Saturday, May 30, 2015

HMS Sappho Takes Saucy Jack's Prize

I missed this bit of information on the Sappho.

On July 17, 1813, the Sappho recaptured the Eliza, which had been captured three days earlier by the American privateer Saucy Jack.  It took the Eliza to Jamaica.

This is the privateer that was wrecked at St. Marys by the September 17, 1813 hurricane that did so much damage.

The Sappho also captured the Sisters near Totugas.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Gunboats 161 and 164

From the St. Marys Gunboat Project site.

GUNBOAT NO..161 was built at Charleston, South Carolina, by J. marsh in 1810.  It mounted one long 32-pdr and two 18-pdrs.  It was first sent to St. Simons and then to St. Marys in 1811 and again in March 1813.  It was sunk by the September 17, 1813 hurricane and all hands were saved.

GUNBOAT NO. 164 was built in Beaufort, South Carolina, by F. Saltus in 1810.  It mounted one long 32-pdr. and two 12-pdrs.  Sent to St. Marys in 1811 and sunk there by the September 17, 1813 hurricane with only 6 of the 26-man crew saved.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

St. Marys Gunboat Project-- Part 2

State Representative Cecily Hill, R-St. Marys, plans to introduce a resolution at Georgia's General Assembly when it convenes in January to create awareness of Georgia's role in the War of 1812, especially for her district.

The project's organizers say they have "a good idea" of the ships' location, but decline to say where to preserve the wreck sites for formal underwater excavation and to protect against looters.  They also know a couple areas where the ships definitely are not located.

Research indicates that the entire crew of Gunboat No. 161 were rescued, but 20 of 26 crew of Gunboat No. 164 went down with their ship (which would make it a war grave).  An attempt to raise the ships took place in November 1813, but was unsuccessful.

Jason Burris, deputy state underwater archaeologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says he believes the St. Marys group has a 50-50 chance of finding the gunboats.

Here's Hoping They Find Them.  --Bock-Perry

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

St. Marys Gunboat Project Hopes to Locate and Acquire Artifacts-- Part 1

From the December 8, 2005, Florida Times Union "St. Marys Group Floats Scheme to Search for Gunboats That Sank; the Two Boats Went Down During a Hurricane That Struck Coast of Georgia in 1813" by Gordon Jackson.

Two Jeffersonian gunboats were ported at the battery of Point Peter in what is today the town of St. Marys, Georgia.  Recent archaeological excavation at the battery has yielded much information of its use as a Navy base before and during the War of 1812 (important for its location right on the border of Florida).  It also verifies that St. Marys was the site of the last battle of the War of 1812.

Now, a group of area residents have formed the St. Marys Gunboat Project to search for two gunboats that were sunk there by a hurricane in 1813.  Hopes are for locating them and raising any artifacts they may still contain


The Georgia-Florida Hurricane of 1813-- Part 3

Gunboats 161 and 164 were sunk in the St. Marys River in four fathoms.  Gunboat 164 went down with 20 men.  Efforts were made to recover these two but were unsuccessful.

Gunboat No. 64 sank while at anchor and later refloated.  It was deemed "rotten and unworthy of repair" and given to the man who raised her.  Gunboat No. 3 was driven ashore 500 yards into a marsh on the Florida side.  It was later raised and became a hospital ship.

The locations of 161 and 164 are generally known and plans are underway to attempt to locate them and bring up any artifacts that are found.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Georgia-Florida Hurricane of 1813-- Part 2

The 16-17 September 1813 hurricane was part of an especially bad hurricane season in 1813.  Hurricanes were particularly active along the North Atlantic and two really bad storms hit the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  The other one hit 27 August of that year.

The Hurricane of 16-17 approached landfall from the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea and pounded north Florida and south Georgia.

The renowned Charleston privateer Saucy Jack was at St. Marys, Georgia, with the gunboats and was in the process of preparing to sail.  It was hit and driven into the marsh and left high and dry five feet above the low water mark..  And, it had a draft of 14 feet.


