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Louisiana Anthology

Theodore Roosevelt.
Naval War of 1812.
Chapter I. “1814: On the Ocean.”
Chapter IV. “1815: The Battle of New Orleans.”



Chapter I

Strictness of the blockade — Cruise of Rodgers — Cruise of the Constitution — Chased into Marblehead — Attempt to cut-out the Alligator — The Essex captured after engagement with Phœbe and Cherub — The Frolic captured — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Commodore Barney’s flotilla afloat — The British in the Chesapeake — Capture of Washington, and burning of the public buildings — The Wasp captures the Reindeer — The Wasp sinks the Avon — Cruise and loss of the Adams — The privateer General Armstrong — The privateer Prince de Neufchâtel — Loss of the gun-boats on Lake Borgne — Fighting near New Orleans — Summary

Chapter IV

The war on land generally disastrous — British send great expedition against New Orleans — Jackson prepares for the defence of the city — Night attack on the British advance guard — Artillery duels — Great Battle of Jan. 8th, 1815 — Slaughtering repulse of the main attack — Rout of the Americans on the right bank of the river — Final retreat of the British — Observations on the character of the troops and commanders engaged


Chapter I

Strictness of the blockade — Cruise of Rodgers — Cruise of the Constitution — Her unsuccessful chase of La Pique — Attack on the Alligator — The Essex captured — The Frolic captured — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Commodore Barney’s flotilla — The British in the Chesapeake — The Wasp captures the Reindeer and sinks the Avon — Cruise and loss of the Adams — The privateer General Armstrong — The privateer Prince de Neufchâtel — Loss of the gunboats in Lake Borgne — Fighting near New Orleans — Summary.

DURING this year the blockade of the American coast was kept up with ever increasing rigor. The British frigates hovered like hawks off every seaport that was known to harbor any fighting 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 assigned stations; the ropes were turned into stiff and brittle bars, the hulls were coated with ice, and many, both of men and officers, 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 privateers, harrying the coasters, and keeping the more powerful ships confined to port; “no American frigate could proceed singly to sea without imminent risk of being crushed by the superior force of the numerous British squadrons.” But the sloops of war, commanded by officers as skillful 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 overmatches for any British flush-decked ship, that is, for any thing below the rank of the frigate-built corvettes of the Cyane’s class. The danger of recapture 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 contained 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 expedition 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 command of Sir Robert Barrie, but in May he was relieved by Rear-Admiral Cockburn.

The President, 44, Commodore Rodgers, at the beginning of 1814 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 Loire, 38 (British), Captain Thomas Brown, which ran down to close the President, 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 gunbrig 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 reason 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 “the admiralty had issued an order that no 18-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 any frigate.

On Jan. 1st, the Constitution, which had been lying in Boston harbor undergoing complete repairs, put out to sea under the command of Captain Charles Stewart. The British 38-gun frigate Nymphe had been lying before the port, but she disappeared long before the Constitution was in condition, in obedience to the order already mentioned. Captain Stewart 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 immediately made all sail to escape; the Constitution, 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 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 Captain 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 Guerrière or Java,” but “thought the Pique’s 18’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 request to be taken into action; how Captain Maitland reads them his instructions, but “fails to persuade them that there had been any necessity of issuing them“; and, finally, how the sailors, overcome by woe and indignation, refuse to take their supper-time grog, — which was certainly remarkable. As the Constitution had twice captured British frigates “with impunity,” according to James himself, is it likely that she would now shrink from an encounter with a ship which she “saw at once was of an inferior class” to those already conquered? Even such abject cowards as James’ Americans would not be guilty of so stupid an action. Of course neither Captain Stewart nor any one else supposed 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 Constitution had now “what the Americans would call a bad 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 Constitution 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, commanded by one of the bravest and most skilful captains 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 Marblehead 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 Junon and Tenedos quickly hauled up in chase, and the Constitution crowded sail in the direction of Marblehead. At 9.30, finding the Tenedos 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 Constitution 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 Junon.” Shortly afterward the Constitution again put out, and reached Boston unmolested.

On Jan. 29, 1814, 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 attempt to cut him out when it was dark, Mr. Basset made his preparations accordingly. At half-past seven six boats were observed approaching cautiously 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 assailants, 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 injured and containing the bodies of an officer and a seaman. For his skill and gallantry Mr. Basset was promoted to a lieutenancy, and for a time his exploit put a complete stop to the cutting-out expeditions along that part of the coast. The Alligator herself sank in a squall on July 1st, but was afterward raised and refitted.

It is much to be regretted that it is almost impossible 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 1813 Captain Porter was still cruising in the Pacific.

Early in January the Essex, now with 255 men aboard, made the South American coast, and on the 12th of that month anchored in the harbor of Valparaiso. 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 carronades. Of course she could not be used in a combat with regular cruisers.

On Feb. 8th, the British frigate Phœbe, 36, Captain 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 Phœbe made the port quarter of the Essex, and then, putting her helm down, luffed up on her starboard 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 instantly.” The Phœbe, 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 Phœbe 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 neutrality.

The USS Essex.
Painting by Joseph Howard.
Public domain photo by Wikipedia.

The British ships now began a blockade of the port. On Feb. 27th, the Phœbe 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 Junior aboard and went out to attack the British frigate. But the latter did not await the combat; she bore up, set her studding-sails, and ran down to the Cherub. The American officers were intensely irritated over this, and American writers have sneered much at "a British 36 refusing combat with an American 32.” But the armaments of the two frigates 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 Phœbe. But when the Essex in fairly heavy weather, with the crew of the Essex Junior aboard, was to windward, the circumstances were very different; she carried as many men and guns as the Phœbe, 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 complement 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 starboard anchor to leeward, so she got under way, and made sail; by several trials it had been found that she was faster than the Phœbe, 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 Phœbe 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 possibility 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 Phœbe under the latter’s stern. The 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 Phœbe. The latter had opened with her broadside of long 18’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 12’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 Phœbe 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. “Having lost the use of main-sail, jib, and main-stay, appearances looked a little inauspicious,” writes Captain Hilyar. But the damages were soon repaired, and his two ships stood back for the crippled foe. Both stationed themselves on her port-quarter, the Phœbe at anchor, with a spring, firing her broadside, 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 carronades, 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 distance. Immediately afterward the Phœbe 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 18’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 slam at it; its captain 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 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. Lieutenant 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.

Captain David Porter.
Painting possibly by John Trumbull.
Public domain photo at Wikipedia.

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, commanding the Junior, pulled out in a boat, through 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 Phœbe. The wind was now very light, and the Phœbe, whose main- and mizzen-masts and main-yard were rather seriously wounded, and who had suffered a great loss of canvas and cordage aloft, besides receiving a number 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 destructive, 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 up the hatchway, and a quantity of powder exploded 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 eighteen pieces of iron in his leg, scales from the muzzle 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. Lieutenant 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 scattering 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 76 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 ladder, going below for gun-primers, the captain of the gun directly opposite the hatchway was struck full in the face by an 18-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 Farragut’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 Phœbe had lost 4 men killed, including her first lieutenant, William Ingram, and 7 wounded; the Cherub, 1 killed, and 3, including Captain Tucker, wounded. Total, 5 killed and 10 wounded. The difference in loss was natural, as, owing to their having long guns and the choice of position, the British had been able to fire ten shot to the Americans’ one.

The conduct of the two English captains in attacking 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 previous escape entirely to Porter’s forbearance on a former occasion when the British frigate was entirely at his 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 showered upon the British captains for not foregoing the advantages which their entire masts and better artillery 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 mentioned 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 Phœbe 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 Garden as they were against Porter, it would be necessary to suppose that the Macedonian had lost her main-top-mast, had but six long 18’s to oppose 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 surrendering 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 brilliantly 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 difficult to tell exactly how to award praise. Captain 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 Cherub’s behavior was more remarkable for extreme caution than for any thing else. As regards the mere fight, Porter certainly 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, Klaesoon, 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 Catholic king, and the small English craft were the dread and scourge of the 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 consideration our superiority of force and the very discouraging circumstances 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 testimony to the defence of the Essex having been effective enough to at one time render the result doubtful, saying: “Our first attack * * * produced 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 defence. 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 frigates, 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 occurred, 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 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 Phœbe we should have carried her by boarding; if she avoided us, as she might have done by her greater ability to manoeuvre, 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 circumstances, the ship should have been run ashore, throwing 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 on.”

But it must be remembered that when Porter decided to anchor near shore, in neutral water, he could not anticipate Hilyar’s deliberate and treacherous breach of faith. I do not allude to the mere disregard of neutrality. Whatever international moralists may say, such disregard is a mere question of expediency. If the benefits 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 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 position, that in the even 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 Potter 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 1815, as a piece of needless cruelty; so any outsider must consider 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 Phœbe to action single-handed. It must be remembered that the Essex was almost as weak compared to the Phœbe, as the Cherub was compared to the Essex. The latter was just about midway 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 inequality 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 18’s of their opponents, in this case the Phœbe’s full weight 18’s had a very much greater range and accuracy than the short weight 12’s of the Essex.

All accounts agree as to the armament of the Essex. I have taken that of the Phœbe and Cherub from James; but Captain Porter’s official letter, and all the other American accounts make the Phœbe’s broadside 15 long 18’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 question rested solely on James’ veracity; but he probably took his figures from official 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 Phœbe 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 throwing 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 universally 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 Phœbe declined single combat with the Essex. James, of course, states that the Phœbe 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 corroboration 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 unfounded statement in James’ account is that buckets 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 venture 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 perversion of the truth in a number of cases throws a very strong doubt on a historian’s remaining statements, unless they are supported by unquestionable authority.

But if British historians have generally given Porter 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 allowances in the case of the Essex for her having carronades only, but utterly fail to allude to the Cyane and Levant as having suffered under the same disadvantage. They should remember that the rules cut both ways.

The Essex having suffered chiefly above the waterline, 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, Midshipman Lyman, and 11 seamen were exchanged on the spot for some of the British prisoners on board the Essex Junior. McKnight and Lyman accompanied the Phœbe 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 retaken 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 February. 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° 12’ N., long. 81° 25’ W., she fell in with the British 36-gun frigate Orpheus, Captain Pigot, and the 12-gun schooner Shelburne, Lieutenant Hope, both to leeward. The schooner soon weathered 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 circumstances, — 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, because the guns were thrown overboard. As I have said, this was a measure which had proved successful 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. 1, p. 310), which he evidently considered as perfectly honorable.

A sister ship to the Frolic, the Peacock, Captain Lewis Warrington, sailed from New York on March 12th, 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 18-gun brig-sloop Epervier, Captain Wales, 5 days out of Havana, and with $118,000 in specie on board. The Epervier when discovered was steering north by east, the wind being from the eastward; soon afterward the wind veered gradually round to the southward, 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 putting 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 deprived 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, owing somewhat to the loss of head-sail, Captain 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.

Illustrations of the action between Peacock and Epervier between 10.10 and 11.05.

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, of 166 men and boys, only two were wounded, both slightly. The Epervier, 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 carronade, she had two 18-pound carronades (according to the American prize-lists; Captain 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

That is, the relative force being as 12 is to 10, the relative execution done was as 12 is to 1, and the Epervier surrendered before she had lost a fifth of her crew. The case of the Epervier closely resembles that of the Argus. In both cases the officers behaved finely; in both cases, too, the victorious 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 broadsides 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 contrary, 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, was 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. Captain Warrington at once directed the prize to proceed to St. Mary’s, while he separated and made sail on a wind to the south, intending to draw the frigates after him, as he was confident that the Peacock, a very fast vessel, could outsail them. The plan succeeded perfectly, the brig reaching Savannah 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 northward to the Grand Banks, then to the Azores; 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 consternation. She then changed her station, to elude the numerous vessels that had been sent after her, and sailed southward, off Cape Ortegal, Cape Finisterre, and finally among the Barbadoes, reaching New York, Oct. 29th. During this cruise she encountered 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 Ballahou, 6, Lieutenant King, while cruising off the American coast was captured by the Perry, privateer, a much heavier vessel, after an action of 10 minutes’ duration.

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 transports had assembled, in preparation for the assault on Washington and Baltimore. The defence of these waters was confided to Captain 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-, 18-, or 12-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 1st 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 Lasseur, 18, and Commodore Barney moved two miles up St. Leonard’s Creek, while the frigates and sloop blockaded its mouth. A deadlock now ensued; the gunboats were afraid to attack the ships, and the ships’ boats were just as afraid of the gun-boats. On the 8th, 9th, and 11th 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, Colonel Wadsworth, of the artillery, with two long 18-pounders, assisted by the marines, under Captain Miller, and a few regulars, offered to cooperate 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 damaged, 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 attempts with his gun-boats. The bravery and skill which the flotilla men showed 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, Ætna, and Meteor, and rocket-ship Erebus, under Captain James Alexander Gordon, moved up the Potomac to attack Fort Washington, near Alexandria; and Sir Peter Parker, in the Menelaus, 38, was sent “to create a diversion” above Baltimore. Sir Peter’s “diversion” turned out most unfortunately for him: for, having landed to attack 120 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 wounded.

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 78 marines, under Captain Miller, and 370 sailors, some of whom served under Captain Barney, who had a battery of two 18’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 public buildings; and the panic-struck Americans foolishly 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 Washington was abandoned as soon as fired upon, and the city of Alexandria surrendered upon most humiliating 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 river, which was very difficult to navigate. Commodore Rodgers, with some of the crew of the two 44’s, Guerrière and Java, tried to bar their progress, but had not sufficient means. On September 1st 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 regulars 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 unsuccessful. At 5 A.M. on the 13th the bomb vessels Meteor, Ætna, Terror, Volcano, and Devastation, the rocket-ship Erebus, and the frigates Severn, Euryalus, Havannah, and Hebrus opened on Fort McHenry, some of the other fortifications being occasionally fired at. A furious but harmless cannonade was kept up between the forts 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 importance. 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 destroyed would not much exceed that of the British barges captured by them from time to time or destroyed by the land batteries.

