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and did considerable injury to that ship, as well as several of the other vessels. It was truly unfortunate that we could not have brought the enemy to a general action on that day, as I am confident that the victory would have been as complete as that upon Lake Erie. I however have the consolation to know that every exertion was used to bring him to close action. If we did not succeed it was not our fault.
I have the honour to be, &c.
Hon. Wm. Jones, Secretary of the Navy, Washington.
Copy of a Letter from Commodore Chauncey to the Secretary of the Navy.
United States Ship General Pike, off Niagara, 1st Oct. 1813. On the 26th ultimo it was reported to me that the enemy's fleet was in York. I immediately despatched the Lady of the Lake to look into York, and ascertain the fact-she returned in the evening with the information that the enemy was in York bay. I immediately prepared to weigh, but owing to a strong wind from the N. N. E. was not able to get out of the river before the evening of the 27th, and owing to the extreme darkness of the night, a part of the squadron got separated and did not join before next morning at 8, A. M. On the 28th, the General Pike, Madison, and Sylph, each took a schooner in tow and made all sail for York. Soon after discovered the enemy's fleet under way in York Bay, shaped our course for him, and prepared for actionhe perceiving our intention of engaging him in his position, tacked and stood out of the bay, wind at east; I formed the line and run down for his centre. When we had approached within about three miles he made all sail to the southward -I wore in succession and stood on the same tack with him, edging down gradually in order to close-at ten minutes past meridian, the enemy, finding that we were closing fast with him, and that he must either risk an action or suffer his two rear vessels to be cut off, he tacked in succession, beginning at the van, hoisted his colours, and commenced a well-directed fire at this ship, for the purpose of covering his rear, and attacking our rear as he passed to leeward; perceiving his intention, I was determined to disappoint him; therefore, as soon as the Wolfe (the leading ship) passed the centre of his line and abeam of us, I bore up in succession (preserving our line) for the enemy's centre; this manœuvre not only covered our rear but hove him in confusion; he im
mediately bore away; we had however closed so near as to bring our guns to bear with effect, and in twenty minutes the main and mizen-top-masts and main-yard of the Wolfe were shot away; he immediately put before the wind, and set all sail upon his foremast. I made the signal for the fleet to make all sail; the enemy, however, keeping dead before the wind, was enabled to outsail most of our squadron. As it brought all the sail upon one mast, he did not feel the loss of his main and mizen-top-masts. I continued the chase until near three o'clock, during which time I was enabled, in this ship, with the Asp in tow, to keep within point blank shot of the enemy, and sustained the whole of his fire during the chase. Captain Crane, in the Madison, and lieut. Brown in the Oneida, used every exertion to close with the enemy; but the Madison having a heavy schooner in tow, and the Oneida sailing very dull before the wind, prevented those officers from closing near enough to do any execution with their carronades. The Governor Tompkins kept in her station until her fore-mast was so badly wounded as to oblige her to shorten sail. Lieutenant Finch, of the Madison, who commanded her this cruize, owing to the indisposition of lieutenant Pettigrew, behaved with great gallantry, and is an officer of much promise. Captain Woolsey, in the Sylph, was kept astern by the Ontario, which he had in tow, but did considerable execution with his heavy gun.
At fifteen minutes before 3, P. M., I very reluctantly relinquished the pursuit of a beaten enemy. The reasons that led to this determination were such as I flatter myself that you will approve. They were these: at the time I gave up the chase, this ship was making so much water, that it required all our pumps to keep her free, owing to our receiving several shot so much below the water edge, that we could not plug the holes from the outside; the Governor Tompkins with her fore-mast gone, and the squadron within about six miles of the head of the lake; blowing a gale of wind from east, and increasing with a heavy sea on, and every appear. ance of the equinox. I considered that if I chased the enemy to his anchorage at the head of the lake, I should be obliged to anchor also, and although we might succeed in driving him on shore, the probability was that we should go on shore also, he amongst his friends, and we amongst our enemies; and, after the gale abated, if he could succeed in getting off one or two vessels out of the two fleets, it would give him as completely the command of the lake as if he had twenty vessels. Moreover, he was covered at his anchorage by part of
his army, and several small batteries thrown up for the purpose. Therefore if we could have rode out the gale, we should have been cut up by their shot from the shore. Under all these circumstances, and taking into view the consequences resulting from the loss of our superiority on the lake at this time, I without hesitation relinquished the opportunity then presenting itself, of acquiring individual reputation at the expense of my country.
The loss sustained by this ship was considerable owing to her being so long exposed to the fire of the whole of the enemy's fleet; but our most serious loss was occasioned by the bursting of one of our guns, which killed and wounded 22 men, and tore up the top-gallant forecastle, which rendered the gun upon that deck useless. We had four other guns cracked in the muzzle, which rendered their use extremely doubtful. Our main-top-gallant-mast was shot away in the early part of the action, and the bowsprit, fore and main-mast wounded, rigging and sails much cut up, and a number of shot in our hull, several of which were between wind and water, and 27 men killed and wounded, including those by the bursting of the gun. The Madison received a few shot, but no person hurt on board. The Governor Tompkins lost her fore-mast, and the Oneida her main-top-mast badly wounded. We have, however, repaired nearly all our damages, and are ready to meet the enemy. During our chase, one, if not two of the enemy's small vessels was completely in our power, if I could have been satisfied with so partial a victory, but I was so sure of the whole, that I passed them unnoticed, by which means they finally escaped.