Monday, May 25, 2015

The Georgia-Florida Hurricane of 1813-- Part 1

From My Home Page War of 1812 in Georgia "The Hurricane of 1813"

The hurricane that his the Georgia-Florida Line (hey, that band played at the Indy 500 this past Saturday) on September 16-17, 1813 was a major meteorological event and would most likely be rated a Category 3 hurricane by today's modern standards.

It cause at least a 17-foot storm surge up the St. Marys River and hit the port of St. Marys, Georgia, and Camden County where Gunboat No. 168 and five other gunboats were stationed.  It pretty well destroyed the small American flotilla.

Three gunboats were sunk in the harbor, two others run ashore and, as I have already said, No. 168 was driven ashore seven miles inland, where it came to rest in the marsh at the foot of Harriet's Bluff.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

U.S. Gunboat No. 168-- Part 3: Big Old Hurricane

From My Home page War of 1812 in Georgia.

If 168 was built to protect North Carolina, it certainly was stationed there.  Apparently it was mostly in Georgia and Florida waters during its service.

Still stationed on the Georgia-Florida border over a year later, it was among the American squadron battered by an epic hurricane 16-17 September 1813.  Six U.S. Navy gunboats were sunk or run aground in the St. Marys River as a result of it.

Four were recovered and two, No. 161 and No. 164 are still,believed to be somewhere at the bottom of the river.  Efforts are being made to find these two ships.

Gunboat No. 168 was dismasted and driven ashore seven miles inland by the storm surge at the marsh by Harriets Bluff.  It was recovered, repaired and returned to service.

It would have been interesting to find out how they were able to move the ship so far.


U.S. Gunboat No. 168-- Part 2: First, Last and a Hurricane

I am unable to find out any more about the battle between the Sappho and 168, however.

From NC1812.

Gunboat No. 168 was built at Wilmington, N.C., one of three Jeffersonian gunboats built there to defend the state as fears of war with Britain grew.  In March 1808, the U.S. Navy issued contracts to shipbuilder Amos Perry to build three gunboats.  They were Nos. 166, 167 and 168.  Jeffersonian gunboats were only numbered and no names given to them (other than 166 which later became known as the USS Alligator).

On March 13, 1812, so, you could say that it fired the first naval shots of the War of 1812.  It is also given credit for firing the last shots of the naval war as well on 16th March 1815.

In 1813 it was driven ashore by a hurricane.


U.S. Gunboat No. 168-- Part 1: Built for Defense

Back on May 18th, I wrote about a brief engagement between the HMS Sappho and an undermatched U.S. Gunboat No. 168 off Fernadina, Florida, which took place on March 13, 1812, several months before the War of 1812 began in June.

From NC1812 site by Jim Greathouse.

Gunboat No. 168 was one of three (Nos. 166, 167 and 168) built for defense of the North Carolina coast as war with Britain approached.  Jum Greathouse has written a detailed history of Gunboat No. 166.

The Jeffersonian gunboats as they were often called were small warships intended just for defense that President Thomas Jefferson preferred because of their small cost to build and operate as opposed to the superfrigates like the USS Constitution.

He has noy yet done an article on the 168, but the stats on 166 were that it was 60 feet long, 80 tons and mounted two 6-pdr. guns instead of the one 24-pdr. or 32-pdr. as called for in the contract.  The 168 was probably similar.  Not too surprising that its short exchange of shots with the 18-gun HMS Sappho was so one-sided.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The HMS Sappho-- Part 4: After the War of 1812

The Sappho recaptured the brig San Francisco Navier on 3 December and on 1 Jan. 1814, captured the Ann.  After that it underwent repairs at Chatham in 1815 and was recommissioned in 1818.

