Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XXX - Predatory Warfare of the British on the Coast.






The British resolve on vigorous War. – Blockade of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. – The Blockading Squadron. – Defenses of Norfolk and Hampton Roads. – Discretion of the Blockaders. – Patriotism on the Shores of Delaware Bay. – The British threaten and hesitate. – Attack on Lewistown. – Cockburn’s Operations. – Cockburn’s Desires restrained by Fear. – The British capture Frenchtown. – Havre de Grace threatened. – Preparations for the Invaders at Havre de Grace. – Cockburn assails the Village. – Flight of the Inhabitants. – Landing of the British at Havre de Grace. – Their cruel Conduct. – Destruction of private Property. – A Visit to Havre de Grace. – Historical Localities there. – John O’Neill, his Sword and Dwelling. – The "Pringle House." – Its Owner a Veteran of the War. – Plunder and Destruction of Villages by Cockburn. – The blockading Force strengthened. – Norfolk menaced. – Stirring Scenes in Hampton Roads. – Skirmish in Hampton Roads. – A British Fleet enters the Roads. – Admiral Shubrick’s public Life. – Virginia Militia near Norfolk. – Craney Island. – American Forces there. – General Taylor. – Artillerists on Craney Island. – Landing of the British. – Preparations for Battle. – Advance of the British on Land. – A sharp Conflict. – Advance of the British on Water. – The British Flotilla driven back. – Attempt to seize Norfolk and the Navy Yard abandoned. – Hampton. – Americans at Hampton. – Landing of the British near Hampton. – Armed Boats appear in Front. – The British Invaders confronted. – A severe Skirmish. – Struggle for the Possession of Hampton. – Americans driven from Hampton. – The Village given up to Rapine and Pillage. – A Committee of Investigation. – Official Correspondence concerning Outrages. – A Visit to Norfolk and its Vicinity. – Old Fort Norfolk. – British Consul at Norfolk and his Residence. – Thomas Moore and the Lake of the Dismal Swamp. – Craney Island. – The Fortifications on Craney Island. – A Slave’s Freedom purchased by his Wife. – A Visit to Hampton and its Vicinity. – Landing-place of the British. – Commodore Barron’s Daughter. – Colonel James and his Family. – Destruction of Hampton. – Cockburn in the Potomac and on the Coast of North Carolina. – Alarm in South Carolina. – Secret Organization among the Slaves. – A revolutionary Hymn. – The Grave of Osceola. – Cockburn on the Coast of Georgia. – Decatur runs the Blockade at New York. – He is driven into the Thames. – Blockading Squadron off New London. – Alarm of the Inhabitants. – Decatur finds a Place of Safety. – A Torpedo Vessel off New London. – Alarm and Precautions of the British. – Other Torpedo Vessels. – Vigorous blockade of the Coast of Connecticut. – The local Militia. – Colonel Burbeck. – Decatur endeavors to get to Sea. – The Blue-lights and the "Peace Party." – A Challenge. – Tour in New England. – Cemetery at New London and its Occupants. – Commodore Rodgers. – New London Harbor and Fort Trumbull. – Block-house erected in 1812. – The old Court-house and its Associations. – Peace.


"She comes! the proud invader comes
To waste our country, spoil our homes;
To lay our towns and cities low,
And bid our mothers’ tears to flow;
Our wives lament, our orphans weep –
To seize the empire of the deep!" – ANGUS UMPHRAVILLE.


CHASTISE THE AMERICANS INTO SUBMISSION! was the fiat of the British Cabinet at the close of 1812, and it was determined to send out a land and naval force sufficient to do it. It was evident that efforts such as have been recorded in preceding chapters would be made by the Americans for the invasion and conquest of Canada, and that the successes achieved by them on the ocean would stimulate them to the performance of more daring exploits on the waves which Britannia claimed to rule.

These efforts must be met, and Great Britain put forth her strength for the purpose. It was determined to blockade and desolate the coasts of the United States, lay waste their sea-port towns, destroy their dock-yards, and thus not only endeavor to divert their military strength from the Canada frontier, but destroy the centres of their commercial and naval power, dispirit the people, intensify the domestic resistance to the farther prosecution of the war, and secure the absolute submission of the nation to British insolence and greed. Admiral Warren’s fleet in American waters was re-enforced, and Sir George Cockburn, a rear admiral in the British navy, and willing instrument in the accomplishment of work which honorable English commanders would not soil their hands with, was made his second in command. He was specially commissioned to wage a sort of amphibious and marauding warfare on the coasts, from the Delaware River southward.

On the 26th of December, 1812, an order in Council declared the ports and harbors in the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays to be in a state of rigorous blockade. Soon afterward additional ships of war and transports arrived at Bermuda, bearing a considerable land force, and well furnished with bomb-shells and Congreve rockets, to be used in the conflagration of sea-board towns. 1 A part of the land force consisted of French prisoners of war, who preferred to engage in the British marine service to risking indefinite confinement in Dartmoor Prison, in England.

The first appearance of blockading vessels was on the 4th of February [1813.], when four 74-gun ships and several smaller armed vessels 2 entered the Virginia Capes and bore up toward Hampton Roads. The fleet was under the command of Admiral Cockburn (whose flag-ship was the Marlborough), assisted by Commodore Beresford, whose pennant was over the Poictiers. 3 They bore a land force of about eighteen hundred men, and were well supplied with small surf-boats for landing. Their appearance alarmed all lower Virginia, and the militia of the Peninsula and the region about Norfolk were soon in motion. An order soon went out from the Secretary of the Treasury [March 16, 1813.] for the extinguishment of all the beacon-lights on the Chesapeake coast.


It was supposed that Hampton and Norfolk would be attacked. The latter place was pretty well defended by fortifications which General Wade Hampton had caused to be thrown up on Craney Island, five miles below the city, under the superintendence of Colonel Armistead. The masters and mates of merchant vessels in Norfolk harbor joined themselves into volunteer military companies and garrisoned old Fort Norfolk. The frigate Constellation, 38, Captain Tarbelle, was lying near, supported by a flotilla of gunboats. Old Point Comfort soon bristled with bayonets; and the British commanders thought it more prudent at that time to destroy the small merchant craft found in Chesapeake Bay than to enter Hampton Roads. They did little more than this for several weeks, when Commodore Beresford was sent, with the Poictiers, Belvidera, and some smaller vessels, to blockade the Delaware Bay and River, and teach the inhabitants along their shores the duty of submission. He found his unwilling pupils very refractory; for when, on the 16th of March, he pointed the guns of the Poictiers toward the village of Lewis, near Cape Henlopen, and said, in a note to "the first magistrate" of that little town, "You must send me twenty live bullocks, with a proportionate quantity of vegetables and hay, for the use of his Britannic majesty’s squadron," offering to pay for them, but threatening, in the event of refusal, to destroy the place, the "first magistrate" of Lewistown, and all the people, from Philadelphia to the sea, said in substance, as they every where prepared for resistance, "We solemnly refuse to commit legal or moral treason at your command. Do your worst." They had heard of his coming, and had already, on both sides of the bay and river, assembled in armed bodies at expected points of attack to repel the invaders. The spirit of the fathers was aroused, some of whom, full of the fire of the flint, were yet abiding among them. At Dover, on the Sabbath day, the drum beat to arms, and men of every denomination in politics and religion, to the number of almost five hundred, responded to the call. Among them was Jonathan M‘Nutt, an age-bent soldier of the Revolution, who exchanged his staff for a musket and engaged in the drill. Pious Methodist as he was, he did not regard the day as too holy for patriotic deeds, and he spent the whole afternoon in making ball-cartridges. 4 This was the spirit every where manifested. At Smyrna, New Castle, and Wilmington, the inhabitants turned out with spades or muskets, prepared to cast up the earth for batteries and trenches, 5 or to be soldiers to meet the foe.

At the latter place, the venerable soldier of the Revolution, Allan M‘Lane, took the direction of military affairs. 6 The specie of the banks of New Castle and Wilmington was sent to Philadelphia for safety; and in the latter city Captain William Mitchell and his Independent Blues, and Captain Jacob H. Fisler and his Junior Artillerists, formed in three days for the occasion, volunteered to garrison Fort Mifflin.

Beresford was astonished by the spirit of the people, and held the thunders of his threat at bay for almost three weeks. Governor Haslet, in the mean time, summoned the militia to the defense of the menaced town, and on his arrival at Lewis on the 23d he reiterated the positive refusal of the inhabitants to furnish the invaders with supplies. Beresford continued to threaten and hesitate; but at length, on the evening of the 6th of April, he sent Captain Byron, with the Belvidera and smaller vessels, to attack the village. They drew near, and the Belvidera sent several heavy round-shot into the town. These were followed by a flag of truce, bearing from Byron a renewal of the requisition. It was answered by Colonel S. B. Davis, who commanded the militia. He repeated the refusal, when Byron sent a reply, in which he expressed regret for the misery he should inflict on the women and children by a bombardment. "Colonel Davis is a gallant officer, and has taken care of the ladies," was the verbal answer. This correspondence was followed by a cannonade and bombardment that was kept up for twenty-two hours. So spirited was the response of a battery on an eminence, worked by Colonel Davis’s militia, that the most dangerous of the enemy’s gun-boats was disabled, and its cannon silenced. Notwithstanding the British hurled full eight hundred of these eighteen and thirty-two pound shot into the town, and many shells and Congreve rockets were sent, the damage inflicted was not severe. The shells did not reach the village; the rockets passed over it; but the heavy round shot injured several houses. No lives were lost. An ample supply of powder was sent down from Dupont’s, at Wilmington, while the enemy supplied the balls. These fitted the American cannon, and a large number of them were sent back with effect. 7

On the afternoon of the 7th the British attempted to land for the purpose of seizing live-stock in the neighborhood, but they were met at the verge of the water by the spirited militia, and driven back to their ships. For a month the squadron lingered, and then, dropping down to Newbold’s Ponds, seven miles below Lewistown, boats filled with armed men were sent on shore to obtain a supply of water. Colonel Davis immediately detached Major George H. Hunter with a few men, who drove them back to the ships. Failing to obtain any supplies on the shores of the Delaware, the little blockading squadron sailed for Bermuda, where Admiral Warren was fitting out re-enforcements for his fleet in the American waters.

The blockaders within the Capes of Virginia were very busy in the mean time. The fleet was under the command of Admiral Cockburn, and took chief position in Lynnhaven Bay. 8 He continually sent out marauding expeditions along the shores of the Chesapeake, who plundered and burnt farm-houses, carried off negroes and armed them against their masters, and seized live-stock wherever it could be found. The country exposed to these depredations was extensive and sparsely settled, and it was difficult to concentrate a military force at one point in sufficient time to be effective against the marauders. In some instances they were severely punished, but these were rare.

More felicitous and more honorable exploits were sometimes undertaken by the blockaders under Cockburn. On the 3d of April a flotilla of a dozen armed boats from the British fleet, under Lieutenant Polkingthorne, of the St. Domingo, 74, entered the mouth of the Rappahannock River, and attacked the Baltimore privateer Dolphin, 10, Captain Stafford, and three armed schooners prepared to sail for France. The assault was unexpected and fierce. The three smaller vessels were soon taken, but the struggle for the Dolphin was severe. She was finally boarded, and for fifteen minutes the contest raged fearfully on her deck. Overpowered by numbers, Captain Stafford was compelled to submit. 9 In this affair the loss was much heavier on the British than on the American side. No official account of the casualties were ever given by either party, but contemporary writers agree that the capture of the Dolphin cost the victors many lives.

Emboldened by this success, Cockburn resolved to engage in still more ambitious adventures. He thought of attacking Annapolis and Baltimore, and even dreamed of the glory and renown of penetrating the country forty or fifty miles and destroying the national capital. Prudence restrained obedience to his desires. His friends among the "Peace men" of Baltimore doubtless informed him that the vigilance of the people of that city, under the eye of the veteran General Smith, was sleepless; that look-out boats were far down the Patapsco; that riflemen and horsemen were stationed along the shores of the river and bay; that Fort M‘Henry was being strengthened by the mounting of thirty-two-pounders; that the City Brigade numbered almost two thousand men; and that an equal number of volunteers for the defense of the place were within trumpet-call. He wisely concluded to pass by the political and commercial capitals of Maryland, and fall upon weaker objects. With a large force he menaced Baltimore as a feint on the 16th of April, and on the 29th, with the brigs Fantome and Mohawk, and tenders Dolphin, Racer, and Highflyer, he entered Elk River, toward the head of Chesapeake Bay, and proceeded to destroy Frenchtown, on the Delaware shore. It was a village of about a dozen buildings, composed of dwellings, store-houses, and stables. The blockading vessels had driven the trade between Philadelphia and Baltimore from the ordinary line of water-travel, and this place had become an important entrepôt of traffic between the two cities.

