston Gazette that he was born in 
Maryland and was never in the British navy in his 
life. Then Surgeon Jones of the Java, in his offi- 
cial report, after giving his own killed and mortally 
wounded at 24, says that the Americans lost in all 
about 60, and that 4 of their amputations perished 
under his own eyes ; whereupon Surgeon Evans 
makes the statement {Niles Register, vi, p. 35), 
backed up by affidavits of his brother officers, 
that in all he had but five amputations, of whom 
only one died, and that one, a month after Surgeon 
Jones had left the ship. To meet the assertions of 
Lieutenant Chads that he began action with but 
377 men, the Constitutions officers produced the 
Java's muster-roll, dated Nov. 17th, or five days 
after she had sailed, which showed 446 persons, of 
whom 20 had been put on board a prize. The 
presence of this large number of supernumeraries on 
board is explained by the fact that the Javci was 
carrying out Lieutenant-General Hislop, the newly- 
appointed Governor of Bombay, and his suite, to- 
gether with part of the crews for the Cormvallis, 74, 
and gun-sloops Chameleon and Icarus; she also con- 
tained stores for those two ships. 

Besides conflicting with the American reports, the 
British statements contradict one another. The 
official published report gives but two midshipmen 
as killed : while one of the volumes of the " Naval 

128 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Chronicle " (vol. xxix, p. 452) contains a letter from 
one of the Javas lieutenants, in which he states 
that there were five. Finally, Commodore Bain- 
bridge found on board the Constitution, after the 
prisoners had left, a letter from Lieutenant H. D. 
Cornick, dated Jan. i, 181 5, and addressed to Lieu- 
tenant Peter V. Wood, 22d R.egiment, foot, in which 
he states that 65 of their men were killed. James 
(" Naval Occurrences ") gets around this by stat- 
ing that it was probably a forgery ; but, aside from 
the improbability of Commodore Bainbridge being a 
forger, this could not be so, for nothing would have 
been easier than for the British lieutenant to have 
denied having written it, which he never did. On 
the other hand, it would be very likely that in the 
heat of the action. Commodore Bainbridge and the 
Java's own officers should overestimate the latter's 

Taking all these facts into consideration, we find 
446 men on board the Java by her own muster-list ; 
378 of these were paroled by Commodore Bainbridge 
at San Salvador; 24 men were acknowledged by 
the enemy to be killed or mortally wounded ; 20 
were absent in a prize, leaving 24 unaccounted 
for, who were undoubtedly slain. 

The British loss was thus 48 men killed and 
mortally wounded, and 102 wounded severely and 
slightly. The Java was better handled and more 
desperately defended than the Macedonian or even 

^ For an account of the shameless corruption then existing in the 
Naval Administration of Great Britian, see Lord Dundonald's "Auto- 
biography of a seaman." The letters of the commanders were often 
garbled, as is mentioned by Brenton. Among numerous cases 
that he gives, may be mentioned the cutting out of the Chevrette, 
Vi^here he distinctly says, "our loss was much greater than was ever 
acknov/ledged»" (Vol. i, p. 505, edition of 1837.) 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


the Guerri^re, and the odds against her were much 
smaller; so she caused her opponent greater loss, 
though her gunnery was no better than theirs. 

Lieutenant Parker, prize-master of the Java, re- 
moved all the prisoners and baggage to the Consti- 
tution, and reported the prize to be in a very dis- 
abled state ; owing partly to this, but more to the 
long distance from home and the great danger there 
was of recapture, Commodore Bainbridge destroyed 
her on the 31st, and then made sail for San Salva- 
dor. " Our gallant enemy," reports Lieutenant 
Chads, "has treated us most generously"; and 
Lieutenant-General Hislop presented the Commo- 
dore with a very handsome sword as a token of 
gratitude for the kindness with which he had treated 
the prisoners. 

Partly in consequence of his frigate's injuries, but 
especially because of her decayed condition. Commo- 
dore Bainbridge sailed from San Salvador on Jan. 
6, 1 81 3, reaching Boston Feb. 27th, after his four 
months' cruise. At San Salvador he left the Hornet 
still blockading the Bonne Citoyenne, 

In order '' to see ourselves as others see us," I shall 
again quote from Admiral Jurien de la Graviere,' as 
his opinions are certainly well worthy of attention 
both as to these first three battles, and as to the 
lessons they teach. '* When the American Congress 
declared war on England in 18 12," he says, '' it 
seemed as if this unequal conflict would crush her 
navy in the act of being born ; instead, it but fertil- 
ized the germ. It is only since that epoch that the 
United States has taken rank among maritime pow- 
ers. Some combats of frigates, corvettes, and brigs, 

* "Guerres Maritimes," ii, 284 (Paris, 1881). 

130 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

insignificant without doubt as regards material re- 
sults, sufficed to break the charm which protected 
the standard of St. George, and taught Europe what 
she could have already learned from some of our 
T combats, if the louder noise of our defeats had not 
drowned the glory, that the only invincibles on the 
sea are good seamen and good artillerists. 

" The English covered the ocean with their cruis- 
ers when this unknown navy, composed of six frig- 
ates and a few small craft hitherto hardly numbered, 
dared to establish its cruisers at the mouth of the 
Channel, in the very centre of the British power. 
But already the Constitution had captured the Guer- 
riere and Java, the United States had made a prize 
of the Macedonian^ the Wasp of the Frolic, and the 
Hornet of the Peacock. The honor of the new flag 
was established. England, humiliated, tried to at- 
tribute her multiplied reverses to the unusual size of 
the vessels which Congress had had constructed in 
1799, and which did the fighting in 181 2. She 
wished to refuse them the name of frigates, and 
called them, not without some appearance of reason, 
disguised line-of-battle ships. Since then all mari- 
time powers have copied these gigantic models, as 
the result of the war of 18 12 obliged England her- 
self to change her naval material ; but if they had 
employed, instead of frigates, cut-down 74's (vais- 
seaux rases), it would still be difficult to explain the 
prodigious success of the Americans. ^ * "^' 

" In an engagement which terminated in less than 
half an hour, the English frigate Guerriere, com- 
pletely dismasted, had fifteen men killed, sixty- 
three wounded, and more than thirty shot below the 
water-line. She sank twelve hours after the combat. 



The Constitution, on the contrary, had but seven 
men killed and seven wounded, and did not lose a 
mast. As soon as she had replaced a few cut ropes 
and changed a few sails, she was in condition, even 
by the testimony of the British historian, to take 
another Gtierricre. The United States took an hour 
and a half to capture the Macedojiian, and the same 
difference made itself felt in the damage suffered by 
the two ships. The Macedonian had her masts shat- 
tered, two of her main-deck and all her spar-deck 
guns disabled ; more than a hundred shot had pene- 
trated the hull, and over a third of the crew had 
suffered by the hostile fire. The American frigate, 
on the contrary, had to regret but five men killed 
and seven wounded ; her guns had been fired 
each sixty-six times to the Macedonian s thirty-six. 
The combat of the Coiistitntion and the Java lasted 
two hours, and was the most bloody of these three 
engagements. The Java only struck when she had 
been razed like a sheer hulk ; she had twenty-two 

men killed and one hundred and two wounded. 
^ ^ .f v^ -::• % 

"This war should be studied with unceasing dili- 
gence ; the pride of two peoples to whom naval 
affairs are so generally familiar has cleared all the 
details and laid bare all the episodes, and through 
the sneers which the victors should have spared, 
merely out of care for their own glory, at every step 
can be seen that great truth, that there is only suc- 
cess for those who know how to prepare it. 

4f vr -Jf ^ -Jf -n- 

'*' It belongs to us to judge impartially these marine 
events, too much exalted perhaps by a national 
vanity one is tempted to excuse. The Americans 

132 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12, 

showed, in the War of 1812, a great deal of skill and 
resolution. But if, as they have asserted, the 
chances had always been perfectly equal between 
them and their adversaries, if they had only owed 
their triumphs to the intrepidity of Hull, Decatur, 
and Bainbridge, there would be for us but little in- 
terest in recalling the struggle. We need not seek 
lessons in courage outside of our own history. On 
the contrary, what is to be well considered is that 
the ships of the United States constantly fought 
with the chances in their favor, and it is on this that 
the American government should found its true 
title to glory. ^^ ^ ^ The Americans in 1812 
had secured to themselves the advantage of a better 
organization [than the English]." 

The fight between the Constitution and the Java 
illustrates best the proposition, " that there is only 
success for those who know how to prepare it." 
Here the odds in men and metal were only about 
as 10 to 9 in favor of the victors, and it is safe to 
say that they might have been reversed without 
vitally affecting the result. In the fight Lambert 
handled his ship as skilfully as Bainbridge did his; 
and the Java s men proved by their indomitable 
courage that they were excellent material. The Javas 
crew was new shipped for the voyage, and had been 
at sea but six weeks ; in the Constitution's first fight 
her crew had been aboard of her but five weeks. 
So the chances should have been nearly equal, and 
the difference in fighting capacity that was shown 
by the enormous disparity in the loss, and still 
more in the damage inflicted, was due to the fact 
that the officers of one ship had, and the officers of 
the other had not, trained their raw crews. The 



Constitutioii s men were not "■ picked," but simply 
average American sailors, as the Java s were average 
British sailors. The essential difference was in the 

During the six weeks the Java was at sea her men 
had fired but six broadsides, of blank cartridges ; 
during the first five weeks the Constitution cruised, 
her crew were incessantly practised at firing with 
blank cartridges and also at a target.' The Java s 
crew had only been exercised occasionally, even in 
pointing the guns, and when the captain of a gun 
was killed the effectiveness of the piece was tem- 
porarily ruined, and, moreover, the men did not 
work together. The Constitution s crew were exer- 
cised till they worked like machines, and yet with 
enough individuality to render it impossible to cripple 
a gun by killing one man. The unpractised British 
sailors fired at random ; the trained Americans took 
aim. The British marines had not been taught any 
thing approximating to skirmishing or sharp-shoot- 
ing ; the Americans had. The British sailors had 
not even been trained enough in the ordinary duties 
of seamen ; while the Americans in five weeks had 
been rendered almost perfect. The former were at 
a loss what to do in an emergency at all out of their 
own line of work ; they were helpless when the 
wreck fell over their guns, when the Americans 
would have cut it away in a jiffy. As we learn 
from Commodore Morris' "■ Autobiography," each 
Yankee sailor could, at need, do a little carpentering 
or sail-mending, and so was more self-reliant. The 

^ In looking through the logs of the Constitutioii, Hornet, etc., we 
continually find such entries as " beat to quarters, exercised the men 
at the great guns," "exercised with musketry," "exercised the 
boarders," " exercised the great guns, blank cartridges, and after- 
ward firing at mark. " 

134 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

crew had been trained to act as if guided by one 
mind, yet each man retained his own individuality. 
The petty officers were better paid than in Great 
Britain, and so were of a better class of men, 
thoroughly self-respecting ; the Americans soon got 
their subordinates in order, while the British did 
not. To surh up : one ship's crew had been trained 
practically and thoroughly, while the other crew was 
not much better ofT than the day it sailed ; and, as 
far as it goes, this is a good test of the efficiency of 
the two navies. 

The U. S. brig Vixen, 12, Lieutenant George U. 
Read, had been cruising off the southern coast; on 
Nov. 22d she fell in with the Southampton, 32, Captain 
Sir James Lucas Yeo, and was captured after a short 
but severe trial of speed. Both vessels were wrecked 
soon afterward. 

The Essex, 32, Captain David Porter, left the Del- 
aware on Oct. 28th, two days after Commodore 
Bainbridge had left Boston. She expectt a to make 
a very long cruise and so carried with her an unus- 
ual quantity of stores and sixty more men than or- 
dinarily, so that her muster-roll contained 319 names. 
Being deep in the water she reached San lago after 
Bainbridge had left. Nothing was met with until 
after the Essex had crossed the equator in latitude 
30° W. on Dec. nth. On the afternoon of the next 
day a sail was made out to windward, and chased. 
At nine in the evening it was overtaken, and struck 
after receiving a volley of musketry which killed one 
man. The prize proved to be the British packet 
Nocton, of 10 guns and 31 men, with $55,000 in 
specie aboard. The latter was taken out, and the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. I35 

Nocton sent home with Lieutenant Finch and a 
prize • crew of 17 men, but was recaptured by a 
British frigate. 

The next appointed rendezvous was the Island of 
Fernando de Noronha, where Captain Porter found 
a letter from Commodore Bainbridge, informing 
him that the other vessels were off Cape Frio. 
Thither cruised Porter, but his compatriots had left. 
On the 29th he captured an English merchant 
vessel ; and he was still cruising when the year 

The year 1812, on the ocean, ended as gloriously 
as it had begun. In four victorious fights the 
disparity in loss had been so great as to sink the 
disparity of force into insignificance. Our suc- 
cesses had been unaccompanied by any important 
reverse. Nor was it alone by the victories, but by 
the cruises, that the year was noteworthy. The 
Yankee men-of-war sailed almost in sight of the 
British coast and right in the tract of the merchant 
fleets and their armed protectors. Our vessels had 
shown themselves immensely superior to their foes. 

The reason of these striking and unexpected suc- 
cesses was that our navy in 18 12 was the exact re- 
verse of what our navy is now, in 1882. I am not 
alluding to the personnel, which still remains excel- 
lent ; but, whereas we now have a large number of 
worthless vessels, standing very low down in their 
respective classes, we then possessed a few vessels, 
each unsurpassed by any foreign ship of her class. 
To bring up our navy to the condition in which it 
stood in 1 812 it would not be necessary (although in 
reality both very wise and in the end very economi- 

136 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

cal) to spend any more money than at present ; only 
instead of using it to patch up a hundred antiquat- 
ed hulks, it should be employed in building half a 
dozen ships on the most effective model. If in 1812 
our ships had borne the same relation to the British 
ships that they do now, not all the courage and 
skill of our sailors would have won us a single suc- 
cess. As it was, we could only cope with the lower 
rates, and had no vessels to oppose to the great 
*' liners " ; but to-day there is hardly any foreign 
ship, no matter how low its rate, that is not supe- 
rior to the corresponding American ones. It is too 
much to hope that our political shortsightedness 
will ever enable us to have a navy that is first-class 
in point of size ; but there certainly seems no rea- 
son why what ships we have should not be of the 
very best quality. The effect of a victory is two- 
fold, moral and material. Had we been as roughly 
handled on water as we were on land during the first 
year of the war, such a succession of disasters 
would have had a most demoralizing effect on the 
nation at large. As it was, our victorious sea- 
fights, while they did not inflict any material dam- 
age upon the colossal sea-might of England, had 
the most important results in the feelings they 
produced at home and even abroad. Of course 
they were magnified absurdly by most of our 
writers at the time ; but they do not need to be 
magnified, for as they are any American can look 
back upon them with the keenest national pride. 
For a hundred and thirty years England had had 
no equal on the sea ; and now she suddenly 
found one in the untried navy of an almost un- 
known power. 



























Deducting F, 



















Name. Rig. Guns. Tonnage. Where Built. Cost. 

Nonsuch Schooner 14 148 Charleston $15,000 

Carolina Schooner 14 230 " 8,743 

Louisia?ia Ship 16 341 New Orleans 15,500 

138 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 



No. of Prizes. 



United States 
















Small Craft 



^ These can only be approximately given ; the records are often 
incomplete or contradictory, especially as regards the small craft. 
Most accounts do not give by any means the full number. 




PRELiMiNARY^The combatants starting nearly on an equality— Difficulties 
of creating a naval force — Difficulty of comparing the force of the rival squad- 
rons— Meagreness of the published accounts — Unreliability of James — Onta- 
rio— Extraordinary nature of the American squadron— Canadian squadron 
forming only a kind of water militia — Sackett's Harbor feebly attacked by 
Commodore Earle— Commodore Chauncy bombards York— Erie— Lieutenant 
Elliott captures the Detroit and Caledonia — Unsuccessful expedition of Lieu- 
tenant Angus. 

AT the time we are treating of, the State of 
Maine was so sparsely settled, and covered 
with such a dense growth of forest, that it was 
practically impossible for either of the contending 
parties to advance an army through its territory. 
A continuation of the same wooded and mountain- 
ous district protected the northern parts of Ver- 
mont and New Hampshire, while in New York the 
Adirondack region was an impenetrable wilderness. 
It thus came about that the northern boundary was 
formed, for military purposes, by Lake Huron, Lake 
Erie, the Niagara, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence, 
and, after an interval, by Lake Champiain. The 
road into the States by the latter ran close along 
shore, and without a naval force the invader would 
be wholly unable to protect his flanks, and would 
probably have his communications cut. This lake, 
however, was almost wholly within the United 
States, and did not become of importance till tow- 


140 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ard the end of the war. Upon it were two Ameri- 
can gun-boats, regularly officered and manned, and 
for such smooth water sufficiently effective vessels. 

What was at that time the western part of the 
northern frontier became the main theatre of mil- 
itary operations, and as it presented largely a water 
front, a naval force was an indispensable adjunct, 
the command of the lakes being of the utmost im- 
portance. As these lakes were fitted for the ma- 
noeuvring of ships of the largest size, the operations 
upon them were of the same nature as those on the 
ocean, and properly belong to naval and not to mil- 
itary history. But while on the ocean America 
started with too few ships to enable her really to 
do any serious harm to her antagonist, on the in- 
land waters the two sides began very nearly on an 
equality. The chief regular forces either belligerent 
possessed were on Lake Ontario. Here the United 
States had a man-of-war brig, the Oneida, of 240 
tons, carrying 16 24-pound carronades, manned 
by experienced seamen, and commanded by 
Lieutenant M. T. Woolsey. Great Britain pos- 
sessed the Royal George^ 22, Prince Regent, 16, Earl 
of Moira, 14, Gloucester, 10, Seneca,'^, and Simco, 8, 
all under the command of a Commodore Earle ; but 
though this force was so much the more powerful 
it was very inefficient, not being considered as be- 
longing to the regular navy, the sailors being undis- 
ciplined, and the officers totally without experience, 
never having been really trained in the British ser- 
vice. From these causes it resulted that the strug- 
gle on the lakes was to be a work as much of creating 
as of using a navy. On the seaboard success came 
to those who made best use of the ships that had 


already been built ; on the lakes the real contest lay 
in the building. And building an inland navy was 
no easy task. The country around the lakes, 
especially on the south side, was still very sparsely 
settled, and all the American naval supplies had to 
be brought from the seaboard cities through the 
valley of the Mohawk. There was no canal or other 
means of communication, except very poor roads 
intermittently relieved by transportation on the 
Mohawk and on Oneida Lake, when they were navi- 
gable. Supplies were thus brought up at an enor- 
mous cost, with tedious delays and great difificulty ; 
and bad weather put a stop to all travel. Very 
little indeed, beyond timber, could be procured at 
the stations on the lakes. Still a few scattered 
villages and small towns had grown up on the 
shores, whose inhabitants were largely engaged in 
the carrying trade. The vessels used for the pur- 
pose were generally small sloops or schooners, swift 
and fairly good sailors, but very shallow and not 
fitted for rough weather. The frontiersmen them- 
selves, whether Canadian or American, were bold, 
hardy seamen, and when properly trained and led 
made excellent man-of-war's men; but on the Amer- 
ican side they were too few in number, and too un- 
trained to be made use of, and the seamen had to 
come from the coast. But the Canadian shores had 
been settled longer, the inhabitants were more numer- 
ous, and by means of the St. Lawrence the country 
was easy of access to Great Britain ; so that the seat 
of war, as regards getting naval supplies, and even 
men, was nearer to Great Britain than to us. Our 
enemies also possessed in addition to the squadron 
on Lake Ontario another on Lake Erie, consisting of 

142 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

the Queen Charlotte, 17, Lady Prevost, 13, Hunter, 10, 
Caledonia, 2, Little Belt, 2, and Chippezvay, 2. These 
two squadrons furnished training schools for some 
five hundred Canadian seamen, whom a short course 
of discipHne under experienced of^cers sufificed to 
render as good men as their British friends or 
American foes. Very few British seamen ever 
reached Lake Erie (according to James, not over 
fifty) ; but on Lake Ontario, and afterward on 
Lake Champlain, they formed the bulk of the crews, 
** picked seamen, sent out by government expressly 
for service on the Canada lakes." ' As the contrary 
has sometimes been asserted it may be as well to 
mention that Admiral Codrington states that no 
want of seamen contributed to the British disasters 
on the lakes, as their sea-ships at Quebec had men 
drafted from them for that service till their crews 
were utterly depleted." I am bound to state that 
while I think that on the ocean our sailors showed 
themselves superior to their opponents, especially in 
gun practice, on the lakes the men of the rival 
fleets were as evenly matched, in skill and courage, 
as could well be. The difference, when there was 
any, appeared in the officers, and, above all, in the 
builders ; which was the more creditable to us, as in 
the beginning we were handicapped by the fact that 
the British already had a considerable number of 
war vessels, while we had but one. 

The Falls of Niagara interrupt navigation be- 
tween Erie and Ontario ; so there were three inde- 
pendent centres of naval operations on the northern 
frontier. The first was on Lake Champlain, where 

^ James, vi, 353. 

"^ Memoirs, i, 322, referring especially to battle of Lake Cham- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


only the Americans possessed any force, and, singu- 
larly enough, this was the only place where the 
British showed more enterprise in ship-building 
than we did. Next came Lake Ontario, where 
both sides made their greatest efforts, but where 
the result was indecisive, though the balance of suc- 
cess was slightly inclined toward us. Our naval 
station was at Sackett's Harbor ; that of our foes at 
Kingston. The third field of operations was Lake 
Erie and the waters above it. Here both sides 
showed equal daring and skill in the fighting, and 
our advantage must be ascribed to the energy and 
success with which we built and equipped vessels. 
Originally we had no force at all on these waters, 
while several vessels were opposed to us. It i^ a 
matter of wonder that the British and Canadian 
governments should have been so supine as to per- 
mit their existing force to go badly armed, and so 
unenterprising as to build but one additional ship, 
when they could easily have preserved their supe- 

It is very difficult to give a full and fair account 
of the lake campaigns. The inland navies were 
created especially for the war, and^ after it were 
allowed to decay, so that the records of the tonnage, 
armament, and crews are hard to get at. Of course, 
where everything had to be created, the services 
could not have the regular character of those on the 
ocean. The vessels employed were of widely differ- 
ent kinds, and this often renders it almost impossi- 
ble to correctly estimate the relative force of two 
opposing squadrons. While the Americans were 
building their lake navy, they, as make-shifts, made 
use of some ordinary merchant schooners, which 

144 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

were purchased and fitted up with one or two long, 
heavy guns each. These gun-vessels had no quar- 
ters, and suffered under all the other disadvantages 
which make a merchant vessel inferior to a regularly 
constructed man-of-war. The chief trouble was that 
in a heavy sea they had a strong tendency to cap- 
size, and were so unsteady that the guns could not 
be aimed when any wind was blowing. Now, if a 
few of these schooners, mounting long 32's, encoun- 
tered a couple of man-of-war brigs, armed with car- 
ronades, which side was strongest? In smooth 
water the schooners had the advantage, and in 
rough weather they were completely at the mercy 
of the brigs ; so that it would be very hard to get at 
the true worth of such a contest, as each side would 
be tolerably sure to insist that the weather was such 
as to give a great advantage to the other. In all 
the battles and skirmishes on Champlain, Erie, and 
Huron, at least there was no room left for doubt as 
to who were the victors. But on Lake Ontario 
there was never any decisive struggle, and whenever 
an encounter occurred, each commodore always 
claimed that his adversary had '' declined the com- 
bat " though ''much superior in strength." It is, 
of course, almost impossible to find out which really 
did decline the combat, for the ofificial letters flatly 
contradict each other ; and it is often almost as dif- 
ficult to discover where the superiority in force lay, 
when the fleets differed so widely in character as 
was the case in 181 3. Then Commodore Chauncy's 
squadron consisted largely of schooners ; their long, 
heavy guns made his total foot up in a very impos- 
ing manner, and similar gun-vessels did very good 
work on JLake Erie ; so Commodore Yeo, and more 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. I45 

especially Commodore Yeo's admirers, exalted these 
schooners to the skies, and conveyed the impression 
that they were most formidable craft, by means of 
which Chauncy ought to have won great victories. 
Yet when Yeo captured two of them he refused to 
let them even cruise with his fleet, and they were 
sent back to act as coast gun-boats and transports, 
which certainly would not have been done had they 
been fitted to render any effectual assistance. 
Again, one night a squall came on and the two 
largest schooners went to the bottom, which did not 
tend to increase the confidence felt in the others. 
So there can be no doubt that in all but very 
smooth water the schooners could almost be counted 
out of the fight. Then the question arises in any 
given case, was the water smooth? And the testi- 
mony is as conflicting as ever. 

It is not too easy to reconcile the official letters of 
the commanders, and it is still harder to get at the 
truth from either the American or British histories. 
Cooper is very inexact, and, moreover, paints every 
thing couleur derose, paying no attention to the Brit- 
ish side of the question, and distributing so much 
praise to everybody that one is at a loss to know 
where it really belongs. Still, he is very useful, 
for he lived at the time of the events he narrates, 
and could get much information about them at first 
hand, from the actors themselves. James is almost 
the only British authority on the subject ; but he is 
not nearly as reliable as when dealing with the 
ocean contests, most of this part of his work being 
taken up with a succession of acrid soliloquies on 
the moral defects of the American character. The 
British records for this extraordinary service on the 

146 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

lakes were not at all carefully kept, and so James is 
not hampered by the necessity of adhering more or 
less closely to official documents, but lets his imagi- 
nation run loose. On the ocean and seaboard his 
account of the British force can generally be relied 
upon ; but on the lakes his authority is questionable 
in every thing relating either to friends or foes. 
This is the more exasperating because it is done 
wilfully, when, if he had chosen, he could have 
written an invaluable history ; he must often have 
known the truth when, as a matter of preference, he 
chose either to suppress or alter it. Thus he ignores 
all the small " cutting out " expeditions in which 
the Americans were successful, and where one 
would like to hear the British side. For example. 
Captain Yeo captured two schooners, the Jitlia and 
Growler, but Chauncy recaptured both. We have 
the American account of this recapture in full, but 
James does not even hint at it, and blandly puts 
down both vessels in the total '' American loss " at 
the end of his smaller work. Worse still, when the 
Growler again changed hands, he counts it in again, 
in the total, as if it were an entirely different boat, 
although he invariably rules out of the American 
list all recaptured vessels. A more serious perver- 
sion of facts are his statements about comparative 
tonnage. This was at that time measured arbitra- 
rily, the depth of hold being estimated at half the 
breadth of beam ; and the tonnage of our lake 
vessels was put down exactly as if they were reg- 
ular ocean cruisers of the same dimensions in 
length and breadth. But on these inland seas the 
vessels really did not draw more than half as much 
water as on the ocean, and the depth would of 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. I47 

course be much less. James, in comparing the ton- 
nage, gives that of the Americans as if they were 
regular ocean ships, but in the case of the British 
vessels, carefully allows for their shallowness, al- 
though professing to treat the two classes in the 
same way ; and thus he makes out a most striking 
and purely imaginary difference. The best example 
is furnished by his accounts of the fleets on Lake 
Erie. The captured vessels were appraised by two 
captains and the ship-builder, Mr. Henry Eckford ; 
their tonnage being computed precisely as the ton- 
nage of the American vessels. The appraisement 
was recorded in the Navy Department, and was 
first made public by Cooper, so that it could not 
have been done for effect. Thus measured it was 
found that the tonnage was in round numbers as 
follows : Detroit, 490 tons ; Queen Charlotte, 400 ; 
Lady Prevost, 230; Hunter, 180; Little Belt, 90;. 
Chippezvay, 70. James makes them measure respec- 
tively 305, 280, 120, 74, 54, and 32 tons, but care- 
fully gives the American ships the regular sea ton- 
nage. So also he habitually deducts about 25 per 
cent, from the real number of men on board the 
British ships ; as regards Lake Erie he contradicts 
himself so much that he does not need to be ex- 
posed from outside sources. But the most glaring 
and least excusable misstatements are made as to 
the battle of Lake Champlain, where he gives the 
American as greatly exceeding the British force. He 
reaches this conclusion by the most marvellous series 
of garblings and misstatements. First, he says that 
the Confiance and the Saratoga were of nearly equal 
tonnage. The Confiance being captured was placed 
on our naval lists, where for ^'ears she ranked as a 

148 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

36-gun frigate, while the Saratoga ranked among 
the 24-gun corvettes ; and by actual measurement 
the former was half as large again as the latter. He 
gives the Confiance but 270 men ; one of her officers, 
in a letter published in the London Naval Chronicle,'- 
gives her over 300 ; more than that number of dead 
and prisoners were taken out of her. He misstates the 
calibre of her guns, and counts out two of them be- 
cause they were used through the bow-ports ; 
whereas, from the method in which she made her 
attack, these would have been peculiarly effective. 
The guns are given accurately by Cooper, on the 
authority of an officer who was on board the Confi- 
ance within 15 minutes after the Linnet struck, and 
who was in charge of her for two months. 

Then James states that there were but 10 British 
gallies, while Sir George Prevost's official account, 
as well as all the American authorities, state the 
number to be 12. He says that the FincJi grounded 
opposite an American battery before the engage- 
ment began, while in reality it was an hour after- 
ward, and because she had been disabled by the 
shot of the American fleet. The gallies were largely 
manned by Canadians, and James, anxious to put 
the blame on these rather than the British, says 
that they acted in the most cowardly way, whereas 
in reality they caused the Americans more trouble 
than Downie's smaller sailing vessels did. His ac- 
count of the armament of these vessels differs widely 
from the official reports. He gives the Linnet and 
Chubb a smaller number of men than the number of 
prisoners that were actually taken out of them, not 

^ Vol, xxxii, p. 272. The letter also says that hardly five of her 
men remained unhurt. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 49 

including the dead. Even misstating Downie's 
force in guns, underestimating the number of his 
men, and leaving out two of his gun-boats, did not 
content James ; and to make the figures show a 
proper disproportion, he says (vol. vi, p. 504) that 
he shall exclude the Fmch from the estimate, be- 
cause she grounded, and half of the gun-boats, be- 
cause he does not think they acted bravely. Even 
were these assertions true, it would be quite as 
logical for an American writer to put the Chesa- 
peake's crew down as only 200, and say he should 
exclude the other men from the estimate because 
they flinched; and to exclude all the guns that 
were disabled by shot, would be no worse than to 
exclude the Finch. James' manipulation of the 
figures is a really curious piece of audacity. Natu- 
rally, subsequent British historians have followed 
him without inquiry. James' account of this battle, 
alone, amply justifies our rejecting his narrative 
entirely, as far as affairs on the lakes go, whenever 
it conflicts with any other statement, British or 
American. Even when it does not conflict, it must 
be followed with extreme caution, for whenever he 
goes into figures the only thing certain about them 
is that they are wrong. He gives no details at all 
of most of the general actions. Of these, however, 
we already possess excellent accounts, the best 
being those in the " Manual of Naval Tactics," by 
Commander J. -H.Ward, U. S. N. (1859), and in 
Lossing's "Field-Book of the War of 1812," and 
Cooper's " Naval History." The chief difficulty 
occurs in connection with matters on Lake Oritario,' 

^ The accounts of the two commanders on Lake Ontario are as diffi- 
cult to reconcile as are those of the contending admirals in the battles 
which the Dutch waged against the English and French during the 

150 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

where I have been obliged to have recourse to a 
perfect patchwork of authors and even newspapers, 
for the details, using Niles Register and James as 
mutual correctives. The armaments and equip- 
ments being so irregular I have not, as in other 
cases, made any allowance for the short weight of 
the American shot, as here the British may have 
suffered under a similar disadvantage ; and it may 
be as well to keep in mind that on these inland 
waters the seamen of the two navies seem to have 
been as evenly matched in courage and skill as was 
possible. They were of exactly the same stock, 
with the sole exception that among and under, but 
entirely distinct from, the Canadian-English, fought 
the descendants of the conquered Canadian-French ; 
and even these had been trained by Englishmen, 
were led by English captains, fought on ships built 
by English gold, and with English weapons and 


There being, as already explained, three inde- 
pendent centres of inland naval operations, the 
events at each will be considered separately. 

At the opening of the war Lieutenant Woolsey, 
with the Oneida, was stationed at Sackett's Harbor, 
which was protected at the entrance by a small 
fort with a battery composed of one long 32. The 

years 1672-1675. In every one of De Ruyter's last six battles each 
side regularly claimed the victory, although there can be but little 
doubt that on the whole the strategical, and probably the tactical, 
advantage remained Math De Ruyter. Every historian ought to feel 
a sense of the most lively gratitude toward Nelson ; in his various 
encounters he never left any possible room for dispute as to which 
side had come out first best. 



Canadian squadron of six ships, mounting nearly 
80 guns, was of course too strong to be med- 
dled with. Indeed, had the Royal George, 22, the 
largest vessel, been commanded by a regular Brit- 
ish sea-officer, she would have been perfectly com- 
petent to take both the Oneida and Sackett's Har- 
bor ; but before the Canadian commodore, Earle, 
made up his mind to attack, Lieut. Woolsey had 
time to make one or two short cruises, doing some 
damage among the merchant vessels of the enemy. 

On the 19th of July Earle's ships appeared off the 
Harbor ; the Oneida was such a dull sailor that it 
was useless for her to try to escape, so she was 
hauled up under a bank where she raked the en- 
trance, and her off guns landed and mounted on 
the shore, while Lieut. Woolsey took charge of the 
''battery," or long 32, in the fort. The latter was 
the only gun that was of much use, for after a des- 
ultory cannonade of about an hour, Earle with- 
drew, having suffered very little damage, inflicted 
none at all, and proved himself and his subordi- 
nates to be grossly incompetent. 

Acting under orders, Lieut. Woolsey now set 
about procuring merchant schooners to be fitted 
and used as gun-vessels until more regular cruisers 
could be built. A captured British schooner was 
christened the Julia, armed with a long 32 and two 
6's, manned with 30 men, under Lieut. Henry 
Wells, and sent down to Ogdensburg. '' On her 
way thither she encountered and actually beat off, 
without losing a man, the Moira, of 14, and Glouces- 
ter, of 10 guns."^ Five other schooners were also 
purchased ; the Hamilton, of 10 guns, being the 

' James, vi, 350. 

152 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

largest, while the other four, the Governor Tomp- 
kinSy Growler, Conquest, and Pert had but 1 1 pieces 
between them. Nothing is more difficult than to 
exactly describe the armaments of the smaller lake 
vessels. The American schooners were mere make- 
shifts, and their guns were frequently changed' ; as 
soon as they could be dispensed with they were laid 
up, or sold, and forgotten. 

It was even worse with the British, who mani- 
fested the most indefatigable industry in intermit- 
tently changing the armament, rig, and name of al- 
most every vessel, and, the records being very 
loosely kept, it is hard to find what was the force 
at any one time. A vessel which in one conflict 
was armed with long i8's, in the next would have 
replaced some of them with 68-pound carronades ; 
or, beginning life as a ship, she would do most of 
her work as a schooner, and be captured as a brig, 
changing her name even oftener than any thing 

On the first of September Commodore Isaac 
Chauncy was appointed commander of the forces 
on the lakes (except of those on Lake Champlain), 
and he at once bent his energies to preparing an 
effective flotilla. A large party of ship-carpenters 
were immediately despatched to the Harbor ; and 
they were soon followed by about a hundred offi- 
cers and seamen, with guns, stores, etc. The keel 
of a ship to mount 24 32-pound carronades, and to 

^They were always having accidents happen to them that necessi- 
tated some alteration. If a boat was armed with a long 32, she 
rolled too much, and they substituted a 24 ; if she also had an 18- 
pound carronade, it upset down the hatchway in the middle of a 
fight, and made way for a long 12, which burst as soon as it was 
used, and was replaced by two medium 6's. So a regular gamut of 
changes would be rung. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 53 

be called the Madison^ was laid down, and she was 
launched on the 26th of November, just when 
navigation had closed on account of the ice. 
Late in the autumn, four more schooners were 
purchased, and named the Ontario, Scourge, Fair 
A 7nerica7i, and Asp, but these were hardly used until 
the following spring. The cruising force of the 
Americans was composed solely of the Oneida and 
the six schooners first mentioned. The British 
squadron was of nearly double this strength, and 
had it been officered and trained as it was during 
the ensuing summer, the Americans could not have 
stirred out of port. But as it was, it merely 
served as a kind of water militia, the very sailors, 
who subsequently did well, being then almost use- 
less, and unable to oppose their well-disciplined 
foes, though the latter were so inferior in number 
and force. For the reason that it was thus prac- 
tically a contest of regulars against militia, I shall 
not give numerical comparisons of the skirmishes 
in the autumn of 1812, and shall touch on them 
but slightly. They teach the old lesson that, 
whether by sea or land, a small, well-officered, and 
well-trained force, can not, except very rarely, be 
resisted by a greater number of mere militia; and 
that in the end it is true economy to have the 
regular force prepared beforehand, without waiting 
until we have been forced to prepare it by the 
disasters happening to the irregulars. The Cana- 
dian seamen behaved badly, but no worse than 
the American land-forces did at the same time ; 
later, under regular training, both nations re- 
trieved their reputations. 

Commodore Chauncy arrived at Sackett's Har- 

154 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

bor in October, and appeared on the lake on Nov. 
8th, in the Oneida, Lieutenant Woolsey, with the 
six schooners Conquest, Lieutenant EUiott ; Hamil- 
ton, Lieutenant McPherson ; Tompkins, Lieutenant 
Brown ; Pert, SaiHng-master Arundel ; Julia, Sailing- 
master Trant ; Growler, Sailing-master Mix. The 
Canadian vessels were engaged in conveying sup- 
plies from the westward. Commodore Chauncy dis- 
covered the Royal George off the False Duck Islands, 
and chased her under the batteries of Kingston, on 
the 9th. Kingston was too well defended to be taken 
by such a force as Chauncy's; but the latter de- 
cided to make a reconnoissance, to discover the en- 
emy's means of defence and see if it was possible to 
lay the Royal George aboard. At 3 P. M. the attack 
was made. The Hamilton and Tompkins were ab- 
sent chasing, and did not arrive until the fighting 
had begun. The other four gun-boats, Conquest, 
Julia, Pert, and Growler, led, in the order named, to 
open the attack with their heavy guns, and prepare 
the way for the Oneida, which followed. At the 
third discharge the Perfs gun burst, putting her 
nearly hors de combat, badly wounding her gallant 
commander, Mr. Arundel (who shortly afterward fell 
overboard and was drowned), and slightly wounding 
four of her crew. The other gun-boats engaged the 
five batteries of the enemy, while the Oneida pushed 
on without firing a shot till at 3.40 she opened on 
the Royal George, and after 20 minutes' combat act- 
ually succeeded in compelling her opponent, though 
of double her force, to cut her cables, run in, and 
tie herself to a wharf, where some of her people de- 
serted her ; here she was under the protection of a 
large body of troops, and the Americans could not 



board her in face of the land-forces. It soon began 
to grow dusk, and Chauncy's squadron beat out 
through the channel, against a fresh head-wind. In 
this spirited attack the American loss had been con- 
fined to half a dozen men, and had fallen almost ex- 
clusively on the Oneida. The next day foul weather 
came on, and the squadron sailed for Sackett's Har_ 
bor. Some merchant vessels were taken, and the 
Sijnco, 8, was chased, but unsuccessfully. 

The weather now became cold and tempestuous, 
but cruising continued till the middle of November. 
The Canadian commanders, however, utterly refused 
to fight ; the Royal George even fleeing from the 
Oneida, when the latter was entirely alone, and 
leaving the American commodore in undisputed 
command of the lake. Four of the schooners 
continued blockading Kingston till the middle of 
November ; shorly afterward navigation closed.' 


On Lake Erie there was no American naval 
force ; but the army had fitted out a small brig, 
armed with six 6-pounders. This fell into the 
hands of the British at the capture of Detroit, and 
was named after that city, so that by the time a 
force of American officers and seamen arrived at the 
lake there was not a vessel on it for them to serve 
in, while their foes had eight. But we only have to 
deal with two of the latter at present. The Detroit, 
still mounting six 6-pounders, and with a crew of 56 
men, under the command of Lieutenant of Marines 

^ These preliminary events were not very important, and the histo- 
rians on both sides agree almost exactly, so that I have not considered 
it necessary to quote authorities. 

156 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

Rolette, of the Royal Navy, assisted by a boat- 
swain and gunner, and containing also 30 American 
prisoners, and the Caledonia, a small brig mount- 
ing two 4-pounders on pivots, with a crew of 
12 men, Canadian-English, under Mr. Irvine, and 
having aboard also 10 American prisoners, and a 
very valuable cargo of furs worth about 200,000 
dollars, moved down the lake, and on Oct. 7th an- 
chored under Fort Erie.' 

Commander Jesse D. Elliott had been sent up to 
Erie some time before with instructions from Com- 
modore Chauncy to construct a naval force, partly by 
building two brigs of 300 tons each,'" and partly by 
purchasing schooners to act as gun-boats. No 
sailors, had yet arrived ; but on the very day on 
which the two brigs moved down and anchored 
under Fort Erie, Captain Elliott received news that 
the first detachment of the promised seamen, 51 in 
number, including officers,^ was but a few miles dis- 
tant. He at once sent word to have these men 
hurried up, but when they arrived they were found 
to have no arms, for which application was made to 
the military authorities. The latter not only gave 
a sufficiency of sabres, pistols, and muskets to the 
sailors, but also detailed enough soldiers, under 
Captain N. Towsen and Lieutenant Isaac Roach, 
to make the total number of men that took part in 
the expedition 124. This force left Black Rock at 

^ Letter of Captain Jesse D. Elliott to Secretary of JS'avy, Black 
Rock, Oct. 5, 1812. 

^ That is, of 300 tons actual capacity ; measured as if they had 
been ordinary sea vessels they each tonned 480. Their opponent, the 
ship Deii'oit, similarly tonned 305, actual measurement, or 490, com- 
puting it in the ordinary manner. 

^ The number of men in this expedition is taken from Lossing's 
*' Field-Book of the War of 18 12," by Benson L. Lossing, New York. 
1S69, p. 385, note, where a complete list of the names is given. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 1 57 

one o'clock on the morning of the 8th in two large 
boats, one under the command of Commander 
Elliott, assisted by Lieutenant Roach, the other 
under Sailing-master George Watts and Captain 
Towsen. After two hours' rowing they reached the 
foe, and the attack was made at three o'clock. 
Elliott laid his boat alongside the Detroit before he 
was discovered, and captured her after a very brief 
struggle, in which he lost but one man killed, and 
Midshipman J. C. Cummings wounded with a bay- 
onet in the leg. The noise of the scuf^e roused the 
hardy provincials aboard the Caledonia, and they 
were thus enabled to make a far more effectual 
resistance to Sailing-master Watts than the larger 
vessel had to Captain Elliott. As Watts pulled 
alongside he was greeted with a volley of musketry, 
but at once boarded and carried the brig, the twelve 
Canadians being cut down or made prisoners ; one 
American was killed and four badly wounded. The 
wind was too light and the current too strong to 
enable the prizes to beat out and reach the lake, so 
the cables were cut and they ran down stream. The 
Caledonia was safely beached under the protection 
of an American battery near Black Rock. The 
Detroit, however, was obliged to anchor but four 
hundred yards from a British battery, which, to- 
gether with some flying artillery, opened on her. 
Getting all his guns on the port side, Elliott kept 
up a brisk cannonade till his ammunition gave out, 
when he cut his cable and soon grounded on Squaw 
Island. Here the Z^^/m^ was commanded by the 
guns of both sides, and which ever party took pos- 
session of her was at once driven out by the other. 
The struggle ended in her destruction, most of her 

158 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

guns being taken over to the American side. This 
was a very daring and handsome exploit, reflecting 
great credit on Commander ElHott, and giving the 
Americans, in the Caledoiiia, the nucleus of their 
navy on Lake Erie ; soon afterward Elliott re- 
turned to Lake Ontario, a new detachment of sea- 
men under Commander S. Angus having arrived. 

On the 28th of November, the American general, 
Smith, despatched two parties to make an attack on 
some of the British batteries. One of these consisted 
of 10 boats, under the command of Captain King of 
the 15th infantry, with 150 soldiers, and with him 
went Mr. Angus with 82 sailors, including officers. 
The expedition left at one o'clock in the morning, 
but was discovered and greeted with a warm fire 
from a field battery placed in front of some British 
barracks known as the Red House. Six of the 
boats put back; but the other four, containing 
about a hundred men, dashed on. While the 
soldiers were forming line and firing, the seamen 
rushed in with their pikes and axes, drove off the 
British, capturing their commander, Lieut. King, of 
the Royal Army, spiked and threw into the river 
the guns, and then took the barracks and burned 
them, after a desperate fight. Great confusion now 
ensued, which ended in Mr. Angus and some of the 
seamen going off in the boats. Several had been 
killed ; eight, among whom were Midshipmen 
Wragg, Dudley, and Holdup, all under 20 years 
old, remained with the troops under Captain King, 
and having utterly routed the enemy found them- 
selves deserted by their friends. After staying on 
the shore a couple of hours some of them found two 
boats and got over ; but Captain King and a few 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 59 

soldiers were taken prisoners. Thirty of the sea- 
men, including nine of the twelve officers, were 
killed or wounded — among the former being Sail- 
ing-masters Sisson and Watts, and among the latter 
Mr. Angus, Sailing-master Carter, and Midshipmen 
Wragg, Holdup, Graham, Brailesford, and Irvine. 
Some twenty prisoners were secured and taken 
over to the American shore ; the enemy's loss was 
more severe than ours, his resistance being very 
stubborn, and a good many cannon were destroyed, 
but the expedition certainly ended most disas- 
trously. The accounts of it are hard to reconcile, 
but it is difficult to believe that Mr. Angus acted 

Later in the winter Captain Oliver Hazard Perry 
arrived to take command of the forces on Lake 




Blockade of the American coast— The Essex in the South Pacific— The 
Hornet captures the Peacock— Kva^Xicxw privateers cut out by British boats- 
Unsuccessful cruise of Commodore Rodgers— The Chesapeake is captured by 
the 6"/«rt««^«-^Futile gun-boat actions — Defence of Craney Island— Cutting- 
out expeditions — The Argus is captured by the Pelican — The Enterprise cap- 
tures the ^'(7.«'r-^Summary. 

BY the beginning of the year 181 3 the British 
had been thoroughly aroused by the Ameri- 
can successes, and active measures were at once 
taken to counteract them. The force on the Ameri- 
can station was largely increased, and a strict block- 
ade begun, to keep the American frigates in port. 
The British frigates now cruised for the most part in 
couples, and orders were issued by the Board of Ad- 
miralty that an i8-pounder frigate was not to engage 
an American 24-pounder. Exaggerated accounts of 
the American 44's being circulated, a new class of 
spar-deck frigates was constructed to meet them, 
rating 50 and mounting 60 guns ; and some 74's 
were cut down for the same purpose.* These new 
ships were all much heavier than their intended 

As New England's loyalty to the Union was, not 
unreasonably, doubted abroad, her coasts were at 
first troubled but little. A British squadron was 

' James, vi, p. 206. 


NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. l6l 

generally kept cruising off the end of Long Island 
Sound, and another off Sandy Hook. Of course 
America had no means of raising a blockade, as each 
squadron contained generally a 74 or a razee, vessels 
too heavy for any in our navy to cope with. Frig- 
ates and sloops kept skirting the coasts of New- 
Jersey, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Delaware Bay 
no longer possessed the importance it had during 
the Revolutionary War, and as the only war vessels 
in it were some miserable gun-boats, the British gen- 
erally kept but a small force on that station. Chesa- 
peake Bay became the principal scene of their opera- 
tions ; it was there that their main body collected, 
and their greatest efforts were made. In it a num- 
ber of line-of-battle ships, frigates, sloops, and cutters 
had been collected, and early in the season Admiral 
Sir John Warren and Rear-Admiral Cockburn arrived 
to take command. The latter made numerous de- 
scents on the coast, and frequently came into contact 
with the local militia, who generally fled after a couple 
of volleys. These expeditions did not accomplish 
much, beyond burning the houses and driving off the 
live-stock of the farmers along shore, and destroying a 
few small towns — one of them, Hampton, being 
sacked with revolting brutality.' The government 
of the United States was, in fact, supported by the 
people in its war policy very largely on account of 
these excesses, which were much exaggerated by 
American writers. It was really a species of civil 
war, and in such a contest, at the beginning of this 
century, it was impossible that some outrages should 
not take place. 

'James (vi, 340) says : The conduct of the British troops on this 
occasion was " revolting to human nature " and " disgraceful to the 

l62 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The American frigate Constellation had by this 
time got ready for sea, and, under the command of 
Captain Stewart, she prepared to put out early in 
January. As the number of blockaders rendered a 
fight ahuost certain within a few days of her de- 
parture, her crew were previously brought to the 
highest state of discipline, the men being exercised 
with especial care in handling the great guns and in 
firing at a target/ However, she never got out ; for 
when she reached Hampton Roads she fell in with a 
British squadron of line-of-battle ships and frigates. 
She kedged up toward Norfolk, and when the tide 
rose ran in and anchored between the forts ; and a 
few days later dropped down to cover the forts 
which were being built at Craney Island. Here she 
was exposed to attacks from the great British force 
still lying in Hampton Roads, and, fearing they 
would attempt to carry her by surprise, Captain 
Stewart made every preparation for defence. She 
was anchored in the middle of the narrow channel, 
flanked by gun-boats, her lower ports closed, not a 
rope left hanging over the sides ; the boarding net- 
tings, boiled in half-made pitch till they were as 
hard as wire, were triced outboard toward the yard- 
arms, and loaded with kentledge to fall on the at- 
tacking boats when the tricing lines were cut, while 
the carronades were loaded to the muzzle with mus- 
ket balls, and depressed so as to sweep the water 
near the ship." Twice, a force of British, estimated 
by their foes to number 2,000 men, started off at 
night to carry the Constellation by surprise ; but on 

^ Life of Commodore Tatnall, by C. C. Jones (Savannah, 1878), 
p. 15. 

^ For an admirable account of these preparations, as well as of the 
subsequent events, see Cooper, ii, 242. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 163 

each occasion they were discovered and closely 
watched by her guard-boats, and they never ven- 
tured to make the attack. However, she was un- 
able to get to sea, and remained blockaded to the 
close of the war. 

At the beginning of the year several frigates and 
smaller craft were at sea. The Chesapeake, Captain 
Evans, had sailed from Boston on Dec. 13, 1812.' 
She ran down past Madeira, the Canaries, and Cape 
de Verde, crossed the equator, and for six weeks 
cruised to the south of the line between longitudes 
16° and 25°. Thence she steered to the west, pass- 
ing near Surinam, over the same spot on which the 
Hornet had sunk the Peacock but a day previous. 
Cruising northward through the West Indies, she 
passed near the Bermudas, where she was chased by 
a 74 and a frigate ; escaping from them she got into 
Boston on April 9th, having captured five m.erchant- 
men, and chased unsuccessfully for two days a brig- 
sloop. The term of two years for which her crew 
were enlisted now being up, they, for the most part, 
left, in consequence of some trouble about the prize- 
money. Captain Evans being in ill health. Captain 
James Lawrence was appointed to command her. 
He reached Boston about the middle of May ^ and 
at once set about enlisting a new crew, and tried, 
with but partial success, to arrange matters with the 
old sailors, who were now almost in open mutiny. 

When the year 1812 had come to an end, the 

^Statistical "History of the U. S. Navy," by Lieutenant G. E. 

"He was still on the Hornet at New York on May loth, as we 
know from a letter of Biddle's, written on that date (in letters of 
" Masters' Commandant," 1813, No. 58), and so could hardly have 
been with the Chesapeake two weeks before he put out ; and had to 
get his crew together and train them during that time. 

164 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Essex, 32, was in the South Atlantic, and Captain 
Porter shortly afterward ran into St. Catherines to 
water. Being at a loss where to find his consorts, 
he now decided to adopt the exceedingly bold 
measure of doubling Cape Horn and striking at the 
British whalers in the Pacific. This was practically 
going into the enemy's waters, the Portuguese and 
Spanish countries being entirely under the influence 
of Britain, while there were no stations where Por- 
ter could revictual or repair in safety. However, 
the Essex started, doubled the Horn, and on March 
13th anchored in the harbor of Valparaiso. Her ad- 
venturous cruise in the Pacific was the most striking 
feature of the war ; but as it has been most minutely 
described by Commodore Porter himself, by his son, 
Admiral Porter, by Admiral Farragut, and by 
Cooper, I shall barely touch upon it. 

On March 20th the Essex captured the Peruvian 
corsair Nereyda, 16, hove her guns and small arms 
overboard, and sent her into port. She made the 
island of San Gallan, looked into Callao, and thence 
went to the Gallipagos, getting every thing she 
wanted from her prizes. Then she went toTumbez, 
and returned to the Gallipagos ; thence to the Mar- 
quesas, and finally back to Valparaiso again. By 
this year's campaign in the Pacific, Captain Porter 
had saved all our ships in those waters, had not cost 
the government a dollar, living purely on the 
enemy, and had taken from him nearly 4,000 tons 
of shipping and 400 men, completely breaking up 
his whaling trade in the South Pacific. 
. The cruise was something stii generis in modern 
warfare, recalling to mind the cruises of the early 
English and Dutch navigators. An Americajn ship 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 165 

was at a serious disadvantage' in having no harbor 
of refuge away from home ; while on almost every 
sea there were British, French, and Spanish ports 
into which vessels of those nations could run for 
safety. It was an unprecedented thing for a small 
frigate to cruise a year and a half in enemy's 
waters, and to supply herself during that time, 
purely from captured vessels, with every thing — 
cordage, sails, guns, anchors, provisions, and medi- 
cines, and even money to pay the officers and men ! 
Porter's cruise was the very model of what such an 
expedition should be, harassing the enemy most 
effectually at no cost whatever. Had the Essex 
been decently armed with long guns, instead of car- 
ronades, the end might have been as successful as it 
was glorious. The whalers were many of them 
armed letters-of-marque, and, though of course un- 
able to oppose the frigate, several times smart skir- 
mishes occurred in attacking them with boats, or in 
captured ships ; as when Lieutenant Downs and 
20 men in the prize Gcorgiana after a short brush 
captured the Hector, with 25 men, two of whom 
were killed and six wounded ; and v/hen, under simi- 
lar circumstances, the prize GreenwicJi, of 25 men, 
captured the Scringapatani of 40. The cruise of the 
Essex, the first American man-of-war ever in the 
Pacific, a year and a half out and many thousand 
miles away from home, was a good proof of Porter's 
audacity in planning the trip and his skill and re- 
source in carrying it out. 

To return now to the Hornet. This vessel had 
continued blockading the Bonne Citoycnne until 
January 24th, when the Montagu, 'ja,, arrived toward 
evening and chased her into port. As the darkness 

1 66 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

came on the Hornet wore, stood out to sea, passing 
into the open without molestation from the 74, and 
then steered toward the northeast, cruising near the 
coast, and making a few prizes, among which was 
a brig, the Resolution, with $23,000 in specie aboard, 
captured on February 14th. On the 24th of Feb- 
ruary, while nearing the mouth of the Demerara 
River, Captain Lawrence discovered a brig to lee- 
ward, and chased her till he ran into quarter less 
five, when, having no pilot, he hauled off-shore. 
Just within the bar a man-of-war brig was lying at 
anchor ; and while beating round Caroband Bank, in 
order to get at her. Captain Lawrence discovered 
another sail edging down on his weather-quarter.' 
The brig at anchor was the Espiegle, of 18 guns, 
32-pound carronades. Captain John Taylor^; and 
the second brig seen was the Peacock, Captain 
William Peake,^ which, for some unknown reason, 
had exchanged her 32-pound carronades for 24's. 
She had sailed from the Espiegles anchorage the 
same morning at 10 o'clock. At 4.20 P. M. the Pea- 
cock hoisted her colors ; then the Hornet beat to 
quarters and cleared for action. Captain Lawrence 
kept close by the wind, in order to get the weather- 
gage ; when he was certain he could weather the 
enemy, he tacked, at 5.10, and the Hornet hoisted 
her colors. The ship and the brig now stood for 
each other, both on the wind, the Hornet being on 
the starboard and the Peacock on the port tack, and 
at 5.25 they exchanged broadsides, at half pistol- 
shot distance, while going in opposite directions, 
the Americans using their lee and the British their 

' Letter of Captain Lawrence, March 29, 1813. 
■•^ James, vi, 278. ^ Do, 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 1 6/ 

weather battery. The guns were fired as they bore, 
and the Peacock suffered severely, while her antago- 
nist's hull was uninjured, though she suffered 
slightly aloft and had her pennant cut off by the first 
shot fired.' One of the men in the mizzen-top was 
killed by a round shot, and two more were wounded 
in the main-top."^ As soon as they were clear. Cap- 
tain Peake put his helm hard up and wore, firing his 
starboard guns ; but the Hornet had watched him 
closely, bore up as quickly, and coming down at 5.35, 
ran him close aboard on the starboard quarter. Cap- 
tain Peake fell at this moment, together with many 
of his crew, and, unable to withstand the Hornefs 
heavy fire, the Peacock surrendered at 5.39, just 14 
minutes after the first shot ; and directly afterward 
hoisted her ensign union down in the forerigging 
as a signal of distress. Almost immediately her 
main-mast went by the board. Both vessels then 
anchored, and Lieutenant J. T. Shubrick, being sent 
on board the prize, reported her sinking. Lieu- 
tenant D. Connor was then sent in another boat to 
try to save the vessel ; but though they threw the 
guns overboard, plugged the shot holes, tried the 
pumps, and even attempted bailing, the water 
gained so rapidly that the Hornef s officers devoted 
themselves to removing the wounded and other 
prisoners ; and while thus occupied the short tropi- 
cal twilight left them. Immediately afterward the 
prize settled, suddenly and easily, in 5| fathoms 
water, carrying with her three of the Hornefs peo- 
ple and nine of her own, who were rummaging be- 

^ Cooper, p. 200. 

^ See entry in her log for this day (In " Log-Book of Hornet, 
Wasp, and Argus, from July 20, 1809, to October 6, 1813,") in the 
Bureau of Navigation, at Washington. 

1 68 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

low ; meanwhile four others of her crew had lowered 
her damaged stern boat, and in the confusion got off 
unobserved and made their way to the land. The 
foretop still remained above water, and four of the 
prisoners saved themselves by running up the rig- 
ging into it. Lieutenant Connor and Midshipman 
Cooper (who had also come on board) saved them- 
selves, together with most of their people and the 
remainder of the Peacock's crew, by jumping into 
the launch, which was lying on the booms, and 
paddling her toward the ship with pieces of boards 
in default of oars. 

The Hornet's complement at this time was 150, 
of whom she had 8 men absent in a prize and 7 on 
the sick list,' leaving 135 fit for duty in the action^; 
of these one man was killed, and two wounded, all 
aloft. Her rigging and sails were a good deal cut, 
a shot had gone through the foremast, and the 
bowsprit was slightly damaged ; the only shot that 
touched her hull merely glanced athwart her bows, 
indenting a plank beneath the cat-head. The Pea- 
cock's crew had amounted to 134, but 4 were absent 
in a prize, and but 122' fit for action; of these she 
lost her captain, and seven men killed and mortally 
wounded, and her master, one midshipman, and 28 
men severely and slightly wounded, — in all 8 killed 
and 30 wounded, or about 13 times her antagonist's 
loss. She suffered under the disadvantage of light 
metal, having 24's opposed to 32's ; but judging 
from her gunnery this was not much of a loss, as 
6-pounders would have inflicted nearly as great 

' Letter of Captain Lawrence. 

^ Letter of Lieutenant D. Conner, April 26, 1813. 
^ Letter of Lieutenant F. W. Wright (of the Peacock), April 17, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 69 

damage. She was well handled and bravely fought ; 
buc her men showed a marvellous ignorance of 
gunnery. It appears that she had long been known 
as "the yacht," on account of the tasteful arrange- 
ment of her deck ; the breechings of the carronades 
were lined with white canvas, and nothing could 
exceed in brilliancy the polish upon the traversing 
bars and elevating screws.^ In other words, Cap- 
tain Peake had confounded the mere incidents of 
good discipline with the essentials.'^ 

The Hornefs victory cannot be regarded in any 
other light than as due, not to the heavier metal, 
but to the far more accurate firing of the Ameri- 
cans ; "had the guns of the Peacock been of the 
largest size they could not have changed the result, 
as the weight of shot that do not hit is of no great 
moment." Any merchant-ship might have been as 
well handled and bravely defended as she was ; and 
an ordinary letter-of-marque would have made as 
creditable a defence. 

During the entire combat the Espiegle was not 
more than 4 miles distant and was plainly visible 
from the Hornet ; but for some reason she did not 
come out, and her commander reported that he 
knew nothing of the action till the next day. Cap- 
tain Lawrence of course was not aware of this, and 
made such exertions to bend on new sails, stow his 
boats, and clear his decks that by nine o'clock he 
was again prepared for action,^ and at 2 P. M. got 
under way for the N.W. Being now overcrowded 
with people and short of water he stood for home, 

^ James, vi, 2S0. 

^ Codrington ("Memoirs,"!, 310) comments very forcibly on the 
uselessness of a mere martinet. 
^ Letter of Captain Lawrence. 





i / 

^ *N 





14 V 




anchoring at Holmes' Hole in Martha's Vineyard 
on the 19th of March. 

On their arrival at New York the officers of the 
Peacock published a card expressing in the warmest 
terms their appreciation of the way they and 
their men had been treated. Say they : " We 
ceased to consider ourselves prisoners ; and every 
thing that friendship could dictate was adopted by 
you and the officers of the Hornet to remedy the 
inconvenience we would otherwise have experienced 
from the unavoidable loss of the whole of our prop- 
erty and clothes owing to the sudden sinking of the 
Peacock^ ' This was signed by the first and second 
lieutenants, the master, surgeon and purser. 




Men Los 








135 3 
122 1% 

Relative Loss 


1. 00 


1. 00 

That is, the forces standing nearly as 13 is to 11, 
the relative execution was about as 13 is to i. 

The day after the capture Captain Lawrence re- 
ported 277 souls aboard, including the crew of the 
English brig Resolution which he had taken, and of 
the American brig Hunter, prize to the Peacock. As 
James, very ingeniously, tortures these figures into 
meaning what they did not, it may be well to show 
exactly what the 277 included. Of the Horncfs 
original crew of 150, 8 were absent in a prize, I 

' Quoted in full in " Niles' Register "and Lossing's " Field Book." 

1/2 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

killed, and 3 drowned, leaving (including 7 sick) 
138; of the Peacock's original 134, 4 were ab- 
sent in a prize, 5 killed, 9 drowned, and 4 es- 
caped, leaving (including 8 sick and 3 mortally 
wounded) 112; there were also aboard 16 other 
British prisoners, and the Hunter s crew of 1 1 men 
— making just 277/ According to Lieutenant Con- 
nor's letter, written in response to one from Lieu- 
tenant Wright, there were in reality 139 in the 
Peacock's crew when she began action ; but it is, of 
course, best to take each commander's account of 
the number of men on board his ship that were fit 
for duty. 

On Jan. 17th the Viper, 12, Lieutenant J. D. Henly 
was captured by the British frigate Narcissus, 32, 
Captain Lumly. 

On Feb. 8th, while a British squadron, consisting 
of the four frigates Belvidera (Captain Richard By- 
ron), Maidstone, Junon, and Statira, were at anchor 
in Lynhaven Bay, a schooner was observed in the 
northeast standing down Chesapeake Bay.^ This 
was the Lottery, letter-of-marque, of six 12-pounder 
carronades and 25 men, Captain John Southcomb, 
bound from Baltimore to Bombay. Nine boats, with 
200 men, under the command of Lieutenant Kelly 
Nazer were sent against her, and, a calm coming on, 
overtook her. The schooner opened a well-directed 
fire of round and grape, but the boats rushed for- 
ward and boarded her, not carrying her till after a 

^ The 277 men were thus divided into : Hornet's cxevf, 138 ; Peacoc/c's 
crew, 112 ; Resolution' s crew, 16 ; Htmters crew, 11. James quotes 
" 270" men, which he divides as follows : Hornet 160, Peacock loi. 
Hunter, 9, — leaving out the Resolution' s crew, 1 1 of the Peacock's, 
and 2 of the Hunter^s. 

'■' J times, vi, 325. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 73 

most obstinate struggle, in which Captain South- 
comb and 19 of his men, together with 13 of the as- 
sailants, were killed or wounded. The best war ship 
of a regular navy might be proud of the discipline 
and courage displayed by the captain and crew of 
the little Lottery. Captain Byron on this, as well as 
on many another occasion, showed himself to be as 
humane as he was brave and skilful. Captain 
Southcomb, mortally wounded, was taken on board 
BjTon's frigate, where he was treated with the great- 
est attention and most delicate courtesy, and when 
he died his body was sent ashore with every mark 
of the respect due to so brave an officer. Captain 
Stewart (of the Constcllatioii) wrote Captain Byron 
a letter of acknowledgment for his great courtesy 
and kindness.^ 

On March i6th a British division of five boats and 
105 men, commanded by Lieutenant James Polking- 
horne, set out to attack the privateer schooner 
DolpJiin of 12 guns and 70 men, and the letters-of- 
marque, Racer, Arab, and Lynx, each of six guns 
and 30 men. Lieutenant Polkinghorne, after pulling 
15 miles, found the four schooners all prepared to 
receive him, but in spite of his great inferiority in 
force he dashed gallantly at them. The Arab and 
Lynx surrendered at once ; the Racer was carried 
after a sharp struggle in which Lieutenant Polking- 
horne was wounded, and her guns turned on the 
DolpJiin. Most of the latter's crew jumped over- 
board; a few rallied round their captain, but they 
were at once scattered as the British seamen came 
aboard. The assailants had 13, and the privateers- 

^ The correspondence between the two captains is given in full in 
" Niles' Rec;ister," whicli also contains fragmentary notes on the ac- 
tion, principally as to the loss incurred. 

174 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

men i6 men killed and wounded in the fight. It 
was certainly one of the most brilliant and daring 
cutting-out expeditions that took place during the 
war, and the victors well deserved their success. 
The privateersmen (according to the statement of 
the Dolphin s master, in " Niles' Register ") were 
panic-struck, and acted in any thing but a brave 
manner. All irregular fighting-men do their work 
by fits and starts. No regular cruisers could behave 
better than did the privateers Lottery, CJiassc2i7% and 
General Armstrong ; none would behave as badly as 
the Dolphin^ Lynx, and Arab. The same thing ap- 
pears on shore. Jackson's irregulars at New Orleans 
did as well, or almost as well, as Scott's troops at 
Lundy's Lane ; but Scott's troops would never have 
suffered from such a panic as overcame the militia 
at Bladensburg. 

On April 9th the s<:\\<:>ox\q:x Norwich, of 14 guns and 
61 men. Sailing-master James Monk, captured the 
British privateer Caledonia, of 10 guns and 41 men, 
after a short action in which the privateer lost 7 men. 

On April 30th Commodore Rodgers, in the 
President, 44, accompanied by Captain Smith in the 
Congress, 38, sailed on his third cruise.' On May 
2d he fell in with and chased the British sloop Ciir- 
leiv, £8, Captain Michael Head, but the latter es- 
caped by knocking away the wedges of her masts 
and using other means to increase her rate of sail- 
ing. On the 8th, in latitude 39° 30' N., long. 60° 
W., the Congress parted company, and sailed off 
toward the southeast, making four prizes, of no 
great value, in the North Atlantic * ; when about in 

' Letter of Commodore Rodgers, Sept. 30, 1813. 
- Letter of Captain Smith, Dec. 15, 1813. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 75 

long. 35° W. she steered south, passing to the south 
of the line. But she never saw a man-of-war, and 
during the latter part of her cruise not a sail of any 
kind ; and after crusing nearly eight months returned 
to Portsmouth Harbor on Dec. 14th, having cap- 
tured but four merchant-men. Being unfit to cruise 
longer, owing to her decayed condition, she was dis- 
armed and laid up ; nor was she sent to sea again 
during the war.^ 

Meanwhile Rodgers cruised along the eastern 
edge of the Grand Bank until he reached latitude 
48°, without meeting any thing, then stood to the 
southeast, and cruised off the Azores till June 6th. 
Then he crowded sail to the northeast after a 
Jamaica fleet of which he had received news, but 
which he failed to overtake, and on June 13th, in 
lat. 46°, long. 28°, he gave up the chase and shaped 
his course toward the North Sea, still without any 
good luck befalling him. On June 27th he put into 
North Bergen in the Shetlands for water, and thence 
passed the Orkneys and stretched toward the 
North Cape, hoping to intercept the Archangel 
fleet. On July 19th, when off the North Cape, in 
lat. Ji° 52' N., long. 20° 18' E., he fell in with two 
sail of the enemy, who made chase ; after four days' 
pursuit the commodore ran his opponents out of 
sight. According to his letter the two sail were a 
line-of-battle ship and a frigate ; according to 
James they were the 12-pounder frigate Alexandria, 

^ James states that she was "blockaded" in port by the Tenedos., 
during part of 18 14 ; but was too much awed by the fate of the Chesa- 
peake io covaQ ovX durmg the "long blockade" of Captain Parker. 
Considering the fact that she was too decayed to put to sea, had no 
guns aboard, no crew, and was, in fact, laid up, the feat of the Tene- 
dos was not very wonderful ; a row-boat could have "blockaded" her 
quite as well. It is worth noticing, as an instance of the way Jame.s 
alters a fact by suppressing half of it. 

176 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Captain Cathcart, and Spitfire, 16, Captain Ellis. 
James quotes from the logs of the two British ships, 
and it would seem that he is correct, as it would not 
be possible for him to falsify the logs so utterly. 
In case he is true, it was certainly carrying caution 
to an excessive degree for the commodore to re- 
treat before getting some idea of what his antago- 
nists really were. His mistaking them for so 
much heavier ships was a precisely similar error to 
that made by Sir George Collier and Lord Stuart at 
a later date about the Cyane and Levant. James 
wishes to prove that each party perceived the force 
of the other, and draws a contrast (p. 312) between 
the *' gallantry of one party and pusillanimity of the 
other." This is nonsense, and, as in similar cases, 
James overreaches himself by proving too much. 
If he had made an i8-pounder frigate like the Co7t- 
gress flee from another i8-pounder, his narrative 
would be within the bounds of possibility and 
would need serious examination. But the little im- 
pounder Alexandria, and the ship-sloop with her 18- 
pound carronades, would not have stood the ghost 
of a chance in the contest. Any man who would 
have been afraid of them would also have been 
afraid of the Little Belt, the sloop Rodgers cap- 
tured before the war. As for Captains Cathcart 
and Ellis, had they known the force of the Presi- 
dent, and chased her with a view of attacking her, 
their conduct would have only been explicable on 
the ground that they were afflicted with emotional 

The President now steered southward and got 
into the mouth of the Irish Channel; on August 
2d she shifted her berth and almost circled Ireland ; 



then steered across to Newfoundland, and worked 
south along the coast. On Sept. 23d, a little south 
of Nantucket, she decoyed under her guns and cap- 
tured the British schooner HigJiflyer, 6, Lieut. 
William Hutchinson, and 45 men ; and went into 
Newport on the 27th of the same month, having 
made some 12 prizes. 

On May 24th Commodore Decatur in the Unit- 
ed States^ which had sent ashore six carron- 
ades, and now mounted but 48 guns, accom- 
panied by Captain Jones in the Macedonian^ 38, 
and Captain Biddle in the Wasp, 20, left New 
York, passing through Hell Gate, as there was a 
large blockading force off tlie Hook. Opposite 
Hunter's Point the main-mast of the States was 
struck by lightning, which cut off the broad pen- 
dant, shot dow^n the hatchway into the doctor's 
cabin, put out his candle, ripped up the bed, and 
entering between the skin and ceiling of the ship 
tore off two or three sheets of copper near the water- 
line, and disappeared without leaving a trace ! The 
Macedonian, which was close behind, hove all aback, 
in expectation of seeing the States blown up. 

At the end of the sound Commodore Decatur 
anchored to watch for a chance of getting out. 
Early on June 1st he started; but in a couple of 
hours met the British Captain R. D. Oliver's 
squadron, consisting of a 74, a razee, and a frigate. 
These chased him back, and all his three ships ran 
into New London. Here, in the mud of the 
Thames river, the two frigates remained blockaded 
till the close of the war ; but the little sloop slipped 
out later, to the enemy's cost. 

1/8 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

We left the Chesapeake, 38, being fitted out at 
Boston by Captain James Lawrence, late of the 
Hornet. Most of her crew, as already stated, their 
time being up, left, dissatisfied with the ship's ill 
luck, and angry at not having received their due 
share of prize-money. It was very hard to get 
sailors, most of the men preferring to ship in some 
of the numerous privateers where the discipline was 
less strict and the chance of prize-money much 
greater. In consequence of this an unusually large 
number of foreigners had to be taken, including 
about forty British and a number of Portuguese. 
The latter were peculiarly troublesome; one of their 
number, a boatswain's mate, finally almost brought 
about a mutiny among the crew, which was only 
pacified by giving the men prize-checks. A few of 
the Constitution s old crew came aboard, and these, 
together with some of the men who had been on 
the Chesapeake during her former voyage, made an 
excellent nucleus. Such men needed very little 
training at either guns or sails ; but the new hands 
were unpractised, and came on board so late that 
the last draft that arrived still had their hammocks 
and bags lying in the boats stowed over t"he booms 
when the ship was captured. The officers were 
largely new to the ship, though the first lieutenant, 
Mr. A. Ludlow, had been the third in her former 
cruise ; the third and fourth lieutenants were not 
regularly commissioned as such, but were only mid- 
shipmen acting for the first time in higher positions. 
Captain Lawrence himself was of course new to all, 
both officers and crew.' In other words, the Chesa- 

^ On the day on which he sailed to attack the Shannon, Lawrence 
writes to the Secretary of the Navy as follows : " Lieutenant Paige 
is so ill as to be unable to go to sea with the ship. At the urgent re- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


peake possessed good material, but in an exceedingly 
unseasoned state. 