After that it was involved in stopping the smuggling trade.  On 13 August 1820 it captured the American vessel Liberty and August 14th, the Clinton  On 12 October 1820, it captured the American schooner Maria smuggling 400 bales of tobacco.

On 14 September 1824, the Sappho arrived in Halifax with some damage from a storm and was stranded on Sisters Rocks.  The incoming tide floated her.  On September 25th, she arrived at Quebec and shortly afterwards was wrecked on the Canadian coast and condemned.

It was broken up in Halifax in 1830.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

USS Caroline-- Part 2

But, whether or not the Caroline was involved in the Sappho chase, it did have a War of 1812 history, one that included giving General Andrew Jackson the time to prepare New Orleans for the attack in 1815.

It sailed to New Orleans and captured the British schooner Shark before arriving 23 August 1814.  Its duties there were to watch for the British and attack the numerous pirates in the area.  On 16 September 1814, it destroyed pirate Jean LaFitte's base at Baratana in Louisiana.

The Caroline and small American squadron at New Orleans played a big role in delaying the British in their move against New Orleans in December 1814, giving General Andrew Jackson time to prepare the city's defenses.

On December 23, the Caroline dropped downriver and shelled the British, but on December 27th, it engaged them and was set afire by heated shot causing her crew ti abandon ship before it exploded.


USS Caroline-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

I'd never heard of the USS Caroline which I mentioned fought the HMS Sappho in yesterday's post so good old Wiki to the rescue.

The USS Caroline was a schooner commissioned 4 June 1813, 89 feet long and mounting three long 9-pdr. cannons and twelve 12-pdr. carronades.

It is the only ship in the U.S. Navy ever named for the British colony which eventually became North and South Caroline and was built in Charleston, S.C., and bought by the Navy while still on the stocks.

The other Wikipedia article reported the date of its fight with the HMS Sappho as being 20 June 1813, which would have made the chase just 16 days after commissioning.  However, there was no mention of the battle with the Sappho in this entry.  Perhaps this is a mistake or incorrect date.  I also did not find the fight anywhere else on the internet.

Maybe a Different Ship Vs. the Sappho?  --Brock-Perry

Monday, May 18, 2015

HMS Sappho-- Part 3: War of 1812

The engagement with Gunboat No. 168 took place before the war between the United States and Britain was declared.

However, the Sappho served well for the rest of the real war.

Between August 21 and November 26, 1812, the Sappho had a very successful prize-taking cruise off the U.S. coast when it captured nine ships.

On 20 June 1813, the USS Carolina was chasing a British 14-gun privateer when a ship believed to be the HMS Sappho hove into view.  Then the two British ships gave chase to the Caroline, which was able to draw away and escape after two tense hours.


HMS Sappho-- Part 2: Battle With Gunboat No. 168

The Sappho was commissioned in 1807.  On March 13, 1812, it fired shots at U.S. Navy Gunboat No. 168at Fernadina, Florida, several months before the War of 1812 was declared.  The Sappho had intervened at Fernadina to enable the loyalist merchant vessel Fernando (or Fernandeno) to leave the port of Fernadina, Florida.

This was a very mismatched battle with the Sappho having a huge gunnery edge and Gunboat No. 168 soon drew out of range.  With the 168's withdrawal, several other merchant ships were able to escape from Fernadina.

With U.S, President James Madison and Georgia Governor George Matthews approval, a group calling themselves the Patriots of Amelia Island had seized the island and Fernadina and at first raised their flag, but then the American one.

American gunboats under the command of Commander Hugh Campbell helped maintain control of the island and locked down the port, causing the Sappho's intervention.


HMS Sappho-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Back on May 12th, i mentioned the HMS Sappho getting into a fight with Gunboat No. 168 of the U.S. Navy at Fernadina.

Here is some more information on the HMS Sappho.

It was a Cruizer-class brig-sloop, 100 feet long, 30-foot beam with 121 crew and mounting sixteen 32-pdr. carronades cannon and two 6-pdr. bowchasers.