The purchased brig Rattlesnake, 16, had been cruising 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 commander, managed to escape only by throwing overboard all his guns except two long nines; and on June 22d he was captured by the Leander, 50, Captain 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 blockading frigates, and ran into the mouth of the English Channel, right in the thick of the English cruisers; 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 Reindeer 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 west-southwest.

The sky was overcast with clouds, and the smoothness 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 skilful 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 weathered, at 2.50, put about in her turn and ran off, with the wind a little forward the port beam, brailing 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, the 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 deliberation; this was repeated five times, and would have been a trying ordeal to a crew less perfectly disciplined 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, 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, to try it with the steel. But the Carolina 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 topmen, 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 nettings, there was a moment’s furious struggle, the surviving British were slain or driven below, and the captain’s clerk, the 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.

Capture of the Reindeer by the Wasp

Both ships had suffered severely in the short struggle; but, as with the Shannon 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.

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 courage); 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 vessel 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 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 difference in force. It is difficult to know which to admire 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 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 l’Orient on the 8th day of July.

On July 4th Sailing-master Percival and 30 volunteers of the New York flotilla concealed themselves on board a fishing-smack, and carried by surprise the Eagle tender, which contained a 32-pound howitzer and 14 men, 4 of whom were wounded.

On July 12th, while off the west coast of South Africa, the American brig Syren was captured after a chase of 11 hours by the Medway, 74, Captain 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 Lieutenant N. J. Nicholson. By a curious coincidence, on the same day, July 12th, H. M. cutter Landrail, 4 of 20 men, Lieutenant Lancaster, was captured by the American privateer Syren, a schooner mounting 1 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 lieutenant, 2 midshipmen, and 10 seamen.

The Wasp stayed in l’Orient till she was thoroughly 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 Gibraltar; the swift cruiser hovered round the merchant-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. 11° W., while running almost free, four sail, two on the starboard bow, and two on the port, rather more to leeward, were made out. Captain 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 determined 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 Reindeer 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, Captain the Honorable James Arbuthnot, was steering almost southwest; the wind, which was blowing 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 interchanged 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 carronade into her, to which the Avon responded with her stern-chaser and the aftermost port guns. Captain 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 broadside into her quarter. A close and furious engagement 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 rigging. 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 again, often below water-line; some of her carronades were dismounted, and finally the main-mast went by the board. At 10.00, 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 recommended; but at 10.12 the Avon 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 Castilian, 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 rove. The Castilian pursued till she came up close, when she fired her lee guns into, or rather over, the weather-quarter of the Wasp, cutting her rigging slightly. Repeated signals of distress 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 been taken out when she went down.

The Wasp vs the Avon Battle Line

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

It is self-evident that in the case of this action the odds, 14 to 11, are neither enough to account for the loss inflicted being as 14 to 1, nor for the rapidity with which, during a night encounter, the Avon was placed in a sinking condition. “The gallantry of the Avon’s officers and crew cannot for a moment be questioned; but the gunnery of the latter appears 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, judging from the specimen given by the Castilian, is it likely that she would have performed any better.” On the other hand, “Captain Blakely’s conduct on this occasion had all the merit shown in the previous action, 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 Castilian 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. 21st, 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 Lieutenant 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 gallant 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 manned, 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 fight.

As I have said, the Wasp was manned almost exclusively by Americans. James says they were mostly Irish; the reason he gives for the assertion being that Captain Blakely spent the first 16 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 falsifying, James is an invaluable assistant, from the diligence and painstaking care he shows, and the thoroughness and minuteness with which he goes into details.

A fair-minded and interesting English critic, whose remarks are generally very just, seems to me to have erred somewhat in commenting on this last sloop action. He says that the Avon was first crippled 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 and 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 absolutely 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 13 medium 18’s, or columbiads, and 1 long 12, with a crew of 220 men, under the command of Captain Charles Morris, late first lieutenant of the Constitution. She slipped out of the Potomac and past the blockaders 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 March 25th, a large Indiaman (the Woodbridge) was captured; but while taking possession the weather cleared up, and Captain Morris found himself to leeward 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 Makanillan 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 hovered on their skirts for a couple of days, but nothing 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 Ireland. 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 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Tigris, Captain 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. Captain 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 out the boats to tow, and employed their time so well that by sunrise the frigate was two leagues astern. After 18 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 Adams 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 Captain Morris now turned homeward. During his two cruises he had made but 10 prizes (manned by 161 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, Captain 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 Rifleman 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 joint command of Rear-Admiral Griffeth and Lieutenant-General Sherbrooke.

This expedition accordingly went into the Penobscot 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 depended 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 rocket-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 retreated with the utmost promptitude and celerity, omitting the empty formality of firing. This left Captain Morris surrounded by eight times his number, 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 marine who were too much weakened by scurvy to retreat with the others, who marched to Portland, 200 miles off. The British lost ten men killed or wounded.

On Sept. 9th Gunboats No. 160 and 151, commanded 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 18-gun brig-sloops Sophie and Childers, and a force of 200 men on shore, attacked Fort Bowyer, on Mobile Point, but were repulsed without being able to do any damage whatever to the Americans. The Hermes was sunk and the assailants lost about 80 men.

Captain Samuel C. Reid.
by John Wesley Jarvis in 1815.

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 Bentham, hove in sight. One or more boats were sent in by the British, to reconnoitre the schooner, as they asserted, or, according to the American accounts, to carry her by a coup de main. At any rate, after repeatedly warning them off, the privateer 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, containing 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 the 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 immediately 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 trying 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. 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 returned 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 Rota’s first and third lieutenants, William Matterface and Charles R. Norman, and among the latter her second lieutenant and first lieutenant of marines, Richard Rawle and Thomas Park. The schooner’s long 24 had been knocked off its carriage by a carronade shot, but it was replaced and the deck cleared for another action. Next day the Carnation came in to destroy the privateer, but was driven off by the judicious use the latter made of her “Long Tom.” But affairs being now hopeless, the General Armstrong was scuttled and burned, and the Americans retreated to the land. The British squadron was bound for New Orleans, and on account 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 carried by a British tender and nine boats. The gun-vessel was lying at anchor about eight leagues from St. Mary’s, and the boats approached with muffled oars early in the morning. They were not discovered till nearly aboard, but the defence though short was spirited, the British losing about 20 men. Of the 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 greatest 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 combat.

On October 11th, another desperate privateer battle took place. The brigantine Prince-de-Neufchâtel, Captain Ordronaux, of New York, was a superbly 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 11th of October, while off Nantucket, the British frigate Endymion, 40, Captain Henry Hope, discovered the privateer and made sail in chase. At 8.30 P.M., a calm having come on, the frigate despatched 5 boats, containing 111 men, under the 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 privateersmen; and in a few minutes one boat was sunk, three others drifted off, and the launch, which was under the brigantine’s stern, was taken possession of. The slaughter had been frightful, considering the number of the combatants. The victorious privateersmen had lost 7 killed, 15 badly and 9 slightly wounded, leaving but 9 untouched! Of the Endymion’s men, James says 28, including the first lieutenant 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 crew.

After their repulse before Baltimore the British concentrated their forces for an attack upon New Orleans. Accordingly a great fleet of line-of-battle ships, frigates, and smaller vessels, under Vice-Admiral Cochrane, convoying a still larger number of store-ships and transports, containing the army of General Packenham, appeared off the Chandeleur Islands on 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 tenders, under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Catesby Jones. It was impossible for the British to transport their troops across Lake Borgne, as contemplated, until this flotilla was destroyed. Accordingly, on the night of the 12th, 42 launches, armed with 24-, 18-, and 12-pounder carronades, and 3 unarmed gigs, carrying 980 seamen and marines, under the orders of Captain Lockyer, pushed off from the Armide, 38, in three divisions; the first under the command of Captain Lockyer, the second under Captain Montresor, and the third under Captain Roberts. Lieutenant Jones was at anchor with his boats at the Malheureux Islands, when he discovered, on the 13th, the British flotilla advancing toward Port Christian. He at once despatched the Seahorse of one 6-pounder and 14 men, under Sailing-master William Johnston, to destroy the stores at Bay St. Louis. She moored herself under the bank, where she was assisted by two 6-pounders. There the British attacked her with seven of their smaller boats, which were repulsed after sustaining for nearly half an hour a very destructive fire. However, Mr. Johnston had to burn his boat to prevent it from being taken by a larger force. Meanwhile Lieutenant Jones got under way with the five gun-vessels, trying to reach Les Petites Coquilles, near a small fort at the mouth of a creek. But as the wind was light and baffling, and the current very strong, the effort was given up, and the vessels came to anchor off Malheureux Island passage at 1 A.M. on the 14th. The other tender, the Alligator, Sailing-master Sheppard, of one 4-pounder and 8 men, was discovered next morning trying to get to her consorts, and taken with a rush by Captain Roberts and his division. At daybreak Lieutenant Jones saw the British boats about nine miles to the eastward, and moored his 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 headmost of all. Their exact force was as follows: No. 156, Lieutenant Jones, 41 men and 5 guns (1 long 24 and 4 12-pound carronades); No. 163, Sailing-master Geo. Ulrick, 21 men, 3 guns (1 long 24 and 2 12-pound carronades); No. 162, Lieutenant Robert Speddes, 35 men, 5 guns (1 long 24 and 4 light sixes); No. 5, Sailing-master John D. Ferris, 36 men, 5 guns (1 long 24, 4 12-pound carronades); No. 23, Lieutenant Isaac McKeever, 39 men and 5 guns (1 long 32 and 4 light sixes). There were thus, in all, 182 men and a broadside of 14 guns, throwing 212 pounds of shot. The British forces amounted, as I have said, to 980 men, and (supposing they had equal numbers of 24’s, 18’s and 12’s,) the flotilla threw seven hundred and fifty-eight pounds of shot. The odds of course were not as much against the Americans as these figures would make them, for they were 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 cheerful look-out for Lieutenant Jones; but nowise daunted by the almost certain prospect of defeat the American officers and seamen prepared very coolly for the fight. In this connection it should be remembered that simply to run the boats on shore would have permitted the men to escape, if they had chosen to do so.

The Battle of Lake Borgne.
By Thomas Hornbrook.

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 current. At 10.50 the Americans opened fire from their long guns, and in about 15 minutes the cannonade 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 officers and crew of the barge were killed or wounded,” including among the latter the gallant captain himself, severely, and his equally gallant first lieutenant, Mr. Pratt, of the Seahorse frigate, mortally. At the same time Lieutenant Tatnall (of the Tonnant) also laid his barge aboard the gun-boat, only to have it sunk; another shared the same fate; and the assailants were for the moment repulsed. But at this time Lieutenant Jones, who had shown as much personal bravery during the assault, as forethought in preparing for it, received a dangerous and disabling wound, while many of his men received the same fate; the boarding nettings, too, had all been cut or shot away. Several more barges at once assailed the boats, the command of which had devolved on a young midshipman, Mr. George Parker; the latter, fighting as bravely as his commander, was like him severely wounded, whereupon the boat was carried at 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 Lieutenant Speddes was badly wounded. No. 5 had her long 24 dismounted 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 commander’s account of his own force and loss. Lieutenant Jones states the British force to have been 1,000, which tallies almost exactly with their own account; but believes that they lost 300 in killed and wounded. Captain Lockyer, on the other hand, gives the Americans 225 men and three additional light guns. But on the main points the two accounts agree perfectly. The victors certainly deserve great credit for the perseverance, gallantry and dash they displayed; but still more belongs to the vanquished for the cool skill and obstinate courage with which they fought, although with the certainty of ultimate defeat before them, — which is always the severest test of bravery. No comment is needed to prove the effectiveness of their resistance. Even James says that the Americans made an obstinate struggle, that Lieutenant 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 Captain Patterson in the schooner Carolina, 14; she was manned by 70 men, and mounted on each side six 12-pound carronades and one long 12. Dropping down the stream unobserved, till opposite the bivouac of the troops and so close to the shore that his first command to fire was plainly heard by the foe, Patterson opened a slaughtering cannonade on the flank of the British, and kept it up without suffering any loss in return, as long as the attack lasted. But on the 27th the British had their revenge, 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 assailants had a battery of 5 guns, throwing hot shot and shell, while the only gun of the schooner’s that would reach was the long 12. 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 7 men killed and wounded. The only remaining vessel, exclusive of some small, unarmed row-boats, was the Louisiana, 16, carrying on each side eight long 24’s. She was of great assistance in the battle of the 28th, throwing during the course of the cannonade over 800 shot, and suffering very little in return. Afterward the American seamen and marines played a most gallant part in all the engagements on shore; they made very efficient artillerists.


The first 5 small vessels that are bracketed were 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 1815 were almost completely fitted at the end of 1814, — but this arrangement is practically the best.


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


Taking into account the losses on the lakes, there was not very much difference in the amount of damage done to each combatant by the other; but both as regards the material results and the moral effects, the balance inclined largely to the Americans. The chief damage done to our navy was by the British land-forces, and consisted mainly in forcing us to 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 captured British schooner. The Essex certainly gained as much honor as her opponents. There were but three single ship actions, in all of which the Americans 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 Captain Manners and his crew. It is worthy of notice (remembering the sneers of so many of the British authors at the “wary circumspection” of the Americans) that Captain Manners, who has left a more honorable name than any other British commander of the war, excepting Captain Broke, behaved with the greatest caution as long as it would serve his purpose, while he showed the most splendid personal courage afterward. It is this combination of courage and skill that made him so dangerous an antagonist; it showed that the traditional British bravery was not impaired by refusing to adhere to the traditional British tactics of rushing into a fight “bull-headed.” Needless exposure to danger denotes not so much pluck as stupidity. Captain Manners had no intention of giving his adversary any advantage he could prevent. No one can help feeling regret that he was killed; but if he was to fall, what more glorious death could he meet? It must be remembered that while paying all homage to Captain Manners, Captain Blakely did equally well. It was a case where the victory between two combatants, equal in courage and skill, was decided by superior weight of metal and number of men.

