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AMERICAN AND BRITISH ACCOUNTS OF THE CAPTURE OF
Letter from Commodore Decatur to the Secretary of the Navy. Sir, U. S. Ship United States, at Seu, Oct. 30, 1812.
I have the honour to inform you that on the 25th instant, being in the latitude 299 N. longitude 29° 30' W., we fell in with, and after an action of an hour and a half, captured his Britannic majesty's ship Macedonian, commanded by captain John Carden, and mounting 49 carriage guns (the odd gun shifting). She is a frigate of the largest class, two years old, four months out of dock, and reputed one of the best sailers in the British service. The enemy being to windward had the advantage of engaging us at his own distance, which was so great; that for the first half hour we did not use our carronades, and at no moment was he within the complete effect of our musquetry or grape to this circumstance and a heavy swell, which was on at the time, I ascribe the unusual length of the action.
The enthusiasm of every officer, seaman, and marine, on board this ship, on discovering the enemy-their steady conduct in battle, and precision of their fire, could not be surpassed. Where all met my fullest expectations, it would be unjust in me to discriminate. Permit me, however, to recommend to your particular notice my first lieutenant, William H. Allen. He has served with me upwards of five years, and to his unremitted exertions in disciplining the crew, is to be imputed the obvious superiority of our gunnery exhibited in the result of this contest.
Subjoined is a list of the killed and wounded on both sides. Our loss, compared with that of the enemy, will appear small. Amongst our wounded, you will observe the name of lieutenant Funk, who died a few hours after the action-he was an officer of great gallantry and promise, and the service has sustained a severe loss in his death.
The Macedonian lost her mizen-mast, fore and main-topmasts and main yard, and was much cut up in her hull. The damage sustained by this ship was not so much as to render her return into port necessary, and had I not deemed it important that we should see our prize in, should have. continued our cruise.
With the highest consideration and respect, I am, sir, your obedient humble servant, (Signed)
STEPHEN DECATUR. Hon. Paul Hamilton, &c.
List of killed and wounded on board the United States.
Killed - Thomas Brown, New York, seaman; Henry Shepherd, Philadelphia, do.; William Murray, Boston, a boy; Michael O'Donnell, New-York, private marine ; John Roberts, do. do.
Wounded-John Mercer Funk, Philadelphia, lieutenant, since dead; John Archibald, New-York, carpenter's crew, do.; Christian Clark, do. seaman; George Christopher, do. ordinary seaman ; George Mahar, do. do.; William Jones, do. do.; John Laton, do. private marine.
On board the Macedonian there were 36 killed and 68 wounded. Among the former were the boatswain, one master's mate, and the schoolmaster, and of the latter were the first and third lieutenants, one master's mate, and two midshipmen.
From the London Gazette, January 1.
Admiralty Office, Dec. 29, 1812. Copy of a letter from Captain John Surman Carden, late Com
mander of his Majesty's Ship the Macedonian, to John Wilson Croker, Esq. dated on board the American Ship the United States, at Sea, the 28th October, 1812.
Sir, it is with the deepest regret I have to acquaint you, for the information of my lords commissioners of the admiralty, that his majesty's late ship Macedonian was captured on the 25th instant by the United States' ship United States, commodore Decatur, commander. The detail is as follows:
A short time after day-light, steering N. W. by W. with the wind from the southward, in latitude 29° N. and longitude 29° 30' W., in the execution of their lordships' orders, a sail was seen on the lee-beam, which I immediately stood for, and made her out to be a large frigate under American colours ; at 9 o'clock I closed with her, and she commenced the action, which we returned, but for the enemy keeping two points off the wind I was not enabled to get as close to her as I could have wished.
After an hour's action the enemy backed and came to the wind, and I was then enabled to bring her to close battle ; in this situation I soon found the enemy's force too superior to expect success unless some very fortunate chance occurred in our favour, and with this hope I continued the battle to two hours and ten minutes, when having the mizen-mast shot away by the board, top-mast shot away by the caps, main-yard shot in pieces, lower-masts badly wounded, lower rigging all cut to pieces, a small proportion only of the foresail left to the fore-yard, all the guns on the quarter-deck and forecastle disabled but two, and filled with wreck, two also on the main-deck disabled, and several shot between wind and water, a very great proportion of the crew killed and wounded, and the enemy comparatively in good order, who had now shot ahead, and was about to place himself in a raking position, without our being enabled to return the fire, being a perfect wreck and unmanageable log, I deemed it prudent, though a painful extremity, to surrender his majesty's ship, nor was this dreadful alternative resorted to till every hope of success was removed, even beyond the reach of chance, nor till, I trust, their lordships will be aware every effort had been made against the enemy by myself, my brave officers, and men, nor should she have been surrendered whilst a man lived on board had she been manageable.
I am sorry to say our loss is very severe; I find by this day's muster 36 killed, three of whom lingered a short time after the battle, 36 severely wounded, many of whom cannot recover, and 32 slightly wounded, who may all do well; total 104.
The truly noble and animating conduct of my officers, and the steady bravery of my crew to the last moment of the battle, must ever render them dear to their country.
