Letter From Capt. Amos Palmer To The Secretary Of War

[From Niles’s Weekly Register, Oct. 21, 1815.]


The defense of Stonington by a handful of brave citizens was more like an effusion of feeling, warm from the heart, than a concerted military movement. The result of it, we all know, and it afforded sincere delight to every patriot. But the particulars we have never seen so accurately described as in the following concise narrative from the chairman of the committee of defense, to the Secretary of War, of which we have been provided with a copy for publication.–“Nat. Intelligencer.”

“Stonington Borough, Aug. 21, 1815. To the Hon. Wm. H. Crawford, Secretary of War.


The former Secretary of War put into my hands, as chairman of the committee of defense, the two 18-pounders and all the munitions of war that were here, belonging to the general government, to be used for the defense of the town,–and I gave my receipt for the same.

As there is no military officer here, it becomes my duty to inform you [of] the use we have made of it. That on the 9th of August last [year], the “Ramilies” 74, the “Pactolus” 44, the “Terror” bomb-ship, and the “Despatch” gun brig, anchored off the harbor. Commodore Hardy sent off a boat, with a flag; we met him with another from the shore, when the officer of the flag handed me a note from Commodore Hardy, informing that one hour was given the unoffending inhabitants, before the town would be destroyed.

We returned to the shore, where all the male inhabitants were collected, when I read the note aloud; they all exclaimed, they would defend the place to the last extremity, and if it was destroyed, they would be buried in the ruins.

We repaired to a small battery that we had hove up–nailed our colors to the flag staff–others lined the shore with their muskets.

At about seven in the evening, they put off five barges and a large launch, carrying from 32 to 9 lb. carronades in their bows, and opened their fire from their shipping, with bombs, carcasses, rockets, round, grape and cannister shot, and sent their boats to land under cover of their fire. We let them come within small grape distance, when we opened our fire upon them, from our two 18-pounders, with round and grape shot. They soon retreated out of grape distance, and attempted a landing on the east side of the village; we dragged a six-pounder that we had mounted over, and met them with grape, and all our muskets opened fire on them, so that they were willing to retreat the second time. They continued their fire ’till 11 at night.

The next morning at seven o’clock, the brig “Despatch” anchored within pistol shot of our battery, and they sent five barges and two large launches to land under cover of their whole fire (being joined by the “Nimrod” 20 gun brig). When the boats approached within grape distance, we opened our fire on them with round and grape shot. They retreated and came round the east side of the town. We checked them with our six pounder and muskets, ’till we dragged over one of our 18 pounders. We put in it a round shot and about 40 or 50 lbs. of grape, and placed it in the centre of their boats as they were rowing up in a line and firing on us. We tore one of their barges all in pieces; so that two, one on each side, had to lash her up, to keep her from sinking. They retreated out of grape distance, and we turned our fire upon the brig, and expended all our cartridges but five, which we reserved for the boats, if they made another attempt to land. We then lay four hours without being able to annoy the enemy in the least, except from muskets on the brig, while the fire from the whole fleet was directed against our buildings. After the third express to New London, some fixed ammunition arrived. We then turned our cannon on the brig, and she soon cut her cable and drifted out.

The whole fleet then weighed, and anchored nearly out of reach of our shot, and continued this and the next day to bombard the town.

They set the buildings on fire in more than twenty places, and we as often put them out. In the three days’ bombardment they sent on shore 60 tons of metal, and, strange to say, wounded only one man, since dead. We have picked up 15 tons, including some that was taken up out of the water, and the two anchors that we got.[18] We took up and buried four poor fellows that were hove overboard out of the sinking barge.

Since peace, the officers of the “Despatch” brig have been on shore here: they acknowledge they had 21 killed, and 50 badly wounded; and further say, had we continued our fire any longer, they should have struck, for they were in a sinking condition: for the wind then blew at S. W. directly into the harbour. Before the ammunition arrived, it shifted round to north, and blew out of the harbour. All the shot suitable for the cannon we have reserved. We have now more 18 pound shot than was sent us by government. We have put the two cannon in the arsenal, and housed all the munitions of war.”

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

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