Admiral Cockburn made the Fantome his flag-ship, and sent First Lieutenant Westphall, of the Marlborough, with about four hundred armed men in boats, to destroy the public and private property at Frenchtown. The only defenders were quite a large number of drivers of stages and transportation wagons who were assembled there, and a few militia who came down from Elkton. The former garrisoned the redoubt, which had just been erected, upon which lay three iron four-pounders, first used in the old War for Independence. They fought manfully, but were compelled to retire before overwhelming numbers. The store-houses were plundered and burnt, but no dwelling was injured. The women and children were treated with respect. Property on land to the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars was consumed, and on the water five small trading-vessels. 10 This incendiary work accomplished, the invaders withdrew, and on the Fantome, the following day, Sir George wrote an account of the affair to Admiral Warren, taking care to assure that humane commander that he was following out his orders in giving a receipt for property taken from noncombatants.

Havre de Grace, near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, was the marauding knight’s next object for visitation. It was a small town, two miles up from the head of Chesapeake Bay, and contained about sixty houses, built mostly of wood. It was on the post-road between Philadelphia and Baltimore, as it now is upon the railway between the two cities. For some time the enemy had been expected there, not because there were stores or any other seductions for him, but because the love of plunder and wanton destruction appeared to be Cockburn’s animating spirit. Several companies of militia had been sent to the vicinity; and upon the high bank of the river, just below the village, near the site of the present (1867) iron-works of Whittaker & Co., a battery was erected, on which one eighteen-pounder and two nine-pounders were mounted. This, for reasons unexplained, was called the "Potato Battery." On the lower, or Concord Point, where the light-house now stands, was a smaller battery, and both were manned by militia exempts. Patrols watched the shores all the way to the Bay looking for the enemy, and for about three weeks this vigilance was unslumbering. The enemy did not appear. All alarm subsided; and the spirit that brought out armed men began to flag. Some returned home, and apathy was the rule.

Cockburn was informed of this state of things at Havre de Grace, and prepared to fall upon the unsuspecting villagers on the night of the 1st of May. A deserter carried intelligence of his intentions to the town, and the entire neighborhood was speedily aroused. The women and children were carried to places of safety, and about two hundred and fifty militia were soon again at their posts. But Cockburn did not come. He purposely lulled them into repose by a postponement of the attack. The deserter’s story was disbelieved. It was thought to be a false alarm. What is there to call the British here? common sagacity queried. The militia again became disorganized, and many of them returned home.


On the night of the 2d of May there was perfect quiet in Havre de Grace. The inhabitants went to sleep more peacefully than they had done for a month. They were suddenly awakened at dawn by the din of arms. It was a beautiful serene morning; "not a cloud in the sky nor a ripple on the water," said the venerable Mr. Howtell, of Havre de Grace, to me, in the autumn of 1861, as we stood upon the site of the "Potato Battery." He was there at the time, and participated in the scenes. Fifteen to twenty barges, filled with British troops, were discovered approaching Concord Point, on which the light-house now stands. The guns on higher Point Comfort, manned by a few lingering militia, opened upon them, and these were returned by grapeshot from the enemy’s vessels. The drums in the village beat to arms. The affrighted inhabitants, half dressed, rushed to the streets, the non-combatants flying in terror to places of safety. The confusion was cruel. It was increased by a flight of hissing rockets, which set houses in flames. These were followed by more destructive bomb-shells; and while the panic and the fire were raging in the town, the enemy landed. A strong party debarked in the cove by the present lighthouse, captured the small battery there, and pressed forward to seize the larger one. All but eight or ten of the militia had fled from the village; and John O’Neil, a brave Irishman, and Philip Albert, alone remained at the battery. Albert was hurt, and O’Neil attempted to manage the heaviest gun alone. He loaded and discharged it, when, by its recoil, his thigh was injured, and he was disabled. They both hurried toward the town, and used their muskets until compelled to fly toward the open common, near the Episcopal Church, pursued by a British horseman. There O’Neil was captured, but Albert escaped. The brave Irishman was carried on board the frigate Maidstone, and in the course of a few days was set at liberty.

The guns of the captured battery were turned upon the town, and added to the destruction. A greater portion of the enemy (almost four hundred in number) went up to the site of the present railway ferry landing, and debarked there. They rushed up to the open common, separated into squads, and commenced plundering and destroying systematically, officers and men entering into the business with equal alacrity. 11 Finally, when at least one half of the village had been destroyed, Cockburn, the instigator of the crime, went on shore, and was met on the common by several ladies who had taken refuge in an elegant brick house, some distance from the village, known as the Pringle mansion. They entreated him to spare the remainder of the village, and especially the roof that sheltered them. He yielded with reluctance, and at length gave an order for a stay of the plundering. 12


Meanwhile a large detachment of the enemy went up the Susquehanna about six miles, to the head of tide-water, and there destroyed the extensive iron-works and cannon foundery belonging to Colonel Hughes. A number of vessels that had escaped from the Bay and were anchored there were saved from the flames by being sunk. At a point below, Stump’s large warehouse was burnt.


Finally, when all possible mischief had been achieved along the river bank – when farm-houses had been plundered and burnt a long distance on the Baltimore road – when, after the lapse of four hours, forty of the sixty houses in the village had been destroyed, and nearly all the remainder of the edifices, except the Episcopal Church, 13 were more or less injured, the marauders assembled in their vessels in the stream, and at sunset sailed out into the Bay to pay a similar visit to villages on the Sassafras River. 14 Havre de Grace was at least sixty thousand dollars poorer when they left than when they came twelve hours before.

It was a sunny but blustery day [November 22, 1861.] when I visited Havre de Grace and the scenes around it, made memorable by its woes. I arrived in the evening by railway from Baltimore, where I had spent three days in visiting the battle-ground at North Point and other interesting places hereafter to be described. The town was full of soldiers, many being stationed there to guard the ferry and public property from the violence of the sympathizers with the rebels in Maryland. The only hotel in the place was entirely filled with lodgers, and private houses were in like condition. The prospect for a night’s repose was unpromising. For myself, a settee or an easy-chair might have sufficed; but I had a traveling companion (a young woman and near relative) who required better accommodations. The obliging proprietor of the hotel, after much effort, succeeded in placing us in the unoccupied furnished house of his son-in-law, where we passed a dreary night, the windows of my room clattering continually at the bidding of the gusty wind. Early the next morning I went out in search of celebrities, and, after sketching the old residence of Commodore Rodgers, printed on page 182, I fortunately fell in with Mr. Howtell, already mentioned, who became my cicerone. Under his direction I was enabled to find every place sought after.

While sketching the landing-place of the British near the light-house (page 671), the keeper of the pharos came to know my business. He was an aged man, and I soon discovered that he was one of the oldest residents of the place, having been a half-grown boy at the time of the British visitation. "Did you know John O’Neil, who behaved so gallantly at the Potato Battery?" I asked. "I ought to," he replied, "for he was my father." "Can you tell me any thing about the sword presented to him by the authorities of Philadelphia for his bravery on that occasion?" I inquired. "If you will go with me to the house," he replied, "it will speak for itself." When I had finished my sketch of the weather-beaten lighthouse (from which most of the stucco had been abraded) and the cove, with the distant Turkey Point, Spesutia Island, and the Maryland main on the right, I followed Mr. O’Neil to his little cottage near by, and there not only saw and sketched the honorary sword, but from the brave John O’Neil’s own family Bible obtained a few facts concerning his personal history. He was born in Ireland on the 23d of November, 1768, and came to America at the age of eighteen years. He was in the military service under General Harry Lee in quelling the Whisky Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, and in 1798 entered the naval service against the French. He became an extensive nail-maker at Havre de Grace, sometimes employing as many as twenty men. The destruction of the place ruined his business. When the present light-house was built on Concord Point in 1829 he became its keeper; and on the 26th of January, 1838, he died in the house where his son and successor resides.


The sword had a handsomely-ornamented gilt scabbard, on which was the following inscription: "PRESENTED TO THE GALLANT JOHN O’NEIL FOR HIS VALOR AT HAVRE DE GRACE, BY PHILADELPHIA – 1813." In Charles’s caricature just mentioned, a British officer, who has arrested the bold cannonier and confronts him, is made to say, "I tell you what, Mr. O’Neil, you are certainly a brave fellow, but as a prisoner of war must go on board with us." They did not keep him long, for on the 10th, seven days after his capture, he wrote to a friend in Baltimore, saying, "I was carried on board the Maidstone frigate, where I remained until released three days since." His letter opened with the quaint sentence, "No doubt before this you have heard of my defeat;" and this was followed by a brief narrative of the affair.

Toward noon I rode up to the "Pringle House," the residence of the Honorable Elisha Lewis, who had just been elected a member of the State Legislature by the Unionists of his district. His estate is called Bloomsbury, an old English title, and contains six hundred acres of land, with a front of a mile on Chesapeake Bay. When the mansion was built in 1808 by Mark Pringle, a wealthy Baltimore merchant, it was the finest country residence in the state, and even when I visited it few rivaled it either in appearance or comfort. It stood upon an eminence overlooking Havre de Grace, the Susquehanna River, and Chesapeake Bay. It was very large, and substantially built of pressed brick. Mr. Lewis was one of the brave defenders of Baltimore in 1814, when that city was threatened by General Ross and his army. He served as a volunteer sergeant in Captain Perring’s company, Twenty-seventh Regiment – the brave Twenty-seventh – Maryland Militia, which did such gallant service in the battle of North Point. His gun was disabled by a shot through the stock, when he took the musket of a slain companion by his side, and continued the fight. Founder of a commercial house in Baltimore, he was engaged thirty years in trade, and passed much of his time in England. For sixteen years he had been enjoying the quiet of country life.

After spending an hour pleasantly at Bloomsbury I rode back to the village, and to the quarters of Colonel Rodgers, son of the commodore, who was then raising a Maryland regiment for the war. At half past three we left Havre de Grace, and were with friends in Philadelphia in time for supper.

Let us resume the historical narrative.

Cockburn and his marauders went up the Sassafras River, that separates Cecil and Kent Counties, Maryland, and attacked the villages of Fredericktown and Georgetown, lying on opposite banks of that stream, about eleven miles from its mouth. The former is in Cecil County, the latter in Kent County. Both of them at that time, and especially Georgetown, had a flourishing trade with Baltimore. These villages contained from forty to fifty houses each, and at Fredericktown several small vessels that had run up from the bay for shelter were moored.

It was on the 6th of May, a warm and beautiful morning, that Cockburn, with six hundred men, in eighteen barges, went up the Sassafras. He first visited Fredericktown, on the northern shore of the stream. Less than one hundred militiamen, under Colonel Veazy, were there, with a little breastwork, and a small cannon to defend it. When the enemy opened his great guns all but thirty-five of them fled. With these Veazy made stout resistance, but was compelled to retire. The marauders landed, and the entreaties of the women to spare the town, especially the more humble dwellings of the poor, were answered by oaths and coarse jests and the application of the fire-brand. The store-houses, the vessels, and the beautiful village were set in flames after the invaders were glutted with plunder. The marauders then crossed over to Georgetown, and served it in the same way. So delighted was Cockburn with his success in plundering and destroying unprotected towns, that, with characteristic swagger, he declared he should not be satisfied until he had burned every building in Baltimore.

After having plundered and destroyed these quiet villages, and despoiled them of an aggregate of at least seventy thousand dollars, Cockburn and his pirates returned to their ships. This kind of warfare, so disgraceful to a civilized government, created the most intense hatred of the enemy, and aroused a war spirit throughout the land that for a time appalled the cowardly "Peace Party," and nearly silenced the newspapers in their interest.