Meanwhile the British frigate SJiannon, 38, Gap- 
tain Philip Bowes Vere Broke, was cruising off the 
mouth of the harbor. To give some idea of the 
reason why she proved herself so much more for- 
midable than her British sister frigates it may be 
well to quote, slightly condensing, from James: 

" There was another point in which the generality 
of British crews, as compared with any one Ameri- 
can crew, were miserably deficient ; that is, skill in 
the art of gunnery. While the American seamen 
were constantly firing at marks, the British seamen, 
except in particular cases, scarcely did so once in a 
year ; and some ships could be named on board 
which not a shot had been fired in this way for up- 
ward of three years. Nor was the fault wholly the 
captain's. The instructions under which he was 
bound to act forbade him to use, during the first 
six months after the ship had received her arma- 
ment, more shots per month than amounted to a 
third in number of the upper-deck guns ; and, after 
these six months, only half the quantity. Many 
captains never put a shot in the guns till an enemy 
appeared ; they employed the leisure time of the 
men in handling the sails and in decorating the 
ship." Captain Broke was not one of this kind. 
" From the day on which he had joined her, the 
14th of September, 1806, the Shannon began to feel 
the effect of her captain's proficiency as a gunner 
and zeal for the service. The laying of the ship's 

quest of Acting- Lieutenant Pierce I have granted him, also, permission 
10 go on shore ; one inducement for my granting his request was his 
being at variance with every officer in his mess." " Captains' Let- 
ters," vol. 29, No. I, in the Naval Archives at Washington. Neither 
officers nor men had shaken together. 

l8o NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ordnance so that it may be correctly fired in a 
horizontal direction is justly deemed a most impor- 
tant operation, as upon it depends in a great meas- 
ure the true aim and destructive effect of the shot ; 
this was attended to by Captain Broke in person. 
By draughts from other ships, and the usual means 
to which a British man-of-war is obliged to resort, 
the SJiannon got together a crew ; and in the course 
of a year or two, by the paternal care and excellent 
regulations of Captain Broke, the ship's company 
became as pleasant to command as it was dangerous 
to meet." The SJiannon s guns were all carefully 
sighted, and, moreover, " every day, for about an 
hour and a half in the forenoon, when not prevented 
by chase or the state of the weather, the men were 
exercised at training the guns, and for the same 
time in the afternoon in the use of the broadsword, 
pike, musket, etc. Twice a week the crew fired at 
targets, both with great guns and musketry ; and 
Captain Broke, as an additional stimulus beyond 
the emulation excited, gave a pound of tobacco to 
every man that put a shot through the bull's eye." 
He would frequently have a cask thrown overboard 
and suddenly order some one gun to be manned to 
sink the cask. In short, the SJiannon was very 
greatly superior, thanks to her careful training, to 
the average British frigate of her rate, while the 
CJtcsapeaJie, owing to her having a raw and inexperi- 
enced crew, was decidedly inferior to the average 
American frigate of the same strength. 

In force the two frigates compared pretty 
equally,' the American being the superior in just 
about the same proportion that the Wasp was to 

^ Taking each commander's account for his own force. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. l8l 

the Frolic, or, at a later date, the Hornet to the 
Penguin. The Chesapeake carried 50 guns (26 in 
broadside), 28 long i8's on the gun-deck, and 
on the spar-deck two long 12's, one long 18, eigh- 
teen 32-pound carronades, and one 12-pound car- 
ronade (which was not used in the fight however). 
Her broadside, allowing for the short weight of 
metal was 542 lbs. ; her complement, 379 men. The 
Shannon carried 52 guns (26 in broadside), 28 long 
i8's on the gun-deck, and on the spar-deck four long 
9's, one long 6, 16 32-pound carronades, and three 
12-pound carronades (tw^o of which were not used 
in the fight). Her broadside was 550 lbs.; her 
crew consisted of 330 men, 30 of whom were raw 
hands. Early on the morning of June ist. Captain 
Broke sent in to Captain Lawrence, by an Ameri- 
can prisoner, a letter of challenge, which for cour- 
teousness, manliness, and candor is the very model 
of what such an epistle should be. Before it 
reached Boston, however. Captain Lawrence had 
weighed anchor, to attack the Shannon, which frig- 
ate was in full sight in the offing. It has been 
often said that he engaged against his judgment, 
but this may be doubted. His experience with the 
Bonne Citoyenne, Espiegle, and Peacock had not tended 
to give him a very high idea of the navy to which 
he was opposed, and there is no doubt that he was 
confident of capturing the Shannon."^ It was most 

^ In his letter written just before sailing (already quoted on p. 178) 
he says : " An English frigate is now in sight from our deck. * * * 
I am in hopes to give a good account of her before night." My ac- 
count of the action is mainly taken from James' "Naval History" and 
Brigliton's "Memoir of Admiral Broke" (according to which the 
official letter of Captain Broke was tampered with); see also the 
letter of Lieut. George Budd, June 15, 1813 ; the report of the 
Court of Inquiry, Commodore Bainbridge presiding, and the Court- 
martial held on board frigate United States, April 15, 1814, Commo- 
dore Decatur presiding. 

1 82 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

unfortunate that he did not receive Brokers letter, 
as the latter in it expressed himself willing to meet 
Lawrence in any latitude and longitude he m.ight 
appoint ; and there would thus have been some 
chance of the American crew having^time enough 
to get into shape. >^ ^ ♦ 

At midday of June i, 1812; the Chesapeake 
weighed anchor, stood out of Boston Harbor, and 
at I P. M. rounded the Light-house. The SJiarinon 
stood off under easy sail, and at 3.40 hauled up and 
reefed top-sails. At 4 P. M. she again bore away 
with her foresail brailed up, and her main top-sail 
braced flat and shivering, that the Chesapeake might 
overtake her. An hour later, Boston Light-house 
bearing west distant about six leagues, she again 
hauled up, with her head to the southeast, and lay 
to under top-sails, top-gallant sails, jib, and spanker. 
Meanwhile, as the breeze freshened the Chesapeake 
took in her studding-sails, top-gallant sails, and roy- 
als, got her royal yards on deck, and came down 
very fast under top-sails and jib. At 5.30, to keep 
under command and be able to wear if necessary, 
the Shannon filled her main top-sail and kept a 
close luff, and then again let the sail shiver. At 
5.25 the Chesapeake hauled up her foresail, and, 
with three ensigns flying, steered straight for the 
Shannon s starboard quarter. Broke was afraid that 
Lawrence would pass under the Shannotis stern, 
rake her, and engage her on the quarter; but 
either overlooking or waiving this advantage, the 
American captain luffed up within 50 yards upon 
the Shannon s starboard quarter, and squared his 
main-yard. On board the SJiannon the captain of 
the 14th gun, William Mindham, had been ordered 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 83 

not to fire till it bore into the second main-cleck 
port forward ; at 5.50 it was fired, and then the 
other guns in quick succession from ,aft forward, 
the Chesapeake replying with her whole broadside. 
At 5.53 Lawrence, finding he was forging ahead, 
hauled up a little. The Chesapeake's broadsides 
were doing great damage, but she herself was suf- 
fering even more than her foe ; the men in the 
Shannon's tops could hardly see the deck of the 
American frigate through the cloud of splinters, 
hammocks, and other wreck that was flying across 
it. Man after man was killed at the wheel ; the 
fourth lieutenant, the master, and the boatswain 
were slain ; and at 5.56, having had her jib sheet 
and foretop-sail tie shot away, and her spanker 
brails loosened so that the sail blew out, the Chesa- 
peake came up into the wind somewhat, so as to ex- 
pose her quarter to her antagonist's broadside, 
which beat in her stern-ports and swept the men 
from the after guns. One of the arm chests on the 
quarter-deck was blown up by a hand-grenade 
thrown from the Shannon^ The Chesapeake was 
now seen to have stern-way on and to be paying 
slowly off ; so the Sliannon put her helm a-starboard 

^This explosion may have had more effect than is commonly sup- 
posed in the capture of the Chesapeake. Commodore Bainbridge, 
writing from Charleston, Mass., on June 2, 1813 (see "Captains' 
Letters," vol. xxix, No. 10), says : " Mr. Knox, the pilot on board, 
left ihe Chesapeake 2X 5 P. M. * * * At 6 P.M., Mr. Knox in- 
forms me, the fire opened, and at 12 minutes past six both ships were 
laying alongside one another as if in the act of boarding ; at that 
moment an explosion took place on board the Chesapeake, which 
spread a fire on her upper deck from the foremast to the mizzen- 
mast, as high as her tops, and enveloped both ships in smoke for sev- 
eral minutes. After it cleared away they were seen separate, with 
the British flag hoisted on board the Chesapeake over the American." 
James denies that the explosion was caused by a hand-grenade, 
though he says there were some of these aboard the Shannon. It is 
a point of no interest. 

1 84 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

and shivered her mizzen top-sail, so as to keep off 
the wind and delay the boarding. But at that 
moment her jib stay was shot away, and, her head- 
sails becoming becalmed, she went off very slowly. 
In consequence, at 6 P. M. the two frigates fell 
aboard, the Chesapeake s quarter pressing upon the 
Shannon's side just forward the starboard main- 
chains, and the frigates were kept in this position 
by the fluke of the Shannon s anchor catching in the 
Chesapeake's quarter port. 

The Shannon's crew had suffered severely, but not 
the least panic or disorder existed among them. 
Broke ran forward, and seeing his foes flinching 
from the quarter-deck guns, he ordered the ships to 
be lashed together, the great guns to cease firing, 
and the boarders to be called. The boatswain, who 
had fought in Rodney's action, set about fastening 
the vessels together, which the grim veteran suc- 
ceeded in doing, though his right arm was literally 
hacked off by a blow from a cutlass. All was 
confusion and dismay on board the Chesapeake, 
Lieutenant Ludlow had been mortally wounded 
and carried below ; Lawrence himself, while stand- 
ing on the quarter-deck, fatally conspicuous by his 
full-dress uniform and commanding stature, was 
shot down, as the vessels closed, by Lieutenant Law 
of the British marines. He fell dying, and was car- 
ried below, exclaiming : " Don't give up the ship " — 
a phrase that has since become proverbial among his 
countrymen. The third lieutenant, Mr. U. S. Cox, 
came on deck, but, utterly demoralized by the 
aspect of affairs, he basely ran below without stay- 
ing to rally the men, and was court-martialled after- 
ward for so doing. At 6.02 Captain Broke sttpped 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 185 

from the Shannon s gangway rail on to the muzzle 
of the Chesapeake s aftermost carronade, and thence 
over the bulwark on to her quarter-deck, followed 
by about 20 men. As they came aboard, the CJies- 
apeake's foreign mercenaries and the raw natives of 
the crew deserted their quarters ; the Portuguese 
boatswain's mate removed the gratings of the berth- 
deck, and he ran below, followed by many of the 
crew, among them one of the midshipmen named 
Deforest. On the quarter-deck almost the only 
man that made any resistance was the chaplain, 
Mr. Livermore, who advanced, firing his pistol at 
Broke, and in return nearly had his arm hewed off 
by a stroke from the latter's broad Toledo blade. On 
the upper deck the only men who behaved well were 
the marines, but of their orignal number of 44 men, 
14, including Lieutenant James Broom and Corporal 
Dixon, were dead, and 20, including Sergeants Twin 
and Harris, wounded, so that there were left but one 
corporal and nine men, several of whom had been 
knocked down and bruised, though reported un- 
wounded. There was thus hardly any resistance. 
Captain Broke stopping his men for a moment till 
they were joined by the rest of the boarders under 
Lieutenants Watt and Falkiner. The Chesapeake' s 
mizzen-topmen began firing at the boarders, mor- 
tally wounding a midshipman, Mr. Samwell, and 
killing Lieutenant Watt ; but one of the Shannon's 
long nines was pointed at the top and cleared it out, 
being assisted by the English main-topmen, under 
Midshipman Coshnahan. At the same time the 
men in the Chesapeake' s main-top were driven out of 
it by the fire of the Shannon s foretopmen, under 
MidsMpman Smith, Lieutenant George Budd, who 

1 86 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

was on the main-deck, now for the first time learned 
that the EngHsh had boarded, as the upper-deck 
men came crowding down, and at once called on 
his people to follow him ; but the foreigners and 
novices held back, and only a few of the veterans 
followed him up. As soon as he reached th^ spar- 
deck, Budd, followed by only a dozen men, attacked 
the British as they came along the gangways, re- 
pulsing them for a moment, and killing the British 
purser, Aldham, and captain's clerk, Dunn ; but the 
handful of Americans were at once cut down or 
dispersed. Lieutenant Budd being wounded and 
knocked down the main hatchway. " The enemy," 
writes Captain Broke, '' fought desperately, but in 
disorder." Lieutenant Ludlow, already mortally 
wounded, struggled up on deck, followed by two or 
three men, but was at once disabled by a sabre cut. 
On the forecastle a few seamen and marines turned 
to bay. Captain Broke was still leading his men 
with the same brilliant personal courage he had all 
along shown. Attacking the first American, who 
was armed with a pike, he parried a blow from it, 
and cut down the man ; attacking another he was 
himself cut down, and only saved by the seaman 
Mindham, already mentioned, who slew his assail- 
ant. One of the American marines, using his 
clubbed musket, killed an Englishman, and so stub- 
born was the resistance of the little group that for 
a moment the assailants gave back, having lost sev- 
eral killed and wounded ; but immediately afterward 
they closed in and slew their foes to the last man. 
The British fired a volley or two down the hatch- 
way, in response to a couple of shots fired up ; all 
resistance was at an end, and at 6.05, just fifteen 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 87 

minutes after the first gun had been fired, and not 
five after Captain Broke had come aboard, the colors 
of the Chesapeake were struck. Of her crew of 379 
men, 61 were killed or mortally wounded, including 
her captain, her first and fourth lieutenants, the 
lieuteYiant of marines, the master (White), boat- 
swain (Adams), and three midshipmen, and 85 
severely and slightly wounded, including both her 
other lieutenants, five midshipmen, and the chap- 
lain ; total, 148 ; the loss falling almost entirely upon 
the American portion of the crew. 

Of the Shannon s men, 33 were killed outright or 
died of their wounds, including her first lieutenant, 
purser, captain's clerk, and one midshipman, and 50 
wounded, including the captain himself and the 
boatswain ; total, 83. 

The Chesapeake was taken into Halifax, where 
Captain Lawrence and Lieutenant Ludlow were 
both buried with military honors. Captain Broke 
was made a baronet, very deservedly, and Lieuten- 
ants Wallis and Falkiner were both made com- 

The British writers accuse some of the American 
crew of treachery ; the Americans, in turn, accuse 
the British of revolting brutality. Of course in 
such a fight things are not managed with urbane 
courtesy, and, moreover, writers are prejudiced. 
Those who would like to hear one side are referred 
to James ; if they wish to hear the other, to the 
various letters from officers published in " Niles' 
Register," especially vol. v, p. 142. 

Neither ship had lost a spar, but all the lower 
masts, especially the two mizzen-m.asts, were badly 
wounded. The Americans at that period were fond 

1 88 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

of using bar shot, which were of very questionable 
benefit, being useless against a ship's hull, though 
said to be sometimes of great help in unrigging an 
antagonist from whom one was desirous of escaping, 
as in the case of the President and Endymion, 



5.50 ^^ 

5. S3 



^^^ hx .- 












"Chesapeake" struck by 


29 eighteen-pound shot, 
25 thirty-tvvo-pound shot, 
2 nine- pound shot, 


eighteen-pound shot, 
thirty-two-pound shot, 
bar shot. 

306 gi"ape, 



362 shot. 



It is thus seen that the Shannon received from 
shot alone only about half the damage the Chesa- 
peake did ; the latter was thoroughly beaten at the 
guns, in spite of what some American authors say 
to the contrary. And her victory was not in the 
slightest degree to be attributed to, though it may 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 89 

have been slightly hastened by, accident. Training 
and discipline won the victory, as often before ; only 
in this instance the training and discipline were 
against us. 

It is interesting to notice that the Chesapeake bat- 
tered the Shannoiis hull far more than either the 
Java^ Guerriere, or Macedonian did the hulls of their 
opponents, and that she suffered less in return (not 
in loss but in damage) than they did. The Chesa- 
peake was a better fighter than either the Java, 
Gnerriere, or Macedonian, and could have captured 
any one of them. The Shannon of course did less 
damage than any of the American 44's, probably 
just about in the proportion of the difference in 

Almost all American writers have treated the 
cipture of the Chesapeake as if it was due simply to 
a succession of unfortunate accidents ; for example, 
Cooper, with his usual cheerful optimism, says that 
the incidents of the battle, excepting its short dura- 
tion, are "altogether the results of the chances of 
war," and that it was mainly decided by '' fortuitous 
events as unconnected with any particular merit 
on the one side as they are with any particular de- 
merit on the other." ' Most naval men consider it 
a species of treason to regard the defeat as due to 
any thing but extraordinary ill fortune. And yet no 
disinterested reader can help acknowledging that 
the true reason of the defeat was the very simple 
one that the Shannon fought better than the Chesa- 

' The worth of such an explanation is very aptly gauged in General 
Alexander S. Webb's "The Peninsula; McClellan's Campaign of 
1862 " (New York, 1881), p. 35, where he speaks of " those unforeseen 
or uncontrollable agencies which are vaguely described as the ' for- 
tune of war,' but which usually prove to be the superior ability or 
resources of the antagonist." 

1 90 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2, 

peake. It has often been said that up to the mo- 
ment when the ships came together the loss and 
damage suffered by each were about the same. This 
is not true, and even if it was, would not affect the 
question. The heavy loss on board the SJiaiinoji 
did not confuse or terrify the thoroughly trained 
men with their implicit reliance on their leaders ; 
and the experienced officers were ready to defend 
any point that was menaced. An equal or greater 
amount of loss aboard the CJiesapeake disheartened 
and confused the raw crew, who simply had not had 
the time or chance to become well disciplined. 
Many of the old hands, of course, kept their wits 
and their pluck, but the novices and the disaffected 
did not. Similarly with the officers ; some, as the 
Court of Inquiry found, had not kept to their posts, 
and all being new to each other and the ship, could 
not show to their best. There is no doubt that the 
CJiesapeake was beaten at the guns before she was 
boarded. Had the ships not come together, the 
fight would have been longer, the loss greater, and 
more nearly equal ; but the result would have been 
the same. Cooper says that the enemy entered 
with great caution, and so slowly that twenty 
resolute men could have repulsed him. It was no 
proof of caution for Captain Broke and his few 
followers to leap on board, unsupported, and then 
they only waited for the main body to come up ; 
and no twenty men could have repulsed such 
boarders as followed Broke. The fight was another 
lesson, with the parties reversed, to the effect that 
want of training and discipline is a bad handicap. 
Had the CJiesapeake' s crew been in service as many 
months as the SJtannons had beer, vears, such a 


captain as Lawrence would have had his nnen per- 
fectly in hand ; they would not have been cowed 
by their losses, nor some of the officers too de- 
moralized to act properly, and the material advan- 
tages which the Chesapeake possessed, although 
not very great, would probably have been enough 
to give her a good chance of victory. It is well 
worth noticing that the only thoroughly disci- 
plined set of men aboard (all, according to James 
himself, by the way, native Americans), namely, the 
marines, did excellently, as shown by the fact that 
three fourths of their number were among the 
killed and wounded. The foreigners aboard the 
Chesapeake did not do as well as the Americans, 
but it is nonsense to ascribe the defeat in any way 
to them ; it was only rendered rather more disas- 
trous by their actions. Most of the English au- 
thors give very fair accounts of the battle, except 
that they hardly allude to the peculiar disadvan- 
tages under which the Chesapeake suffered when 
she entered into it. Thus, James thinks the Java 
was unprepared because she had only been to sea 
six weeks ; but does not lay any weight on the fact 
that the Chesapeake had been out only as many 

Altogether the best criticism on the fight is that 
written by M. de la Graviere.' " It is impossible to 
avoid seeing in the capture of the Chesapeake a new 
proof of the enormous power of a good organiza- 
tion, when it has received the consecration of a few 
years' actual service on the sea. On this occasion, 
in effect, two captains equally renowned, the honor 
of two navies, were opposed to each other on two 

' " Guerres Maritimes," ii, 272. 

192 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

ships of the same tonnage and number of guns. 
Never had the chances seemed better balanced, but 
Sir Philip Broke had commanded the Shannon for 
nearly seven years, while Captain Lawrence had 
only commanded the Chesapeake for a few days. 
The first of these frigates had cruised for eighteen 
months on the coast of America ; the second was 
leaving port. One had a crew long accustomed to 
habits of strict obedience ; the other was manned 
by men who had just been engaged in mutiny. The 
Americans were wrong to accuse fortune on this 
occasion. Fortune was not fickle, she was merely 
logical. The Shannon captured the Chesapeake on 
the first of June, 18 13, but on the 14th of Septem- 
ber, 1806, the day when he took command of his 
frigate, Captain Broke had begun to prepare the 
glorious termination to this bloody affair." 

Hard as it is to breathe a word against such a 
ma^ as Lawrence, a very Bayard of the seas, who 
was admired as much for his dauntless bravery as he 
was loved for his gentleness and uprightness, it 
must be confessed that he acted rashly. And after 
he had sailed, it was, as Lord Howard Douglass has 
pointed out, a tactical error, however chivalric, to 
neglect the chance of luffing across the Shannon s 
stern to rake her ; exactly as it was a tactical error 
of his equally chivalrous antagonist to have let him 
have such an opportunity. Hull would not have 
committed either error, and would, for the matter of 
that, have been an overmatch for either com- 
mander. But it must always be remembered that 
Lawrence's encounters with the English had not 
been such as to give him a high opinion of them. 
The only foe he had fought had been inferior in 



Strength, it is true, but had hardly made any effec- 
tive resistance. Another sloop, of equal, if not su- 
perior force, had tamely submitted to blockade for 
several days, and had absolutely refused to fight. 
And there can be no doubt that the Chesapeake, un- 
prepared though she was, would have been an over- 
match for the Guerriere, Macedonian, or Java. 
Altogether it is hard to blame Lawrence for going 
out, and in every other respect his actions never 
have been, nor will be, mentioned, by either friend 
or foe, without the warmest respect. But that is 
no reason for insisting that he was ruined purely 
by an adverse fate. We will do far better to recol- 
lect that as much can be learned from reverses as ' 
from victories. Instead of flattering ourselves by 
saying the defeat was due to chance, let us try to find 
out what the real cause was, and then take care that 
it does not have an opportunity to act again. A 
little less rashness would have saved Lawrence s 
life and his frigate, while a little more audacity on 
one occasion would have made Commodore 
Chauncy famous for ever. And whether a lesson 
is to be learned or not, a historian, should remem- 
ber that his profession is not that of a panegyrist. 
The facts of the case unquestionably are that 
Captain Broke, in fair fight, within sight of the 
enemy's harbor, proved conqueror over a nominally 
equal and in reality slightly superior force ; and 
that this is the only single-ship action of the war in 
which the victor was weaker in force than his op- 
ponent. So much can be gathered by reading only 
the American accounts. Moreover accident had 
little or nothing to do with the gaining of the 
victory. The explanation is perfectly easy ; Law- 

194 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

rence and Broke were probably exactly equal in 
almost every thing that goes to make up a first- 
class commander, but one had trained his crew for 
seven years, and the other was new to the ship, to 
the officers, and to the men, and the last to each 
other. The Chesapeake s crew must have been of 
fine material, or they would not have fought so well 
as they did. 

So much for the American accounts. On the 
other hand, the capture of the Chesapeake was, 
and is, held by many British historians to " con- 
clusively prove " a good many different things ; 
such as, that if the odds were anything like equal, 
a British frigate could always whip an American, 
that in a hand-to-hand conflict such would invariably 
be the case, etc.; and as this was the only single-ship 
action of the war in which the victor was the in- 
ferior in force, most British writers insist that it re- 
flected more honor on them than all the frigate 
actions of 1812 put together did on the Americans. 

These assertions can be best appreciated by ref- 
erence to a victory won by the French in the year 
of the Battle of the Nile. On the 14th of December, 
1798, after two hours' conflict, the French 24-gun 
corvette Bayonnaise captured, by boarding, the Eng- 
lish 32-gun frigate Ambuscade. According to James 
the Ambuscade threw at a broadside 262 pounds of 
shot, and was manned by 190 men, while the Bayon- 
naise threw 150 pounds, and had on board supernu- 
meraries and passenger soldiers enough to make in 
all 250 men. According to the French historian 
Rouvier' the broadside force was 246 poinds 

^ " Histoire des Marins Fran9ais sous la Republique," par Charles 
Rouvier, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, Paris, 1868. 



against 80 pounds; according to Troude ' it was 270 
pounds against 112. M. Leon Guerin, in his volumi- 
nous but exceedingly prejudiced and one-sided 
work,'' makes the difference even greater. At any 
rate the English vessel was vastly the superior in 
force, and was captured by boarding, after a long 
and bloody conflict in which she lost 46, and her 
antagonist over 50, men. During all the wars waged 
with the Republic and the Empire, no English 
vessel captured a French one as much superior to 
itself as the Ambuscade was to the Bayonnaise, pre- 
cisely as in the war of 1812 no American vessel 
captured a British opponent as much superior to 
itself as the Chesapeake was to the Shannon. Yet 
no sensible man can help acknowledging, in spite of 
these and a few other isolated instances, that at that 
time the French were inferior to the English, and 
the latter to the Americans. 

It is amusing to compare the French histories of 
the English with the English histories of the 
Americans, and to notice the similarity of the argu- 
ments they use to detract from their opponents' 
fame. Of course I do not allude to such writers as 
Lord Howard Douglass or Admiral de la Graviere, 
but to men like William James and Leon Guerin, 
or even O. Troude, James is alwaj's recounting how 
American ships ran away from British ones, and 
Guerin tells as many anecdotes of British ships 
who fled from French foes. James reproaches the 
Americans for adopting a " Parthian " mode of war- 
fare, instead of " bringing to in a bold and becoming 

' " Batailles Navales." 

- " Histoire Maritime de France " (par Leon Guerin, Historien titu- 
laire de la Marine, Membre de la Legion d' Honneur), vi, 142 (Paris, 

196 NAVAL W/. R OF l8l2. 

manner " Precisely the same reproaches are used 
by the French writers, who assert that the EngHsh 
would not fight " fairly," but acquired an advantage 
by manoeuvring. James lays great stress on the 
American long guns ; so does Lieutenant Richer 
on the British carronades. James always tells how 
the Americans avoided the British ships, when the 
crews of the latter demanded to be led aboard ; 
Troude says the British always kept at long shot, 
while the French sailors *' demanderent, a grands 
cris, r abordage." James says the Americans " hes- 
itated to grapple " with their foes '' unless they pos- 
sessed a twofold superiority " ; Guerin that the 
English " never dared attack" except when they pos- 
sessed " une superiorite enorme." The British sneer 
at the " mighty dollar " ; the French at the " eternal 
guinea." The former consider Decatur's name as 
"sunk" to the level of Porter's or Bainbridge's ; 
the latter assert that the '' presumptuous Nelson " 
was inferior to any of the French admirals of the 
time preceding the Republic. Says James: '* The 
Americans only fight well when they have the 
superiority of force on their side " ; and Lieutenant 
Richer: '* Never have the English vanquished us 
with an undoubted inferiority of force." 

On June 12, 18 13, the small cutter Surveyor, of 
6 i2-pound carronades, was lying in York River, in 
the Chesapeake, under the command of Mr. William 
S. Travis; her crew consisted of but 15 men.' At 
nightfall she was attacked by the boats of the 
Narcissus frigate, containing about 50 men, under 
the command of Lieutenant John Creerie.^ None 

^ Letter of W. S. Travis, June 16, 1813. 
^ James, vi, 334. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. I97 

of the carronades could be used ; but Mr. Travis 
made every preparation that he could for defence. 
The Americans waited till the British were within 
pistol shot before they opened their fire ; the latter 
dashed gallantly on, however, and at once carried 
the cutter. But though brief, the struggle was 
bloody; 5 of the Americans were wounded, and 
of the British 3 were killed and 7 wounded. Lieu- 
tenant Creerie considered his opponents to have 
shown so much bravery that he returned Mr. Travis 
his sword, with a letter as complimentary to him as 
it was creditable to the writer.' 

As has been already mentioned, the Americans 
possessed a large force of gun-boats at the beginning 
of the war. Some of these were fairly sea-worthy 
vessels, of 90 tons burden, sloop- or schooner-rigged, 
and armed with one or two long, heavy guns, and 
sometimes with several light carronades to repel 
boarders." Gun-boats of this kind, together with the 
few small cutters owned by the government, were 
serviceable enough. They were employed all along 

' The letter, dated June 13th, is as follows : "Your gallant and 
desperate attempt to defend your vessel against more than double 
your number, on the night of the I2th instant, excited such admira- 
tion on the part of your opponents as I have seldom witnessed, and 
induced me to return you the sword you had so nobly used, in testi- 
mony of mine. Our poor fellows have suffered severely, occasioned 
chiefly, if not solely, by the precautions you had taken to prevent sur- 
prise. In short, I am at a loss which to admire most, the previous 
engagement aboard the Surveyor, or the determined manner in which 
her deck was disputed inch by inch. I am, sir," etc, 

"^ According to a letter from Captain Hugh G. Campbell (in the 
Naval Archives, "Captains' Letters," 1812, vol, ii, Nos. 21 and 
192), the crews were distributed as follows : ten men and a boy to a 
long 32, seven men and a boy to a long g, and five men and a boy to 
a carronade. exclusive of petty officers. Captain Campbell complains 
of the scarcity of men, and rather naively remarks that he is glad the 
marines have been withdrawn from the gun-boats, as this may make 
the commanders of the latter keep a brighter lookout than formerly. 

198 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

the shores of Georgia and the Carolinas, and in Long 
Island Sound, in protecting the coasting trade by 
convoying parties of small vessels from one port to 
another, and preventing them from being molested 
by the boats of any of the British frigates. They 
also acted as checks upon the latter in their descents 
upon the towns and plantations, occasionally capt- 
uring their boats and tenders, and forcing them to 
be very cautious in their operations. They were 
very useful in keeping privateers off the coast, and 
capturing them when they came too far in. The 
exploits of those on the southern coast will be men- 
tioned as they occurred. Those in Long Island 
Sound never came into collision with the foe, except 
for a couple of slight skirmishes at very long range ; 
but in convoying little fleets of coasters, and keeping 
at bay the man-of-war boats sent to molest them, 
they were invaluable ; and they also kept the Sound 
clear of hostile privateers. 

Many of the gun-boats were much smaller than 
those just mentioned, trusting mainly to their 
sweeps for motive power, and each relying for of- 
fence on one long pivot gun, a 12- or i8-pounder. 
In the Chesapeake there was a quite a large num- 
ber of these small gallies, with a few of the larger 
kind, and here it was thought that by acting to- 
gether in flotillas the gun-boats might in fine 
weather do considerable damage to the enemy's 
fleet by destroying detached vessels, instead of con- 
fining themselves to the more humble tasks in which 
their brethren elsewhere were fairly successful. At 
this period Denmark, having lost all her larger 
ships of war, was confining herself purely to gun- 
brigs. These were stout little crafts, with heavy 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 1 99 

guns, which, acting together, and being handled with 
spirit and skill, had on several occasions in calm 
weather captured small British sloops, and had twice 
so injured frigates as to make their return to Great 
Britain necessary ; while they themselves had fre- 
quently been the object of successful cutting-out 
expeditions. Congress hoped that our gun-boats 
would do as well as the Danish ; but for a variety of 
reasons they failed utterly in every serious attack 
that they made on a man-of-war, and were worse 
than useless for all but the various subordinate em- 
ployments above mentioned. The main reason for 
this failure was in the gun-boats themselves. They 
were utterly useless except in perfectly calm 
weather, for in any wind the heavy guns caused 
them to careen over so as to make it difificult to 
keep them right side up, and impossible to fire. 
Even in smooth water they could not be fought at 
anchor, requiring to be kept in position by means of 
sweeps ; and they were very unstable, the recoil of 
the guns causing them to roll so as to make it diffi- 
cult to aim with any accuracy after the first dis- 
charge, while a single shot hitting one put it hors de 
combat. This last event rarely happened, however, 
for they were not often handled with any approach 
to temerity, and, on the contrary, usually made their 
attacks at a range that rendered it as impossible to 
inflict as to receive harm. It does not seem as if they 
were very well managed ; but they were such ill-con- 
ditioned craft that the best officers might be pardoned 
for feeling uncomfortable in them. Their operations 
throughout the war offer a painfully ludicrous com- 
mentary on Jefferson's remarkable project of having 
our navy composed exclusively of such craft. 

200 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

The first aggressive attempt made with the gun- 
boats was characteristically futile. On June 20th 
15 of them, under Captain Tarbell, attacked the 
Juiion^ 38, Captain Sanders, then lying becalmed in 
Hampton Roads, with the Barossa, 36, and Laures- 
tinus, 24, near her. The gun-boats, while still at 
very long range, anchored, and promptly drifted 
round so that they couldn't shoot. Then they got 
under way, and began gradually to draw nearer to 
the Jiuion. Her defence was very feeble ; after 
some hasty and ill-directed vollies she endeavored 
to beat out of the way. But meanwhile, a slight 
breeze having sprung up, the ^^r^i-j^^. Captain Sher- 
riff, approached near enough to take a hand in the 
affair, and at once made it evident that she was a 
more dangerous foe than the Junon,t\io\x^ a lighter 
ship. As soon as they felt the effects of the breeze 
the gun-boats became almost useless, and, the Baros- 
sas fire being animated and well aimed, they with- 
drew. They had suffered nothing from the Junon, 
but during the short period she was engaged, the 
Barossa had crippled one boat and slightly damaged 
another; one man was killed and two wounded. 
The Barossa escaped unscathed and the jfunon was 
^ but slightly injured. Of the combatants, the Bar- 
ossa was the only one that came off with credit, the 
Junon behaving, if any thing, rather worse than the 
gun-boats. There was no longer any doubt as to 
the amount of reliance to be placed on the latter.' 

^ Though the flotilla men did nothing in the boats, they acted with 
the most stubborn bravery at the battle of Bladensburg. The Brit- 
ish Lieutenant Graig, himself a spectator, thus writes of their deeds 
on that occasion (" Campaign at Washington," p. 119). ' Of the sail- 
ors, however, it would be injustice not to speak in the terms which 
their conduct merits. They were employed as gunners, and not only 
did they serve their guns with a quickness and precision which as- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 20I 

On June 20, 181 3, a British force of three 74's, one 
64, four frigates, two sloops, and three transports 
was anchored off Craney Island. On the north- 
west side of this island was a battery of i8-pound- 
ers, to take charge of which Captain Cassin, com- 
manding the naval forces at Norfolk, sent ashore 
one hundred sailors of the Constellation, under 
the command of Lieutenants Neale, Shubrick, and 
Saunders, and fifty marines under Lieutenant Breck- 
enbridge/ On the morning of the 22d they were 
attacked by a division of i$ boats, containing 700 
men,^ seamen, marines, chasseurs, and soldiers of 
the I02d regiment, the whole under the command 
of Captain Pechell, of the San Domingo, 74. Cap- 
tain Hanchett led the attack \xv\.\i& Diadem s launch. 
The battery's guns were not fired till the British 
were close in, when they opened with destructive 
effect. While still some seventy yards from the 
guns the Diadem's launch grounded, and the attack 
was checked. Three of the boats were now sunk by 
shot, but the water was so shallow that they re- 
mained above water ; and while the fighting was 
still at its height, some of the Constellation s crew, 
headed by Midshipman Tatnall, waded out and took 
possession of them.^ A few of their crew threw 
away their arms and came ashore with their captors ; 
others escaped to the remaining boats, and imme- 

tonished their assailants, but they stood till some of them were actu- 
ally bayoneted wiih fu^es in their hands ; nor was it till their leader 
was wounded and taken, and they saw themselves dcsetted on all 
sides by the soldiers, that they quitted the field." Certainly such 
men could not be accused of lack of courage. Something else is 
needed to account for the failure of the gun-boat system. 

^ Letter of Captain John Cassin, June 23, 1813. 

" James, vi, 337. 

^ " Life of Commodore Josiah Tatnall," by Charles C. Jones, Jr. 
(Savannah, 187S), p. 17. 

202 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

diately afterward the flotilla made off in disorder, 
having lost 91 men. The three captured barges 
were large, strong boats, one called the Centipede 
being fifty feet long, and more formidable than 
many of the American gun-vessels. The Constella- 
tion s men deserve great credit for their defence, but 
the British certainly did not attack with their usual 
obstinacy. When the foremost boats were sunk, the 
water was so shallow and the bottom so good that the 
Americans on shore, as just stated, at once waded 
out to them ; and if in the heat of the fight Tatnall 
and his seamen could get out to the boats, the 700 
British ought to have been able to get in to the bat- 
tery, whose 150 defenders would then have stood no 

On July 14, 18 1 3, the two small vessels Scorpion 
and Asp^ the latter commanded by Mr. Sigourney, 
got under way from out of the Yeocomico Creek,^ 
and at 10 A. M. discovered in chase the British brig- 
sloops Contest, Captain James Rattray, and Mohawk, 
Captain Henry D. Byng.^ The Scorpion beat up 
the Chesapeake, but the dull-sailing Asp had to re- 
enter the creek ; the two brigs anchored off the bar 

'James comments on this repulse as " a defeat as discreditable to 
those that caused it as honorable to those that suffered in it." " Unlike 
most other nations, the Americans in particular, the British, when en- 
gaged in expeditions of this nature, always rest their hopes of success 
upon valor raiher than on numbers." These comments read particu- 
larly well when it is remembered that the assailants outnumbered the 
assailed in the proportion of 5 to I. It is monotonous work to have 
to supplement a history by a running commentary on James' mistakes 
and inventions ; but it is worth while to prove once for all the utter 
unreliability of the author who is accepted in Great Britain as the 
great authority about the war. Still, James is no worse than his com- 
peers. In the American Coggeshall's " History of Privateers," the 
misstatements are as gross and the sneers in as poor taste — the Brit- 
ish, instead of the Americans, being the objects. 

^Letter of Midshipman McClintock, July 15, 1813. 

^ James, vi, 343. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 203 

and hoisted out their boats, under the command of 
Lieutenant Rodger C. Curry ; whereupon the Asp 
cut her cable and ran up the creek some distance. 
Here she was attacked by three boats, which Mr. 
Sigourney and his crew of twenty men, with two Hght 
guns, beat off ; but they were joined by two others, and 
the five carried the Asp, giving no quarter. Mr. 
Sigourney and 10 of his men were killed or wounded, 
while the British also suffered heavily, having 4 
killed and 7 (including Lieutenant Curry) wounded. 
The surviving Americans reached the shore, rallied 
under Midshipman H. McClintock (second in com- 
mand), and when the British retired after setting the 
Asp on fire, at once boarded her, put out the flames, 
and got her in fighting order ; but they were not 
again molested. 

On July 29th, while the Jiuion, 38, Captain Sand- 
ers, and MarHn, 18, Captain Senhouse, were in Del- 
aware Bay, the latter grounded on the outside of 
Crow's Shoal ; the frigate anchored within support- 
ing distance, and while in this position the two ships 
were attacked by the American flotilla in those 
waters, consisting of eight gun-boats, carrying each 
25 men and one long 32, and two heavier block- 
sloops,^ commanded by Lieutenant Samuel Angus. 
The flotilla kept at such a distance that an hour's 
cannonading did no damage whatever to anybody ; 
and during that time gun-boat No. 121, Sailing- 
master Shead, drifted a mile and a half away from 
her consorts. Seeing this the British made a dash 
at her, in 7 boats, containing 140 men, led by Lieu- 
tenant Philip Westphal. Mr. Shead anchored and 
made an obstinate defence , but at the first discharge 

' Letter of Lieutenant Angus, July 30, 1813. 

204 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

the gun's pintle gave way, and the next time it was 
fired the gun-carriage was ahnost torn to pieces. 
He kept up a spirited fire of small arms, in reply to 
the boat-carronades and musketry of the assailants ; 
but the latter advanced steadily and carried the 
gun-boat by boarding, / of her people being 
wounded, while 7 of the British were killed and 13 
wounded.' The defence of No. 121 was very cred- 
itable, but otherwise the honor of the day was cer- 
tainly with the British ; whether because the gun- 
boats were themselves so worthless or because they 
were not handled boldly enough, they did no dam- 
age, even to the grounded sloop, that would seem 
to have been at their mercy.^ 

On June i8th the American brig-sloop Argus, 
commanded by Lieutenant William Henry Allen, 
late first of the United States, sailed from New York 
for France, with Mr. Crawford, minister for that 
country, aboard, and reached L'Orient on July nth, 
having made one prize on the way. On July 14th 
she again sailed, and cruised in the chops of the 
Channel, capturing and burning ship after ship, and 
creating the greatest consternation among the Lon- 
don merchants; she then cruised along Cornwall 
and got into St. George's Channel, where the work 
of destruction went on. The labor was very severe 
and harassing, the men being able to get very little 
rest.^ On the night of August 13th, a brig laden 

^Letter of Mr. Shead, Aug. 5, 1813. 

"^ The explanation possibly lies in the fact that the gun-boats had 
worthlesa powder. In the Naval Archives there is a letter from Mr. 
Angus ("Masters' Commandant Letters," 1813, No. 3 ; see also No. 
91), in which he says tliat the frigate's shot passed over them, while 
theirs could not even reach the sloop. He also encloses a copy of a 
paper, signed by the other gun-boat ofhcers, which runs : " We, the 
<:)fficers of the vessels comprising the Delaware flotilla, protest against 
the powder as being unfit for service." 

^ Court of Lnquiry into loss of A7'giis, 1S15. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 20$ 

wth-wine from Oporto was captured and burnt, and 
unluckily many of the crew succeeded in getting at 
some of the cargo. At 5 A. M. on the 14th a large 
brig-of-war was discovered standing down under a 
cloud of canvas.' This was the British brig-sloop Peli- 
can, Captain John Fordyce Maples, which, from 
information received at Cork three days previous, 
had been cruising especially after the ArguSy and 
had at last found her ; St. David's Head bore east 
five leagues (lat. 52° 15' N. and 5° 50' W.). 

The small, fine-lined American cruiser, with her 
lofty masts and long spars, could easily have escaped 
from her heavier antagonist; but Captain Allen had 
no such intention, and, finding he could not get the 
weather-gage, he shortened sail and ran easily along 
on the starboard tack, while the Pelican came down 
on him with the wind (which was from the south) 
nearly aft. At 6 A. M. the Argus wore and fired her 
port guns within grape distance, the P^/2'<:<2;/ respond- 
ing with her starboard battery, and the action be- 
gan with great spirit on both sides.^ At 6.04 a 
round shot carried off Captain Allen's leg, in- 
flicting a mortal wound, but he stayed on deck 
till he fainted from loss of blood. Soon the 
British fire carried away the main-braces, main- 
spring-stay, gaff, and try-sail mast of the Argus ; 
the first lieutenant, Mr. Watson, was wounded 
in the head by a grape-shot and carried below ; the 
second lieutenant, Mr. U. H. Allen (no relation of 
the captain), continued to fight the ship with great 
skill. The Pelican s fire continued very heavy, the 
Argus losing her spritsail-yard and most of the 

^Letter of Lieutenant Watson, March 2, 1815. 
' Letter of Captain Maples to Admiral Thornborough, Aug. 14, 

206 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

standing rigging on the port side of the foremast. 
At 6.14 Captain Maples bore up to pass astern of 
his antagonist, but Lieutenant Allen luffed into the 
wind and threw the main-top-sail aback, getting into 
a beautiful raking position ' ; had the men at the 
guns done their duty as well as those on the quar- 
ter-deck did theirs, the issue of the fight would have 
been very different ; but, as it was, in spite of her 
favorable position, the raking broadside of the Ar- 
gus did little damage. Two or three minutes after- 
ward the Argicslost the use of her after-sails through 
having her preventer-main-braces and top-sail tie 
shot away, and fell off before the wind, when the 
Pelican at 6.18 passed her stern, raking her heavily, 
and then ranged up on her starboard quarter. In a 
few minutes the wheel-ropes and running-rigging of 
every description were shot away, and the Argus be- 
came utterly unmanageable. The Pelican continued 
raking her with perfect impunity, and at 6.35 passed 
her broadside and took a position on her starboard 
bow, when at 6.45 the brigs fell together, and the 
British '* were in the act of boarding when the 
Argus struck her colors,'" at 6.45 A.M. The 
Pelican carried, besides her regular armament, two 
long 6's as stern-chasers, and her broadside weight 
of metal was thus : ' 














280 lbs. 

against the 









Letter of Lieutenant Watson. "^ Letter of Captain Maple 

Tames, vi, 320. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 20/ 

or, subtracting as usual 7 per cent, for light weight 
of metal, 210 lbs. The Pelicait s crew consisted of 
but 116 men, according to the British account, 
though the American reports make it much larger. 
The Argus had started from New York with 137 
m.en, but having manned and sent in several prizes, 
her crew amounted, as near as can be ascertained, 
to 104. Mr. Low in his *' Naval History," published 
just after the event, makes it but 99. James makes 
it 121 ; as he placed the crew of the Enterprise at 
125, when it was really 102 ; that of the Hornet at 
162, instead of 135 ; of the Peacock at 185, instead 
of 166 ; of the Nautilus at 106 instead of 95^ 
etc., etc., it is safe to presume that he has over- 
estimated it by at least 20, which brings the number 
pretty near to the American accounts. The Pelican 
lost but two men killed and five wounded. Captain 
Maples had a narrow escape, a spent grape-shot 
striking him in the chest with some force, and then 
falling on the deck. One shot had passed through 
the boatswain's and one through the carpenter's 
cabin ; her sides were filled with grape-shot, and her 
rigging and sails much injured ; her foremast, 
main-top-mast, and royal masts were slightly 
wounded, and two of her carronades dismounted. 

The injuries of the Argus have already been de- 
tailed ; her hull and lower masts were also tolerably 
well cut up. Of her crew, Captain Allen, two mid- 
shipmen, the carpenter, and six seamen were killed or 
mortally wounded ; her first lieutenant and 13 sea- 
men severely and slightly wounded : total, 10 killed 
and 14 wounded. 

In reckoning the comparative force, I include the 
Englishman's six-pound stern-chaser, which could 



not be fired in broadside with the rest of the guns, 
because I include the Argus' 12-pound bow-chaser, 
which also could not be fired in broadside, as it was 
crowded into the bridle-port. James, of course, 
carefully includes the latter, though leaving out the 





No. Guns. 





1. 00 





Loss inflicted. 

1. 00 

6. 35 


S.I8 ej^ 


e.oo A.Af 

- ^ >^ 2$ ^ 



Of all the single-ship actions fought in the war 
this is the least creditable to the Americans. The 
odds in force, it is true, were against the Argus, 
about in the proportion of 10 to 8, but this is 
neither enough to account for the loss inflicted be- 
ing as 10 to 3, nor for her surrendering when she 
had been so little ill used. It was not even as if 
her antagonist had been an unusually fine vessel of 
her class. The Pelican did not do as well as either 
the Frolic previously, or the Reindeer afterward, 
though perhaps rather better than the Avon, Pen- 
guin^ or Peacock. With a comparatively unmanage- 



able antagonist, in smooth water, she ought to have 
sunk her in three quarters of an hour. But the Pel- 
ican not having done particularly well merely 
makes the conduct of the Americans look worse ; it 
is just the reverse of the CJiesapeake s case, where, 
paying the highest credit to the British, we still 
thought the fight no discredit to us. Here we can 
indulge no such reflection. The officers did well, 
but the crew did not. Cooper says : '' The enemy 
was so much heavier that it maybe doubted whether 
the Argi-is would have captured her antagonist un- 
der any ordinary circumstances." This I doubt; 
such a crew as the Wasp's or Hornefs probably 
would have been successful. The trouble with the 
guns of the Argus was not so much that they were 
too small, as that they did not hit ; and this seems 
all the more incomprehensible when it is remem- 
bered that Captain Allen is the very man to whom 
Commodore Decatur, in his official letter, attributed 
the skilful gun-practice of the crew of the frigate 
United States. Cooper says that the powder was 
bad ; and it has also been said that the men of the 
Argus were over-fatigued and were drunk, in which 
case they ought not to have been brought into ac- 
tion. Besides unskilfulness, there is another very 
serious count against the crew. Had the Pelican 
been some distance from the Argus, and in a posi- 
tion where she could pour in her fire with perfect 
impunity to herself, when the surrender took place, 
it would have been more justifiable. But, on the 
contrary, the vessels were touching, and the British 
boarded just as the colors were hauled down ; it was 
certainly very disgraceful that the Americans did 
not rally to repel them, for they had still four fifths 


of their number absolutely untouched. They cer- 
tainly ought to have succeeded, for boarding is a dif- 
ficult and dangerous experiment ; and if they had 
repulsed their antagonists they might in turn have 
carried the Pelican. So that, in summing up the 
merits of this action, it is fair to say that both sides 
showed skilful seamanship and unskilful gunnery ; 
that the British fought bravely and that the Ameri- 
cans did not. 

It is somewhat interesting to compare this fight, 
where a weaker American sloop was taken by a 
stronger British one, with two or three others, where 
both the comparative force and the result were re- 
versed. Comparing it, therefore, with the actions 
between the Hornet and Peacock (British), the Wasp 
and Avon, and the Peacock {Avc\QV\C2in) and Epervier, 
we get four actions, in one of which, the first-named, 
the British were victorious, and in the other three 
the Americans. 

Comparative Comparative Loss Per cent. 




Pelican (British) 




Argus (American) 




Hornet (American) 




Peacock (British) 




Wasp (American) 




Avon (British) 




Peacock (American) 




Epervier (British) 




It is thus seen that in these sloop actions the 
superiority of force on the side of the victor was 
each time about the same. The Argus made a 
much more effectual resistance than did either the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 211 

Peacock, Avon, or Epervier, while the Pelican did her 
work in poorer form than either of the victorious 
American sloops ; and, on the other hand, the resist- 
ance of the Argus did not by any means show as 
much bravery as was shown in the defence of the 
Peacock or Avon, although rather more than in the 
case of the Epervier. 

This is the only action of the war where it is al- 
most impossible to find out the cause of the inferi- 
ority of the beaten crew. In almost all other cases 
we find that one crew had been carefully drilled, and 
so proved superior to a less-trained antagonist ; but 
it is incredible that the man, to whose exertions 
when first lieutenant of the States Commodore De- 
catur ascribes the skilfulness of thai; ship's men, 
should have neglected to train his own crew ; and 
this had the reputation of being composed of a fine 
set of men. Bad powder would not account for the 
surrender of the Argus when so little damaged. It 
really seems as if the men must have been drunk or 
over-fatigued, as has been so often asserted. Of 
course drunkenness would account for the defeat, 
although not in the least altering its humiliating 

" Et tu quoque " is not much of an argument ; 
still it may be as well to call to mind here two en- 
gagements in which British sloops suffered much 
more discreditable defeats than the Argus did. 
The figures are taken from James ; as given by the 
French historians they make even a worse showing 
for the British. 

A short time before our war the British brig Car- 
nation, 1 8, had been captured, by boarding, by the 
French brig Palinure, i6, and the British brig Alac- 

212 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

rity, 1 8, had been captured, also by boarding, by the 
corvette Abeille, 20. 

The following was the comparative force, etc., of 
the combatants: 

Weight Metal. 

No. Crew. 


















In spite of the pride the British take in their 
hand-to-hand prowess both of these ships were capt- 
ured by boarding. The Carnation was captured by 
a much smaller force, instead of by a much larger 
one, as in the case of the Argus ; and if the Argus 
gave up before she had suffered greatly, the Alacrity 
surrendered when she had suffered still less. French 
historians asserted that the capture of the two brigs 
proved that '' French valor could conquer British 
courage " ; and a similar opinion was very com- 
placently expressed by British historians after the 
defeat of the Argus. AH that the three combats 
really ** proved " was, that in six encounters between 
British and American sloops the Americans were 
defeated once ; and in a far greater number of en- 
counters between French and British sloops the 
British were defeated twice. No one pretends that 
either navy was invincible ; the question is, which 
side averaged best ? 

At the opening of the war we possessed several 
small brigs ; these had originally been fast, handy 
little schooners, each armed with 12 long sixes, and 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 213 

with a crew of 60 men. As such they were effective 
enough; but when afterward changed into brigs, 
each armed with a couple of extra guns, and given 
40 additional men, they became too slow to run, 
without becoming strong enough to fight. They 
carried far too many guns and men for their size, 
and not enough to give them a chance with any re- 
spectable opponent ; and they were almost all ig- 
nominiously captured. The single exception was 
the brig Enterprise. She managed to escape capt- 
ure, owing chiefly to good luck, and once fought a 
victorious engagement, thanks to the fact that the 
British possessed a class of vessels even worse than 
our own. She was kept near the land and finally 
took up her station off the eastern coast, where she 
did good service in chasing away or capturing the 
various Nova Scotian or New Brunswick privateers, 
which were smaller and less formidable vessels than 
the privateers of the United States, and not cal- 
culated for fighting. 

By crowding guns into her bridle-ports, and over- 
manning herself, the Enterprise, now under the 
command of Lieutenant William Burrows, mounted 
14 eighteen-pound carronades and 2 long 9's, with 
102 men. On September 5th, while stianding along 
shore near Penguin Point, a few miles to the east- 
ward of Portland, Me., she discovered, at anchor 
inside, a man-of-war brig ^ which proved to be 
H.M.S. Boxer, Captain Samuel Blyth, of 12 carron- 
ades, eighteen-pounders and two long sixes, with 
but (i^ men aboard, 12 of her crew being absent.'* 

* Letter from Lieutenant Edward R. .McCall to Commodore Hull. 
September 5, 1S13, 

"^ James, "Naval Occurrences," 264. The American accounts 
give the Boxer 104 men, on very insufficient grounds. Similarly, 

214 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The Boxer at once hoisted three British ensigns and 
bore up for the Enterprise, then standing in on the 
starboard tack ; but when the two brigs were still 4 
miles apart it fell calm. At midday a breeze sprang 
up from the southwest, giving the American the 
weather-gage, but the latter manoeuvred for some 
time to windward to try the comparative rates of 
sailing of the vessels. At 3 P. M. Lieutenant Bur- 
rows hoisted three ensigns, shortened sail, and 
edged away toward the enemy, who came gallantly 
on. Captain Blyth had nailed his colors to the 
mast, telling his men they should never be struck 
while he had life in his body.^ Both crews cheered 
loudly as they neared each other, and at 3.15, the 
two brigs being on the starboard tack not a half 
pistol-shot apart, they opened fire, the American 
using the port, and the English the starboard, bat- 
tery. Both broadsides were very destructive, 
each of the commanders falling at the very begin- 
ning of the action. Captain Blyth was struck by 
an eighteen-pound shot while he was standing on 
the quarter-deck ; it passed completely through his 
body, shattering his left arm and killing him on the 
spot. The command, thereupon, devolved on Lieu- 
tenant David McCreery, At almost the same time 
his equally gallant antagonist fell. Lieutenant Bur- 
rows, while encouraging his men, laid hold of a gun- 
tackle fall to help the crew of a carronade run out 
the gun ; in doing so he raised one leg against the 
bulwark, when a canister shot struck his thigh, 
glancing into his body and inflicting a fearful 

James gives the Enterprise 123 men. Each side will be considered 
authority for its own force and loss. 

' *' Naval Chronicle," vol. xxxii, p. 462. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 21 5 

wound.' In spite of the pain he refused to be 
carried below, and lay on the deck, crying out that 
the colors must never be struck. Lieutenant Ed- 
ward McCall now took command. At 3.30 the En- 
terprise ranged ahead, rounded to on the starboard 
tack, and raked the Boxer with the starboard 
guns. At 3.35 the Boxer lost her main-top-mast 
and top-sail yard, but her crew still kept up the 
fight bravely, with the exception of four men who 
deserted their quarters and were afterward court- 
martialed for cowardice.'' The Enterprise now set 
her fore-sail and took position on the enemy's star- 
board bow, delivering raking fires ; and at 3.45 the 
latter surrendered, when entirely unmanageable and 
defenceless. Lieutenant Burrows would not go 
below until he had received the sword of his adver- 
sary, when he exclaimed, '* I am satisfied, I die con- 



3JLS ^_ y . 

3.3U ^^' ^--^^miB 

Both brigs had suffered severely, especially the 
Boxer^ which had been hulled repeatedly, had three 
eighteen-pound shot through her foremast, her top- 
gallant forecastle almost cut away, and several of 
her guns dismounted. Three men were killed and 

^Cooper, "Naval History," vol. li, p. 259. 

'^ Minutes of court-martial held aboard H.M.S. Surprise, January 
8, 1814. 

2l6 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

seventeen wounded, four mortally. The Enterprise 
had been hulled by one round and many grape ; one 
1 8-pound ball had gone through her foremast, and 
another through her main-mast, and she was much 
cut up aloft. Two of her men were killed and ten 
wounded, two of them (her commander and Mid- 
shipman Kervin Waters) mortally. The British 
court-martial attributed the defeat of the Boxer " to 
a superiority in the enemy's force, principally in the 
number of men, as well as to a greater degree of 
skill in the direction of her fire, and to the destruc- 
tive effects of the first broadside." But the main 
element was the superiority in force, the difference 
in loss being very nearly proportional to it ; both 
sides fought with equal bravery and equal skill. 
This fact was appreciated by the victors, for at a 
naval dinner given in New York shortly afterward, 
one of the toasts offered was : " The crew of the 
Boxer ; enemies by law, but by gallantry brothers." 
The two commanders were both buried at Portland, 
with all the honors of war. The conduct of Lieu- 
tenant Burrows needs no comment. He was an 
officer greatly beloved and respected in the service. 
Captain Blyth, on the other side, had not only 
shown himself on many occasions to be a man of 
distinguished personal courage, but was equally 
noted for his gentleness and humanity. He had 
been one of Captain Lawrence's pall-bearers, and 
but a month previous to his death had received a 
public note of thanks from an American colonel, 
for an act of great kindness and courtesy.* 

The Enterprise, under Lieut.-Com. Renshaw, now 
cruised off the southern coast, where she made sev- 

^ " Naval Chronicle," xxxii, 466. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 21/ 

eral captures. One of them was a heavy British 
privateer, the Mars^ of 14 long nines and 75 men, 
which struck after receiving a broadside that killed 
and wounded 4 of her crew. The Enterprise was 
chased by frigates on several occasions ; being once 
forced to throw overboard all her guns but two, and 
escaping only by a shift in the wind. Afterward, 
as she was unfit to cruise, she was made a guard- 
ship at Charlestown ; for the same reason the Boxer 
was not purchased into the service. 

On October 4th some volunteers from the New- 
port flotilla captured, by boarding, the British priva- 
teer Dart^"^ after a short struggle in which two of the 
assailants were wounded and several of the priva- 
teersmen, including the first officer, were killed. 

On December 4th, Commodore Rodgers, still in 
command of the President^ sailed again from Provi- 
dence, Rhode Island. On the 25th, in lat. 19° N. and 
long. 35° W., the President, during the night, fell in 
with two frigates, and came so close that the head- 
most fired at her, when she made off. These were 
thought to be British, but were in reality the two 
French 40-gun frigates NympJie and Meduse, one 
month out of Brest. After this little encounter 
Rodgers headed toward the Barbadoes, and cruised 
to windward of them. 

On the whole the ocean warfare of 18^3 was de- 
cidedly in favor of the British, except during the 
first few months. The Horftefs fight with the 
Peacock was an action similar to those that took 
place in 1812, and the cruise of Porter was unique 

* Letter of Mr. Joseph Nicholson, Oct. 5, 1813. 

2l8 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

in our annals, both for the audacity with which it 
was planned, and the success with which it was 
executed. Even later in the year the Argus and 
the President made bold cruises in sight of the 
British coasts, the former working great havoc 
among the merchant-men. But by that time the 
tide had turned strongly in favor of our enemies. 
From the beginning of summer the blockade was 
kept up so strictly that it was with difificulty any of. 
our vessels broke through it ; they were either 
chased back or captured. In the three actions that 
occurred, the British showed themselves markedly 
superior in two, and in the third the combatants 
fought equally well, the result being fairly decided 
by the fuller crew and slightly heavier metal of the 
Enterprise. The gun-boats, to which many had 
looked for harbor defence, proved nearly useless, 
and were beaten off with ease whenever they made 
an attack. 

The lessons taught by all this were the usual 
ones. Lawrence's victory in the Hornet showed 
the superiority of a properly trained crew to one 
that had not been properly trained ; and his defeat 
in the Chesapeake pointed exactly the same way, 
demonstrating in addition the folly of taking a raw 
levy out of port, and, before they have had the 
slightest chance of getting seasoned, pitting them 
against skilled veterans. The victory of the Enter- 
prise showed the wisdom of having the odds in men 
and metal in our favor, when our antagonist was 
otherwise our equal ; it proved, what hardly needed 
proving, that, whenever possible, a ship should be 
so constructed as to be superior in force to the foes 
it would be likely to meet. As far as the capture of 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 219 

the Argus showed any thing, it was the advantage 
of heavy metai and the absolute need that a crew 
should fight with pluck. The failure of the gun- 
boats ought to have taught the lesson (though it 
did not) that too great economy in providing the 
means of defence may prove very expensive in the 
end, and that good officers and men are powerless 
when embarked in worthless vessels. A similar 
point was emphasized by the strictness of the 
blockade, and the great inconvenience it caused ; 
namely, that we ought to have had ships powerful 
enough to break it. 

We had certainly lost ground during this year ; 
fortunately we regained it during the next two. 
















Name. Guns. Tonnage. 

Chesapeake 50 1,265 

Argus 20 298 

Viper 10 148 

80 1)711 

220 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 


Name. Rig. Guns. Tonnage, Where Built. Cost. 

Rattlesnake Brig 14 278 Medford, Pa. $18,000 


Asp Sloop 3 56 2,600 

r Schooner 4 80 

Sloop 3 56 


Name of Ship. 

No. of Prizes. 













Small craft 






Ontario— Comparison of the rival squadrons— Chauncy takes York and 
Fort George— Yeo is repulsed at Sackett's Harbor, but keeps command of the 
lake— Chauncy sails— Yeo's partial victory off Niagara— Indecisive action off 
the Genesee— Chauncy's partial victory off Burlington, which gives him the 
command of the lake — Erie — Perry's success in creating a fleet — His victory 
— Champlain— Loss of the Growler and ^a^/^— Summary. 


WINTER had almost completely stopped 
preparations on the American side. Bad 
weather put an end to all communication with Al- 
bany or New York, and so prevented the transit of 
stores, implements, etc. It was worse still with the 
men, for the cold and exposure so thinned them out 
that the new arrivals could at first barely keep the 
ranks filled. It was, moreover, exceedingly difficult 
to get seamen to come from the coast to serve on 
the lakes, where work was hard, sickness prevailed, 
and there was no chance of prize-money. The Brit- 
ish government had the great advantage of being 
able to move its sailors where it pleased, while in 
the American service, at that period, the men en- 
listed for particular ships, and the only way to get 
them for the lakes at all was by inducing portions 
of crews to volunteer to follow their officers thither.' 

^ Cooper, ii, 357. One of James' most comical misstatements is 
that on the lakes the American sailors were all " picked men." On 

222 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

However, the work went on in spite of interruptions. 
Fresh gangs of shipwrights arrived, and, largely ow- 
ing to the energy and capacity of the head builder, 
Mr. Henry Eckford (who did as much as any naval 
ofBcer in giving us an effective force on Ontario), 
the Madison was equipped, a small despatch sloop, 
The Lady of the Lake prepared, and a large new 
ship, the General Pike ^ 28, begun, to mount 13 guns 
in each broadside and 2 on pivots. 

Meanwhile Sir George Prevost, the British com- 
mander in Canada, had ordered two 24-gun ships to 
be built, and they were begun ; but he committed 
the mistake of having one laid down in Kingston 
and the other in York, at the opposite end of 
the lake. Earle, the Canadian commodore, having 
proved himself so incompetent, was removed ; and 
in the beginning of May Captain Sir James Lu- 
cas Yeo arrived, to act as commander-in-chief of 
the naval forces, together with four captains, eight 
lieutenants, twenty-four midshipmen, and about 450 
picked seamen, sent out by the home government 
especially for service on the Canada lakes.' 

The comparative force of the two fleets or squad- 
rons it is hard to estimate. I have already spoken 
of the difficulty in finding out what guns were 
mounted on any given ship at a particular time, 
and it is even more perplexing with the crews. A 
schooner would make one cruise with but thirty 

p. 367, for example, in speaking of the battle of Lake Erie he says : 
" Commodore Perry had picked crews to all his vessels." As a mat- 
ter of fact Perry had once sent in his resignation solely on account of 
the very poor quality of his crews, and had with difficulty been in- 
duced to withdraw it. Perry's crews were of hax'dly average ex- 
cellence, but then the average American sailor was a very good 

^ James, vi, 353, 



hands ; on the next it would appear with fifty, a 
number of militia having volunteered as marines. 
Finding the militia rather a nuisance, they would 
be sent ashore, and on her third cruise the schooner 
would substitute half a dozen frontier seamen in 
their place. It was the same with the larger ves- 
sels. The Madison might at one time have her full 
complement of 200 men ; a month's sickness would 
ensue, and she would sail with but 150 effectives. 
The Pikes crew of 300 men at one time would 
shortly afterward be less by a third in consequence 
of a draft of sailors being sent to the upper lakes. 
So it is almost impossible to be perfectly accurate ; 
but, making a comparison of the various authorities 
from Lieutenant Emmons to James, the following 
tables of the forces may be given as very nearly cor- 
rect. In broadside force I count every pivot gun, 
and half of those that were not on pivots. 






Metal ; lbs. 








long 24's 







short 32's 







" 24's 







long 32 
" 24 
" 6's 







I " 32 
8 short 12's 







long 32 
" 12 
" 6's 







" 32 
" 12 
- 6's 







" 32 
" 12 







" 32 
•* 13 



Name. Rig. 



Metal ; lbs. 


Ontario, schooner 





I long 32 
I " 12 

Fair A mefican , ' ' 




I " 24 
I "12 

Pert, " 




1 " 24 





I " 24 

Lady of the Lake, " 




I " 9 





This is not materially different from James' ac- 
count (p. 356), which gives Chauncy 114 guns, 1,193 
men, and 2,121 tons. The Lady of the Lake, how- 
ever, was never intended for any thing but a despatch 
boat, and the Scourge and Hamilton were both lost 
before Chauncy actually came into collision with 
Yeo. Deducting these, in order to compare the 
two foes, Chauncy had left 11 vessels of 2,265 tons, 
with 865 men and 92 guns throwing a broadside of 
1,230 pounds. 




Rig. Tonnage. Crew. 

ship 037 

Metal; lbs. 


Royal George, 



Melville s brig 279 

Moira, " 262 

Sydney Sfnitk, schooner 216 










{I long 24 
8 " i8's 
4 short 68's 
10 " 32's 
3 long i8's 
•j 2 short 68's 
16 " 32's 
( 2 long i8's 
( 12 short 32's 
( 2 long 9's 
I 12 short 24's 
\ 2 long 12's 
\\ 10 short 32's 
( I long 24 

short l8's 






NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 22 5 

This differs but slightly from James, who gives 
Yeo 92 guns throwing a broadside of 1,374 pounds, 
but only 717 men. As the evidence in the court- 
martial held on Captain Barclay, and the of^cial ac- 
counts (on both sides) of Macdonough's victory, 
convict him of very much underrating the force in 
men of the British on Erie and Champlain, it can 
be safely assumed that he has underestimated the 
force in men on Lake Ontario. By comparing the 
tonnage he gives to Barclay's and Downie's squad- 
rons with what it really was, we can correct his ac- 
count of Yeo's tonnage. 

The above figures would apparently make the two 
squadrons about equal, Chauncy having 95 men 
more, and throwing at a broadside 144 pounds shot 
less than his antagonist. But the figures do not by any 
means show all the truth. The Americans greatly 
excelled in the number and calibre of their long 
guns. Compared thus, they threw at one discharge 
694 pounds of long-gun metal and 536 pounds of 
carronade metal ; while the British only threw from 
their long guns 180 pounds, and from their carron- 
ades 1,194. This unequal distribution of metal was 
very much in favor of the Americans. Nor was 
this all. The Pike^ with her 1 5 long 24's in battery, 
was an overmatch for any one of the enemy's vessels, 
and bore the same relation to them that the Con- 
fjxncey-aX a later date, did to Macdonough's squadron. 
She should certainly have been a match for the 
Wolfe and Melville together, and the Madison and 
Oneida for the Royal George and Sydney Smith. In 
fact, the three heavy American vessels ought to 
have been an overmatch for the four heaviest of the 
British squadron, although these possessed the nom- 

226 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2, 

inal superiority. And in ordinary cases the eight 
remaining American gun-vessels would certainly 
seem to be an overmatch for the two British 
schooners, but it is just here that the difficulty of 
comparing the forces comes in. When the water 
was very smooth and the wind light, the long 32's 
and 24's of the Americans could play havoc with 
the British schooners, at a distance which would 
render the carronades of the latter useless. But the 
latter were built for war, possessed quarters and 
were good cruisers, while Chauncy's schooners were 
merchant vessels, without quarters, crank, and so 
loaded down with heavy metal that whenever it blew 
at all hard they could with difficulty be kept from 
upsetting, and ceased to be capable even of defend- 
ing themselves.^ When Sir James Yeo captured two 
of them he would not let them cruise with his other 
vessels at all, but sent them back to act as gun- 
boats, in which capacity they were serving when re- 
captured ; this is a tolerable test of their value com- 
pared to their opponents. Another disadvantage 
that Chauncy had to contend with, was the differ- 
ence in the speed of the various vessels. The Pike 
and Madison were fast, Aveatherly ships ; but the 
Oneida was a perfect slug, even going free, and 
could hardly be persuaded to beat to windward at 
all. In this respect Yeo was much better off ; his 
six ships were regular men-of-war, with quarters, 
all of them seaworthy, and fast enough to be able 
to act with uniformity, and not needing to pay 
much regard to the weather. His force could act as 
a unit ; but Chauncy's could not. Enough wind to 
make a good working breeze for his larger vessels 
put all his smaller ones hors de combat ; and in 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 22/ 

weather that suited the latter, the former could not 
move about at all. When speed became necessary 
the two ships left the brig hopelessly behind, and 
either had to do without her, or else perhaps let tl.^ 
critical moment slip by while waiting for her io 
come up. Some of the schooners sailed quite as 
slowly; and finally it was found out that the only 
way to get all the vessels into action at once was to 
have one half the fleet tow the other half. It was 
certainly difficult to keep the command of the lake 
wdien, if it came on to blow, the commodore had to 
put into port under penalty of seeing a quarter 
of his fleet founder before his eyes. These conflict- 
ing considerations render it hard to pass judgment ; 
but on the whole it would seem as if Chauncy was 
the superior in force, for even if his schooners were 
not counted, his three square-rigged vessels were at 
least a match for the four square-rigged British ves- 
sels, and the two British schooners would not have 
counted very much in such a conflict. In calm 
weather he was certainly the superior. This only 
solves one of the points in which the official letters 
of the two commanders differ: after every meeting 
each one insists that he was inferior in force, that 
the weather suited his antagonist, and that the latter 
ran away, and got the worst of it ; all of which wdll 
be considered further on. 

In order to settled toward which side the balance of 
success inclined, we must remember that there were 
two things the combatants were trying to do viz. : 

(i) To damage the enemy directly by capturing 
or destroying his vessels. This was the only object 
we had in view in sending out ocean cruisers, but on 
the lakes it was subordinated to : — 

228 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

(2) Getting the control of the lake, by which in- 
valuable assistance could be rendered to the army. 
The most thorough way of accomplishing this, of 
course, was by destroying the enemy's squadron ; 
but it could also be done by building ships too pow- 
erful for him to face, or by beating him in some en- 
gagement which, although not destroying his fleet, 
would force him to go into port. If one side was 
stronger, then the weaker party by skilful manoeu- 
vring might baffle the foe, and rest satisfied by 
keeping the sovereignty of the lake disputed ; for, 
as long as one squadron was not undisputed master it 
could not be of much assistance in transporting 
troops, attacking forts, or otherwise helping the mil- 

In 18 1 3 the Americans gained the first point by 
being the first to begin operations. They were 
building a new ship, afterward the Pike, at Sack- 
ett's Harbor; the British were building two new 
ships, each about two thirds the force of the Pike, 
(^ne at Toronto (then called York), one at Kingston. 
Before these were built the two fleets were just on 
a par ; the destruction of the Pike would give the 
British the supremacy ; the destruction of either 
of the British ships, provided the Pike were 
saved, would give the Americans the supremacy. 
Both sides had already committed faults. The 
Americans had left Sackett's Harbor so poorly de- 
fended and garrisoned that it invited attack, while 
the British had fortified Kingston very strongly, but 
had done little for York, and, moreover, ought not 
to have divided their forces by building ships in dif- 
ferent places. 

Comm.odore Chauncy's squadron was ready for 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 229 

service on April 19th, and on the 25th he made sail 
with the Madison, Lieutenant-Commander Elliott, 
floating his own broad pennant, Oneida, Lieutenant 
Woolsey, //^;;/z7/^;^, Lieutenant McPherson, vS^^?^r^r, 
Mr. Osgood, Tompkins, Lieutenant Brown, Con- 
quest, Lieutenant Pettigrew, Growler, Mr. Mix, 
Julia, Mr. Trant, Asp, Lieutenant Smith, Pert, 
Lieutenant Adams, American, Lieutenant Chauncy, 
Ontario, Mr. Stevens, Lady of the Lake, Mr. Hinn, 
and Raven, transport, having on board General 
Dearborn and 1700 troops, to attack York, which 
was garrisoned by about 700 British regulars and 
Canadian militia under Major-General Sheafe. The 
new 24-gun ship was almost completed, and the 
Gloucester lo-gun brig was in port; the guns of 
both vessels were used in defence of the port. 
The fleet arrived before York early on April 27th, 
and the debarkation began at about 8 A. M. 
The schooners beat up to the fort under a heavy 
cannonade, and opened a spirited fire from their 
long guns ; while the troops went ashore under 
the command of Brigadier- General Pike. The 
boats were blown to leeward by the strong east 
wind, and were exposed to a galling fire, but landed 
the troops under cover of the grape thrown by the 
vessels. The schooners now beat up to within a 
quarter of a mile from the principal work, and 
opened heavily upon it, while at the same time 
General Pike and the main body of the troops on 
shore moved forward to the assault, using their 
bayonets only. The British regulars and Canadian 
militia, outnumbered three to one (including the 
American sailors) and with no very good defensive 
works, of course had to give way, having lost heav- 

230 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ily, especially from the fire of the vessels. An ex- 
plosion immediately afterward killed or wounded 
250 of the victors, including General Pike. The 
Americans lost, on board the fleet, 4 killed, includ- 
ing midshipmen Hatfield and Thompson, and 8 
wounded ' ; and of the army," 14 killed and 32 
wounded by the enemy's fire, and 52 killed and 180 
wounded by the explosion : total loss, 288. The Brit- 
ish regulars lost 1 30 killed and wounded, including 40 
by the explosion ^ ; together with 50 Canadians and 
Indians, making a total of 180, besides 290 prison- 
ers. The 24-gun ship was burned, her guns taken 
away, and the Gloucester sailed back to Sackett's 
Harbor with the fleet. Many military and naval 
stores were destroyed, and much more shipped to 
the Harbor. The great fault that the British had 
committed was in letting the defences of so impor- 
tant a place remain so poor, and the force in it so 
small. It was impossible to resist very long when 
Pike's troops were landed, and the fleet in position. 
On the other hand, the Americans did the work in 
good style ; the schooners were finely handled, firing 
with great precision and completely covering the 
troops, who, in turn, were disembarked and brought 
into action very handsomely. 

