Account Of The Attack, Published By The Borough Authorities


[From the Conn. Gazette, Sept. 7th,]

“Stonington Borough, Aug. 29, 1814.”

“Mr.” Green–In relation to the extraordinary attack of the enemy, of the 9th inst., on this village, the public have been furnished with various accounts; and though the circumstantial and generally correct account given in your paper [of the 7th of August,] precludes the necessity of a recapitulation of the whole transaction, yet this village having been the object of the attack and resentment of Sir Thomas, the Magistrates, Warden and Burgesses residing therein, feeling deeply interested that some official document comprehending a supply of some facts not given, and alteration of others, and a general statement relative to the whole, should be published,–offer the public the following statement:

On Tuesday afternoon of the 9th inst. anchored off our harbor, the frigate “Pactolus”, the “Terror”, a bomb ship, and the brig “Dispatch” of 20 guns. From the difficulty of the navigation in Fisher’s Island Sound, we have been generally impressed that such ships of war dare not approach us; but the presumption of the enemy has created new fears, and we think it our duty to say, that further means of defense and protection ought to be afforded us; this we have often requested. Various were the opinions respecting the object of the enemy, but soon all was settled. A flag was discovered to leave the frigate and row towards the town. The impropriety of suffering them to come on more was suggested; and a boat was immediately obtained, Capt. Amos Palmer, William Lord Esq., and Lieut. Hough of the detachment here, selected, and the flag of the enemy met by ours, when we received the following unexpected and short notice–(This not having been furnished the public correctly we give it at length:)

“His Britannic Majesty’s ship” PACTOLUS, “9th of August, 1814, halfpast 5 o’clock, P. M.”

Not wishing to destroy the unoffending inhabitants residing in the town of Stonington, one hour is given them from the receipt of this, to remove out of the town.

T. M. HARDY, “Capt. of H. B. M. Ship” RAMILIES.

“To the Inhabitants of the Town of Stonington.”

From the date of this communication it will appear that Commander Hardy was himself on board the Pactolus to direct the attack; the “Ramilies” then laying at anchor at the west end of Fisher’s Island. The people assembled in great numbers to hear what was the word from the enemy; when the above was read aloud. The enemy in the barge lay upon their oars a few moments, probably to see the crowd and if some consternation might not prevail. Whatever effect was produced, this we know, that Sir Thomas’s “unoffending inhabitants” did not agree to give up the ship, though threatened by a force competent, in a human view, to destroy them, when compared with the present means of defense in their power. It was exclaimed, from old and young, “We will defend”. The male citizens, though duly appreciating the humanity of Sir Thomas, in not wishing to destroy them, thought proper to defend their wives and their children, and, in many instances, all their property; and we feel a pleasure in saying that a united spirit of defense prevailed, and, during the short hour granted us, expresses were sent to Gen. Cushing at New London, and to Col. Randall,[15] whose regiment resided nearest to the scene of danger. The detachment stationed here under Lieut. Hough was embodied; Capt. Potter, residing within the Borough, gave orders to assemble all the officers and men under his command that could be immediately collected. They cheerfully and quickly assembled, animated with the true spirit of patriotism. The ammunition for our two 18-pounders and 4-pounder was collected at the little breast-work erected by ourselves. The citizens of the Borough, assisted by two strangers from Massachusetts, manned the 18-pounders at the breast-work, and also the 4-pounder. One cause of discouragement, only, seemed to prevail, which was the deficiency of ammunition for the cannon. This circumstance, however, together with the superior force arrayed against us, did not abate the zeal for resistance. Such guards of musketry as were in our power to place, were stationed at different points on the shores. In this state of preparation we waited the attack of the enemy. About 8 o’clock in the evening they commenced by the fire of a shell from the bomb-ship, which was immediately returned by a shot from our 18-pounder. This attack of the enemy was immediately succeeded by one from three launches and four barges, surrounding the point, throwing rockets and shot into the village. This also was returned as often as, by the light of the rockets streaming from the barges, we could discover them. Assisted by the above military force, the inhabitants alone, some seventy years old, defended the town until about 11 o’clock; and had it not been for the spirited resistance manifested, a landing no doubt, would have been effected. At this time Col. Randall had arrived, and having issued orders to the militia under his command, they began to assemble, and from the short notice given them were truly prompt and active in appearing at the post of danger: some volunteers had also arrived. From this additional strength, the apprehensions of the enemy’s landing, in a measure vanished. Their shells, rockets and carcasses, having been prevented from spreading the destruction intended, they ceased firing them about 12 o’clock. All was still from this time until day-light. A fire of rockets and shot from the launches and barges again commenced, which was spiritedly returned from our artillery taken from the breast-work, in open view of the enemy and exposed to their shot, on the end of the point, and they [were] compelled to recede. This truly hazardous service was nobly performed. Col. Randall having been prompt in his appearance, as were all the officers and soldiers of his regiment, they were now organized, ready and eager to receive our invaders. From the spirit manifested among the citizens, volunteers and soldiers, and the judicious arrangements made of the troops assembled, had a landing been attempted a good account would no doubt have been given of them. We were now also assisted by numbers of volunteers. The barges having receded from the fire of our four and eighteen-pounder on the Point, they were taken back to the breast-work.

