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Ontario, Lake, operations on

Commodore Isaac Chauncey was in command of a little squadron of armed schooners, hastily prepared, on Lake Ontario late in 1812. The vessels were the Oneida (his flag-ship), Conquest, Growler, Pert, Scourge, Governor Tompkins, and Hamilton. He sailed from Sackett's Harbor (Nov. 8) to intercept the British squadron, under Commodore Earl, returning to Kingston from Fort George, on the Niagara River, whither they had conveyed troops and prisoners. Chauncey took his station near the False Ducks, a group of islands nearly due west from Sackett's [26] Harbor. On the afternoon of Nov. 9 he fell in with Earl's flag-ship, the Royal George. He chased her into the Bay of Quinte, where he lost sight of her in the darkness of night. On the following morning (Nov. 10) he captured and burned a small armed schooner, and soon afterwards espied the Royal George making her way towards Kingston. Chauncey gave chase with most of his squadron (which had been joined by the Julia), and followed her into Kingston Harbor, where he fought her and five land-batteries for almost an hour. These batteries were more formidable than he supposed. A brisk breeze having arisen, and the night coming on, Chauncey withdrew and anchored. The next morning the breeze had become almost a gale, and Chauncey weighed anchor and stood out lakeward. the Tompkins (Lieutenant Brown), the Hamilton (Lieutenant McPherson), and Julia (Sailing-master Trant) chased the Simcoe over a reef of rocks (Nov. 11), and riddled her so that she sank before she reached Kingston. Soon afterwards the Hamilton captured a large schooner from Niagara. This prize was sent past Kingston with the Growler (Sailing-master Mix), with a hope of drawing out the Royal George; but Chauncey had so bruised her that she was compelled to haul on shore to keep from sinking. A number of her crew had been killed. The wind had increased to a gale on the nights of the 11th and 12th, and during the night of the 12th there was a snowstorm. Undismayed by the fury of the elements, Chauncey continued his cruise, for his heart was set on gaining the supremacy of the Lakes. Learning that the Earl of Moira was off the Real Ducks Islands, he attempted to capture her. She was on the alert and escaped, but a schooner that she was convoying was made captive. On the same day Chauncey saw the Royal George and two other armed vessels, but they kept out of his way. In this short cruise he captured three merchant vessels, destroyed one armed schooner, disabled the British flag-ship, and took several prisoners, with a loss, on his part, of one man killed and four wounded. Among the latter was Sailingmaster Arundel, commander of the Pert, who was badly injured by the bursting of a cannon. He would not leave the deck, and was knocked overboard and drowned.

