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Sackett's Harbor.

Early in July, 1812, a rumor spread that the Oneida had been captured by the British, and that a squadron of British vessels were on their way from Kingston to recapture the Lord Nelson, lying at Sackett's Harbor. General Brown, with a militia force, immediately took post at the harbor. The story was. not true, but a squadron made an attack on the harbor eighteen days afterwards.. The squadron, built at Kingston, consisted of the Royal George, 24; Prince Regent, 22; Earl of Moira, 20; Simcoe, 12; and Seneca, 4, under the command of Commodore Earle, a Canadian. Earle sent word to Colonel Bellinger, in command of the militia at Sackett's Harbor, that all he wanted was the Oneida and the Lord Nelson, at the same time warning the inhabitants that in case of resistance the village would be destroyed. the Oneida weighed anchor and attempted to escape to the lake. She failed, and returned. She was moored just outside of Navy Point, in position to have her broadside of nine [3]

Sackett's Harbor in 1812.

guns brought to bear upon approaching vessels. The remainder of her guns were taken out to be placed in battery on the land. An iron 32-pounder, which had been lying in the mud near the shore, and from that circumstance was called the “Old sow,” was placed in battery on a bluff with three other heavy guns; and a company of artillery had four heavy guns. With this force the Americans were prepared to receive the invaders.

The squadron slowly entered the harbor (July 29), and when the Royal George and Prince Regent were near enough, Capt. William Vaughan, a sailing-mas-

Map of operations at Sackett's Harbor in May, 1813.

ter, in charge of the “Old sow” and her companions, opened fire upon them, but without effect. The people on the shore plainly heard derisive laughter on board the Royal George. Shots came from the two British vessels, which were returned, and a brisk cannonading was kept up for about two hours, the squadron standing off and on out of the range of the smaller guns. One of the enemy's shot (a 32-pounder) came over the bluff, struck the ground, and ploughed a furrow. Sergeant Spier caught it up and ran with it to Vaughan, exclaiming, “I have been playing ball with the redcoats and have caught 'em out. See if the British can catch it back again.” the Royal George was at that moment nearing to give a broadside. Vaughan's great gun immediately sent back the ball with such force and precision that it went crashing through the stern of the British vessel, raked her decks, sent splinters as high as her mizzen topsail, [4] killed fourteen men, and wounded eighteen. the Royal George had already received a shot between wind and water, and been pierced by another, and she now showed a signal for retreat. The squadron put about and sailed out of the harbor, while the band on shore played “Yankee Doodle.” The Americans received no injury.

When, in May, 1813, the British authorities heard of the depletion of the military force at Sackett's Harbor when Chauncey and Dearborn sailed for York, they resolved to attempt its capture. It was then the chief place of deposit for the

Light-House on horse Island.

naval and military stores of the Americans on the northern frontier, and its possession would give to the holder the command of the lake. The fall of York made the British hesitate; but when it was known that Chauncey and Dearborn had gone to the Niagara River, an armament proceeded from Kingston to assail the harbor. On the evening of May 27, word reached that place that a British squadron, under Sir James Yeo, had sailed from Kingston. Colonel Backus was in command of the troops at Sackett's Harbor. Gen. Jacob Brown was at his home, a few miles from Watertown, and he had promised to take chief command in case of invasion. He was summoned, and before the dawn of the 28th he was in Backus's camp. Thence he sent expresses in all directions to summon the militia to the field, and fired alarm guns to arouse the inhabitants.

As fast as the militia came in they were armed and sent to Horse Island, where the Sackett's Harbor light-house was erected. It was connected with the main by an isthmus covered with water of fordable depth, and there it was expected the invaders would attempt to land. At noon six British vessels and forty bateaux appeared off Sackett's Harbor, having over 1,000 land troops, under the command of Gov.-Gen. Sir George Prevost. The troops were embarked in the bateaux, but were soon ordered back, when the whole squadron went out on the open lake. The appearance of a flotilla of American gunboats approaching from the westward had alarmed Prevost. They were conveying part of a regiment from Oswego to join the garrison at Sackett's Harbor. As soon as their real weakness was discovered the squadron returned to the harbor, and on the next morning a considerable force, armed with cannon and muskets, landed on Horse Island. The militia had been withdrawn from the island, and placed behind a gravel ridge on the main. These fled almost at the first fire of the invaders.

This disgraceful conduct astonished [5] General Brown, and he attempted to rally the fugitives. Colonel Backus, with his regulars and Albany volunteers, was disputing the advance inch by inch, and a heavy gun at Fort Tompkins, in the front, was playing upon the British, when a. dense smoke was seen rising in the rear of the Americans. The storehouses, in which an immense amount of materials had been gathered, and a ship on the stocks, had been fired by the officers in charge, under the impression, when the militia fled, that the fort would be captured. For a moment it was believed the British were the incendiaries, and the sight was disheartening; but when Brown found it was an unwise friend, he felt a relief, and redoubled his exertions to rally the militia. He succeeded, and so turned the fortunes of the day in his favor. Prevost, moving cautiously with his troops, mounted a high stump, and, with his field-glass, saw the rallying militia on his flank and rear. Believing them to be reinforcements of American regulars, he sounded a retreat, and that movement soon became a disorderly flight, as his men hurried to reach their boats, leaving their dead and wounded behind them. At noon the whole armament left the harbor, and the menaced place was saved. So, also, was the ship on the stocks; not so the stores, for half a million dollars' worth was destroyed. Sackett's Harbor was never again molested, and it remained the chief place of deposit for supplies of the army on the northern frontiers during the war. For his conduct in the defence of Sackett's Harbor, Brown was promoted brigadier-general, United States army. See Brown, Jacob.

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