An Account of an Attack on Sacketts Harbor in 1812 - Written Sixty Years ago.

(Source: Watertown Re-Union Newspaper, June 3, 1880, p. 2)
(original spelling maintained)

Below is a description of an attack made by the British on Sacketts Harbor in 1812, nearly a year before the famous battle which is described in another column, written by a citizen, now deceased, of that place and who was a captain of the artillery company there. The ancient manuscript is yellow with age. It was kindly lent to the local editor of this paper by the family of the deceased writer.


The first engagement between the Americans and British was at Sacket's Harbor on the 19th July 1812.

Strange as it may appear, no official account of it was ever published altho' the Commanding Officer of the Artillery reported it to the Genl who was absent.

It appeared in the Papers, but in only one of the histories of the late War is any account of it to be found, and that an imperfect one.

The Militia Officer on duty discovered Five Sail of British Vessels at Break of day East of Stony Island. With all haste and no little trepidation he informed the Captn of the Village Artillery. For at that time not a single U. S. soldier had arrived at Sacket's Harbor. Three Alarm Guns were fired and the Pieces of Artillery marched at beat of Drum to the hill east of the village. Not a word was lisped but a serious and determined look emanated from each man's countenance, as much as to say, "Our country expects every man to do his duty." A fixed determination to do so, of defiance to the invading foe gleams from every eye. The company was composed chiefly of Farmer's sons in the neighborhood of Sackets Harbor who had never seen an Enemy. But the early Impressions of patriotic duty which they received from their Fathers who were soldiers of the Revolution nerved each arm in the defence of his country.

The insidious foe had released some Prisoners and sent in a message "That all they wanted was the Brig Oneida and the Lord Nelson, a prize that the Oneida had taken. That "they would burn the village if a single gun was fired at them." The released prisoners too, struck with the display of fifty-four guns mounted by the assailants, and witnessing but five on our side preparing for action, alleged, "That it would be of no use to make resistance." At these words never did I witness such a burst of indignation, and but for their hasty departure the men who uttered it would have met the fate of traitors.

On the day previous the artillery had mounted a 32 pounder on an elevated platform they had before constructed. While dragging it up the hill in a shower of rain they were cheered by a remark of their officer: "My boys, you had better do this in a shower of rain than in a shower of grape shot." And if it had been then omitted truly this prediction would have been verified. For there was barely time to prepare the cartridges, sponges and get ready before the fleet was within cannon shot range. The first shot was fired by us, and a man who was on the island where the lighthouse now stands, heard distinctly the laughter of the British at the supposed imbecile defence we were expected to make. The cannon balls, however, soon rolled amongst them and penetrated their sides so merrily that they soon had reason to think more seriously of the matter. And here I would notice an instance of sang froid equal to that of Marshal Ney's, when writing on the field of battle a cannon ball threw dirt on him, he cooly remarked to Bonaparte, "It was only sanding is paper." A 32 pound shot of the enemy's ploughed up the earth near one of our cannon. One of the sergeants caught it up as it was just spent and halloed to the enemy (in allusion to the play of ball) "Your're out, your're out," and so it shortly proved. For after a brisk canonade of twenty minutes the ship Royal George, which led the van of the fleet tacked ship on the retreat, and then her stearn presented a good opportunity to resent her affrontery. Crash went a shot through it, upsetting cannon, men, &c, and raking her "fore and aft" as the sailors express it. Up went the shout of joy from the hill. The music struck up "Yankee Doodle." Never, no never did I hear more heartfelt expressions of rejoicing than at that moment were manifested. The recollection of the scene and the men who were engaged in it will ever be dear to me.


Transcirber's note: Unfortunately no personal name was attached to this very interesting document.

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