On the 26th of May a British order in Council extended the blockade to New York and all the Southern ports; and on the 1st of June Admiral Warren entered the Chesapeake with a considerable naval re-enforcement for Cockburn and Beresford, bearing a large number of land troops and marines under the command of Sir Sidney Beckwith. The British force now collected within the Capes of Virginia consisted of eight ships of the line, twelve frigates, and a considerable number of smaller vessels, and it was evident that some more important point than defenseless villages would be the next object of attack. The citizens of Baltimore, Annapolis, and Norfolk were equally menaced, but when, at the middle of June [June 18.], three British frigates entered Hampton Roads, and sent their boats up the James River to destroy some small American vessels there and plunder the inhabitants, it was evident that Norfolk would be the first point of attack. The Constellation 15 and a flotilla of twenty gun-boats, as well as Forts Norfolk and Nelson (one on each side of the Elizabeth River), and Forts Tar and Barbour, 16 and the fortifications on Craney Island, were all put in the best state of defense possible; while Commodore Cassin, then in command of the station, ordered Captain Tarbell to organize an expedition for the capture of the frigate that lay at anchor at the nearest distance from Norfolk.


Toward midnight on Saturday, the 19th of June [1813.], Captain Tarbell, with fifteen gun-boats, descended the Elizabeth River in two divisions, one under Lieutenant J. M. Gardner, and the other under Lieutenant Robert G. Henley. Fifteen volunteer sharp-shooters from Craney Island were added to the crews of the boats. Because of head winds the flotilla did not approach the nearest vessel until half past three in the morning. She lay about three miles from the others, and under cover of the darkness just before daylight, and a heavy fog, the Americans approached within easy range of the vessel without being discovered.

At four o’clock Tarbell opened fire upon her. She was taken by surprise, and her response was so feeble and irregular that a panic on board was indicated. The wind was too light to fill her sails, while the gun-boats, managed by sweeps, had every advantage. They were formed in crescent shape, and during a conflict of half an hour Tarbell was continually cheered by sure promises of victory. It was snatched from his hand by a breeze that suddenly sprung up from the north-northeast, which enabled the two frigates anchored below to come up to the assistance of the assailed vessel, supposed to be the Junon, 38, Captain Sanders.

These opened a severe cannonade on the flotilla, and the Americans were obliged to haul off. As they retired in good order, they kept up a fire on the British vessels for almost an hour. 17 They damaged their enemy seriously, while some of their own boats were badly bruised. Master’s Mate Allison was killed, and two seamen were slightly wounded. These composed the entire loss of the Americans. How much the British seamen suffered is not known.

This attack brought matters to a crisis. Efforts for the capture of Norfolk, with its fortifications, the armed vessels there, and the navy yard, were immediately made by the British admiral. The cannonade had been distinctly heard, and with the very next tide after the conflict on that foggy Sunday morning fourteen of the enemy’s vessels entered the Roads, ascended to the mouth of the James River, and took position between the point called Newport-Newce and Pig Point, at the mouth of the Nansemond. These vessels had on board the One Hundred and Second Regiment of British Infantry, the Royal Marine Brigade, and two companies of French volunteer prisoners, who, in compliment to their language, were called Chasseurs Britanniques. These land troops were commanded by General Sir Sidney Beckwith, assisted by Lieutenant Colonel Napier and other eminent leaders. The whole force of the enemy, including sailors, was about five thousand men.

James Barbour was then Governor of Virginia. He was patriotic and active, and by untiring energy he had assembled several thousand militia. A large portion of these, with some United States regulars under Captain Pollard, were at old Fort Norfolk and vicinity. They had been drawn chiefly from the coast districts most immediately menaced by the enemy. The governor had been zealously seconded in his efforts by the Richmond press and leading provincial journals, who, as usual, appealed vehemently to state pride. The appeal was effectual, and gallant men flocked to the standard of their common country.

Craney Island, then in shape like a painter’s pallet, and rising a few feet above the water, was separated from the main by a strait that was fordable at low or half tide. Across this a temporary foot-bridge had been constructed, which led to Stringer’s farm-house. The island at that time contained about thirty acres of land. On the southeastern side of it, and commanding the ship channel, were intrenchments, on which two 24, one 18, and four 6 pound cannon were planted. These formed the most remote outpost of Norfolk, and were the key to the harbor. The defense of this island was demanded by stern necessity, and to that end the efforts of the leaders in that vicinity were directed.

The chief of these was Brigadier General Robert B. Taylor, the commanding officer of the district. The whole available force on the island when the British entered Hampton Roads consisted of two companies of artillery from Portsmouth, led by Captains Emerson and Richardson, under the command of Major James Faulkner, of the Virginia State Artillery; Captain Roberts’s company of riflemen; and four hundred and sixteen militia infantry of the line, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Beatty, assisted by Major Andrew Waggoner. These were so situated that, if attacked and overpowered, they had no means for escape, and yet, as one of the newspapers of the day said, they were "all cool and collected, rather wishing the attack."

On the arrival of General Taylor 18 at Norfolk he perceived the necessity of re-enforcing the troops on Craney Island, where the first blow of the coming battle was likely to fall. He accordingly sent down thirty regulars under Captain Richard Pollard, from Fort Norfolk, and thirty volunteers under Lieutenant Johnson, of Culpepper, and Ensign Archibald Atkinson (member of Congress in 1849), of Isle of Wight, most of them riflemen.

These were followed by about one hundred and fifty seamen, under Lieutenants B. J. Neale, W. B. Shubrick, and James Sanders, and fifty marines under Lieutenant Breckinridge. These, on the solicitation of General Taylor, were sent by Tarbell to work the heavy guns. The whole force on the island, on the evening of the 21st, numbered seven hundred and thirty-seven men.

At midnight the camp was alarmed by the crack of a sentinel’s musket. He thought he discovered a boat in the strait. 19 The troops were called to arms, and stood watching until dawn, when a bush, and not a boat, was found to have been the cause of the commotion. The troops were dismissed, but they had scarcely broken ranks when a horseman came dashing across the fordable strait, and reported that the enemy were landing in force near Major Hoffleur’s, a little more than two miles distant. The drum beat the long roll, and as the daylight increased the British were seen passing continually in boats from the ships to the shore. Major Faulkner at once ordered the three heavy guns in the southeastern portion of the island to be transferred to the northwestern part, and had them placed in battery there with the four 6-pounders. These seven pieces constituted a pretty formidable battery. A short distance in the rear of it, the infantry, riflemen, and Richardson’s artillerymen acting as infantry, were formed in line, so as to face the strait at the mouth of Wise’s Creek.

The command of the 18-pounder was given to Lieutenant B. J. Neale, assisted by Lieutenants Shubrick and Sanders, and about one hundred sailors and marines, chiefly from the Constellation. The two 24’s and four 6’s were under the charge of Captain Emerson, with his company of artillery, and aided by Lieutenants Godwin and Howle, Sergeants Young and Livingston, Corporal Moffatt, and Captain Thomas Rooke, master of the merchantman Manhattan, who had been of great service in transfering the heavy guns from one end of the island to the other. These heavy guns were worked chiefly by the men from the navy.

The entire battery was under the supreme command of Major Faulkner, a cool and skillful artillerist. 20 The whole force on the island was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Beatty. A long pole was procured, the national flag was nailed to it, and then it was planted firmly in the redoubt. The gun-boats were anchored in the form of a segment of a circle, extending from Craney Island to Lambert’s Point, while the Constellation lay nearer the city. Thus prepared, the Americans calmly awaited the approach of the foe.


The British landed about twenty-five hundred men, infantry and marines, at Hoffleur’s Creek. The morning sky was cloudless; and for more than two hours the flashing of their burnished arms might be seen by the Americans as they manœuvred on the beach and on the edge of an intervening wood. Stealthily they crept through the thick undergrowth of the forest, and appeared suddenly on the point at the confluence of Wise’s Creek and the strait. They immediately opened a cannonade from a field-piece and a howitzer, and sent a bevy of Congreve rockets upon the island, to cover the movement of a detachment sent to cross Wise’s Creek, and gain the rear of the American left flank in position on the main. They were partially sheltered by the house of Captain George Wise, known as Wise’s Quarters, and a thick wood. Some of the heavy guns of the battery on the island were opened upon them with great precision and rapidity, and a shower of grape and canister shot soon drove the enemy out of reach of the artillery.

Almost simultaneously with this advance of the British land-force fifty large barges, filled with full fifteen hundred sailors and marines, were seen approaching from the enemy’s ships. They hugged the main shore to keep out of range of the gun-boat artillery, and moved in column order, in two distinct lines, in the direction of the strait, led by Admiral Warren’s beautiful barge. This vessel was fifty feet in length, painted a rich green, and employed twenty-four oars. Because of her shape and numerous oars she was called the Centipede. In her bow was a brass 3-pounder, called a "grasshopper," and she was commanded by Captain Hanchett, of the flagship Diadem, a natural son of George the Third.

As the first division of the fleet of barges approached, the eager Emerson could hardly be restrained by the more prudent Faulkner. At length they reached the fair range of the guns. Faulkner gave a signal, when Emerson shouted, "Now, my brave boys, are you ready?" "All ready," was the quick response. "Fire!" exclaimed Faulkner. The whole battery, except two dismounted guns, managed by Goodwin and Livingston, belched forth fire and smoke, and round, grape, and canister shot. The volley was fearful, yet in the face of it the barges moved steadily forward until the storm of metal was too terrible to be endured. The boats were thrown into the greatest confusion. The Centipede was hulled by a heavy round shot that passed through her diagonally, wounding several of the men in her, cutting off the legs of one of them, and severely hurting the thigh of Captain Hanchett. Orders for retreat were given. The Centipede and four other barges were sunk in shoal water, and the remainder of the flotilla escaped to the ships. Lieutenant Neale was directed to send some of his bold seamen to seize the admiral’s barge and all in it, and haul it on shore.

This was gallantly performed under the direction of Lieutenants Tattnall 21 and Geisenger, Midshipman Bladen Dulaney, and Acting Master George F. De la Roche. They secured several prisoners and the admiral’s fine barge. This was afterward repaired, and performed good service as a guard-boat during many a cold, dark night in the ensuing autumn. 22

Thus ended the battle. "Thus, not long before the time when the Regent of Great Britain congratulated his kingdom on the pitch of grandeur it reached by dictating peace to France in the French capital, a brother of that regent was repulsed by a handful of militia in an attempt to capture a small island in Chesapeake Bay." 23 It was a most mortifying result for the British. 24 So certain was Sir Sidney Beckwith of success, that he promised the troops the opportunity of breakfasting on Craney Island that morning. Some of the officers took their shaving apparatus with them, and others their dogs. At ten o’clock the scene was changed, and before sunset the British commanders abandoned all hope of seizing Norfolk, the Constellation, and the navy yard. It was the last attempt there during the war.

Exasperated by their ignominious repulse at Craney Island, the British proceeded to attack the village of Hampton, a flourishing borough on the west side of Hampton Creek, two miles and a half from Old Point Comfort. It was the capital of Elizabeth City County, Virginia, and was a mile from the confluence of the creek with the waters of Hampton Roads. It was defended at the time by about four hundred and fifty Virginia soldiers under Major Stapleton Crutchfield, whose adjutant general was Robert Anderson, Esq., whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Yorktown in 1848. They were composed chiefly of militia infantry, and a few artillerymen and cavalry. They were encamped on the "Little England" estate of five hundred acres, a short distance southwest from the town, where they had a heavy battery composed of four 6, two 12, and one 18 pounder cannon, in charge of Sergeant William Burke, to defend the water-front of the camp and the village. 25


On Friday night, the 24th of June, twenty-five hundred British land troops, including the rough French prisoners (Chasseurs Britanniques), were placed in boats and small sailing vessels, and between dawn and sunrise of the 25th [June, 1813.] were landed behind a wood near the house of Daniel Murphy, a little more than two miles from Hampton, under cover of the guns of the Mohawk sloop of war. These were designed to fall upon Hampton and the little American camp in the rear, while Admiral Cockburn, with a flotilla of armed boats and barges, should make a feint in front.