After being detained in York a week by bad 
weather the squadron got out, and for the next 
fortnight was employed in conveying troops and 
stores to General Dearborn. Then it was deter- 
mined to make an attack on Fort George, where the 
British General Vincent was stationed with from 

' Letter of Commodore Chauncy, April 28, 1813. 
^ James, " Military Occurrences" (London, 1818) vol. i, p. 151. 
^ Lossing's " Field-Bookof the War of 1S12," p. 5'8i. The accounts 
vary somewhat. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


1,000' to 1,800^ regulars, 600 militia, and about 
100 Indians. The American troops numbered 
about 4,500, practically under the command of Col- 
onel Scott. On May 26th Commodore Chauncy 
carefully reconnoitred the place to be attacked, and 
in the night made soundings along the coast, and 
laid buoys so as to direct the small vessels, who 
were to do the fighting. At 3 A. M. on the 27th the 
signal was made to weigh, the heavy land artillery 
being on the Madison, and the other troops on the 
Oneida, the Lady of the Lake, and in batteaux, 
many of which had been captured at York. The 
Julia, Growler, and Ontario moved in and attacked 
a battery near the light-house, opening a cross-fire 
which silenced it. The troops were to be disem- 
barked farther along the lake, near a battery of one 
long 24, managed by Canadian militia. The Con- 
quest and Tompkins swept in under fire to this bat- 
tery, and in 10 minutes killed or drove off the ar- 
tillerymen, who left the gun spiked, and then 
opened on the British. " The American ships with 
their heavy discharges of round and grape too well 
succeeded in thinning the British ranks." ^ Mean- 
while the troop-boats, under Captain Perry and 
Colonel Scott dashed in, completely covered by a 
heavy fire of grape directed point-blank at the foe 
by the Hamilton, Scourge, and Asp. " The fire from 
the American shipping committed dreadful havoc 
among the British, and rendered their efforts to op- 
pose the landing of the enemy ineffectual." " Col- 
onel Scott's troops, thus protected, made good their 
landing and met the British regulars ; but the latter 

'James, " Military Occurrences," i, p. 151. '^ Lossing, 596. 

^ James, "Military Occurrences," i, p. 151. * Zoc. cit. 

232 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

were so terribly cut up by the tremendous dis- 
charges of grape and canister from the schooners, 
that in spite of their gallantry and discipline they 
were obliged to retreat, blowing up and abandoning 
the fort. One sailor was killed and two wounded^ ; 
seventeen soldiers were killed and forty-five 
wounded '^ ; making the total American loss sixty- 
five. Of the British regulars 52 were killed, 44 
wounded, and 262 "wounded and missing,'" in 
addition to about forty Canadians and Indians hors 
de combat and nearly 500 militia captured ; so that 
in this very brilliant affair the assailants suffered 
hardly more than a fifth of the loss in killed and 
wounded that the assailed did ; which must be 
attributed to the care with which Chauncy had re- 
connoitred the ground and prepared the attack, the 
excellent handling of the schooners, and the exceed- 
ingly destructive nature of their fire. The British 
batteries were very weak, and, moreover, badly 
served. Their regular troops fought excellently ; it 
was impossible for them to stand against the fire of 
the schooners, which should have been engaged by 
the batteries on shore ; and they were too weak in 
numbers to permit the American army to land and 
then attack it when away from the boats. The 
Americans were greatly superior in force, and yet 
deserve very much credit for achieving their object 
so quickly, with such slight loss to themselves, and 
at such a heavy cost to the foe. The effect of the 
victory was most important, the British evacuating 
the whole Niagara frontier, and leaving the river in 
complete possession of the Americans for the time 

' Letter of Commodore Chauncy, May 2g, 1813. 
■■* Letter of General Dearborn, May 27, 1813. 
^Letter of Brig.-Gen. Vincent, May 28, 1813. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 233 

being. This offered the opportunity for despatch- 
ing Captain Perry up above the falls to take out 
one captured brig (the Caledonia) and four pur- 
chased schooners, which had been lying in the 
river unable to get past the British batteries into 
Lake Erie. These five vessels were now carried 
into that lake, being tracked up against the current 
by oxen, to become a most important addition to 
the American force upon it. 

While Chauncy's squadron was thus absent at 
the west end of the lake the Wolfe, 24, was launched 
and equipped at Kingston, making the British force 
on the lake superior to that of the Americans. 
Immediately Sir George Prevost, and Sir James 
Lucas Yeo, the commanders-in-chief of the land and 
water forces in the Canadas, decided to strike a 
blow at Sackett's Harbor and destroy the General 
Pike, 28, thus securing to themselves the superiority 
for the rest of the season. Accordingly they em- 
barked on May 27th, in the Wolfe, Royal George, 
Moira, Prince Regent, Sinico, and Seneca, with a 
large number of gun-boats, barges, and batteaux ; 
and on the next day saw and attacked a brigade of 
19 boats transporting troops to Sackett's Harbor, 
under command of Lieutenant Aspinwall. Twelve 
boats were driven ashore, and 70 of the men in them 
captured ; but Lieutenant Aspinwall and lOO men 
succeeded in reaching the Harbor, bringing up the 
total number of regulars there to 500 men, General 
Brown having been summoned to take the chief 
command. About 400 militia also came in, but 
were of no earthly service. There were, however, 
200 Albany volunteers, under Colonel Mills, who 
could be relied on. The defences were miserably in- 

234 NAVAL WAR OF t8i2. 

adequate, consisting of a battery of one long gun, 
and a block-house. 

On the 29th Sir George Prevost and 800 regulars 
landed, being covered by the gun-boats under Sir 
James Lucas Yeo. The American militia fled at 
once, but the regulars and volunteers held their 
ground in and around the block-house. "At this 
point the further energies of the [British] troops 
became unavailing. The [American] block-house 
and stockade could not be carried by assault nor re- 
duced by field-pieces, had we been provided with 
them ; the fire of the gun-boats proved insufficient 
to attain that end ; light and adverse winds con- 
tinued, and our larger vessels were still far off."' 
The British reembarked precipitately. The Ameri- 
can loss amounted to 23 killed and 114 wounded; 
that of the British to 52 killed and 211 wounded,^ 
most of the latter being taken prisoners. During 
the fight som.e of the frightened Americans set fire 
to the store-houses, the Pike and the Gloucester ; 
the former were consumed, but the flames were ex- 
tinguished before they did any damage to either of 
the vessels. This attack differed especially from 
those on Fort George and York, in that the attack- 
ing force was relatively much weaker ; still it ought 
to have been successful. But Sir George could not 
compare as a leader with Col. Scott or Gen. Pike ; 
and Sir James did not handle the gun-boats by any 
means as well as the Americans did their schooners 
in similar attacks. The admirers of Sir James lay 
the blame on Sir George, and vice ' versa ; but in 
reality neither seems to have done particularly well. 

^ Letter of Adj. -Gen, Baynes, May 30, 1813. 
* James, " Military Occurrences," p. 173. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 235 

At any rate the affair was the reverse of creditable 
to the British. 

The British squadron returned to Kingston, and 
Chauncy, having heard that tliey were out, came 
down the lake and went into port about June 2d. 
So far the Americans had had all the success, and 
had controlled the lake ; but now Yeo's force was 
too formidable to be encountered until the Pike was 
built, and the supremacy passed undisputed into 
his hands, while Chauncy lay in Sackett's Harbor. 
Of course with the Pike soon to be built, Yeo's un- 
contested superiority could be of but short dura- 
tion ; but he used his time most actively. He 
sailed from Kingston on the 3d of June, to coop- 
erate with the British army at the head of the 
lake, and intercept all supplies going to the Amer- 
icans. On the 8th he discovered a small camp of the 
latter near Forty Mile Creek, and attacked it with 
the Bercsford, Sydney SviitJi, and gun-boats, oblig- 
ing the Americans to leave their camp, while their 
equipages, provisions, stores, and batteaux fell into 
the hands of the British, whose troops occupied the 
post, thus assisting in the series of engagements 
which ended in the humiliating repulse of General 
Wilkinson's expedition into Canada. On the 13th 
two schooners and some boats bringing supplies to 
the Americans were captured, and on the i6th a 
depot of provisions at the Genesee River shared the 
same fate. On the 19th a party of British soldiers 
were landed by the fleet at Great Sodas, and took 
off 600 barrels of flour. Yeo then returned to 
Kingston, where he anchored on the 27th, having 
done good service in assisting the land forces.^ As a 

Letter of Sir James Lucas Yeo to Mr. Croker, June 29, 1813. 

236 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

small compensation, on the i8th of the same month 
the Lady of the Lake, Lieut. Wolcott Chauncy, 
captured off Presqu' Isle the British schooner Lady 
Murray, containing i ensign, 15 soldiers, and 6 
sailors, together with stores and ammunition.' 

During the early part of July neither squadron 
put out in force ; although on the first of the month 
Commodore Yeo made an abortive attempt to sur- 
prise Sackett's Harbor, but abandoned it when 
it was discovered. Meanwhile the Americans 
were building a new schooner, the Sylph, and the 
formidable corvette Pike was made ready to sail by 
July 2ist. On the same day the entire American 
squadron, or fleet, sailed up to the head of the lake, 
and reached Niagara on the 27th. Here Col. Scott 
and some of his regulars were embarked, and on the 
30th a descent was made upon York, where 1 1 trans- 
ports were destroyed, 5 cannon, a quantity of flour, 
and some ammunition carried off, and the barracks 
burned. On the 3d of August the troops were dis- 
embarked at the Niagara, and 1 1 1 officers and men 
were sent up to join Perry on Lake Erie. As this 
left the squadron much deranged 150 militia were 
subsequently lent it by General Boyd, but they 
proved of no assistance (beyond swelling the num- 
ber of men Yeo captured in the Grozvler and Julia 
from 70 individuals to 80), and were again landed. 

Commodore Yeo sailed with his squadron from 
Kingston on Aug. 2d, and on the 7th the two fleets 
for the first time came in sight of one another, the 
Americans at anchor off Fort Niagara, the British 
six miles to windward, in the W. N. W. Chauncy's 

' Letter of Lieut. Wolcott Chauncy to Com. Chauncy, June 18, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 237 

?;quadron contained one corvette, one ship sloop, one 
brig sloop, and ten schooners, manned by about 965 
men, and throwing at a broadside 1,390 lbs. of shot, 
nearly 800 of which were from long guns. Yeo's in- 
cluded two ship sloops, two brig sloops, and two 
schooners, manned by 770 men, and throwing at a 
broadside 1,374 lbs., but 180 being from long guns. 
But Yeo's vessels were all built with bulwarks, while 
ten of Chauncy's had none ; and, moreover, his vessels 
could all sail and manoeuvre together, while, as al- 
ready remarked, one half of the American fleet spent 
a large part of its time towing the other half. The 
Pike would at ordinary range be a match for the 
Wolfe and J/^/z^/7/^ together ; yet in actual weight of 
metal she threw less than the former ship alone. In 
calm weather the long guns of the American 
schooners gave them a great advantage ; in rough 
weather they could not be used at all. Still, on the 
whole, it could fairly be said that Yeo was advanc- 
ing to attack a superior fleet. 

All through the day of the 7th the wind blew 
light and variable, and the two squadrons went 
through a series of manoeuvres, nominally to bring 
on an action. As each side flatly contradicts the 
other it is hard to tell precisely what the manoeuvres 
were ; each captain says the other avoided him and 
that Jie made all sail in chase. At any rate it was 
just the weather for Chauncy to engage in. 

That night the wind came out squally ; and about 
I A. M. on the morning of the 8th a heavy gust struck 
the Hamilton and Scourge, forcing them to careen 
over till the heavy guns broke loose, and they 
foundered, but 16 men escaping, — which accident 
did not open a particularly cheerful prospect to 

238 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

the remainder of the schooners. Chauncy's force 
was, by this accident, reduced to a numerical 
equality with Yeo's, having perhaps a hundred 
more men,' and throwing 144 lbs. less shot at a 
broadside. All through the two succeeding days 
the same manoeuvring went on ; the question as to 
which avoided the fight is simply one of veracity 
between the two commanders, and of course each 
side, to the end of time, will believe its own leader. 
But it is not of the least consequence, as neither 
accomplished any thing. 

On the loth the same tedious evolutions were 
continued, but at 7 P. M. the two squadrons were 
tolerably near one another, Yeo to windward, the 
breeze being fresh from the S. W. Commodore 
Chauncy formed his force in two lines on the port 
tack, while Commodore Yeo approached from be- 
hind and to windward, in single column, on the same 
tack. Commodore Chauncy's weather line was 
formed of the Julia, Growler, Pert, Asp, Ontario, 
and American, in that order, and the lee line of the 
Pike, Oneida, Madison, Tompkins, and Conquest. 
Chauncy formed his weather line of the smaller ves- 
sels, directing them, when the British should en- 
gage, to edge away and form to leeward of the 
second line, expecting that Sir James would follow 
them down. At 1 1 the weather line opened fire at 
very long range; at 11. 1 5 it was returned, and the 

^ This estimate as to men is a mere balancing of probabilities. If 
James underestimates the British force on Ontario as much as he has 
on Erie and Champlain, Yeo had as many men as his opponent. 
Chauncy, in one of his letters (preserved with the other manuscript 
letters in the Naval Archives), says : " I enclose the muster-rolls of 
all my ships," but I have not been able to find them, and in any 
event the complements were continually changing completely. The 
point is not important, as each side certainly had plenty of men on 
this occasion. 


240 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

action became general and harmless; at 11.30 the 
weather line bore up and passed to leeward, except 
the J2ilia and Growler, which tacked. The Brit- 
ish ships kept their luff and cut off. the two that 
had tacked ; while Commodore Chauncy's lee line 
'' edged away two points, to lead the enemy down, 
not only to engage him to more advantage, but to 
lead him from the JtUia and Groivlery ^ Of course 
the enemy did not come down, and the Julia and 
Grozvler were not saved. Yeo kept on till he had 
cut off the two schooners, fired an ineffectual broad- 
side at the other ships, and tacked after the Growler 
and Julia. Then, when too late, Chauncy tacked 
also, and stood after him. The schooners, mean- 
while, kept clawing to windward till they were 
overtaken, and, after making a fruitless effort to run 
the gauntlet through the enemy's squadron by put- 
ting before the wind, were captured. Yeo's ac- 
count is simple : " Came within gunshot of Pike and 
Madison, when they immediately bore up, fired their 
stern-chase guns, and made all sail for Niagara, leav- 
ing two of their schooners astern, which we capt- 
ured." ' The British had acted faultlessly, and the 
honor and profit gained by the encounter rested en- 
tirely with them. On the contrary, neither Chauncy 
nor his subordinates showed to advantage. 

Cooper says that the line of battle was " sin- 
gularly well adapted to draw the enemy down," 
and ''admirable for its advantages and ingenuity." 
In the first place it is an open question whether 
the enemy needed drawing down ; on this occasion 
he advanced boldly enough. The formation may 

' Letter of Commodore Isaac Chauncy, Aug. 13, 1813. 
^ Letter of Sir James Lucas Yeo, Aug. 10, 1S13. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 24I 

have been ingenious, but it was the reverse of ad- 
vantageous. It would have been far better to have 
had the strongest vessels to windward, and the 
schooners, with their long guns, to leeward, where 
they would not be exposed to capture by any 
accident happening to them. Moreover, it does 
not speak well for the discipline of the fleet, that 
two commanders should have directly disobeyed 
orders. And when the two schooners did tack, 
and it was evident that Sir James would cut 
them off, it was an extraordinary proceeding for 
Chauncy to " edge away two points -^ -^ -x- 
to lead the enemy from the Growler and Julian 
It is certainly a novel principle, that if part of a 
force is surrounded the true way to rescue it is to 
run away with the balance, in hopes that the enemy 
will follow. Had Chauncy tacked at once, Sir 
James would have been placed between two fires, 
and it would have been impossible for him to capt- 
ure the schooners. As it was, the British com- 
mander had attacked a superior force in weather 
that just suited it, and yet had captured two of its 
vessels withour suffering any injury beyond a few 
shot holes in the sails. The action, however, was in 
no way decisive. All next day, the nth, the fleets 
were in sight of one another, the British to wind- 
ward, but neither attempted to renew the engage- 
ment. The wind grew heavier, and the villainous 
little American schooners showed such strong ten- 
dencies to upset, that two had to run into Niagara 
Bay to anchor. With the rest Chauncy ran down 
the lake to Sackett's Harbor, Avhich he reached on 
the 13th, provisioned his squadron for five weeks, 
and that same evening proceeded up the lake again. 

242 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The advantage in this action had been entirely 
with the British, but it is simple nonsense to say, 
as one British historian does, that " on Lake Onta- 
rio, therefore, we at last secured a decisive predom- 
inance, which we maintained until the end of the 
war." ' This " decisive " battle left the Americans 
just as much in command of the lake as the Brit- 
ish ; and even this very questionable *' predomi- 
nance " lasted but six weeks, after which the Brit- 
ish squadron was blockaded in port most of the 
time. The action has a parallel in that fought on 
the 22d of July, 1805, by Sir Robert Calder's fleet 
of 15 sail of the line against the Franco-Spanish 
fleet of 20 sail of the line, under M. Villeneuve.' 
The two fleets engaged in a fog, and the English 
captured two ships, when both sides drew off, and 
remained in sight of each other the next day with- 
out either renewing the action. '' A victory there- 
fore it was that Sir Robert Calder had gained, but not 
a ' decisive ' nor a * brilliant ' victory." ^ This is ex- 
actly the criticism that should be passed on Sir 
James Lucas Yeo's action of the loth of August. 

From the 13th of August to the loth of Septem- 
ber both fleets were on the lake most of the time, 
each commodore stoutly maintaining that he was 
chasing the other ; and each expressing in his let- 

' " History of the British Navy," by Charles Duke Yonge (London, 
1866), vol. iii, p. 24. It is apparently not a work of any authority, 
but I quote it as showing probably the general feeling of British 
writers about the action and its results, which can only proceed from 
extreme partizanship and ignorance of the subject. 

^ " Batailles Navales de la France," par O. Troude, iii, 352. It 
seems rather ridiculous to compare these lake actions, fought between 
small flotillas, with the gigantic contests which the huge fleets of 
Europe waged in contending for tiie supremacy of the ocean ; but 
the difference is one of degree and not of kind, and they serve well 
enough for purposes of illustration or comparison. 

•'James' "Naval History," iv, 14. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 243 

ters his surprise and disgust that his opponent 
should be afraid of meeting him " though so much 
superior in force." The facts are of course diffi- 
cult to get at, but it seems pretty evident that Yeo 
was determined to engage in heavy, and Chaunc}- 
in light, weather ; and that the party to leeward 
generally made off. The Americc^ns had been re-in- 
forced by the Sylph schooner, of 300 tons and 70 
men, carrying four long 32's on pivots, and six long 
6's. Theoretically her armament would make her 
formidable ; but practically her guns were so 
crowded as to be of little use, and the next year she 
was converted into a brig, mounting 24-pound car- 

On the nth of September a partial engagement, 
at very long range, in light weather, occurred near 
the mouth of the Genesee River ; the Americans 
suffered no loss whatever, while the British had one 
midshipman and three seamen killed and seven 
wounded, and afterward ran into Amherst Bay. 
One of their brigs, the Melville, received a shot so 
far under water that to get at and plug it, the guns 
had to be run in on one side and out on the other. 
Chauncy describes it as a running fight of 3|- hours, 
the enemy then escaping into Amherst Bay.' James 
(p. 38) says that " At sunset a breeze sprang up 
from the westward, when Sir James steered for the 
American fleet ; but the American commodore 
avoided a close action, and thus the affair ended." 
This is a good sample of James' trustworthiness ; 
his account is supposed to be taken from Commo- 
dore Yeo's letter,^ which says : '* At sunset a breeze 

^ Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Sept. 13, 1813. 
'Letter to Admiral Warren, Sept, 12, 1813. 

244 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

sprang up from the westward, when I steered for 
the False Duck Islands, under which the enemy 
could not keep the weather-gage, but be obliged 
to meet us on equal terms. This, however, he 
carefully avoided doing." In other words Yeo did 
not steer for but aivay from Chauncy. Both sides 
admit that Yeo got the worst of it and ran away, 
and it is only a cjuestion as to whether Chauncy fol- 
lowed him or not. Of course in such light weather 
Chauncy's long guns gave him a great advantage. 
He had present lo vessels ; the Pike, Madison, 
Oneida, Sylph, Tompkins, Conquest, Ontario, Pert, 
American, and Asp, throwing 1.288 lbs. of shot, with 
a total of 98 guns. Yeo had 92 guns, throwing at a 
broadside 1,374 lbs. Nevertheless, Chauncy told 
but part of the truth in writing as he did: '' I was 
much disappointed at Sir James refusing to fight 
me, as he was so much superior in point of force, 
both in guns and men, having upward of 20 guns 
more than we have, and heaves a greater weight of 
shot." His inferiority in long guns placed Yeo at 
a great disadvantage in such a very light wind ; but 
in his letter he makes a marvellous admission 
of how little able he was to make good use of even 
what he had. He says : " I found it impossible to 
bring them to close action. We remained in this 
mortifying situation five hours, having only six guns 
in all the squadron that would reach the enemy 
(not a carronade being fired)." Now according to 
James himself (" Naval Occurrences," p. 297) he had 
in his squadron 2 long 24's, 13 long i8's, 2 long 
12's, and 3 long 9's, and, in a fight of five hours, at 
very long range, in smooth water, it was a proof 
of culpable incompetency on his part that he did 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 245 

not think of doing what ElHott and Perry did in 
similar circumstances on Lake Erie — substitute all 
his long guns for some of the carronades on the 
engaged side. Chauncy could place in broadside 7 
long 32's, 18 long 24's, 4 long 12's, 8 long 6's ; so he 
could oppose 37 long guns, throwing 752 lbs. of 
shot, to Yeo's 20 long guns, throwing 333 lbs. of 
shot. The odds were thus more than two to one 
against the British in any case ; and their com- 
mander's lack of resource made them still greater. 
But it proved a mere skirmish, with no decisive 

The two squadrons did not come in contact again 
till on the 28th, in York Bay. The Americans had 
the weather-gage, the wind being fresh from the 
east. Yeo tacked and stretched out into the lake, 
while Chauncy steered directly for his centre. 
When the squadrons were still a league apart the 
British formed on the port tack, with their heavy 
vessels ahead ; the Americans got on the same tack 
and edged down toward them, the Pi^e ahead, tow- 
ing the AsJ) ; the Tompkins, under Lieut. Bolton 
Finch, next; the Madison next, being much re- 
tarded by having a schooner in tow; then the Sylph, 
with another schooner in tow, the Oneida, and the 
two other schooners. The British, fearing their 
sternmost vessels would be cut off, at 12. 10 came 
round on the starboard tack, beginning with the 
Wolfe, Commodore Yeo, and Royal George, Captain 
William Howe Mulcaster, which composed the van of 
the line. They opened with their starboard guns as 
soon as they came round. When the Pike was 
a-beam of the Wolfe, which was past the centre of 
the British line, the Americans bore up in succes- 
sion for their centre. 

246 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

The Madison was far back, and so was the Sylpk 
neither having cast off their tows ; so the whole 
brunt of the action fell on the Pike, Asp, and Tomp- 
kins. The latter kept up a most gallant and spirited 
fire till her foremast was shot away. But already 
the Pike had shot away the Wolfcs main-top-mast 
and main-yard, and inflicted so heavy a loss upon 


^^ p//r£ 

llsiUi /fO/j^L GEORGE 

her that Commodore Yeo, not very heroically, put 
dead before the wind, crowding all the canvas he 
could on her forward spars, and she ran completely 
past all her own vessels, who of course crowded sail 
after her. The retreat of the commodore was most 
ably covered by the Royal George, under Captain 
Mulcaster, who was unquestionably the best British 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 247 

officer on the lake. He luffed up across the com- 
modore's stern, and delivered broadsides in a man- 
ner that won the admiration even of his foes. The 
Madison and Sylph, having the schooners in tow, 
could not overtake the British ships, though the 
Sylph opened a distant fire ; the Pike kept on after 
them, but did not cast off the Asp, and so did not 
gain ; and at 3.15 the pursuit was relinquished/ 
when the enemy were running into the entirely- 
undefended port of Burlington Bay, whence escape 
would have been impossible. The Tojnpkins had 
lost her foremast, and the Pike her foretop-gallant 
mast, with her bowsprit and main-mast wounded ; 
and of her crew five men were killed or wounded, 
almost all by the guns of the Royal George. These 
were the only injuries occasioned by the enemy's 
fire, but the Pike's starboard bow-chaser burst, 
killing or wounding 22 men, besides blowing up the 
top-gallant forecastle, so that the bow pivot gun 
could not be used. Among the British ships, the 
Wolfe lost her main-top-mast, mizzen-top-mast, and 
main-yard, and the Royal George her foretop-mast ; 
both suffered a heavy loss in killed and wounded, 
according to the report of the British officers cap- 
tured in the transports a few days afterward. 

As already mentioned, the British authorities no 
longer published accounts of their defeats, so Com- 
modore Yeo's report on the action was not made 
public. Brenton merely alludes to it as follows 
(vol. ii, p. 503): "The action of the 28th of Sep- 
tember, 1 81 3, in which Sir James Yeo in the Wolfe 
had his main- and mizzen-top-masts shot away, and 
was obliged to put before the wind, gave Mulcaster 

•* Letter of Commodore Chauncy, Sept. 28, 1813. 

248 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

an opportunity of displaying a trait of valor and 
seamanship which elicited the admiration of friends 
and foes, when he gallantly placed himself between 
his disabled commodore and a superior enemy." 
James speaks in the vaguest terms. He first says, 
" Commodore Chauncy, having the weather-gage, 
kept his favorite distance," which he did because 
Commodore Yeo fled so fast that he could not be over- 
taken ; then James mentions the injuries the Wolfe 
received, and says that " it was these and not, as Mr. 
Clark says, ' a manoeuvre of the commodore's ' that 
threw the British in confusion." In other words, it 
was the commodore's shot and not his manoeuvring 
that threw the British into confusion — a very futile 
distinction. Next he says that " Commodore 
Chauncy would not venture within carronade 
range," whereas he zvas within carronade range of 
the Wolfe and Royal George, but the latter did not 
wait for the Madison and Oneida to get within range 
with tlieir carronades The rest of his article is 
taken up with exposing the absurdities of some of 
the American writings, miscalled histories, which 
appeared at the close of the war. His criticisms on 
these are very just, but afford a funny instance of 
the pot calling the kettle black. This much is clear, 
that the British were beaten and forced to flee, 
when but part of the American force was engaged. 
But in good weather the American force was so 
superior that being beaten would have been no dis- 
grace to Yeo, had it not been for the claims ad- 
vanced both by himself and his friends, that on the 
whole he was victorious over Chauncy. The Wolfe 
made any thing but an obstinate fight, leaving 
almost all the work to the gallant Mulcaster, in the 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 249 

Royal George, who shares with Lieutenant Finch of 
the Tompkins most of the glory of the day. The 
battle, if such it may be called, completely estab- 
lished Chauncy's supremacy, Yeo spending most of 
the remainder of the season blockaded in Kingston. 
So Chauncy gained a victory which established his 
control over the lakes ; and, moreover, he gained it 
by fighting in succession, almost single-handed, the 
two heaviest ships of the enemy. But gaining the 
victory was only what should have been expected 
from a superior force. The question is, did Chauncy 
use his force to the best advantage? And it can 
not be said that he did. When the enemy bore up 
it was a great mistake not to cast off the schooners 
which were being towed. They were small craft, 
not of much use in the fight, and they entirely pre- 
vented the Madison from taking any part in the 
contest, and kept the Sylph at a great distance ; and 
by keeping the Asp in tow the Pike, which sailed 
faster than any of Yeo's ships, was distanced by 
them. Had she left the Asp behind and run in to 
engage the Royal George she could have mastered, 
or at any rate disabled, her; and had the swift 
Madison cast off her tow she could also have taken 
an effective part in the engagement. If the Pike 
could put the British to flight almost single-handed, 
how much more could she not have done when 
assisted by the Madison and Oneida ? The cardinal 
error, however, was made in discontinuing the 
chase. The British were in an almost open road- 
stead, from which they could not possibly escape. 
Commodore Chauncy was afraid that the wind 
would come up to blow a gale, and both fleets 
would be thrown ashore ; and, moreover, he ex- 

250 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

pected to be able to keep a watch over the enemy, 
'and to attack him at a more suitable time. But he 
utterly failed in this last; and had the American 
squadron cast off their tows and gone boldly in, they 
certainly ought to have been able to destroy or 
capture the entire British force before a gale could 
blow up. Chauncy would have done well to keep in 
mind the old adage, so peculiarly applicable to 
naval affairs: *' L' audace ! toujours 1' audace ! et 
encore 1' audace ! " Whether the fault was his or 
that of his subordinates, it is certain that while the 
victory of the 28th of September definitely settled 
the supremacy of the lake in favor of the Americans, 
yet this victory was by no means so decided as 
it should have been, taking into account his supe- 
riority in force and advantage in position, and the 
somewhat spiritless conduct of his foe. 

Next day a gale came on to blow, which lasted 
till the evening of the 31st. There was no longer 
any apprehension of molestation from the British, 
so the troop transports were sent down the lake by 
themselves, while the squadron remained to watch 
Yeo. On Oct. 2d he was chased, but escaped by 
his better sailing; and next day false information 
induced Chauncy to think Yeo had eluded him and 
passed down the lake, and he accordingly made 
sail in the direction of his supposed flight. On the 
5th, at 3 P. M., while near the False Ducks, seven ves- 
sels were made out ahead, which proved to be Brit- 
ish gun-boats, engaged in transporting troops. All 
sails was made after them; one was burned, another 
escaped, and five were captured , the Mary, Drum- 
mondj Lady Gore, Con fiance, and Hamilton^ — the 

■' Letter 01' Commodore Chauncy, Oct. 8, 1813* 



two latter being the rechristened Julia and Growler. 
Each gun-vessel had from one to three guns, and 
they had aboard in all 264 men, including seven 
naval (three royal and four provincial) and ten mili- 
tary officers. These prisoners stated that in the 
action of the 28th the Wolfe and Royal George had 
lost very heavily. 

After this Yeo remained in Kingston, blockaded 
there by Chauncy for most of the time ; on Nov. 
lOth he came out and was at once chased back into 
port by Chauncy, leaving the latter for the rest of 
the season entirely undisturbed. Accordingly, 
Chauncy was able to convert his small schooners 
into transports. On the 17th these transports were 
used to convey 1,100 men of the army of General 
Harrison from the mouth of the Genesee to 
Sackett's Harbor, while Chauncy blockaded Yeo in 
Kingston. The duty of transporting troops and 
stores went on till the 27th, when every thing had 
been accomplished ; and a day or two afterward 
navigation closed. 

As between the Americans and British, the suc- 
cess of the season was greatly in favor of the former. 
They had uncontested control over the lake from 
April 19th to June 3d, and from Sept. 28th to 
Nov. 29th, in all 107 days ; while their foes only 
held it from June 3d to July 2i3t, or for 48 days ; 
and from that date to Sept. 28th, for 69 days, the 
two sides were contending for the mastery. York 
and Fort George had been taken, while the attack 
on Sackett's Harbor was repulsed. The Americans 
lost but two schooners, both of which were 
recaptured ; while the British had one 24-gun-ship 
nearly ready for launching destroyed, and one 10- 

252 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

gun brig taken, and the loss inflicted upon each 
other in transports, gun-boats, store-houses, stores, 
etc., was greatly in favor of the former. Chauncy's 
fleet, moreover, was able to co-operate with the army 
for over twice the length of time Yeo's could (107 
days to 48). 

It is more difficult to decide between the respec- 
tive merits of the two commanders. We had shown 
so much more energy than the Anglo-Canadians 
that at the beginning of the year we had overtaken 
them in the building race, and the two fleets were 
about equally formidable. The Madison and Oneida 
were not quite a match for the Royal George and 
Sydney Smith (opposing 12 32-pound and 8 24-pound 
carronades to 2 long i8's, 1 long 12, I 68-pound 
and 13 32-pound carronades); and our ten gun- 
schooners would hardly be considered very much 
of an overmatch for the Alelville, Moira, and Beres- 
ford. Had Sir James Yeo been as bold and ener- 
getic as Barclay or Mulcaster he would certainly 
not have permitted the Americans, when the forces 
were so equal, to hold uncontested sway over the 
lake, and by reducing Fort George, to cause disaster 
to the British land forces. It would certainly have 
been better to risk a battle with equal forces, than 
to wait till each fleet received an additional ship, 
which rendered Chauncy's squadron the superior by 
just about the superiority of the Pike to the Wolfe. 
Again, Yeo did not do particularly well in the re- 
pulse before Sackett's Harbor ; in the skirmish off 
Genesee river he showed a marked lack of resource ; 
and in the action of the 28th of September (popularly 
called the " Burlington Races " from the celerity 
of his retreat) he evinced an amount of caution that 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 253 

verged toward timidity, in allowing the entire brunt 
of the fighting to fall on Muicaster in the Royal 
George, a weaker ship than the Wolfe, On the 
other hand, he gave able co-operation to the army 
while he possessed control of the lake ; he made a 
most gallant and successful attack on a superior 
force on the loth of August ; and for six weeks sub- 
sequently by skilful manoeuvring he prevented this 
same superior force from acquiring the uncontested 
mastery. It was no disgrace to be subsequently 
blockaded ; but it is very ludicrous in his admirers 
to think that he came out first best. 

Chauncy rendered able and invaluable assistance 
to the army all the while that he had control of the 
water ; his attacks on York and Fort George were 
managed with consummate skill and success, and on 
the 28th of September he practically defeated the 
opposing force with his own ship alone. Neverthe- 
less he can by no means be said to have done the 
best he could with the materials he had. His 
stronger fleet was kept two months in check by a 
weaker British fleet. When he first encountered the 
foe, on August loth, he ought to have inflicted 
such a check upon him as would at least have con- 
fined him to port and given the Americans imme- 
diate superiority on the lake ; instead of which he 
suffered a mortifying, although not at all disastrous, 
defeat, which allowed the British to contest the 
supremacy with him for six weeks longer. On the 
28th of September, when he only gained a rather 
barren victory, it was nothing but excessive caution 
that prevented him from utterly destroying his foe. 
Had Perry on that day commanded the American 
fleet there would have been hardly a British ship 

2 54 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

left on Ontario. Chauncy was an average com- 
mander; and the balance of success inclined to the 
side of the Americans only because they showed 
greater energy and skill in shipbuilding, the crews 
and commanders on both sides being very nearly 


Captain Oliver Hazard Perry had assumed com- 
mand of Erie and the upper lakes, acting under 
Commodore Chauncy. With intense energy he at 
once began creating a naval force which should be 
able to contend successfully with the foe. As al- 
ready said, the latter in the beginning had exclusive 
control of Lake Erie ; but the Americans had cap- 
tured the Caledonia, brig, and purchased three 
schooners, afterward named the Soniers, Tigress, and 
Ohio, and a sloop, the Trippe. These at first were 
blockaded in the Niagara, but after the fall of Fort 
George and retreat of the British forces, Captain 
Perry was enabled to get them out, tracking them 
up against the current by the most arduous labor. 
They ran up to Presque Isle (now called Erie), where 
two 20-gun brigs were being constructed under the 
directions of the indefatigable captain. Three other 
schooners, the Ariel, Scorpion, and Porcupine, were 
also built. 

The harbor of Erie was good and spacious, but 
had a bar on which there was less than seven feet of 
water. Hitherto this had prevented the enemy from 
getting in ; now it prevented the two brigs from 
getting out. Captain Robert Heriot Barclay had 
been appointed commander of the British forces on 
Lake Erie ; and he was having built at Amherst- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 255 

burg a 20-gun ship. Meanwhile he blockaded 
Perry's force, and as the brigs could not cross the 
bar with their guns in, or except in smooth water, 
they of course could not do so in his presence. He 
kept a close blockade for some time ; but on the 2d 
of August he disappeared. Perry at once hurried 
forward every thing ; and on the 4th, at 2 P. M., one 
brig, the Lawrence, was towed to that point of the 
bar where the water was deepest. Her guns were 
whipped out and landed on the beach, and the brig 
got over the bar by a hastily improvised ** camel." 

" Two large scows, prepared for the purpose, were 
hauled along-side, and the work of lifting the brig 
proceeded as fast as possible. Pieces of massive 
timber had been run through the forward and after 
ports, and when the scows were sunk to the water's 
edge, the ends of the timbers were blocked up, sup- 
ported by these floating foundations. The plugs 
were now put in the scows, and the water was 
pumped out of them. By this process the brig was 
lifted quite two feet, though when she was got on 
the bar it was found that she still drew too much 
water. It became necessary, in consequence, to 
cover up every thing, sink the scows anew, and 
block up the timbers afresh, This duty occupied 
the whole night." ^ 

Just as the Lawrence had passed the bar, at 8 
A. M. on the 5th, the enemy reappeared, but too 
late ; Captain Barclay exchanged a few shots with 
the schooners and then drew off. The Niagara 
crossed without difficulty. There were still not 
enough men to man the vessels, but a draft arrived 
from Ontario, and many of the frontiersmen volun- 

' Cooper, ii, 389. Perry's letter of Aug. 5th is very brief. 

256 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

teered, while soldiers also were sent on board. The 
squadron sailed on the i8th in pursuit of the enemy, 
whose ship was now ready. After cruising about 
some time the Ohio was sent down the lake, and 
the other ships went into Put-in Bay. On the 9th 
of September Captain Barclay put out from Am- 
herstburg, being so short of provisions that he felt 
compelled to risk an action with the superior force 
opposed. On the loth of September his squadron 
was discovered from the mast-head of the Lawrence 
in the northwest. Before going into details of the 
action we will examine the force of the two squad- 
rons, as the accounts vary considerably. 

The tonnage of the British ships, as already 
stated, we know exactly, they having been all care- 
fully appraised and measured by the builder Mr. 
Henry Eckford, and two sea-captains. We also 
knaw the dimensions of the American ships. The 
Lawrence and Niagara measured 480 tons apiece. 
The Caledonia, brig, was about the size of the 
Hunter, or 180 tons. The Tigress, Somers, and 
Scorpion were subsequently captured by the foe and 
were then said to measure, respectively, 96, 94, and 
86 tons ; in which case they were larger than simi- 
lar boats on Lake Ontario. The^r^V/was about 
the size of the Hamilton ; the Porcupine and Trippe 
about the size of the Asp and Pert. As for the guns^ 
Captain Barclay in his letter gives a complete ac- 
count of those on board his squadron. He has also 
given a complete account of the American guns, 
which is most accurate, and, if any thing, underes- 
timates them.- At least Emmons in his " History " 
gives the Trippe a long 32, while Barclay says she 
had only a long 24 ; and Lossing in his *' Field- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 257 

Book " says (but I do not know on what authority) 
that the Caledonia had 3 long 24's, while Barclay 
gives her 2 long 24's and one 32-pound carronade ; 
and that the Sonters had two long 32*s, while Bar- 
clay gives her one long 32 and one 24-pound carron- 
ade. I shall take Barclay's account, which corre- 
sponds with that of Emmons; the only difference 
being that Emmons puts a 24-pounder on the 
Scorpion and a 32 on the Trippc, while Barclay re- 
verses this. I shall also follow Emmons in giving 
the Scorpion a 32-pound carronade instead of a 24. 
It is more difficult to give the strength of the re- 
spective crews. James says the Americans had 580, 
all "picked men." They were just as much picked 
men as Barclay's were, and no more ; that is, the 
ships had "scratch" crews. Lieutenant Emmons 
gives Perry 490 men ; and Lossing says he " had 
upon his muster-roll 490 names." In vol. xiv, p. 566, 
of the American State Papers, is a list of the prize- 
monies owing to each man (or to the survivors 
of the killed), which gives a grand total of 532 
men, including 136 on the Lawrence and 155 on the 
Niagara, 45 of whom were volunteers — frontiers- 
men. Deducting these we get 487 men, which is 
pretty near Lieutenant Emmons' 490. Possibly 
Lieutenant Emmons did not include these volun- 
teers ; and it may be that some of the men whose 
names were down on the prize list had been so sick 
that they were left on shore. Thus Lieutenant 
Yarnall testified before a Court of Inquiry in 1815, 
that there were but 131 men and boys of every de- 
scription on board the Laivrence in the action ; and 
the Niagara was said to have had but 140. Lieu- 
tenant Yarnall also said that " but 103 men on 

2$S NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

board the Lawrence were fit for duty" ; as Captain 
Perry in his letter said that 31 were unfit for duty, 
this would make a total of 134. So I shall follow 
the prize-money list ; at any rate the difference in 
number is so slight as to be immaterial. Of the 532 
men whose names the list gives, 45 were volunteers, 
or landsmen, from among the surrounding inhabi- 
tants ; 158 were marines or soldiers (I do not know 
which, as the list gives marines, soldiers, and pri- 
vates, and it is impossible to tell which of the 
two former heads include the last) ; and 329 were 
officers, seamen, cooks, pursers, chaplains, and super- 
numeraries. Of the total number, there were on 
the day of action, according to Perry's report, 1 16 
men unfit for duty, including 31 on board the Law- 
rence, 28 on board the Niagara, and 57 on the small 

All the later American writers put the number 
of men in Barclay's fleet precisely at " 502," but I 
have not been able to find out the original au- 
thority. James (" Naval Occurrences," p. 289) says 
the British had but 345, consisting of 50 seamen, 
85 Canadians, and 210 soldiers. But the letter of 
Adjutant-General E. Bayne, Nov. 24, 1813, states 
that there were 250 soldiers aboard Barclay's 
squadron, of whom 23 were killed, 49 wounded, 
and the balance (178) captured ; and James him- 
self on a previous page (284) states that there were 
102 Canadians on Barclay's vessels, not counting 
the Detroit, and we know that Barclay originally 
joined the squadron with 19 sailors from the 
Ontario fleet, and that subsequently 50 sailors 
came up from the Dover. James gives at the end 
of his " Naval Occurrences " some extracts from 



the court-martial held on Captain Barclay. Lieut. 
Thomas Stokes, of the Queen Charlotte, there testi- 
fied that he had on board "between 120 and 130 
men, officers and all together," of whom " 16 came 
up from the Dove?' three days before." James, on 
p. 284, says her crew already consisted of J 10 men ; 
adding these 16 gives us 126 (almost exactly " be- 
tween 120 and 130"). Lieutenant Stokes also tes- 
tified that the Detroit had more men on account of 
being a larger and heavier vessel ; to give her 150 
is perfectly safe, as her heavier guns and larger 
size would at least need 24 men more than the 
Queen Charlotte. James gives the Lady Prevost 
y6, Hunter 39, Little Belt 15, and Chippeway 13 
men, Canadians and soldiers, a total of 143 ; sup- 
posing that the number of British sailors placed on 
them was proportional to the amount placed on 
board the Queen Charlotte, we could add 21. This 
would make a grand total of 440 men, which must 
certainly be near the truth. This number is cor- 
roborated otherwise : General Bayne, as already 
quoted, says that there were aboard 250 soldiers, of 
whom 72 were killed or wounded. Barclay reports 
a total loss of 135, of whom 63 must therefore have 
been sailors or Canadians, and if the loss suffered 
by these bore the same proportion to their whole 
number as in the case of the soldiers, there ought 
to have been 219 sailors and Canadians, making in 
all 469 men. It can thus be said with certainty 
that there were between 440 and 490 men aboard, 
and I shall take the former number, though I have 
no doubt that this is too small. But it is not a 
point of very much importance, as the battle was 
fought largely at long range, where the number of 



men, provided there were plenty to handle the sails 
and guns, did not much matter. The following 
statement of the comparative force must therefore 
be very nearly accurate : 

perry's squadron. 








fit for 










2 long 12's 
18 short 32's 








2 loni^ 12's 
18 short 32's 



I So 



2 long 24's 
I short 32 






4 long 12's 







I " 32 
I short 32 

Somers , 







I long 24 
I short 32 






I long 32 






I " 32 






I " 24 

9 vessels 




936 lbs. 

During the action, however, the Lawrence and 
Niagara each fought a long 12 instead of one of 
the carronades on the engaged side, making a 
broadside of 896 lbs., 288 lbs. being from long guns. 



Queen Charlotte, 

Rig. Tons. 




Crew. lbs. Armament. 

f I long 18 

2 " 24's 
j 6 " 12's 
\ 8 " 9's 
I I short 24 
t I " 18 

1 long 12 

2 " 9's 
14 short 24's 





NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 261 

Broadside ; 
Name. Rig. Tons. Crew. lbs. Armament. 

( I long 9 
Lady Frevost, schooner 230 86 75 -n 2 " 6's 

(10 short 12's 

Hunter, brig 80 45 30 

r 4 long 6's 

! 2 " 4's 

[ 2 short 12's 
Chippcway, schooner 70 15 9 i long 9 

Little Belt, sloop 90 18 18 ■ 2 " ^6's 

6 vessels, 1,460 440 459 lbs. 

These six vessels thus threw at a broadside 459 
lbs., of which 195 were from long guns. 

The superiority of the Americans in long-gun 
metal was therefore nearly as three is to two, and in 
carronade metal greater than two to one. The chief 
fault to be found in the various American accounts 
is that they sedulously conceal the comparative 
weight of metal, while carefully specifying the 
number of guns. Thus, Lossing says : " Barclay 
had 35 long guns to Perry's 15, and possessed 
greatly the advantage in action at a distance"; 
which he certainly did not. The tonnage of the 
fleets is not so very important ; the above tables 
are probably pretty nearly right. It is, I suppose, 
impossible to tell exactly the number of men in the 
two crews. Barclay almost certainly had more 
than the 440 men I have given him, but in all like- 
lihood some of them were unfit for duty, and the 
number of his effectives was most probably some- 
what less than Perry's. As the battle was fought 
in such smooth water, and part of the time at long 
range, this, as already said, does not much matter. 
The Niagara might be considered a match for the 
Detroit^ and the Lawrence and Caledonia for the five 

262 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

other British vessels ; so the Americans were cer- 
tainly very greatly superior in force. 

At daylight on Sept. loth Barclay's squadron 
was discovered in the N. W., and Perry at once got 
under weigh ; the wind soon shifted to the N. E., 
giving us the weather-gage, the breeze being very 
light. Barclay lay to in a close column, heading to 
the S. W. in the following order : CJiippeivay, Mas- 
ter's Mate J. Campbell ; Detroit, Captain R. H. 
Barclay ; Hunter, Lieutenant G. Bignell ; Queen 
Charlotte, Captain R. Linnis ; Lady Prevost, Lieu- 
tenant Edward Buchan ; and Little Belt, by whom 
commanded is not said. Perry came down with 
the wind on his port beam, and made the attack in 
column ahead, obliquely. First in order came the 
Ariel, Lieut. John H. Packet, and Scorpion, Sailing- 
Master Stephen Champlin, both being on the weath- 
er bow of the Lawrence, Captain O. H. Perry ; next 
came the Caledonia, Lieut. Daniel Turner ; Niagara, 
Captain Jesse D. Elliott; Soniers, Lieutenant A. 
H. M. Conklin ; Porcupine, Acting Master George 
Serrat ; Tigress, Sailing-Master Thomas C. Almy, 
and Trippe, Lieutenant Thomas Holdup.' 

As, amid light and rather bafifling winds, the 
American squadron approached the enemy, Perr\ 's 
straggling line formed an angle of about fifteen de- 
grees with the more compact one of his foes. At 

^ The accounts of the two commanders tally almost exactly. Bar- 
clay's letter is a model of its kind for candor and generosity. Let- 
ter of Captain R. H. Barclay to Sir James, Sept. 2, 1813 ; of Lieu- 
tenant Inglis to Captain Barclay, Sept. loth ; of Captain Perry to 
the Secretary of the Navy, Sept. loth and Sept. 13th, and to General 
Harrison, Sept. nth and vSept. 13th. 1 have relied mainly on Los- 
sing's "Field-Book of the War of 1812 " (especially for the diagrams 
furnished him by Commodore Champlin), on Commander Ward's 
" Naval Tactics," p. 76, and on Cooper's "Naval History." Ex- 
tracts from the court-martial on Captain Barclay are given in James* 
" Naval Occurrences," Ixxxiii. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 263 

11.45 the Detroit opened the action by a shot from 
her long 24, which fell short; at 11.50 she fired a 
second which went crashing through the Lawrence, 
and was replied to by the Scorpion's long 32. At 
11.55 the Lawrence,\\-d.\nx\^ shifted her port bow- 
chaser, opened with both the long 12's, and at meridi- 
an began with her carronades, but the shot from 
the latter all fell short. At the same time the ac- 
tion became general on both sides, though the rear- 
most American vessels were almost beyond the 
range of their own guns, and quite out of range of 
the guns of their antagonists. Aleanwhile the Lazu- 
rence was already suffering considerably as she 
bore down on the enemy. It was twenty min- 
utes before she succeeded in getting within good 
carronade range, and during that time the action 
at the head of the line was between the long guns 
of the C hipp eway diXid Detroit, throwing 123 pounds, 
and those of the Scorpion, Ariel, and Lawrejice^ 
throwing 104 pounds. As the enemy's fire was 
directed almost exclusively at the Lawrence she 
suffered a great deal. The Caledonia, Niagara, and 
Somers were meanwhile engaging, at long range, 
the Hunter and Queen Charlotte, opposing from 
their long guns 96 pounds to the 39 pounds of their 
antagonists, while from a distance the three other 
American gun-vessels engaged the Prevost and Lit- 
tle Belt. By 12.20 the Lazvrence had worked down 
to close quarters, and at 12.30 the action was going 
on with great fury between her and her antagonists, 
within canister range. The raw and inexperienced 
American crews committed the same fault the Brit- 
ish so often fell into on the ocean, and overloaded 
their carronades. In consequence, that of the Scor- 

264 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

pion upset down the hatchway in the middle of the 
action, and the sides of the Detroit were dotted with 
marks from shot that did not penetrate. One of 
the Ariel's long 12's also burst. Barclay fought the 
Detroit exceedingly well, her guns being most ex- 
cellently aimed, though they actually had to be dis- 
charged by flashing pistols at the touchholes, so de- 
ficient was the ship's equipment. Meanwhile the 
Caledonia came down too, but the Niagara was 
wretchedly handled, Elliott keeping at a distance 
which prevented the use either of his carronades or 
of those of the Queen Charlotte, his antagonist ; the 
latter, however, suffered greatly from the long guns 
of the opposing schooners, and lost her gallant com- 
mander, Captain Linnis, and first lieutenant, Mr. 
Stokes, who were killed early in the action ; her 
next in command. Provincial Lieutenant Irvine, 
perceiving that he could do no good, passed the 
Hunter and joined in the attack on the Lawrence, 
at close quarters. The Niagara, the most efficient 
and best-manned of the American vessels, was thus 
almost kept out of the action by her captain's mis- 
conduct. At the end of the line the fight went on 
at long range between the Somers, Tigress, Porcupine^ 
and Trippe on one side, and Little Belt and Lady 
Prevost on the other; the Lady Prevost making a 
very noble fight, although her 12-pound carronades 
rendered her almost helpless against the long guns 
of the Americans. She was greatly cut up, her 
commander, Lieutenant Buchan, was dangerously, 
and her acting first lieutenant, Mr. Roulette, se- 
verely wounded, and she began falling gradually to 

The fighting at the head of the line was fierce and 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 265 

bloody to an extraordinary degree. The Scorpion^ 
Ariel, Lazurence, and Caledonia, all of them handled 
with the most determined courage, were opposed to 
the CJiippeway, Detroit, Queen Charlotte, and Hunter, 
which were fought to the full as bravely. At such 
close quarters the two sides engaged on about equal 
terms, the Americans being superior in weight of 
metal, and inferior in number of men. But the Law- 
rence had received such damage in working down as 
to make the odds against Perry. On each side al- 
most the whole fire was directed at the opposing 
large vessel or vessels ; in consequence the Queen 
Charlotte was almost disabled, and the Detroit was 
also frightfully shattered, especially by the raking fire 
of the gun-boats, her first lieutenant, Mr. Garland, 
being mortally wounded, and Captain Barclay so se- 
verely injured that he was oliged to quit the deck, 
leaving his ship in the command of Lieutenant 
George Inglis. But on board the Lawrence matters 
had gone even worse, the combined fire of her adver- 
saries having made the grimmest carnage on her 
decks. Of the 103 men who were fit for duty when 
she began the action, 83, or over four fifths, were 
killed or wounded. The vessel was shallow, and the 
ward-room, used as a cockpit, to which the wounded 
were taken, was mostly above water, and the shot 
came through it continually, killing and wounding 
many men under the hands of the surgeon. 

The first lieutenant, Yarnall, was three times 
wounded, but kept to the deck through all ; the only 
other lieutenant on board. Brooks, of the marines, 
was mortally wounded. Every brace and bowline 
was shot away, and the brig almost completely dis- 
mantled ; her hull was shattered to pieces, many 

266 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

shot going completely through it, and the guns on 
the engaged side were by degrees all dismounted. 
Perry kept up the fight with splendid courage. As 
the crew fell one by one, the commodore called 
down through the skylight for one of the surgeon's 
assistants ; and this call was repeated and obeyed 
till none was left ; then he asked, '' Can any of the 
wounded pull a rope?" and three or four of them 
crawled up on deck to lend a feeble hand in placing 
the last guns. Perry himself fired the last effective 
heavy gun, assisted only by the purser and chaplain, 
A man who did not possess his indomitable spirit 
would have then struck. Instead, however, al- 
though failing in the attack so far, Perry merely de- 
termined to win by new methods, and remodelled 
the line accordingly. Mr. Turner, in the Caledoiiia, 
when ordered to close, had put his helm up,, run 
down on the opposing line, and engaged at very 
short range, though the brig was absolutely without 
quarters. The Niagara had thus become the next 
in line astern of the Lawrence, and the sloop Trippe^ 
having passed the three schooners in front of her, 
was next ahead. The Niagara now, having a 
breeze, steered for the head of Barclay's line, pass- 
ing over a quarter of a mile to windward of the 
Lawrence, on her port beam. She was almost unin- 
jured, having so far taken very little part in the 
combat, and to her Perry shifted his flag. Leaping 
into a row boat, with his brother and four seamen, 
he rowed to the fresh brig, where he arrived at 2.30, 
and at once sent Elliott astern to hurry up the three 
schooners. The Trippe was now very near the Cale- 
donia. The Lawrence, having but 14 sound men 
left, struck her colors, but could not be taken pos- 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 267 

session of before the action re-commenced. She 
drifted astern, the Caledonia passing between her 
and her foes. At 2.45, the schooners having closed 
up, Perry, in his fresh vessel, bore up to break Bar- 
clay's line. 

The British ships had fought themselves to a 
standstill. The Lady Prevost was crippled and 
sagged to leeward, though ahead of the others. 
The Detroit and Queen Charlotte were so disabled 
that they could not effectually oppose fresh antag- 
onists. There could thus be but little resistance to 
Perry, as the Niagara stood down, and broke the 
British line, firing her port guns into the Chippeway^ 
Little Belt, and Lady Prevost, and the starboard ones 
into the Detroit, Queen Charlotte, and Hunter, raking 
on both sides. Too disabled to tack, the Detroit 
and Charlotte tried to wear, the latter running up to 
leeward of the former ; and, both vessels having 
every brace and almost every stay shot away, they 
fell foul. The Niagara luffed athwart their bows, 
within half pistol-shot, keeping up a terrific dis- 
charge of great guns and musketry, while on the 
other side the British vessels were raked by the 
Caledonia and the schooners so closely that some of 
their grape shot, passing over the foe, rattled 
through Perry's spars. Nothing further could be 
done, and Barclay's flag was struck at 3 P. M., after 
three and a quarter hours' most gallant and desper- 
ate fighting. The Chippezvay and Little Belt tried to 
escape, but were overtaken and brought to respec- 
tively by the Trippe and Scorpion, the commander 
of the latter, Mr. Stephen Champlin, firing the last, 
as he had the first, shot of the battle. " Captain 
Perry has behaved in the most humane and atten- 

268 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

tive manner, not only to myself and officers, but to 
all the wounded," writes Captain Barclay. 

The American squadron had suffered severely, 
more than two thirds of the loss falling upon the 
Lawrence^ which was reduced to the condition of a 
perfect wreck, her starboard bulwarks being com- 
pletely beaten in. She had, as already stated, 22 
men killed, including Lieutenant of Marines Brooks 
and Midshipman Lamb ; and 6i wounded, includ- 
ing Lieutenant Yarnall, (acting second 
lieutenant) Forrest, Sailing-Master Taylor, Purser 
Hambleton, and Midshipmen Swartout and Clax- 
ton. The Niagara lost 2 killed and 25 wounded 
(almost a fifth of her effectives), including among 
the latter the second lieutenant, Mr. Edwards, and 
Midshipman Cummings. The Caledonia had 3, the 
Somers 2, and Trippe 2, men wounded. The Ariel 
had I killed and 3 wounded ; the Scorpion 2 killed, 
including Midshipman Lamb. The total loss was 
123; 27 were killed and 96 wounded, of whom 3 

The British loss, falling most heavily on the De- 
troit and Queen Charlotte, amounted to 41 killed (in- 
cluding Capt. S. J. Garden, R. N., and Captain R. 
A. Finnis), and 94 wounded (including Captain Bar- 
clay and Lieutenants Stokes, Buchan, Roulette, and 
Bignall) : in all 135. The first and second in com- 
mand on every vessel were killed or wounded, a 
sufficient proof of the desperate nature of the de- 

The victory of Lake Erie was most important, 
both in its material results and in its moral effect. 
It gave us complete command of all the upper 
lakes, prevented any fears of invasion from that 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 269 

quarter, increased our prestige with the foe and 
our confidence in ourselves, and ensured the con- 
quest of upper Canada ; in all these respects its 

The following diagrams will serve to explain the movements. 







S* AS I 




270 NAVAL WAR OF lSl2. 

... '^"-^, ^ f*^ 


^ xSr LAtVRENLi ^^/i^irrc 



/'-'.., K^TJCRESS 

2.50 P.M. 





.4 ^ ^ \: TRIPP E 

\^ N/ACflFA ^~ W^ ^HU/vrEff 




K. \ -<^calp:ionia J^porclpim 

ARIEL \ , _^1 ^r/CRESS 



NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 2/1 

importance has not been overrated. But the 
" glory " acquired by it most certainly has been es- 
timated at more than its worth. Most Americans, 
even the well educated, if asked which was the 
most glorious victory of the war, would point to 
this battle. Captain Perry's name is more widely 
known than that of any other commander. Every 
school-boy reads about him, if of no other sea-cap- 
tain ; yet he certainly stands on a lower grade than 
either Hull or Macdonough, and not a bit higher 
than a dozen others. On Lake Erie our seamen 
displayed great courage and skill ; but so did their 
antagonists. The simple truth is, that, where on 
both sides the officers and men were equally brave 
and skilful, the side which possessed the superiority 
in force, in the proportion of three tjj^-tw^^^^uld 
not well help winning. The coufage"\vith which the 
Lawrence was defended has hardly ever been sur- 
passed, and may fairly be called heroic ; but equal 
praise belongs to the men on board the Detroit, \ 
who had to discharge the great guns by flashing 
pistols at the touchholes, and yet made such a 
terribly effective defence. Courage is only one of 
the many elements which go to make up the char- 
acter of a first-class commander ; something more 
than bravery is needed before a leader can be really 
called great. 

There happened to be circumstances which ren- 
dered the bragging of our writers over the victory 
somewhat plausible. Thus they could say with an 
appearance of truth that the enemy had 63 guns to 
our 54, and outnumbered us. In reality, as well as 
can be ascertained from the conflicting evidence, he 
was inferior in number; but a few men more or less 


272 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

mattered nothing. Both sides had men enough to 
work the guns and handle the ships, especially as the 
fight was in smooth water, and largely at long range. 
The important fact was that though we had nine 
guns less, yet, at a broadside, they threw half as 
much metal again as those of our antagonist. With 
such odds in our favor it would have been a disgrace 
to have been beaten. The water was too smooth for 
our two brigs to show at their best ; but this very 
smoothness rendered our gun-boats more formidable 
than any of the British vessels, and the British testi- 
mony is unanimous, that it was to them the defeat 
was primarily due. The American fleet came into 
action in worse form than the hostile squadron, the 
ships straggling badly, either owing to Perry having 
formed his line badly, or else to his having failed to 
train the subordinate commanders how to keep 
their places. The Niagara was not fought well at 
first, Captain Elliott keeping her at a distance that 
prevented her from doing any damage to the ves- 
sels opposed, which were battered to pieces by the 
gun-boats without the chance of replying. It cer- 
tainly seems as if the small vessels at the rear of the 
line should have been closer up, and in a position to 
render more effectual assistance ; the attack was 
made in too loose order, and, whether it was the 
fault of Perry or of his subordinates, it fails to 
reflect credit on the Americans. Cooper, as usual, 
praises all concerned ; but in this instance not with 
very "good judgment. He says the line-of-battle 
was highly judicious, but this may be doubted. The 
weather was peculiarly suitable for the gun-boats, 
with their long, heavy guns ; and yet the line-of- 
battle was so arranged as to keep them in the rear, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 2/3 

and let the brunt of the assault fall on the Law- 
rence, with her short carronades. Cooper again 
praises Perry for steering for the head of the enemy's 
line, but he could hardly have done any thing else. 
In this battle the firing seems to have been equally 
skilful on both sides, the Detroit's long guns being 
peculiarly well served ; but the British captains 
manoeuvred better than their foes at first, and sup- 
ported one another better, so that the disparity in 
damage done on each side was not equal to the dis- 
parity. in force. The chief merit of the American 
commander and his followers was indomitable cour- 
age, and determination not to be beaten. This is no 
slight merit ; but it may well be doubted if it would 
have ensured victory had Barclay's force been as 
strong as Perry's. Perry made a headlong attack ; 
his superior force, whether through his fault or his 
misfortune can hardly be said, being brought into 
action in such a manner that the head of the line 
was crushed by the inferior force opposed. Being 
literally hammered out of his own ship. Perry 
brought up its powerful twin-sister, and the already 
shattered hostile squadron was crushed by sheer 
weight. The manoeuvres which m.arked the close of 
the battle, and which ensured the capture of all the 
opposing ships, were unquestionably very fine. 

The British ships were fought as resolutely as their 
antagonists, not being surrendered till they were 
crippled and helpless, and almost all the ofificers, and 
a large proportion of the men placed hors de combat. 
Captain Barclay handled his ships like a first-rate 
seaman. It was impossible to arrange them so as 
to be superior to his antagonist, for the latter's 
force was of such a nature that in smooth water his 

2/4 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

gun-boats gave him a great advantage, while in any 
"*v. sea his two brigs were more than a match for the 
whole British squadron. In short, our victory was 
\ due to our heavy metal. As regards the honor of 
the affair, in spite of the amount of boasting it has 
given rise to, I should say it was a battle to be 
looked upon as in an equally high degree creditable 
to both sides. Indeed, if it were not for the fact 
that the victory was so complete, it might be said 
that the length of the contest and the trifling dis- 
parity in loss reflected rather the most credit on 

^^^ the British. Captain Perry showed indomitable 
pluck, and readiness to adapt himself to circum- 
stances ; but his claim to fame rests much less on 
his actual victory than on the way in which he pre- 
pared the fleet that was to win it. Here his energy 
and activity deserve all praise, not only for his 
success in collecting sailors and vessels and in 
building the two brigs, but above all for the man- 
ner in which he succeeded in getting them out on 
the lake. On tJiat occasion he certainly out-gener- 
alled Barclay ; indeed the latter committed an error 
that the skill and address he subsequently showed 
could not retrieve. But it will always be a source 
of surprise that the American public should have 

^V so glorified Perry's victory over an inferior force, 
and have paid comparatively little attention to 
Macdonough's victory, which really was won against 
decided odds in ships, men, and metal. 

There are always men who consider it unpatriotic 

r\ to tell the truth, if the truth is not very flattering; 
but, aside from the morality of the case, we never 
can learn how to produce a certain effect unless we 
know rightly what the causes were that produced a 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 2/5 

similar effect in times past. Lake Erie teaches us 
the advantage of having the odds on our side ; Lake 
Champiain, that, even if they are not, skill can still 
counteract them. It is amusing to read some of the 
pamphlets written " in reply " to Cooper's account 
of this battle, the writers apparently regarding him 
as a kind of traitor for hinting that the victory was 
not "Nelsonic," " unsurpassed," etc. The arguments 
are stereotyped : Perry had g fewer guns, and also 
fewer men than the foe. This last point is the only 
one respecting which there is any doubt. Taking 
sick and well together, the Americans unquestion- 
ably had the greatest number in crew ; but a quar- 
ter of them were sick. Even deducting these they 
were still, in all probability, more numerous than 
their foes. 

But it is really not a point of much consequence, 
as both sides had enough, as stated, to serve the 
guns and handle the ships. In sea-fights, after there 
are enough hands for those purposes additional 
ones are not of so much advantage. I have in all 
my accounts summed up as accurately as possible 
the contending forces, because it is so customary 
with British writers to follow James' minute and in- 
accurate statements, that I thought it best to give 
everything exactly; but it was really scarcely neces- 
sary, and, indeed, it is impossible to compare forces 
numerically. Aside from a few exceptional cases, 
the number of men, after a certain point was 
reached, made little difference. For example, the 
^ava would fight just as effectually with 377 men, 
the number James gives her, as with 426, the num- 
ber I think she really had. Again, my figures make 
the lVas/> slightly superior in force to the Frolic, as 

276 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

she had 25 men the ^ most; but in reality, as the 
battle was fought under very short sail, and decided 
purely by gunnery, the difference in number of crew 
was not of the least consequence. The Hornet had 
nine men more tKan the Penguin, and it would be 
absurd to say that this gave her much advantage. 
In both the latter cases, the forces were practi- 
cally equal, although, numerically expressed, the 
odds were in favor of the Americans. The exact 
reverse is the case in the last action of the Constitu- 
tion. Here, the Levant and Cyane had all the men 
they required, and threw a heavier broadside than 
their foe. Expressed in numbers, the odds against 
them were not great, but numbers could not express 
the fact that carronades were opposed to long guns, 
and two small ships to one big one. Again, though 
in the action on Lake Champlain numbers do show 
a slight advantage both in weight of metal and num- 
ber of men on the British side, they do not make 
the advantage as great as it really was, for they do 
not show that the British possessed a frigate with a 
main-deck battery of 24-pounders, which was equal 
to the two chief vessels of the Americans, exactly as 
the Constitution was superior to the Cyane and Le- 
vant.^ And on the same principles I think that 

^ I: must always be remembered that these rules cut both ways. 
British writers are very eloquent about the disadvantage in which car- 
ronades placed the Cyane and Levant, but do not hint that the Essex 
suffered from a precisely similar cause, in addition to her other 
misfortunes ; either they should give the Constitution more credit or 
the Pho:be less. So the Conjiance, throwing 480 pounds of metal at 
a broadside, was really equal to both the Eagle and Saratoga, who 
jointly threw 678. From her long guns she threw 384 pounds, from 
her carronades 98. Their long guns threw 168, their carronades 510. 
Now the 32-pound carronade mounted on the spar-deck of a 3S-gun 
frigate, was certainly much less formidable than the long 18 on 
the main-deck ; indeed, it probably ranked more nearly with a 
long 12, in the ordinary chances of war (and it must be remembered 
that Downie was the attacking parly and chose his own position, so 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 2// 

every fair-minded man must admit the great superi- 
ority of Perry's fleet over Barclay's, though the ad- 
vantage was greater in carronades than in long guns. 
But to admit this by no means precludes us from 
taking credit for the victory. Almost all the victo- 
ries gained by the English over the Dutch in the 
17th century were due purely to great superiority in 
force. The cases have a curious analogy to this lake 
battle. Perry won with 54 guns against Barclay's 
63 ; but the odds were largely in his favor. Blake 
won a doubtful victory on the i8th of February, 
1653, with 80 ships against Tromp's 70; but the 
English vessels were twice the size of the Dutch, 
and in number of men and weight of metal 
greatly their superior. The English were excellent 
fighters, but no better than the Dutch, and none of 
their admirals of that period deserve to rank with 
De Ruyter. Again, the great victory of La Hogue 
was won over a very much smaller French fleet, 
after a day's hard fighting, which resulted in the capt- 
ure of one vessel ! This victory was most exult- 
ingly chronicled, yet it was precisely as if Perry 
had fought Barclay all day and only succeeded in 
capturing the Little Belt. Most of Lord Nelson's 
successes were certainly won against heavy odds 
by his great genius and the daring skill of the 
captains who served under him ; but the battle of 
the Baltic, as far as the fighting went, reflected as 
much honor on the defeated Danes as on the 

far as Macdonough's excellent arrangements would let him). So that 
in comparing the forces, the carronades should not be reckoned for 
more than half the value of the long guns, and we get, as a mere ap- 
proximation, 384 -f 48 = 432, against 168 + 255 = 423. At any 
rate, British writers, as well as Americans, should remember that if 
the Constitution was greatly superior to her two foes, then the Con- 
fiance was certainly equal to the Eagle and Saratoga ; and vica versa. 

278 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

mighty sea-chief who conquered them. Many a 
much-vaunted victory, both on sea and land, has 
really reflected less credit on the victors than the 
battle of Lake Erie did on the Americans. And it 
must always be remembered that a victory, honor- 
ably won, if even over a weaker foe, docs reflect 
credit on the nation by whom it is gained. It was 
creditable to us as a nation that our ships were bet- 
ter made and better armed than the British frigates, 
exactly as it was creditable to them that a few years 
before their vessels had stood in the same relation 
to the Dutch ships.' It was greatly to our credit 
that we had been enterprising enough to fit out such 
an effective little flotilla on Lake Erie, and for this 
Perry deserves the highest praise.^ 

Before leaving the subject it is worth while mak- 
ing a few observations on the men who composed 
the crews. James, who despised a Canadian as 
much as he hated an American, gives as one excuse 
for the defeat, the fact that most of Barclay's crew 
were Canadians, whom he considers to be " sorry 
substitutes." On each side the regular sailors, from 
the seaboard, were not numerous enough to permit 
the battle to be fought purely by them. Barclay 
took a number of soldiers of the regular army, and 
Perry a number of militia, aboard ; the former had 
a few Indian sharp-shooters, the latter quite a num- 

^ Afier Lord Duncan's victory at Camperdown, James chronicled 
the fact that all the captured line-of-battle ships were such poor craft 
as not to be of as much value as so many French frigates. This at 
least showed that the Dutch sailors must have done well to have made 
such a bloody and obstinate fight as they did, with the materials they 
had. According to his own statements the loss was about propor- 
tional to the forces in action. It was another parallel to Perry's vic- 

^ Some of my countrymen will consider this but scant approbation, 
to which the answer must be that a history is not a panegyric. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 279 

ber of negroes. A great many men in each fleet 
were lake sailors, frontiersmen, and these were the 
especial objects of James' contempt ; but it may be 
doubted if they, thoroughly accustomed to lake 
navigation, used to contests with Indians and 
whites, naturally forced to be good sailors, and skil- 
ful in the use of rifle and cannon, were not, when 
trained by good men and on their own waters, the 
very best possible material. Certainly the battle of 
Lake Erie, fought mainly by Canadians, was better 
contested than that of Lake Champlain, fought 
mainly by British. 

The difference between the American and British 
seamen on the Atlantic was small, but on the lakes 
what little there was disappeared. A New Eng- 
lander and an Old Englander differed little enough, 
but they differed more than a frontiersman born 
north of the line did from one born south of it. 
These last two^ resembled one another more nearly 
than either did the parent. There had been no 
long-established naval school on the lakes, and the 
British sailors that came up there were the best of 
their kind ; so the combatants were really so evenly 
matched in courage, skill, and all other fighting 
qualities, as to make it impossible to award the 
palm to either for these attributes. The dogged ob- 
stinacy of the fighting, the skilful firing and ma- 
noeuvring, and the daring and coolness with which 
cutting-out expeditions were planned and executed, 
were as marked on one side as the other. The only 
un-English element in the contest was the presence 
among the Canadian English of some of the de- 
scendants of the Latin race from whom they had 
conquered the country. Otherwise the men were 

28o NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

equally matched, but the Americans owed their 
success— for the balance of success was largely on 
their side — to the fact that their officers had been 
trained in the best and most practical, although the 
smallest, navy of the day. The British sailors on 
the lakes were as good as our own, but no better. 
None of their commanders compare with Mac- 

Perry deserves all praise for the manner in which 
he got his fleet ready ; his victory over Barclay 
was precisely similar to the quasi-victories of Blake 
over the Dutch, which have given that admiral 
such renown. Blake's success in attacking Spanish 
and Algerian forts is his true title to fame. In 
his engagements with the Dutch fleets (as well 
as in those of Monk, after him) his claim to merit 
is no greater and no less than Perry's. Each made 
a headlong attack, with furious, stubborn courage, 
and by dint of sheer weight crushed or disabled a 
greatly inferior foe. In the fight that took place 
on Feb. i8, 1653, De Ruyter's ship carried but 34 
guns,^ and yet with it he captured the Prosperous of 
54; which vessel was stronger than any in the Dutch 
fleet. The fact that Blake's battles were gener- 
ally so indecisive must be ascribed to the fact that 
his opponents were, though inferior in force, supe- 
rior in skill. No decisive defeat was inflicted on 
the Dutch until Tromp's death. Perry's operations 
were on a very small, and Blake's on a very large, 
scale; but whereas Perry left no antagonists to 
question his claim to victory, Blake's successes were 

^ "La Vie et Les Actions Memorables de Lt.-Amiral Michel De Ruy- 
ter" (Amsterdam, 1677), p. 23. By the way, why is Tromp always, 
called Van Tromp by English writers ? It would be quite as correct 
for a Frenchman to speak of MacNelson. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 28 1 

sufficiently doubtful to admit of his antagonists in 
almost every instance claiming that tJiey had won, or 
else that it was a draw. Of course it is absurd to put 
Perry and Blake on a par, for one worked with a 
fleet forty times the strength of the other's flotilla ; 
but the way in which the work was done was very 
similar. And it must always be remembered that 
when Perry fought this battle he was but 27 years 
old ; and the commanders of his other vessels were 
younger still. 