It was built by Jabez Bailey at Ipswich and launched in 1806 and took part i the Napoleonic Wars.  It defeated the Danish brig Admiral Yawl in single ship action during the Gunboat War and had a very successful prize-taking two month voyage against the United States in the War of 1812.

It was wrecked off the Canadian coast in 1825 and broken up in 1830.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The U.S. Military Academy in the War of 1812

From Wikipedia.

Yesterday, I mentioned that there was the possibility that Thomas Adam Smith was appointed to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, but I wasn't sure when that institution came into being.

The USMA was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1810 who authorized its establishment.  It officially began operations on 4 July 1802.  The first person, Joseph Gardner Swift, graduated in October of that year.

In the early years, however, there were few standards.  Cadets ranged in age from 10 to 37 and attended anywhere from six months to six years.

The impending War of 1812 caused the U.S. Congress to authorize a more formal; system of education and the size of the Corps of cadets was raised to 250.

So, Thomas Smith would have been among the first to graduate from the USMA.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Thomas A. Smith, U.S. Army in Patriot War-- Part 2

At the close of the War of 1812, he was assigned to command the Ninth Military District at St. Louis and served until he resigned in 1818.  After his military career, he settled in Saline County, Missouri where he died June 25, 1844.

Fort Smith, Arkansas, founded 1817,  is named after him.  It served as a major U.S. fort during the 1800s and was quite involved with Indian dealings and in the Civil War was occupied by both Confederates and later Union forces.

The town that grew up around it, Fort Smith, is the second largest city in the state of Arkansas.


Thomas A. Smith, U.S. Army in Patriot War-- Part 1

From the site.

On Wednesday, I blogged about the First Regiment of U.S. Riflemen being commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas A. Smith in the attack on Fort Mose outside St. Augustine, Florida.

Thomas Smith was born in Essex County, Virginia in 1781 and his family later moved to Wilkes County, Georgia (also an area tied up with the George Matthews, governor of Georgia and commander of the Patriots).

He was appointed from Georgia (no mention of appointed to what, but here I imagine he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point) and promoted to 2nd lieutenant in 1803.  Smith advanced through the ranks to Lt. Colonel by 1810 and was appointed to the rank of colonel while doing duty in Florida.

After Florida, he joined General Harrison's army and served in the Armies of the North, rising to the rank of brigadier general in January 1814.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fort Mose Historic State Site, Florida-- Part 3

A wall was built around the settlement with dwellings inside it.  An earthen fort was also constructed.

It is believed that Fort Mose's existence was a big reason for the South Carolina Stono Rebellion in September 1739.

In 1740, James Oglethorpe led a retaliatory British attack and siege on Fort Mose, but was defeated by a combined force of Spanish, Indians and free black militia.  The fort, however, was destroyed and Oglethorpe retreated back to Georgia.  The Fort Mose inhabitants then stayed in St. Augustine until 1752 when the fort was rebuilt and blacks relocated there.

East Florida was ceded to the British by the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years War (French and Indian in North America) in 1763 and most blacks around St. Augustine migrated to Cuba which was still a Spanish possession.  At that time it was estimated that the black population of Fort Mose and St. Augustine numbered around 3,000 with about 1/4 being free.


Fort Mose State Historic Site, Florida-- Part 2

The Spanish began offering asylum to slaves from the British colonies as early as 1687.  In 1693, they proclaimed that runaway slaves could be free in Florida if they converted to the Catholic religion and gave four years of military service.

Spain planned essentially to use the blacks as a buffer between St. Augustine and an English attack from the north.

In 1738, Fort Mose was built and escaped slaves directed there on arrival.  Its leader wasan African-European Creole named Francisco Menendez.

Fort Mose was the very first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what eventually became the United States and eventually had 100 people.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fort Mose Historic State Park, Florida-- Part 1

From Wikipedia.

