War of 1812 - Dont give up the ship

Alexandria New York in the War of 1812

In Alexandria occurred an engagement during the war of 1812-15 which imparts considerable historic importance to the town. And we may add, en passant, that the British were met with that courage and intrepid gallantry that characterized the Revolutionary struggle about forty years before. Also that, near half a century subsequent to the occurrence of the event about to be recorded, the descend-ants of those old heroes maintained the honor their fore-fathers fought to uphold. We quote from “Hough’s History of Jefferson County:”

“On the 14th of July, 1813, the Neptune and the Fox, the former a private armed boat, under Captain Samuel Dixon, mounted with one six-pounder and one swivel, and manned by twenty-four volunteers; and the latter a public armed boat, under Captain Dimock, with a detachment of twenty-one men from the 21st Regiment of Infantry, under Lieutenants Burbank and Perry, sailed from Sacket’s Harbor with lettres de marque from the deputy collector of the district, for a cruise in the St. Lawrence. This privateering expedition was fitted out by M. W. Gilbert and others, and had for its object the cutting off of a detachment of the enemy’s boats that were expected up the river laden with stores. After touching at Cape Vincent and French Creek (Clayton), among the Thousand Islands, where they landed for muster and review; and the morning being delightfully pleasant, they employed them-selves in drying and putting in complete order their arms and ammunition and cleaning out their boats, while a small boat of each was sent out for intelligence, which returned without gaining any news. At nine A.M. they hauled from the shore, manned a guard-boat to prevent surprise, and sent Lieut. Hawkins to Ogdensburgh for intelligence; and at five P.M. the next day Messrs. Baldwin and Campbell arrived with news. At nine they left Cranberry creek, and at four A.M. on the 18th saw a brigade of British bateaux, convoyed by his Majesty’s gun-boat, the ‘ Spitfire,’ lying at Simmonds’ Landing, preparing to sail for Kingston. Upon this they pushed in for shore, and so completely surprised them that very few of the enemy escaped. The fifteen bateaux and the gun-boats were at once seized, without a shot being fired on either side.

“Previous to the attack, Lieut. Perry of the Ninth and Sergeant James, of Forsyth’s company, with twenty-seven volunteers, were landed to cut off retreat. At nine A.M. the fleet landed in Cranberry creek, in Alexandria, and at eleven, sixty-nine prisoners were sent off to the harbor under guard of fifteen men of the 21st, in charge of Lieut. Burbank. The ‘Spitfire’ was armed with a twelve-pound carronade, and carried fourteen men, with a large quantity of military stores. The bateaux had 270 barrels of pork, and 270 bags of pilot bread, which was landed on the 20th, to prevent spoiling, and a request to the neighboring inhabitants for assistance was sent out, which brought a few militia, who, however, mostly left the same night. At sunrise on the 21st, the enemy to the number of 250, with four gun-boats and one or two transports, were discovered in the creek; these were met by thirty men, and attacked while landing; twenty more being stationed in different places to prevent their approach. A cannonade commenced and was kept up some time; two of the enemy’s boats were so injured from our fire that most of their crews were compelled to leave them, and to cut flags from the shore to stop the shot-holes. At 6 a.m. the enemy retired to their boats, and sent a flag with the demand of surrender to save the effusion of blood, which was instantly rejected, and the firing recommenced. It appeared that this was only an expedient to gain time, as the enemy hastily retreated, carrying their dead and wounded. Their loss must have been considerable, from the quantity of blood seen where they embarked. Our loss was three killed and wounded. After the action trees were felled across the road and creek to prevent a new attack, and on the afternoon of the next day, reinforcements arrived; the boats which had been scuttled were repaired, and on the 23d they left for Sacket’s Harbor, where they arrived on the 27th. While passing Tibbet’s Point they encountered the ‘Earl of Moira,’ were pursued and hit several times by her shot, but not captured. The gunboat and several bateaux were sunk without consulting Captains Dimick and Dixon, and the owners ultimately lost most that was gained by the expedition.”

Source:  Durant, Samuel W. and Henry B. Peirce. History of Jefferson County, New York, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1878. p 266-267.

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