1813 - Unsuccessful attack on Craney island


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1813 Boat-attacks, &c. in Chesapeake Bay 233

very heavy and long-continued fire from the batteries, directly in front of them, when his boat unfortunately took the ground, at the distance of about 100 yards from the muzzles of the enemy's guns. Captain Hanchett, who had been previously standing up in his boat, animating his men to hasten forward, had wrapped round his body a union jack, and prepared to wade on shore to storm the American battery.

At that instant one of the seamen, having plunged his boat-hook over the side, found three or four feet of slimy mud at the bottom. A check being thus effectually given to a daring enterprise, in which all were so ready to join, Captain Hanchett waved his hat for the boats astern to keep afloat. In the hurry of pulling and the ardour of the men, this warning was disregarded ; and one or two of the boats grounded. Two others, owing to their having received some shot that had passed through the sails of the Diadem's launch, sank.

In the mean while, the Americans at the battery, well aware of the shoal, had anticipated what had happened ; and, feeling their own security, poured in their grape and canister with destructive effect. A 6-pound shot, which had passed through a launch on the starboard side of Captain Hanchett's boat, and killed and wounded several men, struck that officer on the hip, and he instantly fell ; but was quickly on his legs again. While he was assisting to save the men that were struggling in the water, in consequence of their boat having been sunk, a langridge shot entered his left thigh. While, also, the men from the sunken boats, and who consisted chiefly of the Canadian chasseurs, or Independent Foreigners, were struggling for their lives in the water and mud, the Constellation's marines, and the American infantry, waded a short distance into the water, and deliberately fired at them. Huddled together, as the boats were when they struck the ground, and that within canister-range of a battery which kept upon them an incessant fire of more than two hours' duration, it required no very expert artillerists to sink three of the boats, and to kill three men and wound 16; especially when aided by the muskets of those humane individuals who waded into the water to fire at the drowning crews. Including 10 seamen, 62 were officially reported as missing. Of these, it appears, 40 gained the shore, and " deserted " to the Americans. As more than that number of missing appear to have belonged to the two foreign companies, this creates no surprise ; especially, as the only alternative left to the men was to become prisoners of war.

The policy of attacking Craney island, as a means of getting at Norfolk, whither the Constellation frigate had retired for shelter on the first arrival of the British in the Chesapeake, has been much questioned ; but there can be only one opinion, surely, about the wisdom of sending boats, in broad daylight, to feel their way to the shore, over shoals and mud-banks, and that in the very teeth of a formidable battery. Unlike most

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