The land troops, under the general command of Beckwith, assisted by Lieutenant Colonels Napier 26 and Williams, moved stealthily and rapidly forward toward the doomed town, while the armed boats appeared suddenly off Blackbeard’s Point, at the mouth of Hampton Creek. The latter were first discovered by American patrols at Mill Creek, who gave the alarm. The camp was aroused, and a line of battle was formed. At that moment a messenger came in haste with intelligence that the British were moving in force on the rear of Hampton. The woods toward Murphy’s were glowing with scarlet, and a grain-field near was verdant with the green uniforms of the French. The inhabitants of the village, who yet remained, fled toward Yorktown, excepting a few who could not leave or who were willing to trust to British honor and clemency.

The brave Crutchfield resolved to stand firm and defend the town against the invaders on land and water. He sent Captain Servant and his rifle company out to ambush on the road leading to Celey’s plantation, beyond Murphy’s, who were to attack and check the enemy; and when Cockburn ventured within Blackbeard’s Point, and opened fire on the American camp, Crutchfield’s heavy battery responded with so much spirit and effect that the arch-marauder was glad to escape for shelter behind that point, and content himself with throwing a shot or rocket occasionally into the American camp.

Crutchfield gave special attention to the movement in his rear, being convinced that Cockburn’s was only a feint. From his camp was a plantation road, that crossed cultivated fields, and by the edge of the woods behind which the British had landed unobserved, to a highway known as Celey’s Road, that connected with the public road to Yorktown a short distance from Hampton. Connected with this road was a plantation lane leading to Murphy’s, on the banks of the James River. Along this lane or road the British moved from their landing-place, and had reached rising ground and halted for breakfast when they were discovered by the Americans. Captain Pryor, of the artillery in camp, immediately detached Sergeant Parker and a few picked men, with a field-piece, to go up the Yorktown Road to Celey’s Junction, to assist the ambushed riflemen. Parker had just reached his position and planted his cannon, when the British moved forward with celerity. They had just crossed the head of the west branch of Hampton Creek, at the Celey Road, when the advanced guard of Servant’s corps (Lieutenant Thomas Hope and two others), who were concealed by a large cedar-tree (yet standing when I visited the spot in 1853), opened a deadly fire with sure aim upon the French column in front, led by the British sergeant major, a large and powerful man. That officer and several others were killed; the invaders were checked, and great confusion in their ranks ensued. The main body of the riflemen now delivered their fire, and the commander of the Marines, the brave Lieutenant Colonel Williams, of the British army, fell dead.

The British soon recovered from their temporary panic, and pressed forward, compelling the riflemen to fall back. In the mean time, Crutchfield, hearing the firing, had moved forward from his camp with nearly all of his force, leaving the position on the Little England estate to be defended by Pryor and his artillerymen from the attack of the barges. While he was marching in column by platoons along the lane from the Little England plantation toward Celey’s Road and the great highway, he was suddenly assailed by an enfilading fire on his left. He immediately ordered his men to wheel and charge the enemy, who were on the edge of the woods. This was done with the coolness and precision of long-disciplined soldiers, and the foe fell back. The victors were pressing forward, when the British opened a storm of grape and canister shot upon them from two 6-pounders, and some Congreve rockets, and appeared in force directly in front of Crutchfield. The Americans withstood the fire a few minutes, when they fell back, and a part of them broke and fled in confusion across the Yorktown Road and the Pembroke estate.

Parker in the mean time had worked his piece with good effect. Now his ammunition failed. Lieutenant Jones, of the Hampton Artillery, hastened to his relief; but when they saw an overwhelming force of the enemy moving along the Celey Road, they fell back to the Yorktown Pike. Jones now found that his match was extinguished, so he ran to a house near by, snatched a brand from the hearth, and concealed himself in a hollow near a spring. When the British drew near and almost filled the lane, supposing the cannon to be abandoned, he arose and discharged his piece with terrible effect. Many of the foe were prostrated by its missiles, and during the confusion that ensued in the British ranks he attached a horse to his cannon and bore it off toward the camp. When he drew near that camp he saw that it was occupied by the enemy, who had come in force from the barges and compelled Pryor to spike his guns and flee. This he did in safety. He and his command, after fighting their way through the surrounding enemy with their firelocks, swam the West Branch of Hampton Creek, and, making a circuit in rear of the enemy, fled to what is now known as Big Bethel, without losing a man or a musket. Seeing this, Jones turned and fled, after spiking his gun. He followed Pryor’s track to the same destination.


Crutchfield, with the remainder of his troops, had rallied on the flank of Servant’s riflemen, and renewed the fight with vigor. He soon observed a powerful flank movement by the enemy, which threatened to cut off his line of retreat, when he withdrew in good order, pursued almost two miles across and beyond the Pembroke farm. The pursuit was terminated at what is now known as New-bridge Creek. Thus ended the battle. The British had lost about fifty in killed, wounded, and missing, and the Americans about thirty. Of eleven missing Americans, ten at least had fled to their homes.


The victorious British now entered Hampton by the Yorktown Road, bearing the body of the brave Lieutenant Colonel Williams. Beckwith and Cockburn made their head-quarters at the fine brick mansion of Mrs. Westwood, which stood upon the street leading to the landing. In her garden the remains of Williams were buried with solemn funeral rites on the same day. Then the village was given up to pillage and rapine. The atrocities committed at that time upon the defenseless inhabitants who remained in Hampton, particularly on the women, have consigned the name of Sir George Cockburn to merited infamy, for he was doubtless the chief author of them. 27 The reports of them at the time were much exaggerated, but sufficient was proven by official investigation to cause the cheeks of every honest Briton to tingle with the deepest blush of shame. "We are sorry to say," said Commissioners Thomas Griffin and Robert Lively, appointed to investigate the matter, "that from all information we could procure, from sources too respectable to permit us to doubt, we are compelled to believe that acts of violence have been perpetrated which have disgraced the age in which we live. The sex hitherto guarded by the soldier’s honor escaped not the rude assaults of superior force." 28 A correspondence on the subject occurred between General Taylor and Sir Sidney Beckwith, in which the latter, while he did not deny the charges, attempted to justify the atrocities by pleading the law of retaliation, falsely alleging, as was proven, that the Americans had waded out from Craney Island after the battle there, and deliberately shot the crew of a barge which had sunk on the shoal. 29 And while it was not denied that British officers and soldiers had engaged zealously in the business of plundering the private houses at Hampton of every thing valuable that might be easily carried away, 30 the more horrid crime of ravishing the persons of married women and young maidens, was charged by the British commanders upon the French soldiery. "The apology," said the commissioners just mentioned, "that these atrocities were committed by the French soldiers attached to the British forces now in our waters appeared to us no justification of those who employed them, believing, as we do, that an officer is, or should be, ever responsible for the conduct of the troops under his command." So shameful were these atrocities – too gross to be repeated here – that the most violent of the British partisan writers were compelled to denounce them; and Admiral Warren and General Beckwith, in obedience to the instincts of their better natures and the demands of public opinion, dismissed the Chasseurs Britanniques from the service.

At the "ides of March," in the year 1853 [March 13 and 14.], I visited Norfolk, Craney Island, and Hampton, for the purpose of collecting materials for this work, and I had the good fortune to meet several persons who were well acquainted with places and events in that region pertaining to the War of 1812. I had spent the 4th of March at the national capital, "assisting," as the French say, at the inauguration of President Pierce; a day or two with the late George Washington Parke Custis at his beautiful seat of "Arlington," opposite Washington City; then a few days in Richmond; a little time in a trip and visit to "Monticello," near Charlottesville, the home of the living and the grave of the departed Thomas Jefferson; and then part of a day on the James and Elizabeth Rivers on a voyage to Norfolk. I intended to go to Craney Island the next morning, but the wind was so high that no boatman was willing to venture upon the water, so that day I visited the Navy Yard at Gosport, Old Fort Norfolk, and other places of interest in and around the city. At the former place were seen the skeleton of the famous Constellation; the useless monster ship Pennsylvania; the work-shops and yards where full eight hundred men found employment, and more than twenty-five hundred huge iron cannon, with a complement of balls. All of this property, valued at several millions of dollars, with other government vessels, was destroyed or seized by the insurgents of Virginia in April, 1861, at the breaking out of the late Civil War.

Old Fort Norfolk, a structure made during the old War for Independence, on the right bank of the Elizabeth River, was in a dilapidated state, and was occupied only by a keeper and his family. That custodian was a queer old man, seventy years of age. With boundless garrulity he gave me his domestic history, and insisted upon bringing out his last baby, the sixth child by his fourth wife. His third wife appears to have been "a thorn in his side." When speaking of her, he thrust his hands into his pockets, looked upon the grass, sighed, and, in a subdued voice, said, "The Lord was good to me, and took her away soon. I really believe she would have died happy could she have seen me die first. I didn’t think it best to gratify her, and so she had to give it up." On leaving the fort I went to the residence of Robert E. Taylor, Esq., son of General Taylor, the defender of Norfolk, to whom I am indebted for much information concerning events in that vicinity in 1813. On the following {original text has "folowing".} morning [March 14, 1853.] I breakfasted with the British consul, the late G. P. H. James, the eminent novelist.


The circumstance is mentioned to introduce the fact that his residence was the same (118 Main Street) as that occupied by Mr. Hamilton, the British consul at Norfolk in 1807, at the time of the affair of the Chesapeake and Leopard, whose personal popularity alone saved his house from demolition by the exasperated people. 32 In that house Thomas Moore, the Irish poet, lodged in 1804, and there he wrote his beautiful poetic paraphrase of a popular legend connected with the Lake of the Dismal Swamp. I passed the morning delightfully with Mr. James and his interesting family, and at ten o’clock started for Craney Island in a skiff manned by a negro seventy years of age, and a mulatto boy of sixteen, both slaves. The air was balmy. Scarcely a ripple appeared on the water, and the sun was pleasantly obscured by a slight haziness of the atmosphere.


Just after passing Fort Norfolk we came abreast Lambert’s Point, and, stretching far to the right, toward the Rip Raps, was seen Sewell’s Point, made famous to this generation by the stirring events of the late Civil War with which it is associated. The waters in that vicinity were dotted with oyster-vessels at anchor, engaged in receiving cargoes from numerous small boats that were hovering over the oyster-beds in every direction, each bearing two men with fishing rakes. As we neared the head of Craney Island, I hailed a brace of these fishermen in a boat, and asked them for a "fip’s worth" of oysters for my watermen. To my astonishment, they dropped two rake’s-full – at least a peck – into our boat, and on them the oarsmen feasted while I strolled over the island, viewing and sketching the remains of military works erected there during the War of 1812. These are seen rising above the common surface of the island in the little sketch on page 675. These works were erected immediately after the repulse of the British from the island in June [1813.], and were quite formidable. 33


They consisted of a fort on the southeast part of the island, and a magazine and breast-works on the northwestern side, on the spot where Faulkner’s efficient battery was planted. There was an intervening and connecting line of intrenchments along the channel side of the island, with embrasures for cannon. These had almost disappeared, but the embankments of the fort were ten or twelve feet in height.


They inclosed a hexagonal block-house, built of brick, and surrounded by an arcade below the ports. It was two stories in height, but the upper floor does not appear to have been laid. Near the blockhouse was a magazine, also built of brick. Nothing remained of the old main gate, on the land side, but an iron hinge, and of the gateway a broken arch. This block-house, or citadel, when I was there, was perfectly preserved.


The magazine on the opposite end of the island was also built of brick, and was well preserved. Around it were some remains of breastworks, but many had perished from the encroachments of the sea. These and the whole island were almost wholly submerged during a very high tide a few weeks before my visit there. Much of the old embankments was washed away, but the solitary cedar, mentioned as being there in 1813, remained unharmed on the southern slope of the island. 34 From the magazine we had a fine view of the entire scene of action on the 22d of June. The schooner on the right, in the annexed picture, designates the place of the barges at the time of their repulse; and the distant point between the vessel and the shore by the magazine shows the landing-place of the British, who moved through the woods up to Wise’s Creek. Just at the left of the magazine, across the strait, is seen a small house, at the mouth of Wise’s Creek. It was near the site of "Wise’s Quarter," which was demolished many years ago. In the more modern house we found an intelligent colored man, about eighty years of age, rejoicing in the fact that his freedom had just been purchased by his wife, a woman almost as old as himself. She earned money by midwifery, in which profession she was very proficient. "Bress de Lord!" said the old man, "for de day when I married Dinah. She allers said Pomp shouldn’t die a slave, but she’s worked hard almost fifty years afore she made her promise sure." He was living near there at the time of the fight, and assisted in the erection of the fortifications on Craney Island.