Originally known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose and a U.S. National Historic Landmark since Oct. 12, 1994. located two miles north of St. Augustine, Florida.  Also known as Fort Moosa or Fort Mossa after the Spanish pronunciation.

The original site of the 18th century fort and settlement was uncovered in a 1986 archaeological dig.  Twenty-four acres now administered by the Florida State Parks and the premier site on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.

In 1738, the Spanish colonial government established it as a free black settlement.


The Patriot War and Fort Mose-- Part 2

In March, these forces seized Fernadina on Amelia Island, right on the Georgia border.  Next order of business was to capture St. Augustine, further south.

On April 12, 1812, the First Regiment of U.S. Riflemen under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas A. Smith, occupied Fort Moosa (Fort Mose) near St. Augustine.  The Spanish attacked and drove Smith back to an encampment further from St. Augustine.

On May 11, 1812, the Spanish set fire to the fort to prevent it being reoccupied by the Americans in another attempt at taking St. Augustine.


The Patriot War and Fort Mose-- Part 1

From the site.

Beginning January 1811, a clandestine attempt was made by the United States to take Florida from its Spanish rulers.  A secret Act was passed by Congress "to enable the President of the United States, under certain contingencies, to take possession of the country lying east of the river Perdido, and south of the State of Georgia and the Mississippi Territory [East Florida] and for other purposes."

U.S. citizens in Georgia were recruited to start an apparent rebellion in Spanish settlements.  This was done to provide a pretext for U.S. troops to be sent in to restore order.

Only, they were to remain there and claim the land for the country.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 9: Fort Mose

The blacks who fought the Patriots mentioned in post #7 were from Fort Mose, located about two miles north of Augustine (pronounced Mos-say).  It was established in 1738 as a free black settlement and is a historical site today.


Monday, May 11, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 8: Occupation of Fernadina

On 15 May 1812, the British brig HMS Sappho fired on Gunboat No. 168 which had fired on a loyalist merchant vessel in Fernadina to prevent her from leaving.  Outgunned, the American gunboat withdrew from the area and this enabled other vessels to escape.

Spanish pressure caused the American government to withdraw its support and the Patriots withdrew from Amelia Island and Fernadina in 1813.  To prevent this from happening again, the Spanish erected Fort San Carlos on the island in 1816.


The Republic of Florida

From the Florida Memory Blog.

In March 1812 a group of Georgia settlers organized themselves as the Patriot Army and had the defacto support of the U.S. government for the invasion of Spanish East Florida where they hoped to get settlers there to join the cause and proclaim their independence from Spain.  Once this was accomplished, it was the Patriots intention to transfer control of their new republic over to the United States.

They seized Fernadina, on the northeast corner of the Spanish colony without firing a shot. Their next target was to be St. Augustine, farther south.  They approached the Spanish city but couldn't get it to surrender.

Over the next several months, the Patriots fought several skirmishes against the Spanish. the Seminoles and their black allies.

They abandoned the project in early 1813.

Florida remained in Spanish hands for now.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 7: The Patriot War

The beginning of the so-called Patriot War, with the complete approval of U.S. President Madison happened on March 13, 1812 when Georgia George Matthews insurgents known as the "Patriots of Amelia Island" seizing Amelia Island and Fernadina on Amelia island in Spanish Florida.

They raised the Patriot flag, but soon replaced it with the flag of the United States.

American gunboats, under the command of Commodore Hugh Campbell maintained control.


Friday, May 8, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 6: George Matthews, Leading the East Florida Republic,

As governor, he confronted problems with the Indians.  he eventually moved to the Mississippi Territory and was involved in some dealings that may or may nor have been straight up.

As war with Britain loomed, Matthews was commissioned by President Madison to encourage and East Florida rebellion against their Spanish owners in an attempt to annex the land to the United States.  His forces captured Fernadina, Florida, in March 1812 (before war was declared against Britain) and he was in the process of organizing an attack on St. Augustine when Madison recalled him.

