1814 - Captain Gordon at Alexandria


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1814 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 312

execution that up the Potomac to Alexandria. This service was intrusted to Captain James Alexander Gordon, of the 38-gun frigate Seahorse, having under his orders the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Euryalus, Captain Charles Napier, bomb-ships, Devastation, Ætna, and Meteor, Captains Thomas Alexander, Richard Kenah, and Samuel Roberts, rocket-ship Erebus, Captain David Ewen Bartholomew, and a small tender, or despatch-boat. On the 17th, at 9 h. 15 m. a.m., the squadron got under way from the anchorage at the entrance of the Potomac, and, without the aid of pilots, began ascending the intricate channel of the river leading to the capital of the United States. On the 18th the Seahorse grounded, and could only get afloat again by shifting her guns to the tenders in company. That done, and the guns returned to their places, the squadron again stood up the river. On the 25th, while passing the flats of Maryland point, a squall struck the squadron : the Seahorse had her mizenmast sprung ; and the Euryalus, just as she had clewed up her sails to be in a state to receive it, had her bowsprit and the head of her foremast badly sprung, and the heads of all three topmasts fairly wrung off. Such, however, was the state of discipline on board the ship, that in 12 hours, the Euryalus had refitted herself, and was again under way ascending the river.

On the 27th, in the evening, after each of the ships had been aground not less than 20 times, and each time obliged to haul themselves off by main strength, and after having for five successive days, with the exception of a few hours, been employed in warping a distance of not more than 50 miles, the squadron arrived abreast of Fort Washington. The bomb-ships immediately began throwing their shells into the fort, preparatory to an attack the next morning by the two frigates. On the bursting of the first shell, the garrison was observed to retreat ; but, supposing some concealed design, Captain Gordon directed the fire to be continued. At 8 p.m. however, all doubts were removed by the explosion of the powder magazine, which destroyed the inner buildings. On the 28th, at daylight, the British took possession of the fort, and of three minor batteries, mounting altogether 27 guns, chiefly of heavy caliber. The guns had already been spiked ; and their complete destruction, with the carriages, was effected by the seamen and marines of the squadron. These forts were intended for the defence of Alexandria, the channel to which the British began immediately to buoy. A flag of truce now came off with a proposal to capitulate ; and one hardly knows which to admire most, the prudence of Captain Gordon, in postponing his answer to the common council of Alexandria, until, says he, " I was enabled to place the shipping in such a position, as would ensure assent to the terms I had decided to enforce," or the peremptory and humiliating conditions which he did enforce. It was in vain that the Americans had sunk their vessels ; they must get them up again, and put them in the

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