Chapter IV


The war on land generally disastrous — British send great expedition against New Orleans — Jackson prepares for the defence of the city — Night attack on the British advance guard — Artillery duels — Great battle of January 8, 1815 — Slaughtering repulse of the main attack — Rout of the Americans on the right bank of the river — Final retreat of the British — Observations on the character of the troops and commanders engaged.

WHILE our navy had been successful, the war on land had been for us full of humiliation. The United States then formed but a loosely knit confederacy, the sparse population scattered over a great expanse of land. Ever since the Federalist party had gone out of power in 1800, the nation’s ability to maintain order at home and enforce respect abroad had steadily dwindled; and the twelve years’ nerveless reign of the Doctrinaire Democracy had left us impotent for attack and almost as feeble for defence. Jefferson, though a man whose views and theories had a profound influence upon our national life, was perhaps the most incapable Executive that ever filled the presidential chair; being almost purely a visionary, he was utterly unable to grapple with the slightest actual danger, and, not even excepting his successor, Madison, it would be difficult to imagine a man less fit to guide the state with honor and safety through the stormy times that marked the opening of the present century. Without the prudence to avoid war or the forethought to prepare for it, the Administration drifted helplessly into a conflict in which only the navy prepared by the Federalists twelve years before, and weakened rather than strengthened during the intervening time, saved us from complete and shameful defeat. True to its theories, the House of Virginia made no preparations, and thought the war could be fought by “the nation in arms”; the exponents of this particular idea, the militiamen, a partially armed mob, ran like sheep whenever brought into the field. The regulars were not much better. After two years of warfare, Scott records in his autobiography that there were but two books of tactics (one written in French) in the entire army on the Niagara frontier; and officers and men were on such a dead level of ignorance that he had to spend a month drilling all of the former, divided into squads, in the school of the soldier and school of the company. It is small wonder that such troops were utterly unable to meet the English. Until near the end, the generals were as bad as the armies they commanded, and the administration of the War Department continued to be a triumph of imbecility to the very last. With the exception of the brilliant and successful charge of the Kentucky mounted infantry at the battle of the Thames, the only bright spot in the war in the North was the campaign on the Niagara frontier during the summer of 1814; and even here, the chief battle, that of Lundy’s Lane, though reflecting as much honor on the Americans as on the British, was for the former a defeat, and not a victory, as most of our writers seem to suppose.

But the war had a dual aspect. It was partly a contest between the two branches of the English race, and partly a last attempt on the part of the Indian tribes to check the advance of the most rapidly growing one of these same two branches; and this last portion of the struggle, though attracting comparatively little attention, was really much the most far-reaching in its effect upon history. The triumph of the British would have distinctly meant the giving a new lease of life to the Indian nationalities, the hemming in, for a time, of the United States, and the stoppage, perhaps for many years, of the march of English civilization across the continent. The English of Britain were doing all they could to put off the day when their race would reach to a worldwide supremacy.

There was much fighting along our Western frontier with various Indian tribes; and it was especially fierce in the campaign that a backwoods general of Tennessee, named Andrew Jackson, carried on against the powerful confederacy of the Creeks, a nation that was thrust in like a wedge between the United States proper and their dependency, the newly acquired French province of Louisiana. After several slaughtering fights, the most noted being the battle of the Horse-shoe Bend, the power of the Creeks was broken for ever; and afterward, as there was much question over the proper boundaries of what was then the Latin land of Florida, Jackson marched south, attacked the Spaniards and drove them from Pensacola. Meanwhile the British, having made a successful and ravaging summer campaign through Virginia and Maryland, situated in the heart of the country, organized the most formidable expedition of the war for a winter campaign against the outlying land of Louisiana, whose defender Jackson of necessity became. Thus, in the course of events, it came about that Louisiana was the theatre on which the final and most dramatic act of the war was played.

Amid the gloomy, semi-tropical swamps that cover the quaking delta thrust out into the blue waters of the Mexican Gulf by the strong torrent of the mighty Mississippi, stood the fair, French city of New Orleans. Its lot had been strange and varied. Won and lost, once and again, in conflict with the subjects of the Catholic king, there was a strong Spanish tinge in the French blood that coursed so freely through the veins of its citizens; joined by purchase to the great Federal Republic, it yet shared no feeling with the latter, save that of hatred to the common foe. And now an hour of sore need had come upon the city; for against it came the red English, lords of fight by sea and land. A great fleet of war vessels — ships of the line — frigates and sloops — under Admiral Cochrane, was on the way to New Orleans, convoying a still larger fleet of troop ships, with aboard them some ten thousand fighting men, chiefly the fierce and hardy veterans of the Peninsular War, who had been trained for seven years in the stern school of the Iron Duke, and who were now led by one of the bravest and ablest of all Wellington’s brave and able lieutenants, Sir Edward Packenham.

On the 8th of December 1814, the foremost vessels, with among their number the great two-decker Tonnant, carrying the admiral’s flag, anchored off the Chandeleur Islands; and as the current of the Mississippi was too strong to be easily breasted, the English leaders determined to bring their men by boats through the bayous, and disembark them on the bank of the river ten miles below the wealthy city at whose capture they were aiming. There was but one thing to prevent the success of this plan, and that was the presence in the bayous of five American gun-boats, manned by a hundred and eighty men, and commanded by Lieutenant-commanding Catesby Jones, a very shrewd fighter. So against him was sent Captain Nicholas Lockyer with forty-five barges, and nearly a thousand sailors and marines, men who had grown gray during a quarter of a century of unbroken ocean warfare. The gun-boats were moored in a head-and-stern line, near the Rigolets, with their boarding-nettings triced up, and every thing ready to do desperate battle; but the British rowed up with strong, swift strokes, through a murderous fire of great guns and musketry; the vessels were grappled amid fierce resistance; the boarding-nettings were slashed through and cut away; with furious fighting the decks were gained; and one by one, at push of pike and cutlass stroke the gun-boats were carried in spite of their stubborn defenders; but not till more than one barge had been sunk, while the assailants had lost a hundred men, and the assailed about half as many.

There was now nothing to hinder the landing of the troops; and as the scattered transports arrived, the soldiers were disembarked, and ferried through the sluggish water of the bayous on small flat-bottomed craft; and finally, Dec. 23d, the advance guard, two thousand strong, under General Keane, emerged at the mouth of the canal Viller�, and camped on the bank of the river, but nine miles below New Orleans, which now seemed a certain prize, almost within their grasp.

Yet, although a mighty and cruel foe was at their very gates, nothing save fierce defiance reigned in the fiery creole hearts of the Crescent City. For a master-spirit was in their midst. Andrew Jackson, having utterly broken and destroyed the most powerful Indian confederacy that had ever menaced the Southwest, and having driven the haughty Spaniards from Pensacola, was now bending all the energies of his rugged intellect and indomitable will to the one object of defending New Orleans. No man could have been better fitted for the task. He had hereditary wrongs to avenge on the British, and he hated them with an implacable fury that was absolutely devoid of fear. Born and brought up among the lawless characters of the frontier, and knowing well how to deal with them, he was able to establish and preserve the strictest martial law in the city without in the least quelling the spirit of the citizens. To a restless and untiring energy he united sleepless vigilance and genuine military genius. Prompt to attack whenever the chance offered itself, seizing with ready grasp the slightest vantage-ground, and never giving up a foot of earth that he could keep, he yet had the patience to play a defensive game when it so suited him, and with consummate skill he always followed out the scheme of warfare that was best adapted to this wild soldiery. In after-years he did to his country some good and more evil; but no true American can think of his deeds at New Orleans without profound and unmixed thankfulness.

He had not reached the city till December 2d, and had therefore but three weeks in which to prepare the defence. The Federal Government, throughout the campaign, did absolutely nothing for the defence of Louisiana; neither provisions nor munitions of war of any sort were sent to it, nor were any measures taken for its aid. The inhabitants had been in a state of extreme despondency up to the time that Jackson arrived, for they had no one to direct them, and they were weakened by factional divisions; but after his coming there was nothing but the utmost enthusiasm displayed, so great was the confidence he inspired, and so firm his hand in keeping down all opposition. Under his direction earthworks were thrown up to defend all the important positions, the whole population working night and day at them; all the available artillery was mounted, and every ounce of war material that the city contained was seized; martial law was proclaimed; and all general business was suspended, every thing being rendered subordinate to the one grand object of defence.

Jackson’s forces were small. There were two war vessels in the river. One was the little schooner Carolina, manned by regular seamen, largely New Englanders. The other was the newly built ship Louisiana, a powerful corvette; she had of course no regular crew, and her officers were straining every nerve to get one from the varied ranks of the maritime population of New Orleans; long-limbed and hard-visaged Yankees, Portuguese and Norwegian seamen from foreign merchantmen, dark-skinned Spaniards from the West Indies, swarthy Frenchmen who had served under the bold privateersman Lafitte, — all alike were taken, and all alike by unflagging exertions were got into shape for battle. There were two regiments of regulars, numbering together about eight hundred men, raw and not very well disciplined, but who were now drilled with great care and regularity. In addition to this Jackson raised somewhat over a thousand militiamen among the citizens. There were some Americans among them, but they were mostly French Creoles, and one band had in its formation something that was curiously pathetic. It was composed of free men of color, who had gathered to defend the land which kept the men of their race in slavery; who were to shed their blood for the Flag that symbolized to their kind not freedom but bondage; who were to die bravely as freemen, only that their brethren might live on ignobly as slaves. Surely there was never a stranger instance than this of the irony of fate.

But if Jackson had been forced to rely only on these troops New Orleans could not have been saved. His chief hope lay in the volunteers of Tennessee, who, under their Generals, Coffee and Carroll, were pushing their toilsome and weary way toward the city. Every effort was made to hurry their march through the almost impassable roads, and at last, in the very nick of time, on the 23d of December, the day of which the British troops reached the river bank, the vanguard of the Tennesseeans marched into New Orleans. Gaunt of form and grim of face; with their powder-horns slung over their buckskin shirts; carrying their long rifles on their shoulders and their heavy hunting-knives stuck in their belts; with their coon-skin caps and fringed leggings; thus came the grizzly warriors of the backwoods, the heroes of the Horse-Shoe Bend, the victors over Spaniard and Indian, eager to pit themselves against the trained regulars of Britain, and to throw down the gage of battle to the world-renowned infantry of the island English. Accustomed to the most lawless freedom, and to giving free reign to the violence of their passions, defiant of discipline and impatient of the slightest restraint, caring little for God and nothing for man, they were soldiers who, under an ordinary commander, would have been fully as dangerous to themselves and their leaders as to their foes. But Andrew Jackson was of all men the one best fitted to manage such troops. Even their fierce natures quailed before the ungovernable fury of a spirit greater than their own; and their sullen, stubborn wills were bent as last before his unyielding temper and iron hand. Moreover, he was one of themselves; he typified their passions and prejudices, their faults and their virtues; he shared their hardships as if he had been a common private, and, in turn, he always made them partakers of his triumphs. They admired his personal prowess with pistol and rifle, his unswerving loyalty to his friends, and the relentless and unceasing war that he waged alike on the foes of himself and his country. As a result they loved and feared him as few generals have ever been loved or feared; they obeyed him unhesitatingly; they followed his lead without flinching or murmuring, and they ever made good on the field of battle the promise their courage held out to his judgment.

It was noon of December 23d when General Keane, with nineteen hundred men, halted and pitched his camp on the east bank of the Mississippi; and in the evening enough additional troops arrived to swell his force to over twenty-three hundred soilders. Keane’s encampment was in a long plain, rather thinly covered with fields and farmhouses, about a mile in breadth, and bounded on one side by the river, on the other by gloomy and impenetrable cypress swamps; and there was no obstacle interposed between the British camp and the city it menaced.

At two in the afternoon word was brought to Jackson that the foe had reached the river bank, and without a moment’s delay the old backwoods fighter prepared to strike a rough first blow. At once, and as if by magic, the city started from her state of rest into one of fierce excitement and eager preparation. The alarm-guns were fired; in every quarter the war-drums were beaten; while, amid the din and clamor, all the regulars and marines, the best of the creole militia, and the vanguard of the Tennesseeans, under Coffee, — forming a total of a little more than two thousand men, — were assembled in great haste, and the gray of the winter twilight saw them, with Old Hickory at their head, marching steadily along the river bank toward the camp of their foes. Patterson, meanwhile, in the schooner Carolina, dropped down with the current to try the effect of a flank attack.