The gale continued until last night, but the wind still blows from the eastward. I thought it important to communicate with general Wilkinson, to ascertain when he meant to move with the army. I therefore ran off this place for that purpose, and he thinks that the public service will be promoted by my watching sir James at the head of the lake, and, if possible, preventing his return to Kingston, while he proceeds with the army for Sackett's Harbour. I shall, therefore, proceed immediately in quest of the enemy.
I have great pleasure in acknowledging the assistance I received from captain Sinclair, during our chase, in using his best endeavours to bring this ship into close action. The other officers and men behaved to my perfect satisfaction, and were very anxious to close with the enemy, even singly; and if he ever gives us an opportunity for close action, they will show that they are not inferior to any of their countrymen.
I have the honour to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient humble servant,
Hon. William Jones, Secretary of the Navy.
Copy of a Letter from Commodore Chauncey to the Secretary of the Navy, dated United States Ship General Pike, Sackett's Harbour, 6th October, 1813.
Sir, I have the pleasure to inform you, that I arrived here this morning, with five sail of the enemy's vessels, which I fell in with and captured last evening off the Ducks. These were part of a fleet of seven sail which left York on Sunday, with 234 troops on board, bound to Kingston. Of this fleet five were captured, one burnt, and one escaped. The prisoners amounting to nearly 300, besides having upwards of 300 of our troops on board from Niagara, induced me to run into port, for the purpose of landing both.
I have an additional pleasure in informing you, that amongst the captured vessels are the late United States schooners Julia and Growler; the others are gun vessels. I have the honour to be, very respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant, ISAAC CHAUNCEY. Hon. William Jones, Secretary of the Navy, Washington.
Copy of a Letter from Commodore Chauncey to the Secretary of the Navy.
United States Ship General Pike, Sackett's Harbour, Sir, 8th October, 1813. As soon as the last of the flotilla with the troops cleared the Niagara, I proceeded in quest of the enemy. On the 2d instant, at 10, A. M., discovered him steering a course for Niagara, with studding sails and all sails set, wind from the south and westward. We made all sail in chase, but as soon as we shot out from the land, so that he could fairly make us out, he took in studding sails, and hauled upon a wind to the westward and made all sail from us; the wind being light all day, we made but little progress against the current, and at sun-down the enemy was off the Twenty Mile Creek, and had evidently gained considerably from us. During the night the wind continued so light, that we altered our position but very little, and at day-light on the 3d, saw the enemy at anchor close in with the land, between Twelve and Twenty Mile Creek. As soon as he saw us, he weighed and made all sail to the westward, wind from south to south-west and squally. I made all sail in chase, and continued the chase the whole
day, it blowing very heavy in squalls; at sun-down we could barely make him out from the mast-head, when he appeared nearly up to the head of the lake; it continued squally with rain, and the night very dark; at day-light on the 4th hazy, could see nothing of the enemy-continued working up for the head of the lake; towards meridian it became calm, I ordered the Lady of the Lake to sweep up to Burlington Bay, and ascertain whether the fleet was there-at half past 9, P. M., she returned with information that the fleet was not there. Saw but two gun-boats. It struck me at once that he had availed himself of the darkness of the preceding night, and had either run for Kingston, or down the lake for the purpose of intercepting the flotilla with the army; I therefore made all sail and shaped my course for the Ducks, with a view of intercepting him or his prizes if he should have made any. The wind increased to a strong gale from the northward and westward, and continued during the whole day on the 5th, we therefore made a great run, for at 1, P. M., we passed Long Point; at 3 discovered seven sail near the False Ducks; presuming them to be the fleet, made sail in chase at 4 made them out to be sloops and schooners. I made the signal for the Sylph and the Lady of the Lake to cast off their tow, and chase N. E. soon after perceiving the enemy separating on different tacks, I cast off the Governor Tompkins from this ship, gave the squadron in charge of captain Crane, and made all sail in chase; at 5 the enemy finding us to gain fast upon him, and one of his gun vessels sailing much worse than the rest, he took the people out and set her on fire. At sun-down, when opposite the Real Ducks, the Hamilton (late Growler), Confiance (late Julia), and Mary Ann, struck to us, the Sylph soon after brought down the Drummond, cutter rigged. The Lady Gore run into the Ducks, but the Sylph (which was left to watch her) took possession of her early the next morning. The Enterprize, a small schooner, is the only one that escaped, and she owed her safety to the darkness of the night.
Finding much difficulty in shifting the prisoners, owing to the smallness of our boats and a heavy sea, I determined to take the prizes in tow and run for this place, and land the prisoners and troops that I had on board. We arrived here at day-light. On the 6th, the Lady of the Lake having towed one of the prizes in, I despatched her immediately to cruize between the Real and False Ducks. She returned the same afternoon, having discovered the enemy's squadron going into Kingston.