After the capture of Fort George Chauncey crossed the lake, looked into York, and then ran for Kingston without meeting a foe. He retired to Sackett's Harbor, where he urged forward the completion of a new corvette, the General Pike, 26 guns. She was launched June 12, 1813, and placed in command of Capt. Arthur Sinclair. It was late in the summer before she was ready for a cruise. Meanwhile, the keel of a fast-sailing schooner was laid by Eckford at Sackett's Harbor, and named the Sylph, and a small vessel was kept constantly cruising, as a scout, off Kingston, to observe the movements of the British squadron there. This little vessel (Lady of the Lake) captured the British schooner Lady Murray (June 16), laden with provisions shot, and fixed ammunition, and took her into the harbor. Sir James L. Yeo was in command of the British squadron on the lake. He made a cruise westward, and on July 7 appeared with his squadron off Niagara. Chauncey and Scott had just returned from the expedition to York. Chauncey immediately went out and tried to get the weather-gage of Sir James. He had thirteen vessels, but only three of them had been originally built for war purposes. His squadron consisted of the Pike, Madison, Oneida, Hamilton, Scourge, Ontario, Fair American, Governor Tompkins, Conquest, Growler, Julia, Asp, and Pert. The British squadron now consisted of two ships, two brigs, and two large schooners. These had all been constructed for war, and were very efficient in armament and shields. The belligerents manoeuvred all day, and when at sunset a (lead calm fell they took to sweeps. When darkness came, the American squadron was collected by signal. The wind finally freshened, and at midnight was blowing a fitful gale. Suddenly a rushing sound was heard astern of most of the fleet, and it was soon ascertained that the Hamilton and Scourge had disappeared. They had been capsized by a terrible squall, and all of the officers and men, excepting sixteen of the latter, had perished. These two vessels carried nineteen guns between them. All the next day the squadrons [27] manoeuvred for advantage, and towards evening Chauncey ran into the Niagara River. All that night the lake was swept by squalls. On the morning of the 9th Chauncey went out to attack Sir James, and the day was spent in fruitless manoeuvres. At six o'clock on the 10th, having the weather-gage, Chauncey formed his fleet in battle order, and a conflict seemed imminent; but his antagonist being unwilling to fight, the day was spent as others had been. Towards midnight there was a contest, when the Growler and Julia, separating from the rest of the fleet, were captured. Returning to Sackett's Harbor, Chauncey prepared for another cruise with eight vessels. Making but a short cruise, on account of sickness prevailing in the fleet, he remained in the harbor until Aug. 28, when he went out in search of his antagonist. He first saw him on Sept. 7, and for a week tried to get him into action, but Sir James strictly obeyed his instructions to “risk nothing.” On the 11th Chauncey bore down upon Sir James off the mouth of the Genesee River, and they had a running fight for three hours. the Pike was somewhat injured, but the British vessels suffered most. The latter fled to Kingston, and Chauncey went into Sackett's Harbor. On the 18th he sailed for the Niagara for troops, and was chased by Yeo. After a few days Chauncey crossed over to York with the Pike, Madison, and Sylph, where the British fleet lay, when the latter fled, followed by the American vessels in battle order. The baronet was now compelled to fight or stop boasting of unsatisfied desires to measure strength with the Americans. An action commenced at a little past noon, and the Pike sustained the desperate assaults of the heaviest British vessels for twenty minutes, at the same time delivering destructive broadsides upon her foes. She was assisted by the Tompkins, Lieutenant Finch; and when the smoke of battle floated away it was found that the Wolfe (Sir James's flag-ship) was too much injured to continue the conflict any longer. She pushed away dead before the wind, gallantly protected by the Royal George. A general chase towards Burlington Bay immediately ensued. Chauncey could doubtless have captured the whole British fleet, but a gale was threatening, and there being no good harbors on the coast, if he should be driven ashore certain capture by land troops would be the consequence. So he called off his ships and returned to the Niagara, where he lay two days while a gale was skurrying over the lake. The weather remaining thick after the gales, Sir James left Burlington Bay for Kingston. Chauncey was returning to Sackett's Harbor, whither all his transports bearing troops had gone, and at sunset, Oct. 5, when near the Ducks, the Pike captured three British Transports—the Confiance, Hamilton (the Growler and Julia with new names), and Mary. the Sylph captured the cutter Drummond and the armed transport Lady Gore. The number of prisoners captured on these five vessels was 264. Among the prisoners were ten army officers. Sir James remained inactive in Kingston Harbor

Destruction at Sodus Bay.

during the remainder of the season, and Chauncey was busied in watching his movements and assisting the army in its descent of the St. Lawrence. He did not, however, sufficiently blockade Kingston [28] Harbor to prevent marine scouts from slipping out and hovering near Wilkinson's flotilla on the St. Lawrence.

A British squadron on the lake hovered along its southern shores in the summer of 1813 and seriously interfered with supplies on their way to the American camp on the Niagara. They captured (June 12, 1813) two vessels laden with hospital stores at Eighteen-mile Creek, eastward of the Niagara River. They made a descent upon the village of Charlotte, situated at the mouth of the Genesee River, on the 15th, and carried off a large quantity of stores. On the 18th they appeared off Sodus Bay, and the next evening an armed party, 100 strong, landed at Sodus Point for the purpose of destroying American stores known to have been deposited there. These had been removed to a place of concealment a little back of the village. The invaders threatened to destroy the village if the hiding-place of the stores was not revealed. The women and children fled from their homes in alarm. A negro, compelled by threats, gave the desired information; and they were marching in the direction of the stores when they were confronted at a bridge over a ravine by forty men under Captain Turner. A sharp skirmish ensued. The British were foiled, and as they returned to their vessels they burned the public storehouses, five dwellings, and a hotel. The property destroyed at Sodus was valued at $25,000. The marauders then sailed eastward, and looked into Oswego Harbor, but Sir James Yeo, their cautious commander, did not venture to go in.

Chauncey was unable to accomplish much with his squadron during 1814. Early in the season he was taken sick, and in July his squadron was blockaded at Sackett's Harbor, and it was the last of that month before it was ready for sea. On the 31st Chauncey was carried, in a convalescent state, on board the Superior (his flag-ship), and the squadron sailed on a cruise. It blockaded the harbor of Kingston, and Chauncey vainly tried to draw out Sir James Yeo for combat. At the close of September Chauncey was informed that the St. Lawrence, pierced for 112 guns, which had been built at Kingston, was ready for sea, when the commodore prudently raised the blockade and returned to Sackett's Harbor. The St. Lawrence sailed in October with more than 1,000 men, accompanied by other vessels of war; and with this big ship Sir James was really lord of the lake. The Americans determined to match the St. Lawrence, and at Sackett's Harbor the keels of two first-class frigates were laid. One of them was partly finished when peace was proclaimed, early in 1815. Chauncey expected that Yeo would attack his squadron in the harbor, but he did not; and when the lake was closed by ice the war had ended on the northern frontier.

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