My first lieutenant David Hope was severely wounded in the head towards the close of the battle, and taken below; but was soon again on deck, displaying that greatness of mind and exertion, which, though it may be equalled, can never be excelled; the third lieutenant, John Bulford, was also wounded, but not obliged to quit his quarters; second lieutenant Samuel Motley and he deserve my highest acknowledgments. The cool and steady conduct of Mr. Walker, the master, was very great during the battle, as also that of lieutenants Wilson and Magill of the marines.
On being taken on board the enemy's ship I ceased to wonder at the result of the battle. The United States is built with the scantling of a 74 gun ship, mounting 30 long 24 pounders (English ship guns) on her main deck, and 22 42 pounders carronades, with two long 24 pounders on her quarter deck and fore castle, howitzer guns in her tops, and a travelling carronade on her upper deck, with a complement of 478 picked men.
The enemy has suffered much in masts, rigging, and hull, above and below water; her loss in killed and wounded I am not aware of, but I know a lieutenant and six men have been thrown overboard.
J. S. CARDEN.
CAPTURE OF THE CALEDONIA AND THE DETROIT. Correspondence between the Secretary of the Navy and Captain
Chauncey and Lieutenant Elliott, relative to the capture and subsequent disposition of the British armed Brigs Caledonia and Detroit, on the 8th of October, 1812.
Lieutenant Elliott to the Secretary of the Navy. Sir,
Black Rock, 9th October, 1812. I have the honour to inform you, that on the morning of the 8th instant, two British vessels which I was informed were his Britannic majesty's brig Detroit, late the United States' brig Adams, and the brig Hunter, mounting 14 guns, but which afterwards proved to be the brig Caledonia, both said to be well armed and manned, came down the lake and anchored under protection of Fort Erie. Having been on the lines for some time, and in a measure inactively employed, I determined to make an attack, and, if possible, get possession of them: a strong inducement to this attempt arose from a conviction that with these two vessels, added to those which I have purchased and am fitting out, I should be able to meet the remainder of the British force on the upper lakes, and save an incalculable expense and labour to the government. On the morning of their arrival I heard that our seamen were but a short distance from this place, and immediately despatched an express to the officers, directing them to use all possible despatch in getting the men to this place, as I had important service to perform. On their arrival, which was about 12 o'clock, I discovered that they had only about twenty pistols, and neither cutlasses, nor battle-axes; but on application to generals Smyth and Hall, of the regulars and militia, I was supplied with a few arms; and general Smyth was so good, on my request, as immediately to detach fifty men from the regulars, armed with muskets. By four o'clock in the afternoon I had my men selected, and stationed in two boats, which I had previously prepared for the purpose: with those boats, fifty men in each, and under circumstances very disadvantageous, my men having had scarcely time to refresh themselves, after a fatiguing march of five hundred miles, I put off from the mouth of Buffaloe creek, at one o'clock the following morning, and at three I was along side the vessels. In about ten minutes I had the prisoners all secured, the topsails sheeted home, and the vessels
Unfortunately the wind was not sufficiently strong to get me up against a rapid current into the lake,
where I understood another armed vessel lay at anchor; and I was obliged to run down the river by the forts, under a heavy fire of round, grape, and canister, from a number of pieces of heavy ordnance, and several pieces of flying artillery, and was compelled to anchor at a distance of about four hundred yards from two of their batteries. After the discharge of the first gun, which was from the flying artillery, I hailed the shore, and observed to the officer, that if another gun was fired I would bring the prisoners on- deck, and expose them to the same fate we should all share; but notwithstanding they disregarded the caution: they continued a constant and destructive fire. One single moment's reflection determined me not to commit an act that would subject me to the imputation of barbarity. The Caledonia had been beached in as safe a position as the circumstances would admit of, under one of our batteries at Black Rock; I now brought all the guns of the Detroit on one side, next the enemy, stationed the men at them, and directed a fire, which was continued as long as our ammunition lasted and circumstances permitted. During the contest I endeavoured to get the Detroit on our side, by sending a line (there being no wind) on shore, with all the line I could muster; but the current being so strong the boat could not reach the shore. I then hailed our shore, and requested that warps should be made fast on the land, and sent on board; the attempt to all which again proved useless, as the fire was such as would in all probability sink the vessel in a short time. I determined to drop down the river out of reach of the batteries, and make a stand against the flying artillery. I accordingly cut the cable and made sail, with very light airs; and at that instant discovered that the pilot had abandoned me. I dropped astern for about ten minutes, when I was brought up on our shore on Squaw island; got the boarding boat made, had all the prisoners put in and sent on shore, with directions for the officer to return for me and what property we could get from the brig: he did not return, owing to the difficulty of the boat's getting on shore. Discovering a skiff under the counter, I sent the four remaining prisoners in the boat, and with my
officer I went on shore to bring the boat off. I asked for protection of the brig of lieutenant-colonel Scott, who readily
At this moment I discovered a boat with about 40 soldiers, from the British side, making for the brig; they got on board, but were soon compelled to abandon her, with the loss of nearly all their men. During the whole of this morning both sides of the river kept up alternately a constant fire