Meanwhile the British had spent the afternoon in leisurely arranging their camp, in posting the pickets, and in foraging among the farm-houses. There was no fear of attack, and as the day ended huge campfires were lit, at which the hungry soldiers cooked their suppers undisturbed. One division of the troops had bivouacked on the high levee that kept the waters from flooding the land near by; and about half past seven in the evening their attention was drawn to a large schooner which had dropped noiselessly down, in the gathering dusk, and had come to anchor a short distance offshore, the force of the stream swinging her broadside to the camp. The soldiers crowded down to the water’s edge, and, as the schooner returned no answer to their hails, a couple of musket-shots were fired at her. As if in answer to this challenge, the men on shore heard plainly the harsh voice of her commander, as he sung out, “Now then, give it to them for the honor of America” ; and at once a storm of grape hurtled into their ranks. Wild confusion followed. The only field-pieces with Keane were two light 3-pounders, not able to cope with the Carolina’s artillery; the rocket guns were brought up, but were speedily silenced; musketry proved quite as ineffectual; and in a very few minutes the troops were driven helter-skelter off the levee, and were forced to shelter themselves behind it, not without having suffered severe loss. The night was now as black as pitch; the embers of the deserted camp-fires, beaten about and scattered by the schooner’s shot, burned with a dull red glow; and at short intervals the darkness was momentarily lit up by the flashes of the Carolina’s guns. Crouched behind the levee, the British soldiers lay motionless, listening in painful silence to the pattering of the grape among the huts, and to the moans and shrieks of the wounded who lay beside them. Things continued thus till toward nine o’clock, when a straggling fire from the pickets gave warning of the approach of a more formidable foe. The American land-forces had reached the outer lines of the British camp, and the increasing din of the musketry, with ringing through it the whip-like crack of the Tennesseean rifles, called out the whole British army to the shock of a desperate and uncertain strife. The young moon had by this time struggled through the clouds, and cast on the battle-field a dim, unearthly light that but partly relieved the intense darkness. All order was speedily lost. Each officer, American or British, as fast as he could gather a few soldiers round him, attacked the nearest group of foes; the smoke and gloom would soon end the struggle, when, if unhurt, he would rally what men he could and plunge once more into the fight. The battle soon assumed the character of a multitude of individual combats, dying out almost as soon as they began, because of the difficulty of telling friend from foe, and beginning with ever-increasing fury as soon as they had ended. The clatter of the firearms, the clashing of steel, the rallying cries and loud commands of the officers, the defiant shouts of the men, joined to the yells and groans of those who fell, all combined to produce so terrible a noise and tumult that it maddened the coolest brains. From one side or the other bands of men would penetrate into the heart of the enemy’s lines, and would there be captured, or would cut their way out with the prisoners they had taken. There was never a fairer field for the fiercest personal prowess, for in the darkness the firearms were of little service, and the fighting was hand to hand. Many a sword, till then but a glittering toy, was that night crusted with blood. The British soldiers and the American regulars made fierce play with their bayonets, and the Tennesseeans, with their long hunting-knives. Man to man, in the grimmest hate, they fought and died, some by bullet and some by bayonet-thrust or stroke of sword. More than one in his death agony slew the foe at whose hand he himself had received the mortal wound; and their bodies stiffened as they lay, locked in the death grip. Again the clouds came over the moon; a thick fog crept up from the river, wrapping from sight the ghastly havoc of the battlefield; and long before midnight the fighting stopped perforce, for the fog and the smoke and the gloom were such that no one could see a yard away. By degrees each side drew off. In sullen silence Jackson marched his men up the river, while the wearied British returned to their camp. The former had lost over two hundred, the latter nearly three hundred men; for the darkness and confusion that added to the horror, lessened the slaughter of the battle.

Jackson drew back about three miles, where he halted and threw up a long line of breastworks, reaching from the river to the morass; he left a body of mounted riflemen to watch the British. All the English troops reached the field on the day after the fight; but the rough handling that the foremost had received made them cautious about advancing. Moreover, the left division was kept behind the levee all day by the Carolina, which opened upon them whenever they tried to get away; nor was it till dark that they made their escape out of range of her cannon. Christmas-day opened drearily enough for the invaders. Although they were well inland, the schooner, by greatly elevating her guns, could sometimes reach them, and she annoyed them all through the day. and as the Americans had cut the levee in their front, it at one time seemed likely that they would be drowned out. However, matters now took a turn for the better. The river was so low that the cutting of the levee instead of flooding the plain merely filled the shrunken bayous, and rendered it easy for the British to bring up their heavy guns; and on the same day their trusted leader, Sir Edward Packenham, arrived to take command in person, and his presence gave new life to the whole army. A battery was thrown up during the two succeeding nights on the brink of the river opposite to where the Carolina lay; and at dawn a heavy cannonade of red-hot shot and shell was opened upon her from eleven guns and a mortar. She responded briskly, but very soon caught fire and blew up, to the vengeful joy of the troops whose bane she had been for the past few days. Her destruction removed the last obstacle to the immediate advance of the army; but that night her place was partly taken by the mounted riflemen, who rode down to the British lines, shot the sentries, engaged the out-posts, and kept the whole camp in a constant state of alarm. In the morning Sir Edward Packenham put his army in motion, and marched on New Orleans. When he had gone nearly three miles he suddenly, and to his great surprise, stumbled on the American army. Jackson’s men had worked like beavers, and his breastworks were already defended by over three thousand fighting men, and by half a dozen guns, and moreover were flanked by the corvette Louisiana, anchored in the stream. No sooner had the heads of the British columns appeared than they were driven back by the fire of the American batteries; the field-pieces, mortars, and rocket guns were then brought up, and a sharp artillery duel took place. The motley crew of the Louisiana handled their long ship guns with particular effect; the British rockets proved of but little service and after a stiff fight, in which they had two field-pieces and a light mortar dismounted, the British artillerymen fell back on the infantry. Then Packenham drew off his whole army out of cannon shot, and pitched his camp facing the intrenched lines of the Americans. For the next three days the British battalions lay quietly in front of their foe, like wolves who have brought to bay a gray boar, and crouch just out of reach of his tusks, waiting a chance to close in.

Packenham, having once tried the strength of Jackson’s position, made up his mind to breach his works and silence his guns with a regular battering train. Heavy cannon were brought up from the ships, and a battery was established on the bank to keep in check the Louisiana. Then, on the night of the last day of the year, strong parties of workmen were sent forward, who, shielded by the darkness, speedily threw up stout earthworks, and mounted therein fourteen heavy guns, to face the thirteen mounted in Jackson’s lines, which were but three hundred yards distant.

New Year’s day dawned very misty. As soon as the haze cleared off the British artillerymen opened with a perfect hail of balls, accompanied by a cloud of rockets and mortar shells. The Americans were taken by surprise, but promptly returned the fire, with equal fury and greater skill. Their guns were admirably handled; some by the cool New England seamen lately forming the crew of the Carolina, others by the fierce creole privateersmen of Lafitte, and still others by trained artillerymen of the regular army. They were all old hands, who in their time had done their fair share of fighting, and were not to be flurried by any attack, however unexpected. The British cannoneers plied their guns like fiends, and fast and thick fell their shot; more slowly but with surer aim, their opponents answered them. The cotton bales used in the American embrasures caught fire, and blew up two powder caissons; while the sugar hogsheads of which the British batteries were partly composed were speedily shattered and splintered in all directions. Though the British champions fought with unflagging courage and untiring energy, and though they had long been versed in war, yet they seemed to lack the judgment to see and correct their faults, and most of their shot went too high. On the other hand, the old sea-dogs and trained regulars who held the field against them, not only fought their guns well and skilfully from the beginning, but all through the action kept coolly correcting their faults and making more sure their aim. Still, the fight was stiff and well contested. Two of the American guns were disabled and 34 of their men were killed or wounded. But one by one the British cannon were silenced or dismounted, and by noon their gunners had all been driven away, with the loss of 78 of their number.

The Louisiana herself took no part in this action. Patterson had previously landed some of her guns on the opposite bank of the river, placing them in a small redoubt. To match these the British also threw up some works and placed in them heavy guns, and all through New Year’s day a brisk cannonade was kept up across the river between the two water-batteries, but with very little damage to either side.

For a week after this failure the army of the invaders lay motionless facing the Americans. In the morning and evening the defiant, rolling challenge of the English drums came throbbing up through the gloomy cypress swamps to where the grim riflemen of Tennessee were lying behind their log breastworks, and both day and night the stillness was at short intervals broken by the sullen boom of the great guns which, under Jackson’s orders, kept up a never-ending fire on the leaguering camp of his foes. Nor could the wearied British even sleep undisturbed; all through the hours of darkness the outposts were engaged in a most harassing bush warfare by the backwoodsmen, who shot the sentries, drove in the pickets, and allowed none of those who were on guard a moment’s safety or freedom from alarm.

But Packenham was all the while steadily preparing for his last and greatest stroke. He had determined to make an assault in force as soon as the expected reinforcements came up; nor, in the light of his past experience in conflict with foes of far greater military repute than those now before him, was this a rash resolve. He had seen the greatest of Napoleon’s marshals, each in turn, defeated once and again, and driven in headlong flight over the Pyrenees by the Duke of Wellington; now he had under him the flower of the troops who had won those victories; was it to be supposed for a moment that such soldiers who, in a dozen battles, had conquered the armies and captured the forts of the mighty French emperor, would shrink at last from a mud wall guarded by rough backwoodsmen? That there would be loss of life in such an assault was certain; but was loss of life to daunt men who had seen the horrible slaughter through which the stormers moved on to victory at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, and San Sebastian? At the battle of Toulouse an English army, of which Packenham’s troops then formed part, had driven Soult from a stronger position than was now to be assailed, though he held it with a veteran infantry. Of a surety, the dashing general who had delivered the decisive blow on the stricken field of salamanca, who had taken part in the rout of the ablest generals and steadiest soldiers of Continental Europe, was not the man to flinch from a motley array of volunteers, militia, and raw regulars, led by a grizzled old bush-fighter, whose name had never been heard of outside of his own swamps, and there only as the savage destroyer of some scarcely more savage Indian tribes. Moreover, Packenham was planning a flank attack. Under his orders a canal was being dug from the head of the bayou up which the British had come, across the plain to the Mississippi. This was to permit the passage of a number of ships’ boats, on which one division was to be ferried to the opposite bank of the river, where it was to move up, and, by capturing the breastworks and water-battery on the west side, flank Jackson’s main position on the east side. When this canal was nearly finished the expected reinforcements, two thousand strong, under General Lambert, arrived, and by the evening of the 7th all was ready for the attack, which was to be made at daybreak on the following morning. Packenham had under him nearly 10,000 fighting men; 1,500 of these, under Colonel Thornton were to cross the river and make the attack on the west bank. Packenham himself was to superintend the main assault, on the east bank, which was to be made by the British right under General Gibbs, while the left moved forward under General Keane, and General Lambert commanded the reserve. Jackson’s position was held by a total of 5,500 men. Almost all British writers underestimate their own force and enormously magnify that of the Americans. Alison, for example, quadruples Jackson’s relative strength, writing: “About 6,000 combatants were on the British side; a slender force to attack double their number, intrenched to the teeth in works bristling with bayonets and loaded with heavy artillery.” Instead of double, he should have said half; the bayonets only “bristled” metaphorically, as less than a quarter of the Americans were armed with them; and the British breaching batteries had a heavier “load” of artillery than did the American lines. Gleig says that “to come nearer the truth” he “will choose a middle course, and suppose their whole force to be about 25,000 men,” (p. 325). Gleig, by the way, in speaking of the battle itself, mentions one most startling evolution of the Americans, namely, that “without so much as lifting their faces above the ramparts, they swung their firelocks by one arm over the wall and discharged them” at the British. If any one will try to perform this feat, with a long, heavy rifle held in one hand, and with his head hid behind a wall, so as not to see the object aimed at, he will get a good idea of the likelihood of any man in his senses attempting it. On the right was posted the Seventh regular infantry, 430 strong; then came 740 Louisiana militia (both French Creoles and men of color, and comprising 30 New Orleans riflemen, who were Americans), and 240 regulars of the Forty-fourth regiment; while the rest of the line was formed by nearly 500 Kentuckians and over 1,600 Tennesseeans, under Carroll and Coffee, with 250 creole militia in the morass on the extreme left, to guard the head of a bayou. In the rear were 230 dragoons, chiefly from Mississippi, and some other troops in reserve; making in all 4,700 men on the east bank. The works on the west bank were farther down stream, and were very much weaker. Commodore Patterson had thrown up a water-battery of nine guns, three long 24’s and six long 12’s, pointing across the river, and intended to take in flank any foe attacking Jackson. This battery was protected by some strong earthworks, mounting three field-pieces, which were thrown up just below it, and stretched from the river about 200 yards into the plain. The line of defence was extended by a ditch for about a quarter of a mile farther, when it ended, and from there to the morass, half a mile distant, there were no defensive works at all. General Morgan, a very poor militia officer, was in command, with a force of 550 Louisiana militia, some of them poorly armed; and on the night before the engagement he was reinforced by 250 Kentuckians, poorly armed, undisciplined, and worn out with fatigue.

All through the night of the 7th a strange, murmurous clangor arose from the British camp, and was borne on the moist air to the lines of their slumbering foes. The blows of pickaxe and spade as the ground was thrown up into batteries by gangs of workmen, the rumble of the artillery as it was placed in position, the measured tread of the battalions as they shifted their places or marched off under Thornton, — all these and the thousand other sounds of warlike preparation were softened and blended by the distance into one continuous humming murmur, which struck on the ears of the American sentries with ominous foreboding for the morrow. By midnight Jackson had risen and was getting every thing in readiness to hurl back the blow that he rightly judged was soon to fall on his front. Before the dawn broke his soldiery was all on the alert. The bronzed and brawny seamen were grouped in clusters around the great guns. The creole soldiers came of a race whose habit it has ever been to take all phases of life joyously; but that morning their gayety was tempered by a dark undercurrent of fierce anxiety. They had more at stake than any other men on the field. They were fighting for their homes; they were fighting for their wives and their daughters. They well knew that the men they were to face were very brave in battle and very cruel in victory; they well knew the fell destruction and nameless woe that awaited their city should the English take it at the sword’s point. They feared not for themselves; but in the hearts of the bravest and most careless there lurked a dull terror of what that day might bring upon those they loved. The Tennesseeans were troubled by no such misgivings. In saturnine, confident silence they lolled behind their mud walls, or, leaning on their long rifles, peered out into the gray fog with savage, reckless eyes. So, hour after hour, the two armies stood facing each other in the darkness, waiting for the light of day.

