1813 - Boat-attacks, &c. in Chesapeake bay


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1813 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 224

A court of inquiry was of course held on the surviving officers and crew of the Argus, for the loss of their vessel. The court declared, " it was proved that, in the number of her crew, and in the number and caliber of her guns, the Pelican was decidedly superior to the Argus. " How it was " proved " that the Pelican had more men than the Argus, or what was the number that either vessel carried, the court did not deem it worth while to state. Nor does Lieutenant Watson in his official letter, and which doubtless was before the court, make the slightest allusion to any superiority on the part of the Pelican in number of men. But the court was not aware, perhaps, that Lieutenant Watson, and the two officers next in rank to him, had solemnly sworn, in a British prize-court, that the Argus went into action with 125 men. Lieutenant Watson officially enumerates the Pelican's guns, boat-carronade and all, at 21 ; and, many months before the sitting of the court, that officer, Lieutenant William Henry Allen the younger, and the brig's master, had sworn that the Argus mounted 20 guns ; a very " decided" superiority certainly. Upon the whole, we must conclude, that these American courts of inquiry are less scrupulous about the truth, than the expediency, of the decisions they pronounce ; and yet some persons may consider it not very wise in the Americans, looking back on their previous boastings, to make the " caliber of guns " a subject of investigation.

Unfortunately, the capture of frigate after frigate by the Americans could not persuade the British government, that the United States were in earnest about going to war. Hence, instead of one of the 10 or 12 dashing flag-officers, whose names have recently figured in these pages, being sent out to fight the Americans into compliance, a superannuated admiral, whose services, such as they were, bore a very old date, arrived, early in March, 1813, in Chesapeake bay, to try the effect of diplomacy and procrastination. Had not Sir John Warren's second in command, Rear-admiral Cockburn, been of a more active turn, the inhabitants of that very exposed part of the American sea-frontier, the coast around the bay in which the two admirals had cast anchor, would scarcely have known, except by hearsay, that war existed. But, before we proceed to give an account of the proceedings of Rear-admiral Cockburn in the rivers at the head of the Chesapeake, we have to relate a boat-attack that took place a few weeks previous to his arrival on the American coast.

On the 8th of February, at 9 a.m., while a British squadron, consisting of the 18-pounder 36-gun frigates Maidstone and Belvidera, Captains George Burdett and Richard Byron, and 38-gun frigates Junon and Statira, Captains James Sanders and Hassard Stackpoole, was at anchor in Lynhaven bay, a schooner was observed in the north-west, standing down Chesapeake bay. Immediately the boats of the Belvidera and Statira were

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