1813 - Attempt to destroy Ramillies by an explosion vessel


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1813 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 240

In a week or two afterwards two merchants of New-York, encouraged by a promise of reward from the American government, formed a plan for destroying the British 74-gun ship Ramillies, Captain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, as she lay at anchor off Fisher's island. A schooner named the Eagle was laden with several casks of gunpowder, having trains leading from a species of gunlock, which, upon the principle of clockwork, went off at a given period after it had been set. Above the casks of powder, and in full view at the hatchway, were some casks of flour, it being known at New-York that the Ramillies was short of provisions, and naturally supposed that Captain Hardy would immediately order the vessel alongside, in order to get the ship's wants supplied.

Thus muderously laden, the schooner sailed from New-York and stood up the Sound. On the 25th, in the morning, the Eagle approached New-London, as if intending to enter that river. The Ramillies detached a boat, with 13 men under Lieutenant John Geddes, to cut her off. At 11 a.m. Lieutenant Geddes boarded the schooner, and found that the crew, after having let go her only anchor, had abandoned their vessel and fled to the shore. The lieutenant brought the fatal prize near to the Ramillies, and Sir Thomas ordered him to place the vessel alongside of a trading sloop, which had been recently captured and lay a short. distance off. The lieutenant did as he was ordered ; and at 2 h. 30 m. p.m., while he and his men were in the act of securing her, the schooner blew up with a tremendous explosion. The poor lieutenant, and 10 of the fine fellows who were with him, perished ; and the remaining three men escaped only with being shockingly scorched.

We shall not trust ourselves to comment upon this most atrocious proceeding. In the following remarks on the subject by a contemporary, we perfectly concur: " A quantity of arsenic among the food would have been so perfectly compatible with the rest of the contrivance, that we wonder it was not resorted to. Should actions like these receive the sanction of governments, the science of war, and the laws of nations, will degenerate into the barbarity of the Algerines; and murder and pillage will take place of kindness and humanity to our enemies." *

The northern frontier of the United States, as is almost too well known to need repetition, bounds on the British provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. The line, or barrier, as far as we need take notice of it, consists of a rapid river, the St.-Lawrence, and the navigable lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron. From Quebec to Kingston, which stands at the entrance of Lake Ontario, the distance is about 180 miles, but the water communication is interrupted by shoals and rapids. Lake Ontario is

* Brenton, vol. v., p. 120.

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