At last the sun rose, and as its beams struggled through the morning mist they glinted on the sharp steel bayonets of the English, where their scarlet ranks were drawn up in battle array, but four hundred yards from the American breastworks. There stood the matchless infantry of the island king, in the pride of their strength and the splendor of their martial glory; and as the haze cleared away they moved forward, in stern silence, broken only by the angry, snarling notes of the brazen bugles. At once the American artillery leaped into furious life; and, ready and quick, the more numerous cannon of the invaders responded from their hot, feverish lips. Unshaken amid the tumult of that iron storm the heavy red column moved steadily on toward the left of the American line, where the Tennesseeans were standing in motionless, grim expectancy. Three fourths of the open space was crossed, and the eager soldiers broke into a run. Then a fire of hell smote the British column. From the breastwork in front of them the white smoke curled thick into the air, as rank after rank the wild marksmen of the backwoods rose and fired, aiming low and sure. As stubble is withered by flame, so withered the British column under that deadly fire; and, aghast at the slaughter, the reeling files staggered and gave back. Packenham, fit captain for his valorous host, rode to the front, and the troops, rallying round him, sprang forward with ringing cheers. But once again the pealing rifle-blast beat in their faces; and the life of their dauntless leader went out before its scorching and fiery breath. With him fell the other general who was with the column, and all of the men who were leading it on; and, as a last resource, Keane brought up his stalwart Highlanders; but in vain the stubborn mountaineers rushed on, only to die as their comrades had died before them, with unconquerable courage, facing the foe, to the last. Keane himself was struck down; and the shattered wrecks of the British column, quailing before certain destruction, turned and sought refuge beyond reach of the leaden death that overwhelmed their comrades. Nor did it fare better with the weaker force that was to assail the right of the American line. This was led by the dashing Colonel Rennie, who, when the confusion caused by the main attack was at its height, rushed forward with impetuous bravery along the river bank. With such headlong fury did he make the assault, that the rush of his troops took the outlying redoubt, whose defenders, regulars and artillerymen, fought to the last with their bayonets and clubbed muskets, and were butchered to a man. Without delay Rennie flung his men at the breastworks behind, and, gallantly leading them, sword in hand, he, and all around him, fell, riddled through and through by the balls of the riflemen. Brave though they were, the British soldiers could not stand against the singing, leaden hail, for if they stood it was but to die. So in rout and wild dismay they fled back along the river bank, to the main army. For some time afterward the British artillery kept up its fire, but was gradually silenced; the repulse was entire and complete along the whole line; nor did the cheering news of success brought from the west bank give any hope to the British commanders, stunned by their crushing overthrow.

Meanwhile Colonel Thornton’s attack on the opposite side had been successful, but had been delayed beyond the originally intended hour. The sides of the canal by which the boats were to be brought through to the Mississippi caved in, and choked the passage, so that only enough got through to take over a half of Thornton’s force. With these, seven hundred in number, he crossed, but as he did not allow for the current, it carried him down about two miles below the proper landing-place. Meanwhile General Morgan, having under him eight hundred militia whom it was of the utmost importance to have kept together, promptly divided them and sent three hundred of the rawest and most poorly armed down to meet the enemy in the open. The inevitable result was their immediate rout and dispersion; about one hundred got back to Morgan’s lines. He then had six hundred men, all militia, to oppose to seven hundred regulars. So he stationed the four hundred best disciplined men to defend the two hundred yards of strong breastworks, mounting three guns, which covered his left; while the two hundred worst disciplined were placed to guard six hundred yards of open ground on his right, with their flank resting in air, and entirely unprotected. This truly phenomenal arrangement ensured beforehand the certain defeat of his troops, no matter how well they fought; but, as it turned out, they hardly fought at all. Thornton, pushing up the river, first attacked the breastwork in front, but was checked by a hot fire; deploying his men he then sent a strong force to march round and take Morgan on his exposed right flank. There, the already demoralized Kentucky militia, extended in thin order across an open space, outnumbered, and taken in flank by regular troops, were stampeded at once, and after firing a single volley they took to their heels. This exposed the flank of the better disciplined creoles, who were also put to flight; but they kept some order and were soon rallied. In bitter rage Patterson spiked the guns of his water-battery and marched off with his sailors, unmolested. The American loss had been slight, and that of their opponents not heavy, though among their dangerously wounded was Colonel Thornton.

This success, though a brilliant one, and a disgrace to the American arms, had no effect on the battle. Jackson at once sent over reinforcements under the famous French general, Humbert, and preparations were forthwith made to retake the lost position. But it was already abandoned, and the force that had captured it had been recalled by Lambert, when he found that the place could not be held without additional troops. The total British loss on both sides of the river amounted to over two thousand men, the vast majority of whom had fallen in the attack on the Tennesseeans, and most of the remainder in the attack made by Colonel Rennie. The Americans had lost but seventy men, of whom but thirteen fell in the main attack. On the east bank, neither the creole militia nor the Forty-fourth regiment had taken any part in the combat.

The English had thrown for high stakes and had lost every thing, and they knew it. There was nothing to hope for left. Nearly a fourth of their fighting men had fallen; and among the officers the proportion was far larger. Of their four generals, Packenham was dead, Gibbs dying, Keane disabled, and only Lambert left. Their leader, the ablest officers, and all the flower of their bravest men were lying, stark and dead, on the bloody plain before them; and their bodies were doomed to crumble into mouldering dust on the green fields where they had fought and had fallen. It was useless to make another trial. They had learned to their bitter cost, that no troops, however steady, could advance over open ground against such a fire as came from Jackson’s lines. Their artillerymen had three times tried conclusions with the American gunners, and each time they had been forced to acknowledge themselves worsted. They would never have another chance to repeat their flank attack, for Jackson had greatly strengthened and enlarged the works on the west bank, and had seen that they were fully manned and ably commanded. Moreover, no sooner had the assault failed, than the Americans again began their old harassing warfare. The heaviest cannon, both from the breastwork and the water-battery, played on the British camp, both night and day, giving the army no rest, and the mounted riflemen kept up a trifling, but incessant and annoying, skirmishing with their pickets and outposts.

The British could not advance, and it was worse than useless for them to stay where they were, for though they, from time to time, were reinforced, yet Jackson’s forces augmented faster than theirs, and every day lessened the numerical inequality between the two armies. There was but one thing left to do, and that was to retreat. They had no fear of being attacked in turn. The British soldiers were made of too good stuff to be in the least cowed or cast down even by such a slaughtering defeat as that they had just suffered, and nothing would have given them keener pleasure than to have had a fair chance at their adversaries in the open; but this chance was just what Jackson had no idea of giving them. His own army, though in part as good as an army could be, consisted also in part of untrained militia, while not a quarter of his men had bayonets; and the wary old chief, for all his hardihood, had far too much wit to hazard such a force in fight with a superior number of seasoned veterans, thoroughly equipped, unless on his own ground and in his own manner. So he contented himself with keeping a sharp watch on Lambert; and on the night of January 18th the latter deserted his position, and made a very skilful and rapid retreat, leaving eighty wounded men and fourteen pieces of cannon behind him. A few stragglers were captured on land, and, while the troops were embarking, a number of barges, with over a hundred prisoners, were cut out by some American seamen in row-boats; but the bulk of the army reached the transports unmolested. At the same time, a squadron of vessels, which had been unsuccessfully bombarding Fort Saint Philip for a week or two, and had been finally driven off when the fort got a mortar large enough to reach them with, also returned; and the whole fleet set sail for Mobile. The object was to capture Fort Bowyer, which contained less than four hundred men, and, though formidable on its sea-front, sea-front, was incapable of defence when regularly attacked on its land side. The British landed, February 8th, some 1,500 men, broke ground, and made approaches; for four days the work went on amid a continual fire, which killed or wounded 11 Americans and 31 British; by that time the battering guns were in position and the fort capitulated, February 12th, the garrison marching out with the honors of war. Immediately afterward the news of peace arrived and all hostilities terminated.

In spite of the last trifling success, the campaign had been to the British both bloody and disastrous. It did not affect the results of the war; and the decisive battle itself was a perfectly useless shedding of blood, for peace had been declared before it was fought. Nevertheless, it was not only glorious but profitable to the United States. Louisiana was saved from being severely ravaged, and New Orleans from possible destruction; and after our humiliating defeats in trying to repel the invasions of Virginia and Maryland, the signal victory of New Orleans was really almost a necessity for the preservation of the national honor. This campaign was the great event of the war, and in it was fought the most important battle as regards numbers that took place during the entire struggle; and the fact that we were victorious, not only saved our self-respect at home, but also gave us prestige abroad which we should otherwise have totally lacked. It could not be said to entirely balance the numerous defeats that we had elsewhere suffered on land — defeats which had so far only been offset by Harrison’s victory in 1813 and the campaign in Lower Canada in 1814 — but it at any rate went a long way toward making the score even.

Jackson is certainly by all odds the most prominent figure that appeared during this war, and stands head and shoulders above any other commander, American or British, that it produced.

It will be difficult, in all history, to show a parallel to the feat that he performed. In three weeks’ fighting, with a force largely composed of militia, he utterly defeated and drove away an army twice the size of his own, composed of veteran troops, and led by one of the ablest of European generals. During the whole campaign he only erred once, and that was in putting General Morgan, a very incompetent officer, in command of the forces on the west bank. He suited his movements admirably to the various exigencies that arose. The promptness and skill with which he attacked, as soon as he knew of the near approach of the British, undoubtedly saved the city; for their vanguard was so roughly handled that, instead of being able to advance at once, they were forced to delay three days, during which time Jackson entrenched himself in a position from which he was never driven. But after this attack the offensive would have been not only hazardous, but useless, and accordingly Jackson, adopting the mode of warfare which best suited the ground he was on and the troops he had under him, forced the enemy always to fight him where he was strongest, and confined himself strictly to the pure defensive — a system condemned by most European authorities, but which has at times succeeded to admiration in America, as witness Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Kenesaw Mountain, and Franklin. Moreover, it must be remembered that Jackson’s success was in no wise owing either to chance or to the errors of his adversary. As far as fortune favored either side, it was that of the British; and Packenham left nothing undone to accomplish his aim, and made no movements that his experience in European war did not justify his making. There is not the slightest reason for supposing that any other British general would have accomplished more or have fared better than he did. Of course Jackson owed much to the nature of the ground on which he fought; but the opportunities it afforded would have been useless in the hands of any general less ready, hardy, and skilful than Old Hickory.

A word as to the troops themselves. The British infantry was at that time the best in Europe, the French coming next. Packenham’s soldiers had formed part of Wellington’s magnificent peninsular army, and they lost nothing of their honor at New Orleans. Their conduct throughout was admirable. Their steadiness in the night battle, their patience through the various hardships they had to undergo, their stubborn courage in action, and the undaunted front they showed in time of disaster (for at the very end they were to the full as ready and eager to fight as at the beginning), all showed that their soldierly qualities were of the highest order. As much cannot be said of the British artillery, which, though very bravely fought was clearly by no means as skilfully handled as was the case with the American guns. The courage of the British officers of all arms is mournfully attested by the sadly large proportion they bore to the total on the lists of the killed and wounded.

An even greater meed of praise is due to the American soldiers, for it must not be forgotten that they were raw troops opposed to veterans; and indeed, nothing but Jackson’s tireless care in drilling them could have brought them into shape at all. The regulars were just as good as the British, and no better. The Kentucky militia, who had only been 48 hours with the army and were badly armed and totally undisciplined, proved as useless as their brethren of New York and Virginia, at Queenstown Heights and Bladensburg, had previously shown themselves to be. They would not stand in the open at all, and even behind a breastwork had to be mixed with better men. The Louisiana militia, fighting in defence of their homes, and well trained, behaved excellently, and behind breastworks were as formidable as the regulars. The Tennesseeans, good men to start with, and already well trained in actual warfare under Jackson, were in their own way unsurpassable as soldiers. In the open field the British regulars, owing to their greater skill in manoeuvring, and to their having bayonets, with which the Tennesseeans were unprovided, could in all likelihood have beaten them; but in rough or broken ground the skill of the Tennesseeans, both as marksmen and woodsmen, would probably have given them the advantage; while the extreme deadliness of their fire made it far more dangerous to attempt to storm a breastwork guarded by these forest riflemen than it would have been to attack the same work guarded by an equal number of the best regular troops of Europe. The American soldiers deserve great credit for doing so well; but greater credit still belongs to Andrew Jackson, who, with his cool head and quick eye, his stout heart and strong hand, stands out in history as the ablest general the United States produced, from the outbreak of the Revolution down to the beginning of the Great Rebellion.




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; quotient is tonnage.”

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 94.

Tonnage was thus estimated in a purely arbitrary manner, 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 President 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 Argus, who thought her to be of about 350 tons, while she was of 298, by American, or 244, by British measurement. 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 Constitution’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 measuring was changed, and their tonnage was put down as 1,607. James takes the American tonnage from Secretary Hamilton’s letter as 1,444, and states (vol. vi, p. 5), that this is equivalent to 1,533 tons, English. But in 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 guesswork, as he sometimes makes them smaller and sometimes larger than they were according to the official navy lists. Thus, the Constitution, President, and United States, each of 1,576, he puts down as of 1,533; the 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 Enterprise, 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 measurement 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 Cyane’s main deck as 118 feet 2 inches. This same Cyane was carefully surveyed and measured, under orders from the United States navy department, by Lieutenant 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 way of taking measurements, as well as of computing tonnage from the measurements 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 Penguin, 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 successful actions, had their prizes measured. The Peacock sank so rapidly that Lawrence could not get very accurate 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. 111), 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 thoroughly 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 Hornet’s 480 — a difference 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 American 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 1,533. 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 38-gun frigates like the Macedonian, and seven with 18-gun brig sloops of the Epervier’s class; and as the Macedonian 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 ports.

As my purpose in giving the tonnage is to get it comparatively, 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 1812 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 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 1798-1800, 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 Chesapeake, carrying 18-pounders, was called a 44; and the Constellation 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 Constellation 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 quarter-deck, with a crew of 309 men. According to Troude (iii, 169), L’Insurgente 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 nominal) weight of shot the Constitution 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 Constellation made it impossible that L’lnsurgente, 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 18’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 18’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 disagree. 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 18’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 Constellation’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 Berceau 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 impossible 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 Experiment, 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 obstinate fight. She was the Flambeau brig of fourteen 8-pounders and 100 men, of whom half were killed or wounded. The Enterprise had 3 killed and 7 wounded.