About 8 o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, the Brig [“Dispatch”] hauled within half a mile of our breast-work, and opened a well directed and animated fire. Our few guns being now well manned by citizens and volunteers, from Stonington, New London, Mistick and Groton, they were ready to receive her. Her fire was returned with a spirit and courage rarely to be equaled,–and of those gallant souls who stood this conflict, we can only say, they gloriously did their duty. Heroes having so nobly acted, with ours, will receive the plaudit of their country. What effect such bravery had on the enemy, will appear from the fact, that the brig was compelled to cut her cable and retire out of reach of our shot. Her anchor has since been taken up, with a number of fathoms of cable. No attack was afterwards made by the brig. This contest with the brig (called the “Dispatch”), continued on our part from the breast-work until the ammunition was expended. To this circumstance, unfortunately for the village and mortifying to those so gallantly engaged in the defense, may be attributed the principal injury sustained by the buildings. For two hours or more, she kept up a constant fire without having it in our power to return a shot: during which time, we are confident, had there been a supply of ammunition, she would have been taught the use and meaning of her name.

The further particulars which transpired on Wednesday and Thursday, having been noticed by you, in the publication above referred to, very correctly, the public must be satisfied without any comments from us. In the publication of the transactions of Friday, we have discovered one error. Amidst the combined fire of the Ramilies, frigate and bomb-ship, Lieut. Lathrop and volunteers from the Norwich Artillery, in fact did proceed, to undertake in assisting to get off the cannon from the breast-work, but they met other brave lads who had accomplished this hazardous duty. The praise therefore of this performance, however they may have distinguished themselves in other duties, is not correctly bestowed.

In passing the proceedings of Thursday and Friday, we would not overlook the singular communication received from Commodore Hardy, which preceded the fire on Thursday. Two subjects esteemed very important by Sir Thomas seem connected, Torpedoes and Mrs. Stewart,–a lady we presume worthy of the notice even of Commodore Hardy. But a demand made on those with whom, it was well known, no power existed to comply, is not a little extraordinary: besides, this communication is totally different from and unconnected with the one it was sent as an answer to. It would appear from reading the documents, that assurances were given that no torpedoes ever did, or ever should, go from this place. This was not the fact; no promises or confessions of any kind were ever made. To this singular letter no general reply was given; that part, only, [was] noticed, relative to Mrs. Stewart.

The enemy left us on Friday, without having accomplished that destruction which they told us was to be effected. The damage done the buildings is estimated at about four thousand dollars. This would undoubtedly have been much greater, had not the volunteer vigilant firemen[16] from Capt. Potter’s company before mentioned, and others, continued firm at their posts, determined that not a flame kindled by those fiery engines of the enemy but should be extinguished,–and it was done. This duty, perhaps, was as important and useful for the salvation of the village, as any performed during the conflict.

The list of individuals given to the public as distinguishing themselves during the contest, we esteem very imperfect. To give a correct list of all those who did distinguish themselves in the various duties that were performed, is not easy to do; we shall therefore forbear. Having thought proper to bestow a just tribute of praise on the officers and soldiers of the 30th Regiment, who first arrived at the scene of action, it becomes us to express, also, the high sense which we entertain of the services and judicious and soldier-like conduct of Brigadier-General Isham, and the officers and soldiers of the 8th and 20th Regiments, assembled under his command.

During this protracted bombardment, nothing more excites our astonishment and gratitude than this, that not a man was killed on our part. We understand from good authority, the enemy had a number killed and several badly wounded,[17] in this unprovoked attack upon us.

We have made some estimate of the number of shells and fire carcasses thrown into the village, and we find there has been about three hundred. The amount of metal fired by the enemy will exceed, we think, fifty tons. About three or four tons of bombs, carcasses and shot have been collected.[A]



[Footnote A: “Some respectable citizens from motives of curiosity weighed several shells &c., and found their weight to be as follows.

One of the largest carcasses, partly full of the combustible, 216 lb. One of the smallest sort do. 103 One of the largest kind empty, 189 One of the largest bomb shells, 189 One of the smallest do. 90 One, marked on it (fire 16 lb) 16

One of the largest carcasses partly full, was set on fire, which burnt half an hour, emitting a horrid stench; in a calm the flame would rise ten feet. Some of the rockets were sharp pointed, others not, made of sheet iron very thick, containing at the lower end some of them a fusee of grenade, calculated to burst, and if they were taken hold of before the explosion, might prove dangerous; one or two persons received injury in this way. They appear to contain a greater variety of combustibles than the fire carcasses.]

Trumbull, J. Hammond. The Defence of Stonington (Connecticut) Against a British Squadron, August 9th to 12th, 1814. Hartford. 1864.

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