It was about four o’clock when I returned to Norfolk. I spent the remainder of the afternoon in strolling about the city, and on the following morning departed in the steamer Selden for Hampton, eighteen miles distant. There I had the good fortune to meet Colonel Wilson W. Jones, brother of the lieutenant who went to the assistance of Parker with his cannon, and so gallantly took it from the field. 35 The colonel was a sergeant in Servant’s rifle company, and was in the battle on Celey’s Road when the British sergeant major and Lieutenant Colonel Williams were killed. He kindly accompanied me to places of interest around Hampton. First we visited the head-quarters of Beckwith and Cockburn (printed on page 683), and were kindly shown the rooms occupied by them, and the grave of Williams in the garden, by Mrs. Savage, who then resided there.


We then rode up to the landing-place of the British, where stood Captain Murphy’s house in picturesque ruins upon a grassy point, from which we had a fine view of Hampton Roads. From Murphy’s we followed the line of march of the British to the place where they were attacked by the rifle-men, and afterward by Jones with his field-piece, and then went to the mansion of the Pembroke farm, over which the Americans fled toward Little Bethel.


In that mansion lived an aged couple at the time, named Kirby, whose treatment by the pursuing British soldiers who entered the house was the cause of the invoking of many an imprecation throughout the land upon the head of the enemy. 37 Near it stood the mansion of the Bethel estate, the dwelling of another aged man, named Hope, under whose roof great atrocities were committed. 38 From these we returned to Hampton by the Yorktown Road, still following the line of the invader’s march, and visited Mrs. Jane A. Hope, daughter of Commodore James Barron, who kindly furnished me with the portrait and autograph of her father, copies of which are printed on page 159. She spoke feelingly of the treatment her father received at the hands of the government, and expressed a hope that History might yet be just to his memory. She was a somewhat aged lady, delicate in form and feature, and exceedingly pleasing in conversation. When the blight of the Rebellion fell upon Hampton, Mrs. Hope went to Warrenton, in North Carolina, where she died in January, 1862.

I spent the evening with Colonel Jones and his excellent wife, and saw in their little parlor two original crayon drawings by the eminent Sharpless, the faithful delineator from life of the profiles of Washington and his wife. These were profiles of Jefferson and Monroe. I made a careful copy of the former. Early the next morning I drew the sketch from my window at the hotel presented on page 681, and at the appointed hour left Hampton for Richmond in the James River steamer.

This was my second visit to Hampton, with an interval of five years, and both times I carried away with me pleasant remembrances of courteous inhabitants and a charming village. All is now changed. Hampton has been made a desolation by the smitings of civil war. Very few of its inhabitants were faithful to the old flag, and that county of which Hampton was the capital furnished no less than six companies to the rebel army. Colonel Jones remained a stanch Union man – faithful among the faithless – and was the last man to leave the doomed village when, at a few minutes past midnight on the 7th of August, 1861, the torch was applied by order of the rebel General Magruder during the maudlin delirium of intoxication. He (the aged veteran of 1812) was not allowed to take any thing from his house – the house in which the family of Commodore Barron long resided – and he and his equally aged companion had scarcely left it when they saw it in flames. Within twelve hours, four churches and four hundred and seventy dwellings were laid in ashes. Among the churches was one of the most ancient in Virginia, 39 which stood apart from the town. Its destruction was an act of purest barbarism.

The British remained in Hampton until the 27th [June, 1813.], when they re-embarked, and on the morning of the 29th Major Crutchfield entered the plundered village and took possession. On the 1st of July the blockading squadron, consisting at that time of seven ships of the line, seven frigates, and eleven smaller vessels, left Hampton Roads and entered the mouth of the Potomac River. A portion of the fleet went up that stream, exciting the most intense alarm at Alexandria, Georgetown, and the national capital. The only fortification on which those cities could rely at that time for the arrest of the invading squadron was old Fort Warburton, then called Fort Washington, 40 situated on the Maryland side of the Potomac, a few miles below Alexandria. This was strengthened and its garrison increased by calling in the militia from the surrounding country. Breastworks were thrown up at Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington, and vigorous measures were taken to meet the foe. The alarm soon subsided. The British did not approach nearer to Washington than seventy miles, and then withdrew, went around to the Chesapeake, and created equal alarm at Annapolis and Baltimore. Assured that those cities were amply defended, they withdrew, and a portion of the fleet, under Admiral Cockburn, went southward to plunder, destroy, and spread alarm along the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia. His vessels were the Sceptre, 74 (flag-ship); Romulus, Fox, and Nemesis.

On the 12th of July Cockburn anchored off Ocracoke Inlet, and dispatched Lieutenant Westphall, with about eight hundred men in barges, to the waters of Pamlico Sound. They found within the bar the Anaconda, of New York, and Atlas, of Philadelphia, both private armed vessels. They fell upon the Anaconda, whose thirteen men, after stout resistance, blew holes in her bottom with her own guns and escaped. The British plugged the holes and saved her. They captured the Atlas and some smaller craft, but a revenue cutter escaped, and gave timely warning at Newbern. Westphall proceeded to attack that place, but it was too well defended by the newly-rallied militia to warrant an attack, so he proceeded to Portsmouth, not far off, took possession of the town, and for two or three days engaged in the pastime of plundering and desolating the surrounding country. The rapid gathering of the militia caused them to decamp in haste on the 16th, carrying with them cattle and other property, and many slaves, to whom freedom was falsely promised. These Cockburn, it is said, sold in the West Indies.

Leaving Pamlico Sound, the arch-marauder went down the coast, stopping at and plundering Dewees’s and Capers’s Islands, and filling the whole region of the Lower Santee with terror. Several plantations on Dewees’s were desolated, and from Capers’s a large quantity of live-stock was taken away, with a few slaves. Other exposed places along the coast expected a similar visitation. Breastworks were thrown up around Charleston; Fort Moultrie and other fortifications were strengthened, and a considerable body of militia were assembled on Haddrell’s Point, or Point Pleasant, where might have been seen, before the late Civil War, a monument erected to the memory of some soldiers who perished there by disease. 41


No battle was fought on South Carolina soil during the war. Her politicians were among the most clamorous for hostilities, and some of her citizens made fortunes by privateering; but few of her sons were found in the ranks of their country’s defenders. She suffered most from the fear of losing property, especially slaves, which her state law declared to be property; and during the time when Cockburn was hovering along the coast the large slaveholders were agitated by the deepest anxiety lest a force of the British should land and declare freedom to all serfs who should join their standard. Had they done so, no doubt an army of many thousand colored people would have flocked to that standard, for the negroes had heard of the liberation of their brethren in Virginia by the British, but not of the infamous treachery of their seducer, who sold them into worse servitude in the West Indies. All along the coast, and far into the interior, secret organizations existed among the negroes for united efforts to obtain their freedom; and, in anticipation of the coming of a British army of liberation, they were prepared to rise in large numbers, at a given signal, and strike for freedom. 42 But Cockburn was content to fill his pockets by plundering, and a petty slave-trade on his own account; so, after keeping the Carolinas in a state like fever and ague for many weeks, 43 he went down to the Georgia coast, and at "Dungenness House," the seat of the fine estate of General Nathaniel Greene, of the Revolution, on Cumberland Island, he made his head-quarters for the winter. His marauders went out in all directions upon the neighboring coast, spreading desolation and alarm.


Among the estates visited was that of Bonaventure, a few miles from Savannah, the property of the Tattnall family, on which, in a grove of live-oak draped with the Spanish moss, is one of the most picturesque cemeteries in the world, the entrance to which is seen in the picture, made from a sketch by the artist T. Addison Richards.

While Cockburn, the marauder, was on the Southern coast, Hardy, the gentleman, was blockading a portion of the New England coast. The harbors from the Delaware to Nantucket were regularly watched, and ingress and egress were very difficult.

We have given an account of the arrival at New York of the frigates United States and Macedonian, 44 the former in the American service, under Decatur, and the latter a prize captured by him from the British in the previous autumn. These had been repaired and fitted for sea, and the gallant Captain Jones had been placed in command of the Macedonian. At this time the Poictiers, Captain Beresford, and a number of other vessels, were carefully guarding the entrance to New York harbor through the Narrows, but Decatur, anxious to get out upon the ocean, resolved to run the blockade. He found it unsafe to attempt it at the Narrows; so, with his two frigates, accompanied by the sloop of war Hornet, Captain Biddle, which was anxious to join the Chesapeake at Boston, he passed up the East River and Long Island Sound for the purpose of escaping between Montauk Point and Block Island. 45

For a month Sir Thomas Hardy, with his flag-ship the Ramillies, the Orpheus, Captain Sir Hugh Pigot, the Valiant, Acasta, and smaller vessels, had been keeping vigilant watch in that region. During that time Sir Thomas had won the good opinion of the inhabitants along the coast because of his honorable treatment of them.

When Decatur approached the mouth of the Thames [June 1, 1813.], he was met by the Valiant and Acasta, and, knowing that the Ramillies and Orpheus were near, he deemed it prudent to run into New London Harbor. He was pursued by the enemy as far as Gull Island, at which point the British anchored in position to command the mouth of the Thames. Then commenced a regular blockade of New London, which continued full twenty months, and was raised only by the proclamation of peace. The squadron in sight of New London was soon strengthened, and when, at the latter part of June, Hardy assumed command of it, it consisted of two 74’s, two frigates, and a number of smaller vessels.

NEW LONDON IN 1813. 46

The presence of this fleet created much anxiety. The more aged inhabitants, who remembered Arnold’s incursion in 1781, were filled with apprehensions of a repetition of the tragedies of that terrible day. It was generally expected that the enemy would enter the river and attack Decatur’s squadron, and the neighboring militia were summoned to the town; the specie of the banks was conveyed to Norwich, at the head of tide-water; and women, and children, and portable property were sent into the interior. The character of Sir Thomas was a sufficient guaranty that neither life nor private property would be wantonly destroyed; but, in the event of the bombardment of the ships, the town could not well escape destruction by fire. Decatur, in anticipation of such bombardment of his vessels, after lightening them, took them five or six miles up the river, beyond the reach of the enemy, and upon an eminence near Allyn’s Point, from which he had a fine view of the Sound and New London Harbor, he cast up some intrenchments, and placed his cannon upon them. The spot was named Dragon Hill. 47

At about this time an event occurred off New London which caused great exasperation in the blockading squadron, and came near bringing most disastrous effects upon the New England coast. It was the use of a torpedo, or submarine mine, whose invention, construction, and character have already been given in these pages. 48 The government of the United States, it will be remembered, refused to employ them. It was left for private enterprise to attempt the promotion of the public good by their use in weakening the power of the enemy. One of these enterprises was undertaken in New York city. In the hold of the schooner Eagle, John Scudder, junior, the originator of the plot, placed ten kegs of gunpowder, with a quantity of sulphur mixed with it, in a strong cask, and surrounded it with huge stones and other missiles, which, in the event of explosion, might inflict great injury. At the head of the cask, on the inside, were fixed two gun-locks, with cords fastened to their triggers at one end, and two barrels of flour at the other end, so that when the flour should be removed the locks would be sprung, the powder ignited, and the terrible mine exploded. Thus prepared, with a cargo of flour and naval stores over the concealed mine, the Eagle, Captain Riker, late in June, sailed for New London, where, as was expected and desired, she was captured by armed men sent out in boats from the Ramillies. The crew of the Eagle escaped to the shore at Millstone Point, and anxiously awaited the result. The wind had fallen, and for two hours unavailing efforts were made to get the Eagle alongside the Ramillies for the purpose of transferring her cargo to that vessel. Finally boats were sent out as lighters, the hatches of the Eagle were opened, and when the first barrel of flour was removed the explosion took place. A column of fire shot up into the air full nine hundred feet, and a shower of pitch and tar fell upon the deck of the Ramillies. The schooner, and the first lieutenant and ten men from the flag-ship on board of her, were blown into atoms, and most of those in the boats outside were seriously, and some fatally injured.