The commander on this lake at this time was 
Lieutenant Thomas Macdonough, who had super- 
seded the former commander. Lieutenant Sydney 
Smith, — whose name was a curious commentary on 
the close inter-relationship of the two contesting 
peoples. The American naval force now consisted 
of two sloops, the Groivlcr and Eagle, each mount- 
ing 1 1 guns, and six galleys, mounting one gun 
each. Lieutenant Smith was sent down with his 
two sloops to harass the British gun-boats, which 
were stationed round the head of Sorel River, 
the outlet to Lake Champlain. On June 3d he 
chased three gun-boats into the river, the wind 
being aft, up to within sight of the fort of Isle-aux- 
noix. A strong British land-force, under Major- 
General Taylor, now came up both banks of the 
narrow stream, and joined the three gun-boats in 
attacking the sloops. The latter tried to beat up 
the stream, but the current was so strong and the 
wind so light that no headway could be made. 
The gun-boats kept out of range of the sloop's 
guns, while keeping up a hot fire from their long 

282 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

24's, to which no reply could be made ; but the 
galling fire of the infantry who lined the banks was 
responded to by showers of grape. After three 
hours' conflict, at 12.30, a 24-pound shot from one 
of the galleys struck the Eagle under her starboard 
quarter, and ripped out a whole plank under water. 
She sank at once, but it was in such shoal water 
that she did not settle entirely, and none of the 
men were drowned. Soon afterward the Growler 
had her forestay and main-boom shot away, and, 
becoming unmanageable, ran ashore and was also 
captured. The Groiuler had i killed and 8 wounded, 
the Eagle 1 1 wounded ; their united crews, includ- 
ing 34 volunteers, amounted to 112 men. The 
British gun-boats suffered no loss ; of the troops on 
shore three were wounded, one dangerously, by 
grape.' Lieutenant Smith had certainly made a 
very plucky fight, but it was a great mistake to get 
cooped up in a narrow channel, with wind and 
current dead against him. It was a very creditable 
success to the British, and showed the effectiveness 
of well-handled gun-boats under certain circum- 
stances. The possession of these two sloops gave 
the command of the lake to the British. Mac- 
donough at once set about building others, but with 
all his energy the materials at hand were so defi- 
cient that he could not get them finished in time. 
On July 31st, 1,000 British troops, under Col. J. 
Murray, convoyed by Captain Thomas Everard, 
with the sloops CJiubb and Finch (late Growler and 
Eagle) and three gun-boats, landed at Plattsburg 
and destroyed all the barracks and stores both there 

^Letter from Major General Taylor (British) to Major-General 
Stone. June 3, 1813. Lossing says the loss of the British was " prob- 
ably at least one hundred," — on what authority, if any, I do not know. 



and at Saranac. For some reason Colonel Murray 
left so precipitately that he overlooked a picket of 
20 of his men, who were captured ; then he made 
descents on two or three other places, and returned 
to the head of the lake by Aug. 3d. Three days 
afterward, on Aug. 6th, Macdonough completed his 
three sloops, the President, Montgomery, and Prebh\ 
of 7 guns each, and also six gun-boats; which force 
enabled him to prevent any more plundering ex- 
peditions taking place that summer, and to convoy 
Hampton's troops when they made an abortive 
effort to penetrate into Canada by the Sorel River 
on Sept. 2ist. 









Burnt on stacks. 




Taken at York. 









Lady Gore, 












Queen Charlotte, 




Lady Prevost, 












Little Belt, 




12 vessels, 

















2 vessels, 



' Excluding the Growler and Julia, which were recaptured. 


I 8 I 4 . 


Strictness of the blockade— Cruise of Rodgers— Cruise of tlie Constitution — 
Her unsuccessful ciiase of La Pique — Attack on \.\xq Alligator — The Essex capt- 
ured — Tlie Frolic captured — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Commodore 
Barney's flotilla — The British in the Chesapeake— The /Frtj^ captures the Rein- 
deer and sinks the .4 vw;— Cruise and loss of the Adams— Th.Q privateer Geji- 
eral A rmstrong—T\v& privateer Prince de NeufcJiatel — Loss of the gun-boats 
in Lake Borgne— Fighting near New Orleans— Summary. 

DURING this year the blockade of the Amer- 
ican coast was kept up with ever increasing 
rigor. The British frigates hovered hke hawks off 
every seaport that was known to harbor any fight- 
ing craft ; they almost invariably went in couples, to 
support one another and to lighten, as far as was 
possible, the severity of their work. On the northern 
coasts in particular, the intense cold of the furious 
winter gales rendered it no easy task to keep the as- 
signed stations; the ropes were turned irrto stiff and 
brittle bars, the hulls were coated with ice, and 
many, both of men and of^cers, were frost-bitten and 
crippled. But no stress of weather could long keep 
the stubborn and hardy British from their posts. 
With ceaseless vigilance they traversed continually 
the allotted cruising grounds, capturing the priva- 
teers, harrying the coasters, and keeping the more 
powerful ships confined to port ; " no American 
frigate could proceed singly to sea without immi- 
nent risk of being crushed by the superior force of 


NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 285 

the numerous British squadrons."' But the sloops 
of war, commanded by officers as skilful as they 
were daring, and manned by as hardy seamen as 
ever sailed salt water, could often slip out ; generally 
on some dark night, when a heavy gale was blowing, 
they would make the attempt, under storm canvas, 
and with almost invariable success. The harder the 
weather, the better was their chance ; once clear of the 
coast the greatest danger ceased, though throughout 
the cruise the most untiring vigilance was needed. 
The new sloops that I have mentioned as being built 
proved themselves the best possible vessels for this 
kind of work ; they were fast enough to escape 
from most cruisers of superior force, and were over- 
matches for any British flush-decked ship, that is, 
for any thing below the rank of the frigate-built 
corvettes of the Cyanes class. The danger of re- 
capture was too great to permit of the prizes being 
sent in, so they were generally destroyed as soon as 
captured ; and as the cruising grounds were chosen 
right in the track of commerce, the damage done 
and consternation caused were very great. 

Besides the numerous frigates cruising along the 
coast in couples or small squadrons, there were two 
or three places that were blockaded by a heavier 
force. One of these was New London, before 
which cruised a squadron under the direction of Sir 
Thomas Hardy, in the 74 gun-ship Ramillies. Most 
of the other cruising squadrons off the coast con- 
tained razees or two-deckers. The boats of the 
Hogue, 74, took part in the destruction of some 
coasters and fishing-boats at Pettipauge in April ; 
and those of the Superb^ 74, shared in a similar expe- 

' Captain Broke's letter of challenge to Captain Lawrence, 

286 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

dition against Wareham in June.' The command 
on the coast of North America was now given to 
Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane. The main 
British force continued to lie in the Chesapeake, 
where about 50 sail were collected. During the 
first part of this year these were under the com- 
mand of Sir Robert Barrie, but in May he was re- 
lieved by Rear-Admiral Cockburn." 

The PresidtJit, 44, Commodore Rodgers, at the be- 
ginning of 18 14 was still out, cruising among the 
Barbadoes and West Indies, only making a few 
prizes of not much value. She then turned toward 
the American coast, striking soundings near St. 
Augustine, and thence proceeding north along the 
coast to Sandy Hook, which was reached on Feb. 
18th. The light was passed in the night, and 
shortly afterward several sail were made out, when 
the President was at once cleared for action.^ One 
of these strange sail was the Loirc^ 38 (British), Capt. 
Thomas Brown, which ran down to close the Presi- 
dent^ unaware of her force ; but on discovering her 
to be a 44, hauled to the wind and made off." The 
President did not pursue, another frigate and a gun- 
brig being in sight." This rencontre gave rise to 
nonsensical boastings on both sides ; one American 
writer calls the Loire the Plantagenet, 74; James, on 
the other hand, states that the President was afraid 
to engage the 38-gun frigate, and that the only rea- 
son the latter declined the combat was because she 
was short of men. The best answer to this is a 
quotation from his own work (vol. vi,"p. 402), that 

' James, vi, 474. '" James, vi, 437. 

^ Letter of Commodore Rodgers, Feb. 20, 1814. 

* James, vi, 412. ^ " Naval Monument," p. 235. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 28/ 

" the admiralty had issued an order that no i8- 
pounder frigate was voluntarily to engage one of 
the 24-pounder frigates of America." Coupling this 
order with the results of the combats that had 
already taken place between frigates of these classes, 
it can always be safely set down as sheer bravado 
when any talk is made of an American 44 refusing 
to give battle to a British 38 ; and it is even more 
absurd to say that a British line-of-battle ship would 
hesitate for a minute about engaging aity frigate. 

On Jan. 1st, the Constitution, which had been 
lying in Boston harbor undergoing complete repairs, 
put out to sea under the command of Capt. Charles 
Stewart. The British 38-gun frigate NympJie had 
been lying before the port, but she disappeared long 
before the Constitution was in condition, in obedi- 
ence to the order already mentioned. Capt. Stew- 
art ran down toward the Barbadoes, and on the 14th 
of February captured and destroyed the British 
14-gun schooner Pictou, with a crew of 75 men. 
After making a few other prizes and reaching the 
coast of Guiana she turned homeward, and on the 
23d of the same month fell in, at the entrance to 
the Mona passage, with the British 36-gun frigate 
Pique (late French Pallas), Captain Maitland. The 
Constitution at once made sail for the Pique, steering 
free ; ^ the latter at first hauled to the wind and 
waited for her antagonist, but when the latter was 
still 3 miles distant she made out her force and im- 
mediately made all sail to escape ; the Constittition, 
however, gained steadily till 8 P. M., when the night 
and thick squally weather caused her to lose sight 
of the chase. Captain Maitland had on board the 

* Letter of Capt. Stewart, April 8, 1814. 

288 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

prohibitory order issued by the admiralty/ and 
acted correctly. His ship was altogether too light 
for his antagonist. James, however, is not satisfied 
with this, and wishes to prove that both ships were 
desirous of avoiding the combat. He says that 
Capt. Stewart came near enough to count " 13 ports 
and a bridle on the Pique s main-deck," and ''saw at 
once that she was of a class inferior to the Gtierriere 
or jfava,'' but " thought the Piques iS's were 24's, 
and therefore did not make an effort to bring her 
to action.'* He portrays very picturesquely the 
grief of the Pique's crew when they find they are 
not going to engage ; how they come aft and re- 
quest to be taken into action ; how Captain Mait- 
land reads them his instructions, but " fails to per- 
suade them that there had been any necessity 01 
issuing them " ; and, finally, how the sailors, ov^er- 
come by woe and indignation, refuse to take their 
supper-time grog, — Vv^hich was certainly remarkable. 
As the Constitution had twice captured British frig- 
ates " with impunity," according to James himself, 
is it likely that she would now shrink from an en- 
counter with a ship which she " saw at once was of 
an inferior class" to those already conquered? 
Even such abject cowards as James' Americans 
w^ould not be guilty of so stupid an action. Of 
course neither Capt. Stewart nor any one else sup- 
posed for an instant that a 36-gun frigate was armed 
with 24-pounders. 

It is worth while mentioning as an instance of 
how utterly untrustworthy James is in dealing with 
American affairs, that he says (p. 476) the Constitu- 
tion had now " what the Americans would call a bad 

^ James, vi, 477. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 289 

crew," whereas, in her previous battles, all her men 
had been " picked." Curiously enough, this is the 
exact reverse of the truth. In no case was an 
American ship manned with a " picked " crew, but 
the nearest approach to such was the crew the Con- 
stitiition carried in this and the next cruise, when 
''she probably possessed as fine a crew as ever 
manned a frigate. They were principally New 
England men, and it has been said of them that 
they were almost qualified to fight the ship without 
her officers." ^ The statement that such men, com- 
manded by one of the bravest and most skilful cap- 
tains of our navy, would shrink from attacking a 
greatly inferior foe, is hardly worth while denying; 
and, fortunately, such denial is needless. Captain 
Stewart's account being fully corroborated in the 
" Memoir of Admiral Durham," written by his 
nephew. Captain Murray, London, 1846. 

The Constitution arrived off the port of Marble- 
head on April 3d, and at 7 A. M. fell in with the 
two British 38-gun frigates Junon, Captain Upton, 
and Tenedos^ Captain Parker. '' The American 
frigate was standing to the westward with the 
wind about north by west and bore from the two 
British frigates about northwest by west. The Ju- 
71071 and Tenedos quickly hauled up in chase, and the 
Constitution crowded sail in the direction of Marble- 
head. At 9.30, finding the Te7iedos rather gaining 
upon her, the Constitution started her water and 
threw overboard a quantity of provisions and other 
articles. At 11.30 she hoisted her colors, and the 
two British frigates, who were now dropping slowly 
in the chase, did the same. At 1.30 P.M. the Con- 

' Cooper, ii, 463. 

290 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

stitution anchored in the harbor of Marblehead, 
Captain Parker was anxious to follow her into the 
port, which had no defences ; but the Tenedos was 
recalled by a signal from the Junonr ^ Shortly af- 
terward the Constitution again put out, and reached 
Boston unmolested. 

On Jan. 29, 18 14, the small U. S. coasting 
schooner Alligator, of 4 guns and 40 men, Sailing- 
master R. Basset, was lying at anchor in the mouth 
of Stone River, S. C, when a frigate and a brig 
were perceived close inshore near the breakers- 
Judging from their motions that they would at- 
tempt to cut him out when it was dark, Mr. Basset 
made his preparations accordingly.^ At half-past 
seven six boats were observed approaching cautious- 
ly under cover of the marsh, with muffled oars ; on 
being hailed they cheered and opened with boat 
carronades and musketry, coming on at full speed ; 
whereupon the Alligator cut her cable and made 
sail, the wind being light from the southwest ; while 
the crew opened such a heavy fire on the as- 
sailants, who were then not thirty yards off, that 
they stopped the advance and fell astern. At this 
moment the Alligator grounded, but the enemy had 
suffered so severely that they made no attempt to 
renew the attack, rowing off down stream. On 
board the Alligator two men were killed and two 
wounded, including the pilot, who was struck down 
by a grape-shot while standing at the helm ; and 
her sails and rigging were much cut. The extent of 
the enemy's loss was never known ; next day one of 
his cutters was picked up at North Edisto, much in- 

^ James, vi, 479. 

^ Letter of Sailing-master Basset, Jan, 31, 1814, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 29 1 

jured and containing the bodies of an officer and a 
seaman.' For his skill and gallantry Mr. Basset was 
pronrioted to a lieutenancy, and for a time his 
exploit put a complete stop to the cutting-out ex- 
peditions along that part of the coast. The Alliga- 
tor herself sank in a squall on July 1st, but was 
afterward raised and refitted. 

It is much to be regretted that it is almost im- 
possible to get at the British account of any of 
these expeditions which ended successfully for the 
Americans ; all such cases are generally ignored by 
the British historians ; so that I am obliged to rely 
solely upon the accounts of the victors, who, with 
the best intentions in the world, could hardly be 
perfectly accurate. 

At the close of 181 3 Captain Porter was still 
cTuising in the Pacific. 

Early in January the Essex, now with 255 men 
aboard, made the South American coast, and on the 
1 2th of that month anchored in the harbor of Val- 
paraiso. She had in company a prize, re-christened 
the Essex Junior, with a crew of 60 men, and 20 
guns, 10 long sixes and 10 eighteen-pound carron- 
ades. Of course she could not be used in a combat 
with regular cruisers. 

On Feb. 8th, the British frigate Phoebe, 36, Cap- 
tain James Hilyar, accompanied by the Cherub, 18, 
Captain Thomas Tudor Tucker, the former carrying 
300 and the latter 140 men," made their appearance, 
and apparently proposed to take the Essex by a 
coup de main. They hauled into the harbor on a 
wind, the Cherub falling to leeward ; while the Phoebe 

^ Letter from Commander J. H. Dent, Feb. 21, 1814. 
^ They afterward took on board enough men from British merchant- 
vessels to raise their complements respectively to 320 and 180. 

292 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

made the port quarter of the Essex, and then, put- 
ting her helm down, luffed up on her starboaad bow, 
but 10 or 15 feet distant. Porter's crew were all at 
quarters, the powder-boys with slow matches ready 
to discharge the guns, the boarders standing by, 
cutlass in hand, to board in the smoke ; every thing 
was cleared for action on both frigates. Captain 
Hilyar now probably saw that there was no chance 
of carrying the Essex by surprise, and, standing on 
the after-gun, he inquired after Captain Porter's 
health ; the latter returned the inquiry, but warned 
Hilyar not to fall foul. The British captain then 
braced back his yards, remarking that if he did fall 
aboard it would be purely accidental. '' Well," said 
Porter, " you have no business where you are ; if 
you touch a rope-yarn of this ship I shall board in- 
stantly." ' The PJioebe, in her then position, was 
completely at the mercy of the American ships, and 
Hilyar, greatly agitated, assured Porter that he 
meant nothing hostile ; and the Phccbe backed down, 
her yards passing over those of the Essex without 
touching a rope, and anchored half a mile astern. 
Shortly afterward the two captains met on shore, 
when Hilyar thanked Porter for his behavior, and, 
on his inquiry, assured him that after thus owing 
his safety to the latter's forbearance. Porter need be 
under no apprehension as to his breaking the neu- 

The British ships now began a blockade of the 
port. On Feb. 27th, the Phcebe being hove to close 
off the port, and the Cherub a league to leeward, the 
former fired a weather-gun ; the Essex interpreting 
this as a challenge, took the crew^ of the Essex Jiin- 

^ " Life of Farragut/' p. 33. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 293 

ior aboard and went out to attack the British frig- 
ate. But the latter did not await the combat ; she 
bore lip, set her studding-sails, and ran down to the 
Cherub. The American officers were intensely irri- 
tated over this, and American writers have sneered 
much at "a British 36 refusing combat with an 
American 32." But the armaments of the two frig- 
ates were so wholly dissimilar that it is hard to 
make comparison. When the fight really took 
place, the Essex was so crippled and the water so 
smooth that the British ships fought at their own 
distance , and as they had long guns to oppose to 
Porter's carronades, this really made the Cherub 
more nearly suited to contend with the Essex than 
the latter was to fight the Phcebe. But when the 
Essex in fairly heavy weather, with the crew of the 
Essex yrinior aboard, was to windward, the circum- 
stances were very different ; she carried as many 
men and guns as the Phcebe, and in close combat, or 
in a hand-to-hand struggle, could probably have 
taken her. Still, Hilyar's conduct in avoiding 
Porter except when the Cherub was in company was 
certainly over-cautious, and very difficult to explain 
in a man of his tried courage. 

On March 27th Porter decided to run out of the 
harbor on the first opportunity, so as to draw away 
his two antagonists in chase, and let the Essex 
Junior escape. This plan had to be tried sooner 
than was expected. The two vessels were always 
ready, the Essex only having her proper comple- 
ment of 255 men aboard. On the next day, the 
28th, it came on to blow from the south, when the 
Essex parted her port cable and dragged the star- 
board anchor to leeward, so she got under way, and 

294 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

made sail ; by several trials it had been found that 
she was faster than the Phcebe, and that the Cherub 
was very slow indeed, so Porter had little anxiety 
about his own ship, only fearing for his consort. 
The British vessels were close in with the weather- 
most point of the bay, but Porter thought he could 
weather them, and hauled up for that purpose. Just 
as he was rounding the outermost point, which, if 
accomplished, would have secured his safety, a 
heavy squall struck the Essex, and when she was 
nearly gunwale under, the main-top-mast went by 
the board. She now wore and stood in for the 
harbor, but the wind had shifted, and on account of 
her crippled condition she could not gain it ; so she 
bore up and anchored in a small bay, three miles 
from Valparaiso, and half a mile from a detached 
Chilian battery of one gun, the Essex being within 
pistol-shot of the shore.' The Phcebe and Cherub 
now bore down upon her, covered with ensigns, 
union-jacks, and motto flags ; and it became evident 
that Hilyar did not intend to keep his word, as 
soon as he saw that Porter was disabled. So the 
Essex prepared for action, though there could be 
no chance whatever of success. Her flags were 
flying from every mast, and every thing was made 
ready as far as was possible. The attack was made 
before springs could be got on her cables. She was 
anchored so near the shore as to preclude the possi- 
bility of Captain Hilyar's passing ahead of her^ ; so 
his two ships came cautiously down, the Cherub 
taking her position on the starboard bow of the 
Essex, and the Phcebe under the latter's stern. The 

^ Letter of Captain David Porter, July 3, 1814. 
' Letter of Captain James Hilyar, March 30, 1814. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 295 

attack began at 4 P. M.' Some of the bow-guns of 
the American frigate bore upon the Cherub, and, 
as soon as she found this out, the sloop ran down 
and stationed herself near the Phcebe. The latter 
had opened with her broadside of long i8's, from a 
position in which not one of Porter's guns could 
reach her. Three times springs were got on the 
cables of the Essex, in order to bring her round till 
her broadside bore ; but in each instance they were 
shot away, as soon as they were hauled taut. Three 
long I2*s were got out of the stern-ports, and with 
these an animated fire was kept up on the two 
British ships, the aim being especially to cripple 
their rigging. A good many of Porter's crew were 
killed during the first five minutes, before he could 
bring any guns to bear ; but afterward he did not 
suffer much, and at 4.20, after a quarter of an hour's 
fight between the three long 12's of the Essex^ and 
the whole 36 broadside guns of the Phcebe and 
Cherub, the latter were actually driven off. They 
wore, and again began with their long guns ; but, 
these producing no visible effect, both of the 
British ships hauled out of the fight at 4.30. '* Hav- 
ing lost the use of main-sail, jib, and main-stay, 
appearances looked a little inauspicious," writes 
Captain Hilyar. But the damages were soon re- 
paired, and his two ships stood back for the crippled 
foe. Both stationed themselves on her port-quarter, 
the Phcebe at anchor, with a spring, firing her broad- 
side, while the Cherub kept under way, using her 
long bow-chasers. Their fire was very destructive, 
for they were out of reach of the Essex's carron- 

' Mean time. Porter says 3.54; Hilyar, a few minutes past 4. 
The former says the first attack lasted half an hour ; the latter, but 
10 minutes. I accordingly make it 20. 

296 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

ades, and not one of her long guns could be brought 
to bear on them. Porter now cut his cable, at 
5.20, and tried to close with his antagonists. After 
many ineffectual efforts sail was made. The flying- 
jib halyards were the only serviceable ropes uncut. 
That sail was hoisted, and the foretop-sail and fore- 
sail let fall, though the want of sheets and tacks 
rendered them almost useless. Still the Essex 
drove down on her assailants, and for the first time 
got near enough to use her carronades; for a minute 
or two the firing was tremendous, but after the 
first broadside the Cherub hauled out of the fight in 
great haste, and during the remainder of the action 
confined herself to using her bow-guns from a dis- 
tance. Immediately afterward the Phcebe also 
edged off, and by her superiority of sailing, her foe 
being now almost helpless, was enabled to choose 
her own distance, and again opened from her long 
i8's, out of range of Porter's carronades.^ The 
carnage on board the Essex had now made her 
decks look like shambles. One gun was manned 
three times, fifteen men being slain at it ; its cap- 
tain alone escaped without a wound. There were 
but one or two instances of flinching ; the wounded, 
many of whom were killed by flying splinters while 
under the hands of the doctors, cheered on their 
comrades, and themselves worked at the guns like 
fiends as long as they could stand. At one of the 
bow-guns was stationed a young Scotchman, named 

^ American writers often sneer at Hilyar for keeping away from the 
Essex, and out of reach of her short guns ; but his conduct was 
eminently proper in this respect. It was no part of his duty to fight 
the Essex at the distance which best suited her ; but, on the con- 
trary, at that which least suited her. He, of course, wished to win 
the victory with the least possible loss to himself, and acted accord- 
mgly. His conduct in the action itself could not be improved upon. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 297 

BIssly, who had one leg shot off close by the groin. 
Using his handkerchief as a tourniquet, he said, 
turning to his American shipmates : " I left my 
own country and adopted the United States, to 
fight for her. I hope I have this day proved 
myself worthy of the country of my adoption. I 
am no longer of any use to you or to her, so good- 
by ! " With these words he leaned on the sill of 
the port, and threw himself overboard.' Among 
the very few men who flinched was one named 
William Roach ; Porter sent one of his midshipmen 
to shoot him, but he was not to be found. He was 
discovered by a man named William Call, whose 
leg had been shot off and was hanging by the skin, 
and who dragged the shattered stump all round the 
bag-house, pistol in hand, trying to get a shot at 
him. Lieut. J. G. Cowell had his leg shot off above 
the knee, and his life might have been saved had it 
been amputated at once ; but the surgeons already 
had rows of wounded men waiting for them, and 
when it was proposed to him that he should be 
attended to out of order, he replied : " No, doctor, 
none of that ; fair play 's a jewel. One man's life is 
as dear as another's ; I would not cheat any poor 
fellow out of his turn." So he stayed at his post, 
and died from loss of blood. 

Finding it hopeless to try to close, the Essex stood 
for the land, Porter intending to run her ashore and 
burn her. But when she had drifted close to the 
bluffs the wind suddenly shifted, took her flat aback 
and paid her head off shore, exposing her to a raking 
fire. At this moment Lieutenant Downes, com- 
manding the Junior, pulled out in a boat, through 

^ This and most of the other anecdotes are taken from the invalu- 
able " Life of Farragut," pp. 37-46. 

298 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

all the fire, to see if he could do any thing. Three 
of the men with him, including an old boatswain's 
mate, named Kingsbury, had come out expressly "to 
share the fate of their old ship " ; so they remained 
aboard, and, in their places. Lieutenant Downes took 
some of the wounded ashore, while the Cherub kept 
up a tremendous fire upon him. The shift of the 
wind gave Porter a faint hope of closing ; and once 
more the riddled hulk of the little American frigate 
was headed for her foes. But Hilyar put his helm up 
to avoid close quarters ; the battle was his already, 
and the cool old captain was too good an officer to 
leave any thing to chance. Seeing he could not 
close, Porter had a hawser bent on the sheet-anchor 
and let go. This brought the ship's head round, 
keeping her stationary ; and from such of her guns 
as were not dismounted and had men enough left to 
man them, a broadside was fired at the Phcebe. The 
wind was now very light, and the Phcebe, whose main- 
and mizzen-masts and main-yard were rather seri- 
ously wounded, and who had suffered a great loss of 
canvas and cordage aloft, besides receiving a num- 
ber of shot between wind and water,' and was thus 
a good deal crippled, began to drift slowly to leeward. 
It was hoped that she would drift out of gun-shot, 
but this last chance was lost by the parting of the 
hawser, which left the Essex at the mercy of the 
British vessels. Their fire was deliberate and de- 
structive, and could only be occasionally replied to 
by a shot from one of the long 12's of the Essex. 
The ship caught fire, and the flames came bursting 

' Captain Hilyar's letter, James says the Phcebe had 7 shot be- 
tween wind and water, and one below the water-line. Porter says she 
had 18 12-pound shot below the water-line. The latter statement 
must have been an exaggeration ; and James is probably farther 
wrong still. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 299 

up the hatchway, and a quantity of powder ex- 
ploded below. Many of the crew were knocked 
overboard by shot, and drowned ; others leaped 
into the water, thinking the ship was about to blow 
up, and tried to swim to the land. Some succeeded ; 
among them was one man who had sixteen or eigh- 
teen pieces of iron in his leg, scales from the muz- 
zle of his gun. The frigate had been shattered to 
pieces above the water-line, although from the 
smoothness of the sea she was not harmed enough 
below it to reduce her to a sinking condition.^ The 
carpenter reported that he alone of his crew was fit 
for duty; the others were dead or disabled. Lieu- 
tenant Wilmer was knocked overboard by a splinter, 
and drowned ; his little negro boy, *' Ruff," came up 
on deck, and, hearing of the disaster, deliberately 
leaped into the sea and shared his master's fate. 
Lieutenant Odenheimer was also knocked overboard, 
but afterward regained the ship. A shot, glancing 
upward, killed four of the men who were standing 
by a gun, striking the last one in the head and scat- 
tering his brains over his comrades. The only 
commissioned officer left on duty was Lieutenant 
Decatur McKnight. The sailing-master, Barnwell, 
when terribly wounded, remained at his post till he 
fainted from loss of blood. Of the 255 men aboard 
the Essex when the battle began, 58 had been killed, 
66 wounded, and 31 drowned ('* missing "), while 24 
had succeeded in reaching shore. But y6 men were 
left unwounded, and many of these had been bruised 
or otherwise injured. Porter himself was knocked 
down by the windage of a passing shot. While the 
young midshipman, Farragut,was on the ward-room 

' An exactly analogous case to that of the British sloop Reindeer. 

300 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

ladder, going below for gun-primers, the captain of 
the gun directly opposite the hatchway was struck 
full in the face by an 1 8-pound shot, and tumbled 
back on him. They fell down the hatch together, 
Farragut being stunned for some minutes. Later, 
while standing by the man at the wheel, an old 
quartermaster named Francis Bland, a shot coming 
over the fore-yard took off the quartermaster's right 
leg, carrying away at the same time one of Farra- 
gut's coat tails. The old fellow was helped below, 
but he died for lack of a tourniquet, before he could 
be attended to. 

Nothing remained to be done, and at 6.20 the 
Essex surrendered and was taken possession of. The 
Phoebe had lost 4 men killed, including her first 
lieutenant, William Ingram, and 7 wounded ; the 
Cherub, i killed, and 3, including Captain Tucker, 
wounded. Total, 5 killed and 10 wounded.' The 
difference in loss was natural, as, owing to their hav- 
ing long guns and the choice of position, the British 
had been able to fire ten shot to the Americans' 

The conduct of the two English captains in at- 
tacking Porter as soon as he was disabled, in neutral 
waters, while they had been very careful to abstain 
from breaking the neutrality while he was in good 
condition, does not look well; at the best it shows 
that Hilyar had only been withheld hitherto from 
the attack by timidity, and it looks all the worse 
when it is remembered that Hilyar owed his ship's 

' James says that most of the loss was occasioned by the first three 
broadsides of the Essex; this is not surprising, as in all she hardly 
fired half a dozen, and the last were discharged when half of the guns 
had been disabled, and there were scarcely men enough to man the 
remainder. Most of the time her resistance was limited to firing 
such of her six long guns as would bear. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 30I 

previous escape entirely to Porter's forbearance on 
a former occasion when the British frigate was en- 
tirely at h;s mercy, and that the British captain had 
afterward expressly said that he would not break the 
neutrality. Still, the British in this war did not act 
very differently from the way we ourselves did on 
one or two occasions in the Civil War, — witness the- 
capture of the Florida, And after the battle was 
once begun the sneers which most of our historians, 
as well as the participators in the fight, have show- 
ered upon the British captains for not foregoing the 
advantages which their entire masts and better ar- 
tillery gave them by coming to close quarters, are 
decidedly foolish. Hilyar's conduct during the battle, 
as well as his treatment of the prisoners afterward, 
was perfect, and as a minor matter it may be men- 
tioned that his official letter is singularly just and 
fair-minded. Says Lord Howard Douglass^: ''The 
action displayed all that can reflect honor on the 
science and admirable conduct of Captain Hilyar 
and his crew, which, without the assistance of the 
Cherub, would have insured the same termination. 
Captain Porter's sneers at the respectful distance 
the PJicebe kept are in fact acknowledgments of the 
ability with which Captain Hilyar availed himself of 
the superiority of his arms ; it was a brilliant affair." 
While endorsing this criticism, it may be worth while 
to compare it with some of the author's comments 
upon the other actions, as that between Decatur and 
the Macedonian. To make the odds here as great 
against Carden as they were against Porter, it would 
be necessary to suppose that the Macedonian had 
lost her main-top-mast, had but six long i8's to op- 

' " Naval Gunnery," p. 149. 

302 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

pose to her antagonist's 24's, and that the latter was 
assisted by the corvette Adams ; so that as a matter 
of fact Porter fought at fully double or treble the 
disadvantage Garden did, and, instead of surrender- 
ing when he had lost a third of his crew, fought till 
three fifths of his men were dead or wounded, and, 
moreover, inflicted greater loss and damage on his 
antagonists than Garden did. If, then, as Lord 
Douglass says, the defence of the Macedonian brill- 
iantly upheld the character of the British navy for 
courage, how much more did that of the Essex show 
for the American navy; and if Hilyar's conduct was 
" brilliant," that of Decatur was more so. 

This was an action in which it is difificult to tell 
exactly how to award praise. Gaptain Hilyar deserves 
it, for the coolness and skill with which he made his 
approaches and took his positions so as to destroy his 
adversary with least loss to himself, and also for the 
precision of his fire. The CJieriib's behavior was 
more remarkable for extreme caution than for any 
thing else. As regards the mere fight. Porter cer- 
tainly did every thing a man could do to contend 
successfully with the overwhelming force opposed to 
him, and the few guns that were available were 
served with the utmost precision. As an exhibition 
of dogged courage it has never been surpassed since 
the time when the Dutch captain, Kl^esoon, after 
fighting two long days, blew up his disabled ship, 
devoting himself and all his crew to death, rather 
than surrender to the hereditary foes of his race, 
and was bitterly avenged afterward by the grim 
" sea-beggars " of Holland ; the days when Drake 
singed the beard of the Gatholic king, and the small 
English craft were the dread and scourge of the 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 303 

great floating castles of Spain. Any man reading 
Farragut's account is forcibly reminded of some of 
the deeds of " derring do " in that, the heroic age of 
the Teutonic navies. Captain Hilyar in his letter 
says : *' The defence of the Essex, taking into con- 
sideration our superiority of force and the very dis- 
couraging circumstance of her having lost her main- 
top-mast and being twice on fire, did honor to her 
brave defenders, and most fully evinced the courage 
of Captain Porter and those under his command. 
Her colors were not struck until the loss in killed 
and wounded was so awfully great and her shattered 
condition so seriously bad as to render all further 
resistance unavailing." ' He also bears very candid 

^ James (p. 419) says : " The Essex, as far as is borne out by proof 
(the only safe way where an American is concerned), had 24 men 
killed and 45 wounded. But Capt. Porter, thinking by exaggerating 
his loss to prop up his fame, talks of 58 killed and mortally wounded, 
39 severely, 27 slightly," etc., etc. This would be no more worthy of 
notice than any other of his falsifications, were it not followed by va- 
rious British writers. Hilyar states that he has 161 prisoners, has 
found 23 dead, that 3 wounded were taken off, between 20 and 30 
reached the shore, and that the " remamder are either killed or 
wounded." It is by wilfully preserving silence about this last sen- 
tence that James makes out his case. It will be observed that Hilyar 
enumerates 161+23-1-3+25 (say) or 212, and says the remainder were 
either killed or wounded ; Porter having 255 men at first, this remain- 
der was 43. Hilyar stating that of his 161 prisoners, 42 were wounded, 
his account thus gives the Americans ill killed and wounded. James' 
silence 'about Hilyar's last sentence enables him to make the loss but 
6g, and his wilful omission is quite on a par with the other mean- 
nesses and falsehoods which utterly destroy the reliability of his work. 
By Hilyar's own letter it is thus seen that Porter's loss in killed and 
wounded was certainly iii, perhaps 116, or if Porter had, as James 
says, 265 men, 126. There still remain some discrepancies between 
the official accounts, which can be compared in tabular form : 

Hilyar. Porter. 

Prisoners unwounded, 119 75 prisoners unwounded. 

" wounded, 42 27 " slightly wounded. 

Taken awaj' wounded, 3 39 " severely " 

Those who reached shore, 25 58 killed. 

Remainder killed or wounded, 43 31 missing. 

Killed, 23 25 reached shore. 

955 255 

304 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

testimony to the defence of the Essex having been 
effective enough to at one time render the result 
doubtful, saying : ** Our first attack * ^ * pro- 
duced no visible effect. Our second -^ * -^ was 
not more successful ; and having lost the use of our 
main-sail, jib, and main-stay, appearances looked a 
little inauspicious." Throughout the war no ship 
was so desperately defended as the Essex, taking 
into account the frightful odds against which she 
fought, which always enhances the merit of a de- 
fence. The Lawrence, which suffered even more, 
was backed by a fleet ; the Frolic was overcome by 
an equal foe ; and the Reindeer fought at far less of 
a disadvantage, and suffered less. None of the frig- 
ates, British or American, were defended with any 
thing like the resolution she displayed. 
^ But it is perhaps permissible to inquire whether 

\ Porter's course, after the accident to his top-mast oc- 
curred, was altogether the best that could have been 
taken. On such a question no opinion could have 
been better than Farragut's, although of course his 
judgment was ex post facto, as he was very young at 
the time of the fight. 

*' In the first place, I consider our original and 
greatest error was *in attempting to regain the 

The explanation probably is that Hilyar's " 42 wounded" do not 
include Porter's " 27 slightly wounded," and that his " t6i prison- 
ers" include Porter's " 25 who reached shore," and his " 25 who 
reached shore" comes under Porter's "31 missing." This would 
make the accounts nearly tally. At any rate in Porter's book are to 
be found the names of all his killed, wounded, and missing; and 
their relatives received pensions from the American government, 
which, if the returns were false, would certainly have been a most 
elaborate piece of deception. It is far more likely that Hilyar was 
mistaken ; or he may have counted in the Essex Junior s crew, which 
would entirely account for the discrepancies. In any event it must 
be remembered that he makes the American killed and wounded 11 1 
(Porter, 124), and not 6<^, as James says. The latter's statement is 
wilfully false, as he had seen Hilyar's letter. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 305 

anchorage ; being greatly superior in sailing powers 
we should have borne up and run before the wind. 
If we had come in contact with the Phcebe we should 
have carried her by boarding; if she avoided us, as 
she might have done by her greater ability to ma- 
noeuvre, then we should have taken her fire and 
passed on, leaving both vessels behind until we had 
replaced our top-mast, by which time they would 
have been separated, as unless they did so it would 
have been no chase, the Cherub being a dull sailer. 

'' Secondly, when it was apparent to everybody 
that we had no chance of success under the circum- 
stances, the ship should have been run ashore, throw- 
ing her broadside to the beach to prevent raking, and 
fought as long as was consistent with humanity, 
and then set on fire. But having determined upon 
anchoring we should have bent a spring on to the 
ring of the anchor, instead of to the cable, where it 
was exposed, and could be shot away as fast as put 

But it must be remembered that when Porter 
decided to anchor near shore, in neutral water, he 
could not anticipate Hilyar's deliberate and treach- 
erous breach of faith. I do not allude to the mere 
disregard of neutrality. Whatever international 
moralists may say, such disregard is a mere ques- 
tion of expediency. If the benefit? to be gained by 
attacking a hostile ship in neutral waters are such 
as to counterbalance the risk of incurring the 
enmity of the neutral power, why then the attack 
ought to be made. Had Hilyar, when he first made 
his appearance off Valparaiso, sailed in with his two 
ships, the men at quarters and guns out, and at 
once attacked Porter, considering the destruction 

306 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

of the Essex as outweighing the insult to Chili, why 
his behavior would have been perfectly justifiable. 
In fact this is unquestionably what he intended to 
do ; but he suddenly found himself in such a posi- 
tion, that in the event of hostilities, his ship would 
be the captured one, and he owed his escape purely 
to Porter's over-forbearance, under great provocation. 
Then he gave his word to Porter that he would not 
infringe on the neutrality ; and he never dared to 
break it, until he saw Porter was disabled and 
almost helpless ! This may seem strong language 
to use about a British officer, but it is justly strong. 
Exactly as any outsider must consider Warrington's 
attack on the British brig Nautilus in 1 815, as a 
piece of needless cruelty ; so any outsider must con- 
sider Hilyar as having most treacherously broken 
faith with Porter. 

After the fight Hilyar behaved most kindly and 
courteously to the prisoners ; and, as already said, 
he fought his ship most ably, for it would have 
been quixotic to a degree to forego his advantages. 
But previous to the battle his conduct had been 
over-cautious. It was to be expected that the 
Essex would make her escape as soon as practicable, 
and so he should have used every effort to bring her 
to action. Instead of this he always declined the 
fight when alone ; and he owed his ultimate success 
to the fact that the Essex instead of escaping, as she 
could several times have done, stayed, hoping to 
bring the Phoebe to action single-handed. It must 
be remembered that the Essex was almost as weak 
compared to the Ph(£be, as the Cherub was com- 
pared to the Essex. The latter was just about mid- 
way between the British ships, as may be seen by 



the following comparison. In the action the Essex 
fought all six of her long 12's, and the Cherub both 
her long 9's, instead of the corresponding broadside 
carronades which the ships regularly used. This 
gives the Essex a better armament than she would 
have had fighting her guns as they were regularly 
used ; but it can be seen how great the inequalit}^ 
still was. It must also be kept in mind, that while 
in the battles between the American 44's and 
British 38's, the short weight 24-pounders of the 
former had in reality no greater range or accuracy 
than the full weight i8's of their opponents, in this 
case the Phoebe's full weight iS's had a very much 
greater range and accuracy than the short weight 
12's of the Essex. 


Plicebe, 320 

Cherub, 180 


500 men, 


Broadside Guns. 
13 long iS's 
I " 12 

I " g 
7 short 32's 

1 " iS 

23 guns, 

2 long 9's 
2 short i8's 
9 " 32's 

13 guns, 

36 guns, 

6 long 12's 
[7 short 32's 


234 lbs. 

12 " 

9 " 
224 " 

iS " 

497 lbs. 

18 lbs. 
36 " 
288 " 

342 lbs. 

839 lbs., metal. 
\ 273 long. 
\ 566 short 




66 lbs. 

i, ( Taking 7 percent, 
i . • \ off for short 
( weight. 

255 men, 

23 gui 

570 lbs. 

308 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

All accounts agree as to the armament of the 
Essex, I have taken that of the PJioebc and Cherub 
from James ; but Captain Porter's ofificial letter, and 
all the other American accounts make the Phcebe's 
broadside 15 long i8's and 8 short 32's, and give the 
Cherub, in all, 18 short 32's, 8 short 24's, and two 
long nines. This would make their broadside 904 
lbs., 288 long, 616 short. I would have no doubt 
that the American accounts were right if the ques- 
tion rested solely on James' veracity ; but he proba- 
bly took his figures from ofificial sources. At any 
rate, remembering the difference between long guns 
and carronades, it appears that the Essex was 
really nearly intermediate in force between the 
PJioebe and the Cherub. The battle being fought, 
with a very trifling exception, at long range, it was 
in reality a conflict between a crippled ship throw- 
ing a broadside of 66 lbs. of metal, and two ships 
throwing 273 lbs., who by their ability to manoeuvre 
could choose positions where they could act with 
full effect, while their antagonist could not return a 
shot. Contemporary history does not afford a 
single instance of so determined a defence against 
such frightful odds. 

The official letters of Captains Hilyar and Porter 
agree substantially in all respects ; the details of the 
fight, as seen in the Essex, are found in the "Life of 
Farragut." But although the British captain does 
full justice to his foe, British historians have univer- 
sally tried to belittle Porter's conduct. It is much 
to be regretted that we have no British account 
worth paying attention to of the proceedings before 
the fight, when the PJicebe declined single combat 
with the Essex. James, of course, states that the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 309 

Phoebe did not decline it, but he gives no authority, 
and his unsupported assertion would be valueless 
even if uncontradicted. His account of the action 
is grossly inaccurate as he has inexcusably garbled 
Hilyar's report. One instance of this I have already 
mentioned, as regards Hilyar's account of Porter's 
loss. Again, Hilyar distinctly states that the Essex 
was twice on fire, yet James (p. 418) utterly denies 
this, thereby impliedly accusing the British captain 
of falsehood. There is really no need of the cor- 
roboration of Porter's letter, but he has it most 
fully in the " Life of Farragut," p. 37: " The men 
came rushing up from below, many with their 
clothes burning, which were torn from them as 
quickly as possible, and those for whom this could 
not be done were told to jump overboard and quench 
the flames. * * - One man swam to shore with 
scarcely a square inch of his body which had not 
been burned, and, although he was deranged for 
some days, he ultimately recovered, and afterward 
served with me in the West Indies." The third un- 
founded statement in James' account is that buck- 
ets of spirits were found in all parts of the main 
deck of the Essex, and that most of the prisoners 
were drunk. No authority is cited for this, and 
there is not a shadow of truth in it. He ends by 
stating that " few even in his own country will vent- 
ure to speak well of Captain David Porter." After 
these various paragraphs we are certainly justified 
in rejecting James' account in toto. An occasional 
mistake is perfectly excusable, and gross ignorance 
of a good many facts does not invalidate a man's 
testimony with regard to some others with which he 
is acquainted ; but a wilful and systematic perver- 


sion of the truth in a number of cases throw a very 
strong doubt on a historian's remaining statements, 
unless they are supported by unquestionable au- 

But if British historians have generally given Por- 
ter much less than his due, by omitting all reference 
to the inferiority of his guns, his lost top-mast, etc., 
it is no worse than Americans have done in similar 
cases. The latter, for example, will make great al- 
lowances in the case of the Essex for her having 
carronades only, but utterly fail to allude to the Cy- 
ane and Levant as having suffered under the same 
disadvantages. They should remember that the 
rules cut both ways. 

The Essex\i2.wm^ suffered chiefly above the water- 
line, she was repaired sufficiently in Valparaiso to 
enable her to make the voyage to England, where 
she was added to the British navy. The Essex 
Junior was disarmed and the American prisoners 
embarked in her for New York, on parole. But 
Lieutenant McKnight, Chaplain Adams, Midship- 
man Lyman, and ii seamen were exchanged on the 
spot for some of the British prisoners on board the 
Essex Junior. McKnight and Lyman accompanied 
the Phcebe to Rio Janeiro, where they embarked on 
a Swedish vessel, were taken out of her by the Wasp, 
Captain Blakely, and were lost with the rest of the 
crew of that vessel. The others reached New York 
in safety. Of the prizes made by the Essex, some 
were burnt or sunk by the Americans, and some re- 
taken by the British. And so, after nearly two 
years' uninterrupted success, the career of the Essex 
terminated amid disasters of all kinds. But at least 
her officers and crew could reflect that they had 


afforded an example of courage in adversity that it 
would be difficult to match elsewhere. 

^ The first of the new heavy sloops of war that 
got to sea was the Frolic, Master Commandant 
Joseph Bainbridge, which put out early in Febru- 
ary. Shortly afterward she encountered a large 
Carthagenian privateer, which refused to surrender 
and was sunk by a broadside, nearly a hundred of 
her crew being drowned. Before daylight on the 
20th of April, lat. 24°i2' N., long. 8i°25' W., she 
fell in with the British 36-gun frigate Orpheus, Capt. 
Pigot, and the i2-gun schooner Shelburne, Lieut. 
Hope, both to leeward. The schooner soon weath- 
ered the Frolic, but of course was afraid to close, and 
the American sloop continued beating to windward, 
in the effort to escape, for nearly 13 hours; the water 
was started, the anchors cut away, and finally the 
guns thrown overboard — a measure by means of 
which both the Hornet, the Rattlesnake, and the 
Adams succeeded in escaping under similar circum- 
stances, — but all was of no avail, and she was finally 
captured. The court of inquiry honorably acquitted 
both officers and crew. As was to be expected 
James considers the surrender a disgraceful one, be- 
cause the guns were thrown overboard. As I have 
said, this was a measure which had proved success- 
ful in several cases of a like nature ; the criticism is 
a piece of petty meanness. Fortunately we have 
Admiral Codrington's dictum on the surrender 
(" Memoirs," vol. i, p. 310), which he evidently con- 
sidered as perfectly honorable. 

A sister ship to the Frolic, the Peacock, Capt. Lewis 
Warrington, sailed from New York on March 12th, 

312 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

and cruised southward ; on the 28th of April, at 
seven in the morning, lat. 17° 47' N., long. 80° 7' 
W., several sail were made to windward.' These 
were a small convoy of merchant-men, bound for the 
Bermudas, under the protection of the i8-gun brig- 
sloop Epervier, Capt. Wales, 5 days out of Havana, 
and with $118,000 in specie on board.'' The Eper- 
vier when discovered was steering north by east, 
the wind being from the eastward ; soon after- 
ward the wind veered gradually round to the south- 
ward, and the Epervier hauled up close on the port 
tack, while the convoy made all sail away, and the 
Peacock came down with the wind on her starboard 
quarter. At 10 A. M. the vessels were within gun- 
shot, and the Peacock edged away to get in a raking 
broadside, but the Epervier frustrated this by put- 
ting her helm up until close on her adversary's bow, 
when she rounded to and fired her starboard guns, 
receiving in return the starboard broadside of the 
Peacock at 10.20 A. M. These first broadsides took 
effect aloft, the brig being partially dismantled, 
while the Peacock's fore-yard was totally disabled by 
two round shot in the starboard quarter, which de- 
prived the ship of the use of her fore-sail and fore- 
top-sail, and compelled her to run large. However, 
the Epervier eased away^ when abaft her foe's beam, 
and ran off alongside of her (using her port guns, 
while the American still had the starboard battery 
engaged) at 10.35. The Peacock's fire was now very 
hot, and directed chiefly at her adversary's hull, on 
which it told heavily, while she did not suffer at all 
in return. The Epervier coming up into the wind, 

^ Official letter of Capt. Warrington, April 29, 1814. 

^ James, vi, 424. 

* According to some accounis she at this time tacked. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


owing somewhat to the loss of head-sail, Capt. 
Wales called his crew aft to try boarding, but they 
refused, saying " she 's too heavy for us,"* and then, 
at 11.05 the colors were hauled down. 




Except the injury to her fore-yard, the Peacock's 
damages were confined to the loss of a few top-mast 
and top-gallant backstays, and some shot-holes 
through her sails. Of her crew, consisting, all told, 

^ James, ' ' Naval Occurrences, " p. 243. 

314 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

of i66 men and boys/ only two were wounded, both 
slightly. The Epcrvier, on the other hand, had 45 
shot-holes in her hull, 5 feet of water in her hold, 
main-top-mast over the side, main-mast nearly in 
two, main-boom shot away, bowsprit wounded 
severely, and most of the fore-rigging and stays shot 
away; and of her crew of 128 men (according to the 
list of prisoners given by Captain Warrington ; 
James says 118, but he is not backed up by any 
official report) 9 were killed and mortally wounded, 
and 14 severely and slightly wounded. Instead of 
two long sixes for bow-chasers, and a shifting carron- 
ade, she had two 18-pound carronades (according to 
the American prize-lists ; ^ Capt. Warrington says 
32's). Otherwise she was armed as usual. She was, 
like the rest of her kind, very "tubby," being as 
broad as the Peacock^ though 10 feet shorter on deck. 
Allowing, as usual, 7 per cent, for short weight of 
the American shot, we get the 





Broadside Guns, 


Weight Metal. 










That is, the relative force being as 12 is to 10, the 
relative execution done was as 12 is to i, and the 
Epervier surrendered before she had lost a fifth of 
her crew. The case of the Epervier closely re- 

' " Niles' Register," vi, ig6, says only 160; the above is taken 
from Wai-rington's letter of June ist, preserved with the other manu- 
script letters in the Naval Archives. The crew contained about 10 
boys, was not composed of picked men, and did not number 185— 
vide James. 

^ American State Papers, vol. xiv, p, 427. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 315 

sembles that of the Argus. In both cases the offi- 
cers behaved finely ; in both cases, too, the victori- 
ous foe was heavier, in about the same proportion, 
while neither the crew of the Argus, nor the crew 
of the Epervier fought with the determined bravery 
displayed by the combatants in almost every other 
struggle of the war. But it must be added that the 
Epervier did worse than the Argus, and the Peacock 
(American) better than the Pelican. The gunnery of 
the Epervier was extraordinarily poor ; " the most 
disgraceful part of the affair was that our ship was 
cut to pieces and the enemy hardly scratched." ' 
James states that after the first two or three broad- 
sides several carronades became unshipped, and 
that the others were dismounted by the fire of the 
Peacock ; that the men had not been exercised at 
the guns ; and, most important of all, that the crew 
(which contained " several foreigners," but was 
chiefly British ; as the Argus was chiefly American) 
was disgracefully bad. The Peacock, on the con- 
trary, showed skilful seamanship as well as excellent 
gunnery. In 45 minutes after the fight was over 
the fore-yard had been sent down and fished, the 
fore-sail set up, and every thing in complete order 
again ; " the prize was got in sailing order by dark, 
though great exertions had to be made to prevent 
her sinking. Mr. Nicholson, first of the Peacock, WdiS 
put in charge as prize-master. The next day the 
two vessels were abreast of Amelia Island, when two 
frigates were discovered in the north, to leeward. 
Capt. Warrington at once directed the prize to pro- 
ceed to St. Mary's, while he separated and made 

^ " Memoirs of Admiral Codrington," i, 322. 
"^ Letter of Capt. Warrington, April 29, 1814. 

3l6 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

sail on a wind to the south, intending to draw the 
frigates after him, as he was confident that the Pea- 
cock, a very fast vessel, could outsail them.' The 
plan succeeded perfectly, the brig reaching Savan- 
nah on the first of May, and the ship three days 
afterward. The Epervier was purchased for the 
U. S. navy, under the same name and rate. The 
Peacock sailed again on June 4th,^ going first north- 
ward to the Grand Banks, then to the Flores ; then 
she stationed herself in the mouth of the Irish 
Channel, and afterward cruised off Cork, the mouth 
of the Shannon, and the north of Ireland, capturing 
several very valuable prizes and creating great con- 
sternation. She then changed her station, to elude 
the numerous vessels that had been sent after her, 
and sailed southward, off Cape Ortegal, Cape Finis- 
terre, and finally among the Barbadoes, reaching 
New York, Oct. 29th. During this cruise she en- 
countered no war vessel smaller than a frigate ; but 
captured 14 sail of merchant-men, some containing 
valuable cargoes, and manned by 148 men. 

On April 29th, H.M.S. schooner Ballahon, 6, 
Lieut. King, while cruising off the American coast 
was captured by the Perry, privateer, a much 
heavier vessel, after an action of 10 minutes' dura- 

The general peace prevailing in Europe allowed 
the British to turn their energies altogether to 
America; and in no place was this increased vigor 
so much felt as in Chesapeake Bay where a great 
number of line-of-battle ships, frigates, sloops, and 

^ Letter of Capt, Warrington, May 4, 1814. 
^ Letter of Capt Warrington, Oct. 30, 1814. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 317 

transports had assembled, in preparation for the 
assault on Washington and Baltimore. The de- 
fence of these waters was confided to Capt. Joshua 
Barney/ with a flotilla of gun-boats. These consisted 
of three or four sloops and schooners, but mainly of 
barges, which were often smaller than the ship's 
boats that were sent against them. These gun- 
boats were manned by from 20 to 40 men each, and 
each carried, according to its size, one or two long 
24-, 1 8-, or i2-pounders. They were bad craft at 
best ; and, in addition, it is difficult to believe that 
they were handled to the fullest advantage. 

On June ist Commodore Barney, with the block 
sloop Scorpion and 14 smaller *' gun-boats," chiefly 
row gallies, passed the mouth of the Patuxent, and 
chased the British schooner St. Lawrence and seven 
boats, under Captain Barrie, until they took refuge 
with the Dragon, 74, which in turn chased Barney's 
flotilla into the Patuxent, where she blockaded it in 
company with the Albion, 74. They were afterward 
joined by the Loire, 38, Narcissus, 32, and Jasseiir, 
18, and Commodore Barney moved two miles up St. 
Leonard's Creek, while the frigates and sloop block- 
aded its mouth. A deadlock now ensued ; the gun- 
boats were afraid to attack the ships, and the ships' 
boats were just as afraid of the gun-boats. On the 
8th, 9th, and nth skirmishes occurred; on each 
occasion the British boats came up till they caught 
sight of Barney's flotilla, and were promptly chased 
off by the latter, which, however, took good care 
not to meddle with the larger vessels. Finally, 

^ He was born at Baltimore, July 6, 1759 ; James, with habitual 
accuracy, calls him an Irishman. He makes Decatur, by the way, 
commit the geographical solecism of being born in " Maryland, Vir- 

3l8 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

Colonel Wadsworth, of the artillery, with two 
long i8-pounders, assisted by the marines, under 
Captain Miller, and a few regulars, offered to co- 
operate from the shore while Barney assailed the 
two frigates with the flotilla. On the 26th the joint 
attack took place most successfully; the' Loire and 
Narcissus were driven off, although not much dam- 
aged, and the flotilla rowed out in triumph, with a 
loss of but 4 killed and 7 wounded. But in spite of 
this small success, which was mainly due to Colonel 
Wadsworth, Commodore Barney made no more at- 
tempts with his gun-boats. The bravery and skill 
which the flotilla men slowed at Bladensburg prove 
conclusively that their ill success on the water was 
due to the craft they were in, and not to any failing 
of the men. At the same period the French gun- 
boats were even more unsuccessful, but the Danes 
certainly did very well with theirs. 

Barney's flotilla in the Patuxent remained quiet 
until August 22d, and then was burned when the 
British advanced on Washington. The history of 
this advance, as well as of the unsuccessful one on 
Baltimore, concerns less the American than the 
British navy, and will be but briefly alluded to here. 
On August 20th Major-General Ross and Rear- 
Admiral Cockburn, with about 5,000 soldiers and 
marines, moved on Washington by land ; while a 
squadron, composed of the Seahorse, 38, Euryalus, 
36, bombs Devastation, ^tna, and Meteor, and rocket- 
ship Erebus, under Captain James Alexander Gor- 
don, moved up the Potomac to attack Fort Wash- 
ington, near Alexandria ; and Sir Peter Parker, in the 
Menelaus, 38, was sent " to create a diversion " above 
Baltimore, Sir Peter's " diversion " turned out 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 319 

most unfortunately for him : for, having landed to 
attack some Maryland militia, under Colonel Reade, 
he lost his own life, while fifty of his followers were 
placed hors de combat and the remainder chased 
back to the ship by the victors, who had but three 

The American army, which was to oppose Ross 
and Cockburn, consisted of some seven thousand 
militia, who fled so quickly that only about 1,500 
British had time to become engaged. The fight was 
really between these 1,500 British regulars and 
the American flotilla men. These consisted of jZ 
marines, under Captain Miller, and 370 sailors, some 
of whom served under Captain Barney, who had a 
battery of two i8's and three 12's, while the others 
were armed with muskets and pikes, and acted with 
the marines. Both sailors and marines did nobly, 
inflicting most of the loss the British suffered, 
which amounted to 256 men, and in return lost 
over a hundred of their own men, including the two 
captains, who were wounded and captured, with the 
guns.^ Ross took Washington and burned the pub- 
lic buildings ; and the panic-struck Americans fool- 
ishly burned the Columbia, 44, and Argus, 18, which 
were nearly ready for service. 

Captain Gordon's attack on Fort Washington was 
conducted with great skill and success. Fort Wash- 
ington was abandoned as soon as fired upon, and 
the city of Alexandria surrendered upon most hu- 
mihating conditions. Captain Gordon was now 
joined by the Fairy, 18, Captain Baker, who 
brought him orders to return from Vice-Admiral 
Cochrane ; and the squadron began to work down 

' The optimistic Cooper thinks that two regular regiments would 
have given the Americans this battle — which is open to doubt. 

320 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

the river, which was very difficult to navigate. 
Commodore Rodgers, with some of the crew 
of the two 44's, Guerri^re and Java, tried to 
bar their progress, but had not sufficient means. 
On September ist an attempt was made to destroy 
the Devastation by fire-ships, but it failed ; on the 
4th the attempt was repeated by Commodore 
Rodgers, with a party of some forty men, but they 
were driven off and attacked by the British boats, 
under Captain Baker, who in turn was repulsed with 
the loss of his second lieutenant killed, and some 
twenty-five men killed or wounded. The squadron 
also had to pass and silence a battery of light field- 
pieces on the 5th, where they suffered enough to 
raise their total loss to seven killed and thirty-five 
wounded. Gordon's inland expedition was thus 
concluded most successfully, at a very trivial cost ; 
it was a most venturesome feat, reflecting great 
honor on the captains and crews engaged in it. 

Baltimore was threatened actively by sea and land 
early in September. On the 13th an indecisive 
conflict took place between the British regulars and 
American militia, in which the former came off with 
the honor, and the latter with the profit. The regu- 
lars held the field, losing 350 men, including General 
Ross ; the militia retreated in fair order with a 
loss of but 200. The' water attack was also un- 
successful. At 5 A.M. on the 13th the bomb 
vessels Meteor, ^tna, Terror, Volcano, and De- 
vastation, the rocket'ship Erebus, and the frigates 
Severn, Euryalus, Havannah, and Hebrus opened 
on Fort McHenry, some of the other forti- 
fications being occasionally fired at. A furious but 
harmless cannonade was kept up between the forts 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 32 1 

and ships until 7 A. M. on the 14th, when the British 
fleet and army retired. 

I have related these events out of their natural 
order because they really had very little to do with 
our navy, and yet it is necessary to mention them 
in order to give an idea of the course of events. The 
British and American accounts of the various gun- 
boat attacks differ widely; but it is very certain that 
the gun-boats accomplished little or nothing of im- 
portance. On the other hand, their loss amounted 
to nothing, for many of those that were sunk were 
afterward raised, and the total tonnage of those de- 
stroyed would not much exceed that of the British 
barges captured by them from time to time or de- 
stroyed by the land batteries. 

The purchased brig Rattlesnake, 16, had been cruis- 
ing in the Atlantic with a good deal of success ; but 
in lat. ,40° N., long. 33° W., was chased by a frigate 
from which Lieutenant Renshaw, the brig's com- 
mander, managed to escape only by throwing over- 
board all his guns except two long nines ; and on 
June 22d he was captured by the Leajider, 50, Cap- 
tain Sir George Ralph Collier, K. C. B. 

The third of the new sloops to get to sea was 
the Wasp, 22, Captain Johnston Blakely, which left 
Portsmouth on May 1st, with a very fine crew of 173 
men, almost exclusively New Englanders ; there was 
said not to have been a single foreign seaman on 
board. It is, at all events, certain that during the 
whole war no vessel was ever better manned and 
commanded than this daring and resolute cruiser. 
The Wasp slipped unperceived through the block- 
ading frigates, and ran into the mouth of the Eng- 

322 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

lish Channel, right in the thick of the English cruis- 
ers ; here she remained several weeks, burning and 
scuttling many ships. Finally, on June 28th, at 4 
A. M., in lat. 48° 36' N., long. 11° 15' W.,' while in 
chase of two merchant-men, a sail was made on the 
weather-beam. This was the British brig-sloop 
Reindeer, 18, Captain William Manners,^ with a crew 
of 118, as brave men as ever sailed or fought on the 
narrow seas. Like the Peacock (British) the Rein- 
deer was only armed with 24-pounders, and Captain 
Manners must have known well that he was to do 
battle with a foe heavier than himself; but there 
was no more gallant seaman in the whole British 
navy, fertile as it was in men who cared but little 
for odds of size or strength. As the day broke, the 
Reindeer made sail for the Wasp, then lying in the 

The sky was overcast with clouds, and the smooth- 
ness of the sea was hardly disturbed by the light 
breeze that blew out of the northeast. Captain 
Blakely hauled up and stood for his antagonist, as 
the latter came slowly down with the wind nearly 
aft, and so light was the weather that the vessels 
kept almost on even keels. It was not till quarter 
past one that the Wasp's drum rolled out its loud 
challenge as it beat to quarters, and a few minutes 
afterward the ship put about and stood for the foe, 
thinking to weather him ; but at 1. 50 the brig also 
tacked and stood away, each of the cool and skil- 
ful captains being bent on keeping the weather- 
gage. At half past two the Reindeer again tacked, 
and, taking in her stay-sails, stood for the Wasp, who 
furled her royals ; and, seeing that she would be 

' Letter of Captain Blakely, July 8, 1814. "^ James, vi, 429. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 323 

weathered, at 2.50, put about in her turn and ran off, 
with the wind a little forward the port beam, brail- 
ing up the mizzen, while the Reindeer hoisted her 
flying-jib, to close, and gradually came up on the 
Wasp's weather-quarter. At 17 minutes past three, 
when the vessels were not sixty yards apart, tlie 
British opened the conflict, firing the shifting 12- 
pound carronade, loaded with round and grape. To 
this the Americans could make no return, and it 
was again loaded and fired, with the utmost deliber- 
ation ; this was repeated five times, and would have 
been a trying ordeal to a crew less perfectly disci- 
plined than the Wasp's. At 3.26 Captain Blakely, 
finding his enemy did not get on his beam, put his 
helm a-lee and luffed up, firing his guns from aft 
forward as they bore. For ten minutes the ship 
and the brig lay abreast, not twenty yards apart, 
while the cannonade was terribly destructive. The 
concussion of the explosions almost deadened what 
little way the vessels had on, and the smoke hung 
over them like a pall. The men worked at the 
guns with desperate energy, but the odds in weight 
of metal (3 to 2) were too great against the Reindeer y 
where both sides played their parts so manfully. 
Captain Manners stood at his post, as resolute as 
ever, though wounded again and again. A grape- 
shot passed through both his thighs, bringing him 
to the deck ; but, maimed and bleeding to death, 
he sprang to his feet, cheering on the seamen. The 
vessels were now almost touching, and putting his 
helm aweather, he ran the Wasp aboard on her 
port " quarter, while the boarders gathered forward, 

' Letter of Captain Blakely, July 8, 1814. Cooper says starboard ; 
it is a point of little importance ; all accounts agree as to the rela- 
tive positions of the craft. 

324 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

to try it with the steel. But the CaroHna captain 
had prepared for this with cool confidence ; the 
marines came aft ; close under the bulwarks 
crouched the boarders, grasping in their hands the 
naked cutlasses, while behind them were drawn up 
the pikemen. As the vessels came grinding together 
the men hacked and thrust at one another through 
the open port-holes, while the black smoke curled 
up from between the hulls. Then through the 
smoke appeared the grim faces of the British sea- 
dogs, and the fighting was bloody enough ; for the 
stubborn English stood well in the hard hand play. 
But those who escaped the deadly fire of the top- 
men, escaped only to be riddled through by the 
long Yankee pikes ; so, avenged by their own 
hands, the foremost of the assailants died, and the 
others gave back. The attack was foiled, though 
the Reindeer s marines kept answering well the 
American fire. Then the English captain, already 
mortally wounded, but with the indomitable 
courage that nothing but death could conquer, 
cheering and rallying his men, himself sprang, sword 
in hand, into the rigging, to lead them on; and they 
followed him with a will. At that instant a ball 
from the Wasp' s main-top crashed through his skull, 
and, still clenching in his right hand the sword he 
had shown he could wear so worthily, with his face 
to the foe, he fell back on his own deck dead, while 
above him yet floated the flag for which he had 
given his life. No Norse Viking, slain over shield, 
ever died better. As the British leader fell and his 
men recoiled. Captain Blakely passed the word to 
board ; with wild hurrahs the boarders swarmed 
over the hammock nettines, there was a moment's 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


furious struggle, the surviving British were slain or 
driven below, and the captain's clerk, tJie highest 
officer left, surrendered the brig, at 3.44, just 27 
minutes after the Reindeer had fired the first gun, 
and just 18 after the Wasp had responded. 




msp.. 0^- '^'^^'^^ 


Both ships had suffered severely in the short 
struggle ; but, as with the SJiaiinon and Chesapeake, 
the injuries were much less severe aloft than in 
the hulls. All the spars were in their places. The 
Wasp's hull had received 6 round, and many grape ; 
a 24-pound shot had passed through the foremast ; 
and of her crew of 173, 11 were killed or mortally 
wounded, and 15 wounded severely or slightly. 
The Reindeer was completely cut to pieces in a line 
with her ports ; her upper works, boats, and spare 
spars being one entire wreck. Of her crew of 118 
men, 33 were killed outright or died later, and 34 
were wounded, nearly all severely. 










1 1 










326 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

It is thus seen that the Reindeer fought at a 
greater disadvantage than any other of the various 
British sloops that were captured in single action 
during the war ; and yet she made a better fight 
than any of them (though the Frolic, and the Frolic 
only, was defended with the same desperate cour- 
age) ; a pretty sure proof that heavy metal is not 
the only factor to be considered in accounting for 
the American victories. " It is difficult to say 
which vessels behaved the best in this short but 
gallant combat." ' I doubt if the war produced two 
better single-ship commanders than Captain Blakely 
""^^ and Captain Manners ; and an equal meed of praise 
^>v attaches to both crews. The British could rightly 
say that they yielded purely to heavy odds in men 
and metal ; and the Americans, that the difference 
in execution was fully proportioned to the differ- 
ence in force. It is difficult to know which to ad- 
mire most, the wary skill with which each captain 
manoeuvred before the fight, the perfect training 
and discipline that their crews showed, the decision 
and promptitude with which Captain Manners tried 
to retrieve the day by boarding, and the desperate 
bravery with which the attempt was made; or the 
readiness with which Captain Blakely made his 
preparations, and the cool courage with which the 
assault was foiled. All people of the English stock, 
no matter on which side of the Atlantic they live, 
if they have any pride in the many feats of fierce 
prowess done by the men of their blood and race, 
should never forget this fight ; although we cannot 
but feel grieved to find that such men — men of one 
race and one speech ; brothers in blood, as well as 

' Cooper, ii, 287. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


in bravery — should ever have had to turn their 
weapons against one another. 

The day after the conflict the prize's foremast 
went by the board, and, as she was much damaged 
by shot. Captain Blakely burned her, put a portion 
of his wounded prisoners on board a neutral, and 
with the remainder proceeded to France, reaching 
r Orient on the 8th day of July. 

On July 4th Sailing-master Percival and 30 vol- 
unteers of the New York flotilla ' concealed them- 
selves on board a fishing-smack, and carried by sur- 
prise the Eagle tender, which contained a 32-pound 
howitzer and 14 men, 4 of whom were wounded. 

On July I2th, while off the west coast of South 
Africa, the American brig Syren was captured after 
a chase of 11 hours by the Medzvay, 74, Capt. Brine. 
The chase was to windward during the whole time, 
and made every effort to escape, throwing overboard 
all her boats, anchors, cables, and spare spars.^ Her 
commander, Captain Parker, had died, and she was 
in charge of Lieut. N. J. Nicholson. By a curious 
coincidence, on the same day, July 12th, II. M 
cutter Landrail, 4,^ of 20 men, Lieut, Lancaster^ 
was captured by the American privateer Syren, a 
schooner mounting i long heavy gun, with a crew 
of 70 men ; the Landrail had 7, and the Syren 3 
men wounded. 

On July 14th Gun-boat No. 88, Sailing-master 
George Clement, captured after a short skirmish the 
tender of the Tenedos frigate, with her second lieu- 
tenant, 2 midshipmen, and 10 seamen." 

* Letter of Com. J. Lewis, July 6, 1814. 

^ Letter of Capt. Brine to Vice-Admiral Tyler, July 12, 18 14. 
^ James, vi, 436 ; his statement is wrong as regards the pri.aceer. 
^ Letter of Capt. Isaac Hull, July 15, 1814. 

328 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The Wasp stayed in V Orient till she was thor- 
oughly refitted, and had filled, in part, the gaps in 
her crew, from the American privateers in port. 
On Aug. 27th, Captain Blakely sailed again, making 
two prizes during the next three days. On Sept. 
1st she came up to a convoy of 10 sail under the 
protection of the Armada, 74, all bound for Gib- 
raltar; the swift cruiser hovered round the mer- 
chant-men like a hawk, and though chased off again 
and again by the line-of-battle ship, always returned 
the instant the pursuit stopped, and finally actually 
succeeded in cutting off and capturing one ship, 
laden with iron and brass cannon, muskets, and 
other military stores of great value. At half past 
six on the evening of the same day, in lat. 47° 30' 
N., long. 1 1° W., while running almost free, four sail, 
two on the starboard bow, and two on the port, rather 
more to leeward, were made out.' Capt. Blakely at 
once made sail for the most weatherly of the four 
ships in sight, though well aware that more than 
one of them might prove to be hostile cruisers, and 
they were all of unknown force. But the deter- 
mined Carolinian was not one to be troubled by 
such considerations. He probably had several men 
less under his command than in the former action, 
but had profited by his experience with the Rein- 
deer in one point, having taken aboard her 12- 
pounder boat carronade, of whose efficacy he had 
had very practical proof. 

The chase, the British brig-sloop Avon, 18, Cap- 
tain the Honorable James Arbuthnot,^ was steering 
almost southwest ; the wind, which was blowing 

* Official letter of Capt. Blakely, Sept. 8, 1814. 
•James, vi, 432. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 329 

fresh from the southeast, being a little abaft the 
port beam. At 7.00 the Avon began making night 
signals with the lanterns, but the Wasp, disregarding 
these, came steadily on ; at 8.38 the Avon fired a 
shot from her stern-chaser,^ and shortly afterward 
another from one of her lee or starboard guns. At 
20 minutes past 9, the Wasp was on the port or 
weather-quarter of the Avon, and the vessels inter- 
changed several hails ; one of the American officers 
then came forward on the forecastle and ordered 
the brig to heave to, which the latter declined 
doing, and set her port foretop-mast studding sail. 
The Wasp then, at 9.29, fired the 12-pound carron- 
ade into her, to which the Avon responded with her 
stern-chaser and the aftermost port guns. Capt. 
Blakely then put his helm up, for fear his adversary 
would try to escape, and ran to leeward of her, and 
then ranged up alongside, having poured a broad- 
side into her quarter. A close and furious engage- 
ment began, at such short range that the only 
one of the Wasp's crew who was wounded, was hit 
by a wad ; four round shot struck her hull, killing 
two men, and she suffered a good deal in her rig- 
ging. The men on board did not know the name 
of their antagonist ; but they could see through 
the smoke and the gloom of the night, as her black 
hull surged through the water, that she was a large 
brig ; and aloft, against the sky, the sailors could be 
discerned, clustering in the tops.^ In spite of the 
darkness the Wasp's fire was directed with deadly 
precision ; the Avon's gaff was shot away at almost 
the first broadside, and most of her main-rigging 
and spars followed suit. She was hulled again and 
^ James, vi, 432. ^ Captain Blakely's letter. 

330 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 



again, often below water-line ; some of her carron- 
ades were dismounted, and finally the main-mast 
went by the board. At lo.oo, after 31 minutes of 
combat, her fire had been completely silenced and 
Captain Blakely hailed to know if she had struck. 
No answer being received, and the brig firing a 
few,random shot, the action recommenced ; but at 
10.12 the Azwn was again hailed, and this time 
answered that she had struck. While lowering 
away a boat to take possession, another sail (H. B. M. 
brig-sloop Castilia7i, 18, Captain Braimer) was seen 
astern. The men were again called to quarters, and 
every thing put in readiness as rapidly as possible ; 
but at 10.36 two more sail were seen (one^of which 
was H. B. M. Tartarus, 20'). The braces being cut 
away, the Wasp was put before the wind until new 
ones could be wove. The Castilian pursued till she 
came up close, when she fired her lee guns into, or 
* •* Wiles' Register," vi, 216, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 33 1 

rather over, the weather-quarter of the Wasp, cut- 
ting her rigging slightly. Repeated signals of dis- 
tress having now been made by the Avon (which had 
lost 10 men killed and 32 wounded), the Castilian 
tacked and stood for her, and on closing found out 
she was sinking. Hardly had her crew being taken 
out when she went down. 

Counting the Wasp's complement as full (though 
it was probably two or three short), taking James' 
statement of the crew of the Avon as true, including 
the boat carronades of both vessels, and considering 
the Avon's stern-chaser to have been a six-pounder, 
we get the 



No. Guns. 


No. Men. 














It is self-evident that in the case of this action 
the odds, 14 to ii, are neither enough to account for 
the loss inflicted being as 14 to i, nor for the rapidi- 
ty with which, during a night encounter, the Avon 
was placed in a sinking condition. " The gallantry 
of the Avo?is officers and crew cannot for a moment 
be questioned ; but the gunnery of the latter ap- 
pears to have been not one whit better than, to the 
discredit of the British navy, had frequently before 
been displayed in combats of this kind. Nor, judg- 
ing from the specimen given by the Castilian, is it 
likely that she would have performed any better." ' 
On the other hand, " Capt. Blakely's conduct on this 

' James, vi, 435. 

