First Battle of Sackets Harbor

On the morning of July 19th, 1812, just a month and one day after war had been declared, a British flotilla of five warships entered Black River Bay. Sackets Harbor was scarcely ready for an attack, having only one 32 pdr. shore battery erected the day before, and only 24 pdr. shot, but the villagers were determined to defend the harbor. Lt. Melanthon Woolsey, in command of the only US warship on Lake Ontario, the Oneida, tried to take to the lake, but strong winds prevented her from sailing. He instead tied her up below the shore battery, bringing her broadside to bear on the enemy, and offloading the remaining guns to the shore.

The shore battery was commanded by Elisha Camp's artillery militia. The main 32 pdr. was manned by Sailing Master William Vaughan. In order to use the big gun, he ordered that carpet be torn from village households and wrapped around the 24 pdr. shot. The effect was one of amusement to the British, who continued to tack their warships within range of the shore. Once in range, however, the big 32 pdrs of the Royal George began landing around Vaughan. Vaughan had them retrieved and began firing them back at the British. Within a few shots he zeroed in on the flagship, ripping her from stern to bow and killing eleven British.

The British lost the nerve to continue and turned sail for Kingston. No Americans were killed or wounded. In fact, a contemporary report said that “the only thing the British managed to break was the Sabbath.”

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  • Last modified: 2018/12/06 17:16
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