Comparing these different actions, it is evident that the Americans were superior to the French in fighting capacity during the years 1799 and 1800. During the same two years there had been numerous single contests between vessels of Britain and France, ending almost invariably in favor of the former, which I mention first in each couple. The 12-pounder frigate Daedalus captured the 12-pounder frigate Prudente, of equal force. The British 18-pounder frigate Sybille 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 18-pounder frigate Clyde, with the loss of 5 men, captured the 12-pounder frigate Vestale, which lost 32. The cutter Courser, of twelve 4-pounders and 40 men, captured the privateer Guerrière, of fourteen 4-pounders and 44 men. The cutter Viper, of fourteen 4-pounders and 48 men, captured the privateer Suret, of fourteen 4-pounders and 57 men. The 16-gun ship-sloop, Peterel, with 89 men, engaged the Cerf, 14, Lejoille, 6, and Ligurienne, 16, with in all 240 men, and captured the Ligunenne. The 30-gun corvette Dart captured 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 18-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 Vengeance 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 Truxtun, of the Constellation, accomplished what the latter failed to do.

Reviewing all these actions, it seems pretty clear that, while the Americans were then undoubtedly much superior to the French, they were still, at least slightly, inferior to the British.

From 1777 to 1782 the state of things was very different. 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 certain 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 Courageous, 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 antagonists. 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 captured without resistance the Alfred, 20, the latter ship being deserted in the most outrageously cowardly manner 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 latter in turn was a little, but only a little, inferior to the average British ship of equal strength.

Thus in 1782 the British stood first in nautical prowess, 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 1812 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 were ahead of the French.

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 regular service. At the same time the French marine was at its 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 certain 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 deprived 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 material to work with, it at once came up close to the English; 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 remembered, did not fall off, but at least kept its position; the French, on the contrary, did fall off, while the American 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 Guerrière 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 Guerrière is taken from the Constitution’s muster-book (in the Treasury 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 indifference, in speaking of the closing and the loss of the Guerrière’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 off the wind 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 with 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 Putnam’s Magazine) that the Guerrière’s bowsprit pressed against the Constitution’s “lee or port quarter.”

In the action of the Wasp with the Frolic, 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 two carronades 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 another 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 Argus 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 Wasp herself was greatly injured aloft at the time, and made no effort to cross her foe’s 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.

The Wasp Boarding the Frolic

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 Carden, 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 rewritten 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 accounts; 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 manoeuvre was repeated. 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 previously exposed to a terrible raking fire, which was not the case. So the alleged manoeuvres have, per se, a decidedly apocryphal look; and besides they are flatly contradicted 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 reversed this. At this time the Java had been much cut up in her rigging and aloft generally, while the Constitution 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 Constitution’s mizzen rigging and as the latter forged ahead she pulled the former gradually round till when they separated the ships were in a head and stern line. Commodore 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 disasters 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 correspondence preceding the terrible disasters at Cabul 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 accounts 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. Lieutenant 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, but during the course of the cruise nothing would be more likely than that four men should be gotten rid of, 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 Hornet’s 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 force.

My own comments upon the causes of our success, upon the various historians of the war, etc., are so similar to those of Professor Soley, that I almost feel as if I had been guilty of plagiarism; yet I never saw his writings till half an hour ago. But in commenting on the actions of 1812, I think the Professor has laid too much stress on the difference in “dash” between the combatants. 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 Guerrière 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; 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 18’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 1812 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 beginning 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 admitting 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 opposing 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 approach was as bold as it was skilful; had the opponent to leeward been the Endymion, instead of the Guerrière, 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 stubborn 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 exceptionally 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. 1 p. 105 (State Papers), is a letter from Lieutenant L. H. Babbitt to Master-commandant Wm. U. Crane, both of the Nautilus, dated Sept. 13, 1812, 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 naturalized citizens. He also gives a list of six men who deserted, and entered on the Shannon, of whom two were American born — the birthplaces 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 her — 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 Commodore 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 Swallow; and that these muster-rolls show that in August 1812, one eighth of the crews of the Moselle and Sappho, was composed of Americans.

These various letters thus support strongly the conclusions 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 unaided; the infantry force on shore rendering no assistance. 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, which 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 1812, and an overmatch for anything under the rank of a 74. This gives further emphasis to what I have already stated — that the distinguishing feature of the war of 1812, is not the introduction 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.


In the last edition of James’ Naval History of Great Britain, published in London, in 1886, by Richard Bentley & Son, there is an appendix by Mr. H. T. Powell, devoted to the war of 1812, mainly to my account thereof.

Mr. Powell begins by stating with na�f solemnity that “most British readers will be surprised to learn that, notwithstanding the infinite pains taken by William James to render his history a monument of accuracy, and notwithstanding the exposure he brought upon contemporary misstatements, yet to this day the Americans still dispute his facts.” It is difficult to discuss seriously any question with a man capable of writing down in good faith such a sentence as the above. James (unlike Brenton and Cooper) knew perfectly well how to be accurate; but if Mr. Powell will read the comments on his accounts which I have appended to the description of almost every battle, he will see that James stands convicted beyond possibility of doubt, not merely of occasional inaccuracies or errors, but of the systematic, malicious, and continuous practice of every known form of wilful misstatement, from the suppression of the truth and the suggestion of the false to the lie direct. To a man of his character the temptation was irresistible; for when he came to our naval war, he had to appear as the champion of the beaten side, and to explain away defeat instead of chronicling victory. The contemporary American writers were quite as boastful and untruthful. No honorable American should at this day endorse their statements; and similarly, no reputable Englishman should permit his name to be associated in any way with James’ book without explicitly disclaiming all share in, or sympathy with, its scurrilous mendacity.

Mr. Powell’s efforts to controvert my statements can be disposed of in short order. He first endeavors to prove that James was right about the tonnage of the ships; but all that he does is to show that his author gave for the English frigates and sloops the correct tonnage by English and French rules. This I never for a moment disputed. What I said was that the comparative tonnage of the various pairs of combatants as given by James was all wrong; and this Mr. Powell does not even discuss. James applied one system correctly to the English vessels; but he applied quite another to the American (especially on the lakes). Mr. Powell actually quotes Admiral Chads as a witness, because he says that his father considered James’ account of the Java’s fight accurate; if he wishes such testimony, I can produce many relatives of the Perrys, Porters, and Rodgers of 1812, who insist that I have done much less than justice to the American side. He says I passed over silently James’ schedule of dimensions of the frigates and sloops. This is a mistake; I showed by the testimony of Captains Biddle and Warrington and Lieutenant Hoffman that his comparative measurements (the absolute measurements being of no consequence) for the American and British sloops are all wrong; and the same holds true of the frigates.

Mr. Powell deals with the weight of shot exactly as he does with the tonnage — that is, he seeks to show what the absolute weight of the British shot was; but he does not touch upon the point at issue, the comparative weight of the British and American shot.

When he comes to the lake actions, Mr. Powell is driven to conclude that what I aver must be accurate, because he thinks the Confiance was the size of the General Pike (instead of half as large again; she mounted 30 guns in battery on her main deck, as against the Pike’s 26, and stood to the latter as the Constellation did to the Essex), and because an American writer (very properly) expresses dissatisfaction with Commodore Chauncy! What Mr. Powell thinks this last statement tends to prove would be difficult to say. In the body of my work I go into the minute details of the strength of the combatants in the lake action; I clearly show that James was guilty of gross and wilful falsification of the truth; and no material statement I make can be successfully controverted.

So much for Mr. Powell. But a much higher authority, Mr. Frank Chiswell, has recently published some articles which tend to show that my conclusions as to the tonnage of the sea vessels (not as to the lake vessels, which are taken from different sources) are open to question. In the appendix to my first edition I myself showed that it was quite impossible to reconcile all the different statements; that the most that could be done was to take one method and apply it all through, admitting that even in this way it would be impossible to make all the cases square with one another.

Mr. Chiswell states that “the American tonnage measurements, properly taken, never could give results for frigates varying largely from the English tonnage.” But a statement like this is idle; for the answer to the “never could” is that they did. If Mr. Chiswell will turn to James’ Naval Occurrences, he will find the Chesapeake set down as 1,135 tons, and the Macedonian as of 1,081; but in the American Navy lists, which are those I followed, the Chesapeake is put down as of 1,244 tons. A simple application of the rule of three shows that even if I accepted James’ figures, I would be obliged to consider the Macedonian as of about 1,185 tons, to make her correspond with the system I had adopted for the American ships.

But this is not all. James gives the length of the Macedonian as 154 ft. 6 in. In the Navy Department at Washington are two plans of the Macedonian. One is dated 1817, and gives her length as 157 ft. 3 in. This difference in measurement would make a difference of 20 odd tons; so that by the American mode she must certainly have been over 1,200 tons, instead of under 1,100, as by the British rules. The second plan in the Navy Department, much more elaborate than the first, is dated 1829, and gives the length as 164 ft.; it is probably this that Emmons and the United States Navy lists have followed — as I did myself in calling the tonnage of the Macedonian 1,325. Since finding the plan of 1817, however, I think it possible that the other refers to the second vessel of the name, which was built in 1832. If this is true, then the Macedonian (as well as the Guerrière and Java) should be put down as about 120 tons less than the measurements given by Emmons and adopted by me; but even if this is so, she must be considered as tonning over 1,200, using the method I have applied to the Chesapeake. Therefore, adopting the same system that I apply to the American 38-gun frigates, the British 38-gun frigates were of over 1,200, not under 1,100, tons.

As for the Cyane, James makes her but 118 ft. and 2 in. long, while the American Peacock he puts at 119 ft. 5 in. But Lieutenant Hoffman’s official report makes the former 123 ft. 3 in., and the plans in the State Department at Washington make the latter 117 ft. 11 in. in length. I care nothing for the different methods of measuring different vessels; what I wish to get at is the comparative measurement, and this stands as above. The comparative tonnage is thus the very reverse of that indicated by James’ figures.

Finally, as to the brigs, James makes them some ten feet shorter than the American ship-sloops. In the Washington archives I can find no plan on record of the measurements of the captured Epervier; but in the Navy Department, volume 10, of the “Letters of Master Commandants, 1814,” under date of May 12th, is the statement of the Surveyor of the Port of Charleston that she measured 467 tons (in another place it is given as 477). James makes her 388; but as he makes the American Wasp 434, whereas she stands on our list as of 450, the application of the same rule as with the frigates gives us, even taking his own figures, 400 as her tonnage, when measured as our ships were. But the measurements of the Surveyor of the Port who examined the Epervier are corroborated by the statements of Captain Biddle, who captured her sister brig, the Penguin. Biddle reported that the latter was two feet shorter and a little broader than his own ship, the Hornet, which was of 480 tons. This would correspond almost exactly with the Surveyor’s estimate.

It still seems impossible to reconcile all these conflicting statements; but I am inclined to think that, on the whole, in the sea (not the lake) vessels I have put the British tonnage too high. On the scale I have adopted for the American 44-gun and 38-gun frigates and 18-gun sloops like the Hornet and Wasp, the British 38-gun frigates ought to be put down as of a little over 1,200, and the British 18-gun sloops as of between 400 and 450, tons. In other words, of the twelve single-ship actions of the war five, those of the Chesapeake and Shannon, Enterprise and Boxer, Wasp and Frolic, Hornet and Peacock, Hornet and Penguin, were between vessels of nearly equal size; in six the American was the superior about in the proportion of five to four (rather more in the case of the frigates, rather less in the case of the brigs); and in one, that of the Argus and Pelican, the British sloop was the bigger, in a somewhat similar ratio.

This correction would be in favor of the British. But in a more important particular I think I have done injustice to the Americans. I should have allowed for the short weight of American metal on the lakes, taking off seven per cent, from the nominal broadsides of Perry and Macdonough; for the American ordnance was of exactly the same quality as that on the ocean vessels, while the British was brought over from England, and must have shown the same superiority that obtained on the sea-going ships.

Moreover, I am now inclined to believe that both the Guerrière and the Java, which were originally French ships, still carried French 18’s on their main-deck, and that, therefore, about 20 pounds should be added to the broadside weight of metal of each. The American accounts stated this to be the case in both instances; but I paid no heed to them until my attention was called to the fact that the English had captured enormous quantities of French cannon and shot and certainly used the captured ordnance on some of their ships.

In writing my history I have had to deal with a mass of confused and contradictory testimony, which it has sometimes been quite impossible to reconcile, the difficulty being greatly enhanced by the calculated mendacity of James and some others of the earlier writers, both American and British. Often I have had simply to balance probabilities, and choose between two sets of figures, aware that, whichever I chose, much could be said against the choice. It has, therefore, been quite impossible to avoid errors; but I am confident they have been as much in favor of the British as the Americans; and in all important points my statements are substantially accurate.

I do not believe that my final conclusions on the different fights can be disputed. James asserts that the American ships were officered by cunning cowards, and manned to the extent of half their force in point of effectiveness by renegade British. I show that the percentage of non-American seamen aboard the American ships was probably but little greater than the percentage of non-British seamen aboard the British ships; and as for the charges of cowardice, there were but two instances in which it could be fairly urged against a beaten crew — that of the British Epervier and that of the American Argus (for the cases of Sir George Collier, Commodore Rodgers, Chauncy, Yeo, the commander of the Bonne Citoyenne, etc., etc., cannot be considered as coming under this head). James states that there was usually a great superiority of force on the side of the Americans; this is true; but I show that it was not nearly as great as he makes it, and that in dealing with the lake flotillas his figures are absolutely false, to the extent of even reversing the relative strength of the combatants on Lake Champlain, where the Americans won, although with an inferior force. In the one noteworthy British victory, that of the Shannon, all British authors fail to make any allowance for the vital fact that the Shannon’s crew had been drilled for seven years, whereas the Chesapeake had an absolutely new crew, and had been out of port just eight hours; yet such a difference in length of drill is more important than disparity in weight of metal.