The success which this experiment promised caused others to be tried. A citizen of Norwich, familiar with the machine used by Bushnell in attempts to blow up the Eagle, British ship-of-war, in the harbor of New York during the Revolution, invented a submarine boat in which he voyaged at the rate of three miles an hour. In this he went under the Ramillies three times, and on the third occasion had nearly completed the task of fixing a torpedo to her bottom, when a screw broke, and his effort was foiled. He was discovered, but escaped. A daring fisherman of Long Island, named Penny, made attempts on the Ramillies with a torpedo in a whale-boat, and Hardy was kept continually on the alert. So justly fearful was he of these mines, that he not only kept his ship in motion, but, according to Penny, who was a prisoner on the Ramillies for a while, he caused her bottom to be swept with a cable every two hours night and day. He finally issued a warning to the inhabitants of the coasts that if they did not cease that cruel and unheard-of warfare, he should proceed to destroy their towns and desolate their country. 49

An attempt of Mr. Mix, of the navy, in July, to blow up the Plantagenet, 74, lying off Cape Henry, Virginia, was almost successful. The torpedo was carried out, under cover of intense darkness, in a heavy open boat called The Chesapeake Avenger, and dropped so as to float down under the ship’s bow. It exploded a few seconds too soon. The scene was awful. A column of water, twenty-five feet in diameter, and half luminous with lurid light, was thrown up at least forty feet, with an explosion as terrific as thunder, and producing a concussion like the shock of an earthquake. It burst at the crown. The water fell in profusion on the deck of the Plantagenet, and at the same moment she rolled into the chasm made by this sudden expulsion of water, and nearly upset. Torpedoes were also placed across the Narrows, below New York, and at the entrance to the harbor of Portland. This fact made the British commanders exceedingly cautious in approaching our harbors, and they and their American sympathizers expressed great horror at this mode of warfare. It was replied that the wanton outrages committed on the defenseless inhabitants of the coast, from Havre de Grace to Charleston, fully justified any mode of warfare against such marauders, and that stratagem in the horrid business of war was always justifiable. 50


Although Hardy did not execute his threats, he made the blockade more rigorous than ever, and many trading vessels became prizes to the British cruisers. A tiny warfare was kept up along the Connecticut coast, for, whenever a chased vessel was driven ashore, the inhabitants would turn out to defend it. One of these encounters occurred a little west of the light-house late in the autumn [November 28, 1813.]. The sloop Roxana was chased ashore by three British barges, and grounded. Within half an hour a throng of people had assembled to rescue her, when the enemy set her on fire and retreated. The Americans attempted to extinguish the flames, but a heavy cannonade from the ships drove them off. Although many were exposed to the cannon-halls on that occasion, not one was hurt. "During the whole war," says Miss Caulkins, "not a man was killed by the enemy in Connecticut, and only one in its waters on the coast." 51

At near the close of June, the veteran colonel of artillery in the regular service, Henry Burbeck, who had been stationed at Newport, arrived at New London to take charge of that military department. 52 He found the militia, who were strongly imbued with the mischievous doctrine of state supremacy, unwilling to be transferred, according to late orders from the Secretary of War, from the service of the state to the service of the United States. He accordingly, under instructions from Washington, dismissed them all. The people, misconstruing the movement, were alarmed and exasperated. They regarded themselves as unwarrantably deprived of their defenders, and betrayed to the enemy, who might come and plunder and destroy to his heart’s content. At the same time, it was known that Hardy’s fleet had been re-enforced by the arrival of the Endymion and Statira, vessels equal in strength to the United States and Macedonian. A panic of mingled fear and indignation prevailed, and it was only allayed by the quick response of the Governor of Connecticut to the invitation of Colonel Burbeck to call out the militia for the temporary defense of the menaced town. Brigadier General Williams was appointed to the command of the militia, and the alarm subsided.

Decatur watched continually during the summer and autumn for an opportunity to escape to sea with his three vessels; and hoping, as the severely cold weather came on, to find the enemy at times somewhat lax in vigilance, he slowly dropped down the river, and at the beginning of December was anchored in New London Harbor, opposite Market Wharf. With great secrecy he prepared every thing for sailing. He fixed on Sunday evening, the 12th [December, 1813.], for making the attempt to run the blockade. Fortunately for his plan, the night was very dark, the wind was favorable, and the tide served at a convenient hour. When all things were in readiness, and he was about to weigh anchor, word came from the row-guard of the Macedonian and Hornet that signal-lights were burning on both sides of the river, near its mouth. They were blue-lights, and Decatur had no doubt of their being signals to warn the enemy of his movement, which was known in the village that evening. Thus exposed by "Peace Men," of whom there were a few in almost every community, he at once abandoned the project, and tried every means to discover the betrayers, but without effect. The Opposition, as a party, denied the fact, while others as strongly asserted it. In his letter to the Secretary of the Navy [December 20.] on the subject, Decatur said, "Notwithstanding these signals have been repeated, and have been seen by twenty persons at least in this squadron, there are men in New London who have the hardihood to affect to disbelieve it, and the effrontery to avow their disbelief." The whole Federal party, who were traditionally opposed to war with Great Britain, were often unfairly compelled to bear the odium of actions which justly pertained only to the "Peace" faction. They were compelled to do so in this case, and for more than a generation members of that party were stigmatized with the epithet of "Blue-light Federalist."

The United States and Macedonian were imprisoned in the Thames during the remainder of the war. 53 In the spring of 1814 they were dismantled, and laid up about three and a half miles below Norwich, and their officers and men made their way by land to other ports and engaged actively in the service. The Hornet lay at New London almost a year longer, when she slipped out of the harbor and escaped to New York.

Of the more stirring operations of the blockading fleet in this vicinity the following year I shall hereafter write, and it remains for me now only to make brief mention of the circumstances of my visit at New London and its vicinity late in the autumn of 1860. I had been on a tour East as far as Castine, at the mouth of the Penobscot, and up that river to Bangor, and was thus far on my way homeward, after spending Thanksgiving-day with the acting surgeon of Perry’s fleet, Dr. Usher Parsons, at his house in Providence, Rhode Island. I had reached New London at an early hour, and, with a pleasant day before me, went out to visit places of historic interest in the town and its neighborhood. Before doing so, I called on the accomplished author of the History of New London (Miss Caulkins), 54 and, after the brief interview which limited time allowed, I was well prepared to find the places (and appreciate the interest attached to them) in and around that pleasant little city of ten thousand inhabitants. I shall ever remember that interview with pleasure.


Near New London is the "Cedar Grove Cemetery," in which are the graves of many of the honored dead. Among these, over which affection has reared monuments, may be found those of General Burbeck and Commodore George W. Rodgers. I made sketches of the monuments erected to the memory of each [BurbeckRodgers], and present them to the readers of these pages. Commodore Rodgers was a gallant officer of the navy, and died in the service of his country at Buenos Ayres, in South America, on the 21st of May, 1832, at the age of forty-six years. He was then in command of an American squadron on the coast of Brazil. He was a veteran officer, having been a midshipman in 1804, and a lieutenant in active service during the War of 1812. 55 By order of the Navy Department, his remains were brought home in the ship Lexington in 1850, and conveyed to New London in charge of Commodore Kearney. Their re-interment in "Cedar Grove Cemetery" 56 was the occasion of a great civic and military display, in which the Governor of Connecticut and his suite joined. 57 His monument is a plain obelisk of freestone, on which is a simple inscription.

From the cemetery I rode back to the town by another way, which passed by the older part of the place, and the "Hempstead House," the last remaining of the three original houses built at New London. It was erected and occupied by Sir Robert Hempstead, whose descendants yet own it. It was fortified against the Indians at one time, and was the nearest neighbor to the mansion of Governor Winthrop, at the head of the Cove – that cove out of which, within twenty rods of the "Hempstead House," sailed the first vessel that went from New London to the West Indies.

From the "Hempstead House" I rode down to the light-house at the mouth of the Thames, sketched the view of it on page 694, and, returning, visited Fort Trumbull, so called in honor of the first Governor of Connecticut of that name. It is a most delightful drive along the river from the light-house and Pequot House to the city, and it is much traveled for pleasure during the summer season. Outward is seen the broad expanse of the Sound, with Fisher’s and Gull Islands in the distance; while up the river is seen the fort and city on one side, and Fort Griswold, the Groton Monument and village, and the green hills stretching away toward Norwich on the other.



Fort Trumbull is a strong work, built chiefly of granite from the quarry at Millstone Point. It is the third fortress erected on the spot. In 1775 a strong block-house was built upon that rocky point, some embankments were cast up around it, and the whole was named Fort Trumbull. In 1812 these embankments were only green mounds. These were cleared away, and a more formidable work was erected, leaving the old block-house within the lines. This fort, retaining the original name, fell into decay, and all but the ancient block-house was demolished preparatory to the commencement of the present structure. There the block-house still stands, a monument to the memory of the patriotism of our fathers of the Revolution. The new fort was built under the superintendence of (then) Captain George W. Cullum, of the United States Engineers, and was completed in 1849, at a cost of about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The views from its battlements are extensive; and from the grassy esplanade sloping to the water southward may be obtained a very pleasant view of the harbor, the mouth of the river, and Long Island Sound beyond.


The last object of interest visited in New London was the old court-house built in 1784, three years after its predecessor was burnt at the time of Arnold’s invasion. 58 It stands at the head of broad State Street, upon a rocky foundation. It had an external gallery around it at the second story, but this was removed at the beginning of the present century, and it now bears the appearance that it did at the close of the Second War for Independence, when it was the scene of joyous festivities immediately after the President’s proclamation of peace reached the town in February, 1815. 59 Friendly greetings between the British blockading squadron and the citizens then took place. The latter soon went to sea, and the United States and Macedonian departed for New York after an imprisonment of about twenty months. Then "the last shadow of war departed from the town."

I left New London for Stonington by railway at evening, whither I shall invite the reader before long.

We have now considered the military events during the year 1813 in the North and West, on the Lakes, and along the Atlantic coast; let us now look out upon the ocean, and observe the hostile movements of the belligerents there. In the mean time sounds of war with the Indians come up from the Gulf region.



1 This rocket is a very destructive species of fire-work, invented by Sir William Congreve, an English artillery officer, in 1804, and first used against Boulogne in 1806. The body of the machine is cylindrical, and its head conical. It is filled with very inflammable materials, on the combustion of which, as in the common sky-rocket, the body is impelled with continued acceleration.

2 Marlborough, Admiral Cockburn; Dragon, Captain Berry; Poictiers, Commander Beresford; and Victorious, Captain Talbot, were the 74’s. These were accompanied by the Acasta, 44, Kerr; Junon, 38, Kerr; Statira, 38, Stackpole; Maidstone, 36, Burdett; Belvidera, 36, Byron; Narcissus, 32, Aylmer; Lauristimus, 21, Gordon; Tartarus, 20, Paseo. Others soon joined these, making a very formidable fleet.

3 See page 451.

4 Niles’s Weekly Register, iv., 68.

5 They erected a strong work, to completely command the Christiana Creek, at Wilmington, which was called Fort Union. It was believed that it could withstand any force that might approach it by water. – See Sketch of Military Operations on the Delaware during the Late War.

6 Niles’s Weekly Register, iv., 68.

7 Niles’s Weekly Register, iv., 118.

8 See page 156.

9 Niles’s Weekly Register, iv., 119.

10 Niles’s Weekly Register, iv., 164. A letter in The War (i., 196) says: "On their arrival at the Stage Tavern, which was nearest their landing, the British officer told the landlady not to be frightened, as they would not hurt her or her property, and ordered something to regale himself. Soon afterward some under officers came in and said they had possession of the stores, and asked what they should do with them. The officer replied that if there was any thing they wanted they might take it and then burn the houses. In a few minutes every British sailor was rigged in an American uniform, after which they set the stores on fire, and consumed them and all the goods in them to a considerable amount." A greater portion of the merchandise consumed was private property.