Matthews immediately left Fernadina for Washington, D.C., to confront the president, but he died along the way in Augusta and was buried in the cemetery of St. Paul Episcopal Church.

This Man Deserves a Biography About His Life.  --Brock-Perry

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 5: George Matthews, Georgia Governor

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

In the last post I mentioned a General George Matthews leading the capture of Fernadina and Amelia Island.  I looked him up and he had an interesting career and life.

Born in Virginia, he was a veteran of the American Revolution and colonel of the 9th Virginia whose members were all either killed or captured at the Battle of Germantown in Pennsylvania.  After that, Matthews spent time as a POW until September of 1781 when he was released and rejoined Washington's Army and posted to Georgia and South Carolina.

While there, he bought a sizable tract of land in Georgia and became quite wealthy and involved in politics, eventually serving as state legislator, member of Congress and governor.

More to Come.  --Brock-Perry

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 4: Capture of Fernadina

Fernadina, on Amelia Island, just south of the St. Marys River was an important port.  General George Matthews sent nine ships to protect American interests there.  The  small Spanish force commanded by Don Jose Copens was forced to surrender on March 17, 1812.

An agreement was signed to allow Fernadina to be a free port, open to all, but should war begin between the U.S. and Britain, British ships could not trade there.


Monday, May 4, 2015

The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 3: Beachin' It at PCB

As I sit here typing away overlooking the Gulf of Mexico here in Panama City Beach on a perfect spring day with blue skies, sun, a slight breeze and all that blue and light green water just about 100 yards away, I think it appropriate to delve into the role that Florida played during the War of 1812.

Thunder on the Beach, the annual spring motorcycle gathering just ended.  Bikers are kind of like a modern day Conquistadores.

Try not to disturb the noisy gulls and every so often a pelican flying by.

Earlier this week, we were by the St. Mary's River as well as Jacksonville and its beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.  And, we are not but about 80 miles from Pensacola which also played a role.  We also spent a night in St. Augustine which actually came under attack by forces from the Republic of Florida.


The War of 1812 in Florida-- Part 2: The Republic of Florida

From the Exploring Florida site, War of 1812.

As relations between Britain and the United States worsened in the years  leading up to the war, the U.S.government began to fear that Britain would just seize Florida from Spain and use it as a base of operation against them.  President Madison tried unsuccessfully to get Spain to cede Florida to the United States.

Even before the war started there was a movement to form the Republic of Florida along the banks of the St. Marys (which separated Florida from Georgia).  They decided to act on the Florida question immediately and moved against the Spanish.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Florida's Role in the War of 1812-- Part 1: Early and Late

Florida was still a part of Spain during the war.

But, already, the United States was essentially looking to annex it (much the same as it intended to do with British North America, Upper and Lower Canada).

There was also the nascent Republic of Florida.

Florida's biggest role in the war occurred early on, in 1812 and then right at the end of it, around the St. Marys River.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Georgia in the War: British Blockade-- Part 3

The state of georgia then undertook its own defense of its shoreline and built batteries and fortifications at key locations, including Old Fort Morris at Sunbury (left over from the American Revolution) which was rebuilt and named Fort Defiance.  The battery at Point Peter in St. Marys was developed as well as other sites.

However, there were no serious British efforts to attack Georgia until late 1814 after Napoleon's defeat.

This involved the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island which I have written a lot about in previous post.


Georgia in the War: British Blockade-- Part 2

Georgia citizens clamored for help from the U.S. government which finally came as a naval expedition in the summer and fall of 1812.  This came to Sudbury, Georgia, to use its deep harbor as a staging area for several armed barges/gunboats.  They were to ply the intercoastal waters between Savannah and St. Marys on the Florida border to thwart any British attempts to attack.

The expedition, however, was a failure because of poor planning, negligent leadership and a lack of supplies.