As a whole, it must be said that both sides showed equal courage and resolution; that the Americans usually possessed the advantage in material force; and that they also showed a decided superiority in fighting skill, notably in marksmanship.


  1. Squadrons. Captain Broke’s letter of challenge to Captain Lawrence. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  2. June. James, vi. 474. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  3. Cockburn. James, vi, 437. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  4. Action. Letter of Commodore Rodgers, Feb. 20, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  5. Off. James, vi, 412. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  6. Sight. “Naval Monument,”p. 235. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  7. Free. Letter of Captain Stewart, April 8, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  8. Admiralty. James,vi, 477. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  9. Officers. Cooper, ii, 463. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  10. Junon. James, vi, 479. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  11. Accordingly. Letter of Sailing-master Basset, Jan. 31, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  12. Seaman. Letter from Commander J. H. Dent, Feb. 21, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  13. Men. They afterward took on board enough men from British merchant-vessels to raise their complements respectively to 320 and 180. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  14. Instantly. “Life of Farragut,”p. 33. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  15. Shore. Letter of Captain David Porter, July 3, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  16. 4 P.M. Mean time. Porter says 3.45; 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. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  17. Carronades. 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 contrary, at that which least suited her. He, of course, wished to win the victory with the least possible loss to himself, and acted accordingly. His conduct in the action itself could not be improved upon. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  18. Overboard. This and most of the other anecdotes are taken from the invaluable “Life of Farragut,” pp. 37-46. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  19. Water. Captain Hilyar’s letter.James says the Phœbe had 7 shot between 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. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  20. Condition. An exactly analogous case to that of the British sloop Reindeer. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  21. Wounded. 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. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  22. Douglass. “Naval Gunnery,” p. 149. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  23. Her. Letter of Captain James Hilyar, March 30, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  24. Unavailing. 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 Captain 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 various 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 “remainder are either killed or wounded.” It is by wilfully preserving silence about this last sentence that James makes out his case. It will be observed that Hilyar enumerates 161 + 23 + 3 + 25 (say) or 212, and says the remainder were either killed or wounded; Porter having 255 men at first, this remainder was 43. Hilyar stating that of his 161 prisoners, 42 were wounded, his account thus gives the Americans 111 killed and wounded. James’ silence about Hilyat’s last sentence enables him to make the loss but 69, and his wilful omission is quite on a par with the other meannesses 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 111, 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:

    The explanation probably is that Hilyar’s “42 wounded” do not include Porter’s “27 slightly wounded,” and that his “161 prisoners” 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 111 (Porter, 124), and not 69, as James says. The latter’s statement is wilfully false, as he had seen Hilyar’s letter. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  25. Windward. Official letter of Captain Warrington, April 29. 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  26. Board. James, vi, 424. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  27. Away. According to some accounts she at this time tacked. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  28. Us. James, “Naval Occurrences,” p. 243. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  29. Boys. “Niles’ Register,” vi. 196, says only 160; the above is taken from Warrington’s letter of June 1st, preserved with the other manuscript letters in the Naval Archives. The crew contained about 10 boys, was not composed of picked men, and did not number 185 — vide James. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  30. Prize-lists. American State Papers, vol. xiv, p. 427. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  31. Scratched. “Memoirs of Admiral Codrington,” i, 322. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  32. Again. Letter of Captain Warrington, April 29, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  33. Them. Letter of Captain Warrington, May 4, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  34. June 4th. Letter of Captain Warrington, Oct. 30,1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  35. Barney. He was born at Baltimore, July 7, 1759; James, with habitual accuracy, calls him an Irishman. He makes Decatur, by the way, commit the geographical solecism of being born in Maryland, Virginia. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  36. Guns. The optimistic Cooper thinks that two regular regiments would have given the Americans this battle — which is open to doubt. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  37. Long. 11° 15’ W. Letter of Captain Blakely, July 8,1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  38. Manners. James, vi, 429. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  39. Port. Letter of Captain Blakely, July 8, 1814. Cooper starboard: it is a point of little importance; all accounts agree as to the relative positions of the craft. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  40. Combat. Cooper, ii, 287. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  41. Flotilla. Letter of Com. J. Lewis, July 6, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  42. Spars. Letter of Captain Brine to Vice-Admiral Tyler, July 12. 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  43. 4. James, vi, 436: his statement is wrong as regards the privateer. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  44. Seamen. Letter of Captain Isaac Hull, July 15, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  45. Out. Official letter of Captain Blakely, Sept. 8, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  46. Arbuthnot. James, vi, 432. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  47. Stern-chaser. James, vi, 432. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  48. Tops. Captain Blakely’s letter. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  49. 20. “Niles’ Register,” vi.216. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  50. Better. James, vi, 435. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  51. Trained. Cooper, ii, 291. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  52. Critic. Lord Howard Douglass, “Treatise on Naval Gunnery,” p. 416. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  53. Annapolis. “Autobiography of Commodore Morris,” Annapolis, 1880, p. 172. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  54. Escaped. This statement is somewhat traditional; I have also seen it made about the John Adams. But some old officers have told me positively that it occurred to the Adams on this cruise. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  55. Sherbrooke. James, vi, 479. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  56. Men. “Autobiography of Commodore Morris.” — Roosevelt’s Note.
  57. Seamen. 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 writing about this species of force. His aim being to overestimate the number of the Americans in the various engagements, he always supplies militia ad libitum, to make up any possible deficiency. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  58. Men. Letter from Commodore H. E. Campbell, St. Mary’s, Sept. 12, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  59. Shore. James, vi, 527. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  60. Sight. Letter of Captain S. C. Reid, Oct. 7, 1814; and of John B. Dabney, Consul at Fayal, Oct. 5, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  61. Men. 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. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  62. Boats. Letter from Commander H. C. Campbell, Oct. 12, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  63. Men. “History of American Privateers,” by George Coggeshall, p. 241, New York, 1876. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  64. Chase. James, vi, p. 527. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  65. Men. According to Captain Ordronaux; James does not give the number, but says 28 were killed, 37 wounded, and the crew of the launch captured. Ten of the latter were unwounded, and 18 wounded. I do not know if he included these last among his "37 wounded.”— Roosevelt’s Note.
  66. Not. 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. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  67. Lockyer. James, vi, 521. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  68. Roberts. Letter of Captain Lockyer to Vice-Admiral Cochrane, Dec. 18, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  69. Fire. James, vi, 521. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  70. 14th. Official letter of Lieutenant Jones,March 12, 1815. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  71. 11:50. Lieutenant Jones’ letter. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  72. Wounded. Captain Lockyer’s letter. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  73. 12:30. Minutes of the Court of Inquiry, held May 15, 1851. — Roosevelt’s Note The date 1851 above possible should be 1815. — Transcribers’ note.
  74. Return. Cooper, ii, p. 320. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  75. Year. Am. State Papers, xiv, p. 828; also Emmons’ statistical “History.”— Roosevelt’s Note.
  76. Company. “Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Scott,” written by himself (2 vols., New York, 1864), i, p. 115. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  77. Last. Monroe’s biographer (see “James Monroe,” by Daniel C. Gilman, Boston, 1883, p. 123) thinks he made a good Secretary of War. I think he was as much a failure as his predecessors, and a harsher criticism could not be passed on him. Like the other statesmen of his school, he was mighty in word and weak in action; bold to plan but weak to perform. As an instance, contrast his fiery letters to Jackson with the fact that he never gave him a particle of practical help. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  78. Peninsular War. “The British infantry embarked at Bordeaux, some for America, some for England.”(“History of the War in the Peninsula,” by Major-General Sir W. F. P.Napier,K. C. B. New Edition. New York, 1882, vol. v, p. 200.) For discussion of numbers, see farther on. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  79. Chandeleur Islands. See, ante, p.343. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  80. River. Letter of Major-General John Keane,Dec. 26, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  81. Aid. “Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana” (by Major A. Lacarriex Latour, translated from the French by H. P. Nugent, Philadelphia, 1816), p. 66. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  82. Divisions. Latour, 53. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  83. Battle. Letter of Commodore Daniel G. Patterson, Dec. 20, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  84. Creoles. Latour, 110. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  85. Color. Latour, 111. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  86. Soilders. James (“Military Occurrences of the Late War,” by Wm. James, London, 1818), vol. ii, p. 362, says 2,050 rank and file; the English returns, as already explained, unlike the French and American, never included officers, sergeants, drummers, artillerymen, or engineers, but only “sabres and bayonets” (Napier, iv, 252). At the end of Napier’s fourth volume is given the “morning state” of Wellington’s forces on April 10, 1814. This shows 56,030 rank and file and 7,431 officers, sergeants, and trumpeters or drummers; or, in other words, to get at the real British force in action, even supposing there are no artillerymen or engineers present, 13 percent, must be added to the given number, which includes only rank and file. Making this addition, Keane had 2,310 men. The Americans greatly overestimated his force, Latour making it 4,980. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  87. Men. General Jackson, in his official letter, says only 1,500; but Latour. in a detailed statement, makes it 2,024; exclusive of 107 Mississippi dragoons who marched with the column, but being on horseback had to stay behind, and took no part in the action. Keane thought he had been attacked by 5,000 men. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  88. Camp. I have taken my account of the night action chiefly from the work of an English soldier who took part in it; Ensign (afterward Chaplain-General) H. R. Gleig’s “Narrative of the Campaigns of the British Army at Washington, Baltimore, and New Orleans.” (New edition, Philadelphia, 1821, pp. 286-300.) — Roosevelt’s Note.
  89. Loss. General Keane, in his letter, writes that the British suffered but a single casualty; Gleig, who was present, says (p. 288): “The deadly shower of grape swept down numbers in the camp”. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  90. Off. Keane writes: “The enemy thought it prudent to retire, and did not again dare to advance. It was now 12 o’clock, and the firing ceased on both sides”; and Jackson: “We should have succeeded? in capturing the enemy, had not a thick fog, which arose about (?) o’clock, occasioned some confusion?. I contented myself with lying on the field that night.” Jackson certainly failed to capture the British; but equally certainly damaged them so as to arrest their march till he was in condition to meet and check them. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  91. Hundred. 24 killed, 115 wounded, 74 missing. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  92. Hundred. 46 killed, 167 wounded, 64 missing. I take the official return for each side, as authority for the respective force and loss. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  93. Day. “While sitting at table, a loud shriek was heard?. A shot had taken effect on the body of an unfortunate soldier? who was fairly cut in two at the lower portion of the belly!” (Gleig, p. 306.)— Roosevelt’s Note.
  94. Plain. Latour, 113. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  95. Mortar. Gleig, 307. The Americans thought the battery consisted of 5 18- and 12-pounders; Gleig says 9 field-pieces (9 — and 6-pounders), 2 howitzers, and a mortar. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  96. Alarm. Gleig, 310. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  97. Men. 3,282 men in all, according to the Adjutant-General’s return for Dec. 28, 1814. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  98. Service. Latour, 121. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  99. Dismounted. Gleig, 314. The official returns show a loss of 18 Americans and 58 British, the latter suffering much less than Jackson supposed. Lossing, in his “Field Book of the War of 1812,” not only greatly overestimates the British loss, but speaks as if this was a serious attack, which it was not. Packenham’s army, while marching, unexpectedly came upon the American intrenchment, and recoiled at once, after seeing that his field-pieces were unable to contend with the American artillery. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  100. Guns. 10 long 18s and 4 24-pound carronades (James, ii, 368). Gleig says (p. 318), “6 batteries, mounting 30 pieces of heavy cannon.” This must include the “brigade of field-pieces” of which James speaks. 9 of these, 9 — and 6-pounders, and 2 howitzers, had been used in the attack on the Carolina; and there were also 2 field-mortars and 2 3-pounders present; and there must have been 1 other field-piece with the army, to make up the 30 of which Gleig speaks. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  101. Thirteen. viz.: 1 long 32, 3 long 24s, 1 long 18, 3 long 12s, 3 long 6s, a 6-inch howitzer, and a small carronade (Latour, 147); and on the same day Patterson had in his water-battery 1 long 24 and 2 long 12s (see his letter of Jan. 2d), making a total of 16 American guns. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  102. Them.The British historian, Alison, says (“History of Europe,” by Sir Archibald Alison, 9th edition, Edinburgh and London, 1852, vol. xii. p. 141): “It was soon found that the enemy’s guns were so superior in weight and number, that nothing was to be expected from that species of attack.” As shown above, at this time Jackson had on both sides of the river 16 guns; the British, according to both James and Gleig, between 20 and 30. Jackson’s long guns were 1 32, 4 24s, 1 18, 5 12s, and 3 6s, throwing in all 224 pounds; Packenham had 10 long 18s. 2 long 3s, and from 6 to 10 long 9s and 6s, thus throwing between 228 and 258 pounds of shot; while Jackson had but 1 howitzer and 1 carronade to oppose 4 carronades, 2 howitzers, 2 mortars, and a dozen rocket guns; so in both number and weight of guns the British were greatly superior. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  103. High. In strong contrast to Alison, Admiral Codrington, an eye-witness, states the true reason of the British failure: (“Memoir of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington,” by Lady Bourchier, London, 1873, vol. i, p. 334.) “On the 1st we had our batteries ready, by severe labor, in situation, from which the artillery people were, as a matter of course, to destroy and silence the opposing batteries, and give opportunity for a well-arranged storm. But, instead, not a gun of the enemy appeared to suffer, and our own firing too high was not discovered till” too late. “Such a failure in this boasted arm was not to be expected, and I think it a blot on the artillery escutcheon.”— Roosevelt’s Note.
  104. Foes. Gleig, 322. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  105. Alarm. Gleig, 323. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  106. Soldiers. Speaking of Souk’s overthrow a few months previous to this battle, Napier says (v, 209): “He was opposed to one of the greatest generals of the world, at the head of unconquerable troops. For what Alexander’s Macedonians were at Arbela, Hannibal’s Africans at Cannae, Caesar’s Romans at Pharsalia, Napoleon’s Guards at Austerlitz — such were Wellington’s British soldiers at this period. Six years of uninterrupted success had engrafted on their natural strength and fierceness a confidence that made them invincible.”— Roosevelt’s Note.
  107. Salamanca. It was about 5 o’clock when Packenham fell upon Thomières. From the chief to the lowest soldier, all [of the French] felt that they were lost, and in an instant Packenham, the most frank and gallant of men, commenced the battle. The British columns formed lines as they marched, and the French gunners, standing up manfully for the honor of their country, sent showers of grape into the advancing masses, while a crowd of light troops poured in a fire of musketry, under cover of which the main body endeavored to display a front. But, bearing onwards through the skirmishers with the might of a giant, Packenham broke the half-formed lines into fragments, and sent the whole in confusion upon the advancing supports Packenham, bearing onwards with conquering violence, formed one formidable line two miles in advance of where Packenham had first attacked; and that impetuous officer, with unmitigated strength, still pressed forward, spreading terror and disorder on the enemy’s left. (Napier, iv, 57, 58. 59.)— Roosevelt’s Note.
  108. Side. “A particular feature in the assault was our cutting a canal into the Mississippi to convey a force to the right bank, which might surprise the enemy’s batteries on that side. I do not know how far this measure was relied on by the general, but, as he ordered and made his assault at daylight, I imagine he did not place much dependence upon it.” (Codrington, i, 335.)— Roosevelt’s Note.
  109. 10,000. James (ii, 373) says the British “rank and file” amounted to 8,153 men, including 1,200 seamen and marines. The only other place where he speaks of the latter is in recounting the attack on the right bank, when he says “about 200” were with Thornton, while both the admirals, Cochrane and Codrington, make the number 300; so he probably underestimates their number throughout, and at least 300 can be added, making 1,500 sailors and marines, and a total of 8,453. This number is corroborated by Major McDougal. the officer who received Sir Edward’s body in his arms when was killed; he says (as quoted in the “Memoirs of British Generals Distinguished During the Peninsular War,” by John William Cole, London. 1856, vol. ii, p. 364) that after the battle and the loss of 2,036 men, “we had still an effective force of 6,400,” making a total before the attack of 8,436 rank and file. Calling it 8,450, and adding (see ante, note 10) 13.3 per cent, for the officers, sergeants, and trumpeters, we get about 9,600 men. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  110. Reserve. Letter of Major-General John Lambert to Earl Bathurst, Jan. 10, 1815. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  111. Jackson’s. 4,698 on the east bank, according to the official report of Adjutant-General Robert Butler, for the morning of January 8th. The details are as follow:

