Thursday, June 25, 2015

The War of the Boats

NAVY YARD, GOSPORT, June 21st, 1813. SIR, On Saturday, at 1 1 P. M. captain Tarbell moved with the flotilla under his command, consisting of 15 gun-boats in two divisions ; lieutenant John M. Gardner, 1st division, and lieutenant Robert Henley, the 2d, manned from the frigate ; and 50 musketeers general Taylor ordered from Craney Island, and proceeded down the river ; but adverse winds and squalls prevented his approaching the enemy until Sunday morning at 4 P. M. when the flotilla commenced a heavy galling fire on a frigate, at about three quarters of a mile distance, lying well up the roads, two other frigates lying in sight. At half past 4 a breeze sprung up from east north east, which enabled the two frigates to get under way, one a razee or very heavy ship, and the other a frigate, to come near into the action. The boats in consequence of their approach hauled off, though keeping up a well directed fire on the razee and other ship, which gave us several broadsides. The frigate first engaged, supposed to be the Junon, was certainly very severely handled. Had the calm continued one half hour, that frigate must have fallen into our hands or been destroyed. She must have slipped her mooring so as to drop nearer the razee, who had all sails set coming up to her with the other frigate. The action continued one hour and a half with the three ships. Shortly after the action the razee got along side of the ship, and had her upon a deep careen in a little time with a number of boats and stages round her. I am satisfied considerable damage was done to her, for she was silenced some time, until the razee opened her fire, when she commenced again. Our loss is very trifling. Mr. Allison, master's mate on board number 139, was killed early in the action by an eighteen pound ball, which passed through mm and lodged in the mast. Number 1 54 had a shot between wind and water. Number 67 had her franklin shot away, and several of them had some of their sweeps as well as their stauntions shot away ; but two men slightly injured by the splinters from the sweeps. On the flood tide several ships of the line and frigates came into the roads, and we did expect an attack last night. There are now in the roads thirteen ships of the line and frigates, one brig and several tenders. I cannot say too much of the officers and men on this occasion, for every man appeared to go into action with so much cheerfulness, apparently to do their duty, resolved to conquer. I had a better opportunity of discovering their actions than any one else, being in my boat the whole of the action. I have the honour to be, &c. JOHN CASSIN.

From John Brannon,  Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States, During the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 13, 14, & 15: With Some Additional Letters and Documents Elucidating the History of that Period.