332 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

occasion had all the merit shown in the previous ac- 
tion, with the additional claim of engaging an 
enemy under circumstances which led him to believe 
that her consorts were in the immediate vicinity. 
The steady, officer-like way in which the Avon was 
destroyed, and the coolness with which he prepared 
to engage the Castiliaii within ten minutes after his 
first antagonist had struck, are the best encomiums 
on this officer's character and spirit, as well as on 
the school in which he had been trained." ' 

The Wasp now cruised to the southward and 
westward, taking and scuttling one or two prizes. 
On Sept. 2ist, lat. 33° 12' N., long. 14° 56' W., she 
captured the brig Atalanta, 8, with 19 men, which 
proved a valuable prize, and was sent in with one 
of the midshipmen, Mr. Geisinger, aboard, as prize- 
master, who reached Savannah in safety on Nov. 
4th. Meanwhile the Wasp kept on toward the 
southeast. On Oct. 9th, in lat. 18° 35' N., long. 
30° 10' W., she spoke and boarded the Swedish brig 
Adonis, and took out of her Lieut. McKnight and 
Mr. Lyman, a master's mate, both late of the Essex, 
on their way to England from Brazil. 

This was the last that was ever heard of the gal- 
lant but ill-fated Wasp. How she perished none 
ever knew ; all that is certain is that she was never 
seen again. She was as good a ship, as well man- 
ned, and as ably commanded as any vessel in our 
little navy ; and it may be doubted if there was at 
that time any foreign sloop of war of her size and 
strength that could have stood against her in fair 

As I have said, the Wasp was manned almost 

' Cooper, ii, 291. 



exclusively by Americans. James says they were 
mostly Irish ; the reason he gives for the assertion 
being that Capt. Blakely spent the first i6 months 
of his life in Dublin. This argument is quite on a 
par with another piece of logic which I cannot resist 
noticing. The point he wishes to prove is that 
Americans are cowards. Accordingly, on p. 475 : 
"On her capstan the Constitution now mounted a 
piece resembling 7 musket barrels, fixed together 
with iron bands. It was discharged by one lock, 
and each barrel threw 25 balls. * * * What 
could have impelled the Americans to invent such 
extraordinary implements of war but fear, down- 
right fear?" Then a little further on: "The men 
were provided with leather boarding-caps, fitted with 
bands of iron, * * * another strong symptom 
of fear ! " Now, such a piece of writing as this is 
simply evidence of an unsound mind ; it is not so 
much malicious as idiotic. I only reproduce it to 
help prove what I have all along insisted on, that 
any of James' unsupported statements about the 
Americans, whether respecting the tonnage of the 
ships or the courage of the crews, are not worth the 
paper they are written on ; on all points connected 
purely with the British navy, or which can be 
checked off by official documents or ships' logs, or 
where there would be no particular object in falsify- 
ing, James is an invaluable assistant, from the dili- 
gence and painstaking care he ^hows, and the thor- 
oughness and minuteness with which he goes into 

A fair-minded and interesting English critic,' 
whose remarks are generally very just, seems to me 

' Lord Howard Douglass, " Treatise on Naval Gunnery," p. 416, 

334 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

to have erred somewhat in commenting on this last 
sloop action. He says that the Avon was first crip- 
pled by dismantling shot from long guns. Now, 
the Wasp had but one long gun on the side engaged, 
and, moreover, began the action with the shortest 
.md lightest of her carronades. Then he continues 
that the Avon, like the Peacock, *'was hulled so low 
that the shot-holes could not be got at, and yielded 
to this fatal circumstance only." It certainly cannot 
be said when a brig has been dismasted, has had 
a third of her crew placed hors de combat, and has 
been rendered an unmanageable hulk, that she yields 
only because she has received a few shot below the 
water-line. These shot-holes undoubtedly hastened 
the result, but both the Peacock and the Avon would 
have surrendered even if they had remained abso- 
lutely water-tight. 

The Adams, 28, had been cut down to a sloop of 
war at Washington, and then lengthened into a 
flush-decked, heavy corvette, mounting on each side 
15 medium iS's, or columbiads, and i long 12, with 
a crew of 220 men, under the command of Capt. 
Charles Morris, late first lieut. of the Constitntion} 
She slipped out of the Potomac and past the block- 
aders on Jan. 18th, and cruised eastward to the 
African coast and along it from Cape Mount to 
Cape Palmas, thence to the Canaries and Cape de 
Verd. She returned very nearly along the Equator, 
thence going toward the West Indies. The cruise 
was unlucky, but a few small prizes, laden with palm- 
oil and ivory, being made. In hazy weather, on 

*" Autobiography of Commodore Morris," Annapolis, 1880, p. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 335 

March 25th, a large Indiaman (the Woodbridge) was 
captured ; but while taking possession the weather 
cleared up, and Capt. Morris found himself to lee- 
ward of 25 sail, two of which, a two-decker and a 
frigate, were making for him, and it took him till the 
next day to shake them off. He entered Savannah 
on May 1st and sailed again on the 8th, standing in 
to the Gulf Stream, between Makanilla and Florida, 
to look out for the Jamaica fleet. He found this 
fleet on the 24th, but the discovery failed to do him 
much good, as the ships were under the convoy of a 
74, two frigates, and three brigs. The Adams hov- 
ered on their skirts for a couple of days, but noth- 
ing could be done with them, for the merchant-men 
sailed in the closest possible order and the six war 
vessels exercised the greatest vigilance. So the 
corvette passed northward to the Newfoundland 
Banks, where she met with nothing but fogs and 
floating ice, and then turned her prow toward Ire- 
land. On July 4th she made out and chased two 
sail, who escaped into the mouth of the Shannon. 
After this the Adams, heartily tired of fogs and 
cold, stood to the southward and made a few 
prizes ; then, in lat. 44° N., long. 10° W., on July 
15th, she stumbled across the i8-pounder 36-gun 
frigate Tigris, Capt. Henderson. The frigate was 
to leeward, and a hard chase ensued. It was only 
by dint of cutting away her anchors and throwing 
overboard some of her guns that the Adams held 
her own till sunset, when it fell calm. Capt Morris 
and his first lieutenant, Mr. Wadsworth, had been 
the first and second lieutenants of Old Ironsides in 
Hull's famous cruise, and they proved that they had 
not forgotten their early experience, for they got 

33^ NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

out the boats to tow, and employed their time so 
well that by sunrise the frigate was two leagues 
astern. After i8 hours' more chase the Adams 
dropped her. But in a day or two she ran across a 
couple more, one of which, an old bluff-bows, was 
soon thrown out ; but the other was very fast, and 
kept close on the corvette's heels. As before, the 
frigate was to leeward. The Admns had been built 
by contract ; one side was let to a sub-contractor of 
economical instincts, and accordingly turned out 
rather shorter than the other ; the result was, the 
ship sailed a good deal faster on one tack than on 
the other. In this chase she finally got on her good 
tack in the night, and so escaped.* Capt. Morris 
now turned homeward. During his two cruises he 
had made but lo prizes (manned by i6i men), none 
of very great value. His luck grew worse and 
worse. The continual cold and damp produced 
scurvy, and soon half of his crew were prostrated by 
the disease ; and the weather kept on foggy as ever. 
Off the Maine coast a brig-sloop (the Rifleman, Capt. 
Pearce) was discovered and chased, but it escaped 
in the thick weather. The fog grew heavier, and 
early on the morning of Aug. 17th the Adams struck 
land — literally struck it, too, for she grounded on 
the Isle of Haute, and had to throw over provisions, 
spare spars, etc., before she could be got off. Then 
she entered the Penobscot, and sailed 27 miles up it 
to Hampden. The Riflejnan meanwhile conveyed 
intelligence of her whereabouts to a British fleet, 
consisting of two line>of-battle ships, three frigates, 
three sloops, and ten troop transports, under the 

^ This statement is somewhat traditional ; I have also seen it made 
about the yohn Adams. But some old officers have told me positively 
that it occurred to the Adams on this cruise. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 337 

joint command of Rear-Admiral Griffeth and Lieu- 
tenant-General Sherbrooke/ 

This expedition accordingly went into the Penob- 
scot and anchored off Castine. Captain Morris 
made every preparation he could to defend his ship, 
but his means were very limited; seventy of his men 
were dead or disabled by the scurvy ; the remainder, 
many of them also diseased, were mustered out, to 
the number of 130 officers and seamen (without 
muskets) and 20 marines. He was joined, however, 
by 30 regulars, and later by over 300 militia armed 
with squirrel guns, ducking- and fowling-pieces, etc., 
— in all between 500 and 550 men,^ only 180 of 
whom, with 50 muskets among them, could be de- 
pended upon. On Sept. 3d the British advanced 
by land and water, the land-force being under the 
direction of Lieutenant-Colonel John, and consisting 
of 600 troops, 80 marines, and 80 seamen.^ The 
flotilla was composed of barges, launches, and rock- 
et-boats, under the command of Captain Barry of 
the Dragon^ 74. In all there were over 1,500 men. 
The seamen of the Adams, from the wharf, opened 
fire on the flotilla, which returned it with rockets and 
carronades ; but the advance was checked. Meanwhile 
the British land-forces attacked the militia, who 
acted up to the traditional militia standard, and re- 
treated with the utmost promptitude and celerity, 
omitting the empty formality of firing. This left 

\James, vi, 479. "^ "Autobiography of Commodore Morris." 

' James, vi. 481. Whenever militia are concerned James has not 
much fear of official documents and lets his imagination run riot ; 
he here says the Americans had 1,400 men, which is as accurate as he 
generally is in v/riting about this species of force. His aim being to 
overestimate the number of the Americans in the various engage- 
ments, he always supplies militia ad libitum, to make up any possible 

338 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Captain Morris surrounded by eight times his num- 
ber, and there was nothing to do but set fire to the 
corvette and retreat. The seamen, marines, and 
regulars behaved well, and no attempt was made to 
molest them. None of Captain Morris' men were 
hit ; his loss was confined to one sailor and one ma- 
rine who were too much weakened by scurvy to re- 
treat with the others, who marched to Portland, 200 
miles off. The British lost ten men killed or 

On Sept. 9th Gunboats No. 160 and 151, com- 
manded by Mr. Thomas M. Pendleton, captured off 
Sapoleo Bar, Ga., the British privateer Fortune of 
War, armed with two heavy pivot guns, and 35 men. 
She made a brief resistance, losing two of her men.' 

On Sept. 15th the British 20-gun ship-sloops 
Hermes and Carron, and i8-gun brig-sloops Sophie 
and Childers, and a force of 200 men on shore,^ at- 
tacked Fort Bowyer, on Mobile Point, but were re- 
pulsed without being able to do any damage what- 
ever to the Americans. The Hermes was sunk and 
the assailants lost about 80 men. 

On the 26th of September, while the privateer- 
schooner General Armstrong, of New York, Captain 
Samuel C. Reid, of one long 24, eight long 9's, and 
90 men, was lying at anchor in the road of Fayal, a 
British squadron, composed of the Plantagenet, 74, 
Captain Robert Floyd, Rota, 38, Captain Philip 
Somerville, and Carnation, 18, Captain George Ben- 
tham, hove in sight.^ One or more boats were 

' Letter from Commodore H. E. Campbell, St. Mary's, Sept. 12, 

^ James, vi, 527. 

3 Letter of Captain S. C. Reid, Oct. 7, 1814 ; and of John B. Dab- 
ney, Consul at Fayal, Oct. 5, 18 14. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 339 

sent in by the British, to reconnoitre the schooner, 
as they asserted, or, according to the American ac- 
counts, to carry her by a coup de main. At any 
rate, after repeatedly warning them off, the priva- 
teer fired into them, and they withdrew. Captain 
Reid then anchored, with springs on his cables, 
nearer shore, to await the expected attack, which 
was not long deferred. At 8 P. M. four boats from 
the Plantagenet and three from the Rota, contain- 
ing in all 180 men,' under the command of 
Lieutenant William Matterface, first of the Rota, 
pulled in toward the road, while the Carnation 
accompanied them to attack tlie schooner if she 
got under way. The boats pulled in under cover 
of a small reef of rocks, where they lay for some 
time, and about midnight made the attack. The 
Americans opened with the pivot gun, and im- 
mediately afterward with their long 9's, while the 
boats replied with their carronades, and, pulling 
spiritedly on amidst a terrific fire of musketry from 
both sides, laid the schooner aboard on her bow 
and starboard quarter. The struggle was savage 
enough, the British hacking at the nettings and try- 
ing to clamber up on deck, while the Americans 
fired their muskets and pistols in the faces of their 
assailants and thrust the foremost through with 
their long pikes. The boats on the quarter were 
driven off ; but on the forecastle all three of the 
American lieutenants were killed or disabled, and 
the men were giving back when Captain Reid led 
all the after-division up and drove the British back 
into their boats. This put an end to the assault. 

^ James, vi, 509: Both American accounts say 12 boats, with 400 
men, and give the British loss as 250. According to my usual rule, I 
take each side's statement of its own force and loss 

340 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Two boats were sunk, most of the wounded being 
saved as the shore was so near ; two others were 
captured, and but three of the scattered flotilla re- 
turned to the ships. Of the Americans, 2 were 
killed, including the second lieutenant, Alexander 
O. Williams, and 7 were wounded, including the 
first and third lieutenants, Frederick A. Worth and 
Robert Johnson. Of the British, 34 were killed and 
86 were wounded ; among the former being the 
Rotas 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 car- 
ronade shot, but it was replaced and the deck 
cleared for another action. Next day the Carna- 
tion came in to destroy the privateer, but was 
driven off by the judicious use the latter made of 
her " Long Tom." But affairs being now hopeless, 
the General Armstrongs 2,^6 scuttled and burned, and 
the Americans retreated to the land. The British 
squadron was bound for New Orleans, and on ac- 
count of the delay and loss that it suffered, it was 
late in arriving, so that this action may be said to 
have helped in saving the Crescent City. Few 
regular commanders could have done as well as 
Captain Reid. 

On October 6th, while Gun-boat No. 160 was 
convoying some coasters from Savannah, it was car- 
ried 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 discov- 

' Letter from Commander H. C. Campbell, Oct 12, 1814. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 34 1 

ered till nearly aboard, but the defence though 
short was spirited, the British losing about 20 men. 
Of the gun-boat's 30 men but 16 were fit for action; 
those, under Sailing-master Thomas Paine, behaved 
well. Mr. Paine, especially, fought with the great- 
est gallantry ; his thigh was broken by 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 

On October nth, another desperate privateer 
battle took place. The brigantine Prince-de-Neuf- 
chatel. Captain Ordronaux, of New York, was a su- 
perbly built vessel of 310 tons, mounting 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 Endyjnion^ 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 ill men,^ under the 

' " History of American Privateers/' by George Coggeshall, p. 241, 
New York, 1876c 

' James, vi, p. 527. 

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

342 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

command of the first lieutenant, Abel Hawkins, to 
take the brigantine , while the latter triced up the 
boarding nettings, loaded the guns with grape and 
bullets, 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 privateers- 
men ; 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 priva- 
teersmen had lost 7 killed, 15 badly and 9 slightly 
wounded, leaving but 9 untouched ! Of \.\\& Endym- 
1071 s men, James says 28, including the first lieuten- 
ant and a midshipman, were killed, and 37, including 
the second lieutenant and a master's mate, wounded ; 
" besides 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 

After their repulse before Baltimore the British 

^ 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. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 343 

concentrated their forces for an attack upon New 
Orleans. Accordingly a great fleet of line-of-battle 
ships, frigates, and smaller vessels, under Vice-Ad- 
miral Cochrane, convoying a still larger number of 
store-ships and transports, containing the army of 
General Packenham, appeared off the Chandeleur 
Islands on Dec. 8th. The American navy in these 
parts consisted of the ship Louisiana and schooner 
Carolina in the Mississippi river, and in the shallow 
bayous a few gun-boats, 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 gun-boats and 2 small ten- 
ders, under the command of Lieut. Thomas Catesby 
Jones. It was impossible for the British to trans- 
port their troops across Lake Borgne, as contem- 
plated, until this flotilla was destroyed. Accord- 
ingly, on the night of the 12th, 42 launches, armed 
with 24-, 1 8-, and i2-pounder carronades, and 3 un- 
armed gigs, carrying 980 seamen and marines, un- 
der the orders of Capt. Lockyer,^ pushed off from 
the Armide, 38, in three divisions ; the first under 
the command of Capt. Lockyer, the second under 
Capt. Montresor, and the third under Capt. Rob- 
erts.'' Lieut. 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, 

' James, vi, 521. 

' Letter of Capt. Lockyer to Vice- Admiral Cochrane, Dec. 18, 18 14. 

344 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

where she was assisted by two 6-pounders. There 
the British attacked her with seven of their smaller 
boats, which were repulsed after sustaining for 
nearly half an hour a very destructive fire.' How- 
ever, Mr. Johnston had to burn his boat to prevent it 
from being taken by a larger force. Meanwhile 
Lieut. 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 con- 
sorts, and taken with a rush by Capt. Roberts and 
his division. At daybreak Lieut. Jones saw the 
British boats about nine miles to the eastward, and 
moored his 5-gun vessel abreast in the channel, 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 line, No. 156 being the head- 
most of all. Their exact force was as follows: No. 
156, Lieut. Jones, 41 men and 5 guns(i long 24 and 
4 12-pound carronades) ; No. 163, Sailing-master 
Geo. Ulrick, 21 men, 3 guns (i long 24 and 2 12- 
pound carronades) ; No. 162, Lieut. Robert Speddes 
35 men, 5 guns (i long 24 and 4 light sixes) ; No. 5, 
Sailing-master John D. Ferris, 36 men, 5 guns (i 
long 24, 4 12-pound carronades); No. 23, Lieut. 
Isaac McKeever, 39 men and 5 guns (i long 32 and 
4 light sixes). There were thus, in all, 182 men and 

' James, vi, 521. 

* Official letter of Lieut. Jones, March 12, 1815. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 345 

a broadside of 14 guns, throwing 212 pounds of 
shot. The British forces amounted, as I have said, 
to 980 men, and (supposing they had equal num- 
bers of 24's, iS'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 Amer- 
icans as these figures would make them, for they 
were stationary, 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 any thing but a cheer- 
ful look-out for Lieut. Jones ; but nowise daunted 
by the almost certain prospect of defeat the Ameri- 
can of^cers 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 antagonist. 
When he had reached a point just out of gun-shot, 
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 cur- 
rent. At 10.50 the Americans opened fire from 
their long guns, and in about 15 minutes the can- 
nonade became "general on both sides. At 11.50' 
Captain Lockyer's barge was laid alongside No. 156, 
and a very obstinate struggle ensued, " in which 
the greater part of the ofificers and crew of the 

^ Lieut. Jones' lettei". 

346 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

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 Lieut. 
Tatnall (of the Tonnani) also laid his barge aboard 
the gun-boat, only to have it sunk ; another shared 
the same fate ; and the assailants were for the 
moment repulsed. But at this time Lieut. Jones, 
who had shown as much personal bravery during 
the assault, as forethought in preparing for it, re- 
ceived a dangerous and disabling wound, while 
many of his men received the same fate ; the board- 
ing 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 12.10. 
Its guns were turned on No. 163, and this, the 
smallest of the gun-boats, was soon taken ; then the 
British dashed at No. 162 and carried it, after a 
very gallant defence, in which Lieut. Speddes was 
badly wounded. No. 5 had her long 24 dis- 
mounted by the recoil, and was next carried ; finally. 
No. 23, being left entirely alone, hauled down her 
flag at 12.30.^ The Americans 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 gun-boats. 

I have in this case, as usual, taken each com- 
mander's account of his own force and loss. Lieut. 
Jones states the British force to have been 1,000, 

^ Captain Lockyer's letter. 

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

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 347 

which tallies almost exactly with their own ac- 
count ; but believes that they lost 300 in killed 
and wounded. Captain Lockyer, on the other 
hand, gives the Americans 225 men and three ad- 
ditional light guns. But on the main points the 
two accounts agree perfectly. The victors cer- 
tainly 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, al- 
though with the certainty of ultimate defeat be- 
fore them, — which is always the severest test of 
bravery. No comment is needed to prove the ef- 
fectiveness of their resistance. Even James says 
that the Americans made an obstinate struggle, 
that Lieut. Jones displayed great personal bravery, 
and that the British loss was very severe. 

On the night of Dec. 23d Gen. Jackson beat up 
the quarters of the British encamped on the bank 
of the Mississippi. The attack was opened by Capt. 
Patterson in the schooner Carolina, 14; she was 
manned by 70 men, and mounted on each side six 
1 2-pound carronades and one long 12. Dropping 
down the stream unobserved, till opposite the biv- 
ouac 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 return, as long as the attack 
lasted. But on the 27th the British had their re- 
venge, attacking the little schooner as she lay at 
anchor, unable to ascend the current on account of 
the rapid current and a strong head-wind. The as- 
sailants had a battery of 5 guns, throwing hot shot 

^ Cooper, ii, p. 320. 


NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

and shell, while the only gun of the schooner's that 
would reach was the long I2. After half an hour's 
fighting the schooner was set on fire and blown up ; 
the crew escaped to the shore with the loss of / men 
killed and wounded. The only remaining vessel, 
exclusive of some small, unarmed row-boats, was the 
Louisiana, i6, 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.' After- 
ward the American seamen and marines played a 
most gallant part in all the engagements on shore ; 
they made very efficient artillerists. 

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



Where Built. 
























New York 






















Tom Bowline, 






























' spark. 































. Eagle, 


N. 0. 





[ Prometheus, 
























, Boxer, 














Am. State Papers, xiv, p. 828 ; also Emmons' stali.-iical " History. 



The first 5 small vessels that are bracketed v/ere 
to cruise under Commodore Porter; the next 4 
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 1813 ; and some that I 
have included in the catalogue of 181 5 were almost 
completely fitted at the end of 1814, — but this ar- 
rangement is practically the best. 









1 Destroyed to prevent 




- them falling into hands 




1 of enemy. 




Destroyed by battery. 




Name. Tons. 

Essex, 860 

Frolic, 509 

Rattlesnake, 258 
Syren, 250 


46 Captured by frigate and corvette. 

22 " by frigate and schooner. 

16 " by frigate. 

16 " by seventy-four. 

1,877 100 
Total, 4,884 tons. 216 guns, 

There were also a good many gun-boats, which I 
do not count, because, as already said, they were 


NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

often not as large as the barges that were sunk and 
taken in attacking them, or at Craney Island, etc. 



















captured by sloop Peacock. 




sunk " " Wasp. 




u u u u 




captured by frigate. 


500 2 2 



Taking into account the losses on the lakes, there 
was not very much difference in the amount of dam- 
age 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 
burn 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 capt- 
ured British schooner. The Essex certainly gained 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 35 1 

as much honor as her opponents. There were but 
three single ship actions, in all of which the Ameri- 
cans were so superior in force as to give them a 
very great advantage ; nevertheless, in two of them 
the victory was won with such perfect impunity and 
the 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 Capt. Manners and his crew. It is worthy of no- 
tice (remembering the sneers of so many of the 
British authors at the " wary circumspection " of the 
Americans) that Capt. Manners, who has left a more 
honorable name than any other British commander 
of the war, excepting Capt. Broke, behaved with 
the greatest caution as long as it would serve his 
purpose, while he showed the most splendid per- 
sonal 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 de- 
notes not so much pluck as stupidity. Capt. Man- 
ners 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 glorious death could he meet ? It 
must be remembered that while paying all homage 

352 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

to Capt. Manners, Capt Blakely did equally well. It 
was a case where the victory between two comba- 
tants, equal in courage and skill, was decided by su- 
perior weight of metal and number of men. 



Name of ship. 

Number of prizes. 















Small craft 






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


THE winter was spent by both parties in pre- 
paring more formidable fleets for the ensuing 
summer. All the American schooners had proved 
themselves so unfit for service that they were con- 
verted into transports, except 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 un- 
remitting in their exertions 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 deserter brought in news of the enor- 
mous 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. Another 


354 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

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 
Hterally 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 overland 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 acci- 
dentally killing a shipwright, whose companions in- 
stantly struck work in a body. What was more 
serious, they had to contend 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 before navigation opened.' 

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 Char- 
lotte, 42, were launched on April 15th. I shall an- 
ticipate 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 equippel and manned. Commo- 
dore Yeo's original six cruisers had been all re- 
named, some of them re-armed^ and both the 
schooners changed into brigs. The Wolfe, Royal 

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



George, Melville, Moira, Beresfo7'd, and Sydney 
Smithy were now named respectively Montreal, 
Niagara, Star, CJiarzvell, Netly, and Magnet. On 
the American side there had been but sHght 
changes, beyond the alteration of the SylyJi into a 
brig armed like the Oneida. Of the Superior s 62 
guns, 4 were very shortly sent on shore again. 

chauncy's squadron. 











1,050 lbs 
































( 30 long 32 
-^ 2 " 24 
( 26 short 42 
( 26 long 24 
\ 2 " 18 
( 14 sliort 32' 
j 26 long 24 
{ 1 "24 
j 2 long 12 
"d 22 short 32 
\ 2 long 12 
{ 20 short 32 
2 long 12 

20 short 32 

\ 2 long 12 

{ 14 short 24 

2 long 12 

14 short 24's 

8 vessels, 

5,941 1,870 3,352 lbs. 228 guns. 

This is considerably less than James makes it, as 
he includes all the schooners, which were abandoned 
as cruisers, and only used as tran.sports or gun-boats. 
Similarly Sir James had a large number of gun- 
boats, which are not included in his cruising force. 
James thus makes Chauncy's force 2,321 men, and 
a broadside of 4,188 lbs. 











Prince Regent^ 




872 lbs, 

( 32 long 24's 

, ■( 4 short 68's 

( 22 " 32's 

Princess Charlotte 




604 " 

( 26 long 24's 
\ 2 short 68's 
(14 " 32's 


• « 



258 " 

j 7 long 24's 
\ 18 " iS's 





332 " 

2 long 12's 
20 short 32's 




1 10 

236 " 

2 long 12's 
14 short 32's 




1 10 

236 " 

2 long 12's 
14 short 32's 





180 " 

( 2 long 12's 
( 14 short 24's 





156 '• 

2 long 12's 
12 short 24's 

8 vessels, 

4,756 1,620 2,874 lbs. 209 guns. 

This tallies pretty well with James' statement, 
which (on p. 488) is 1,517 men, and a broadside of 
2,752 lbs. But there are very probably errors as 
regards the armaments of the small brigs, which 
were continually changed. At any rate the Amer- 
ican fleet was certainly the stronger, about in the 
proportion of six to five. The disproportion was 
enough to justify Sir James in his determination 
not to hazard a battle, although the odds were cer- 
tainly not such as British commanders had been 
previously accustomed to pay much regard to. 
Chauncy would have acted exactly as his oppo- 
nent did, had he been similarly placed. The odds 
against the British commodore were too great to 
be overcome, where the combatants were otherwise 
on a par, although the refusal to do battle against 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 357 

them would certainly preclude Yeo from advancing 
any claims to superiority in skill or courage. The 
Princess Charlotte and Niagara were just about 
equal to the Mohawk and Madison, and so were the 
C har we II diwd Net ly to the Oneida and Sylph; but 
both the Star and Magnet together could hardly 
have matched either the Jones or the Jefferson, 
while the main-deck 32's of the Superior gave her a 
great advantage over the Prince Regejif s 24' s, where 
the crews were so equal ; and the Pike was certainly 
too heavy for the Montreal. A decided superiority 
in the effectiveness of both crews and captains 
could alone have warranted Sir James Lucas Yeo 
in engaging, and this superiority he certainly did 
not possess. 

This year the British architects outstripped ours 
in the race for supremacy, and Commodore Yeo put 
out of port with his eight vessels long before the 
Americans were ready. His first attempt was a suc- 
cessful attack on Oswego. This town is situated some 
60 miles distant from Sackett's Harbor, and is the first 
port on the lake which the stores, sent from the sea- 
board to Chauncy, reached. Accordingly it was a 
place of some little importance, but was very much 
neglected by the American authorities. It was in- 
sufficiently garrisoned, and was defended only by 
an entirely ruined fort of 6 guns, two of them dis- 
mounted. Commodore Yeo sailed from Kingston 
to attack it on the 3d of May, having on board his 
ships a detachment of 1,080 troops. Oswego was 
garrisoned by less than 300 men,* chiefly belonging 
to a light artillery regiment, with a score or two of 

^General order of Gen. Jacob Brown, by R. Jones, Ass. Adj. -Gen- 
eral, May 12, 1814. 

358 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

militia ; they were under the command of Colonel 
Mitchell. The recaptured schooner Grozvler was in 
port, with 7 guns destined for the Harbor ; she 
was sunk by her commander, but afterward raised 
and carried off by the foe. 

On the 5th Yeo appeared off Oswego and sent in 
Captain Collier and 13 gun-boats to draw the fort's 
fire ; after some firing between them and the four 
guns mounted in the fort (two long 24's, one long 
12, and one long 6), the gun-boats retired. The 
next day the attack was seriously made. The 
Princess Charlotte, Montreal, and Niagara engaged 
the batteries, while the Charwell and Star scoured 
the woods with grape to clear them of the 
militia.' The debarkation of the troops was super- 
intended by Captain O'Connor, and until it was ac- 
complished the Montreal sustained almost the whole 
fire of the fort, being set on fire three times, and 
much cut up in hull, masts, and rigging.^ Under 
this fire 800 British troops were landed, under 
Lieutenant-Colonel Fischer, assisted by 200 seamen, 
armed with long pikes, under Captain Mulcaster. 
They moved gallantly up the hill, under a heavy 
fire, and carried the fort by assault ; Mitchell then fell 
back unmolested to the Falls, about 12 miles above 
the town, where there was a large quantity of 
stores. But he was not again attacked. The Ameri- 
cans lost 6 men killed, including Lieutenant Blaeny, 
38 wounded, and 25 missing, both of these last fall- 
ing into the enemy's hands. The British lost 22 
soldiers, marines, and seamen (including Captain 
Hollaway) killed, and 73 (including the gallant Cap- 

^ Letter of General Gordon Drummond, May 7, 1814. 
^Letter of Sir James Lucas Yeo, May 17, 1814. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 359 

tain Mulcaster dangerously, and Captain Popham 
slightly) wounded/ the total loss being 95 — nearly a 
third of the American force engaged. General 
Drummond, in his official letter, reports that " the 
fort being everywhere almost open, the whole of 
the garrison -^ * * effected their escape, except 
about 60 men, half of them wounded." No doubt the 
fort's being '* everywhere almost open " afforded 
excellent opportunities for retreat ; but it was not 
much of a recommendation of it as a structure in- 
tended for defence. 

The British destroyed the four guns in the bat- 
tery, and raised the Growler and carried her off, 
with her valuable cargo of seven long guns. They 
also carried off a small quantity of ordnance stores 
and some flour, and burned the barracks; otherwise 
but little damage was done, and the Americans re- 
occupied the place at once. It certainly showed 
great lack of energy on Commodore Yeo's part that 
he did not strike a really important blow by sending 
an expedition up to destroy the quantity of stores 
and ordnance collected at the Falls. But the attack 
itself was admirably managed. The ships were well 
placed, and kept up so heavy a fire on the fort as to 
effectually cover the debarkation of the troops, 
which was very cleverly accomplished ; and the sol- 
diers and seamen behaved with great gallantry and 
steadiness, their officers leading them, sword in hand, 
up a long, steep hill, under a destructive fire. It 
was sirnilar to Chauncy's attacks on York and Fort 
George, except that in this case the assailants suf- 

^ Letter of Lieut. -Col. V. Fischer, May 17, 1814. James says 
■" i8 killed and 64 wounded," why, I do not know ; the official re- 
port of Col. Fischer, as quoted, says ; "Of the army, 19 killed and 62 
wounded ; of the navy, 3 killed and 11 wounded." 

360 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

fered a much severer loss compared to that inflicted 
on the assailed. Colonel Mitchell managed the de- 
fence with skill, doing all he could with his insuffi- 
cient materials. 

After returning to Kingston, Yeo sailed with his 
squadron for Sackett's Harbor, where he appeared 
on May 19th and began a strict blockade. This 
was especially troublesome because most of the 
guns and cables for the two frigates had not yet ar- 
rived, and though the lighter pieces and stores could 
be carried over land, the heavier ones could only go 
by water, which route was now made dangerous by 
the presence of the blockading squadron. The very 
important duty of convoying these great guns was 
entrusted to Captain Woolsey, an officer of tried 
merit. He decided to take them by water to Stony 
Creek, whence they might be carried by land to the 
Harbor, which was but three miles distant; and on 
the success of his enterprise depended Chauncy's 
chances of regaining command of the lake. On the 
28th of May, at sunset, Woolsey left Oswego with 
19 boats, carrying 21 long 32's, 10 long 24's, three 42- 
pound carronades, and 10 cables — one of the latter, 
for the Superior^ being a huge rope 22 inches in cir- 
cumference and weighing 9,600 pounds. The boats 
rowed all through the night, and at sunrise on the 
29th 18 of them found themselves off the Big Sal- 
mon River, and, as it was unsafe to travel by day- 
light, Woolsey ran up into Big Sandy Creek, 8 
miles from the Harbor. The other boat, contain- 
ing two long 24's and a cable, got out of line, ran 
into the British squadron, and was captured. The 
news she brought induced Sir James Yeo at once to 
send out an expedition to capture the others. He 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 361 

accordingly despatched Captains Popham and Spils- 
bury in two gun-boats, one armed with one 68- 
pound and one 24-pound carronade, and the other 
with a long 32, accompanied by three cutters and a 
gig, mounting between them two long 12's and two 
brass 6's, with a total of 1 80 men.* They rowed up 
to Sandy Creek and lay off its mouth all the night, 
and began ascending it shortly after daylight on 
the 30th. Their force, however, was absurdly inad- 
equate for the accomplishment of their object. 
Captain Woolsey had been reinforced by some 
Oneida Indians, a company of light artillery,, and 
some militia, so that his only care was, not to re- 
pulse, but to capture the British party entire, and 
even this did not need any exertion. He accord- 
ingly despatched Major Appling down the river 
with 120 riflemen^ and some Indians to lie in am- 
bush\ When going up the creek the British ma- 
rines, under Lieutenant Cox, were landed on the 
left bank, and the small-arm men, under Lieuten- 
ant Brown, on the right bank ; while the two cap- 
tains rowed up the stream between them, throwing 
grape into the bushes to disperse the Indians. Major 
Appling waited until the British were close up, 
when his riflemen opened with so destructive a 
volley as to completely demoralize and " stam- 
pede " them, and their whole force was captured 
with hardly any resistance, the Americans having 

'James, vi, 4S7 ; while Cooper says 186. James says the British 
loss was 18 killed and 50 wounded ; Major Appling says " 14 were 
killed. 28 wounded, and 27 marines and 106 sailors captured." 

^ Letter from Major D. Appling, May 30, 1814. 

^Letter of Capt. M. T. Woolsey, June i, 1814. There were about 
60 Indians ; in all, the American force amounted to iSo men. James 
adds 30 riflemen, 140 Indians, and "a large body of militia and cav- 
alry, " — none of whom were present. 

362 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

only one man slightly wounded. The British loss 
was severe, — 18 killed and 50 dangerously wounded, 
according to Captain Popham's report, as quoted 
by James; or "14 killed and 28 wounded," accord- 
ing to Major Appling's letter. It was a very clever 
and successful ambush. 

On June 6th Yeo raised the blockade of the Har- 
bor, but Chauncy's squadron was not in condition 
to put out till six weeks later, during which time 
nothing was done by either fleet, except that two 
very gallant cutting-out expeditions were success- 
fully attempted by Lieutenant Francis H. Gregory, 
U. S. N. On June i6th he left the Harbor, accom- 
panied by Sailing-masters Vaughan and Dixon and 
22 seamen, in three gigs, to intercept some of the 
enemy's provision schooners; on the 19th he was 
discovered by the British gun-boat Black Snake, of 
one 18-pound carronade and 18 men, commanded 
by Captain H. Landon. Lieutenant Gregory 
dashed at the gun-boat and carried it without the 
loss of a man ; he was afterward obliged to burn it, 
but he brought the prisoners, chiefly royal marines, 
safely into port. On the 1st of July he again 
started out, with Messrs. Vaughan and Dixon, and 
two gigs. The plucky little party suffered greatly 
from hunger, but on the 5th he made a sudden de- 
scent on Presque Isle, and burned a 14-gun schooner 
just ready for launching; he was off before the foe 
could assemble, and reached the Harbor in safety 
next day. 

On July 31st Commodore Chauncy sailed with his 
fleet ; some days previously the larger British ves- 
sels had retired to Kingston, where a loo-gun two- 
decker was building. Chauncy sailed up to the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 363 

head of the lake, where he intercepted the small 
brig Magnet. The Sylph was sent in to destroy her, 
but her crew ran her ashore and burned her. The 
Jefferson, Sylph, and Oneida were left to watch some 
other small craft in the Niagara; the Jones was 
kept cruising between the Harbor and Oswego, and 
with the four larger vessels Chauncy blockaded 
Yeo's four large vessels lying in Kingston. The 
four American vessels were in the aggregate of 
4,398 tons, manned by rather more than 1,350 men, 
and presenting in broadside 'j'j guns, throwing 2,328 
lbs. of shot. The four British vessels measured in 
all about 3,812 tons, manned by 1,220 men, and pre- 
senting in broadside 74 guns, throwing 2,066 lbs. 
of shot. The former were thus superior by about 
15 per cent., and Sir James Yeo very properly de- 
clined to fight with the odds against him — although 
it was a nicer calculation than British commanders 
had been accustomed to enter into. 

Major-General Brown had written to Commodore 
Chauncy on July 13th : " I do not doubt my ability 
to meet the enemy in the field and to march in any 
direction over his country, your fleet carrying for 
me the necessary supplies. We can threaten Forts 
George and Niagara, and carry Burlington Heights 
and York, and proceed direct to Kingston and carry 
that place. For God's sake let me see you : Sir 
James will not fight." To which Chauncy replied : 
'^ I shall afford every assistance in my power to co- 
operate with the army whenever it can be done 
without losing sight of the great object for the at- 
tainment of which this fleet has been created, — the 
capture or destruction of the enemy's fleet. But 
that I consider the primary object. -^^ ^ * We 

364 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

are intended to seek and fight the enemy's fleet, and 
I shall not be diverted from my efforts to effectuate 
it by any sinister attempt to render us subordinate 
to, or an appendage of, the army." That is, by any 
** sinister attempt " to make him co-operate intelli- 
gently in a really well-concerted scheme of invasion. 
In further support of these noble and independent 
sentiments, he writes to the Sectetary of the Navy 
on August loth.^ '* I told (General Brown) that I 
should not visit the head of the lake unless the en- 
emy's fleet did so. ^ "^ ^ To deprive the enemy 
of an apology for not meeting, me I have sent ashore 
four guns from the Superior to reduce her armament 
in number to an equality with the Prmce Regent's, 
yielding the advantage of their 68-pounders. The 
MoJiawk mounts two guns less than the Princess 
Charlotte, and the Montreal and Niagara are equal 
to the Pike and Madison'' He here justifies his re- 
fusal to co-operate with General Brown by saying 
that he was of only equal force with Sir James, and 
that he has deprived the latter of ''an apology" for 
not meeting him. This last was not at all true. 
The Mohawk and Madison were just about equal to 
the Princess Charlotte and Niagara ; but the Pike 
was half as strong again as the Montreal ; and 
Chauncy could very well afford to *' yield the advan- 
tage of their 68-pounders," when in return Sir James 
had to yield the advantage of Chauncy's long 32's 
and 42-pound carronades. The Superior was a 32- 
pounder frigate, and, even without her four extra 
guns, was about a fouth heavier than the Prince Re- 
gent with her 24-pounders. Sir James was not act- 
ing more warily than Chauncy had acted during 

' See Niles, vii, 12, and other places (under " Chauncy" in index). 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 365 

June and July, 18 13. Then he had a fleet which 
tonned 1,701, was manned by 680 men, and threw 
at a broadside 1,099 ^^s- ^^ ^^^^ 5 ^"^ ^^ declined to 
go out of port or in any way try to check the op- 
eration of Yeo's fleet which tonned 2,091, was 
manned by 770 men, and threw at a broadside 
1,374 lbs. of shot. Chauncy then acted perfectly 
proper, no doubt, but he could not afford to sneer 
at Yeo for behaving in the same way. Whatever 
either commander might write, in reality he well 
knew that his officers and crews were, man for man, 
just about on a par with those of his antagonists, 
and so, after the first brush or two, he was exceed- 
ingly careful to see that the odds were not against 
him. Chauncy, in his petulant answers to Brown's 
letter, ignored the fact that his superiority of 
force would prevent his opponent from giv- 
ing battle, and would, therefore, prevent any 
thing more important than a blockade occurring. 
His ideas of the purpose for which his command 
had been created were erroneous and very hurtful 
to the American cause. That purpose was not, ex- 
cept incidentally, " the destruction of the enemy's 
fleet " ; and, if it was, he entirely failed to accom- 
plish it. The real purpose was to enable Canada to 
be successfully invaded, or to assist in repelling an 
invasion of the United States. These services 
could only be efficiently performed by acting in 
union with the land-forces, for his independent ac- 
tion could evidently have little effect. The only im- 
portant services he had performed had been in at- 
tacking Forts George and York, where he had been 
rendered "subordinate to, and an appendage of, the 
army." His only chance of accomplishing any 

366 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

thing lay in similar acts of cooperation, and he re- 
fused to do these. Had he acted as he ought to have 
done, and assisted Brown to the utmost, he would 
certainly have accomplished much more than he did, 
and might have enabled Brown to assault Kingston, 
when Yeo's fleet would of course have been capt- 
ured. The insubordination, petty stickling for his 
own dignity, and lack of appreciation of the neces- 
sity of acting in concert that he showed, were the 
very faults which proved most fatal to the success 
of our various land commanders in the early part 
of the war. Even had Chauncy's assistance availed 
nothing, he could not have accomplished less than 
he did. He remained off Kingston blockading 
Yeo, being once or twice blown ofT by gales. He 
sent Lieutenant Gregory, accompanied by Midship- 
man Hart and six men, in to reconnoitre on August 
25th ; the lieutenant ran across two barges contain- 
ing 30 men, and was captured after the midshipman 
had been killed and the lieutenant and four men 
wounded. On September 21st he transported 
General Izard and 3,000 men from Sackett's Harbor 
to the Genesee ; and then again blockaded Kingston 
until the two-decker was nearly completed, when 
he promptly retired to the Harbor. 

The equally cautious Yeo did not come out on 
the lake till Oct. 15th; he did not indulge in the 
empty and useless formality of blockading his an- 
tagonist, but assisted the British army on the Niag- 
ara frontier till navigation closed, about Nov. 21st. 
A couple of days before. Midshipman McGowan 
headed an expedition to blow up the two-decker 
(named the St. Laivrence) with a torpedo, but was 
discovered by two of the enemy's boats, which he 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 367 

captured and brought in ; the attempt was aban- 
doned, because the St, Lawrence was found not to 
be lying in Kingston. 

For this year the material loss again fell heavi- 
est on the British, amounting to one 14-gun brig 
burned by her crew, one lo-gun schooner burned 
on the stocks, three gun-boats, three cutters, and 
one gig captured ; while in return the Amer- 
icans lost one schooner loaded with seven guns, 
one boat loaded with two, and a gig captured 
and four guns destroyed at Oswego. In men the 
British loss was heavier still relatively to that of 
the Americans, being in killed, wounded, and pris- 
oners about 300 to 80, But in spite of this loss and 
damage, which was too trivial to be of any account 
to either side, the success of the season was with the 
British, inasmuch as they held command over the 
lake for more than four months, during which time 
they could cooperate with their army ; while the 
Americans held it for barely two months and a half. 
In fact the conduct of the two fleets on Lake On- 
tario during the latter part of the war was almost 
farcical. As soon as one, by building, acquired the 
superiority, the foe at once retired to port, where he 
waited until lie had built another vessel or two, 
when he came out, and the other went into port in 
turn. Under such circumstances it was hopeless 
ever to finish the contest by a stand-up sea-fight, 
each commander calculating the chances with mathe- 
matical exactness. The only hope of destroying 
the enemy's fleet was by cooperating with the land- 
forces in a successful attack on his main post, when 
he would be forced to be either destroyed or to 
fight — and this cooperation Chauncy refused to give. 

368 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

He seems to have been an excellent organizer, but 
he did not use (certainly not in the summer of 1813) 
his materials by any means to the best advantage. 
He was hardly equal to his opponent, and the latter 
seems to have been little more than an average offi- 
cer. Yeo blundered several times, as in the attack 
on Sackett's Harbor, in not following up his advan- 
tage at Oswego, in showing so little resource in the 
action off the Genesee, etc., and he was not troubled 
by any excess of daring; but during the period 
when he was actually cruising against Chauncy on 
the lake he certainly showed to better advantage 
than the American did. With an inferior force he 
won a partial victory over his opponent off Niagara, 
and then kept him in check for six weeks ; while 
Chauncy, with his superior force, was not only par- 
tially defeated once, but, when he did gain a partial 
victory, failed to take advantage of it. 

In commenting upon the timid and dilatory tac- 
tics of the two commanders on Ontario, however, it 
must be remembered that the indecisive nature of 
the results attained had been often paralleled by the 
numerous similar encounters that took place on the 
ocean during the wars of the preceding century. In 
the War of the American Revolution, the English 
fought some 19 fleet actions with the French, Dutch, 
and Spaniards ; one victory was gained over the 
French, and one over the Spaniards, while the 17 
others were all indecisive, both sides claiming the 
victory, and neither winning it. Of course, some of 
them, though indecisive as regards loss and damage, 
were strategetical victories : thus, Admiral Arbuthnot 
beat back Admiral Barras off the Chesapeake, in 
March of 1781 ; and near the same place in Septem- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 369 

ber of the same year the French had their revenge 
in the victory (one at least in its results) of the 
Conte de Grasse over Sir Thomas Graves. In the 
five desperate and bloody combats which De Suff- 
rein waged with Sir Edward Hughes in the East 
Indies, the laurels were very evenly divided. These 
five conflicts were not rendered indecisive by any 
overwariness in manoeuvring, for De Suffrein's at- 
tacks were carried out with as much boldness as skill, 
and his stubborn antagonist was never inclined to 
baulk him of a fair battle ; but the two hardy fighters 
were so evenly matched that they would pound one 
another till each was helpless to inflict injury. Very 
difl"erent were the three consecutive battles that took 
place in the same waters, on the 25th of April, 1758, 
the 3d of August, 1758, and on the loth of Septem- 
ber, 1759, between Pocock and d' Ache,' where, by 
skilful manoeuvring, the French admiral saved his 
somewhat inferior force from capture, and the Eng- 
lish admiral gained indecisive victories. M. Riviere, 
after giving a most just and impartial account of the 
battles, sums up with the following excellent criti- 

'' It is this battle, won by Hawke, the 20th of 
November, 1757, and the combats of Pocock and 
d' Ache, from which date two distinct schools in the 
naval affairs of the i8th century : one of these was 
all for promptness and audacity, which were regarded 
as the indispensable conditions for victory; the 
other, on the contrary, praised skilful delays and 
able evolutions, and created success by science 

^ "La Marine Fran^aise sous le Regne de Louis XV," par Henri Ri- 
viere, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, Chevalier de la Legion d' Honneur. 
(Paris et Toulon, 1859), pp. 385 and 439. 

"^ Ibid., p. 425, I pay more attention to the sense than to the letter 
in my translation. 

370 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

united to prudence. * -^^ * But these two schools 
were true only according to circumstances, not ab- 
solutely. When two fleets of equal v/orth are 
facing one another, as in the War of the American 
Revolution, then tactics should come into play, and 
audacity would often be mere foolhardiness. If it 
happens, on the other hand, as in the Republic, or 
during the last years of Louis XV, that an irresolute 
fleet, without organization, has to contend with a 
fleet prepared in every way, then, on the part of 
this last, audacity is wisdom and prudence would be 
cowardice, for it would give an enemy who distrusts 
himself time to become more hardy. The only 
school always true is that one which, freed from all 
routine, produces men whose genius will unite in 
one, in knowing how to apply them appropriately, 
the audacity which will carry off victory, and the 
prudence which knows how to obtain it in preparing 
for it." 

These generalizations are drawn from the results 
of mighty battles, but they apply just as well to the 
campaigns carried on on a small scale, or even to 
single-ship actions. Chauncy, as already said, does 
not deserve the praise which most American his- 
torians, and especially Cooper, have lavished on 
him as well as on all our other officers of that 
period. Such indiscriminate eulogy entirely de- 
tracts from the worth of a writer's favorable criti- 
cisms. Our average commander was, I firmly 
believe, at that time superior to the average com- 
mander of any other nation ; but to get at this 
average we must include Chauncy, Rodgers, and 
Angus, as well as Hull, Macdonough, Perry, Porter, 
Bainbridge, Biddle, Lawrence, and Warrington. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 37 1 

Sir James Yeo did to the full as well as his op- 
ponent, and like him was a good organizer ; but he 
did little enough. His campaigns must be con- 
sidered as being conducted well or ill according as 
he^s believed to have commanded better men than 
his opponent, or not. If, as many British writers 
contend, his crews were an overmatch for the 
Americans, man for man, even to a slight degree, 
then Yeo's conduct was very cowardly ; if, on the 
contrary, the ofTficers and men of the two fleets were 
on a par, then he acted properly and outgeneralled 
his opponent. It is to be regretted that most of 
the histories written on the subject, on either side 
of the Atlantic, should be of the "hurrah" order of 
literature, with no attempt whatever to get at the 
truth, but merely to explain away the defeats or 
immensely exaggerate the victories suffered or 
gained by their own side. 


Hitherto the vessels on these lakes (as well as on 
Ontario) had been under the command of Com- 
modore Chauncy ; but they were now formed into 
a separate department, under Captain Arthur Sin- 
clair. The Americans had, of course, complete 
supremacy, and no attempt was seriously made to 
contest it with them ; but they received A couple of 
stinging, if not very important, defeats. It is rather 
singular that here the British, who began with a 
large force, while there was none whatever to 
oppose it, should have had it by degrees completely 
annihilated ; and should have then, and not till 
then, when apparently rendered harmless, have 
turned round and partially revenged themselves by 

372 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

tv/o cuttlng-out expeditions which were as boldly 
executed as they were skilfully planned. 

Captain Sinclair sailed into Lake Huron with the 
Niagara^ Caledonia, Ariel, Scorpion, and Tigress, 
and on July 20th burnt the fort and barracks of St. 
Joseph, which were abandoned by their garrison. 
On Aug. 4th he arrived off the fort of Machilimaci- 
nac (Mackinaw), which was situated on such an 
eminence that the guns of the vessels could not 
reach it. Accordingly, the troops under Col. 
Croghan were landed, covered by the fire of the 
schooners, very successfully; but when they tried 
to carry the fort they were driven back with the 
loss of 70 men. Thence Sinclair sailed to the Nat- 
tagawassa Creek, attacked and destroyed a block- 
house three miles up it, which mounted three light 
guns, and also a schooner called the Nancy ; but 
the commander of the schooner. Lieutenant 
Worsely, with his crew, escaped up the river. Captain 
Sinclair then departed for Lake Erie, leaving the 
Scorpion, Lieutenant Turner, and Tigress, Sailing- 
master Champlin, to blockade the Nattagawassa. 
News was received by the British from a party of 
Lidians that the two American vessels were five 
leagues apart, and it was at once resolved to at- 
tempt their capture. On the first of September, in 
the evening, four boats started out, one manned by 
20 seamen, under Lieutenant Worsley, the three 
others by 72 soldiers under Lieutenants Bulger, 
Armstrong, and Raderhurst of the army — in all 92 
men and two guns, a 6- and a 3-pounder. A num- 
ber of Indians accompanied the expedition but took 
no part in the fighting. At sunset on the 2d the 
boats arrived at St. Mary's Strait, and spent 24 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


hours in finding out where the American schooners 
were. At 6 P. M. on the 3d, the nearest vessel, the 
Tigress, was made out, six miles off, and they pulled 
for her. It was very dark, and they were not discov- 
ered till they had come within fifty yards, when 
Champlin at once fired his long 24 at them ; before 
it could be reloaded the four boats had dashed up, 
those of Lieutenants Worsely and Armstrong 
placing themselves on the starboard, and those of 
Lieutenants Bulger and Raderhurst on the port 
side. There was a short, sharp struggle, and the 
schooner was carried. Of her crew of 28 men, 3 
were killed and five, including Mr. Champlin, dan- 
gerously wounded. The assailants lost three sea- 
men killed, Lieutenant Bulger, seven soldiers and 
several seamen wounded.^ " The defence of this 
vessel," writes Lieut. Bulger, " did credit to her 
officers, who were all severely wounded." Next 
da}^ the prisoners were sent on shore ; and on the 
5th the Scorpion was discovered working up to join 
her consort, entirely ignorant of what had hap- 
pened. She anchored about 2 miles from the Ti- 
gress ; and next morning at 6 o'clock the latter slip- 
ped her cable and ran down under the jib and fore- 
sail, the American ensign and pendant still flying. 
When within 10 yards of the Scorpion, the con- 
cealed soldiers jumped up, poured a volley into her 
which killed 2 and wounded 2 men, and the next 
moment carried her, her surprised crew of 30 men 
making no resistance. The whole affair reflected 
great credit on the enterprise and pluck of the Brit- 
ish without being discreditable to the Americans. 

'Letter of Lieutenant A. H. Bulger, Sept. 7, 1814. James says 
only 3 killed and 8 wounded ; but Lieutenant Bulger distinctly says, 
in addition, "and several seamen wounded." 

374 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

It was like Lieut. Elliott's capture of the Detroit 
and Caledonia. 

Meanwhile a still more daring cutting-out expedi- 
tion had taken place at the foot of Lake Erie. The 
three American schooners, Ohio, Soiners, and Porcu- 
pine, each with 30 men, under Lieut. Conkling, were 
anchored just at the outlet of the lake, to cover the 
flank of the works at Fort Erie. On the night of 
August 1 2th, Capt. Dobbs, of the Charzuell, and 
Lieut. Radcliffe, of the Netly, with 75 seamen and 
marines from their two vessels, "which were lying off 
Fort Erie, resolved to attempt the capture of the 
schooners. The seamen carried the captain's gig 
upon their shoulders from Queenstown to French- 
man's Creek, a distance of 20 miles ; thence, by the 
aid of some militia, 5 batteaux as well as the gig 
were carried 8 miles across the woods to Lake Erie, 
and the party (whether with or without the militia I 
do not know) embarked in them. Between 1 1 and 12 
the boats were discovered a short distance ahead of 
the Somers and hailed. They answered " provision 
boats," which deceived the officer on deck, as such 
boats had been in the habit of passing and repassing 
continually during the night. Before he discovered 
his mistake the boats drifted across his hawse, cut his 
cables, and ran him aboard with a volley of mus- 
ketry, which wounded two of his men, and before 
the others could get on deck the schooner was capt- 
ured. In another moment the British boats were 
alongside the Ohio, Lieut. Conkling's vessel. Here 
the people had hurried on deck, and there was a 
moment's sharp struggle, in which the assailants lost 
Lieut. Radcliffe and one seaman, killed and six 
seamen and marines wounded : but on board the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 375 

Ohio Lieut. Conkling and Sailing-master M. Cally 
were shot down, one seaman killed, and four wound- 
ed, and Captain Dobbs carried her, sword in hand. 
The Porcupine was not molested, and made no 
effort to interfere with the British in their retreat ; 
so they drifted down the rapids with their two 
prizes and secured them below. The boldness of 
this enterprise will be appreciated when it is re- 
membered that but 75 British seamen (unless there 
were some militia along), with no artillery, attacked 
and captured two out of three fine schooners, armed 
each with a long 32 or 24, and an aggregate of 90 
men ; and that this had been done in waters where 
the gig and five batteaux of the victors were the 
only British vessels afloat. 


This lake, which had hitherto played but an in- 
conspicuous part, was now to become the scene of 
the greatest naval battle of the war. A British 
army of 11,000 men under Sir George Prevost un- 
dertook the invasion of New York by advancing up 
the western bank of Lake Champlain. This ad- 
vance was impracticable unless there was a suffi- 
ciently strong British naval force to drive back the 
American squadron at the same time. Accordingly, 
the British began to construct a frigate, the Con- 
fiance, to be added to their already existing force, 
which consisted of a brig, two sloops, and 12 or 14 
gun-boats. The Americans already possessed a 
heavy corvette, a schooner, a small sloop, and 10 
gun-boats or row-galleys ; they now began to build 
a large brig, the E-ogle, which was launched about 
the loth of August. Nine days later, on the 25th, 

376 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

the Confiance was launched. The two squadrons 
were equally deficient in stores, etc.; the Confiance 
having locks to her guns, some of which could not 
be used, while the American schooner Ticonderoga 
had to fire her guns by means of pistols flashed at 
the touchholes (like Barclay on Lake Erie). Mac- 
donough and Downie were hurried into action be- 
fore they had time to prepare themselves thor- 
oughly ; but it was a disadvantage common to both, 
and arose from the nature of the case, which called 
for immediate action. The British army advanced 
slowly toward Plattsburg, which was held by Gener- 
al Macomb with less than 2,ooo effective American 
troops. Captain Thomas Macdonough, the Ameri- 
can commodore, took the lake a day or two before 
his antagonist, and came to anchor in Plattsburg 
harbor. The British fleet, under Captain George 
Downie, moved from Isle-aux-Noix on Sept. 8th, 
and on the morning of the nth sailed into Platts- 
burg harbor. 

The American force consisted of the ship 5«r«- 
toga. Captain T. Macdonough, of about 734 tons,* 
carrying eight long 24-pounders, six 42-pound and 
twelve 32-pound carronades ; the brig Eagle, Captain 
Robert Henly, of about 500 tons, carrying eight long 
i8's and twelve 32-pound carronades ; schooner 
Ticonderoga Lieut.-Com. Stephen Cassin, of about 

^ In the Naval Archives (" Masters'-Commandant Letters," 1 814, 
I, No. 134) is a letter from Macdonough in which he states that the 
Saratoga is intermediate in size between the Pike^ of 875, and the 
Madison, of 593 tons ; this would make her 734. The Eagle was 
very nearly the size of the Lawrence or Niagara, on Lake Erie. 
The I'iconderoga was originally a small steamer, but Commodore 
Macdonough had her schooner-rigged, because he found that her 
machinery got out of order on almost every trip that she took. Her 
tonnage is only approximately known, but she was of the same size 
as the Linnet. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 377 

350 tons carrying eight long i2-pounders, four 
long i8-pouiiders, and five 32-pound carronades; 
sloop Preble^ Lieutenant Charles Budd, of about 
80 tons, mounting seven long 9's ; the row- 
galleys Borer, Centipede, Nettle, Allen, Viper, and 
Burrows, each of about 70 tons, and mounting one 
long 24- and one short i8-pounder; and the row- 
galleys Wilmer, Ludlow, Aylwin, and Ballard, each 
of about 40 tons, and mounting one long 12. 
James puts down the number of men on board the 
squadron as 950, — merely a guess, as he gives no 
authority. Cooper says " about 850 men, including 
ofKicers, and a small detachment of soldiers to act 
as marines." Lossing (p. 866, note i) says 882 in 
all. Vol. xiv of the " American State Papers " con- 
tains on p. 572 the prize-money list presented by 
the purser, George Beale, Jr. This numbers the 
men (the dead being represented by their heirs or 
executors) up to 915, including soldiers and seamen, 
but many of the numbers are omitted, probably 
owing to the fact that their owners, though belonging 
on board, happened to be absent on shore, or in the 
hospital ; so that the actual number of names tallies" 
very closely with that given by Lossing ; and ac- 
cordingly I shall take that.' The total number of 
men in the galleys (including a number of soldiers, 
as there were not enough sailors) was 350. The 

^ In the Naval Archives are numerous letters from Macdonough, in 
which he states continually that, as fast as they arrive, he substitutes 
sailors for the soldiers with which the vessels were originally manned. 
Men were continually being sent ashore on account of sickness. In 
the Bureau of Navigation is the log-book of " sloop-of-war Surprise, 
Captain Robert Henly " {^Stirprise was the name the Eagle origi- 
nally went by). It mentions from time to time that men were buried 
and sent ashore to the hospital (five being sent ashore on September 
2d) ; and finally mentions that the places of the absent were partially 
filled by a draft of 21 soldiers, to act as marines. The notes on the 
day of battle are very brief. 

3/8 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

exact proportions in which this force was distrib- 
uted among the gun-boats can not be told, but it 
may be roughly said to be 41 in each large galley, 
and 26 in each small one. The complement of the 
Saratoga was 210, of the Eagle, 130, of the Ticonde- 
roga, 100, and of the Preble, 30; but the first three 
had also a few soldiers distributed between them. 
The following list is probably pretty accurate as to 
the aggregate ; but there may have been a score or 
two fewer men on the gun-boats, or more on the 
larger vessels. 

macdonough's force. 

Metal, from long 
Name. Tons. Crew. Broadside. or short guns. 

Saratoga, 734 240 414 lbs. | ^^^^.^ ^^ 

Eagle, 500 150 264 * 

Ticonderoga, 350 112 180 ' 

Preble, 8o 30 36 ' 

Six gun-boats, 420 246 252 ' 

Four gun-boats, 160 104 48 ' 

j ^ong, 72 
\ short, 192 
j long, 84 
\ short 96 

long, 36 
\ long, 144 
\ short, 108 

long, 48 

In all, 14 vessels of 2,244 tons and 882 men, with 
86 guns throwing at a broadside 1,194 lbs. of shot, 
480 from long, and 714 from short guns. 

The force of the British squadron in guns and 
ships is kiiown accurately, as most of it was capt- 
ured. The Confiance rated for years in our lists 
as a frigate of the class of the Constellation, Congress, 
and Macedonian ; she was thus of over 1,200 tons. 
(Cooper says more, " nearly double the tonnage of 
the Saratoga.'') She carried on her main-deck thirty 
long 24's, fifteen in each broadside. She did not 



have a complete spar-deck; on her poop, which came 
forward to the mizzen-mast, were two 32-pound (or 
possibly 42-pound), carronades and on her spacious 
top-gallant forecastle were four 32- (or 42-) pound 
carronades, and a long 24 on a pivot.' She had 
aboard her a furnace for heating shot ; eight or ten 
of which heated shot were found with the furnace.^ 
This was, of course, a perfectly legitimate advantage. 
The Linnet, Captain Daniel Pring, was a brig of the 
same size as the Ticonderoga, mounting 16 long 12's. 
The Chubb and FincJi, Lieutenants James McGhie 
and William Hicks, were formerly the American 
sloops Groivler and Eagle, of 1 12 and no tons re- 
spectively. The former mounted ten 18-pound car- 
ronades and one long 6; the latter, six 18-pound 
carronades, four long 6's, and one short 18. There 
were twelve gun-boats.' Five of these were large, 
of about 70 tons each ; three mounted a long 24 
and a 32-pound carronade each ; one mounted a 
long 18 and a 32-pound carronade ; one a long 18 
and a short 18. Seven were smaller, of about 40 
tons each ; three of these carried each a long 18, 
and four carried each a 32-pound carronade. There 
is greater difificulty in finding out the number of 
men in the British fleet. American historians are 
unanimous in stating it at from 1,000 to 1,100; Brit- 

^ This is her armament as given by Cooper, on the authority of the 
officer who was in charge of her for three months, and went aboard 
her ten minutes after the Linnet struck. 

'^ James stigmatizes the statement of Commodore Macdonough 
about the furnace as "as gross a falsehood as ever was uttered " ; but 
he gives no authority for the denial, and it appears to have been mere- 
ly an ebullition of spleen on his part. Every American officer who 
went aboard the ConJia?ice saw the furnace and the hot shot. 

^ Letter of General George Prevost, Sept. II, 1814. All the Amer- 
ican accounts say 13 ; the British official account had best be taken. 
James says only ten, but gives no authority ; he appears to have been 
entirely ignorant of all things connected with this action. 

38o NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

ish historians never do any thing but copy James 
blindly. One of the midshipmen of the Confiance, in 
a letter (already quoted) published in the "" London 
Naval Chronicle," gives her crew as 300 ; but more 
than this amount of dead and prisoners were taken out 
of her. The number given her by Commander Ward 
in his " Naval Tactics," is probably nearest right — 
325.' The Linnet had about 125 men, and the CJmbb 
and Finch about 50 men each. According to Ad- 
miral Paulding (given by Lossing, in his " Field 
Book of the War of 1812," p. 868) their gun-boats 
averaged 50 men each. This is probably true, as 
they were manned largely by soldiers, any number 
of whom could be spared from Sir George Prevost's 
great army; but it maybe best to consider the large 
ones as having 41, and the small 26 men, which 
were the complements of the American gun-boats 
of the same sizes. 

The following, then, is the force of 

downie's squadron. 





From what guns, 
long or short. 




480 lbs. 

long, 3S4 
short, 96 




96 " 

long, 96 




96 " 

j long, 6 
\ short, 90 


1 10 


84 - 

5 long, 12 
{ short, 72 

Five gun-boats, 



254 " 

( long, 12 
( short, 72 

Seven gun- 


, 280 


182 " 

j long, 54 
{ short, 128 

In all, 



of aboi 

Lit 2,402 

tons, with 937 

James gives her but 270 men, — without stating his authority. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 38 1 

men/ and a total of 92 guns, throwing at a broad- 
side 1,192 lbs., 660 from long and 532 from short 

These are widely different from the figures that 
appear in the pages of most British historians, from 
Sir Archibald Alison down and up. Thus, in the 
" History of the British Navy," by C. D. Yonge (al- 
ready quoted), it is said that on Lake Champlain 
" our (the British) force was manifestly and vastly 
inferior, * * ^ their (the American) broadside 
outweighing ours in more than the proportion of 
three to two, while^ the difference in their tonnage 
and in the number of their crews was still more in 
their favor." None of these historians, or quasi-histo- 
rians, have made the faintest effort to find out the 
facts for themselves, following James' figures with 
blind reliance, and accordingly it is only necessary 
to discuss the latter. This reputable gentleman 
ends his account(" Naval Occurrences," p. 424) by re- 
marking that Macdonough wrote as he did because 
" he knew that nothing would stamp a falsehood 
with currency equal to a pious expression, ^ " * 
his falsehoods equalling in number the lines of his 
letter." These remarks are interesting as showing 
the unbiassed and truthful character of the author, 
rather than for any particular weight they will have 
in influencing any one's judgment on Commander 
Macdonough. James gives the engaged force of the 
British as " 8 vessels, of 1,426 tons, with 537 men, 
and throwing 765 lbs. of shot." To reduce the 
force down to this, he first excludes the Finch, be- 
cause she "grounded opposite an American battery 
before the engagement commenced,'' which reads espe- 

^ About ; there were probably more rather than less. 

382 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

cially well in connection with Capt. Pring's official 
letter: ''Lieut. Hicks, of the Finch, had the morti- 
fication to strike on a reef of rocks to the eastward 
of Crab Island about the middle of the engagement T * 
What James means cannot be imagined ; no stretch 
of language will convert '' about the middle of " into 
"before." The Finch struck on the reef in conse- 
quence of having been disabled and rendered help- 
less by the fire from the Ticonderoga. Adding her 
force to James' statement (counting her crew only 
as he gives it), we get 9 vessels, 1,536 tons, 577 men, 
849 lbs. of shot. James also excludes five gun- 
boats, because they ran away almost as soon as 
the action commenced (vol. vi, p. 501). This 
assertion is by no means equivalent to the state- 
ment in Captain Pring's letter " that the flotilla 
of gun-boats had abandoned the object assigned to 
them," and, if it was, it would not warrant his ex- 
cluding the five gun-boats. Their flight may have 
been disgraceful, but they formed part of the attack- 
ing force nevertheless ; almost any general could say 
that he had won against superior numbers if he re- 
fused to count in any of his own men whom he sus- 
pected of behaving badly. James gives his 10 gun- 
boats 294 men and 13 guns (two long 24's, five long 
i8's, six 32-pound carronades), and makes them 
average 45 tons ; adding on the five he leaves out, 
we get 14 vessels, of 1,761 tons, with 714 men, throw- 
ing at a broadside 1,025 lbs. of shot (591 from long 
guns, 434 from carronades). But Sir George Pre- 
vost, in the letter already quoted, says there were 
12 gun-boats, and the American accounts say more. 

' The italics are mine. The letter is given in full in the " Naval 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 383 

Supposing the two gun-boats James did not include 
at all to be equal respectively to one of the largest 
and one of the smallest of the gun-boats as he gives 
them (" Naval Occurrences," p. 417) ; that is, one to 
have had 35 men, a long 24, and a 32-pound 
carronade, the other, 25 men and a 32-pound car- 
ronade, we get for Downie's force 16 vessels, of 
1,851 tons, with 774 men, throwing at a broadside 
1,113 lbs. of shot (615 from long guns, 498 from car- 
ronades). It must be remembered that so far I 
have merely corrected James by means of the au- 
thorities from which he draws his account — the 
ofBcial letters of the British commanders. I have 
not brought up a single American authority against 
him, but have only made such alterations as a writer 
could with nothing whatever but the accounts of 
Sir George Prevost and Captain Pring before him 
to compare with James. Thus it is seen that ac- 
cording to James himself Downie really had 774 
men to Macdonough's 882, and threw at a broad- 
side 1,113 lbs. of shot to Macdonough's 1,194 lbs. 
James says ("Naval Occurrences," pp. 410, 413): 
" Let it be recollected, no musketry was employed 
on either side," and " The marines were of no use, 
as the action was fought out of the range of mus- 
ketry"; the 106 additional men on the part of the 
Americans were thus not of much consequence, the 
action being fought at anchor, and there being men 
enough to manage the guns and perform every other 
duty. So we need only attend to the broadside 
force. Here, then, Downie could present at a 
broadside 615 lbs. of shot from long guns to Mac- 
donough's 480, and 498 lbs. from carronades to Mac- 
donough's 714; or, he threw 135 lbs. of shot more 

384 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

from his long guns, and 216 less from his carronades. 
This is equivalent to Downie's having seven long 
i8's and one long 9, and Macdonough's having one 
24-pound and six 32-pound carronades. A 32-pound 
carronade is not equal to a long 18 ; so that even by 
James' own showing Downie s force zvas slightly the 

Thus far, I may repeat, I have corrected James 
solely by the evidence of his own side ; now I shall 
bring in some American authorities. These do not 
contradict the British official letters, for they virt- 
ually agree with them ; but they do go against James' 
unsupported assertions, and, being made by naval 
ofificers of irreproachable reputation, will certainly 
outweigh them. In the first place, James asserts 
that on the main-deck of the Confiance but 13 guns 
were presented in broadside, two 32-pound carron- 
ades being thrust through the bridle- and two others 
through the stern-ports ; so he excludes two of her 
guns from the broadside. Such guns would have been 
of great use to her at certain stages of the combat, 
and ought to be included in the force. But besides 
this the American officers positively say that she 
had a broadside of 15 guns. Adding these two guns, 
and making a trifling change in the arrangement of 
the guns in the row-galleys, we get a broadside of 
1,192 lbs., exactly as I have given it above. There 
is no difHculty in accounting for the difference of 
tonnage as given by James and by the Americans, 
for we have considered the same subject in reference 
to the battle of Lake Erie. James calculates the 
American tonnage as if for sea-vessels of deep 
holds, while, as regards the British vessels, he allows 
for the shallow holds that all the lake craft had ; 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 385 

that is, he gives in one the nominal, in the other 
the real, tonnage. This fully accounts for the dis- 
crepancy. It only remains to account for the dif- 
ference in the number of men. From James we can 
get 772. In the first place, we can reason by analo- 
gy. I have already shown that, as regards the bat- 
tle of Lake Erie, he is convicted (by English, not 
by American, evidence) of having underestimated 
Barclay's force by about 25 per cent. If he did the 
same thing here, the British force was over 1,000 
strong, and I have no doubt that it was. But we 
have other proofs. On p. 417 of the *' Naval Oc- 
currences " he says the complement of the four cap- 
tured British vessels amounted to 420 men, of whom 
54 were killed in action, leaving 366 prisoners, in- 
cluding the wounded. But the report of pris- 
oners, as given by the American authorities, 
gives 369 officers and seamen unhurt or but slightly 
wounded, 57 wounded men paroled, and other 
wounded whose number was unspecified. Suppos- 
ing this number to have been 82, and adding 54 
dead, we would get in all 550 men for the four ships, 
the number I have adopted in my list. This would 
make the British wounded 129 instead of 116, as 
James says: but neither the Americans nor the 
British seem to have enumerated all their wounded 
in this fight. Taking into account all these con- 
siderations, it will be seen that the figures I have 
given are probably approximately correct, and, at 
any rate, indicate pretty closely the relative strength 
of the two squadrons. The slight differences in ton- 
nage and crews (158 tons and 55 men, in favor of 
the British) are so trivial that they need not be 
taken into account, and we will merely consider the 

386 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

broadside force. In absolute weight of metal the 
two combatants were evenly matched — almost ex- 
actly ; — but whereas from Downie's broadside of i , 192 
lbs. 660 were from long and 532 from short guns, of 
Macdonough's broadside of 1,194 lbs., but 480 were 
from long and 714 from short pieces. The forces 
were thus equal, except that Downie opposed 180 
lbs. from long guns to 182 from carronades ; as if 10 
long l8's were opposed to ten 18-pound carronades. 
This would make the odds on their face about 10 to 
9 against the Americans ; in reality they were 
greater, for the possession of the Confiance was a 
very great advantage. The action is, as regards 
metal, the exact reverse of those between Chauncy 
and Yeo. Take, for example, the fight off Burling- 
ton on Sept. 28, 181 3. Yeo's broadside was 1,374 
lbs. to Chauncy's 1,288; but whereas only 180 of 
Yeo's was from long guns, of Chauncy's but 536 
was from carronades. Chauncy's fleet was thus 
much the superior. At least we must say this : if 
Macdonough beat merely an equal force, then Yeo 
made a most disgraceful and cowardly flight before 
an inferior foe ; but if we contend that Macdon- 
ough's force was inferior to that of his antagonist, 
then we must admit that Yeo's was in like manner 
inferior to Chauncy's. These rules work both ways. 
The Confiance was a heavier vessel than the Pike, 
presenting in broadside one long 24- and three 32- 
pound carronades more than the latter. James (vol. 
vi, p. 355) says: *' The Pike alone was nearly a 
match for Sir James Yeo's squadron," and Brenton 
says (vol. ii, 503) : '' The General Pike was more than 
a match for the whole British squadron." Neither 
of these writers means quite as much as he says, for 

NAVAL WAR OF ]8l2. 387 

the logical result would be that the Con fiance alone 
was a match for all of Macdonough's force. Still it 
is safe to say that the Pike gave Chauncy a great ad- 
vantage, and that the Confiance made Downie's fleet 
much superior to Macdonough's. 