11 The late Jared Sparks, LL. D., was an eye-witness of the conduct of the marauders, and has left on record, in the North American Review (July, 1817), an account of real barbarities committed by them; and William Charles, the caricaturist, perpetuated their cruelties and robberies with his pencil. A few of the British officers, who did not share in the spirit of Cockburn, remonstrated, but in vain.

12 Among those who took shelter there were the wife of Commodore Rodgers, Mrs. William Pinkney, and Mrs. Goldsborough. The latter begged the officer who had been sent up with a detachment to burn Mr. Pringle’s house to spare it, for she had an aged mother in it. He replied that his orders were from Admiral Cockburn himself, and that she must see him. This was the occasion of the deputation of women meeting him on the common. When they returned the house was on fire, and men were leaving it with plunder. By great exertions the flames were extinguished. Such was the statement of a lady living near to her brother in Baltimore, published in Niles’s Register, iv., 196. She mentions several instances of vandalism.

13 This building is of brick, and stands on the corner of Union Street and Congress Avenue. It was two stories in height at the time of the destruction of Havre De Grace. Between thirty and forty years ago it was fired by a lightning stroke and partially consumed. The square spaces in the walls over the windows show the lower portions of the old windows in the second story. Although the British did not apply the torch to the church, they amused themselves by hurling stones through the windows.

14 In the affair at Havre De Grace the Americans lost one man (Mr. Webster), killed by a rocket. The British lost three killed and two wounded.

15 During the spring efforts had been made by officers of the British blockading squadron to capture the Constellation, then in command of the now (1867) venerable Admiral Stewart. Some stirring events had occurred in connection with these efforts.

16 Fort Tar was a small redoubt south of Armistead’s Bridge. Fort Barbour was east of Church Street and south of the Princess Anne Road. These were to defend the land-side approaches of the enemy.

17 In this affair Lieutenant (now Admiral) W. B. Shubrick performed a gallant part. I was informed by Commodore Tattnall that after the engagement had continued about an hour Captain Tarbell made general signal to withdraw from the contest. The boat commanded by Shubrick at that time happened to be nearest the enemy, and that brave young officer, then twenty-three years of age, satisfied that a few more shots would damage the enemy, obeyed the order very slowly, and continued to blaze away at the frigate. This caused the concentration of the enemy’s fire upon his single boat. Still he moved off slowly, firing on his retreat, until a signal made specially for him directed him to leave, and take in tow a disabled gun-boat. This he did without losing a man. – Notes of Conversation with Commodore Tattnall in July, 1860.

William Branford Shubrick was born near Charleston, South Carolina, on the 31st of October, 1790. He was at school in New England about three years, from his twelfth to his fifteenth year, the latter part of the time in Harvard University, from which he was called home, and in Charleston was instructed in the science of navigation. In June, 1806, he entered the navy as midshipman, but continued his studies until 1807, when he joined the sloop of war Wasp at Norfolk. She left that port about three days before the attack of the Leopard on the Chesapeake. He was actively engaged in service until the war broke out, when he made a cruise in the Hornet with Commander Lawrence, when he was transferred to the Constellation, then under the command of the now venerable Admiral Stewart. He then bore the commission of a lieutenant. He behaved gallantly in the attack on the Junon and in the defense of Craney Island. After that he followed Stewart to the Constitution, and in that vessel he served until the close of the war, always taking an active part in her brilliant conduct. Pursuant to a resolution of Congress (February 22, 1816), he received a silver medal as one of Stewart’s officers. In 1834 the Legislature of South Carolina presented him with an elegant sword in testimony of their appreciation of his gallant services in the Constitution when she captured the Cyane and Levant. He was acting first lieutenant during her remarkable escape from the British squadron, hereafter to be recorded in these pages. At the close of the war he was commissioned first lieutenant, and in the Washington, 74, under Chauncey’s flag, he cruised in the Mediterranean. He was promoted to master commandant in 1820. Eleven years later, after several well-conducted cruises, he was promoted to captain, and until 1838 was engaged in service on shore. He was afloat again in 1838 as commander of a squadron in the West Indies. In 1846, on the breaking out of the war with Mexico, he was assigned to the command of a squadron in the Pacific, and actively participated in events there. In 1853 he was in command of a squadron on our Eastern coast for the protection of the fisheries, an important and delicate duty. In 1858 he commanded a powerful squadron sent to demand satisfaction for injuries from the government of Paraguay, and having discretionary power to commence hostilities should that satisfaction not be made to the United States Commissioners. President Lopez complied with the demand, and he returned in 1859. Before leaving he visited General Urquiza, President of the Argentine Republic, who presented him with a splendid sword. The United States Congress by joint resolution authorized him to accept it. This closed his sea service, in which he has held every rank and exercised every command, from midshipman to rear admiral. He has also performed faithful shore service of every kind pertaining to his rank. He has commanded three different navy yards, and held two bureaus in the Navy Department. He has been chairman of the Light-house Board since its establishment in 1853, and in a service of over sixty-one years has been only six years and eight months unemployed. His father was an officer of the Revolution.

18 Robert Barnard Taylor was an eminent man. He was born on the 20th of March, 1774, and was educated at William and Mary College, Williamsburg. He studied law with Judge Marshall, and was associated at the bar with William Wirt, L. W. Tazewell, and other eminent lawyers. In 1798-’99 he was a member of the Virginia Assembly, of the Federal school. He was one of the grand jurors (John Randolph, foreman) in 1807 who found a bill of indictment against Aaron Burr, charged with treason. During the same year he was counsel for Commodore Barron, after the affair of the Chesapeake and Leopard. He took pride in military affairs, and at the breaking out of the War of 1812 he was appointed to the command at Norfolk as brigadier general of the Virginia forces. He was very efficient in defense of that city in the summer of 1813. He retired from the command in February, 1814, when General Parker succeeded to his place. On that occasion the citizens of Norfolk gave him a public dinner, and from the military he received the most flattering testimonies of their esteem and affection. When, as the national guest, General Lafayette visited the United States in 1824, and a grand reception was given him at Yorktown, in Virginia, the scene of his warfare and triumph in youth, General Taylor was the chosen orator for the assembled multitude. "In all my time I never heard such eloquence," said a veteran to me in the spring of 1853. "In all my time I never saw so many men In tears."

General Taylor filled the position of judge and legislator with distinction. He was in the Convention in 1829-’30, charged with amending the Constitution of Virginia. In that body he introduced enlightened measures in regard to the elective franchise. In the winter of 1831-’32 he was made judge of the General Court of Virginia, and held the office until his death on the 13th of April, 1834.

19 This sentinel was William Shutte. He was stationed upon a small island that once lay near the month of Wise’s Creek. See map on page 679. Shutte made the usual challenge, and, receiving no answer, fired, and continued to fire until the camp was fully aroused.

20 James Faulkner was born in Ireland in 1776, and came to America when a boy under the charge of a distant relative. He established himself in mercantile business in Martinsburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, at the age of twenty-one years, and that was the place of his residence until his death. He long tried in vain to obtain a commission in the regular army of the United States. When war broke out he hastened to Norfolk with the volunteer troops of his adopted state, and was there commissioned a major of artillery. In that capacity he served gallantly on Craney Island, and was the chief actor in the repulse of the British. Major Faulkner married the only daughter of Captain William Mackey, of the Revolutionary Army. He died in 1817 from the effects of exposure and fatigue in camp. His wife was then dead. They left but one child, who thus became an orphan in tender years. This was Charles J. Faulkner, who was an active public man in Virginia, and who was sent to the French court as minister plenipotentiary by President Buchanan. To him I am indebted for the likeness of his father on the opposite page. When the Great Rebellion broke out he took sides with the insurgents, and dishonored the memory of his gallant and patriotic father by abandoning the flag which his ancestor had so nobly defended.

21 See page 615.

22 "We waded out to the Centipede," said Commodore Tattnall, "and found a Frenchman in her with both legs shot off. Several others were in her, wounded in the legs and feet by the passage of the ball. We carried the Frenchman ashore in a hammock, and he died soon afterward. We also found a little terrier dog sitting upon the small cannon in her bow, and several cutlasses, pistols, et cetera. I had many a cold night’s guard duty in the admiral’s barge after that." - Notes of a Conversation with Commodore Tattnall at Sackett’s Harbor in the Summer of 1860.


Our little picture of the Centipede is from an exact model of it, on a small scale, which was made by order of Commodore Warrington. The black spot near the stern shows the place where the cannon-ball entered it.

23 Ingersoll’s Historical Sketch of the Second War, etc. He is mistaken as to the locality of Craney Island. It is in the Elizabeth River, and not in Chesapeake Bay.

24 The Americans met with no loss. The British, according to their own account, lost 6 killed, 24 wounded, and 114 missing. Of the latter 40 were prisoners and deserters.

25 This picture, sketched in the spring of 1853 from a window of Burcher’s Hotel, near the steam-boat wharf in Hampton, is a view of the portion of the "Little England" estate, lying on Hampton Creek, mentioned in the text. A line drawn perpendicularly beneath each numeral on the clouds would touch the locality intended to be indicated by such numeral. Figure 4 shows the place of Crutchfield’s encampment, and 1 the place where the four-gun battery was planted. Figure 2, the place of a smaller battery; 3, Blackbeard’s Point, at the mouth of Hampton Creek, from behind which the British flotilla came; 5, the forest behind which Beckwith’s troops landed; 6, Hampton Roads; 7, a portion of the old mansion of the Little England estate; 8, the mouth of the west branch of Hampton Creek; and, 9, Bully’s house, that stood there in 1813. The "Little England" estate was the ancestral possession of the family of Commodore Barron. In the foreground of the picture is seen the steam-boat wharf at Hampton, with the creek on the right.

26 This was Charles James Napier, afterward a distinguished general in the British Army, who was knighted for his services in the East Indies, where he became commander-in-chief of the British forces. He was born in 1782, and died in August, 1835, bearing the honors of a worthy lieutenant general. He was a sprightly writer, and his biographer says that "when he was not fighting he was writing."

27 There can be little doubt that Cockburn promised his men "Booty and Beauty" to their hearts’ content. It was like him. But no one could suspect the right-minded Admiral Warren, or even the more latitudinarian Sir Sidney, of such a crime against civilization and Christianity.

28 In his dispatch to Governor Barbour on the 28th, Major Crutchfield, the American commander at Hampton, said, after giving an account of the battle and the excesses of the soldiery, "The unfortunate females of Hampton who could not leave the town were abused in the most shameful manner, not only by the soldiers, but by the venal savage blacks, who were encouraged in their excesses. They pillaged, and encouraged every act of rapine and plunder, killing a poor man by the name of Kirby who had been lying on his bed at the point of death for more than six weeks, shooting his wife in the hip at the same time, and killing a faithful dog lying under his feet. The murdered Kirby was lying last night weltering in his blood."

Sir Charles Napier (see note 2, page 681), in his diary of these events, in which he bore a part, says, "Every horror was perpetrated with impunity – rape, murder, pillage – and not a man was punished." Again: "Strong is my dislike to what is, perhaps, a necessary part of our job, viz., plundering and ruining the peasantry. We drive all their cattle, and of course ruin them. My hands are clean; but it is hateful to see the poor Yankees robbed, and to be the robber."

29 General Taylor addressed Admiral Warren, and was answered by Sir Sidney Beckwith as the commander of the land forces. In his note to Admiral Warren General Taylor said: "The world will suppose these acts to have been approved, if not executed by the commanders, if suffered to pass by with impunity. I am prepared for any species of warfare which you are disposed to prosecute. It is for the sake of humanity that I enter this protest." General Beckwith, as we have observed, charged cruelty on the part of the Americans as a palliation; to which Taylor replied that he was satisfied that no such act as charged ever took place, and if it had, it was no excuse for the crimes committed at Hampton against the helpless and innocent. A board of officers was convened to investigate the matter, when it was ascertained that, during the engagement off Craney Island, two of the British boats were sunk by the American guns, and the crews were in danger of being drowned; that, being in line of action, the firing necessarily continued, but that, in order to avoid injuring those in the water and helpless, the firing of grape was discontinued. One man, who had surrendered, but endeavored to escape, was fired upon to bring him back.

30 Among other "property," according to the laws of Virginia, taken away by the British, were negroes. Under a promise of freedom, a large number of them flocked to the British standard. Most of those whom Cockburn enticed on board his vessels by these promises were afterward sold into a worse slavery in the British West Indies.

