Thursday, February 19, 2009

Battle of The Privateer Ship General Armstrong 1814.

The privateer was a merchant ship or any private ship that armed itself to protect it’s goods and vessel from a known or unknown enemy. In the beginning the private ship were not allowed to arm themselves, even after the Americans claimed their independence from England, private ship were warn not to arm themselves. The new Government felt it would not look good to have all it’s private ships armed and going into foreign ports armed to the teeth, it may give them the idea that we were a nation of war and not of piece. However when the revolution started it was soon found by the new government that their navy was not a match for any foreign power. New ships were ordered to be built but that would take time and the cost of outfitting a war ship was high.

The new navy was small so small that there was hardly enough ships to patrol it’s shores let along fight in sea battles. The men of the new Congress were men of vision and knew if something wasn’t done soon they wouldn’t be a free nation for long. The men of Congress knew that this new American was to be ran by the people and not government and if they wanted to stay free they would have to fight. A call went out that all citizens to arm themselves and fight. Many of the men in the government were owners or part owners of the many merchant ships on the seas. Now these men were smart they knew that there were thousands of private ships on the open seas, and if they could be armed the government would have a ready made navy. The new Congress passed a law that allowed the merchant and all private ships to arm themselves. The new law stated that a prize and bounty would be given to any ship that captured a ship of a unfriendly power.

This new law brought about the professional privateer one who’s only job was that of war it would hunt for any foreign ship and take it if it could, as there was money to be made in this war and they were going after it. But it was the little company’s of the merchant ships that just wanted a way to protect its goods and ship from attack, they weren’t looking for a fight but if one came the could run and fight and if need be hold fast and fight to the last. The story below is about the General Armstrong a ship that fought to the last.

Note. This story was put together from reports sent to Congress, there were many more accounts on this battle in the reports given to Congress for you researchers that would like to read more about. At the bottom of the story there will be a list of those killed or wounded from the Armstrong.

Captain Samuel C. Reid, in the private armed brig the General Armstrong, of seven guns and ninety man, left the port of New York on a cruise, early in September, 1814; on the 6th of the same month they came to anchor in the port of Faya1, one of the Azores or Western Islands, belonging to the crown of Portugal; in the evening of the same day, a British squadron, consisting of the Plantagenet of seventy-four, the Rota of forty-four, and the Carnation of eighteen guns, under the command of Captain Lloyd, anchored in the same port. During the night which was entirely clear, the moon near or at the full, and shining brightly, which enabled the Americans to examine accurately, and observe distinctly the movements of the enemy, four boats full of armed men were observed to be approaching the Armstrong, from the smallest of the vessels which lay near.

Captain Reid hailed them repeatedly to know what were their views; no answer being returned, and the boats continuing to approach, orders were given to fire upon them, which were instantly obeyed with destructive effect, and after a short contest the boats retreated to their ships. It was soon discovered that the enemy were making preparations to renew the attack, which was commenced about midnight, with twelve or fourteen boats, containing, as was supposed, about four hundred men completely armed and prepared. After a most obstinate, and, on the part of the enemy bloody! contest, which lasted about forty minutes, they were entirely frustrated in their attempts to carry the brig, and again retreated to their Ships. In this second contest several of the enemy’s boats were destroyed, and two of them taken possession of by the crew of the Armstrong, literally filled with dead. After the second retreat of the enemy, the greatest exertions were used by the Americans to prepare their vessel for action in case of another attack.

About this time, Captain Reid received a note from Mr. Dabney, the American consul, requesting to see him on shore; when he repaired thither, the consul informed him that the Portuguese Governor had addressed a note to the commander of the British squadron, protesting against his violating the neutrality of the port, and requiring him to cease from further outrace on those whom it was his duty to protect. To this note Captain Lloyd returned a menacing reply; that he would take the Armstrong at every hazard, and if she was injured by her crew, he would consider the place as an enemy’s port, and treat it accordingly.

During the last action with the boats, the Armstrong lay within pistol-shot of the castle. Captain Reid then returned on board his vessel, and about day-break a cannonade was commenced from one of the enemy’s vessels on the Armstrong. Thus situated, finding the enemy determined to persevere in their outrage, and from the immense superiority their force, knowing it would be impossible to save his vessel, Captain Reid having due regard for the safety his comrades who had so nobly supported him, determined to scuttle her and leave her; this he did, when she was immediately set on fire by the enemy and destroyed. In these several contests, from good information, there is reason to believe the loss of the enemy, at a moderate calculation, amounted at least to two hundred and fifty men in killed and wounded; that of the Americans was two killed and seven wounded.

It was found that this British squadron was on its way to the West Indies to join the force destined to make an attack on New Orleans; that in consequence of the injury which They sustained, their junction was so much retarded, and the expedition so much delayed, that the, Americans had time to prepare for the defense of that place, which, but for this circumstance, could probably not have been effected.

Those killed and wounded were;

1. Alexander 0. Williams, second lieutenant, Killed by a musket ball in the forehead, died instantly.

2. Burton Lloyd a seaman, killed by a shot through the heart, died instantly.

3. Frederick A. Worth, first lieutenant, wounded in the right side.

4. Robert Johnson, third Lieutenant , wounded in the left knee.

5. Basifla Hammond, quartermaster, wounded in left arm.

6. John Piner, seaman, wounded in the knee.

7. William Castle, wounded in the arm.

8. Nicholas Scalsan, wounded in the arm and leg.

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