Macdonough saw that the British would be forced 
to make the attack in order to get the control of 
the waters. On this long, narrow lake the winds 
usually blow pretty nearly north or south, and the 
set of the current is of course northward ; all the 
vessels, being flat and shallow, could not beat to 
windward well, so there was little chance of the 
British making the attack when there was a souther- 
ly wind blowing. So late in the season there was 
danger of sudden and furious gales, which would 
make it risky for Downie to wait outside the bay 
till the wind suited him ; and inside the bay the 
wind was pretty sure to be light and baffling. 
Young Macdonough (then but 28 years of age) cal- 
culated all these chances very coolly and decided to 
await the attack at anchor in Plattsburg Bay, with 
the head of his line so far to the north that it could 
hardly be turned ; and then proceeded to make all 
the other preparations with the same foresight. 
Not only were his vessels provided with springs, 
but also with anchors to be used astern in any 
emergency. The Saratoga was further prepared for 
a change of wind, or for the necessity of winding 
ship, by having a kedge planted broad off on each 
of her bows, with a hawser and preventer hawser 
(hanging in bights under water) leading from each 
quarter to the kedge on that side. There had not 
been time to train the men thoroughly at the 
guns ; and to make these produce their full effect 

',88 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

the constant supervision of the officers had to be 
exerted. The British were laboring under this 
same disadvantage, but neither side felt the want 
very much, as the smooth water, stationary position 
of the ships, and fair range, made the fire of both 
sides very destructive. 

Plattsburg Bay is deep and opens to the south- 
ward ; so that a wqnd which would enable the Brit- 
ish to sail up the lake would force them to beat 
when entering the bay. The east side of the mouth 
of the bay is formed by Cumberland Head; the 
entrance is about a mile and a half across, and the 
other boundary, southwest from the Head, is an 
extensive shoal, and a small, low island. This is 
called Crab Island, and on it was a hospital and one 
six-pounder gun, which was to be manned in case 
of necessity by the strongest patients. Macdon- 
ough had anchored in a north-and-south line a little 
to the south of the outlet of the Saranac, and out 
of range of the shore batteries, being two miles from 
the western shore. The head of his line was so 
near Cumberland Head that an attempt to turn it 
Avould place the opponent under a very heavy fire, 
while to the south the shoal prevented a flank 
attack. The Eagle lay to the north, flanked on 
each side by a couple of gun-boats ; then came the 
Saratoga, with three gun-boats between her and the 
Ticondcroga, the next in line ; then came three gun- 
boats and the Preble. The four large vessels were 
at anchor; the galleys being under their sweeps and 
forming a second line about 40 yards back, some 
of them keeping their places and some not doing 
so. By this arrangement his line could not be 
doubled upon, there was not room to anchor on his 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 389 

broadside out of reach of his carronades, and the 
enemy was forced to attack him by standing in 
bows on. 

The morning of September nth opened with a 
light breeze from the northeast. Downie's fleet 
weighed anchor at dayHght, and came down the 
lake with the wind nearly aft, the booms of the two 
sloops swinging out to starboard. At half-past 
seven/ the people in the ships could see their ad- 
versaries' upper sails across the narrow strip of land 
ending in Cumberland Head, before the British 
doubled the latter. Captain Downie hove to with 
his four large vessels when he had fairly opened the 
Bay, and waited for his galleys to overtake him. 
Then his four vessels filled on the starboard tack 
and headed for the American line, going abreast, the 
Chubb to the north, heading well to windward of the 
Eagle, for whose bows the Linnet was headed, while 
the Confiance was to be laid athwart the hawse of the 
Saratoga ; the Finch was to leeward with the twelve 
gun-boats, and was to engage the rear of the Ameri- 
can line. 

As the English squadron stood bravely in, young 
Macdonough, who feared his foes not at all, but his 
God a great deal, knelt for a moment, with his offi- 
cers, on the quarter-deck ; and then ensued a few 
minutes of perfect quiet, the men waiting with grim 
expectancy for the opening of the fight. The Eagle 
spoke first with her long iS's, but to no effect, 
for the shot fell short. Then, as the Linnet passed 
the Saratoga, she fired her broadside of long 12's, 

'The letters of the two commanders conflict a little as to time, 
both absolutely and relatively. Pring says the action lasted two hours 
and three quarters , the American accounts, two hours and twenty 
minutes. Pring says it began at 8.00 ; Macdonough says a few minutes 
before nine, etc. I take the mean lime. 

390 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

but her shot also fell short, except one that struck a 
hen-coop which happened to be aboard the Saratoga. 
There was a game cock inside, and, instead of being 
frightened at his sudden release, he jumped up on a 
gun-slide, clapped his wings, and crowed lustily. 
The men laughed and cheered ; and immediately 
afterward Macdonough himself fired the first shot 
from one of the long guns. The 24-pound ball 
struck the Con fiance near the hawse-hole and 
ranged the length of her deck, killing and wound- 
ing several men. All the American long guns now 
opened and were replied to by the British galleys. 
The Coifiance stood steadily on without replying. 
But she was bafifled by shifting winds, and was soon 
so cut up, having both her port bow-anchors shot 
away, and suffering much loss, that she was obliged 
to port her helm and come to while still nearly a 
quarter of a mile distant from the Saratoga. Cap- 
tain Downie came to anchor in grand style, — secur- 
ing every thing carefully before he fired a gun, and 
then opening with a terribly destructive broadside. 
The CJiubb and Linnet stood farther in, and anchored 
forward the Eagle's beam. Meanwhile the Finch 
got abreast of the Ticonderoga, under her sweeps, 
supported by the gun-boats. The main fighting 
was thus to take place between the vans, where the 
Eagle, Saratoga, and six or seven gun-boats were 
engaged with the Chubb, Linnet, Confiance, and two 
or three gun-boats ; while in the rear, the Ticonde- 
roga, the Preble, and the other American galleys 
engaged the Finch and the remaining nine or ten 
English galleys. The battle at the foot of the line 
was fought on the part of the Americans to prevent 
their flank being turned, and on the part of the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 39I 

British to effect that object. At first the fighting 
was at long range, but gradually the British galleys 
closed up, firing very well. The American galleys 
at this end of the line were chiefly the small ones, 
armed with one i2-pounder apiece, and they by de, 
grees drew back before the heavy fire of their op 
ponents. About an hour after the discharge of the 
first gun had been fired the Finch closed up toward 
the Tico7ideroga, and was completely crippled by a 
couple of broadsides from the latter. She drifted 
helplessly down the line and grounded near Crab 
Island ; some of the convalescent patients manned 
the six-pounder and fired a shot or two at her, 
when she struck, nearly half of her crew being killed 
or wounded. About the same time the British 
gun-boats forced the Preble out of line, whereupon 
she cut her cable and drifted inshore out of the 
fight. Two or three of the British gun-boats had 
already been sufficiently damaged by some of the 
shot from the Ticonderoga s long guns to make 
them wary ; and the contest at this part of the line 
narrowed down to one between the American 
schooner and the remaining British gun-boats, who 
combined to make a most determined attack upon 
her. So hastily had the squadron been fitted out that 
many of the matches for her guns were at the last 
moment found to be defective. The captain of one 
of the divisions was a midshipman, but sixteen years 
old, Hiram Paulding. When he found the matches 
to be bad he fired the guns of his section by having 
pistols flashed at them, and continued this through 
the whole fight. The Ticonderoga s commander, 
Lieut. Cassin, fought his schooner most nobly. He 
kept walking the taffrail amidst showers of mus- 

392 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

ketry and grape, coolly watching the movements of 
the galleys and directing the guns to be loaded with 
canister and bags of bullets, when the enemy tried 
to board. The British galleys were handled with 
determined gallantry, under the command of Lieu- 
tenant Bell. Had they driven off the Ticondcroga 
they would have won the day for their side, and 
they pushed up till they were not a boat-hook's 
length distant, to try to carry her by boarding ; but 
every attempt was repulsed and they were forced to 
draw off, some of them so crippled by the slaughter 
they had suffered that they could hardly man the 

Meanwhile the fighting at the head of the line had 
been even fiercer. The first broadside of the Con- 
fiance, fired from i6 long 24*s, double shotted, 
coolly sighted, in smooth water, at point-blank range, 
produced the most terrible effect on the Saratoga. 
Her hull shivered all over with the shock, and when 
the crash subsided nearly half of her people were 
seen stretched on deck, for many had been knocked 
down who were not seriously hurt. Among the 
slain was her first lieutenant, Peter Gamble; he 
was kneeling down to sight the bow-gun, when a 
shot entered the port, split the quoin, and drove a 
portion of it against his side, killing him without 
breaking the skin. The survivors carried on the 
fight with undiminished energy. Macdonough him- 
self worked like a common sailor, in pointing and 
handling a favorite gun. While bending over to 
sight it a round shot cut in two the spanker boom, 
which fell on his head and struck him senseless for 
two or three minutes; he then leaped to his feet 
and continued as before, when a shot took off the 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 393 

head of the captain of the gun and drove it in his 
face with such a force as to knock him to the other 
side of the deck. But after the first broadside not 
so much injury was done; the guns of the Confi- 
ancc had been levelled to point-blank range, and as 
the quoins were loosened by the successive dis- 
charges they were not properly replaced, so that 
her broadsides kept going higher and higher and do- 
ing less and less damage. Very shortly after the 
beginning of the action her gallant captain was 
slain. He was standing behind one of the long 
guns when a shot from the Saratoga struck it and 
threw it completely off the carriage against his right 
groin, killing him almost instantly. His skin was 
not broken ; a black mark, about the size of a small 
plate, was the only visible injury. His watch was 
found flattened, with its hands pointing to the very 
second at which he received the fatal blow. As the 
contest went on the fire gradually decreased in 
weight, the guns being disabled. The inexperi- 
ence of both crews partly caused this. The Ameri- 
can sailors overloaded their carronades so as to very 
much destroy the effect of their fire; when the offi- 
cers became disabled, the men would cram the guns 
with shot till the last projected from the muzzle 
Of course, this lessened the execution, and also 
gradually crippled the guns. On board the Confi- 
ance the confusion was even worse : after the bat- 
tle the charges of the guns were drawn, and on the 
side she had fought one was found with a canvas 
bag containing two round of shot rammed home 
and wadded without any powder ; another with two 
cartridges and no shot ; and a third with a wad be- 
low the cartridge. 

394 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

At the extreme head of the line the advantage 
had been with the British. The Chubb and Linnet 
had begun a brisk engagement with the Eagle and 
American gun-boats. In a short time the Chubb had 
her cable, bowsprit, and main-boom shot away, 
drifted within the American lines, and was taken 
possession of by one of the Saratoga s midshipmen. 
The Linnet paid no attention to the American gun- 
boats, directing her whole fire against the Eagle, and 
the latter was, in addition, exposed to part of the 
fire of the Confiance. After keeping up a heavy fire 
for a long time her springs were shot away, and she 
came up into the wind, hanging so that she could 
not return a shot to the well-directed broadsides of 
the Linnet. Henly accordingly cut his cable, started 
home his top-sails, ran down, and anchored by the 
stern between and inshore of the Confiance and Ti- 
conderogay from which position he opened on the 
Confiance. The Linnet now directed her attention 
to the American gun-boats, which at this end of the 
line were very well fought, but she soon drove them 
off, and then sprung her broadside so as to rake the 
Saratoga on her bows. 

Macdonough by this time had his hands full, and 
his fire was slackening ; he was bearing the whole 
brunt of the action, with the frigate on his beam and 
the brig raking him. Twice his ship had been set 
on fire by the hot shot of the Coifiaitce ; one by 
one his long guns were disabled by shot, and his 
carronades were either treated the same way or else 
rendered useless by excessive overcharging. Fi- 
nally but a single carronade was left in the starboard 
batteries, and on firing it the naval-bolt broke, the 
gun flew off the carriage and fell down the main 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 395 

hatch, leaving the Commodore without a single gun 
to oppose to the few the Confiancc still presented. 
The battle would have been lost had not Macdon- 
ough's foresight provided the means of retrieving 
it. The anchor suspended astern of the Saratoga 
was let go, and the men hauled in on the hawser that 
led to the starboard quarter, bringing the ship's stern 
up over the kedge. The ship now rode by the 
kedge and by a line that had been bent to a bight in 
the stream cable, and she was raked badly by the 
accurate fire of the Linnet. By rousing on the line 
the ship was at length got so far round that the 
aftermost gun of the port broadside bore on the 
Confiance. The men had been sent forward to keep 
as much out of harm's way as possible, and now 
some were at once called back to man the piece, 
which then opened with effect. The next gun was 
treated in the same manner ; but the ship now hung 
and would go no farther round. The hawser lead- 
ing from the port quarter was then got forward un- 
der the bows and passed aft to the starboard quar- 
ter, and a minute afterward the ship's whole port 
battery opened with fatal effect. The Confiance 
meanwhile had also attempted to round. Her 
springs, like those of the Linnet, were on the star- 
board side, and so of course could not be shot away 
as the Eagle's were ; but, as she had nothing but 
springs to rely on, her efforts did little beyond forc- 
ing her forward, and she hung with her head to the 
wind. She had lost over half of her crew,' most of 
her guns on the engaged side were dismounted, and 
her stout masts had been splintered till they looked 

'Midshipman Lee, in his letter already quoted, says " not five 
men were left unhurt " ; this would of course include bruises, etc., 
as hurts. 

396 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

like bundles of matches ; her sails had been torn to 
rags, and she was forced to strike, about two hours 
after she had fired the first broadside. Without 
pausing a minute the Saratoga again hauled on her 
starboard hawser till her broadside was sprung to 
bear on the Linnet, and the ship and brig began a 
brisk fight, which the Eagle from her position could 
take no part in, while the Ticonderoga was just fin- 
ishing up the British galleys. The shattered and 
disabled state of the Linnef s masts, sails, and yards 
precluded the most distant hope of Capt. Pring's 
effecting his escape by cutting his cable ; but he 
kept up a most gallant fight with his greatly su- 
perior foe, in hopes that some of the gun-boats would 
come and tow him off, and despatched a lieutenant 
to the Confiance to ascertain her state. The lieu- 
tenant returned with news of Capt. Downie's death, 
while the British gun-boats had been driven half a 
mile off ; and, after having maintained the fight single- 
handed for fifteen minutes, until, from the number 
of shot between wind and water, the water had 
risen a foot above her lower deck, the plucky little 
brig hauled down her colors, and the fight ended, 
a little over two hours and a half after the first gun 
had been fired. Not one of the larger vessels had a 
mast that would bear canvas, and the prizes were in 
a sinking condition. The British galleys drifted to 
leeward, none with their colors up ; but as the 
Saratoga s boarding-officer passed along the deck of 
the Confiance he accidentally ran against a lock- 
string of one of her starboard guns,' and it went off. 
This was apparently understood as a signal by the 

^ A sufficient commentary, by the way, on James' assertion that the 
guns of the Confiance had to be fired by matches, as the gun-locks 
did not fit ! 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 397 

galleys, and they moved slowly off, pulling but a 
very few sweeps, and not one of them hoisting an 

On both sides the ships had been cut up in the 
most extraordinary manner; the Saratoga had 55 
shot-holes in her hull, and the Confiance 105 in hers, 
and the Eagle and Linnet had suffered in proportion. 
The number of killed and wounded can not be ex- 
actly stated ; it was probably about 200 on the 
American side, and over 300 on the British.' 

Captain Macdonough at once returned the British 
officers their swords. Captain Bring writes : " I 

' Macdonough returned his loss as follows : 





















A total of 52 killed and 58 wounded ; but the latter head apparently 
only included those who had to go to the hospital. Probably about 
90 additional were more or less slightly wounded. Captain Pring, in 
his letter of Sept. 12th, says the Confiance had 41 killed and 40 
wounded ; the Lmnet, 10 killed and 14 wounded ; the Chubb, 6 
killed and 16 wounded ; the Finch, 2 wounded : in all, 57 killed 
and 72 wounded. But he adds " that no opportunity has offered to 
muster * * * this is the whole as yet ascertained to be killed or 
wounded." The Americans took out 180 dead and wounded from 
the Confiance, 50 from tlie Linnet, and 40 from the Chubb and Finch ; 
in all, 270. James (" Naval Occurrences," p. 412) says the Confiance 
had 83 wounded. As Captain Pring wrote his letter in Plattsburg 
Bay the day after the action, he of course could not give the loss 
aboard the British gun-boats ; so James at once assumed that they suf- 
fered none. As well as could be found out they had between 50 and 
100 killed and wounded. The total British loss was between 300 and 
400, as nearly as can be ascertained. For this action, as already shown, 
James is of no use whatever. Compare his statements, for example, 
with those of Midshipman Lee, in the " Naval Chronicle." The com- 
parative loss, as a means of testing the competitive prowess of the 
combatants, is not of much consequence in this case, as the weaker 
party in point of force conquered. 

398 NAVAL WAR OF l8i2. 

have much satisfaction in making you acquainted 
with the humane treatment the wounded have re- 
ceived from Commodore Macdonough ; they were 
immediately removed to his own hospital on Crab 
Island, and furnished with every requisite. His 
generous and polite attention to myself, the officers, 
and men, will ever hereafter be gratefully remem- 
bered." The effects of the victory were immediate 
and of the highest importance. Sir George Prevost 
and his army at once fled in great haste and con- 
fusion back to Canada, leaving our northern frontier 
clear fo^r the remainder of the war ; while the victory 
had a very great effect on the negotiations for 

In this battle the crews on both sides behaved 
with equal bravery, and left nothing to be desired in 
this respect ; but from their rawness they of course 
showed far less skill than the crews of most of the 
American and some of the British ocean cruisers, 
such as the Constitution, United States, or Shan- 
non, the Hornet, Wasp, or Reindeer. Lieut. Cassin 
handled the Ticonderoga, and Captain Pring the 
Linnet, with the utmost gallantry and skill, and, 
after Macdonough, they divide the honors of the 
day. But Macdonough in this battle won a higher 
fame than any other commander of the war, British 
or American. He had a decidedly superior force to 
contend against, the officers and men of the two 
sides being about on a par in every respect ; and it 
was solely owing to his foresight and resource that we 
won the victory. He forced the British to engage 
at a disadvantage by his excellent choice of position ; 
and he prepared beforehand for every possible con- 
tingency. His personal prowess had already been 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


shown at the cost of the rovers of Tripoli, and in 
this action he helped fight the guns as ably as the 
best sailor. His skill, seamanship, quick eye, readi- 
ness of resource, and indomitable pluck, are beyond 
all praise. Down to the time of the Civil War he is 
the greatest figure in our naval history. A thor- 
oughly religious man, he was as generous and hu- 
mane as he was skilful and brave ; one of the 
greatest of our sea-captains, he has left a stainless 
name behind him. 












by Lieut. Gregory. 





by her crew. 

Black Snake, 




























9 vessels, 

































6 vessels, 505 





President captured by Captain Hayes' squadron— Successful cutting-out 
expeditions of the Americans— Privateer brig Chasseur captures St. Lawrence 
schooner — Constitution captures Cyane and Levant — Escapes from a British 
squadron — The Hornet captures the Pengtiin., and escapes from a 74 — The Pea- 
cock and the iV«?<^//«j— Summary— Remarks on the war— Tables of compara- 
tive loss, etc.— Compared with results of Anglo-French struggle. 

THE treaty of peace between the United States 
and Great Britain was signed at Ghent, Dec. 
24, 1814, and ratified at Washington, Feb. i8, 1815. 
But during these first two months of 1815, and until 
the news reached the cruisers on the ocean, the 
warfare went on with much the same characteristics 
as before. The blockading squadrons continued 
standing on and off before the ports containing 
war-ships with the same unwearying vigilance ; but 
the ice and cold prevented any attempts at harry- 
ing the coast except from the few frigates scattered 
along the shores of the Carolinas and Georgia. 
There was no longer any formidable British fleet in 
the Chesapeake or Delaware, while at New Orleans 
the only available naval force of the Americans 
consisted of a few small row-boats, with which they 
harassed the rear of the retreating British. The 
Constitution, Capt. Stewart, was already at sea, 
having put out from Boston on the 17th of Decem- 
ber, while the blockading squadron (composed of 



the same three frigates she subsequently encoun- 
tered) was temporarily absent. 

The Hornet, Capt. Biddle, had left the port of 
New London, running in heavy weather through 
the blockading squadron, and had gone into New 
York, where the President, Commodore Decatur, 
and Peacock, Capt. Warrington, with the Tom Bow- 
line brig were already assembled, intending to start 
on a cruise for the East Indies. The blockading 
squadron off the port consisted of the 56-gun razee 
Majestic, Capt. Hayes, 24-pounder frigate Endymion, 
Capt. Hope, i8-pounder frigate Pomona, Capt. 
Lumly, and i8-pounder frigate Tenedos, Capt. Park- 
er.' On the 14th of January a severe snow-storm 
came on and blew the squadron off the coast. 
Next day it moderated, and the ships stood off to 
the northwest to get into the track which they sup- 
posed the Americans would take if they attempted 
to put out in the storm. Singularly enough, at the 
instant of arriving at the intended point, an hour 
before daylight on the 15th, Sandy Hook bearing 
W. N. W. 15 leagues, a ship was made out, on the 
Majestic s weather-bow, standing S. E.^ This ship 
was the unlucky President. On the evening of the 
14th she had left her consorts at anchor, and put 
out to sea in the gale. But by a mistake of the 
pilots who were to place boats to beacon the pas- 
sage the frigate struck on the bar, where she beat 
heavily for an hour and a half,^ springing her masts 
and becoming very much hogged and twisted.* 
Owing to the severity of her injuries the President 

' Letter of Rear= Admiral Hotham, Jan. 23, 181 5. 

'^ Letter of Capt. Hayes, Jan. 17, 1815. 

^Letter of Commodore Decatur, Jan. 18. 1815. 

* Report of Court-martial, Alex. Murray presiding, April 20. 18 15. 

402 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

would have put back to port, but was prevented by 
the westerly gale/ Accordingly Decatur steered at 
first along Long Island, then shaped his course to 
the S. E., and in the dark ran into the British squad- 
ron, which, but for his unfortunate accident, he 
would thus have escaped. At daylight, the Presi- 
dent, which had hauled up and passed to the north- 
ward of her opponents,'' found herself with the 
Majestic and Endymioii astern, the Pomona on the 
port and the Tenedos on the starboard quarter.^ 
The chase now became very interesting." During 
the early part of the day, while the wind was still 
strong, the Majestic led the Endymion and fired oc- 
casionally at the President, but without effect.^ 
The Pomona gained faster than the others^ but by 
Capt, Hayes' orders was signalled to go in chase of 
the Tenedos, whose character the captain could not 
make out •"; and this delayed her several hours in 
the chase.'^ In the afternoon, the wind coming out 
light and baffling, the Endymion left the Majestic 
behind,^ and, owing to the President's disabled state 
and the amount of water she made in consequence 
of the injuries received while on the bar, gained 
rapidly on her,' although she lightened ship and 
did every thing else that was possible to improve 
her sailing.'" But a shift of wind helped the Endym- 
ion^^ and the latter was able at about 2.30, to be- 
gin skirmishing with her bow-chasers, answered by 
' the stern-chasers of the President.^'' At 5.30 the 

' Decatur's letter, Jan. i8th. ^Decatur's letter, Jan, i8th. 

^ James, vi, 529. ■* Letter of Capt. Hayes, 

* Letter of Commodore Decatur. ^ James, vi, 529, 

^ Log of Pomona, published at Bermuda, Jan. 29th, and quoted in 
full in the " Naval Chronicle," xxxiii, 370. 

® Letter of Captain Hayes. * Letter of Decatur 

^" Letter of Decatur. " Cooper, ii, 466. " Log of Pomona. 



Endymion began close action/ within half point- 
blank shot on the President's starboard quarter/ 
where not a gun of the latter could bear.' The 
President continued in the same course, steering 
east by north, the wind being northwest, expecting 
the Endymion soon to come up abeam ; but the 
latter warily kept her position by yawing, so as not 
to close." So things continued for half an hour 
during which the President suffered more than 
during all the remainder of the combat.'' At 6.00 
the President kept off, heading to the south, and 
the two adversaries ran abreast, the Americans 
using the starboard and the British the port bat- 
teries.'' Decatur tried to close with his antagonist, 
but whenever he hauled nearer to the latter she 
hauled off^ and being the swiftest ship could of 
course evade him ; so he was reduced to the neces- 
sity of trying to throw her out of the combat ^ by 
dismantling her. He was completely successful in 
this, and after two hours' fighting the Endymion s 
sails were all cut from her yards ^ and she dropped 
astern, the last shot being fired from the Presideitt.^^ 
The Endymion was now completely silent," and 
Commodore Decatur did not board her merely be- 
cause her consorts were too close astern'^ ; accord- 
ingly the President hauled up again to tr}' her 
chances at running, having even her royal studding- 
sails set,'^ and exposed her stern to the broadside of 

^Letter of Capt. Hayes. ^ James, vi, 530, 

^ Letter of Decatur. * Letter of Decatur. 

^ Cooper, 470. * Log of Pomona. 

'' Report of Court-martial. ^ Letter of Commodore Decatur. 

* Letter of Capt. Hayes. ^° Log of Pomona. 

" Log of Pomona. ^ Report of Court-martial 
'^ James, vi, 538. 

404 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

the Endyiuion,^ but the latter did not fire a single 
gun.^ Three hours afterward, at ii,^ the Pomona 
caught up with the President, and luffing to port 
gave her the starboard broadside " ; the Tenedos 
being two cables' length's distance astern, taking up 
a raking position/ The Pomona poured in another 
broadside, within musket shot,'' when the President 
surrendered and was taken possession of by Capt. 
Parker of the Tenedos^ A considerable number of 
the President' s people were killed by these two last 
broadsides.^ The Endymion was at this time out 
of sight astern."* She did not come up, according 
to one account, for an hour and three quarters," and 
according to another, for three hours " ; and as she 
was a faster ship than the President, this means that 
she was at least two hours motionless repairing 
damages. Commodore Decatur delivered his sword 
to Capt. Hayes of the Majestic, who returned it, 
stating in his letter that both sides had fought 
with great gallantry.'^ The President having been 
taken by an entire squadron,'^ the prize-money was 
divided equally among the ships.^" The President' s 
crew all told consisted of 450 men,'^ none of whom 
were British.'^ She had thus a hundred more men 

' Letter of Commodore Decatur. " Log of the Pomona. 

^ Letter of Capt. Hayes. ^ Log of the Pomona. 

^ Decatur's letter. "^ Log of Pomona. 

^ James, vi, 531. 

^Letter of Commodore Decatur, March 6, 1815 ; deposition of 
Chaplain Henry Robinson before Admiralty Court at St. Georges, 
Bermuda, Jan. 181 5. 

^ Letter of Decatur, Jan. iSth. ^° Log of Pomona. 

'' Letter of Decatur, Mar. 6th. ^"^ Letter of Capt. Hayes. 

'^Admiral Hotham's letter, Jan. 23d. 
^* Bermuda " Royal Gazette," March 8, 1815. 
''' Depositions of Lieut, Gallagher and the other officers. 
'■ Deposition of Commodore Decatur. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 405 

than her antagonist and threw about 100 pounds 
more shot at a broadside ; but these advantages 
were more than counterbalanced by the injuries re- 
ceived on the bar, and by the fact that her powder 
was so bad that while some of the British shot went 
through both her sides, such a thing did not once 
happen to the Endyniion^ when fairly hulled. The 
President lost 24 killed and 55 wounded^; the 
Endymion, 1 1 killed and 14 wounded.^ Two days 
afterward, on their way to the Bermudas, a violent 
easterly gale came on, during which both ships were 
dismasted, and the Endyinioii in addition had to 
throw over all her spar-deck guns/ 

As can be seen, almost every sentence of this ac- 
count is taken (very nearly word for word) from the 
various ofBcial reports, relying especially on the log 
of the British frigate Pomona. I have been thus 
careful to have every point of the narrative estab- 
lished by unimpeachable reference : first, because 
there have been quite a number of British histori- 
ans who have treated the conflict as if it were a 
victory and not a defeat for the Endyniion ; and in 
the second place, because I regret to say that I do 
not think that the facts bear out the assertions, on 
the part of most American authors, that Commo- 
dore Decatur "covered himself with glory" and 
showed the " utmost heroism," As regards the 
first point. Captain Hope himself, in his singularly 
short ofificial letter, does little beyond detail his own 
loss, and makes no claim to having vanquished his 
opponent. Almost all the talk about its being a 
"victory" comes from James; and in recounting 

' Bermuda " Royal Gazette," Jan. 6, 18 18. ' Decatur's letter. 

^ Letter of Capt. Hope. Jan. 15, 1815. ''James, vi, 534. 

406 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

this, as well as all the other battles, nearly every 
subsequent British historian simply gives James' 
statements over again, occasionally amplifying, but 
more often altering or omitting, the vituperation. 
The point at issue is simply this : could a frigate 
which, according to James himself, went out of ac- 
tion with every sail set, take another frigate which 
for two hours, according to the log of the Pomona, 
lay motionless and unmanageable on the waters, 
without a sail ? To prove that it could not, of 
course needs some not over-scrupulous manipulation 
of the facts. The intention with which James sets 
about his work can be gathered from the trium- 
phant conclusion he comes to, that Decatur's name 
has been *' sunk quite as low as that of Bainbridge 
or Porter," which, comparing small things to great, 
is somev/hat like saying that Napoleon's defeat by 
Wellington and Blucher " sunk " him to the level 
of Hannibal. For the account of the American 
crew and loss, James relies on the statements made 
in the Bermuda papers, of whose subsequent 
forced retraction he takes no notice, and of course 
largely over-estimates both. On the same authority 
he states that the Presidenf s fire was " silenced," 
Commodore Decatur stating the exact reverse. The 
point is fortunately settled by the log of the Pomona, 
which distinctly says that the last shot was fired by 
the President. His last resort is to state that the 
loss of the President was fourfold (in reality three- 
fold) that of the Endymion. Now we have seen that 
the President lost "a considerable number " of men 
from the fire of the Pomona. Estimating these at 
only nineteen, we have a loss of sixty caused by the 
Endymion^ and as most of this was caused during 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 407 

the first half hour, when the President was not firing, 
it follows that while the two vessels were both fight- 
ing, broadside and broadside, the loss inflicted was 
about equal ; or, the President, aiming at her adver- 
sary's rigging, succeeded in completely disabling her, 
and incidentally killed 25 men, while the Endymion 
did not hurt the President's rigging at all, and, aim- 
ing at her hull, where, of course, the slaughter ought 
to have been far greater than when the fire was di- 
rected aloft, only killed about the same number of 
men. Had there been no other vessels in chase, 
Commodore Decatur, his adversary having been 
thus rendered perfectly helpless, could have simply 
taken any position he chose and compelled the lat- 
ter to strike, without suffering any material addi- 
tional loss himself. As in such a case he would 
neither have endured the unanswered fire of the En- 
dymion on his quarter for the first half hour, nor the 
subsequent broadsides of the Pomona, the President' s 
loss would probably have been no greater than that 
of the Constitution in taking the Java. It is diffi- 
cult to see how any outsider with an ounce of com- 
mon-sense and fairmindedness can help awarding the 
palm to Decatur, as regards the action with the En- 
dymion. But I regret to say that I must agree with 
James that he acted rather tamely, certainly not 
heroically, in striking to the Pomoiia. There was, of 
course, not much chance of success in doing battle 
with two fresh frigates ; but then they only mounted 
eighteen-pounders, and, judging from the slight re- 
sults of the cannonading from the Endymion and the 
two first (usually the most fatal) broadsides of the 
Pomona, it would have been rather a long time be- 
fore they would have caused much damage. Mean- 

408 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

while the President was pretty nearly as well off as 
ever as far as fighting and sailing went. A lucky 
shot might have disabled one of her opponents, and 
then the other would, in all probability, have under- 
gone the same fate as the Endymion. At least it 
was well worth trying, and though Decatur could 
not be said to be disgraced, yet it is excusable 
to wish that Porter or Perry had been in his place. 
It is not very pleasant to criticise the actions of an 
American whose name is better known than that of 
almost any other single-ship captain of his time ; 
but if a man is as much to be praised for doing fair- 
ly, or even badly, as for doing excellently, then 
there is no use in bestowing praise at all. 

This is perhaps as good a place as any other to no- 
tice one or two of James' most common misstate- 
ments ; they really would not need refutation were it 
not that they have been reechoed, as usual, by almost 
every British historian of the war for the last 60 years. 
In the first place, James puts the number of the 
Presidcnfs men at 475 , she had 450. An exactly 
parallel reduction must often be made when he 
speaks of the force of an American ship. Then he 
says there were many British among them, which is 
denied under oath by the American ofificers ; this 
holds good also for the other American frigates. He 
says there were but 4 boys ; there were nearly 30 ; 
and on p. 120 he says the youngest was 14, whereas 
we incidentally learn from the '' Life of Decatur " 
that several were under 12. A favorite accusation 
is that the American midshipmen were chiefly mas- 
ters and mates of merchant-men ; but this was 
hardly ever the case. Many of the midshipmen 
of the war afterward became celebrated command- 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 409 

ers, and most of these (a notable instance being Far- 
ragut, the greatest admiral since Nelson) were en- 
tirely too young in 1812 to have had vessels under 
them, and, moreover, came largely from the so-called 
'' best families." 

Again, in the first two frigate actions of 181 2, the 
proportion of killed to wounded happened to be 
unusually large on board the American frigates ; 
accordingly James states (p. 146) that the returns of 
the wounded had been garbled, under-estimated, and 
made " subservient to the views of the commanders 
and their government." To support his position 
that Capt. Hull, who reported 7 killed and 7 
wounded, had not given the list of the latter in full, 
he says that " an equal number of killed and 
wounded, as given in the American account, hardly 
ever occurs, except in cases of explosion " ; and yet, 
on p. 519, he gives the loss of the British Hermes as 
25 killed and 24 wounded, disregarding the incon- 
gruity involved. On p. 169, in noticing the loss of 
the United States, 5 killed and 7 wounded, he says 
that " the slightly wounded, as in all other Ameri- 
can cases, are omitted." This is untrue, and the 
proportion on the Unit eel States, 5 to 7, is just about 
the same as that given by James himself on the 
Endyniion, ii to 14, and Nautilus, 6 to 8. In sup- 
porting his theory, James brings up all the instances 
where the American wounded bore a larger propor- 
tion to their dead than on board the British ships, 
but passes over the actions with the Reindeer, Eper- 
vier, Penguin, Endymion, and Boxer, where the re- 
verse was the case. One of James' most common 
methods of attempting to throw discredit on the 
much vilified " Yankees " is by quoting newspaper 

410 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

accounts of their wounded. Thus he says (p. 562) 
of the Hornet, that several of her men told some of 
the Penguin's sailors that she lost 10 men killed, 16 
wounded, etc. Utterly false rumors of this kind were 
as often indulged in by the Americans as the British. 
After the capture of the President articles occasion- 
ally appeared in the papers to the effect that some 
American sailor had counted '' 23 dead " on board 
the Endyinioit, that " more than 50 " of her men were 
wounded, etc. Such statements were as commonly 
made and with as little foundation by one side as by 
the other, and it is absurd for a historian to take 
any notice of them. James does no worse than 
many of our own writers of the same date; but 
while their writings have passed into oblivion, his 
work is still often accepted as a standard. This 
must be my apology for devoting so much time to 
it. The severest criticism to which it can possibly 
be subjected is to compare it with the truth. When- 
ever dealing with purely American affairs, James' 
history is as utterly untrustworthy as its contempo- 
rary, '' Niles' Register," is in matters purely British, 
while both are invaluable ni dealing with things re- 
lating strictly to their own nation ; they supplement 
each other. 

On Jan. 8th General Packenham was defea'-ed and 
killed by General Jackson at New Orleans, the 
Louisiana and the seamen of the Carolina having 
their full share in the glory of the day, and Captain 
Henly being among the very few American wounded. 
On the same day Sailing-master Johnson, with 28 
men in two boats, cut out the British-armed trans- 
port brig Cyprus, containing provisions and munitions 


of war, and manned by ten men/ On the i8th the 
British abandoned the enterprise and retreated to 
their ships ; and Mr. Thomas Shields, a purser, for- 
merly a sea-officer, set off to harass them while em- 
barking. At sunset on the 20th he left with five 
boats and a gig, manned in all with 50 men, and 
having under him Sailing-master Dealy and Master's 
Mate Boyd.^ At ten o'clock P.M. a large barge, con- 
taining 14 seamen and 40 officers and men of the 
14th Light Dragoons, was surprised and carried by 
boarding after a slight struggle. The prisoners out- 
numbering their captors, the latter returned to shore, 
left them in a place of safety, and again started at 
2 A.M. on the morning of the 21st. Numerous trans- 
ports and barges of the enemy could be seen, ob- 
serving very little order and apparently taking no 
precautions against attack, which they probably did 
not apprehend. One of the American boats capt- 
ured a transport and five men ; another, containing 
Mr. Shields himself afxd eight men, carried by board- 
ing, after a short resistance, a schooner carrying ten 
men. The flotilla then re-united and captured in 
succession, with no resistance, five barges containing 
70 men. By this time the alarm had spread and 
they were attacked by six boats, but these were re- 
pelled with some loss. Seven of the prisoners (who 
were now half as many again as their captors) suc- 
ceed in escaping in the smallest prize. Mr. Shields 
returned with the others, 78 in number. During the 
cntire.expedition he had lost but three men, wounded ; 
he had taken 132 prisoners, and destroyed eight craft 
whose aggregate tonnage about equalled that of the 
five gun-vessels taken on Lake Borgne. 

' Letter of Sailing-master Johnson Jan, g, 181 5. 

'^ Letter ol Thomas Shields to Cora. Patterson Jan. 25. 181 5. 

412 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

On Jan. 30, 181 5, information was received by 
Captain Dent, commanding at North Edisto, Ga., 
that a party of British officers and men, in four boats 
belonging to H. M. S. Hcbrus, Capt. Palmer, were 
watering at one of the adjacent islands.' Lieut. 
Lawrence Kearney, with three barges containing 
about 75 men, at once proceeded outside to cut 
them off, when the militia drove them away. The 
frigate was at anchor out of gunshot, but as soon as 
she perceived the barges began firing guns as sig- 
nals. The British on shore left in such a hurry that 
they deserted their launch, which, containing a 12- 
pound boat carronade and six swivels, was taken by 
the Americans. The other boats — two cutters, and 
a large tender mounting one long nine and carrying 
30 men — made for the frigate ; but Lieut. Kearney 
laid the tender aboard and captured her after a 
sharp brush. The cutters were only saved by the 
fire of the Hebrus, which was very well directed — 
one of her shot taking off the head of a man close 
by Lieut. Kearney. The frigate got under way and 
intercepted Kearney's return, but the Lieutenant 
then made for South Edisto, whither he carried his 
prize in triumph. This was one of the most daring 
exploits of the war, and was achieved at very small 
cost. On Feb. 14th a similar feat was performed. 
Lieutenant Kearney had manned the captured 
launch with 25 men and the 12-pound carronade. 
News was received of another harrying expedition 
undertaken by the British, and Captain Dent, with 
seven boats, put out to attack them, but was unable 
to cross the reef. Meanwhile Kearney's barge had 

' Letter of Lawrence Kearney of Jan. 30, 181 5 (see in the Archives 
al Washington, " Captaiios' Lettej-s,." vol, 42, No. 100). 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 4I3 

gotten outside, and attacked the schooner Brant, a 
tender to H. M. S. Severn, mounting an i8-pounder, 
and with a crew of two midshipmen, and twenty- 
one marines and seamen. A running fight began, 
the Brant evidently fearing that the other boats 
might get across the reef and join in the attack; 
suddenly she ran aground on a sand-bank, which 
accident totally demoralized her crew. Eight of 
them escaped in her boat, to the frigate ; the re- 
maining fifteen, after firing a few shot, surrendered 
and were taken possession of.^ 

I have had occasion from time to time to speak 
of cutting-out expeditions, successful and otherwise, 
undertaken by British boats against American pri- 
vateers ; and twice a small British national cutter 
was captured by an overwhelmingly superior Ameri- 
can opponent of this class. We now, for the only 
time, come across an engagement between a priva- 
teer and a regular cruiser of approximately equal 
force. These privateers came from many different 
ports and varied greatly in size. Baltimore pro- 
duced the largest number; but New York, Phila- 
delphia, Boston, and Salem, were not far behind ; 
and Charleston, Bristol, and Plymouth, supplied 
some that were very famous. Many were merely small 
pilot-boats with a crew of 20 to 40 men, intended 
only to harry the West Indian trade. Others were 
large, powerful craft, unequalled for speed by any 
vessels of their size, which penetrated to the re- 

* Letter of Captain Dent, Feb. i6th (in " Captains' Letters," vol. 
4^, No. 130). Most American authors, headed by Cooper, give this 
exploit a more vivid coloring by increasing the crew of the Brant to 
forty men, omitting to mention that she was hard and fast aground, 
and making no allusion to the presence of the five other American 
boats which undoubtedly caused the Branfs flight in the first place. 

414 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

motest corners of the ocean, from Man to the 
Spice Islands. When a privateer started she was 
overloaded with men, to enable her to man her 
prizes; a successful cruise would reduce her crew to 
a fifth of its original size. The favorite rig was 
that of a schooner, but there were many brigs and 
brigantines. Each was generally armed with a long 
24 or 32 on a pivot, and a number of light guns in 
broadside, either long 9's or short i8's or 12's. 
Some had no pivot gun, others had nothing 
else. The largest of them carried 17 guns (a 
pivotal 32 and 16 long 12's in broadside) with a 
crew of 150. Such a vessel ought to have been a 
match, at her own distance, for a British brig-sloop, 
but we never hear of any such engagements, and 
there were several instances where privateers gave 
up, without firing a shot, to a force superior, it is 
true, but not enough so to justify the absolute 
tameness of the surrender.^ One explanation of 
this was that they were cruising as private ventures, 
and their object was purely to capture merchant- 
men with as little risk as possible to themselves. 
Another reason was that they formed a kind of sea- 
militia, and, like their compeers on land, some could 
fight as well as any regulars, while most would not 
fight at all, especially if there was need of concerted 
action between two or three. The American papers 
of the day are full of " glorious victories " gained by 
privateers over packets and Indiamen ; the British 
papers are almost as full of instances where the 
packets and Indiamen *' heroically repulsed " the 
privateers. As neither side ever chronicles a defeat, 

^ As when the Epervier, some little time before her own capture, 
took without resistance the Alfred, of Salem, mounting 16 long nines 
and having 108 men aboard. 

KAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 415 

and as the narration is apt to be decidedly figurative 
in character, there is very little hope of getting at 
the truth of such meetings ; so I have confined my- 
self to the mention of those cases where privateers, 
of either side, came into armed collision with regu- 
lar cruisers. We are then sure to find some au- 
thentic account. 

The privateer brig Chasseur, of Baltimore, Cap- 
tain Thomas Boyle, carried 16 long 12's, and had, 
when she left port, 1 15 men aboard. She made 18 
prizes on her last voyage, and her crew was thus 
reduced to less than 80 men ; she was then chased 
by the Barossa frigate, and threw overboard 10 of 
her long 12's. Afterward eight 9-pound carronades 
were taken from a prize, to partially supply the 
places of the lost guns ; but as she had no shot of 
the calibre of these carronades each of the latter was 
loaded with one 4-pound and one 6-pound ball, giving 
her a broadside of ^6 lbs. On the 26th of February, 
two leagues from Havana, the Chasseur fell in with 
the British schooner St. Lawrefice, Lieut. H. C. Gor- 
don, mounting twelve 12-pound carronades, and one 
long 9; her broadside was thus 81 lbs., and she had 
between 60 and 80 men aboard.' The Chasseur mis- 
took the St. Lazvrence for a merchant-man and closed 
with her. The mistake was discovered too late to es- 
cape, even had such been Captain Boyle's intention, 

^ Letter of Captain Thomas Boyle, of March 2, 1815 (see Niles and 
Coggeshall) ; he says the schooner had two more carronades ; I have 
taken the number given by James (p. 539). Captain Boyle says the 
St. Lawrence had on board 89 men and several more, including a 
number of soldiers and marines and gentlemen of the navy, as pas- 
sengers ; James says her crew amounted to 5r "exclusive of some 
passengers," which I suppose must mean at least nine men. So the 
forces were pretty equal ; the Chasseur may have had 20 men more 
or 10 men less than her antagonist, and she threw from 5 to 21 lbs. 
less weight of shot. 

41 6 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

and a brief but bloody action ensued. At 1.26 P. M., 
the St. Laivrcncc fired the first broadside, within 
pistol shot, to which the Chasseur replied with her 
great guns and musketry. The brig then tried to 
close, so as to board ; but having too much way on, 
shot ahead under the lee of the schooner, which put 
her helm up to wear under the CJiasseitr s stern. 
Boyle, however, followed his antagonist's manoeuvre, 
and the two vessels ran along side by side, the St. 
Laivrence drawing ahead, while the firing was very 
heavy. Then Captain Boyle put his helm a star- 
board and ran his foe aboard, when in the act of 
boarding, her colors were struck at 1.41 P. M., 15 
minutes after the first shot. Of the CJiasscttr s 
crew 5 were killed and 8 wounded, including Cap- 
tain Boyle slightly. Of the St. Lawrence s crew 6 
were killed and 17 (according to James 18) wounded. 
This was a very creditable action. The St. Law- 
rence had herself been an American privateer, called 
the Atlas, and was of 241 tons, or just 36 less than 
the Chasseitr. The latter could thus fairly claim 
that her victory was gained over a regular cruiser of 
about her own force. Captain Southcombe of the 
Lottery, Captain Reid of the Ge7ieral Armstrong, 
Captain Ordronaux of the Neufchatel, and Captain 
Boyle of the Chasseur, deserve as much credit as 
any regularly commissioned sea-officers. But it is a 
mistake to consider these cases as representing the 
average; an ordinar}/ privateer was, naturally 
enough, no match for a British regular cruiser of 
equal force. The privateers were of incalculable 
benefit to us, and inflicted enormous damage on the 
foe ; but in fighting they suffered under the same 
disadvantages as other irregular forces ; they were 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 417 

utterly unreliable. A really brilliant victory would 
be followed by a most extraordinary defeat. 

After the Constittition had escaped from Boston, 
as I have described, she ran to the Bermudas, cruised 
in their vicinity a short while, thence to Madeira, to 
the Bay of Biscay, and finally off Portugal, cruising 
for some time in sight of the Rock of Lisbon, Cap- 
tain Stewart then ran off southwest, and on Feb. 
20th, Madeira bearing W. S. W. 60 leagues,' the 
day being cloudy, with a light easterly breeze,^ at 
I P.M. a sail was made two points on the port bow ; 
and at 2 P.M., Captain Stewart, hauling up in chase, 
discovered another sail. The first of these was the 
frigate-built ship corvette Cyane^ Captain Gordon 
Thomas Falcon, and the second was the ship sloop 
Levant, Captain the Honorable George Douglass.^ 
Both were standing close hauled on the starboard 
tack, the sloop about 10 miles to leeward of the cor- 
vette. At 4 P.M. the latter began making signals 
to her consort that the strange sail was an enemy, 
and then made all sail before the wind to join the 
sloop. The ConstiUition bore up in chase, setting 
her top-mast, top-gallant, and royal studding-sails. 
In half an hour she carried away her main royal 
mast, but immediately got another prepared, and at 
5 o'clock began firing at the corvette with the two 
port-bow guns ; as the shot fell short the firing soon 
ceased. At 5.30 the Cyane got within hail of the 
Levant, and the latter's gallant commander expressed 
to Captain Gordon his intention of engaging the 

^ Letter of Captain Stewart to the Secretary of the Navy, May 20, 

^ Log of Constitution, Feb. 20, 1815. 
^ " Naval Chronicle," xxxiii, 466, 

41 8 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

American frigate. The two ships accordingly hauled 
up their courses and stood on the starboard tack ; 
but immediately afterward their respective captains 
concluded to try to delay the action till dark, so as 
to get the advantage of manoeuvring.' Accordingly 
they again set all sail and hauled close to the wind 
to endeavor to weather their opponent ; but finding 
the latter coming down too fast for them to succeed 
they again stripped to fighting canvas and formed 
on the starboard tack in head and stern line, the 
Levant about a cable's length in front of her con- 
sort. The American now had them completely 
under her guns and showed her ensign, to which chal- 
lenge the British ships replied by setting their colors. 
At 6.10 the Constitution ranged up to windward of 
the Cyane and Levant, the former on her port quarter 
the latter on her port bow, both being distant about 
250 yards from her'' — so close that the American 
marines were constantly engaged almost from the be- 
ginning of the action. The fight began at once, and 
continued with great spirit for a quarter of an hour, 
the vessels all firing broadsides. It was now moon- 
light, and an immense column of smoke formed 
under the lee of the Constitution, shrouding from 
sight her foes ; and, as the fire of the latter had al- 
most ceased. Captain Stewart also ordered his men 
to stop, so as to find out the positions of the ships. 
In about three minutes the smoke cleared, disclosing 

' " Naval Chronicle," xxxiii, 466. 

* Testimony sworn to by Lieutenant W. B. Shubrick and Lieu- 
tenant of Marines Archibald Henderson before Thomas Welsh, Jr., 
Justice of the Peace, Suffolk St., Boston, July 20, 18 15. The depo- 
sitions were taken in consequence of a report started by some of the 
British journals that the action began at a distance of f of a mile. 
All the American depositions were that all three ships began firiijg at 
once, when equidistant from each other about 250 yards, the marines 
being engaged almost the whole time. 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 419 

to the Americans the Levant dead to leeward on the 
port beam, and the Cyane luffing up for their port 
quarter. Giving a broadside to the sloop, Stewart 
braced aback his main and mizzen top-sails, with 
top-gallant sails set, shook all forward, and backed 
rapidly astern, under cover of the smoke, abreast 
the corvette, forcing the latter to fill again to avoid 
being raked. The firing was spirited for a few min- 
utes, when the Cyane s almost died away. The 
Levant bore up to wear round and assist her consort, 
but the Constitution filled her top-sails, and, shooting 
ahead, gave her two stern rakes, when she at once 
made all sail to get out of the combat. The Cyane 
was now discovered wearing, when the Constitution 
herself at once wore and gave her in turn a stern 
rake, the former luffing to and firing her port broad- 
side into the starboard bow of the frigate. Then, 
as the latter ranged up on her port quarter, she 
struck, at 6.50, just forty minutes after the be- 
ginning of the action. She was at once taken pos- 
session of, and Lieut. Hoffman, second of the Con- 
stitution, was put in command. Having manned 
the prize. Captain Stewart, at 8 o'clock, filled away 
after her consort. The latter, however, had only 
gone out of the combat to refit. Captain Douglass 
had no idea of retreat, and no sooner had he rove 
new braces than he hauled up to the wind, and came 
very gallantly back to find out his friend's condition. 
At 8.50 he met the Constitution, and, failing to 
weather her, the frigate and sloop passed each other 
on opposite tacks, exchanging broadsides. Finding 
her antagonist too heavy, the Levant then crov/ded 
all sail to escape, but was soon overtaken by the 
Constitution, and at about 9.30 the latter opened 

420 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

with her starboard bow-chasers, and soon afterward 
the British captain hauled down his colors. Mr. 
Ballard, first of the Constitution, was afterward put 
in command of the prize. *By one o'clock the ships 
were all in order again. 

The Constitution had been hulled eleven times, 
more often than in either of her previous actions, 
but her loss was mainly due to the grape and mus- 
ketry of the foe in the beginning of the fight.' The 
British certainly fired better than usual, especially 
considering the fact that there was much manoeu- 
vring, and that it was a night action. The Americans 
lost 3 men killed, 3 mortally, and 9 severely and 
slightly, wounded. The corvette, out of her crew 
of 180, had 12 men killed and 26 wounded, several 
mortally ; the sloop, out of 140, had 7 killed and 16 
wounded. The Constitution had started on her 
cruise very full-handed, with over 470 men, but 
several being absent on a prize, she went into bat- 
tle with about 4So.^ The prizes had suffered a good 
deal in their hulls and rigging, and had received 
some severe wounds in their masts and principal 
spars. The Cyane carried on her main-deck twenty- 
two 32-pound carronades, and on her spar-deck two 
long 12's, and ten i8-pounder carronades. The Le- 
vant carried, all on one deck, eighteen 32-pound 
carronades and two long 9's, together with a shifting 
i2-pounder. Thus, their broadside weight of metal 
was 763 pounds, with a total of 320 men, of whom 
61 fell, against the Constitution s 704 pounds and 
450 men, of whom 15 were lost; or, nominally, the 
relative force was lOO to 91, and the relative loss 

^ Deposition of her officers as before cited. 

^410 officers and seamen, and 41 marines, by her muster-roll of 
Feb. 19th. (The muster-rolls are preserved in the Treasury Depart- 
ment at Wasliington.) 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 42 1 

100 to 24. But the British guns were almost ex- 
clusively carronades which, as already pointed out 
in the case of the Essex and in the battle off Platts- 
burg, are no match for long guns. Moreover, the 
scantling of the smaller ships was, of course, by no 
means as stout as that of the frigate, so that the dis- 
parity of force was much greater than the figures 
would indicate, although not enough to account for 
the difference in loss. Both the British ships were 
ably handled, their fire was well directed, and the 
Levant in especial was very gallantly fought. 

As regards the Constitiition, "her manoeuvring was 
as brilliant as any recorded in naval annals," and it 
would have been simply impossible to surpass the 
consummate skill with which she was handled in the 
smoke, always keeping her antagonists to leeward, 
and, while raking both of them, not being once 
raked herself. The firing was excellent, considering 
the short time the ships were actually engaged, and 
the fact that it was at night. Altogether the fight 
reflected the greatest credit on her, and also on her 

^ There is no British official account of the action. James states 
that the entire British force was only 302 men of whom 12 were 
killed and 29 wounded. This is probably not based on any author- 
ity. Captain Stewart received on board 301 prisoners, of whom 42 
were wounded, several mortally. Curiously enough James also un- 
derestimates the American loss, making it only 12. He also says 
that many attempts were made by the Americans to induce the capt- 
ured British to desert, while the Constitiitiori s officers deny this un- 
der oath, before Justice Welsh, as already quoted, and state that, on 
the contrary, many of the prisoners offered to enlist on the frigate, 
but were all refused permission — as " the loss of the Chesapeake had 
taught us the danger of having renegades aboard." This denial, by 
the way, holds good f<^r all the similar statements made by James as 
regards the Guerriere, Macedonian, etc. He also states that a British 
court-martial found various counts against the Americans for harsh 
treatment, but all of these were specifically denied by the American 
officers, under oath, as already quoted. 

I have relied chiefly on Captain Stewart's narrative ; but partly (as 
to time, etc.) on the British account in the " Naval Chronicle." 

422 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

The merits of this action can perhaps be bet- 
ter appreciated by comparing it with a similar one 
that took place a few years before between a British 
sloop and corvette on the one side, and a French 
frigate on the other, and which is given in full by 
both James and Troude. Although these authors 
differ somewhat in the account of it, both agree 
that the Frenchman, the Nereidc, of 44 guns, on 
Feb. 14, 1 8 10, fought a long and indecisive battle 
with the Rainbozv of 26 and Avon of 18 guns, the 
British sloops being fought separately, in succession. 
The relative force was almost exactly as in the Con- 
stitution s fight. Each side claimed that the other 
fled. But this much is sure r the Co7istitution qvx- 
gaging the Cyanc and Levant together, captured 
both ; while the Nereidc, engaging the Rainbow and 
Avon separately, captured neither. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 423 

The three ships now proceeded to the Cape de 
Verds, and on March loth anchored in the harbor 
of Porto Praya, Island of San Jago. Here a mer- 
chant-brig was taken as a cartel, and a hundred of 
the prisoners were landed to help fit her for sea. 
The next day the weather was thick and foggy, 
with fresh breezes/ The first and second lieuten- 
ants, with a good part of the people, were aboard 
the two prizes. At five minutes past twelve, while 
Mr. Shubrick, the senior remaining lieutenant, was 
on the quarter-deck, the canvas of a large vessel 
suddenly loomed up through the haze, her hull be- 
ing completely hidden by the fog-bank. Her char- 
acter could not be made out ; but she was sailing 
close-hauled, and evidently making for the roads. 
Mr. Shubrick at once went down and reported the 
stranger to Captain Stewart, when that officer 
coolly remarked that it was probably a British 
frigate or an Indiaman, and directed the lieutenant 
to return on deck, call all hands, and get ready to 
go out and attack her.^ At that moment the can- 
vas of two other ships was discovered rising out of 
the fog astern of the vessel first seen. It was now 
evident that all three were heavy frigates.^ In fact, 
they were the Newcastle, 50, Captain Lord George 
Stewart ; Leander, 50, Captain Sir Ralph Collier, 
K. C. B., and Acasta, 40, Captain Robert Kerr, 
standing into Porto Praya, close-hauled on the 
starboard tack, the wind being light northeast by 
north.* Captain Stewart at once saw that his op- 
ponents were far too heavy for a fair fight, and, 

' Log of Constitution, March 11, 181 5. "^ Cooper, ii, 459. 

^ Letter of Lieutenani; Hoffman, April 10, 1815, 
* Marshall's " Naval Biography," ii, 535. 

424 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

knowing that the neutrality of the port would not 
be the slightest protection to him, he at once sig- 
nalled to the prizes to follow, cut his cable, and, in 
less than ten minutes from the time the first frigate 
was seen, was standing out of the roads, followed 
by Hoffmann and Ballard. Certainly a more satis- 
factory proof of the excellent training of both offi- 
cers and men could hardly be given than the rapidity, 
skill, and perfect order with which every thing was 
done. Any indecision on the part of the officers or 
bungling on the part of the men would have lost 
every thing. The prisoners on shore had manned a 
battery and delivered a furious but ill-directed fire 
at their retreating conquerors. The frigate, sloop, 
and corvette, stood out of the harbor in the order 
indicated, on the port tack, passing close under the 
east point, and a gunshot to windward of the Brit- 
ish squadron, according to the American, or about a 
league, according to the British, accounts. The 
Americans made out the force of the strangers cor- 
rectly, and their own force was equally clearly dis- 
cerned by the Acasta ; but both the Newcastle and 
Leander mistook the Cyane and Levant for frigates, 
a mistake similar to that once made by Com- 
modore Rodgers. The Constitution now crossed her 
top-gallant yards and set the foresail, main-sail, 
spanker, flying jib, and top-gallant sails ; and the 
British ships, tacking, made all sail in pursuit. The 
Newcastle was on the Constitution s lee quarter 
and directly ahead of the Leander^ while the Acasta 
was on the weather-quarter of the Newcastle. All 
six ships were on the port tack. The Constitution 
cut adrift the boats towing astern, and her log 
notes that at 12.50 she found she was sailing about 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 425 

as fast as the ships on her lee quarter, but that the 
Acasta was luffing into her wake and dropping 
astern. The log of the Acasta says, " We had 
gained on the sloops, but the frigate had gained on 
us." At 1. 10 the Cyane had fallen so far astern and 
to leeward that Captain Stewart signalled to Lieu- 
tenant Hoffman to tack, lest he should be cut off 
if he did not. Accordingly the lieutenant put about 
and ran off toward the northwest, no notice being 
taken of him by the enemy beyond an ineffectual 
broadside from the sternmost frigate. At 2.35 he was 
out of sight of all the ships and shaped his course 
for America, which he reached on April loth.^ At 
1.45 the Newcastle opened on the Constitution firing 
by divisions, but the shot all fell short, according to 
the American statements, about 200 yards, while 
the British accounts (as given in Marshall's '' Naval 
Biography ") make the distance much greater ; at any 
rate the vessels were so near that from the Constitu- 
tion the officers of the Newcastle could be seen stand- 
ing on the hammock nettings. But, very strangely, 
both the 50-gun ships apparently still mistook the 
Levant^ though a low, flush-decked sloop like the 
Hornet^ for the '' President, Congress, or Macedo- 
nian^' Captain Collier believing that the Constittition 
had sailed with two other frigates in company.^ By 
three o'clock the Levant had lagged so as to be in 
the same position from which the Cyane had just 
been rescued ; accordingly Captain Stewart signalled 
to her to tack, which she did, and immediately after- 
ward all three British ships tacked in pursuit. Be- 
fore they did so, it must be remembered the Acasta 

^Letter of Lieutenant Hoffman, April 10, 1815. 
' Marshall, ii, 533. 

426 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

had weathered on the Constitution, though left con- 
siderably astern, while the Newcastle and Leander 
had about kept their positions on her lee or star- 
board quarter ; so that if any ship had been de- 
tached after the Levant it should have been the 
Leander, which had least chance of overtaking the 
American frigate. The latter was by no means as 
heavily armed as either of the two 50's, and but 
little heavier than the Acasta ; moreover, she was 
shorthanded, having manned her two prizes. The 
Acasta, at any rate, had made out the force of the 
Levant, and, even had she been a frigate, it was cer- 
tainly carrying prudence to an extreme to make 
more than one ship tack after her. Had the New- 
castle and Acasta kept on after the Coiistitution there 
was a fair chance of overtaking her, for the Acasta 
had weathered on her, and the chase could not bear 
up for fear of being cut off by the Newcastle. At 
any rate the pursuit should not have been given up 
so early. Marshall says there was a mistake in the 
signalling. The British captains certainly bungled 
the affair ; even James says (p. 558) : "It is the most 
blundering piece of business recorded in these six 
volumes." As for Stewart and his men, they de- 
sej-ve the highest credit for the cool judgment and 
prompt, skilful seamanship they had displayed. The 
Constitntion, having shaken off her pursuers, sailed 
to Maranham, where she landed her prisoners. At 
Porto Rico she learned of the peace, and forthwith 
made sail for New York, reaching it about the mid- 
dle of May. 

As soon as he saw Captain Stewart's signal, Lieu- 
tenant Ballard had tacked, and at once made for the 
anchorage at Porto Prayo, which he reached, though 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 427 

pursued by all his foes, and anchored within 150 
yards of a heavy battery.' The wisdom of Captain 
Stewart's course in not trusting to the neutrality of 
the port, now became evident. The Acasta opened 
upon the sloop as soon as the latter had anchored, 
at 4.30^ The Newcastle, as soon as she arrived, also 
opened, and so did the Leander, while the British 
prisoners on shore fired the guns of the battery. 
Having borne this combined cannonade for 15 min- 
utes,^ the colors of the Levant were hauled down. 
The unskilful firing of the British ships certainly 
did not redeem the blunders previously made by 
Sir George Collier, for the three heavy frigates dur- 
ing 15 minutes* broadside practice in smooth water 
against a stationary and unresisting foe, did her but 
little damage, and did not kill a man. The chief 
effect of the fire was to damage the houses of the 
Portuguese town.* 

After the capture of the President, the Peacock, 
Captain Warrington, the Hornet, Captain Biddle, 
and Tom Bowline, brig, still remained in New York 
harbor. On the 22d of January a strong northwest- 
erly gale began to blow, and the American vessels, 
according to their custom, at once prepared to take 
advantage of the heavy weather and run by the 
blockaders. They passed the bar by daylight, under 
storm canvas, the British frigates lying to in the 
southeast being plainly visible. They were igno- 
rant of the fate of the President, and proceeded tow- 
ard Tristan d' Acunha, which was the appointed 

^Letter of Lieutenant Ballard, May 2, 1815. 

"^ Newcastle's log, as given by Marshall and James. 

^ Ballard's letter. * James, vi, 551. 

428 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

rendezvous. A few days out the Hornet parted 
company from the two others ; these last reached 
Tristan d' Acunha about March i8th, but were driven 
off again by a gale. The Hornet reached the island 
on the 23d, and at half-past ten in the morning, the 
wind being fresh S.S.W., when about to anchor off 
the north point, a sail was made in the southeast, 
steering west.^ This was the British brig-sloop Pen- 
guin, Captain James Dickenson. She was a new 
vessel, having left port for the first time in Septem- 
ber, 1 8 14. While at the Cape of Good Hope she 
had received from Vice-Admiral Tyler 12 marines 
from the Medway, 74, increasing her complement to 
132; and was then despatched on special service 
against a heavy American privateer, the Young 
Wasp, which had been causing great havoc among 
the homeward-bound Indiamen. 

When the strange sail was first seen Captain Bid- 
die was just letting go his top-sail sheets ; he at once 
sheeted them home, and, the stranger being almost 
instantly shut out by the land, made all sail to the 
west, and again caught sight of her. Captain Dick- 
enson now, for the first time, saw the American 
sloop, and at once bore up for her. The position of 
the two vessels was exactly the reverse of the Wasp 
and Frolic, the Englishman being to windward. The 
Hor7iet hove to, to let her antagonist close ; then 
she filled her maintop-sail and continued to yaw, 
wearing occasionally to prevent herself from being 
raked. At forty minutes past one the Penguin, be- 
ing within musket-shot, hauled to the wind on the 
starboard tack, hoisted a St. George's ensign and 

^ Letter from Captain Biddie to Commodore Decatur, Mar. 25, 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 429 

fired a gun. The Hornet luffed up on the same 
tack, hoisting American colors, and the action began 
with heavy broadsides. The vessels ran along thus 
for 15 minutes, gradually coming closer together, 
and Captain Dickenson put his helm aweather, to 
run his adversary aboard. At this moment the 
brave young officer received a mortal wound, and 
the command devolved on the first lieutenant, Mr. 
McDonald, who endeavored very gallantly to carry 
out his commander's intention, and at 1.56 the Pen- 
guin s bowsprit came in between the Hornet's main- 
and mizzen-rigging on the starboard side. The 
American seamen had been called away, and were 
at their posts to repel boarders, but as the British 
made no attempt to come on, the cutlass men began 
to clamber into the rigging to go aboard the brig. 
Captain Biddle very coolly stopped them, " it being 
evident from the beginning that our fire was greatly 
superior both in quickness and effect." There was 
a heavy sea running, and as the Hornet forged ahead, 
the Penguin's bowsprit carried away her mizzen 
shrouds, stern davits, and spanker boom ; and the 
brig then hung on her starboard quarter, where only 
small arms could be used on either side. An English 
officer now called out something which Biddle 
understood, whether correctly or not is disputed, to 
be the word of surrender ; accordingly he directed 
his marines to cease firing, and jumped on the taff- 
rail. At that minute two of the marines on the 
Penguin s forecastle, not 30 feet distant, fired at him, 
one of the balls inflicting a rather severe wound in 
his neck. A discharge of musketry from the Hornet 
at once killed both the marines, and at that moment 
the ship drew ahead. As the vessels separated the 

430 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Penguitis foremast went overboard, the bowsprit 
breaking short off. The Hornet at once wore, to 
present a fresh broadside, while the Penguin s dis- 
abled condition prevented her following suit, and 
having lost a third of her men killed and wounded 
(14 of the former and 28 of the latter), her hull be- 
mg riddled through and through, her foremast gone, 
inain-mast tottering, and most of the guns on the 
engaged side dismounted, she struck her colors at 
two minutes past two, twenty-two minutes after the 
first gun was fired. Of the Hornefs 150 men, 8 
were absent in a prize. By actual measurement she 
was two feet longer and slightly narrower than her 
antagonist. Her loss was almost entirely caused by 
musketry, amounting to I marine killed, i seaman 
mortally wounded, and Captain Biddle, Lieutenant 


I. 'J-0 




\...|7/2V ^-^-^ HORNET 

Conner, and seven seamen wounded slightly. Not 
a round shot struck the hull, nor was a mast or spar 
materially injured, but the rigging and sails were a 
good deal cut, especially about the fore and main 
top-gallant masts. The Hornefs crew had been suf- 
fering much from sickness, and 9 of the men were 
unable to be at quarters, thus reducing the vessels 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 43 1 

to an exact equality. Counting in these men, and 
excluding the 8 absent in a prize, we get as 


Tonnage. No. Guns. Metal. Crew. Loss. 

Hornet 4S0 10 279 142^ ii 

Penguin 477 10 274 132 42 

Or, the force being practically equal, the Hornet in= 
flicted fourfold the loss and tenfold the damage she 
suffered. Hardly any action of the war reflected 
greater credit on the United States marine than 
this ; for the cool, skilful seamanship and excellent 
gunnery that enabled the Americans to destroy an 
antagonist of equal force in such an exceedingly 
short time. The British displayed equal bravery, 
but were certainly very much behind their antago- 
nists in the other qualities which go to make up a 
first-rate man-of-warsman. Even James says he 
'' cannot offer the trifling disparity of force in this 

^This number of men is probably too great ; I have not personally 
examined the Hornet's muster-roll for that period. Lieutenant Em- 
mons in his " History," gives her 132 men ; but perhaps he did not 
include the nine sick, which would make his statement about the 
same as mine. In response to my inquiries, I received a very kind 
letter from the Treasury Department (Fourth Auditor's office), which 
stated that the muster-roll of the Hornet on this voyage showed " loi 
officers and crew (marines excepted)." Adding the 20 marines would 
make but 121 in all. I think there must be some mistake in this, 
and so have considered the Hornet's crew as consisting originally of 
150 men, the same as on her cruises in 1S12. 

The Penguin was in reality slightly larger than the Hornet, judg- 
ing from the comparisons made in Biddle's letter (for the original of 
which see in the Naval Archives, " Captains' Letters," vol 42, No. 
112). He says that the Pejtgtiin, though two feet shorter on deck 
than the Hornet, had a greater length of keel, a slightly greater 
breadth of beam, stouter sides, and higher bulwarks, with swivels on 
the capstan and tops, and that she fought both her " long 12's" on 
the same side. I have followed James, however, as regards this ; he 
says her short guns were 6-pounders, and that but one was fought on 
a side. 

432 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

action as an excuse for the Penguiii s capture. The 
chief cause is " ^'^ "^ the immense disparity be- 
tween the two vessels in * "^ ^ the effectiveness 
of their crews." ' 

The Penguin was so cut up by shot that she had 
to be destroyed. After the stores, etc., had been 
taken out of her, she was thoroughly examined 
(Captain Biddle, from curiosity, taking her measure- 
ments in comparison with those of the Hornet). 
Her destruction was hastened on account of a 
strange sail heaving in sight ; but the latter proved 
to be the Peacock, with the Tom Bowline in com- 
pany. The latter was now turned to account by 
being sent in to Rio de Janeiro as a cartel with the 
prisoners. The Peacock and Hornet remained about 
the island till April 13th, and then, giving up all 
hopes of seeing the President, and rightly supposing 
she had been captured, started out for the East 

^ After the action but one official account, that of Captain Biddle, 
was published ; none of the letters of the defeated British com- 
manders were published after 1813. As regards this action, every 
British writer has followed James, who begins his account thus: 
" Had the vessel in sight to windward been rigged with three masts 
instead of two, and had she proved to be a British cruiser. Captain 
Biddle would have marked her down in his log as a 'frigate,' and 
have made off' with all the canvas he could possibly spread. Had 
the ship overtaken the Hornet and been in reality a trifle superior in 
force. Captain Biddle, we have no doubt, would have exhausted his 
eloquence in lauding the blessings of peace before he tried a struggle 
for the honors of war." After this preface (which should be read 
in connection with the Hornet's unaccepted challenge to the Bonne 
Citoyenne, a ship "a trifle superior in force") it can be considered 
certain that James will both extenuate and also set down a good deal 
in malice. One instance of this has already been given in speaking 
of the President's capture. Again, he says, "the Hoi-net received 
several round shot in her hull," which she did — a month after this 
action, from the Corniuallis, 74 ; James knew perfectly well that not 
one of the Pengimis shot hit the Hornefs hull. The quotations I 
have given are quite enough to prove that nothing he says about the 
action is worth attending to. The funniest part of his account is 
where he makes Captain Biddle get drunk, lose his " native cunning," 
and corroborate his (James') statements. He does not even hint at 
the authority for this. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 433 

Indies. On the 27th of the month, in lat. 38°3o' S. 
and long. 33° E./ the Peacock signalled a stranger in 
the S.E., and both sloops crowded sail in chase. 
The next morning they came down with the wind 
aft from the northwest, the studding-sails set on 
both sides. The new 22-gun sloops were not only 
better war-vessels, but faster ones too, than any 
other ships of their rate ; and the Peacock by after- 
noon was two leagues ahead of the Hornet, At 2 
P.M. the former was observed to manifest some hes- 
itation about approaching the stranger, which in- 
stead of avoiding had rather hauled up toward 
them. All on board the Hornet thought her an 
Indiaman, and " the men began to wonder what 
they would do with the silks," when, a few minutes 
before four, the Peacock signalled that it was a line- 
of-battle ship, which reversed the parts with a ven- 
geance. Warrington's swift ship was soon out of 
danger, while Biddle hauled close to the wind on 
the port tack, with the Cornwallis, 74, bearing the 
flag of Admiral Sir George Burleton, K.C.B.,' in hot 
pursuit, two leagues on his lee quarter. The 74 
gained rapidly on the Hornet, although she stopped 
to pick up a marine who had fallen overboard. 
Finding he had to deal with a most weatherly craft, 
as well as a swift sailer, Captain Biddle, at 9 P.M., be- 
gan to lighten the Horjiet of the mass of stores 
taken from the Penguin. The Cornwallis gained 
still, however, and at 2 A.M. on the 29th was ahead 
of the Horrufs lee or starboard beam, v/hen the 
sloop put about and ran off toward the west. Day- 
light showed the 74 still astern and to leeward, but 

^ Letter of Captain Biddle, June loth, and extracts from her log. 
'^ James, vi, 564. 

434 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

having gained so much as to be within gunshot^ 
and shortly afterward she opened fire, her shot 
passing over the Hornet. The latter had recourse 
anew to the lightening process. She had already 
hove overboard the sheet-anchor, several heavy 
spare spars, and a large quantity of shot and bal- 
last ; the remaining anchors and cables, more shot, 
six guns, and the launch now followed suit, and, 
thus relieved, the Hornet passed temporarily out of 
danger ; but the breeze shifted gradually round to 
the east, and the liner came looming up till at noon 
she was within a mile, a shorter range than that at 
which the United States crippled and cut up the 
Macedonian ; and had the Cornwallis fire been half 
as well aimed as that of the States, it would have 
been the last of the Hornet. But the 74's guns were 
very unskilfully served, and the shot passed for the 
most part away over the chase, but three getting 
home. Captain Biddle and his crew had no hope 
of ultimate escape, but no one thought of giving 
up. All the remaining spare spars and boats, all 
the guns but one, the shot, and in fact every thing 
that could be got at, below or on deck, was thrown 
overboard. This increased the way of the Hornet, 
while the Cornwallis lost ground by hauling off to 
give broadsides, which were as ineffectual as the fire 
from the chase-guns had been. The Hornet now 
had gained a little, and managed to hold her own, 
and shortly afterward the pluck and skill of her 
crew' were rewarded. The shift in the wind had 
been very much against them, but now it veered 

^ It is perhaps worth noting that the accounts incidentally mention 
the fact that almost the entire crew consisted of native Americans, of 
whom quite a mimber had served as impressed seafuen on board British 
war-ships. James multiplies these threefold and sets them down as 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 435 

back again so as to bring them to windward ; and 
every minute, as it blew fresher and fresher, their 
chances increased. By dark the Cornwallis was well 
astern, and during the night the wind kept freshen- 
ing, blowing in squalls, which just suited the Hor- 
net, and when day broke the liner was hull down 
astern. Then, on the morning of the 30th, after 
nearly 48 hours' chase, she abandoned the pursuit. 
The Hornet was now of course no use as a cruiser, 
and made sail for New York, which she reached on 
June 9th. This chase requires almost the same 
comments as the last chase of the Constitiition. In 
both cases the American captains and their crews 
deserve the very highest praise for plucky, skilful 
seamanship ; but exactly as Stewart's coolness and 
promptitude might not have saved the Constitution 
had it not been for the blunders made by his an- 
tagonists, so the Hornet would have assuredly been 
taken, in spite of Biddle's stubbornness and resource, 
if the Cornwallis had not shown such unskilful gun- 
nery, which was all the more discreditable since she 
carried an admiral's flag. 