31 This is from a sketch made by the author on New Year’s Day, 1865.

32 See page 158.

33 The troops on the island at the time here mentioned were without any shelter excepting indifferent tents, and suffered much for lack of water. They dug hollows on the island in which they caught rain, and then strained the muddy water for use.

34 This tree is seen in the sketch on page 675.

35 See page 682.

36 This house was of brick, and beautifully situated. At the time of the British invasion it belonged to John S. Westwood. When I visited it it was the property of his family. In front of it were some tomb-stones, near the site of the old Pembroke church.

37 Mr. Kirby was an aged man, very sick, and at the point to die when the soldiers entered the house. His wife was by his bedside, when they shot him through the body and wounded her in the hip. This was proclaimed as a wanton murder, and excited the greatest indignation. Colonel Jones knew Mrs. Kirby well, and her version of the story was that, with vengeful feelings, the soldiers chased an ugly dog into the house, which ran under Mr. Kirby’s chair, in which he was sitting, and, in their eagerness to shoot the dog, shot the aged invalid, the bullet grazing the hip of Mrs. Kirby. Mrs. Kirby always considered the shooting of her husband an accident.

38 The conduct of the British at Mr. Hope’s was barbarous in the extreme. He was sixty-five years of age. They stripped him entirely naked, wounded him intentionally with a bayonet, and tortured him with menaces of death. They would doubtless have killed him had not their attention been directed to a woman who had sought refuge in his house. They left him, seized her, and subjected her to indignities of which savages would be ashamed. Because of these atrocities, M‘Laws, of the Veteran Corps at Wilmington, used the word HAMPTON, in place of Attention, when calling them to order.

39 For a drawing and full historical description of this ancient church, see Lossing’s Pictorial Field-look of the Revolution, ii., 326.

40 This fort had been put in good condition. It had about twenty 18 and 32 pounder cannon mounted, that bore immediately upon the channel; also a water battery of eight 32-pounders advantageously placed.

41 This monument was built of brick, having in shallow recesses in the base of the crowning pyramid marble tablets bearing the following inscriptions:

East Side. – "On the 18th of June, 1812, the United States of America declared war against Great Britain. At the first sound of the trumpet the patriot soldiers who sleep beneath this monument flew to the standard of Liberty. Here they fell beneath the scythe of Death. The sympathies of the brave, the tears of the stranger, and the slow dirge of the camp attended them to the tomb.

" ‘How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
With all their country’s wishes blest.
The laurel wreath of shining green
Will still around their tomb be seen.’ "

West Side. – "Sacred to the memory of Sergeant Truman Goodrich and Adam C. Spencer. Also of David Aarant, William Rutland, John Williams, William M‘Lellan, Henry Kilgore, John Taylor, John Bruce, and Harris Lancaster, private soldiers of the Third Regiment of State Troops."

When I visited the spot a few years before the late war, the tablets were much defaced by the effects of bullets which had been fired at them for the sport of some young men of Charleston. It was sad to see such evidences of utter carelessness of the memory of those whom another and better generation had delighted to honor. And yet there was testimony not far off – just across a broad channel – that respect for a really great man, though ranked in history as a savage, was not wanting.


I refer to Osceola, the celebrated Seminole warrior, who for a long time outgeneraled some of the best commanders of the republic – Scott, Taylor, Gaines, and Jesup – in their attempts to expel his people from the Everglades of Florida, which had belonged to his fathers from time immemorial. A stone slab marks his last resting-place on earth, just at the entrance-gate to Fort Moultrie; and when I was there not even a pencil-mark defaced the surface, on which was inscribed, in large letters, OSCEOLA. And so it remained through the late Civil War, unscathed amid the ruins around it. I saw it, well preserved, in the spring of 1866. Osceola was made a prisoner by treachery, having been arrested in the camp of General Jesup, whither he had been invited to a conference under the generally sacred protection of a flag of truce. He was imprisoned, and his great heart was broken. The warrior became like a little child, and died at the close of January, 1839. No one can look upon that simple monument, just outside of the gate of a powerful fortress, without finding in it and the huge walls near significant emblems of the comparative strength of the European and the native American on the continent; nor can an American citizen, acquainted with the history of the latter years of that warrior’s life, avoid the blush of shame for the government that sanctioned such treachery.

42 I am indebted to an accomplished American scholar and professor in one of our colleges for an account of one of these secret organizations, which met regularly during the summer of 1813 upon an island in the vicinity of Charleston. The leader was a man of great sagacity and influence, and their meetings were opened and closed by singing the sub-joined hymn, composed by that leader. They held meetings every night, and had arranged a plan for the rising of all the slaves in Charleston when the British should appear. At one of their meetings, the question "What shall be done with the white people?" was warmly discussed. Some advocated their indiscriminate slaughter as the only security for liberty, and this seemed to be the prevailing opinion, when the author of the hymn came in and said, "Brothers! you know me. You know that I am ready to gain your liberty and mine. But not one needless drop of blood must be shed. I have a master whom I love, and the man who takes his life must pass over my dead body." The following is a copy of the hymn – a sort of parody on the national song "Hail, Columbia:



Hail! all hail! ye Afric clan!
Hail! ye oppressed, ye Afric band!
Who toil and sweat in slavery bound,

And when your health and strength are gone,
Are left to hunger and to mourn.
Let independence be your aim,
Ever mindful what ’tis worth;
Pledge your bodies for the prize,
Pile them even to the skies!

Chorus. –

Firm, united let us be,
Resolved on death or liberty!
As a band of patriots joined,
Peace and plenty we shall find.



Look to heaven with manly trust,
And swear by Him that’s always just
That no white foe, with impious hand,

Shall slave your wives and daughters more,
Or rob them of their virtue dear!
Be armed with valor firm and true,
Their hopes are fixed on Heaven and you,
That Truth and Justice will prevail.


Chorus. –

Firm, united, etc.



Arise! arise! shake off your chains!
Your cause is just, so Heaven ordains;
To you shall freedom be proclaimed!

Raise your arms and bare your breasts,
Almighty God will do the rest.
Blow the clarion’s warlike blast;
Call every negro from his task;
Wrest the scourge from Buckra’s hand,
And drive each tyrant from the land!


Chorus. –

Firm, united, etc.

43 Cockburn landed at Hilton Head and one or two other places, from which he carried off some cattle and a number of slaves; and Savannah was much agitated for a time with the fear of his grasp.

44 See page 456.

45 This is out at sea, south of Rhode Island, and forms a part of that State’s jurisdiction. The British had now raised their standard on this island.

46 In this view, looking down the river, the old court-house, yet standing on State Street, is seen near the centre of the picture. Upon the rocky peninsula farther to the right (erroneously made to appear like an island) is seen Fort Trumbull. Beyond it, in the distance, at the mouth of the river, is seen the light-house, and in the open sound the British blockading squadron. In the extreme distance is seen, as if in connecting line, Gull and Fisher’s Island. On the extreme left are the Heights of Groton, east of the Thames.

47 History of New London, by Miss Frances Manwaring Caulkins, author of a History of Norwich, Connecticut. These volumes justly rank among the best arranged and most interesting of the local histories of our country.

48 See pages from 238 to 240 inclusive.

49 Hardy had been in the habit of allowing trading vessels to pass, the blockade being chiefly against Decatur’s little squadron; but on the morning after the explosion of the Eagle he informed General Isham, the commander of the militia at New London, that no vessel would thereafter be allowed to pass the British squadron except flags of truce. And on the 28th of August, after an attempt upon the Ramillies by Penny from the south side of Long Island, Hardy wrote to Justice Terry, of Southold, desiring him to warn the inhabitants along the coast that if they allowed a torpedo boat to remain another day among them, he would "order every house near the shore to be destroyed." The leniency and courtesy extended to the inhabitants by Captain Hardy gave him claims to their respectful consideration.

50 The Philadelphia Aurora said, in speaking of the complaints of the mischievous "Peace party" of that day, "We would respectfully solicit the pious men to explain to us the difference between waging war with submarine machines and with aerial destructive weapons – fighting under water or fighting in the air? The British, too cowardly to meet us on shore (except when they are certain of finding little or no opposition) like men and soldiers, send us Congreve rockets to burn our towns and habitations; we, in turn, dispatch some of our torpedoes to rub the copper off the bottoms of their ships."

51 History of New London, page 634.

52 Henry Burbeck was born in Boston on the 8th of June, 1754. He was a soldier of the Revolution, and in 1787, under the Confederation, he was commissioned a captain. He was appointed captain of artillery in 1789, and promoted to major in 1791. He was raised to lieutenant colonel of artillery and engineers in 1798, and to colonel in 1802. During his service at New London, on the 10th of September, 1813, he was breveted a brigadier general, and held that commission until the close of the war, when, after thirty-eight years of military service, he retired from the army, and took up his abode in New London. He died there on the 2d of October, 1848, at the great age of ninety-four years.


He was buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery at New London, and over his grave the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, of which, at the time of his death, he was president, and last survivor but one of the original members, erected a handsome granite monument, under the direction of Honorable R. G. Shaw, of Boston, the late General H. A. S. Dearborn, of Roxbury, and the Reverend Alfred L. Baury, of Newton Lower Falls, a committee of the society. Upon the front of the obelisk, on a shield, is the following inscription: "Brigadier General HENRY BURBECK, born in Boston, Mass., June 8, 1754. Died at New London, October 2, 1848." Upon the cube on which the obelisk stands the following words are deeply engraven: "The Massachusetts society of the Cincinnati dedicate this monument to the memory of their late honored President. He was an officer of the United States from the commencement of the Revolutionary War until near the close of his life. By a patriotic and faithful discharge of the high and responsible duties of a Gallant Soldier, and an Exemplary Citizen, he became as justly and eminently distinguished as he was rightfully and universally respected. Erected MDCCCL."

53 In January, 1814, Captain Moran, master of a sloop that had been captured by the blockaders, reported that Hardy, in his presence, expressed a desire that the Macedonian and Statira should have a combat, they being vessels of equal power, but that he would not permit a challenge to that effect to be sent. Decatur at once informed Hardy (17th of January, 1814) that he was ready to have a meeting of the Macedonian and Statira, and the United States and Endymion, and invited him to the contest. This message was sent by Captain Biddle, of the Hornet, who was informed that an answer would be sent the next day. The crews of the two American frigates were assembled, and when the proposition was submitted to them they received it with hearty cheers. They were eager for release, and did not doubt their ability to secure a victory. On the following day an answer came. The challenge was accepted so far as the Macedonian {original text has "Macedodonian".} and Statira were concerned, but a meeting between the United States and Endymion was declined because of an alleged disparity in strength, which would give great advantage to the American vessel. Decatur, being under sailing orders, and anxious to get his little squadron to sea, would not consent to its separation by detaching the Macedonian for a duel, so the matter dropped.

54 Miss Caulkins is also the author of an admirable History of Norwich, Connecticut.

55 He was made master commandant in 1816, and captain in 1825. One of his sons (Lieutenant Alexander P. Rodgers) was killed at the battle of Chapultepec, in Mexico, in September, 1847.

56 This cemetery was laid out by Dr. Horatio Stone for an association in 1850, and consecrated in 1851. The first interment of a person living when it was laid out was that of Joseph S. Sistare. – Miss Caulkins.

57 Caulkins’s History of Connecticut, 662.

58 See Miss Caulkins’s History of New London, page 626.

59 Admiral Hotham, whose flag-ship was the Superb, then commanded the blockading squadron off New London. On the 21st of February the village was splendidly illuminated. Hotham determined to mingle in the festivities. Announcing the parole on the Superb to be "America," and the countersign "Amity," he and his officers went ashore and mingled freely and cordially with the inhabitants. The admiral was received with distinguished courtesy, for, like Hardy, he had won the merited esteem of the citizens by his gentlemanly conduct. At about this time the Pactolus and Narcissus came into the harbor, bringing Commodore Decatur and Lieutenant (now Admiral) W. B. Shubrick, who had been captured in the frigate President. A public reception, partaking of the character of a ball, was held at the court-house, to which all the British officers on the coast were invited. Several were present, and the guests were received by Commodores Decatur and Shaw.



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