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Cockburn, Sir George 1772-1853

Naval officer; born in London, England, April 22, 1772; entered the royal navy in 1783, and was rear-admiral in 1812. During the spring and summer of 1813 a most distressing warfare was carried on upon land and water by a British squadron, under his command, along the coasts between Delaware Bay and Charleston Harbor. It was marked by many acts of cruelty. “Chastise the Americans into submission” was the substance of the order given to Cockburn by the British cabinet, and he seemed to be a willing servant of the will of his government. An Order in Council, issued on Dec. 20, 1812, declared the ports and harbors of much of the American coast in a state of blockade. Cockburn entered between the capes of Virginia early in February, 1813, with a squadron, of which his flag-ship was the Marlborough, seventy-four guns. This squadron bore a land force of about 1,800 men, a part of them captive Frenchmen from British prisons, who preferred active life in the British service to indefinite

Sir George Cockburn's signature.

confinement in jails. The appearance of this force alarmed all lower Virginia; and the militia of the Peninsula and about Norfolk were soon in motion after the squadron had entered Hampton Roads. The Secretary of the Treasury ordered the extinguishment of all the beacon-lights on the Chesapeake coast. At the same time the frigate Constellation, thirty-eight guns, lying at Norfolk, was making ready to attack the British vessels. A part of the British squadron went into Delaware Bay, but the forewarned militia were ready for the marauders, who only attacked the village of Lewiston.

On April 3, 1813, a flotilla of a dozen boats filled with armed men from the British fleet, under Lieutenant Polkingthorne, [226] of the St. Domingo, seventy-four guns, entered the Rappahannock River and attacked the Baltimore privateer Dolphin, ten guns, Captain Stafford, and three armed schooners prepared to sail for France. The three smaller vessels were soon taken, but the struggle with the Dolphin was severe. She was boarded, and for fifteen minutes a contest raged fearfully on her deck, when the Dolphin struck her colors. Cockburn now went up the Chesapeake with the brigs Fantome and Mohawk, and the tenders Dolphin, Racer, and Highflyer, and proceeded to destroy Frenchtown, a hamlet of about a dozen houses on the west coast of Delaware. Cockburn made the Fantome his flag-ship. The only defenders of the hamlet were a few militia who came down from Elkton, and some drivers of stages and transportation-wagons. The former garrisoned a redoubt which had just been erected, upon which lay four iron cannon. They were vanquished and retired. The storehouses were plundered and burned, but the women and children were well treated. Property on land worth $25,000 was destroyed, and on the water five trading-vessels were consumed. Thence Cockburn went up the bay to Havre De Grace (q. v.), at the mouth of the Susquehanna, which he plundered and burned. Afterwards he attacked the villages of Fredericktown and Georgetown (May 6, 1813), on the Sassafras River. They contained from forty to fifty houses each. He first visited Fredericktown, on the north shore. The militia, under Colonel Veazy, made a stout resistance, but were compelled to retire. The village was laid in ashes, and the storehouses were plundered and burned. The marauders then crossed over to Georgetown, and served it in the same way. Having deprived three villages on the Chesapeake of property worth at least $70,000, Cockburn returned to the fleet.

Early in July, 1813, Admiral Cockburn, with a part of his marauding fleet, went southward from Hampton Roads to plunder and destroy. His vessels were the Sceptre, seventy-four guns (flag-ship), Romulus, Fox, and Nemesis. Off Ocracoke Inlet, he despatched (July 12, 1813) about 800 armed men in barges to the waters of Pamlico Sound. There they attacked the Anaconda and Atlas, two American privateers, and captured both. The crew of one escaped, and gave the alarm at Newbern. The British boats proceeded to attack that place, but found it too well prepared to warrant their doing so. They captured Portsmouth, and plundered the country around. They decamped in haste (July 16), carrying with them cattle and other property, and many slaves, to whom they falsely promised their freedom. These, and others obtained the same way, Cockburn sold in the West Indies on his private account.

Leaving Pamlico Sound, the marauders 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. Informed of these outrages, the citizens of Charleston prepared for the reception of the marauders. Fort Moultrie and other fortifications were strengthened, breast-works were thrown up at exposed places. and a body of militia was gathered at Point Pleasant. In anticipation of the coming of an army of liberation. as they were falsely informed Cockburn's men were, the negroes were prepared to rise and strike for freedom. Cockburn did not venture into Charleston Harbor, but went down to Hilton Head, from which he carried off slaves and cattle. Then he visited the Georgia coast, and at Dungenness House, the fine estate of Gen. Nathaniel Greene, on Cumberland Island, he made his headquarters for the winter, sending his marauders out in all directions to plunder the plantations on the neighboring coast. He was concerned in the sack of Washington in 1814, and in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Baltimore in the same year. He was knighted in 1815; made a major-general of marines in 1821; and died in London, Aug. 19. 1853.

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