    These figures tally almost exactly with those given by Major Latour, except that he omits all reference to Col. Slaughter’s command, thus reducing the number to about 4,100. Nor can I anywhere find any allusion to Slaughter’s command as taking part in the battle; and it is possible that these troops were the 500 Kentuckians ordered across the river by Jackson; in which case his whole force but slightly exceeded 5,000 men.

    On the west bank there were 546 Louisiana militia — 260 of the First regiment, 176 of the Second, and 110 of the Sixth. Jackson had ordered 500 Kentucky troops to be sent to reinforce them; only 400 started, of whom but 180 had arms. Seventy more received arms from the Naval Arsenal; and thus a total of 250 armed men were added to the 546 already on the west bank. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  112. Men. Two thousand Kentucky militia had arrived, but in wretched plight; only 500 had arms, though pieces were found for about 250 more; and thus Jackson’s army received an addition of 750 very badly disciplined soldiers.

    “Hardly one third of the Kentucky troops, so long expected, are armed, and the arms they have are not fit for use.” (Letter of Gen. Jackson to the Secretary of War, Jan. 3d.) Having kept a constant watch on the British, Jackson had rightly concluded that they would make the main attack on the east bank, and had, accordingly, kept the bulk of his force on that side. His works consisted simply of a mud breastwork, with a ditch in front of it, which stretched in a straight line from the river on his right across the plain, and some distance into the morass that sheltered his left. There was a small, unfinished redoubt in front of the breastworks on the river bank. Thirteen pieces of artillery were mounted on the works. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  113. Officer. He committed every possible fault, except showing lack of courage. He placed his works at a very broad instead of a narrow part of the plain, against the advice of Latour, who had Jackson’s approval (Latour, 167). He continued his earthworks but a very short distance inland, making them exceedingly strong in front, and absolutely defenceless on account of their flanks being unprotected. He did not mount the lighter guns of the water-battery on his lines, as he ought to have done. Having a force of 800 men, too weak anyhow, he promptly divided it; and, finally, in the fight itself, he stationed a small number of absolutely raw troops in a thin line on the open, with their flank in the air; while a much larger number of older troops were kept to defend a much shorter line, behind a strong breastwork, with their flanks covered. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  114. Fatigue. Latour, 170. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  115. Victory. To prove this, it is only needful to quote from the words of the Duke of Wellington himself; referring, it must be remembered, to their conduct in a friendly, not a hostile country. “It is impossible to describe to you the irregularities and outrages committed by the troops. They are never out of sight of their officers, I might almost say, out of sight of the commanding officers of the regiments that outrages are not committed There is not an outrage of any description which has not been committed on a people who have uniformly received them as friends.” “I really believe that more plunder and outrages have been committed by this army than by any other that ever was in the field.” “A detachment seldom marches that a murder, or a highway robbery, or some act of outrage is not committed by the British soldiers composing it. They have killed eight people since the army returned to Portugal.” “They really forget every thing when plunder or wine is within reach.”— Roosevelt’s Note.
  116. Loved. That these fears were just can be seen by the following quotations, from the works of a British officer, General Napier, who was an eye-witness of what he describes. It must be remembered that Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, and San Sebastian were friendly towns, only the garrisons being hostile. “Now commenced that wild and desperate wickedness which tarnished the lustre of the soldiers’ heroism. All, indeed, were not alike, for hundreds risked and many lost their lives in striving to stop the violence; but the madness generally prevailed, and as the worst men were leaders here, all the dreadful passions of human nature were displayed. Shameless rapacity, brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty and murder, shrieks and piteous lamentations, groans, shouts, imprecations, the hissing of fires bursting from the houses, the crashing of doors and windows, the reports of muskets used in violence, resounded for two days and nights in the streets of Badajos. On the third, when the city was sacked, when the soldiers were exhausted by their own excesses, the tumult rather subsided than was quelled.” (Vol. iii, 377). And again: “This storm seemed to be a signal from hell for the perpetration of villainy which would have shamed the most ferocious barbarians of antiquity. At Rodrigo intoxication and plunder had been the principal object; at Badajos lust and murder were joined to rapine and drunkenness; but at San Sebastian the direst, the most revolting cruelty was added to the catalogue of crimes — one atrocity, of which a girl of seventeen was the victim, staggers the mind by its enormous, incredible, indescribable barbarity — a Portuguese adjutant, who endeavored to prevent some wickedness, was put to death in the market-place, not with sudden violence from a single ruffian, but deliberately, by a number of English soldiers. and the disorder continued until the flames, following the steps of the plunderer, put an end to his ferocity by destroying the whole town.” Packenham himself would have certainly done all in his power to prevent excesses, and has been foully slandered by many early American writers. Alluding to these, Napier remarks, somewhat caustically: “Pre-eminently distinguished for detestion of inhumanity and outrage, he has been, with astounding falsehood, represented as instigating his troops to the most infamous excesses; but from a people holding millions of their fellow-beings in the most horrible slavery, while they prate and vaunt of liberty until all men turn in loathing from the sickening folly, what can be expected?” (Vol. v, p. 31.) Napier possessed to a very eminent degree the virtue of being plain-spoken. Elsewhere (iii, 450), after giving a most admirably fair and just account of the origin of the Anglo-American war, he alludes, with a good deal of justice, to the Americans of 1812, as “a people who (notwithstanding the curse of black slavery which clings to them, adding the most horrible ferocity to the peculiar baseness of their mercantile spirit, and rendering their republican vanity ridiculous) do, in their general government, uphold civil institutions which have startled the crazy despotisms of Europe.” — Roosevelt’s Note.
  117. Overthrow. According to their official returns the British loss was 2,036; the American accounts, of course, make it much greater. Latour is the only trustworthy American contemporary historian of this war, and even he at times absurdly exaggerates the British force and loss. Most of the other American “histories” of that period were the most preposterously bombastic works that ever saw print. But as regards this battle, none of them are as bad as even such British historians as Alison; the exact reverse being the case in many other battles, notably Lake Erie. The devices each author adopts to lessen the seeming force of his side are generally of much the same character. For instance, Latour says that 800 of Jackson’s men were employed on works at the rear, on guard duty, etc., and deducts them; James, for precisely similar reasons, deducts 853 men: by such means one reduces Jackson’s total force to 4,000, and the other gives Packenham but 7,300. Only 2,000 Americans were actually engaged on the east banks. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  118. Passage. Codrington, i, 386. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  119. Number. James says 298 soldiers and about 200 sailors; but Admiral Cochrane in his letter (Jan. 18th) says 600 men, half sailors; and Admiral Codrington also (p. 335) gives this number, 300 being sailors: adding 13 1/3 per cent. for the officers, sergeants, and trumpeters, we get 680 men. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  120. Militia. Latour, 164-172.) — Roosevelt’s Note.
  121. Unprotected. Report of Court of Inquiry, Maj.-Gen. Wm. Carroll presiding. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  122. Flank. Letter of Col. W. Thornton, Jan. 8. 1815. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  123. Heels. Letter of Commodore Patterson, Jan. 13, 1815. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  124. Rallied. Alison outdoes himself in recounting this feat. Having reduced the British force to 340 men, he says they captured the redoubt, “though defended by 22 guns and 1,700 men.” Of course, it was physically impossible for the water-battery to take part in the defence; so there were but 3 guns, and by halving the force on one side and trebling it on the other, he makes the relative strength of the Americans just sixfold what it was, — and is faithfully followed by other British writers. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  125. Troops. The British Col. Dickson, who had been sent over to inspect, reported that 2,000 men would be needed to hold the battery; so Lambert ordered the British to retire. (Lambert’s letter, Jan. 10th.) — Roosevelt’s Note.
  126. Him. Letter of General Jackson, Jan. 19th, and of General Lambert, Jan. 28th. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  127. Sea-Front. “Towards the sea its fortifications are respectable enough; but on the land side it is little better than a block-house. The ramparts being composed of sand not more than three feet in thickness, and faced with plank, are barely cannon-proof; while a sand hill, rising within pistol-shot of the ditch, completely commands it. Within, again, it is as much wanting in accommodation as it is in strength. There are no bomb-proof barracks, nor any hole or arch under which men might find protection from shells; indeed, so deficient is it in common-lodging rooms, that great part of the garrison sleep in tents — With the reduction of this trifling work all hostilities ended.” (Gleig, 357.)

    General Jackson impliedly censures the garrison for surrendering so quickly; but in such a fort it was absolutely impossible to act otherwise, and not the slightest stain rests upon the fort’s defenders. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  128. Authorities. Thus Napier says (vol. v, p. 25): “Soult fared as most generals will who seek by extensive lines to supply the want of numbers or of hardiness in the troops. Against rude commanders and undisciplined soldiers, lines may avail; seldom against accomplished commanders, never when the assailants are the better soldiers.” And again (p. 150), “Offensive operations must be the basis of a good defensive system.” — Roosevelt’s Note.
  129. Adversary. The reverse has been stated again and again with very great injustice, not only by British, but even by American writers (as e.g., Prof. W. G. Sumner, in his “Andrew Jackson as a Public Man,” Boston, 1882). The climax of absurdity is reached by Major McDougal, who says (as quoted by Cole in his “Memoirs of British Generals,” ii, p. 364): “Sir Edward Packenham fell, not after an utter and disastrous defeat, but at the very moment when the arms of victory were extended towards him”; and by James, who says (ii, 388): “The premature fall of a British general saved an American city.” These assertions are just on a par with those made by American writers, that only the fall of Lawrence prevented the Chesapeake from capturing the Shannon.

    British writers have always attributed the defeat largely to the fact that the 44th regiment, which was to have led the attack with fascines and ladders, did not act well. I doubt if this had any effect on the result. Some few of the men with ladders did reach the ditch, but were shot down at once, and their fate would have been shared by any others who had been with them; the bulk of the column was never able to advance through the fire up to the breastwork, and all the ladders and fascines in Christendom would not have helped it. There will always be innumerable excuses offered for any defeat; but on this occasion the truth is simply that the British regulars found they could not advance in the open against a fire more deadly than they had ever before encountered.] — Roosevelt’s Note.
  130. British. E.g.: The unexpected frost made the swamps firm for them to advance through; the river being so low when the levee was cut, the bayous were filled, instead of the British being drowned out; the Carolina was only blown up because the wind happened to fail her; bad weather delayed the advance of arms and reinforcements, etc., etc.] — Roosevelt’s Note.
  131. Did. “He was the next man to look to after Lord Wellington” (Codrington, i, 339). — Roosevelt’s Note. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  132. Dec. 24, 1798. “American State Papers,” xiv, 57. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  133. Report. “American State Papers,” xiv, p. 417. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  134. Tons. See the work of Lieutenant Emmons, who had access to all the official records. — Roosevelt’s Note.
  135. Actual. French shot was really very much heavier than the nominally corresponding English shot, as the following table, taken from Captain T. L. Simmon’s work on “Heavy Ordnance” (London, 1837, p. 62) will show:

    Roosevelt’s Note.

Text prepared by:


Roosevelt, Theodor. “Chapter I & IV.” The Naval War of 1812, or the History of The United States Navy During the Last War With Great Britain, to Which Is Appended an Account of the Battle of New Orleans. Uniform ed. Vol. II. Philadelphia: Gebbie, 1902. 1-85; 211-332. Internet Archive. 30 Apr. 2008. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. <https:// archive.org/ details/ navalwarof 1812or02roos>.

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