The Peacock was thus the only one left of the 
squadron originally prepared for the East Indies ; 
however, she kept on, went round the Cape of Good 
Hope, and cruised across the Indian Ocean, captur- 
ing 4 great Indiamen, very valuable prizes, manned 
by 291 men. Then she entered the Straits of Sunda, 
and on the 30th of June, off the fort of Anjier fell 
in with the East India Company's cruiser Nautilus, 
Lieut. Boyce, a brig of 180 (American measure- 
ment over 200) tons, with a crew of 80 men, and 
14 guns, 4 long 9's and ten 18-pound carronades.^ 

* "History of the Indian Navy," by Charles Rathbone Low (late 
lieutenant of the Indian Navy), London, 1877, p. 285. 

436 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

Captain Warrington did not know of the peace ; 
one of the boats of the Nautilus, however, with her 
purser, Mr. Bartlett, boarded him. Captain Warring- 
ton declares the latter made no mention of the 
peace, while Mr. Bartlett swears that he did before 
he was sent below. As the Peacock approached, 
Lieut. Boyce hailed to ask if she knew peace had 
been declared. Captain Warrington, according to 
his letter, regarded this as a ruse to enable the brig 
to escape under the guns of the fort, and commanded 
the lieutenant to haul down his colors, which the 
latter refused to do, and very gallantly prepared for 
a struggle with a foe of more than twice his strength. 
According to Captain Warrington, one, or, by the 
deposition of Mr. Bartlett,' two broadsides were 
then interchanged, and the brig surrendered, having 
lost 7 men, including her first lieutenant, killed and 
mortally wounded, and 8 severely or slightly wound- 
ed. Two of her guns and the sheet-anchor were 
disabled, the bends on the starboard side complete- 
ly shivered from aft to the forechains, the bulwarks 
from the chess-tree aft much torn, and the rigging 
cut to pieces.^ The Peacock did not suffer the slight- 
est loss or damage. Regarding the affair purely as 
a conflict between vessels of nations at war with 
each other, the criticism made by Lord Howard 
Douglass on the action between the President and 
Little Belt applies here perfectly. '' If a vessel meet 
an enemy of even greatly superior force, it is due to 
the honor of her flag to try the effect of a few 
rounds ; but unless in this gallant attempt she leave 
marks of her skill upon the larger body, while she, 

^ As quoted by Low. 

^ Letter of Lieut. Boyce to Company's Marine Board, as quoted by 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 437 

the smaller body, is hit at every discharge, she does 
but salute her enemy's triumph and discredit her own 
gunnery." ' There could not have been a more sat- 
isfactory exhibition of skill than that given by Cap- 
tain Warrington ; but I regret to say that it is diffi- 
cult to believe he acted with proper humanity. It 
seems impossible that Mr. Bartlett did not mention 
that peace had been signed ; and when the opposing 
force was so much less than his own it would have 
been safe at least to defer the order " haul down 
your flag "for a short time, while he could have kept 
the brig within half pistol-shot, until he could have 
inquired into the truth of the report. Throughout 
this work I have wherever possible avoided all ref- 
erences to the various accusations and recrimina- 
tions of some of the captains about " unfairness," 
" cruelty," etc., as in most cases it is impossible to 
get at the truth, the accounts flatly contradicting 
one another. In this case, however, there certainly 
seems some ground for the rather fervent denunci- 
ations of Captain Warrington indulged in by Lieut. 
Low. But it is well to remember that a very similar 
affair, with the parties reversed, had taken place but 
a few months before on the coast of America. This 
was on Feb. 22d, after the boats of the Erebus^ 20, 
and Primrose, 18, under Captains Bartholomew and 
Phillot, had been beaten off with a loss of 30 men 
(including both captains wounded), in an expedition 
up St. Mary's River, Ga. The two captains and 
their vessels then joined Admiral Cockburn at Cum- 
berland Island, and on the 25th of February were 
informed officially of the existence of peace. Three 
weeks afterward the American gunboat. No. 168, 
^ " Naval Gunnery," p. 3. 

438 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

Mr. Hurlburt, sailed from Tybee Bar, Ga., bearing 
despatches for the British admiral.' On the same 
day in the afternoon she fell in with the Erebus, Cap- 
tain Bartholomew. Peace having been declared, and 
having been known to exist for over three weeks, 
no effort was made to avoid the British vessel; but 
when the gunboat neared the latter she was suddenly 
hailed and told to h.eave to. Mr. Hurlburt answered 
that he had dispatches for Admiral Cockburn, to 
which Captain Bartholomew responded, with many 
oaths, that he did not care, he would sink her if she 
did not send a boat aboard. When Mr. Hurlburt 
attempted to answer some muskets were discharged 
at him, and he was told to strike. He refused, and 
the Erebus immediately opened fire from her great 
guns ; the gunboat had gotten so far round that her 
pivot-gun would not bear properly, but it was dis- 
charged across the bows of \\i^ Erebus, ■SlX\(^ then Mr. 
Hurlburt struck his colors. Although he had lain 
right under the foe's broadside, he had suffered no 
loss or damage except a few ropes cut, and some 
shot-holes in the sails. Afterward Captain Barthol- 
omew apologized, and let the gunboat proceed. 

This attack was quite as wanton and unprovoked 
as Warrington's, and Bartholomew's foe was rela- 
tively to himself even less powerful ; moreover, 
while the Peacock's crew showed great skill in hand- 
ling their guns, the crew of the Erebus most emphati- 
cally did not. The intent in both cases was equally 
bad, only the British captain lacked the ability to 
carry his out. 

^ Letter from Com. Campbell to Sec. of Navy, Mar. 2g, 1815, in- 
cluding one from Sailing-master John H. Hurlburt of Mar, 18, 1S15, 
preserved in the Naval Archives, in vol. 43, No. 125, of " Captains' 
Letters." See also " Niles' Register," viii, 104, 118, etc. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 439 


The concluding operations of the war call for 
much the same comments as those of the preceding 
years. The balance of praise certainly inclines 
toward the Americans. Captain John Hayes' 
squadron showed great hardihood, perseverance and 
judgment, which were rewarded by the capture 
of the President ; and Decatur's surrender seems de- 
cidedly tame. But as regards the action between the 
President and Endyniio7i (taking into account the 
fact that the former fought almost under the guns 
of an overwhelming force, and was therefore obliged 
to expose herself far more than she otherwise would 
have), it showed nearly as great superiority on the 
side of the Americans as the frigate actions of 18 12 
did — in fact, probably quite as much as in the case 
of the Java, Similarly, while the Cyane and Levant 
did well, the Constitution did better ; and Sir George 
Collier's ships certainly did not distinguish them- 
selves when in chase of Old Ironsides. So with the 
Hornet in her two encounters ; no one can question 
the pluck with which the Penguin was fought, but 
her gunnery was as bad as that of the Cornwallis 
subsequently proved. And though the skirmish 
between the Peacock and Nautibis is not one to 
which an American cares to look back, yet, regard- 
ing it purely from a fighting stand-point, there is no 
question which crew was the best trained and most 

Name. Rate. Where Built. Cost. 

Washington 74 Portsmouth $235,861.00 

Independence 'J4 Boston 421,810.41 

440 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 



Where Built. 
















New York 




These ships first put to sea in this year. For the 
first time in her history the United States possessed 
line-of-battle ships ; and for the first time in all his- 
tory, the steam frigate appeared on the navy list of 
a nation. The Fulton^ with her clumsy central 
wheel, concealed from shot by the double hull, with 
such thick scantling that none but heavy guns could 
harm her, and relying for offensive weapons not on 
a broadside of thirty guns of small calibre, but on 
two pivotal lOO-pounder columbiads, or, perhaps, if 
necessary, on blows from her hog snout, — the Ftilton 
was the true prototype of the modern steam iron- 
clad, with its few heavy guns and ram. Almost as 
significant is the presence of the Torpedo. I have 
not chronicled the several efforts made by the 
Americans to destroy British vessels with torpedoes ; 
some very nearly succeeded, and although they 
failed it must not be supposed that they did no 
good. On the contrary, they made the British in 
many cases very cautious about venturing into good 
anchorage (especially in Long Island Sound and the 
Chesapeake), and by the mere terror of their name 
prevented more than one harrying expedition. The 
Fulton was not got into condition to be fought until 
just as the war ended ; had it continued a few 
months, it is more than probable that the deeds of 
the Merrimac and the havoc wrought by the Con- 
federate torpedoes would have been forestalled by 



nearly half a century. As it was, neither of these 
engines of war attracted much attention. For ten 
or fifteen years the Fulton was the only war-vessel 
of her kind in existence, and then her name disap- 
pears from our lists. The torpedoes had been tried 
in the Revolutionary War, but their failure pre- 
vented much notice from being taken of them, and, 
besides, at that time there was a strong feeling that 
it was dishonorable to blow a ship up with a pow- 
der-can concealed under the water, though highly 
laudable to burn her by means of a fire-raft floating 
on the water — a nice distinction in naval ethics that 
has since disappeared.* 


By Ocean Cruisers. 
Name. Guns. Tonnage. Remarks. 

President 52 1,576 captured by squadron. 

52 guns. 1,576 tons. 

a. — By Privateers. 



Tonnage. Remarks. 



240 by privateer -5"/. Lawre?ice. 


By Ocean Cruisers. 



659 by Constitution. 



500 retaken. 



85 guns 

477 by Hornet, 

, 1,876 tons. 


65 guns 

500 (subtracting Levant'). 

, 1,376 tons. 

^ James fairly foams at the mouth at the mere mention of torpedoes. 

442 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

In summing up the results of the struggle on the 
ocean it is to be noticed that very little was attempt- 
ed, and nothing done, by the American Navy that 
could materially affect the result of the war. Com- 
modore Rodgers' expedition after the Jamaica Plate 
fleet failed; both the efforts to get a small squadron 
into the East Indian waters also miscarried; and 
otherwise the whole history of the struggle on the 
ocean is, as regards the Americans, only the record 
of individual cruises and fights. The material re- 
sults were not very great, at least in their effect on 
Great Britain, whose enormous navy did not feel in 
the slightest degree the loss of a few frigates and 
sloops. But morally the result was of inestimable 
benefit to the United States. The victories kept 
up the spirits of the people, cast down by the de- 
feats on land ; practically decided in favor of the 
Americans the chief question in dispute — Great Brit- 
ain's right of search and impressment — and gave 
the navy, and thereby the country, a world-wide 
reputation. I doubt if ever before a nation gained 
so much honor by a few single-ship duels. For 
there can be no question which side came out of the 
war with the greatest credit. The damage inflicted 
by each on the other was not very unequal in 
amount, but the balance was certainly in favor of 
the United States, as can be seen by the following 
tables, for the details of which reference can be 
made to the various years : 

Caused :— Tonnage. 

By Ocean Cruisers 5,984 

^The tonnage can only be given approximately, as that of the ves- 
sels on Lake Champlaic is not exactly known, although we know 
about what the two fleets tonned relatively to one another. 



Tonnage. » Guns. 


8.4SI 351 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 443 





Caused :— 





On the Lakes 





By the Army 





By Privateers 



Total, 9.71S 431. 13,512 605 

In addition we lost 4 revenue-cutters, mounting 

24 guns, and, in the aggregate, of 387 tons, and also 

25 gun-boats, with 71 guns, and, in the aggregate of 
nearly 2,000 tons. This would swell our loss to 
12,105 tons, and 526 guns^ ; but the loss of the rev- 

^ This differs greatly from the figures given by James in his " Naval 
Occurrences" (App. ccxv). He makes the American loss 14,844 tons, 
and 660 guns. His list includes, for example, the " 6'r<?7<y/,?r and 
Hamilton, upset in carrying sail to avoid Sir James' fleet " ; it would 
be quite as reasonable to put down the loss of the Royal George to the 
credit of the French. Then he mentions the Julia and Growler, 
which were recaptured ; the Asp, which was also recaptured ; the 
" New York, 46, destroyed at Washington," which was «<?/ destroyed 
or harmed in any way, and which, moreover, was a condemned hulk ; 
the " ^^j-/^«, 42 (in reality 32), destroyed at Washington," which 
had been a condemned hulk for ten years, and had no guns or any- 
thing else in her, and was as much a loss to our navy as the fishing 
up and burning of an old wreck would have been ; and 8 gun-boats 
whose destruction was either mythical, or else which were not na- 
tional vessels. By deducting all these we reduce James' total by 120 
guns, and 2,600 tons ; and a few more alterations (such as excluding 
the swivels in the President'' s tops, which he counts, etc.), brings his 
number down to that given above — and also affords a good idea of the 
value to be attached to his figures and tables. The British loss he 
gives at but 530 guns and 10,273 tons. He omits the 24-gun ship 
burnt by Chauncy at York, although including the frigate and cor- 
vette burnt by Ross at Washington ; if the former is excluded the 
two latter should be, which would make the balance still more in 
favor of the Americans. He omits the guns of the Gloucester, ho.- 
cause they had been taken out of her and placed in battery on the 
shore, but he includes those of the Adams, which had been served in 
precisely the same way. He omits all reference to the British 14-gun 
schooner burnt on Ontario, and to all 3 and 4-gun sloops and schooners 
captured there, although including the corresponding American 
vessels. The reason that he so much underestimates the tonnage, 
especially on the lakes, I have elsewhere discussed. His tables of 
the relative loss in men are even more erroneous, exaggerating that 
of the Americans, and greatly underestimating that of the British ; 
but I have not tabulated this on account of the impossibility of get- 
ting fair estimates of the killed and wounded in the cutting-out ex- 

444 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

enue-cutters and gun-boats can fairly be considered 
to be counterbalanced by the capture or destruction 
of the various British Royal Packets (all armed with 
from 2 to lo guns), tenders, barges, etc., which would 
be in the aggregate of at least as great tonnage and 
gun force, and with more numerous crews. 

But the comparative material loss gives no idea 
of the comparative honor gained. The British navy, 
numbering at the outset a thousand cruisers, had 
accomplished less than the American, which num- 
bered but a dozen. Moreover, most of the loss suf- 
fered by the former was in single fight, while this 
had been but twice the case with the Americans, 
who had generally been overwhelmed by numbers. 
The President and Essex were both captured by 
more than double their force simply because they 
were disabled before the fight began, othervx^se they 
would certainly have escaped. With the exceptions 
of the Chesapeake and Argus (both of which were 
taken fairly, because their antagonists, though of 
only equal force, were better fighters), the remain- 
ing loss of the Americans was due to the small 
cruisers stumbling from time to time across the path 
of some one of the innumerable British heavy ves- 
sels. Had Congressional forethought been suffi- 

peditions, and the difficulty of enumerating the prisoners taken in 
descents, etc. Roughly, about 2,700 Americans and 3,800 British 
were captured ; the comparative loss in killed and wounded stood 
much more in our favor. 

I have excluded from the British loss the brigs Detroit and Cale- 
donia, and schooner Nancy (aggregating 10 guns and about 500 tons), 
destroyed on the upper lakes, because I hardly know whether they 
could be considered national vessels ; the schooner Highjlyer, of 8 
guns, 40 men, and 209 tons, taken by Rodgers, because she seems to' 
have been merely a tender ; and the Dominica, 15, of 77 men, and 270 
tons, because her captor, the privateer Decatur, though nominally an 
American, was really a French vessel. Of course both tables are 
only approximately exact ; but at any rate the balance of damage and 
loss was over 4 to 3 in our favor. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 445 

ciently great to have allowed a few line-of-battle 
ships to have been in readiness some time previous 
to the war, results of weight might have been ac- 
complished. But the only activity ever exhibited 
by Congress in materially increasing the navy pre- 
vious to the war, had been in partially carrying out 
President Jefferson's ideas of having an enormous 
force of very worthless gun-boats — ^a scheme whose 
wisdom was about on a par with some of that states- 
man's political and military theories. 

Of the twelve ' single-ship actions, two (those of 
the Argus and Chesapeake) undoubtedly redounded 
most to the credit of the British, in two (that of the 
Wasp with the Reindeer, and that of the Enterprise 
with the Boxer), the honors were nearly even, and 
in the other eight the superiority of the Americans 
was very manifest. In three actions (those with the 
Pengicin, Frolic, and Shafinon) the combatants were 
about equal in strength, the Americans having 
slightly the advantage ; in all the others but two, 
the victors combined superiority of force with superi- 
ority of skill. In but two cases, those of the Argus 
and Epervier, could any lack of courage be imputed 
to the vanquished. The second year alone showed 
to the advantage of the British ; the various en- 
counters otherwise were as creditable to the Amer- 
icans at the end as at the beginning of the war. 
This is worth attending to, because many authors 
speak as if the successes of the Americans were con- 

^ Not counting the last action of the Constitution, the President's 
action, or the capture of the Essex, on account of the difficulty of 
fairly estimating the amount of credit due to each side. In both the 
first actions, however, the American ships seem to have been rather 
more ably fought than their antagonists, and, taking into account 
the overwhelming disadvantages under which ihe j£'j-j-^;c labored, her 
defence displayed more desperate bravery than did that of any other 
ship during the war. 

44^ NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

fined to the first year. It is true that no frigate 
was taken after the first year, but this was partly 
because the strictness of the blockade kept the 
American frigates more in port, while the sloops 
put out to sea at pleasure, and partly because after 
that year the British i8-pounder frigates either 
cruised in couples, or, when single, invariably re- 
fused, by order of the Board of Admiralty, an en- 
counter with a 24-pounder ; and though much of the 
American success was unquestionably to be attrib- 
uted to more men and heavier guns, yet much of it 
was not. The war itself gives us two instances in 
which defeat was owing solely, it may be said, to 
inferiority of force, courage and skill being equal. 
The lVas/> was far heavier than the Reindeer, and, 
there being nothing to choose between them in any 
thing else, the damage done was about proportionate 
to this difference. It follows, as a matter of course, 
that the very much greater disproportion in loss in 
the cases of the Avon, Epervier, etc., where the dis- 
proportion in force was much less (they mounting 
32's instead of 24's, and the victors being all of the 
same class), is only to be explained by the inferiority 
in skill on the part of the vanquished. These re- 
marks apply just as much to the Argus. The Rein- 
deer, with her 24's, would have been almost exactly 
on a par with her, and yet would have taken her 
with even greater ease than the Peacock did with 
her 32's. In other words, the only effect of our 
superiority in metal, men, and tonnage was to in- 
crease somewhat the disparity in loss. Had the 
Congress and Constellation, instead of the United 
States and Constitution, encountered the Macedonian 
and Java, the difference in execution would have 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 447 

been less than it was, but the result would have 
been unchanged, and would have been precisely such 
as ensued when the WasJ> met the Frolic, or the 
Hornet the Penguin. On the other hand, had the 
SJiannon met the Constitution there would have been 
a repetition of the fight between the Wasp and Rein- 
deer ; for it is but fair to remember that great as is 
the honor that Broke deserves, it is no more than 
that due to Manners. 

The Republic of the United States owed a great 
deal to the excellent make and armament of its 
ships, but it owed still more to the men who were 
in them. The massive timbers and heavy guns of 
Old Ironsides would have availed but little had it 
not been for her able commanders and crews. Of 
all the excellent single-ship captains, British or 
American, produced by the war, the palm should be 
awarded to Hull.' The deed of no other man (ex- 
cepting Macdonough) equalled his escape from 
Broke's five ships, or surpassed his half-hour's con- 
flict with the Guerriere. After him, almost all the 
American captains deserve high praise — Decatur, 
Jones, Blakely, Biddle, Bainbridge, Lawrence, Bur- 
rows, Allen, Warrington, Stewart, Porter. It is no 
small glory to a country to have had such men up- 
holding the honor of its flag. On a par with the 
best of them are Broke, Manners, and also Byron 
and Blythe. It must be but a poor-spirited Ameri- 
can whose veins do not tingle with pride when he 
reads of the cruises and fights of the sea-captains, 
and their grim prowess, which kept the old Yankee 
flag floating over the waters of the Atlantic for 

^ See " Naval Tactics," by Commander J. H. Ward, and " Life of 
Commodore Tatnall," by Charles C. Jones, Jr. 

448 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

three years, in the teeth of the mightiest naval 
power the world has ever seen ; but it is equally 
impossible not to admire Broke's chivalric challenge 
and successful fight, or the heroic death of the cap- 
tain of the Reindeer. 

Nor can the war ever be fairly understood by any 
one who does not bear in mind that the combatants 
were men of the same stock, who far more nearly 
resembled each other than either resembled any 
other nation. I honestly believe that the American 
sailor offered rather better material for a man-of- 
warsman than the British, because the freer institu- 
tions of his country (as compared with the Britain 
of the drunken Prince Regent and his dotard father 
— a very different land from the present free Eng- 
land) and the peculiar exigencies of his life tended 
to make him more intelligent and self-reliant ; but 
the difference, when there was any, was very small, 
and disappeared entirely when his opponents had 
been drilled for any length of time by men like 
Broke or Manners. The advantage consisted in the 
fact that our average commander was equal to the 
best, and higher than the average, of the opposing 
captains ; and this held good throughout the various 
grades of the officers. The American officers knew 
they had redoubtable foes to contend with, and 
made every preparation accordingly. Owing their 
rank to their own exertions, trained by practical ex- 
perience and with large liberty of action, they made 
every effort to have their crews in the most perfect 
state of skill and discipline. In Comrnodore Tat- 
nall's biography (p. 15) it is mentioned that the 
blockaded Constellation had her men well trained at 
the guns and at target practice, though still lying in 

NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 


the river, so as to be at once able to meet a foe 
when she put out to sea. The British captain, often 
owing his command to his social standing or to 
favoritism, hampered by red tape,' and accustomed 
by 20 years' almost uninterrupted success to regard 
the British arms as invincible, was apt to laugh at 
all manoeuvring,^ and scorned to prepare too care- 
fully for a fight, trusting to the old British '' pluck 
and luck " to carry him through. So, gradually he 
forgot how to manoeuvre or to prepare. The Java 
had been at sea six weeks before she was captured, 
yet during that time the entire exercise of her crew 
at the guns had been confined to the discharge of 
six broadsides of blank cartridges (James, vi, 184) ; 
the Constitution, like the Java, had shipped an en- 
tirely new and raw crew previous to her first cruise, 
and was at sea but five weeks before she met the 
Guerriere, and yet her men had been trained to per- 
fection. This is a sufificient comment on the com- 
parative merits of Captain Hull and Captain Lam- 
bert. The American prepared himself in every 
possible way ; the Briton tried to cope with courage 
alone against courage united to skill. His bad 
gunnery had not been felt in contending with Euro- 
pean foes^ as unskilful as himself. Says Lord How- 
ard Douglass (p. 3) : " We entered with too much 
confidence into a war with a marine much more ex- 
pert than any of our European enemies -^ * -J^- 

^ For instance, James mentions that they were forbidden to use 
more than so many shot in practice, and that Capt. Broke utterly dis- 
regarded this command. 

^ Lord Howard Douglass, " Naval Gunnery," states this in various 
places. — '* Accustomed to contemn all manoeuvring." 

^ Lord Howard Douglass ; he seems to think that in 1812 the 
British had fallen off absolutely, though not relatively to their Euro- 
pean foes. 

450 NAVAL WAR OF 1 8 12. 

there was inferiority of gunnery as well as of force," 
etc. Admiral Codrington, commenting on the 
Epervier s loss, says, as before quoted, that, owing 
to his being chosen purely for merit, the American 
captain was an overmatch for the British, unless 
" he encountered our best officers on equal terms." 
The best criticism on the war is that given by 
Capitaine Jurien de la Graviere.' After speaking of 
of the heavier metal and greater number of men of 
the American ships, he continues : '' And yet only 
an enormous superiority in the precision and rapidi- 
ty of their fire can explain the difference in the 
losses sustained by the combatants. -^^ -^^ - Nor 
was the skill of their gunners the only cause to 
which the Americans owed their success. Their 
ships were faster; the crews, composed of chosen 
men, manoeuvred with uniformity and precision ; 
their captains had that practical knowledge which 
is only to be acquired by long experience of the sea ; 
and it is not to be wondered at that the Constitution, 
when chased during three days by a squadron of 
five English frigates, succeeded in escaping, by sur- 
passing them in manoeuvring, and by availing her- 
self of every ingenious resource and skilful expedi- 
ent that maritime science could suggest. * * * 
To a marine exalted by success, but rendered neg- 
ligent by the very habit of victory, the Congress 
only opposed the best of vessels and most for- 
midable of armaments. * * ^"2- 

^ " Guerres Maritimes," li, p. 269, 272, 274 (Paris, 1847). 

"^ The praise should be given to the individual captains and not to 
Congress, however ; and none of the American ships had picked 
crews. During the war the Shannon had the only crew which could 
with any fairness be termed "picked," for her men had been to- 
gether seven years, and all of her "boys" must have been well- 
grown young men, much older than the boys on her antagonist. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 45 1 

It is interesting to compare the results of this in- 
ter-Anglian warfare, waged between the Insular and 
the Continental English, with the results of the con- 
test that the former v/ere at the same time carrying 
on with their Gallo-Roman neighbors across the 
channel. For this purpose I shall rely on Troude's 
'* Batailles Navales," which would certainly not give 
the English more than their due. His account of 
the comparative force in each case can be supple- 
mented by the corresponding one given in James. 
Under drawn battles I include all such as were inde- 
cisive, in so far that neither combatant was captured ; 
in almost every case each captain claimed that the 
other ran away. 

During the years 1812 to 181 5 inclusive, there 
were eight actions between French and English 
ships of approximately equal force. In three of 
these the English were victorious. 

In 1 8 12 the Victorious, 74, captured the Rivo/i, 74. 


Broadsides, Metal, lbs. 









In 1 8 14 the Tagiis captured the Ceres and the 
Hebrus captured the Etoile. 

Broadsides, Metal, lbs. 

Troude. James. 

Tagus 444 467 

Ceres 428 463 

Hebrus 467 467 

Etoile 428 463 

452 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

The Ceres^ when she surrendered, had but one 
man wounded, although she had suffered a good 
deal aloft. The fight between the 74's was murder- 
ous to an almost unexampled degree, 125 English 
and 400 French falling. The Hebrus lost 40 and 
the Etoile 120 men. 

Five actions were " drawn." 

In 1812 the Swallow fought the Renard and Gar- 
land. The former threw 262, the latter 290 lbs. of 
shot at a broadside. 

In 181 5 the Pilot, throwing 262 lbs., fought a draw 
with the Egerie throwing 260. 

In 1 8 14 two frigates of the force of the Tagus 
fought a draw with two frigates of the force of 
the Ceres ; and the Eurotas, with 24-pounders failed 
to capture the Chlorinde, which had only i8-pound- 

In 1815 the Amelia fought a draw with the 
Are'thuse, the ships throwing respectively 549 and 
463 lbs., according to the English, or 572 and 41a 
lbs., according to the French accounts. In spite of 
being superior in force the English ship lost 141 
men, and the French but 105. This was a bloodier 
fight than even that of the Chesapeake with the 
Shannon ; but the gunnery was, nevertheless, much 
worse than that shown by the two combatants in 
the famous duel off Boston harbor, one battle last- 
ing four hours and the other 15 minutes. 

There were a number of other engagements where 
the British were successful but where it is difificult 
to compare the forces. Twice a 74 captured or de- 
stroyed two frigates, and a razee performed a similar 
feat. An i8-gun brig, the Weasel, fought two 16- 
gun brigs till one of them blew up. 

NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 453 

The loss of the two navies at each other's hands 
during the four }-ears was: — 

English Ships. French Ships. 

I i6-gun brig 3 Hne-of-battle ships 

I i2-gun brig 11 frigates 

I lo-gun cutter 2 26-gun flutes 

2 i6-gun brigs 
I lo-gun brig 
many gun-boats, etc. 

Or one navy lost three vessels, mountincr 38 guns, 
and the other 19 vessels, mounting 830 guns. 

During the same time the English lost to the 
Danes one 14-gun brig, and destroyed in return 
a frigate of 46 guns, a 6-gun schooner, a 4-gun cutter, 
two galliots and several gun-brigs. 

In the above lists it is to be noticed how many 
of the engagements were indecisive, owing chiefly to 
the poor gunnery of the combatants. The fact that 
both the Eiirotas and the Amelia, though more 
powerfully armed and m^anned than the Hebrus, yet 
failed to capture the sister ships of the frigate taken 
by the latter, shows that heavy metal and a numer- 
ous crew are not the only elements necessary for 
success; indeed the Eurotas and Amelia were as 
superior in force to their antagonists as the Constitu- 
tion was to the Java. 

But the chief point to be noticed is the over- 
whelming difference in the damage the two navies 
caused each other. This difference was, roughly, 
as five to one against the Danes, and as fifty to one 
against the French ; while it was as four to three in 
favor of the American. These figures give some 
idea of the effectiveness of the various navies. At 

454 NAVAL WAR OF l8l2. 

any rate they show that we had found out what the 
European nations had for many years in vain striven 
to discover — a way to do more damage than we re- 
ceived in a naval contest with England. 


IN 1812-15. 

According to Act of Congress (quoted in '^ Niles' 
Register," iv, 64), the way of measuring double-decked 
or war-vessels was as follows : 

" Measure from fore-part of main stem to after-part of 
stern port, above the upper deck ; take the breadth 
thereof at broadest part above the main wales, one half of 
which breadth shall be accounted the depth. Deduct 
from the length three fifths of such breadth, multiply the 
remainder by the breadth and the product by the depth ; 
divide by 95 ; the quotient is tonnage." 

{/. e., If length = x, and breadth = y ; 
Tonnage = (x — | y) X y X j y.) 


Niles states that the British mode, as taken from Steele's 
" Shipmaster's Assistant," was this : Drop plumb-line 
over stem of ship and measure distance between such 
line and the after part of the stern port at the load water- 
mark ; then measure from top of said plumb-line in 
parallel direction with the water to perpendicular point 
immediately over the load water-mark of the fore part of 
main stem ; subtract from such admeasurement the 
above distance ; the remainder is ship's extreme length, 
from which deduct 3 inches for every foot of the load- 
draught of water for the rake abaft, and also three fifths 
of the ship's breadth for the rake forward ; remainder is 
length of keel for tonnage. Breadth shall be taken from 
outside to outside of the plank in broadest part of the 



ship either above or below the main wales, exclusive 
of all manner of sheathing or doubling. Depth is to 
be considered as one half the length. Tonnage will 
then be the length into the depth into breadth, divided by 

Tonnage was thus estimated in a purely arbitrary man- 
ner, with no regard to actual capacity or displacement ; 
and, moreover, what is of more importance, the British 
method differed from the American so much that a ship 
measured in the latter way would be nominally about 15 
per cent, larger than if measured by British rules. This 
is the exact reverse of the statement made by the British 
naval historian, James. His mistake is pardonable, 
for great confusion existed on the subject at that time, 
even the officers not knowing the tonnage of their own 
ships. When the Preside?it was captured, her officers 
stated that she measured about 1,400 tons ; in reality she 
tonned 1,576, American measure. Still more singular 
was the testimony of the officers of the A?'gus, who 
thought her to be of about 350 tons, while she was 
of 298, by American, or 244, by British measure- 
ment. These errors were the more excusable as 
they occurred also in higher quarters. The earliest 
notice we have about the three 44-gun frigates of the 
Constitutioti s class, is in the letter of Secretary of the 
Navy, Benjamin Stoddart, on Dec. 24, 1798,' where they 
are expressly said to be of 1,576 tons; and this tonnage 
is given them in every navy list that mentions it for 40 
years afterward ; yet Secretary Paul Hamilton in one of 
his letters incidentally alludes to them as of 1,444 tons. 
Later, I think about the year 1838, the method of measur- 
ing was changed, and their tonnage was put down as 
1,607. James takes the American tonnage from Secre- 
tary Hamilton's letter as 1,444, and states (vol. vi, p. 5), 
that this is equivalent to 1,533 tons, English. But in 

^ " American State Papers," xiv, 57. 


reality, by American measurement, the tonnage was 
1,576 ; so that even according to James' own figures the 
British way of measurement made the frigate 43 tons 
smaller than the American way did ; actually the difference 
was nearer 290 tons, James' statements as to the size of our 
various ships would seem to have been largely mere guess- 
work, as he sometimes makes them smaller and sometimes 
larger than they were according to the official navy lists. 
Thus, the Constittitiofi^ F7'esident, and United States, each 
of 1,576, he puts down as of 1,533 ; tlie Wasp, of 450, as 
of 434 ; the Hornet, of 480, as of 460 ; and the Chesapeake, 
of 1,244, as of 1,135 tons. On the other hand the Enter- 
prise, of 165 tons, he states to be of 245 ; the Argus of 
298, he considers to be of 316, and the Peacock, Frolic, 
etc., of 509 each, as of 539. He thus certainly adopts 
different standards of measurement, not only for the 
American as distinguished from the British vessels, but 
even among the various American vessels themselves. 
And there are other difficulties to be encountered ; not 
only were there different ways of casting tonnage from 
given measurements, but also there were different ways 
of getting what purported to be the same measurement. 
A ship, that, according to the British method of measure- 
ment was of a certain length, would, according to the 
American method, be about 5 per cent, longer ; and so if 
two vessels were the same size, the American would have 
the greatest nominal tonnage. For example, James in 
his " Naval Occurrences " (p. 467) gives the length of the 
Cyanes main deck as 118 feet 2 inches. This same 
Cyane was carefully surveyed and measured, under orders 
from the United States navy department, by Lieut. B. F. 
Hoffman, and in his published report' he gives, among 
the other dimensions : "Length of spar-deck, 124 feet 9 
inches," and "length of gun-deck 123 feet 3 inches." 
With such a difference in the wav of taking measure- 
^ "American State Papers," xiv, p. 417. 


ments, as well as of computing tonnage from the measure- 
ments when taken, it is not surprising that according to 
the American method the Cyane should have ranked as 
of about 659 tons, instead of 539. As James takes no 
account of any of these differences I hardly know how to 
treat his statements of comparative tonnage. Thus he 
makes the Hornet 460 tons, and the Peacock and Pefiguin, 
which she at different times captured, about 388 each. 
As it happens both Captain Lawrence and Captain 
Biddle, who commanded the Hornet in her two success- 
ful actions, had their prizes measured. The Peacock 
sank so rapidly that Lawrence could not get very accu- 
rate measurements of her ; he states her to be four feet 
shorter and half a foot broader than the Hornet. The 
British naval historian, Brenton (vol, v, p. in), also states 
that they were of about the same tonnage. But we have 
more satisfactory evidence from Captain Biddle. He 
stayed by his prize nearly two days, and had her thor- 
oughly examined in every way ; and his testimony is, of 
course, final. He reports that the Penguin was by 
actual measurement two feet shorter, and somewhat 
broader than the Hornet, and with thicker scantling. 
She tonned 477, compared to the Hornefs 480 — a differ- 
ence of about one half of one per cent. This testimony is 
corroborated by that of the naval inspectors who examined 
the Epervier after she was captured by the Peacock. 
Those two vessels were respectively of 477 and 509 tons, 
and as such they ranked on the navy lists. The Ameri- 
can Peacock and her sister ships were very much longer 
than the brig sloops of the Epervier s class, but were no 
broader, the latter being very tubby. All the English 
sloops were broader in proportion than the American 
ones were ; thus the Levant^ which was to have mounted 
the same number of guns as the Peacock^ had much more 
beam, and was of greater tonnage, although of rather less 
length. The Macedonian^ when captured, ranked on our 


lists as of 1,325 tons/ the United States as of 1,576 ; and 
they thus continued until, as I have said before, the 
method of measurement was changed, when the former 
ranked as of 1,341, and the latter as of 1,607 tons. 
James, however, makes them respectively 1,081, and 
I5533* Now to get the comparative force he ought to 
have adopted the first set of measurements given, or else 
have made them 1,081 and 1,286. Out of the twelve 
single-ship actions of the war, four were fought with 2i'^- 
gun frigates like the Macedonian, and seven with i8-gun 
brig sloops of the Eperviers class ; and as the Macedonia?i 
and Epervier were both regularly rated in our navy, we 
get a very exact idea of our antagonists in those eleven 
cases. The twelfth was the fight between the Enterprise 
and the Boxer, in which the latter was captured ; the 
Enterprise was apparently a little smaller than her foe, 
but had two more guns, which she carried in her bridle 

As my purpose in giving the tonnage is to get it com- 
paratively, and not absolutely, I have given it throughout 
for both sides as estimated by the American method of 
that day. The tonnage of the vessels on the lakes has 
been already noticed. 



Very few students of naval history will deny that in 

181 2 the average American ship was superior to the 

average British ship of the same strength ; and that the 

latter was in turn superior to the average French ship. 

The explanation given by the victor is in each case the 

^ See the work of Lieutenant Emmons, who had access to all the 
official records. 


same ; the American writer ascribes the success of his 
nation to " the aptitude of the American character for 
the sea," and the Briton similarly writes that '' the 
English are inherently better suited for the sea than the 
French." Race characteristics may have had some little 
effect between the last pair of combatants (although 
only a little), and it is possible that they somewhat 
affected the outcome of the Anglo-American struggle, 
but they did not form the main cause. This can best be 
proved by examining the combats of two preceding 
periods, in which the English, French, and Americans 
were at war with one another. 

During the years 1 798-1800, the United States carried 
on a desultory conflict with France, then at war with 
England, Our navy was just built, and was rated in the 
most extraordinary manner ; the CJiesapeake, carrying 
i8-pounders, was called a 44 ; and the Co7istcllation^ 
which carried 24's, a 36, while the Washington, rating 
24, was really much heavier than the Boston, rating 28. 
On Feb. 9, 1799, after an hour's conflict, the Constellatio?i 
captured the French frigate Insurgente ; the Americans 
lost 3, the French 70 men, killed and wounded. The 
Constitution carried but 38 guns ; 28 long 24's, on the 
main-deck, and 10 long 12's on the qurter-deck, with a 
crew of 309 men. According to Troude (iii, 169), 
r I?isurge7ite carried 26 long 12's, 10 long 6's, and 4 
36-pound carronades ; the Americans report her number 
of men as nearly four hundred. Thus in actual ^ (not 

' French shot was really very much heavier than the nominally 
corresponding English shot, as the following table, taken from Cap- 
tain T. L. Simmon's work on " Heavy Ordnance" (London, 1837, p. 
62) will show : 

Actual Wei{?ht of Same Shot in 
English Pounds. 

linal French 
of Shot. 


36 lbs. 

24 '• 

18 " 

12 " 

43 lbs. 

4 oz. 

28 " 

8| '« 

21 " 

4i " 

14 " 

7 '* 


nominal) weight of shot the Constellation was superior by 
about 80 pounds, and was inferior in crew by from 50 to 
100 men. This would make the vessels apparently 
nearly equal in force ; but of course the long 24's of the 
Co7istellation made it impossible that rinsurge?ite, armed 
only with long 12's, should contend with her. As 
already said, a superiority in number of men makes very 
little difference, provided each vessel has ample to 
handle the guns, repair damages, work the sails, etc. 
Troude goes more into details than any other French 
historian ; but I think his details are generally wrong. 
In this case he gives the Constellation 12's, instead of the 
24's she really carried ; and also supplies her with 10 
32-pound carronades — of which species of ordnance 
there was then not one piece in our navy. The first 
carronades we ever had were those carried by the same 
frigate on her next voyage. She had completely changed 
her armament, having 28 long i8's on the main-deck, ten 
24-pound carronades on the quarter-deck ; and, I believe, 
6 long 12's on the forecastle, with a crew of 310 men. 
Thus armed, she encountered and fought a drawn battle 
with la Vengeance. Troude (vol. iii, pp. 201, and 216) 
describes the armament of the latter as 26 long i8's, 
10 long 8's, and 4 36-pound carronades. On board of 
her was an American prisoner, James Howe, who swore 
she had 52 guns, and 400 men (see Cooper, i, 306). 
The French and American accounts thus radically disa- 
gree. The point is settled definitely by the report of the 
British captain Milne, who, in the Seine frigate captured 
la Vengeance in the same year, and then reported her 
armament as being 28 long i8's, 16 long 12's, and 8 
36-pound carronades, with 326 men. As the American 
and British accounts, written entirely independently of 
one another, tally almost exactly, it is evident that 
Troude was very greatly mistaken. He blunders very 
much over the Co7istellation s armament. 


Thus in this action the American frigate fought a draw 
with an antagonist, nearly as much superior to herself as 
an American 44 was to a British 38. In November, 1800, 
the " 28-gun frigate," Boston, of 530 tons, 200 men, 
carrying 24 long 9's on the main-deck, and on the 
spar-deck 8 long 6's (or possibly 12-pound carronades), 
captured, after two hours action, the French corvette 
Berceau^ of 24 guns, long 8's ; the Boston was about the 
same size as her foe, with the same number of men, and 
superior in metal about as ten to nine. She lost 15, and 
the Berceau 40 men. Troude (iii, p. 219) gives the 
Berceaii 30 guns, 22 long 8's, and 8 12-pound carronades. 
If this is true she was in reality of equal force with the 
Boston. But I question if Troude really knew anything 
about the combatants ; he gives the Boston (of the same 
size and build as the Cyane) 48 guns — a number impos- 
sible for her to carry. He continually makes the 
grossest errors ; in this same (the third) volume, for 
example, he arms a British 50-gun-ship with 72 cannon, 
giving her a broadside fifty per cent, heavier than it 
should be (p. 141) ; and, still worse, states the ordinary 
complement of a British 32-gun frigate to be 384 men, 
instead of about 220 (p. 417). He is by no means as 
trustworthy as James, though less rancorous. 

The United States schooner Experime?it, of 12 guns, 
long 6*s, and 70 men, captured the French man-of-war 
three-masted-schooner La Diane, of 14 guns (either 4- or 
6-pounders), with a crew of 60 men, and 30 passengers ; 
and. the Enterprise, the sister vessel of the Experiment, 
captured numerous strong privateers. One of them, a 
much heavier vessel than her captor,' made a most ob- 
stinate fight. She was the Elambeau brig of fourteen 
8-pounders and 100 men, of whom half were killed or 
wounded. The Enterpt'ise had 3 killed and 7 wounded. 

Comparing these different actions, it is evident that the 
Americans were superior to the French in fighting capac- 


ity during the years 1799 and 1800. During the same 
two years there had been numerous single contests be- 
tween vessels of Britain and France, ending almost 
invariably in favor of the former, which I mention first 
in each couple. The 12 -pounder frigate DcEdalus cap- 
tured the i2-pounder frigate Prudente, of equal force. 
The British i8-pounder frigate »S)'/^///^ captured the frigate 
Forte, armed with 52 guns, 30 of them long 24's on the 
main-deck ; she was formidably armed and as heavy as 
the Constitution. The Sybille lost 22 and the Forte 145 
men killed and wounded. The i8-pounder frigate Clyde, 
with the loss of 5 men, captured the j2-pounder frigate 
Vestale, which lost 32. The cutter Courser, of twelve 
4-pounders and 40 men, captured the privateer Guerriere, 
of fourteen 4-pounders and 44 men. The cutter Viper, 
of fourteen 4-pounders and 48 men, captured the priva- 
teer Suret, of fourteen 4-pounders and 57 men. The 
i6-gun ship-sloop Peterel, with 89 men, engaged the Cerf, 
14, Lejoille, 6, and Ligurien?ie, 16, with in all 240 men, and 
captured the Ligurienne. The 30-gun corvette Dart cap- 
tured by surprise the 38-gun frigate Desir^e. The Gypsey, 
of ten 4-pounders and 82 men, captured the Quidproquo, 
of 8 guns, 4- and 8-pounders, and 98 men. The schooner 
Milbrook of sixteen i8-pounder carronades and 47 men, 
fought a draw with the privateer Bellone, of 24 long 8's 
and six 36-pound carronades. Finally, six months after 
the Ve?igea7ice had escaped from the Constellation (or 
beaten her off, as the French say) she was captured by 
the British frigate Seine, which threw a broadside about 
30 pounds more than the American did in her action, and 
had some 29 men less aboard. So that her commander. 
Captain Milne, with the same force as Commodore Trux- 
ton, of the Coftstellation, accomplished what the latter 
failed to do. 

Reviewing all these actions, it seems pretty clear that, 
while the Americans were then undoubtedly much supe= 


rior to the French, they were still, at least slightly, 
inferior to the British. 

From 1777 to 1782 the state of things was very differ- 
ent.- The single combats were too numerous for me to 
mention them here ; and besides it would be impossible 
to get at the truth without going to a great deal of 
trouble — the accounts given by Cooper, Sohomberg, and 
Troude differing so widely that they can often hardly be 
recognized as treating of the same events. But it is cer- 
tain that the British were very much superior to the 
Americans. Some of the American ships behaved most 
disgracefully, deserting their consorts and fleeing from 
much smaller foes. Generally the American ship was 
captured when opposed by an equal force — although 
there were some brilliant exceptions to this. With the 
French things were more equal ; their frigates were sunk 
or captured time and again, but nearly as often they 
sunk or captured their antagonists. Some of the most 
gallant fights on record are recounted of French frigates 
of this period ; in 1781 the Minerve, 32, resisted the 
Cou7'ageous^ 74, till she had lost 73 men and had actually 
inflicted a loss of 17 men on her gigantic antagonist, and 
the previous year the Bellepoule^ 32, had performed a 
similar feat with the Nonsuch^ 64, while the Capricieuse 
32, had fought for five hours before surrendering to the 
Prudente and Licorne^ each of force equal to herself. She 
lost 100 men, inflicting a loss of 55 upon her two antago- 
nists. Such instances make us feel rather ashamed when 
we compare them with the fight in which the British ship 
Glasgow, 20, beat off an American squadron of 5 ships, 
including two of equal force to herself, or with the time 
when the Ariadne, 20, and Ceres, 14, attacked and cap- 
tured without resistance the Alfred, 20, the latter ship 
being deserted in the most outrageously cowardly man- 
ner by her consort the Raleigh, 32. At that period the 
average American ship was certainly by no means equal 


to the average French ship of the same force, and the lat- 
ter in turn was a little, but onl)^ a little, inferior to the 
average British ship of equal strength. 

Thus in 17&2 the British stood first in nautical prow- 
ess, separated but by a very narrow interval from the 
French, while the Americans made a bad third. In 1789 
the British still stood first, while the Americans had 
made a great stride forward, coming close on their heels, 
and the French had fallen far behind into the third place. 
In 181 2 the relative positions of the British and French 
were unchanged, but the Americans had taken another 
very decided step in advance, and stood nearly as far 
ahead of the British as the latter v/ere ahead of the 

The explanation of these changes is not difficult. In 
1782 the American war vessels were in reality privateers; 
the crews were unpracticed, the officers untrained, and 
they had none of the traditions and discipline of a regu- 
lar service. At the same time the French marine was at 
hs highest point ; it was commanded by officers of ability 
and experience, promoted largely for merit, and with 
crews thoroughly trained, especially in gunnery, by a long 
course of service on the sea. In courage, and in skill 
in the management of guns, musketry, etc., they were the 
full equals of their English antagonists ; their slight 
average inferiority in seamanship may, it is possible, be 
fairly put down to the difference in race. (It seems cer- 
tain that, when serving in a neutral vessel, for example, 
the Englishmen aboard are apt to make better sailors 
than the Frenchmen.) In 1799 the revolution had de- 
prived the French of all their best officers, had let the 
character of the marine run down, and the discipline of 
the service become utterly disorganized ; this exposed 
them to frightful reverses, and these in turn prevented 
the character of the service from recovering its former 
tone. Meanwhile the Americans had established for the 


first time a regular navy, and, as there was excellent ma- 
terial to work with, it at once came up close to the En- 
glish ; constant and arduous service, fine discipline, 
promotion for merit, and the most unflagging attention to 
practical seamanship and gunnery had in 1812 raised it 
far above even the high English standard. During all 
these three periods the English marine, it must be re- 
membered, did not fall off, but at least kept its position ; 
the French, on the contrary, did fall of, while the Ameri- 
can navy advanced by great strides to the first place. 


After my work was in press I for the first time came 
across Prof. J. Russell Soley's " Naval Campaign of 
1812," in the " Proceedings of the United States Naval 
Institute," for October 20, 1881. It is apparently the 
precursor of a more extended history. Had I known 
that such a writer as Professor Soley was engaged on a 
work of this kind I certainly should not have attempted 
it myself. 

In several points our accounts differ. In the action 
with the Guerriere his diagram differs from mine chiefly 
in his making the Constitution steer in a more direct line, 
while I have represented her as shifting her course several 
times in order to avoid being raked, bringing the wind 
first on her port and then on her starboard-quarter. My 
account of the number of the crew of the Guerriere is 
taken from the Constitution's muster-book (in the Treas- 
ury Department at Washington), which contains the 
names of all the British prisoners received aboard the 
Constitution after the fight. The various writers used 
*' larboard " and " starboard " with such perfect indiffer- 
ence, in speaking of the closing and the loss of the 
Guerriere' s mizzen-mast, that I hardly knew which account 


to adopt ; it finally seemed to me that the only way to 
reconcile the conflicting statements was by making the 
mast act as a rudder, first to keep the ship oft' the wnid 
until it was dead aft. and then to bring her up into it. If 
this was the case, it deadened her speed, and prevented 
Dacres from keeping his ship yardarm and yardarm witli 
the foe, though he tried to steady his course with the 
helm ; but, in this view, it rather delayed Hull's raking 
than helped him. If Professor Soley's account is right, I 
hardly know what to make of the statement in one of the 
American accounts that the Constitution *' luffed across 
the enemy's bow," and of Cooper's statement (in Put- 
nanis Magazine) that the Guerrieres bowsprit pressed 
against the Constitution's "lee or port quarter." 

In the action of the Wasp with the F?'olic^ I have 
adopted James' statement of the latter's force ; Professor 
Soley follows Captain Jones' letter, which gives the brig 
three additional guns and 18 pounds more metal in 
broadside. My reason for following James was that his 
account of the Frolic's force agrees with the regular 
armament of her class. Captain Jones gives her tivo car- 
ronades on the topgallant forecastle, which must certainly 
be a mistake ; he makes her chase-guns long 12's, but all 
the other British brigs carried 6's ; he also gives her an- 
other gun in broadside, which he calls a 12-pounder, and 
Lieutenant Biddle (in a letter to his father) a 32-pound 
carronade. His last gun should perhaps be counted in ; 
I excluded it because the two American officials differed 
in their account of it, because I did not know through 
what port it could be fought, and because James asserted 
that it was dismounted and lashed to the forecastle. The 
Wasp left port with 138 men ; subtracting the pilot and 
two men who were drowned, makes 135 the number on 
board during the action. As the battle was fought, I 
doubt if the loss of the brig's main-yard had much effect 
on the result ; had it been her object to keep on the wind. 


or had the loss of her after-sails enabled her antagonist to 
cross her stern (as in the case of the Aigus and Pelican), 
the accident could fairly be said to have had a decided 
effect upon the contest. But as a short time after the 
fight began the vessels were running nearly free, and as 
the M^asp herself was greatly injured aloft at the time, and 
made no effort to cross her foes stern, it is difficult to see 
that it made much difference. The brig's head-sails were 
all right, and, as she was not close-hauled, the cause of 
her not being kept more under command was probably 
purely due to the slaughter on her decks. 

Professor Soley represents the combat of the States and 
Macedonian as a plain yardarm and yardarm action after 
the first forty minutes. I have followed the English 
authorities and make it a running fight throughout. If 
Professor Soley is right, the enormous disparity in loss 
was due mainly to the infinitely greater accuracy of the 
American fire ; according to my diagram the chief cause 
was the incompetency of the Macedonian's commander. 
In one event the difference was mainly in the gunnery of 
the crews, in the other, it was mainly in the tactical skill 
of the captains. The question is merely as to how soon 
Garden, in his headlong, foolishly rash approach, was 
enabled to close with Decatur. I have represented the 
closing as taking place later than Professor Soley has done ; 
very possibly I am wrong. Could my work now be re- 
written I think I should adopt his diagram of the action 
of the Macedonian. 

But in the action with the Java it seems to me that 
he is mistaken. He has here followed the British ac- 
counts ; but they are contradicted by the American 
authorities, and besides have a very improbable look. 
When the Constitution came round for the second time, 
on the port tack, James declares the Java passed directly 
across her stern, almost touching, but that the British 
crew, overcome by astonishment or awe, did not fire a 


shot ; and that shortly afterward the manoemre \\ as re- 
peated. When this incident is said to have occurred 
the Java's crew had been hard at work fighting the guns 
for half an hour, and they continued for an hour and a 
half afterward ; it is impossible to believe that they would 
have foreborne to fire more than one gun when in such a 
superb position for inflicting damage. Even had the 
men been struck with temporary lunacy the officers alone 
would have fired some of the guns. Moreover, if the 
courses of the vessels were such as indicated on Professor 
Soley's diagram the '[Java would herself have been pre- 
viously exposed to a terrible raking fire, which was not the 
case. So the alleged manoeuvres have, /^r se^ a decided- 
ly apocryphal look ; and besides they are flatly contra- 
dicted by the American accounts which state distinctly 
that the Java remained to windward in every portion of 
the fight. On this same tack Professor Soley represents 
the Java as forereaching on the Constitution ; I have re- 
versed this. At this time the Java had been much cut 
up in her rigging and aloft generally, while the Constitu- 
tion had set much additional sail, and in consequence the 
latter forged ahead and wore in the smoke unperceived. 
When the ships came foul Professor Soley has drawn the 
Constitution in a position in which she would receive a 
most destructive stern rake from her antagonist's whole 
broadside. The positions could not have been as there 
represented. The Java's bowsprit came foul in the Con- 
stitutions mizzen rigging and as the latter forged ahead 
she pulled the former gradually round till when they sep- 
arated the ships were in a head and stern line. Commo- 
dore Bainbridge, as he particularly says, at once " kept 
away to avoid being raked," while the loss of the head- 
sails aboard the Java would cause the latter to come up 
in the wind, and the two ships would again be running 
parallel, with the American to leeward. I have already 
discussed fully the reasons for rejecting in this instance 


the British report of their own force and loss. This was 
the last defeat that the British officially reported ; the 
admiralty were smarting with the sting of successive dis- 
asters and anxious at all costs to put the best possible 
face on affairs (as witness Mr. Croker's response to Lord 
Dundonald's speech in the House). There is every 
reason for believing that in this case the reports were 
garbled exactly as at a later date the official correspond- 
ence preceding the terrible disasters at Cabel was tampered 
with before being put before the public (see McCarthy's 
" History of our own times.") 

It is difficult to draw a diagram of the action between 
the Hornet and Peacock^ although it was so short, the ac- 
counts contradicting one another as to which ship was to 
windward and which on the " larboard tack ; " and I do 
not know if I have correctly represented the position of 
the combatants at the close of the engagement. Lieu- 
tenant Conner reported the number of men aboard the 
Hornet fit for duty as 135 ; Lawrence says she had 8 
absent in a prize and 7 too sick to be at quarters. This 
would make an original complement of 150, and tallies 
exactly with the number of men left on the Hornet after 
the action was over, as mentioned by Lawrence in his 
account of the total number of souls aboard. The log- 
book of the Hornet just before starting on her cruise, 
states her entire complement as 158 ; but 4 of these were 
sick and left behind. There is still a discrepancy of 4 
men, bat during the course of the cruise nothing would 
be more likely than that four men should be gotten rid ofr 
either by sickness, desertion, or dismissal. At any rate 
the discrepancy is very trivial. In her last cruise, as I 
have elsewhere said, I have probably overestimated the 
number of the Hornefs crew ; this seems especially 
likely when it is remembered that toward the close of the 
war our vessels left port with fewer supernumeraries 
aboard than earlier in the contest. If such is the case, 


the Hornet and Penguin were of almost exactly equal 

My own comments upon the causes of our success, 
upon the various historians of the war, etc., are so simi- 
lar to those of Professor Soley, that I almost feel as if I 
had been guilty of plagiarism ; yet I never saw his writ- 
ings till half an hour ago. But in commenting on the 
actions of 181 2, I think the Professor has laid too much 
stress on the difference in " dash " between the combat- 
ants. The Wasp bore down with perfect confidence to 
engage an equal foe ; and the Hornet could not tell till 
the Peacock opened fire that the latter was inferior in 
force, and moreover fought in sight of another hostile 
vessel. In the action with the Guerriere it was Hull and 
not Dacres who acted boldly, the Englishman delaying 
the combat and trying to keep it at long range for some 
time. In this fight it must be remembered that neither 
foe knew the exact force of the other until the close 
work began ; then, it is true, Dacres fought most bravely. 
So with the Macedonian j James particularly says that 
she did not know the force of her foe, and was confident 
of victory. The Java, however, must have known that 
she was to engage a superior force. In neither of the 
first two frigate actions did the Americans have a chance 
to display any courage in the actual fighting, the victory 
was won with such ease. But in each case they entered 
as bravely, although by no means as rashly or foolishly, 
into the fight as their antagonists did. It must always be 
remembered that until this time it was by no means 
proved that 24-pounders were better guns than i8's to 
put on frigates ; exactly as at a little later date it was 
vigorously contended that 42-pounders were no more 
effective guns for two-deckers than 32-pounders were. 
Till 181 2 there had been no experience to justify the 
theory that the 24-pounder was the better gun. So that 
in the first five actions it cannot be said that the British 


showed any especial courage in beginnitig the fight ; it 
was more properly to be called ignorance. After the 
fight was once begun they certainly acted very bravely, 
and, in particular, the desperate nature of the Frolic s 
defence has never been surpassed. 

But admitting this is a very different thing from ad- 
mitting that the British fought more bravely than 
their foes ; the combatants were about on a par in this 
respect. The Americans, it seems to me, were always to 
the full as ready to engage as their antagonists were ; on 
each side there were few over-cautious men, such as 
Commodore Rodgers and Sir George Collier, the oppos- 
ing captains on Lake Ontario, the commander of the 
Bonne Citoyenne, and perhaps Commodore -Decatur, but 
as a rule either side jumped at the chance of a fight. 
The difference in tactics was one of skill and common 
sense, not one of timidity. The United States did not 
" avoid close action " from over-caution, but simply to 
take advantage of her opponent's rashness. Hull's ap- 
proach was as bold as it was skilful ; had the opponent to 
leeward been the Endymio?i^ instead of the Guerrie're^ her 
24-pounders would not have saved her from the fate that 
overtook the latter. Throughout the war I think that the 
Americans were as bold in beginning action, and as stub- 
born in continuing it, as were their foes — although no 
more so. Neither side can claim any superiority on the 
average, though each can in individual cases, as regards 
courage. Foolhardiness does not imply bravery. A 
prize-fighter who refused to use his guard would be 
looked upon as exceptionally brainless, not as exception- 
ally brave ; yet such a case is almost exactly parallel to 
that of the captain of the Macedonian, 

In the " Historical Register of the United States 


(Edited by T. H. Palmer, Philadelphia, 1814), vol. i p. 105 
(State Papers), is a letter from Lieut. L. H. Babbitt to 
Master- commandant Wm. U. Crane, both of the Nautilus^ 
dated Sept. 13, 181 2, in which he says that of the six men 
imprisoned by the British on suspicion of being of English 
birth, four were native-born Americans, and two natur- 
alized citizens. He also gives a list of six men who 
deserted, and entered on the Shannon^ of whom two 
were American born — the birthpl-ices of the four others 
not being given. Adding these last, we still have but six 
men as the number of British aboard the Nautilus. It is 
thus seen that the crack frigate Shannon had American 
deserters aboard here — although these probably formed 
a merely trifling faction of her crew, as did the British 
deserters aboard the crack frigate Constitution. 

On p. 108, is a letter of Dec. 17, 1812, from Geo. S. 
Wise, purser of the Wasp, stating that twelve of that 
ship's crew had been detained " under the pretence of 
their being British subjects" ; so that nine per cent, of 
her crew may have been British — or the proportion may 
have been very much smaller. 

On p. 117, is a letter of Jan, 14, 1813, from Com- 
modore J. Rodgers, in which he states that he encloses 
the muster-rolls of H. B. M. ships, Moselle and Sappho, 
taken out of the captured packet Swalloiv ; and that these 
muster-rolls show that in August, 181 2, one eighth of the 
crews of the Moselle and Sappho, was composed of 

These various letters thus support strongly the conclu- 
sions reached on a former page as to the proportion of 
British deserters on American vessels. 

In " A Biographical Memoir of the late Commodore 
Joshua Barney, from Autographical Notes and Journals" 
(Edited by Mary Barney, Boston, 1832), on pages 263, 
and 315, are descriptions of the flotilla destroyed in the 
Patuxent. It consisted of one gun-boat, carrying a long 


24 ; one cutter, carrying a long 18, a columbiad 18, and 
four 9-pound carronades, and thirteen row barges, each 
carrying a long 18 or 12 in the bow, with a 32-pound or 
18-pound carronade in the stern. On p. 256, Barney's 
force in St. Leonard's creek, is described as consisting of 
one sloop, two gun-boats, and thirteen barges, with in all 
somewhat over 500 men ; and it is claimed that the 
flotilla drove away the blockading frigates, entirely un- 
aided ; the infantry force on shore rendering no assist- 
ance. The work is of some value, as showing that James 
had more than doubled the size, and almost doubled the 
strength, of Barney's various gun-boats. 

It may be mentioned that on p. 108, Commodore 
Barney describes the Dutch-American frigate South 
Carolina, wliich carried a crew of 550 men, and was 
armed with 28 long 42's on the maindeck, and 12 long 
12's on the spardeck. She was far heavier than any of 
our 44-gun frigates of 181 2, and an overmatch for 
anything under the rank of a 74. This gives further 
emphasis to what I have already stated — that the dis- 
tinguishing feature of the war of 1812, is not the intro- 
duction of the heavy frigate, for heavy frigates had been 
in use among various nations for thirty years previously, 
but the fact that for the first time the heavy frigate was 
used to the best possible- advantage. 


Abeille 212 

Aboukir . . .24, 54 

Acasta . 43, 55-6, 77, 81, 423-7 
d'Ache ..... 369 

Achille 41 

Accurate firing of the Ameri- 
cans ..... 169 
Adams, 53, 62, 7 1-2, 302, 311, 
334, 443 ; illustration of sec- 
tion, X ; cruise, 334 ; chased 
by Tigris, 335-6 ; curious 
sailing qualities resulting 
from being built by contract, 
336 ; grounds on isle of 
Haute, 336 ; attacked by 
British in Penob;.cot, 337 ; 
burned by Capt. Morris . 338 
Adams, Chaplain . . . 310 

Adams, Lieut. . . . 229 

Adirondack region . .139 

Adonis ..... 332 
Mollis . . .73, 83, 86-7 

yStna . . . . 31S, 320 

Africa . . 43, 73, 82-3, 86-7 
Alacrity . . . .212 

Albiofi ..... 317 
Alert, So-l, 137 ; captured by 

Essex . . . .81 

Alexandria, 175-6, 31S ; sur- 
renders to British . .319 
Alfred ..... 414 
Alison, Sir A. . . . 3S1 

Allen 377 

Allen, Lieut. U. H. . 205, 206 
Allen, Lieut. W. H., onUnited 
States, 114; commander of 
Argics, 205, 207, 2og, 447 ; 
mortally wounded . . 205 

Alligator, 220, 290, 346 ; fu- 
tile attempt to cut her out, 
290; sunk in a squall. . 291 

Almy, Sailing-master, T. C. . 262 
Alwyn, Master . . • 91 

Ambuscade . 

Amelia Island 

Americans accused of treach- 
ery . . . . . 

"American Artillerist's Com- 
panion," . . . . 

American gun-boats employed 
in protecting coasting trade, 
198-9; futile attack on Brit- 
ish vessels, 200 ; lesson 
taught by their failure. 

American loss in all 

American navy, confidence in 
itself, 2g ; espiit de corps of 
its officers, 29 ; life-long 
training of sailors, 29 ; great 
effectiveness and reasons for 
it, 30 ; no impressment, 35 ; 
vessels not ' ' largely.manned 
by British sailors," 37-44 ; 
proportion of officers fur- 
nished bydifferent States and 
sections, 44; tonnage, 45 ; 
navy yards, 46 ; statistics of 
officers and seamen, 46-7 ; 
list of vessels, tonnage and 
description, 48-51 ; com- 
pared with British navy, 51 ; 
charges of underrating, 52- 
56 ; unquestionable superi- 
ority in force, 59 ; effective- 
ness due to small size, 61 ; 
crew of a 44, 67 ; of an 18- 
gun ship, 68 ; tabulated com- 
parison of three British and 
three American vessels, 69 ; 
superior discipline of Ameri- 
cans, 133; officers better paid 
and of a better class, 134; 
American navy gave more 
damage than it received, 434: 
at outset of war numbered 
but a dozen vessels 

194, 195 







American officers, reasons for 
their superiority . . 448-9 

American privateers cut out 
by British squadron . 172-4 

American revohuion, fleet ac- 
tions of British with Euro- 
peans mostly indecisive . 368 

American sailors compared 
with British, 35 ; of better 
material for man-of-war's 
crew than British, 448 ; 
American sailors on Guer- 
riere . . . . • 97 

American sharp-shooters. . 133 

"American State Papers," 20, 

47, 257. 314,349. 377 
American vessels built and 
captured or destroyed in 
1812, 137; prizes made, 
138; in 1S13, 210-20; in 
1814, 348-9; in 1815, 439. 
41 ; total summary, 442-3 ; 
make-shifts in use of mer- 
chant schooners . . . 143 
American whalers . . -34 
American writings miscalled 

histories .... 248 
Amherst Bay .... 244 
Amhcrstburg. . . 255-6 

Anglo-French naval war, 451 ; 

comparative force and loss 451-3 
Angus, Lieut. S., 203, 370, 
leads disastrous expedition 
against Red House bar- 
racks . . . . 15S-9 

Anjier 435 

Appling, Major . . 361 -2 
A7-ad .... 173-4 

Arbuthnot, Capt. J. . . 32S 

Arbuthnot, Admiral, victory 

over Barras off Chesapeake . 36S 
A7-^o . , . .107 

Argtis, 12, 39. 64, 69, 73, 96, 
106, 136, 166, 204-12, 218- 
20, 315, 319, 349, 444-5 ; 
makes six prizes, 106 ; en- 
gagt'mentwith/'^/zVrt';^, 205 ; 
is captured by her, 206 ; 
not an action creditable to 
Americans, 208 ; compara- 
tive force and loss, 207-8; 
diagram of action, 208 ; 
charges against her crew, 

209 ; powder alleged to be 
bad, 20g ; comparison with 
previous combats, 210 ; in- 
feriority of beaten crew un- 
accountable . . .211 

Ariel, 254, 256, 260, 262-5, 

26S-70, 372 

Armada .... 328 

Armide 343 

Armstrong, Eieut. . . 372-3 

Arundel, Sailing-master, 154; 
wounded and drowned 

Asp, 153, 202. 220, 224, 229, 
231, 238, 244-7, 249, 256, 
443 ; cut out by boats from 
Mo hawk and Contest . 

Aspinwall, Lieut 

Astnva . 


Atlas . 


Authorities consulted and re- 
ferred to, ii (see list in de- 

" Autobiography of a Sea- 
man " . . . . .3 

Avon, 66, 20S, 210, 211, 32S- 
31, 334, 350, 421, 446 ; 

chased by Wasp, 328 ; cap- 
tured afier short and furious 
engagement, 329 ; sinks . 331 
Aylnier, Lieut. J. C. . .123 

Aylwin 377 

Ayscough, Sir G. . . -53 

Azores ..... 175 
Bainbridge, Commodore, 36, 
50, 119, 120, 122-4, 126, 
128, 129, 132, 134-5, iSi, 

183, i',6, 370, 406, 447 
Bainbridge, Master J. . . 311 

Baker, Capt. . . 319, 320 




ii6, 350 

Ballard, Lieut. . 420, 424, 426-7 

Balla7'd 377 

Baltic, battle of . . . 277 

Baltimore, 172, 317, 342, 413, 
414 ; unsucccbsfully attack- 
ed by British . . 9, 318 
Barbadoes . . 217,286-7,316 
Barclay, Capt. R. II., 63. 68, 
225, 252, 261, 273, 274, 
277, 280, 376 ; commander 
of British forces on Lake 



Erie, 254-6 ; description of 
his squadron and crews, 
256-9 ; engagement with 
Perry, 262, 264; severely 
wounded .... 265 
Barnegat . . . .82 

Barney, Commodore J., 40, 
317, 319 ; erroneously called 
an lrir,hman, 317; attacks 
Alhion and Dragon with 
flotilla, 318 ; memoir , . 473 

Barnwell, Sailing-master . 299 
Barossa, . . . 200. 415 

Barras, Admiral . , . 368 

Barrie, Sir R., relieved by 

Rear-Admiral Cochrane . 286 
Barry, Capt. .... 337 
Bartholomew, Capt., 437-8 ; 
wanton attack on American 
gun-boat .... 43S 
Bartlett, Purser . . 436-7 

Bassett, Sailing-master, 290 : 

promoted to lieutenancy . 291 
Bastard, Capt. J. . . .82 

" Batailles Navales de la 

France," see Graviere . 98 

Bayojittaise . . . 194-5 

Baynes, Adj. -Gen. E. 234, 25S-9 
Beale, G., Jr. ... 377 

Bell, Lieut. .... 392 
Bclvidera, 65, 73-7, 82, 83, 
85-7, 172. Engagement with 
President . . . 74-6 

Bentham, Capt. G. . . 338 

Beresford . 224-5, 235, 252, 255 
Bere.^ford, Capt. J. P. . 105 

Bermudas . . 107, 163, 417 

Bermuda * ' Royal Gazette " 404-5 
Biddle, Capt., 102, 106, 177, 
370, 401, 427-8, 430, 432, 

434, 447 
Bignell, Lieut. G. . 262, 268 

Big Salmon River . . . 360 

Big Sandy Creek . . 360-1 

Bingham, Capt. . . 7 

Black Rock . . . .157 

Black Snake . . . 362, 399 

Bladensburg . 9, 174, 319 

Blaeny, Lieut. . . . 35S 

Blake's victory over Dutch, 

277, 280 
Blakely, Capt. J. 40, 66, 310 

321, 323-4, 326-31, 352 447 

Bland, Quartermaster F, . 300 

Blockade of American coast, 

strictness .... 284 
Blucher .... 406 

Blyth, Capt. S., 213, 447 ; 
killed, 214 ; great personal 
courage and humanity . 216 

Boarding nettings boiled in 

pitch . . . .162 

Boasting on both sides . . 2S6 
Bombay . . . .172 

Bonne Citoyenne . 118, 129, 

165, 181, 432 
Borgne, Lake . . 343, 411 

Boston .... 49, 446 
Boston . 88, 134, 129, 163, 

290, 400, 413, 417 
Boston " Gazette " . . 127 

Boston Harbor . . .417 

Boston Lighthouse . .182 

Bowyer, Fort . . . 338 

Boxer y vii, 213-7, 219, 349, 
377. 397. 407 ; engagement 
with Enterprise, 213-5 ; is 
captured . . . .215 

Braileford, Midship. . .159 

Bramer, Capt. . . . 331 

Brant . . . . .413 

Breckenbridge, Lieut. . . 201 

Brenton's "Naval Histoiy," 
13, 14, 37-8, 40, 41, 62. 74, 
92, 115, 118, 128, 247, 
386-7 ; its inaccuracy . 14 

Brest . , . . .217 

Brine, Capt. . . . 327 

Bristol ..... 413 
British accused of brutality . 187 
British Admiralty report . 42 

British loss, summary, 443 ; 
balance of loss against the 
British .... 444 
British navy, its great prestige 
at opening of war, 99 ; num- 
bered a thousand vessels . 446 
British officers hampered by 

red tape .... 449 
British vessels captured or de- 
stroyed in 1812, 137 ; in 
1813, 219 ; in 1814, 345 ; in 
1S15, 441 ; total loss, 442 ; 
vessels on great lakes, in- 
experience of crews . . 140 
British whalers in Pacific . 164 



Broke, Capt. P. V., afterward 
Admiral, 35, 61, 82, 8S, 94, 
179-87. 192-4, 285. 351, 
447-8 ; memoir of, 61 ; his 
chivalric challenge to Law- 
rence, 181 ; gallant con- 
duct in engagement against 
Chesapeake . . . 182-8 

Brooks, Lieut. , mortally 

wounded . . 265-268 

Broom, Lieut. J., killed . 185 

Brown, Capt. T. . . . 2S6 

Brown, Gen. J. 233, 357, 363, 

Brown, Lieut. . 154, 229, 361 

Brutality of British troops . 161 
Buchan, Lieut. E., 262 ; dan- 
gerously wounded . 264, 268 
Budd, Lieut. G. . 181, 185-6 

Budd. Lieut. C. . . . 377 

liulger, Lieut. . . 372-3 

Bulloch, Capt. J. D. . . vii 

Bunker Hill . . . .33 

Bureau of Navigation . . 41 

Burleton, Admiral, Sir G. . 433 
Burlington Heights . . 363 

" Burlington Races " . . 253 

Burrows .... 377 
Burrows, Lieut. W., Com. of 
the Enterprise, vi, 21 3-4, 
443 ; mortally wounded, 
215 ; his gallant conduct 
and great popularity . 215-6 

Bush, Lieut. . . -91 

Byng, Capt. H. D. . . 202 
Byron, Capt. R. 74.7, 82, 88, 

173, 447 
Calder, Sir R. . . . 242 

Caledonia, 142, 156-8, 233, 
254, 256-7, 260-70, 372, 
374, 444 ; and four schoon- 
ers brought into Lake Erie. 233 
Caledonia, British privateer, 

captured by N'orwich . 174 

Call, William . . . 297 

Callao ..... 164 
Campaign on the lakes, a fair 

account difficult . . 143 

Campbell, Commod. H. C. 

197, 338, 340, 438 
Campbell, Master's Mate J. 262 
Camperdown, victory of Lord 
Duncan . . .22, 278 

" Canada must be conquered " 7 
Canadians, alleged cowardice 148 
Canadian colonies feebly de- 
fended .... 8 
Canary Islands . . 163, 334 

" Captains' Letters," vi, 82, 

179, 183, 197, 412-3. 431, 438 
Garden, Capt. J. S,, loS-io, 
113^6, 301-2 ; a poor com- 
mander . . . .113 
Carnation . . 21 1-2, 338-g 
Caroband Bank . . .166 
Carolina . 43, 137, 343, 347, 410 
Carolinas . . . 161, 400 
Carron . . . -338 
Carronade, figure of, . . ix 
Cassin, Lieut.-Com., 201, 376, 

392, 398 
Castilian . . . .331 

Castlereagh, Lord . . 42 

Castine .... 337 

Cathcart, Capt. . . .176 

Catnall, Commod., life by C. 

