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Craney Island, in the last war with England, was one of the most brilliant achievements of that contest. In view of the possibility that it may become again ere long the theatre of stirring events, we have examined with interest some records of the splendid and successful courage and constancy with which our interior forces repelled the British expeditions. Craney Island, as our readers are aware, lies near the month of Elizabeth river, and commands the approach from Hampton Roads to Norfolk. General Robert B. Taylor was the commanding officer of the military district in which the island is situated. The frigate Constellation was anchored about a mile below Norfolk, and four miles above the island, nearly opposite to the site of the present Naval Hospital. The fortification of this island had been previously ordered by General Wade Hampton, when he commanded the district, and was executed under the direction of Colonel Armistead, an engineer. The whole force on the island at the time of the attack consisted of fifty riflemen, four hundred and forty-six infantry of the line, ninety-one State artillery, and one hundred and fifty seamen and marines, furnished, under the direction Commodore Cassin, by Captain Tarbell, of the Constellation. At the east side of the island was a small unfinished fort, where were mounted two twenty-four and one ten-pound cannon. At the west side was a small breastwork. The forces were under the command of Colonel Beatty, assisted by Major Wagner, of infantry, and Major Faulkner, of artillery. Some movements of the enemy's shipping lying near Newport News seemed to indicate an intention to attack Craney Island. On the 22d June, 1813, soon after these movements were observed, they landed two miles from the island about 2,500 troops of various descriptions. Their object was to approach on the west side, across the water in that direction, which at low tide was fordable by infantry. Soon after their landing, forty-five or fifty of the enemy's boats, full of men, directed their course from the shipping to the north side of the island. The shipping, which covered the attack of the boats, consisted of fifteen or twenty vessels, among which were seventy-fours, frigates, and transports. The action was first opened by the enemy's land force, who were protected by a dense growth of trees and underwood. They commenced throwing Congreve rockets from behind a house belonging to Capt. G. Wise. Capt. Rourke, of the Virginia forces, who was nearest to that point, at once opened upon them a brisk fire of grape and canister, and although the dense growth prevented a good view of the enemy, they were completely routed with the loss of many killed and wounded. At the same time with the attack from the mainland, the barges, filled with soldiers and marines, supposed to be from twelve to fifteen hundred, approached the island in column order, led on by Admiral Wanan's boat, with twenty four oars, and a brass three-pounder in the bow. A heavy fire of grape and canister was at once opened from the island upon the advancing squadron, which, however, continued to advance, until several of her foremost boats grounded, when the fire became so galling that they were thrown into great confusion, and commenced a hasty retreat. Four or five of their barges were sunk. The loss of the enemy was about two hundred killed, wounded, and prisoners. In the afternoon, the enemy who had remained on shore, above the island, re-embarked in their boats, and returned to their shipping. Most of the attacking force is said to have consisted of French troops, taken prisoners in Spain, and induced to enlist in the English army by prospect of pillage in America. Our Virginia volunteers displayed in this memorable engagement the same coolness and self-possession under fire, and the same death dealing acccuracy in the management of muskets and artillery which they have exhibited during the present war. Mr. Howison, in his History of Virginia, speaks of the ‘"fatal precision"’ of our cannon. The enthusiasm of our people, was exhibited even by the sick, who on hearing of the approach of the enemy, rose from their beds and reported for duty at the batteries.--When the boats retreated, so eager were the Virginians, that the Winchester riflemen ran into the water, hoping to reach the foe with their bullets. We are convinced that the present defenders of Craney Island, and of every fortification about Norfolk, will not permit the renown of 1813 to suffer in their hands. On the contrary, if we do not quite mistake the signs of the times, the glory of the past will be more than eclipsed by the triumphs of the future.
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