C. Jones .... 162 
Centipede . . 202, 377, 397 

Chads, Lieut. H. C, 120-2, 

124, 126-7, 129 
Cha?neleon . . . .127 

Champlain, Lake, 139, 142, 
144, 147, 152 ; battle of, 
147,275-6, 279, 281, 375, 381.442 
Champlin, Sailing-master, 262, 

267, 372-3 
Chandeleur Islands . . 343 
Charlestown . . 183, 217, 413 

Charzuell . . • 355-8, 374 

Chasseur, 415, 416, 441 ; 
American privateer, chased 
by Barossa, 415 ; mistakes 
.SV. Lazvrence for merchant- 
man and engages her 416 
Chauncy, Commod. I., 66,144, 
152, '156, 193, 230-2, 235, 
237-8, 240-1. 353-6, 443 ; 
commander of forces on • 
Ontario, 152 ; at Sackett's 
Harbor, 154 ; attacks Royal 
George, 154 ; takes York, 
230, and Fort George, 231; 
in action with Yen does not 
compare favorably, 240-1 ; 
advantage from long guns, 
244 ; his account of action 





near Genesee River, 244 ; 
engagement in York Bay, 
245-50 ; partial victory off 
Burlington, 248 ; criticized 
as a commander, 253-4 ; 
blockades Kingston, 363 : 
refuses to co-operate with 
Gen, Brown, 364, 367 ; does 
not make best use of his 
materials, 368 ; not deserv- 
ing of praise given him . 370 
Chauncy's squadron on Onta- 
rio compared with Yeo's . 225-7 
Chauncy, Lieut. . . 229, 236 
Chevretie ... 

Claxton, Lieut. . . . 103 

Claxton, Midshipman . . 268 

Cherub . 291-6, 298, 300, 305-8 
Chesapeake Bay . 161, 171, 316 
Chesapeake River, 82, 286, 

368, 400, 440 
Chesapeake , 39, 41-2, 67, 69, 
72, 105, 113, 138, 149, 163, 
178, 180-5, 187-go, 191-6, 
209, 218-20, 421, 444-5 ; re- 
fitted out at Boston, in- 
experienced crew and new 
officers, 178 ; armament, 
181 ; engagement with 
Shannon, 182-8 ; captured 
by her, 187 ; diagram of ac- 
tion 188 

Childers . . . .338 

Chippe-way, 142, 147, 259, 260, 
262-3, 265, 267, 269, 270, 

283, 349 i 

Chili 306 I 

Chubb, 148, 282, 379-80, 389- j 

90, 394, 397, 399 
Civil War .... 399 j 
Clement, Sailing-master G. . 327 1 

Cylde .... 
Cockbum, Adm., 161, 437 

attack on Washington 
Cochrane, Adm., 3, 286, 319, 343 
Codrington, Adm., " Me. 

moirs," 60, 142, 169, 311, j 

315, 450 ; comments on use- 1 

lessness of mere martinets . 169 ! 
Coggeshall, G., " History of \ 

American Privateers," 202, | 



341, 415 ; gross misstate- 
ments and sneers . 202 
Collier, Capt. Sir G. R., 119, 

176, 321,423, 425,427, 439; 

nis blunders. . . 427 

Columbia . . .319, 349 
Comparative force and loss 

during the war . . 451-3 

Co??itis . . . .117 

Confiance, 64, 147-8, 250, 276, 

375-6, 378, 380, 384, 387, 

3S9-90, 392-7, 399 
Congress, measure proposed 

against France and England 5 
Congress, 57, 73-4, 76, 106-7, 

138, 174, 176, 220, 378, 425, 446 
Congressional forethought, 

lack of . . . 445 

Conklin, Lieut. . 374-5 

Conkling, Lieut. A. . . 262 

Connor, Lieut. 167-8, 172, 430 

Conquest, 152, 154, 223, 229, 

231, 238, 244 
Constellation, 36, 32, 157, 72, 

117, 162, 173, 201-2, 378, 

446, 448 ; crew of, unsuc- 
cessful attempt to capture 
her 162 

Constitution, ] 2, 33, 38, 40-3, 
54-8, 64-7, 70-2, 82-92, 95- 
6, 98, 105, 114-5, ii7''9, 
120-33, 138, 178, 276, 287- 
90, 334, 352, 398, 400, 
407, 4^7-26, 435, 439, 

447, 449-50, skirmish with 
and escape from British 
squadron, 82-8 ; captures 
and burns two brigs, 88 ; 
recaptures American brig, 
89 ; engagement with and 
capture of Query iere, 89-92; 
comparative force and loss, 
92 ; diagram of action, 92 ; 
her gunnery excellent, fault- 
lessly handled, 95 ; crew 
new men, 96 ; engagement 
with Java, 1 19-123 ; cap- 
tures Java, 123 ; slight 
damage received, list of 
killed and wounded, 123 ; 
comparative force and loss, 
126 ; diagram of action, 
125 ; cruising, 287 ; cap- 



tures Pictou, 287 ; mis- 
statements in regard to 
crew, 288 9 ; chased by two 
Britisli frigates, 289 ; en- 
gagement with Cyaiie and 
Leva tit, 418-22 ; captures 
both, 419-20 ; comparative 
force and loss, 420-1 ; brill- 
iant manoeuvring of C, di- 
agram of action and com- 
ments on it, 422 ; chased 
by British squadron, 424 ; 
successful escape . , 425-7 

Contest .... 202 

Cooper, J. F., "Naval His- 
tory of the United States," 
41, 66, 74, 82, 85, 91, 96, 
loi, 109, 145-9, 162, 164, 
166, 189, 190, 209, 221, 
240, 255, 262, 273, 275, 
323, 326, 332, 349, 354, 
370, 377-8, 402-3, 413,423; 
less of an authority than 
James, iv ; disposition to 
praise every thing Ameri- 
can, 18 ; his injudicious 
praise .... 272 

Cooper's " Miles Walling- 
ford," " Home as Found," 
"Pilot," " Two Admirals," 21 
Cooper, Midshipman . . 168 

Copenhagen . . .24 

Cornick, Lieut. H. D. . .128 

Cornwall .... 204 
Cormvallis . 56, 127, 432-5, 439 
Corvette, section of . . x 

Cotirier National , . .117 

Cowell, Lieut. J. G., heroism 

when wounded . . . 297 

Coshnahan, Midshipman . 185 
Courage alone does not make 

a great commander . . 271 

Cox, Lieut. W. S., 361 ; his 

cowardice . . . . T84 

Crab Island . . 382, 391, 398 

Craney Island . . 162, 201 

Crane, Lieut. . . .82 

Crawford, U, S. Minister to 

France .... 204 
Creerie, Lieut. J. . . 196-7 

Creighton, Capt. . . -37 

Croghan, Capt. . . . 372 

Crow's shoal . . . 203 

Crowninshield, Sec. B. W. . 47 
Cumberland Head . 38, 388-9 

Cumberland Island . -437 

Cunmiings, Midshipman J. 

C 15*7, 268 

Curlew . . . -174 

Curry, Lieut. R. C. . . 203 

Cutting-out expedition against 
privateers, 413 ; daring and 
successful one by British . 373 
Cyaiie, 53, 61, 64-5, J 76. 276, 
285, 310, 417-20, 422, 424- 
5, 439, 441 ; engagement 
with Constitutioji, 418-22 ; 
surrenders . . . 449 

Cyprus . . . .410 

Dabney, Consul J. B. . . 338 

Dacres, Capt. J. R., 82, 88-9, 
94-5, 97, 1 13-5 ; wounded in 
engagement with Constitu- 
tion . . . . -91 
Danes defeated in battle of 

Baltic .... 277 

Danish gun-boat . . 198-9 

Dart captured by Newport 

flotilla .... 217 
Davies, Lieut. D. . . 124 

Dealy, Sailing-master . .411 

Dearborn, Gen. . . 229-30, 232 
Decatur .... 444 

Decatur, Commodore, 25, 32- 
3. 39. 42, 57, 73, 107-10, 
112, 114, 132, 177, i8r, 
209, 211, 311, 317, 408, 
428, 447; his letter describ- 
ing capture of Macedonian, 
vi ; chased in the President 
by British fleet, 401-3 ; sur- 
renders, 404 ; did not 
"covef himself with glory," 
405-6 ; but acted rather 
tamely . . . 407-8, 439 

Delaware . . .118, 400 
Delaware Bay . .161, 203 

Demerara River . . . 166 

Dent, Capt. J. H. . 291, 412-3 
Detroit, 155-7, 258-65, 267, 

269-71, 273, 283, 374, 444 
Detroit, capture of . • i£5 

De Ruyter . 53, 150, 277, 280 
De Suffrein's five combats 

with Sir Edward Hughes . 369 
Devastation . . .318, 320 



De Winter . 

Dickenson, Capt. J. 

. 22 

. 201 

. 64 

. 428-9 


Discipline displayed on Amer- 
ican privateer Lottery, 173 ; 
neglect of essentials for 
mere incidents, in British 
navy ..... 169 
Dixon, Corporal . . . 185 
Dobbs, Capt, . . . 374 

Dolphin .... 173-4 
Doffiinica .... 444 
Douglass, Lord H., "Naval 
Gunnery," iv, 75-6,95, 113- 
5, 192, 195, 301, 436-7, 
449 ; comments on action 
between Essex and Phcebe , 301 
Douglass, Capt. G. . 417, 419 
Dover .... 258-9 

Downie, Capt. G., 65, 148-9, 
225, 381, 383-4,386-7, 389; 
his force on Champlain, 
378-81 ; action with Mac- 
donough, 389-90 ; killed . 396 
Downes, Lieut. . . 165, 297 

Dragon . . .317, 337 

Drake singeing the beard of 

the Catholic king . . 302 

Druinmond . . . 250, 283 

Drummond, Gen. G. . . 358-9 
Drunkenness on the Argus, 210-1 
Dudley, Midshipman . . 158 

Duncan, Lord, 22 ; victory at 

Cam.perdown . . . 278 

Dundonald, Lord, "Autobi- 
ography of a Seaman" . 61, 128 
Durham, Adm., memoir of . 289 
Dutch , . . . .35 

£ag/e,2y6-7, 281-3, 349» 375-6, 
378, 388-90, 394-7 ; sent by 
gun-boats and captured . 282 
Earl of Aloira, 140, 151, 224, 

233, 252 
Earle, Commod., 140; feeble 
attack on Sackett's Harbor, 
151 ; shows gross incompe- 
tence . . . .151 
East Indies . 369, 401, 435 
Eckford, Henry, 147, 222, 

256, 353-4, 386-7 
Egyptian ... .50 

Elliott, Capt. J. D.,154, 156-8, 
229, 245, 262, 265, 272, 374 ; 
captures Detroit and Cale- 
donia . . . .157 
Ellis, Capt. .... 176 
Emmons, Lieut. G. E., statis- 
tical " History of U. S. 
Navy," iv, 47, 52, 163, 223, 
256-7, 348, 431; best Ameri- 
can work on the subject . 20 
Endymion, 12. 51, 56-7, 63-4, 
69, 96, 213-7, 341-2, 401-10, 
439 ; attack on Prince de 
Neiifchatel repulsed after 
desperate struggle . . 342 
English Channel . . . 322 
English vessels twice the size 

of Dutch .... 277 
English victories over Dutch 

due to superiority in force . 277 
Epervier, 43, 52-3, 66, 69, 
210-1, 312-6, 349-50, 409, 
414, 445-6, 450 ; captured 
by Peacock, comparative 
force and loss, 314 ; gunnery 
of British, poor, 315; Eper- 
vier purchased for U. S. 
Navy .... 316 

Enterprise, vi, 32, engagement 
with Boxer, 213-5 ! captures 
her, 215; severity of action, 
216; superior force of Ameri- 
cans, 216 ; unfit to cruise 
and made a guard-ship . 217 
Epworth, Capt. . . . 107 

Erebns . . 318, 320, 437-^ 

Erie ..... 3491 
Erie, Fort . . 156, 37^ 

Erie, Lake, 139, 141-4, 147, 
158-9, 245-254, 372 ; no 
American force there in 

1812 155 

Erie, Lake, battle of (1813), 
271 ; teaches advantage of 
having the odds, 275 ; vic- 
tory honorably won, 278 ; 
fought mainly by Canadians 279 
Espiegle . . 166, 169, 181 
Essex, 35, 39, 43, 52-3, 58, 
63-4, 72, 78-81, 113, 117-8, 
134, 138, 164, 165, 226, 
276, 291-7, 299, 300, 303-4, 
306-10, 332, 350. 351, 421, 



444-5 ; cuts out transport 
from Minerva, 78 ; cruising 
79-Si ; engagement with 
Alert, 81 ; captures Nocton, 
134 ; captures English mer- 
chant vessel, 135 ; struck by 
squall and disabled, 294 ; at- 
tacked \)y P h<xbe z.x\^ Cherub, 
295 ; terrible loss and dam- 
age, 300 ; surrenders, 300 ; 
comments and criticism on 
the action, 301-10 ; repaired 
at Valparaiso and sent to 

Essex Junior 
Evans, Capt. 
Evans, Surgeon, O. 
Everard, Capt. T. 
Fair A nierican, 152 

, 310 
291-3, 297, 310 


. 41 

50, 163 

123, 127 

. 282 







Fairy ..... 

Falkiner, Lieut. 

False Duck Islands, 154, 244, 

Farragut, D. G. (Admiral), 

80, 164, 292, 297, 290-300 ; 

in his memoirs comments on 

Phoebe - Essex fight, 304-5, 

308-9; greatest admiral since 

Nelson . . . . 409 

Fayal 338 

Fernando de Noronha, island 135 

Ferris, Sailing-master 
Finch, Lieut. B., 135, 245, 
Finch, 148, 149, 282, 379-82, 
389-91, 397, 
Firefly .... 

Fischer, Lieut, Col. V 

Floyd, Capt. R. 
Forrest, Midshipm 

Fortune of War 
Forty Mile Creek 
Frederic kscoa rn 
" Free Trade and Sailors' 
Rights" .... 
French-English naval v^^ar 



• 349 
. 349 

• 301 
. 335 

• 338 
. 268 

. 338 

• 235 
. 440 

• 117 


French histories of English 
compared with English his- 
tories of Americans . . 195 
Frenchman's Creek . . 374 

Frigate, definition and descrip- 
tion of . . , .54 
Frigate-built ships, section of xi. 
Frio Cape .... 135 
Frolic, II, 35, 39, 51, 68, 
101-6, 130, 137, 181, 275, 
304, 311,326, 349,350,352, 
428, 445, 447 ; engagement 
with IVasp, captured by her 
after great slaughter, 103 ; 
comparative force and loss, 
103 ; diagram of action . 104 
Fulton . . . 440-1 
Fundy, Bay ... 88 
Funk, Lieut. J. M. . . iio 
Galatea .... 107 
Gallagher, Lieut. . 39. 404 
Gallapagos .... 164 
Gamble, Lieut. P. . . 392 
Gamo . , . . .117 
Garden. Capt. S. J. . . 268 
Garland, Lieutenant, mortally 

wounded .... 265 
Geisinger, Midshipman . 332 

General Armstrong, 338-40, at- 
tacked by British boats, 339; 
attacked by Carnation, scut- 
tled and burned by her own 
crew . . 340, 416 

General Pike, 64,65, 222-3, 
226, 228, 234-8, 240, 244-7, 
249, 252, 355, 357, 364, 


Genesee River, 235, 251, 252, 
366, 368 ; engagement near 
mouth .... 243 

George, Fort, 251-4, 363, 365; 
attacked and captured by 
Chauncy's squadron, 230-1, 234 







i6i, 401 


51, 229-30, 
234, 283, 443 
Good Hope, Cape . 428, 435 
Gordon, Capt., 417 ; skilful 
attack on Fort Washington 319 







Governor Tompkins^ 152, 154, I 

223, 229, 231, 232, 244, j 


Graham, Midshipman . 

Graig, Lieut. 

Graviere, Adm. J. de la, 
" Guerres Maritimes," iv, 
104-5, 191. 450 ; comments 
on first three engagements, 
129-132 ; the best criticism 
on the naval war 

Graves, Sir T. . . . 

Grasse, Conte de, victory over 
Sir T. Graves 

Great Britain, views held in 
regard to neutral rights, r, 5, 
6 ; find now no advocates, 
6 ; offers apology for attack 
on Chesapeake, issues Or- 
ders in Council, 7; engaged 
in European conflict during 
early part of this war, 8 ; 
assembles army of 14,000 
men, 9 ; greatness of naval 
power, 21-23 *. upward of 
a thousand vessels at open- 
ing of war .... 

Great Sodas .... 

Greene, Capt. P. B. . 

Greenivich .... 

Gregory, Lieut. F. H. . 

" Gridiron Flag " 

Griffith, Adm. 

Gro7uIer, 146, 152, 154, 229, 
231, 236, 238, 240, 251, 
281-3, 358-9. 379. 399. 443 ; 
captured by gun-boats 

Guerriere, li, 12, 39, 41, 43, 
58, 63, 67, 68, 73, 82, 83, 
85, 89-92, 95-97, 99. 108, 
113, 116, 129-31, 137, 189, 
193, 288, 319, 421, 440, 
449 ; engagement with and 
capture by Constitution, 89- 
92 ; blown up by Ameri- 
cans. 94 ; falsely alleged to 
have been rotten, 94 ; hand- 
ling of her compared with 
that of Constitution, 94 ; 
outmanoeuvred by Constitu- 
tion . . . . -95 

Guerin, " Histoire Maritime 
de France" . . . 195 

Gunnery, skill of British fal- 
len off, 149 ; accuracy of 
Americans .... 169 

Halifax . . .82, 187 

Hambleton, Purser . . 268 

Hamilton, Secretary P. 36, 46 

Hamilton, 151, 154, 223, 229, 

231, 237, 250, 256, 443 

Hampden .... 336 

Hampton sacked by British 
with revolting brutality 

Hampton Roads 

Hanchett, Capt. 

Hardy, Capt. 

Hardy, Sir T. 

Harris, Sergeant 

Harrison, General 

Hatfield, Midshipman 

Haute, Isle of 



Hawkins, Capt. R. 


235 ! 

118 : 

165 1 



162, 200 

• 330 
. 415 

• 320 
. . 78 

. 341 
401.4, 439 
. 320, 412 

• 174 
. 165 
. 117 

• 338 
. 418 

376-7, 394 

338, 350, 409 

. 382 

77, 219, 444 

Hawkins, Lieut 

Hayes, Capt. J. 


Head, Capt. J. 

Hector . 


Henderson, Capt. 

Henderson, Lieut. 

Henly, Capt. R. 


Hicks, Lieut. 


Hilyar, Capt. J., 291-2, 294-5. 
300-I ; conduct in action 
with Essex, 296, 298 ; letter 
concerning defence of Es- 
sex, 303-4 ; breach of faith, 
305 ; courteous treatment of 
prisoners . . 306, 308-9 

Hinn, Lieut . . . 229 

Hislop, Lieut. G. . 127, 129 

" Historical Register of the 
United States" . . 473 

Hoffman, Lieut., 91, 419, 


Hogue ..... 285 

Holdup, Lieut. T. 158-9, 262 

Hollaway, Capt. . . .358 

Holmes' Hole . . .171 

Hope, Lieut. D. . # 108, 311 

Hope, Capt. H., 341, 401, 405 



Hornet, 40, 52,61, 66, 68, 73, 
77, 106, 117-8, 129, 133, 
138, 163, 165-72, 178, 181, 
207, 209-ro, 217-18, 220, 
276, 311. 352, 398. 401, 

410, 425, 424-35, 439-447 ; 

captures a privateer, 77 ; 
chased by Bontie Ciioyenne, 

165 ; captures Resolution, 

166 ; engagement with Pea- 
cock, 166 ; captures her, 

167 ; comparative loss, 168 ; 
diagram of action, 170: 
comparative force, 171 ; 
generous treatment to ofifi- 
cers and crew of Peacock, 
171; captures Penguitt, 429; 
diagram of action, 430 ; 
comparative force and loss, 
431 ; a ci-editable action for 
Americans, 431; chased by 
Cornwallis, but escapes . 435 

Horn, Cape , . .164 

Hotham, Adm. . , 401, 404 

Hughes, Sir K . . . 369 

Hull, Capt./J., 25, 82-8, 92, 
94, 114, 132, 192, 213, 271, 
327, 370, 409 ; his letter, 
41 ; foremost ship-captain 
of the war, 88-9, 92 ; exul- 
tation caused by victory 
over Gucrrih'e, 99 ; his 
famous crui^e, 335 ; de- 
serves palm as best single- 
ship captain . . 447-9 
Humble, James . . 122, 124 

Hunt, Hon. W. M. 


Hunter, 142, 147, 171-2, 256 

259, 260, 262-5, 267-70, 


Hunter's Point 


Hurlburt, Sailing-master 


Huron, Lake . 139, 144 


Hutchinson, Lieut. W. . 


Icarus . . . . 


Impressment of American sea- 

men, 1-4, 33 ; cases on rec- 







Indian Ocean 


Inglis, Lieut. G. . 


Ingraham, E. D., "Capture 
of Washington " 

Ingram, Lieut. W. . . 300 

Ireland . . . 176, 335 

Irish Channel . . .176 

Irvine, Lieut. . 156, 159, 264 

Isle Aux Noix . . . 376 

Italians . . .35 

Izard, Gen. . . . 366 

Jackson, Gen., 347, 410; at 

New Orleans . . . 174 

Jamaica . . . .73 

Jamaica fleet . . 335, 442 

James, W., "Naval History 
of Great Britain " and 
" Naval Occurrences," iii, 
iv, 2, 4, 5, 36-42, 56, 61, 
63, 67, 74-6, 80-1, 85, 96-7, 
99-100, 108-9, 114, ^18, 124, 
128, 142, 145-50, 160-1, 
j66, 169, 171-2. 175-6, 183, 
187, 191, 194-6, 202, 206-7, 
208, 211, 213, 221-5, 230-1, 
234, 238, 242-4, 257-8, 262, 
275. 278-9, 286, 2S8, 290, 
298, 300. 303, 308, 312-15, 
317, 322, 327, 329, 331, 
337-9, 341-3, 355-6, 359, 
361, 377. 379-86, 396-7, 
402-7, 409, 415, 421,426-7, 
431-4, 441, 449, 451 ; his 
history a piece of special 
pleading, iv ; most valua- 
ble authority on British 
affairs, haired toward Ameri- 
cans, 14 ; misstatements, 
15-6 ; basis for all other 
English histories of the war, 
17 ; unreliability, 146, 202 ; 
grossly inaccurate, inexcusa- 
ble garbling of reports, 
309 ; wilful perversion of 
truth, 310 ; endeavor to 
prove American seamen 
cowards, 333 ; wherein his 
chief value for reference lies, 
333 ; misstatements re- 
echoed by all British his- 
torians, 408 ; utterly un- 
trustworthy, except for 
things purely British . 410 

Jasseur . . . .317 

Java, 41, 58, 61-2, 66-8, 99, 
113, 119-33, 137, 189, 191, 
193, 275, 288, 319, 439-40, 



447, 449 ; engagement with 
Constitution, iig-123 : cap- 
tured by her, 123 ; after re- 
ceiving severe injuries, 124 ; 
list of killed and wounded, 124-6 
Jefferson . 353-355, 357, 363 
Jefferson, Pres. T., project of 
having navy composed of 
small gun-boats . 199, 445 

John, Lieut. -Col. . . 337 

jfohn Adams, 48, 71 , curious 
tradition about her sailing 
qualities .... 336 
Johnson, Lieut. R. . . 340 

Johnston, Sailing-master, 

343-4, 410 
Jones, Lieut. T. C. . 343-5, 347 
Jones, Capt. J., E00-3, 105-6, 

177, 447 
Jones, Surgeon J. C. . 122, 127 
Joties . 353, 355, 357, 363 

Julia, 146, 151, 154, 229, 231, 

236, 238, 240. 251, 283, 443 
Junon . 172, 200, 203, 289 
Kearney, Lieut. L. . . 412 

Klaeson, Capt., blowing up 

his ship . . . 302 

Kerr, Capt. R. . . . 423 

King, Capt. . . .158 

King, Lieut. . . 158, 316 

Kingston, 143, 154-5, 222, 
228, 233, 235-6, 251, 353, 
357, 360, 362, 366-7 ; block- 
aded by Chauncy . 155, 363 
Knox, Pilot .... 183 
Lady Gore . . 250, 283 

Lady of Lake, 224, 229, 231, 

236 ; captures Lady Murray 236 
Lady Prevost, 142,147,259-60, 

262-4, 267, 270-280 
Lady Murray . . .236 

Lamb, Midshipman, killed . 268 
Lambert, Capt., 119-20, 449 ; 
mortally wounded in action 
with Constittition . .124 

Landrail, 350 ; captured by 

Syren, privateer . . 327 

Langhorne, Capt. T. L. O. 80 

Lang, Jack . . 38, 102 

" L'audace," etc. . . . 250 

Laurentinus . . . 200 

Law, Lieut. . . 184 

Lawrence, 255-8, 260-6, 269- 

73, 304 ; reduced to a wreck 
on Lake Erie, 268 ; heroic 
courage shown in the de- 
fence . . . .271 
Lawrence, Capt., 73, it 8, 
163, 166. 168, 169, 17], 178, 
181, 182, 191, 216, 218, 285, 
447 ; fatally wounded, I S4-7; 
a "Bayard of the Seas," 

192, 194 
Leander, 321, 423-4, 427 ; cap- 
tures Rattlesnake . .321 
Lee, Midshipman . 395, 397 
Leopard, 42 ; attack on Chesa- 
peake .... 6 
Les Petites Coquilles . . 344 
Levant, 53, 64-5, 176, 276, 
310, 417-22, 424-6, 439,441; 
engagement with Constitu- 
tion, 418-22 ; surrenders . 420 
Linnet, 148, 376, 379, 380, 

389, 390, 394-8 
Linnis, Capt. R., 262 ; killed 264 
Little Belt, 142, 147, 176, 
256, 260, 262-4, 267, 269, 

270, 277, 283, 436 
Livermore, Chaplain . . 185 

Lockyer, Capt. . 343, 345-7 
Loire . . . 386, 317, 318 

London "Naval Chronicle," 

20, 380, 382, 397, 417-8, 422 
Long gun, figure of . ix 

Long Island Sound . 161, 440 

Long Island . . . 402 

Losack, Capt. W. . . 107 

Losses in this war compared 
with Anglo-French naval 
struggle, 453, and Anglo- 
Danish, 453; balance of loss 
against Great Britain . 453 

Lossing, " Field- Book of War 
of iSi2,"i2, 149, 156, 171, 
23c, 231, 256-7, 282, 371, 381 
Lottery, American privateer, 
416 ; captured after stub- 
born resistance, by British 
squadron . . . 172-3 

Louis XV . . . .373 

Louisiana . 137, 343, 348. 410 
Low, C. R., " History of In- 
dian Navy " . . 207, 435-7 
Ludlow, Lieut. A., 178, 184, 
186-7 ; mortally wounded . 8i 



Lzidlow . . . 377, 401 

1 Aim ley, Capt. . . 72, 401 
Lundy's Lane . . .174 

l,ynian, Midship. . . . 310 

l.yman, Master's Mate . . 332 

I.ynhaven Bay . . . 172 

J.ynx . . . 172-4. 349 

Macdonough, Capt. T., 9, 
65, 225, 370 ; force on Lake 
Champlain, 376-9, 381-4, 
386 ; victor against de- 
cided odds, 274, 277, 281 ; 
assumes command of Cham- 
plain, 281 ; builds three 
new vessels, 282-3 ; prepa- 
ration for engagement, 387 ; 
prays before the battle, 387 ; 
description of the action, 
389-98 ; Macdonough's gal- 
lant and energetic conduct, 
392-4 ; his victory, 398 ; 
courtesy and humanity to 
prisoners and wovfnded, 398; 
his character, — one of the 
greatest of our sea-captains 399 
Macomb, Gen., at Platts- 

burgh .... 376 

Macedonian, vi, li, 33, 43, 
55. 57^ 58, 66-8, 106, 108, 
110, 112-5. 116, 128, 130-1, 
137, 177, 189, 193, 301,378, 
421, 425, 434, 446; en- 
gagement with and cap- 
ture by United States, 108- 
9 : severely damaged and 
with great loss of crew, iio; 
Americans in her crew . no 

Machilimacinac . . . 372 

Madeira . . . 163, 417 

Madison, T53, 223-6, 231, 238. 
240, 244-9, 252, 354-5, 357, 

364. 376 
Magnet . . 355-7, 363. 397 
Maidstone . . . .172 

Maitland, Capt. . . 287 

Majestic . . .401-2, 404 

Makanilla . . . -335 

;Malheureux Islands, 289-90, 383-4 
,Man, Isle of . , . . 414 

Manly II4 

Manners, Capt. W., 35, 73, 
351. 352 ; heroic conduct 
in action with Wasp, 323 ; 

mortally wounded leading 
the attack, 324 ; praise due 
him ..... 447 
Maples, Capt. J. F. . 205-7 

Maranham .... 426 
Marquesas .... 164 
Marry att's novels . . .21 

Mars 217 

Marshall's " Royal Naval 
Biography," 13, 33, 42, 82, 

85, 108, 112, 423, 425-7 
Marshall, Capt. . . .124 

Martha's Vineyard . .171 

Martin .... 203 

Mary .... 250, 283 
"Masters '-Com. Letters," vi, 

163, 204, 374 
Matterface, Lieut. W. . . 340 
McCall, Lieut. E. R. . 213, 215 
McClintock, Midship. . 202-3 

McCreery, L.ieut. D. . . 214 

McDonald, Lieut. . . 429 

McGowan, Midship. . . 366 

McHenry, Fort, attacked un- 
successfully by bomb vessels 320 





McKeever, Lieut. J 

McKnight, Lieut. 

McPherson, Lieut. 



Melville, 11^-^, 22,"] 


Mensing, Com. A. 


Meteor . 

Milan . 

Militia of U. S., as a rule, use- 
less in this war, but gain 
splendid victory at New 
Orleans, 10 ; not able to 
withstand much smaller 
well-trained force 

Miller, Capt. 

Miller, Lieut. 

Mills, Col. 

Mindham, W 



Mitchell, Col 

Mix, Sailing-master 

Mobile Point 

Mohawk^ 141, 202 

. 345 

310, 332 

154, 229 

. 217 

327, 428 


. 318 

. vii 

. 440 




' 318', 




*. 182', 


. 73, 



'• 358', 


• 154. 








Moira . . . -355 

Mona Passage . . . 287 

Monk, Sailing-master J. . 174 

Montagu . . .118, 165 
Montgomery . . .283 

Alojitreal . 355, 356-8, 368 

Montresor, Capt. . . . 343 

Morris, Capt. Charles (Com- 
modore), "Autobiography," 

90. 133, 334-8 
Morris, Lieut. C. . 84, 91, 115 

Mount, Cape . . . 334 

Mulcaster, Capt. W. H., 
245-8, 252-3, 358-9 ; best 
British officer on Ontario 247 
Murray, Capt. J. . 282-3, 289 

Nancy . . . 374, 444 

Nantucket . . 82, 177, 341 

Napoleon's defeat by Well- 
ington .... 406 
Narcisstis, 172, ig6, 317-8 ; 

captures Viper . . .172 

Nattagawassa Creek . . 372 

Nautilus, 38-9, 43, 72, 82, 
137. 207, 306, 409, 435-6, 
439 ; captured by British 
squadron . . , ,82 

Nayaden . . . 54-7 

Naval archives . . . 377 

"Naval Chronicle," iv, vi, 41, 

124, 127, 128, 148, 214 
Naval monument . . 286 

Naval War of 1S12, no satis- 
factory histor}^ of it, iii, iv ; 
subject deserving attention, 
V ; authorities referred to, 
vi ; causes of the war, i ; 
impossibility of avoiding it, 
6 ; declaration of war June 
18, 1S12, 7 ; slight prepara- 
tions made, 7 ; opens badly 
for United States, 8 ; battles 
mere skirmishes, 8 ; battle 
at Bladensburg, burning of 
public buildings at Washing- 
ton, attack on Baltimore, 
battle of New Orleans, 9 ; 
authorities referred to, 11 ; 
overwhelming naval suprem- 
acy of Great Britain, 22 ; 
practical lessons conveyed 
by the war, 25 ; race iden- 
tity of combatants, 26 ; prac- 

tically a civil war, 27 ; 
American navy at beginning 
of war, 27 ; officers well 
trained, 28 ; efficiency of 
seamen and its causes, 29 ; 
similarity between British 
and American seamen, 31 ; 
American vessels manned 
chiefly by native Americans, 
many of whom had formerly 
been impressed into British 
navy, 32-43 ; quotas of sea- 
men contributed by the differ- 
ent States, 44 ; navy yards, 

46 ; lists of officers and men, 

47 ; tonnage and ratings, 
American ships properly 
rated, 49—60 ; armaments, 
three styles of guns used, 62 ; 
difference described, 63-65 ; 
short weight of American 
shot, 66 ; comparison of 
British and American frig- 
ates, 67-71 ; Belvidera pur- 
sued by Commodore Rod- 
gers, 74 ; engagement be- 
tween Belvidera and Pres- 
ident, 75 ; Hornet captures 
a privateer, 77 ; cruise of 
Essex, 78-80 ; Consiitutiott 
captures Guerriere, 92 ; 
marked superiority shown 
by Americans, 96 ; Wasp 
captures Frolic after hot 
action, 103 ; disproportion- 
ate loss on British side, ro5 ; 
both vessels captured by 
Poic tiers, 106 ; United 
States captures Macedonian, 
109 ; slight American, and 
great British, loss, no ; 
comments by Lord Douglass 
on the action, 113-15 ; Con- 
stittction captures Java, 
123 ; slight injuries received 
by Constitution, 123 ; severe 
lesson Java, 124 ; diagram 
of action, 125 ; comparative 
force and loss, 126 ; com- 
ments by various authorities, 
127-129 ; comments by 
Adm. de la Graviere on first 
three battles of war, 129- 



132 ; comments by the au- 
thor, 132-3 ; Fzx^;« captured 
by Southampton, and both 
wrecked, 134 ; Essex cap- 
tures Nocton, afterward re- 
captured, 135 ; summary of 
the year's fighting, 135-S ; 
vessels captured or de- 
stroyed, and vessels built, 
137 ; prizes made, 138 ; 
war on the lakes, 139 ; com- 
batants on nearly equal foot- 
ing, 140 ; difficulty of com- 
paring the rival squadrons, 
144 ; unreliability of au- 
thorities, especially James, 
146 ; Earle's feeble attack 
on Sackett's Harbor, 151 ; 
pursuit and attack on Royal 
Geoj'ge hy Chauncy, 154-5; 
Elliott captures Detroit and 
Caledonia, 157 ; attack on 
Red House barracks by 
Lieut, Angus, 158 ; disas- 
trous result, 159 ; brutal 
sacking of Hampton, 161 ; 
on the ocean, 160 ; block- 
ade of American coast, t6i; 
Commodore Porter's cam- 
paign with Essex in South 
Pacific, 164 ; Hornet chs.'SQ A 
by Bonne Citoyenne, 165 ; 
Hornet captures Resolution, 
166 ; Hoi-net captures Pea- 
cock, 167 ; diagram of ac- 
tion, 170; comparative force 
and loss, 171 ; generous 
treatment shown by victors, 
171 ; captures Narcissus, 
Viper 172 ; Lottery, Dol- 
phin, Racer, Arab, and 
Lynx, American privateers 
cut out by British boats, 172- 
174 ; Nartvich captures 
British privateer Caledonia, 
174 ; third cruise of Corn- 
mod. Rodgers, 174-7; Unit- 
ed States, Macedonia, and 
Wasp blockaded in New 
London, 177; Broke's chal- 
lenge to Lawrence, 181; en- 
gagement between Shannon 
and Chesapeake ^ 182-8 ; 

Chesapeake captured after 
desperate fight, 187 ; com- 
ments and criticism by 
Cooper, 189-igo ; by de la 
Graviere, 192 ; by author, 
189-96; by British historians, 
194 ; Surveyor captured by 
Narcisstts, 196-7 ; futile 
gun-boat actions, 200; Brit- 
ish attack on Craney Island, 

201 ; repulsed with loss, 

202 ; Asp cut out by boats 
from Mohawk and Contest, 

203 ; American gun-boat 
cut out by boats from Junon 
and Martin, 204 ; engage- 
ment between Argus and 
Pelican, 205-6 ; capture of 
Argus, 206 ; comparative 
force and loss, and diagram 
of action, 207-8; not a cred- 
itable action for Americans, 
208 ; comments and com- 
parison with similar fights, 
208-12; Enterprise C7x.\)\.\xxQ'i 
Boxer after very severe en- 
gagement, 215 ; British pri- 
vateer Dart captured by 
Newport flotilla, 217; ocean 
warfare of 1813 in favor of 
British, 217 ; summary of 
year, 217-220; vessels sunk, 
taken, built and purchased, 
prizes made, 218-20 ; on 
the lakes, 1813, Chauncy's 
squadron compared with 
Yeo's, 223-227 ; Yeo's su- 
perior, 227; Chauncy takes 
York, 229 ; takes Fort 
George, inflicting heavy loss, 
231-2 ; British evacuate Ni- 
agara frontier, 232 ; British 
attack on Sackett's Harbor 
is repulsed with great loss, 
234 ; Lady of Lake captures 
Lady Murray, 236 ; Hamil- 
ton and Scourge founder in 
a squall, 237 ; evolution of 
the two squadrons, 238 ; di- 
agram showing position of 
vessels, 239 ; British gain 
advantage in action ensuing, 
240 ; but the result not de- 



cisive, 241 ; nor the victory 
brilliant, 242 ; Americans 
reinforced by Sylph, 243 ; 
engagement near Genesee 
River, 243 ; in York Bay, 
245-7 ; diagram of action, 
246; comments and criticism 
by Brenton, James, and the 
author, 247-50 ; American 
force superior, 240; reported 
heavy loss on the Wolfe 
and Royal George, 251; Yeo 
blockaded in Kingston, 251; 
summary of the season on 
Ontario, 251-4 ; success 
in favor of Americans, 
251 ; Yeo and Chauncy 
compared, 252 ; reason for 
American success, 254 ; 
campaign on Lake Erie, 
255 ; description of the 
squadrons, 256-262 ; en- 
gagement with heavy loss on 
both sides, 262-8 ; Ameri- 
can victory and its import- 
ance, 268-g ; "glory" of it 
overestimated, 271 ; dia- 
gram of action, 269-70 ; 
great valor displayed on 
both sides, 271 ; injudicious 
praise in Cooper's "Naval 
History," 272-3 ; comments 
and criticism, 272-81 ; vic- 
tory due to heavy metal, 
274 ; and superior equip- 
ment in general, 278 ; for 
which credit is due to Per- 
ry, 278 ; men forming the 
crews, 278 ; campaign on 
Champlain, 281 ; Grozvler 
and Eagle captured by gun- 
boat attack, 282 ; total loss 
on lakes during 1813, 283 ; 
on the ocean, 1814, 284; 
destruction of coasters and 
fishing-boats at Pettipauge, 

285 ; cruise of Rodgers, 

286 ; chased into Marble- 
head, 290 ; attempt at cut- 
ting out the Alligator de- 
feated, 290 ; British man- 
oeuvres to capture Essex, 
298 ; fight between Phcebe 

and Cherub and the Essex, 
298-300 ; Essex captured 
after great loss, 300 ; com- 
ments and criticisms on the 
action, 301-10 ; discrepan- 
cies in ofhcial accounts of 
loss on Essex, 303 ; com- 
parative force on the three 
vessels, 307 ; action be- 
tween Peacock and Epervier, 
312-13 ; Epervier captured, 
313 ; diagram of action, 
313 ; comparative force and 
loss, 314 ; comments, 315 ; 
Commod. Barney's flotilla 
attacks Dragon and AUnon, 

318 ; attack of British on 
Washington by land and 
sea, 318 ; capture of Wash- 
ington by Gen. Ross, and 
burning of public buildings, 

319 ; Baltimore threatened, 
320 ; unsuccessful attack 
on Fort McHenry and re- 
tirement of British fleet 
and army, 320 ; Wasp 
captures Reindeer after 
severe engagement, 322-5 ; 
diagram of action, 325; com- 
ments, 326 ; the odds 
against Reindeer, 320 ; gal- 
lantry of both captains, 326 ; 
j£"rt_cr/^ tender captured, 327 ; 
Syren taken by Medway, 
Landj'ail taken by privateer 
Syren, 327 ; Wasp chases 
Avon, 328 ; captures her 
after brief and furious en- 
gagement, 330 ; ^z/(?« sinks, 
33 r ; diagram of action 330 ; 
comparative force and loss, 
comments, 331-2 ; cruise of 
the Adams, 334 ; chased by 
Tigris and escapes, 335-6 ; 
curious sailing qualities re- 
sulting from being built by 
contract, 336 ; attacked on 
Penobscot, 337 ; burned by 
Capt. Morris, 338 ; priva- 
teer Gen. Armstrong at- 
tacked in Fayal roads, 339 ; 
crew compelled to scuttle 
and burn her, 340 ; boats 



from Endymion attack pri- 
vateer Prince de Neufcha- 
tel, 341 ; repulsed after 
desperate struggle, 342 ; 
American gun-boats on 
Lake Borgne taken, 346 ; 
serious loss of British, 347 ; 
fighting near New Orleans, 
348 ; summary of year's 
fighting, vessels built, lost, 
and captured, 348-9 ; gen- 
eral comments, 351 ; prizes 
made, 352 ; on the lakes, 
1814, Ontario, American 
schooners converted^ into 
transports, 352 ; New ves- 
sels launched by Americans, 
353 ; by British, 354 ; sta- 
tistics, of the two squad- 
rons, 355-6 ; serious sick- 
ness among the Ameri- 
cans. 354 ; Yeo takes Os- 
wego, 358 ; and blockades 
Sackett's Harbor, 360 ; 
raises blockade, 362 ; 
Chauncy blockades King- 
ston, 363 : refuses to co-op- 
erate with General Brown, 
364-7; cautiousness of com- 
manders of both squadrons, 
365-71; Capt. Sinclair, com- 
mander of American forces 
on upper lakes, burns St. 
Joseph, 372 ; makes unsuc- 
cessful expedition against 
Mackinaw, leaves for Lake 
Erie, 372 ; daring cutting- 
out expedition of British 
on Huron and Erie, 373-4 ; 
capture of Ohio and So/iiers, 
375 ; Champlain, descrip- 
tion of Macdonough's and 
Downie's squadrons, 376- 
81 ; James' erroneous state- 
ments in regard to them, 
381-7; description of action, 
389-98 ; gallant and ener- 
getic conduct of Macdon- 
ough, 392 ; inexperience of 
the crews, loading cannon 
without powder, 393 ; Mac- 
donough's victory, 398 ; 
extraordinary damage to 

vessels on both sides, 397 ; 
comments on the action, 
398 ; Macdonough one 
of the greatest of Ameri- 
can sea captains, 398 ; 
his character, 399 ; on 
the ocean, 1815, 400; 
President chased by Capt. 
Hayes' squadron, 401 ; dis- 
mantles Endymion, 403, but 
is raked by Tenedos and 
Pomo7ia, and surrenders, 
404 ; account of this action 
taken mainly from official 
reports, 405 ; discussion of 
various misstatements in re- 
gard to it, 405-10 ; brilliant 
cutting-out expeditions by 
Americans, 411-13 ; Ameri- 
can privateer Chasseur en- 
gages and captures Si Law- 
7'ence, 415-6 ; ability of 
several privateer captains, 

416 ; cruise of Constitution, 

417 ; engagement with Cy- 
ane and Levant, 41S-22 ; 
captures both, 419-20 ; 
comparative force and loss, 
420-1 ; brilliant manoeuv- 
ring of Consti tiition, diagra.m 
of action, comments, 422 ; 
Constitution chased by three 
frigates, 424 ; successful 
escape, 425-7 ; Hoi-net cap- 
tures Penguin, 429-30 ; dia- 
gram of action, 430 ; com- 
parative force, greater effec- 
tiveness of Americans, 431 ; 
Hornet escapes from pursuit 
of Cornivallis, 435 ; Peacock 
captures East Indiaman, 
Nautilus, 436 ; Capt. War- 
rington acts without proper 
precautions, 437 ; wanton 
attack on American gun- 
boat, by Capt. Bartholow, 
after declaration of peace, 
438 ; summary of events in 
1815, 439 ; Americans de- 
serve balance of praise, 439 ; 
list of ships built and de- 
stroyed, 439-41 ; feeling 
about use of torpedoes, 441 ; 



material result of naval part 
of war slight, moral benefit 
to the Americans great, 
442 ; total loss on both sides 
compared, 443 ; comments 
and criticisms on various 
actions of the war in gen- 
eral, 44-1-50 ; best criticism 
that of de la Graviere in 
"Guerre^ Maritimes," 450 ; 
compared with results of 
Anglo-French struggle, 452- 
453 ; tonnage of vessels in 
i8t2, how estimated, 455- 
459 ; twelve single-ship 
actions in war, 459 ; causes 
of American success, 460 ; 
previous history of Amer- 
ican navy, 459-65 ; Soley's 
" Naval Compaign of 
1812" .... 469 

Navigation bureau . . 167 

Navy of Great Britain com- 
pared with that of U. S. . 51 
Navy of U. S., reputation 
gained in the war, 6 ; in- 
creased fourfold in numbers 
during war, 8 ; previous his- 
tory, 459; American superior 
to French in 1800, 462-3, 
but slightly inferior to Brit- 
ish, 464, but in 1777-82 
much inferior, 464 ; reasons, 
464 ; Troude's blunders . 464 
Navy list of 18 16 . . .38 

Neale, Lieut. . . . 201 

Nelson, Lord, 33, 150 ; " pre- 
sumptuous," 196 ; success 
against heavy odds , . 277 

Nereide . . . 59, 421 

Nereyda . . . .164 

J^e//y . . 353. 356-7, 377 
JVetf/e . . . .377 

Netifchatel . . 12, 69, 416 
Neutral rights, views held by 
United States and Great 
Britain . . . i, 5, 6 

Newcastle . . . 423-7 
New England furnished 44 
^ of tonnage U. S. Navy, 
45 ; loyalty doubted . 160 

Newfoundland, 77, 88, 139, 

177, 335 

New Jersey . . . .16} 

New London, 116, 117, 401 ; 

blockaded by Hardy . 285 

New Orleans, 174, 340, 343, 
348, 400, 410 : battle of. g ; 
a useless shedding of blood 10 
New York, 48, 139, 177, 316, 

401, 413. 426, 427, 440 
Niagara, 255-64, 266-8, 270, 

272, 355-8, 364, 372, 376 
Niagara Bay . . .241 

Niagara Falls . . . 142 

Niagara, Fort . 236, 240, 563 
Niagara River . . . 363 

Niagara frontier evacuated by 

British .... 232 
Nicholson, Lieut. N. J- 315, 327 
I*Jicholson, Joseph, letter .217 
Nile, battle of . . . 194 

Niles' " Weekly Register," 
iv, 20, loi, 127, 150, 171, 
173, 174, 187, 314, 330, 364, 
415, 438; misstatements and 
buncombe, 16 ; utterly un- 
trustworthy, excepting for 
matters purely American ; 
supplements James . .410 
Nocton . . . 134-5 

N'onsitch . . . -137 

Norse . . . -35 

North Bergen . . .175 

North Edisco . . 290, 412 

North Cape . . -175 

N'ofT.uich captures privateer 

Caledonia . . .174 

Nova Scotia . . .88 

Nova Scotia privateers . .213 

Nymph . . 107, 217, 287 

O'Connor, Capt. . . . 358 

Odenheimer, Lieut., knocked 

overboard . . . 299 

" Officers' Letters," . . vi 

Ogdensburg . . .151 

Ohio . 254-6, 374, 399 

Old adage, " L'audace," etc. 250 
' ' 0/d Ironsides ' ' ( Consiiiu • 

Hon) . 87, 335, 439, 447 

Oliver, Capt. R. D. . . 177 
Oneida Lake . . . 141 

Oneida Indians . , . 361 

Oneida, 150-1, 1 53-5, 223. 
225-6, 229, 231, 238, 244-5, 
248-9, 252, 353, 355, 357. 363 



Ontario, 153, 224, 229. 231, 

238, 244, 349 
Ontario Lake, 139-44, 149-50, 

242, 255-6, 368, 443 
Onyz . . . .117 

C)porto .... 205 

( )idronaux, Capt. . 341, 416 

L 'Orient . . 204, 327, 328 

Orders in Council of Great 

Britain .... 7 
Orpheus . . .51, 311 

Ortegal, Cape . . . 316 

Osgood, Lieut. . . 229 

Oswego, 357, 360, 363, 368 ; 

taken by Veo . . 358 

Packenham, Gen., 343 ; killed 

at New Orleans . . 410 

Packet, Lieut. J. H. . . 262 
Paige, Lieut. . . .178 

Paine, Sailing-master T., 

greaf gallantry shown . 341 

Palimire . . . .211 

Palmas, Cape . . . 334 

Palmer, Capt. . . .412 

Pamphlets in reply to Cooper's 
account of battle of Lake 
Erie . . . .275 

Park, Lieut. T. . . . 340 

Parker, Capt. G., 41, 123, 

129, 2S9-90, 327, 401, 404 
Parker, Midshipman G. . 346 

Parker, Sir P., 318 ; killed, 319 
" Parthian " mode of warfare 195 
/"as/ey . . . .117 

Patterson, Capt. . . 37, 347 
Patuxent River . . 317-8 

Paulding, Adm, . . . 380 
Paulding, Midshipman . 391 

Peacock, vii, 12, 40, 43, 5 1-2, 
130, 163, 166-72, 207-8, 
210-11, 217, 219, 311-16, 
322, 334, 349. 352, 401, 

427. 432-3, 436, 439. 446 : 

engagement with Hornet, 
166 ; surrenders to her and 
sinks, 167 ; generous treat- 
ment of crew by officers of 
Hornet, 171 ; captures 
Epervier, 313 ; diagram of 
action, 313 ; comparative 
force and loss, 314 ; com- 
ments on the action, 315 ; 
skilful seamanship and ex- 

cellent gunnery shown by 
the Americans, 315 ; cap- 
tures East Indiaman Nau- 
tilus without loss or dam- 
age ..... 436 
Peake, Capt. W. , 166-7 ; i^^g- 
lect of essentials for mere 
incidents of disdipline . 109 

Pearce, Capt. . . . 336 

Pechell, Capt. . . . 201 
Pelican, 12, 205-11, 315 ; en- 
gagement with Aj-gus, 205 ; 
captures her, 206 ; com- 
parative loss and force, 
207-8 ; diagram of action 208 
Pendleton, Lieut. T. M. . 338 
Penguin, 61, 66, 68, 118, 
181, 208, 276, 409-10, 428- 
33, 439, 441, 445, 447 ; cap- 
tured by Hornet, 429 ; dia- 
gram of action, 430 ; de- 
stroyed .... 432 
Penguin Point . . . 213 

Penobscot River . . . 336 

Percival, Sailing-master, cap- 
tures Eagle, tender . . 327 
Perry, Com. O. H., 63, 68, 
159, 222, 231, 233, 236, 
245, 253-4, 370, 408 ; com- 
manding American forces 
on Lake Erie, 254-4 \ de- 
scription of squadron, 256 ; 
and crews, 267, 258-61 ; 
engagement with Barclay, 
262 ; his indomitable spirit, 
266-7 '• ^"lis humanity to the 
wounded enemy, 268 ; great 
reputation gained by his 
victory, 271-2 ; praised by 
Cooper, 273-4, 277 ; de- 
serves great credit for effec- 
tiveness of his squadron, 
278-So ; his methods similar 
to Blake . . .281 
Perry . . . .316 
Pert, 152, 154, 224, 229, 238, 

244, 256 
Pettigrew, Lieut. . . . 229 

Pettipauge, destruction of 

fishing-boats . . . 285 

Philadelphia . . .32 

Phillot, Capt. . . .437 
Phoenix . . . 98-9 



Phxhe, 55, 59, 64, 276, 291-6, 

29S, 300-,l 305-10 
Philadelphia . . .413 

Picioii . . . 286-350 

Piedniontaise . . 9S-9 

Pierce, Lieut. . .179 

Pigot, Capt. . .311 

Pi^e X 

Pike, Gen., 229 ; killed by 

explosion . . . 230, 234 

Pi^ue .... 287-S 
Plantagenet . 286, 338-9 

Plattsburgh . . 2S2, 376, 421 

Plattsbuigh Bay . 387-8, 397 

Plymouth . . . .413 

Pocock .... 369 

Poictiers . . . IO5-6 

Polkinghorne, Lieut. J., cuts 
out four American priva- 
teers, 173 ; a brilliant ex- 
pedition . . . 174 
Pomona . . 401-7 
Popham, Capt. . 359, 361, 362 
Porcupine, 254, 256, 260, 262, 

264, 269-70, 374-5 
Port Christian . . . 343 

Porter, Adm., 15, 34, 50. 58, 
78, iiS, 134-5, 164, 291-8, 
299, 301-7, 30S-9, 370, 406, 
408, 447 ; thorough training 
of his crew on the Essex, 
80 ; cruise in South Pacific, 
breaking up whaling fleet, 
164-5, 196, 217; knocked 
down by shot . , . 299 

Portland . . . 213, 338 

Porto Praya . , 423, 426 

Porto Rico .... 426 
Poitsmouth . . 121, 175, 321 

Portugal, 417 ; her small 

navy . . . . .61 

Portuguese customs under 

British influence . 35, 164 

" Pot calling kettle black " . 248 
Potomac . . .318, 343 

Pratt, Lieut. . . . 346 

Preble, G. H. . . 46, 52 

PreMe, 2S3, 377-8, 388, 390-1, 397 
Presqu' Isle . 236, 254, 362 
President, 39, 54, 56, 73-4, 
106-7, 138, 174, 176. 218, 
220, 283, 286, 352, 401-8, 
410, 425, 427, 432, 436, 

439, 441, 443-5 ; attack on 
Liltle Belt, 7 ; engngement 
with Belvidera, 74-76 ; 
chased by British fleet, 401 ; 
attacked by Endyinion but 
dismantles her, 403 ; at- 
tacked by Tenedos and 
Pomona and surrenders 
Prevost, Sir G., 9, 148, 222, 
233, 375, 379. 380, 382-3 ; 
attacks Sackett's Harbor 
with Yeo and is repulsed, 
234 ; returns in confusion 
to Canada 
Piimrose .... 
Prificess Charlotte 354, 356-8, 
Prince de Netifchatel, 341, 
attacked by boats of Endy- 
mion, 341 ; repulses them 
after desperate struggle 
Prince Regent, drunken 
Prince A' e gent, 140, 233, 354-7, 
Pring, Capt., 3S2-3, 389, 396, 
Privateer, American, descrip- 
tion of . . . 413-415 
Prize-money ($25,000) voted 
by Congress to crew of 
prizes made 
vessels in 




Wasp, 106 ; 

by American 

1812 .... 


Prosperotis .... 
Prussian .... 

Psycho .... 

Put-in Bay .... 
Queen Charlotte, 142, 147, 
259-60, 263-5, ~^l-lo, 
Race, Cape 

Pacer ..... 
Race characteristics not main 

cause of American success 
Radcliffe, Lieut. . 34, 372-3 

Rainbow . . . .421 

Kamillies .... 285 
Rattlesnake, 39, 220, 311, ^ 

321, 350 ; captured by Le- 

ander .... 

Rawle, Lieut. R. 
Read, Lieut. G. O. 
Reade, Col. . . 

Red House barracks attacked 

by Lieut. Angus. 














ktkl, Capt. S. C. . 33S-40, 416 
Reindeer, 35, 52, 73, 171, 208, 
299, 304, 322-6, 350-1, 398, 
409, 445-8 ; captured by 
Hornet, 166 , engagement 
with Wasp, 322-5 ; severity 
of action, 324 ; diagram and 
comparative force and loss, 
325 ; the odds against the 
Reindeer , . . .326 

Renshaw, Lieut. -Com. . 216, 321 
Resolution . . . .166 

Richer, Lieut. . . .96 

Rifleman . . . -336 

Rio de Janeiro . . .432 

Riviere, Lieut. H., " La Ma- 
rine Fran9aise," . 369-70 
Roach, William . . . 297 
Roach, Lieut. J. . . 156-7 
Robert, Capt. . . 343-4 
Robinson, Batty . . . 124 
Robinson, Chaplain H. . 404 
Rock of Lisbon . . .417 
Rodgers, Commodore, 7, 38, 
72; 78, S3, 119, 286, 323, 
370, 442, 444 ; chase of Bel- 
videra, iy, fires first gun, 74; 
leaves Boston, 106 ; chases 
Nytnphe, 107 ; captures Ja- 
maica packet Swallow, 107 ; 
pursues in vain Galatea . 107 
Ross, Gen., attack on Wash- 
ington, 318 ; captures the 
city and burns the public 
buildings, 318 ; unsuccess- 
ful attack on Baltimore, 320 
is killed .... 320 
Rota .... 338-40 
Rowlette, Lieut. . 156, 264, 268 
Rouvier, Lieut., " Histoiredes 

Marins Franfais " . . 194 

Royal George, 140, 151, 154, 
224-5, 233, 245-9, 251-3, 
355; attacked by Chauncy's 
squadron . . . -154 

" Ruff " .... 299 

Sackett's Harbor, 71, 143, 
150-1, 153. 155, 228, 230, 
233, 241, 251-2, 363, 366, 
368 ; inadequate defences, 
233 ; attack by Prevost re- 
pulsed with great loss to 
him, 234-6 ; slight fortifica- 

tions, 353, 357 ; blockaded 

by Yeo, 360; blockade raised 362 

St. Augustine 



St. Catharines 




St. David's Head 



St. George . 




St. George's Channel 


St. Georges, Bermuda, 


miralty Court 


St. Joseph's fort and barracks 




St. Lawrence Gulf 



St. Lawrence River 


St. Lawrence, 317, 





St. Leonard Creek 



St. Louis Bay 


St. Mary's . 




St. Mary's River 


St. Mary's Strait 




San Domingo 



, 201 

San Florenzo . 


59, 96, 99 

San Gallao . 



San J ago 


, 134 


San Salvador, llS 

, 119. 



Salem . 


Samuell, Midshipman . 


Sanders, Capt. 


Sandy Hook . 




Sapolio Bar . 



Sa/ anac. 



Saranac River 




Saratoga, 147, 276 




90, 392-7 

Saunders, Lieut. J 







Sawyer, Admiral 


Scott, Col. . 




Scott at Lundy's L 

ane . 


Scorpion, 202, 254, 



262-5, '^^1-10, 3 

17, 372-3, 


Scourge . 153, 22, 

3, 229, 



Sea Horse . 11;; 

^ 318, 



Seamen on the h 



characteristics . 


Second year of wa 

r to ac 


tage of British . 


Senhouse, Capt. . 




Seneca . 





Serrat, Sailing-mas 

ter G. 


Severn . 



Seybert's, "Statistic 

al Annals" 




Shannon, 43, 55, 67, 6g, 73, 
79, 81-7, 95, 178-S5, 187-90, 
192-3, 195, 398. 445. .447, 
450, 452 ; careful training 
of her crew described by 
James, 179-80 ; her arma- 
ment, iSi; engagement with 
Chesapeake, 1^2-1%%] captures 
her, 187; diagram of action. 

Shannon River 

Shaw, Capt. . 

Sheafe, Gen. . 

Shead Sailing-master 

Shepard, Sailing-master 

She lb time 

Sherbrook, Gen. . 

Sliields, Purser T. 

Shubrick, Lieut. J. T, 

SInibrick, Lieut. W. B. , 

Sigourney, Lieut. . 

Siiiico . 

Simmons, Capt., " Heavy Ord- 
nance "... 67, 

Sinclair, Capt. Arthur, 73, 
100 ; commander of Ameri- 
can forces on upper lakes, 
371-2 ; burns St. Joseph, 
372 ; unsuccessful attack on 
Mackinaw, leaves for Lake 
Erie ..... 

Single-ship actions in the war, 
twelve in all . 

Smith, Midshipman 

Smitn, Lieut. S., in. command 
of American forces on 
Champlain, 229, 281; makes 
plucky fight when attacked . 

Smith, Capt. 

Smith, Robert 

Soley, Prof. J. R., " Naval 
Campaign of 1812," 466 ; 
compared with other au- 

Somers, 254, 256-7, 262-4, 

Somerville, Capt. P. 
Sorel River 
Southampton, 73, 79 

captures Vixen 
South Africa 

Southcourt, Capt. J., 172-3, 
Spain, " Floating Castles," . 

. 335 
. 37 
. 229 


• 344 
. 311 

• 337 
. 411 

167, 201 



140, 233 








374, 399 
• 338 



Spanish countries under the 

British influence . . 164 

Spark ..... 349 
Spedder, Lieut. R. . , 344 

Speedy . . 61, 117, 121 
Spitfire . . . .176 

Spithead .... iig 
Spice Islands , . . 414 

Spilsbury, Capt. . . . 361 
Squaw Island , , .157 

Stackpole . . . .112 

Statira , , 57, 112, 172 

Stewart, Capt, C, 36, 61, 162, 
173, 287-9,417.19,421,423, 

425, 427 
Stevens, Sailing-master 
Stony Creek 

Stone River 
Sloddart Sec, 
Stokes, Lieut. 


Stuart, Lord . 

Sunda Straits 


Superior, 353. 355, 357 




Sydney Smith, 224-6, 235 







372 1 Sylph, 230, 243.47, 






. 98 

, 355 





Syren, 39, 327, 350 ; captured 

by the Medivay 

Swartout, Midshipman 
Tarbell, Capt. 

Tartarus .... 
Tatnall, Lieut., 201-2, 346; 

life by C. C. Jones, jr. 447-8 
Taylor, Capt. J. . . . 166 

Taylor, Gen. . . 281-2 

Taylor, Master . . 268 

Tenedos, 79, 289, 327, 401-2, 404 
Terror . . . .320 

Teutonic navies, heroic age of, 303 
Thalia . . . -77 


Thompson, Midshipman 
Thornborough, Ad'm. 
Ticonderoga, 376, 378-9, 382, 

388, 390-2, 397-8 
Tig} is, 254, 256, 260, 262, 

264, 269, 270, 336, 372-3, 399 




Toifi Bowline, 349, 401, 427, 432 
" Tom Cringle's Log " . .21 

Tonnage of vessels in 18 1 2, 
how estimated, 455-g ; gen- 
eral uncertainty and differ- 
ence between British and 
American methods . 456-8 
Tonnant .... 346 
Torch . . . .349 

Torpedo .... 446 

Toussard, Louis de . . xi 

Townsend, Capt. Lord James, 82 
156, 157 

23-4, 33 

Towsen, Capt. N 
Trant, Sailing-master . 154, 229 
Travis, W. S. . . . 196 

Treaty of peace signed Dec. 
24, 1814, ratified Feb. 15, 

1815 399 

Trippe, 254, 256-7, 260, 262, 

264, 266-70 
Tristan d'Acunba . . 427-8 

Tromp . . . 277, 280 

Troude, O., " Batailles Na- 
vales,"97-8, 117, 195-6,242, 

422, 450 
Truxton . . . .28 

Tucker, Capt. T. T. . 291, 300 
Turner, Lieut. D. 226, 266, 372 
Tumbez .... 164 

Tybee Bar .... 438 
Tyler, Adm. . . . 327, 428 

Twin, Sergeant . . . 185 

Ulrich, Sailing-master . 344,346 
United States, vi, 33, 42, 54-7, 
66, 70-1, 73, 95, 98, 106, 
108-10, 112, 114, 130-1, 138, 
177, iSi, 204, 209, 211, 398, 
409, 434, 446 ; engagement 
w'wh. Macedonian, 108-9; the 
latter strikes in l^ hours, 
109 ; American loss slight, 
no; comparative force and 
loss, 112; struck by light- 
ning . . . 
United States, high commer- 
cial importance, 4 ; greatest 
injury received from Great 
Britain, 5 ; principle con- 
tended for now universally 
accepted, 5; passes embargo 
act in retaliation for the 
Orders in Council, 7 ; de- 


clares war June, 1812, 7 ; 
badly worsted at first, 8 ; 
weakness of American navy, 
23 ; policy of government 
supported .... 161 
Upton, Capt. . . . 289 

Valparaiso, 164, 291, 294, 305, 310 
Vashon, Capt. . . -73 

Vaughan, Sailing-master . 362 
de Verde, Cape, 163, 334, 423 

Vengeance . . . .28 

Vermont .... 139 
Vessels .mentioned (see also in 
proper alphabetical place): Abeille, 
Acasta, Achille, Adams, Adonis, 
Aiohis, Ai.tna, Africa, Alacrity, 
Albion, Alert, Alexandria, Alfred, 
Allen, Alligator, Arab, Argo, Ar- 
gus, Ariel, Armada, Ariiiidc, Asp, 
Astrcea, Atalanta, Atlas, Avon, 
Aylivifi, Ballahon, Ballard, Ba- 
rossa, Belvidera, Beresford, Black 
Snake, Boston, Boxer, Bonne 
Citoyenne, Brant, Burroivs, Cale- 
donia, Carnation, Carolina, Car- 
ron, Castilian, Centipede, Cha- 
meleon, Charwell, Chasseur, Cherub, 
Chesapeake, Chippeway, Childers, 
CJnibb, Cleopatra, Clyde, Columbia, 
Comus, Confiance, Congress, Cou' 
quest. Constellation, Constitution, 
Contest, Cormvallis, Curlew, Cy- 
ane, Cyprus, Dart, Decatur, De- 
troit, Devastatiojt, Diadem, Dicta- 
tor, Dolphin, Dominica, Dover, 
Dragon, Druminond, Eagle, Earl 
of Moira, Egyptian, Endymion, 
Epervier, Erebus, Erie, Espiegle, 
Essex, Essez yunior, Eurotas, 
Etiryalus, Etirydice, Fair Ameri- 
can, Fairy, Finch, Firefly, Flam- 
beau, Florida, Foi'tune of War, 
Franklin, Frolic, Fulton, Galatea, 
Genei'al Armstrong, General Pike, 
Gladiator, Gloucester, Governor 
Tompkins, Grozvler, Guerriere, 
Hamilton, Havannah, Hebrus, 
Hermes, Highflyer, Hague, Hor- 
net, Hunter, Icarus, Indefatiga- 
ble, Independence, yasseur, yava, 
yefferson, yohn Adams, yones, 
yulia, yunon, lady Gore, Lady 
Murray, Lady of Lake, Lady Pre- 



vost, Landrail, Laurentinus, Lazu- 
rettce, Leander, Leopard, Levant, 
Linnet, Little Belt, Loire, Lottery, 
Louisiana, Ludlow, Ly7ix, Mace- 
donian, Madison, Magnet, Maid- 
stone, Majestic, Mars, Martin, 
Mary, Medway, Medusa, Melville, 
Metielaus, Merrimac, Meteor, 
Minerva, Mohawk, Moira, Alon- 
tagu, Montgotnery, Montreal, 
Nancy, Narcissus, Nautilus, 
Nereide, Netly, Nettle, N'eufcha- 
tel, Nezvcastle, Nezu York, Niag- 
ara, Nocton, Nonsuch, Norwich, 
Nytnphe, Ohio, Oneida, Ontario, 
Onyx, Orpheus, Palinure, Pasley, 
Peacock, Pelican, Penguin, Perry, 
Pert, Philadelphia, Phivbe, Phce- 
nix, Pictou, Pique, Plantagenet, 
Poictiers, Pomona, Porcupine, 
Preble, President, P7imrose, Prin- 
cess Charlotte, Ptince de Neufcha- 
ttl. Pi i nee Regent, Prometheus, 
Prosperous, Psyche, Queen Char- 
lotte, Racer, Rainbow, Ramilles, 
Rattlesnake , Reindeer, Resolution, 
Rifleman, Rota, Royal George, St. 
Lazvrence, San Domingo, San 
Florenzo, Saranac, Saratoga, Scor- 
pion, Scourge, Sea-Horse, Seneca, 
Seringapatam, Severn, Shannon, 
Shelburne, Simco, Somers, Sophie, 
Southampton, Spark, Speedy, Spit- 
fire, Star, Statera, Superb, Superi- 
or, Surprise, Surveyor, Swallow, 
Sybil, Sydney Smith, Sylph, Syren, 
Tartarus, Tenedos, Terror, Thalia, 
Thorn, Ticondefoga, Tig) is, Tom 
Bozuline, Tonnant, Torpedo, Torch, 
Tiippe, United States, Viper, 
Vixen, Volcano, Washington, 
Wasp, Williams, Wilmer, Wolfe, 
Woodbridge, Young Wasp. 
Vesta le . . . -59 

Victory . . . -33 

Villeneuve, M. . . . 242 

Vincent, Gen. . . 230, 232 

Viper, 39, 177, 219, 377 ; cap- 
tured by Narcissus 
Virgin . . . . '\}^1 
Vixen, 39, 134, 137 ; captuiWi,*<i 
Southampton . . . 134 

Volcano .... 320 

Wadsworth, Col. . . 318 

Wadsworth, Lieut. . . 335 

Wales, Capt. . . .313 

War of 1 812: Ward's "Manual 
of Naval Tactics," 149, 262, 380, 

A,r ^ 447 

Wareham .... 286 
Warren, Adm. Sir J. . 161, 243 
Warrington, Capt. L. , 311-6, 

his attack on the Nautilus, 
needless cruelty, 306 ; acted 
without proper humanity . 437 
Washington, burning of pub- 
lic buildings, 9, 319 ; British 
advance on . . 318-9 

Washington, Fort, 3 1 8 ; attacked 

by Gordon, and abandoned 319 
Washington .... 439 
Wasp, 14, 35, 38-40, 43, 53, 
66, 68, 73, 100-6, 137-8, 
166, 177, 180, 2og-io, 275, 
310, 321-5, 328-34, 349, 
352, 398, 428, 445-7 ; en- 
gagement with Frolic, loi ; 
captures her after fight of 
43 minutes, 103 ; compara- 
tive force and loss, 103 ; 
diagram of action, 104 ; 
enormous disparity in dam- 
age suffered by each vessel, 
105 ; fine crew and daring 
commander, 321 ; burns and 
scuttles many ships in En- 
glish Channel, 322 ; en- 
gagement with and capture 
of Reindeer, 322-25 ; de- 
structive cannonade, 323 ; 
diagram of action and com- 
parative force and loss, 325 ; 
chases and captures Avon, 
after furious engagement, 
329 ; Avon%\vlk?,, 331 ; cap- 
tures Atalanta, 332 ; shortly 
after never heard of again, 
332 ; comments on vessel, 
crew, and their actions 333-4 
Waters, Midship. K. . .216 

Watson, Lieut. ." . 205-6 
Watts, Lieut. . , .185 
Watts, Sailing-master . .157 

Webb's "Peninsula ; McClel- 
lan's Campaign of 1862 " .189 



Wells, Lieut. H. . . .151 
Wellington .... 406 
Welsh, T., Jr. . . .418 

Westphal, Lieut. P. . , 203 

West Indies . . . 163, 286 

Whaling trade of British in 
South Pacific broken up by 
Porter . . . 164 

Whinyates, Capt. T. 100-3, 106 
Williams, Lieut. A. O. . . 340 

Willifnn . . . . iig 

Wilmer . . . .311 

Wilmer, Lieut., knocked over- 
board and drowned . . 299 
Wilkinson, Gen., expedition 

into Canada . . . 235 

Wintle, Lieut. . . . 102 

Wolfe, 224-5, 233, 237, 245-8, 

251-3, 354 
Woolsey, Lieut., 140, 150, 

154, 229, 360, 361 
Wood, Lieut. P. W. . .124 
WoodbrUge . . . -335 

W^orsley, Lieut. . . 372, 373 

Worth, Lieut. F. A. . . 340 
Wragg, Midship. . . 158-9 

Wright, Lieut. F. W. 168, 172 
Yarnall, Lieut., 257 ; badly 

wounded . . . 265, 268 

Yeo, Commod. Sir J. L., com- 
mander of British squadron 
on Lake Ontario, 79, 134, 

144, 145. 237-8, 363, 365 ; 
attacks Sackett's Harbor 
with Prevost, and is re- 
pulsed, 222, 226, 233-5, 
237-8 ; superiority of his 
vessels, 226 ; action with 
Chauncy, 240 ; captures 
two schooners, 240-1 ; his 
victory neither decisive nor 
brilliant, 242-3 ; gets the - 
worst of action near Gen- 
esee River, 204-9 ! his force 
not used to best advantage, 
245-9 '1 blockaded in King- 
ston, 251-2 ; criticised and 
compared with Chauncy, 
252 ; his squadron in 1814, 
356-7 ; takes Oswego, 358- 
9, and blockades Sackett's 
Harbor, 360 ; raises block- 
ade, 362 ; declines to fight 
against odds, 362-4 ; cau- 
tiousness amounting to timi- 
dity, 366 ; as good as his 
opponent . . 371, 386 

Yeocomico Creek . . . 202 

Yonge, C. D., " History of the 
British Navy," not good 

York (now Toronto), 222, 228, 
229, 231, 234, 245, 251, 253, 444 
authority . . 242, 281 

Young IVasp . . .487 


A History of American Literature. By Moses Coit Tyler. Pro- 

fessoi- of English Literature in the University of Michigan. Volumes 

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no limit to the enthusiasm, conscientiousness and industry with which he has possessed 
himself ot the entire body of the literature of which he treats, and at the same time he 
has displayed the qualities of a true literary artist in giving form, color and persiective 
to his work." — David Gray, in the Buffalo Courier. 


LE GOFF (FRAN901SJ The Life of Louis Adolphe Thiers. 

By FRAN9 »IS Le Goff, Docteur-es-lettres, Author of a "History 
of the Government of National Defence in the Provinces," etc. 
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HAYDN. A Dictionary of Dates, relating to all Ages and 
Nations, for Universal Reference. By Benjamin Vincent. The 
new (i6th) English edition, with an American Supplement, containing 
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Half Russia, 12 00 

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marvelous for its fullness and accuracy. No good library can dispense with this 

PUTNAM (G. P., A.M.) The World's Progress. A Dictionary of 
Dates ; being a Chronological and Alphabetical Record of Essential 
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the Beginning of History to the Present Time. A new edition, con- 
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Half calf, gilt, 7 00 

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" We know of no compendium of Englirh History so full and complete, so 

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IRVING (Washington) Life of George Washington. The new 
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octavo volumes, fully illustrated with steel plates. Cloth extra, in 

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Half calf, 12 00 

• The one volume "popular" edition, condensed, with plates. For 

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Half calf, extra, . . ,, 4 50 

" This fascinating and valuable work is now within the reach of all students, who 

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