Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Period News Reports Shed Some Light on Pelham During the War of 1812

Early 19th century news reports shed a little light on Pelham during the War of 1812. Though it should come as no surprise, several such news items describe depredations by British ships in Long Island Sound around City Island and Hart Island, both of which were part of the Town of Pelham in those days. One such news item, transcribed below, appeared on September 18, 1813 in The Telegraph. It read:

"New York, September 8.
Yesterday a squadron of the enemy, consisting of two frigates and a sloop of war, (which we presume to be the Acasta, Orpheus, and Atalanta) came from their station at Gardner's-Island up to the head of Long-Island Sound, and captured a number of coasters and packets, some of them probably with valuable cargoes. Their barges and craft were up to City Island, 16 or 18 miles from this city, and the ships off Hempstead Bay, 5 r 6 miles beyond. The New-Haven packet Augusta, capt. Tall, which sailed yesterday, met a small sloop about 9 o'clock in the evening, from which 30 or 40 musket balls were fired at her, three of which pessed [sic] through her mainsail; when the sloup [sic] stood for another vessel, and the packet made her escape and returned this forenoon. A large number of vessels were in fight at the time, flying for shelter or harbor in every direction. It was said that 8 or 10 were seen taken possession of by the enemy, but no certain account of their names is received.

This increased restriction upon our coasting trade has excited much alarm in this city, and flying artillery have received orders to start instantly for the scene of danger. We cannot suppose, however, that the enemy will remain in this quarter. If nothing but the Valiant is left off New-London, commodore Decatur will have an opportunity of going to sea, attacking the 74. or following the squadron up the Sound & engaging them, if they remain long enough so give him notice of their situation.


Source: Enemy at Hand, The Telegraph, Sep. 18, 1813, Vol. II, Issue 57, p. 3, col. 1.

Another such article printed at about the same time says the following:

"September 9.
The Enemy.
A letter dated at Horse Neck, on Tuesday evening, states that four British ships of war were in sight of that place the whole day. One of them on that evening was a far down as Captain's Islands, near Rye. They have captured 7 or 8 sail of coasters -- one of them the sloop Elvira, bound to Hartford -- the captain of which vessel finding that he must be taken, took to his boat with the crew, and got ashore.

Other accounts mention, that two of the frigates had been as far as Sands' Point, and were standing down with 8 prizes in company.

On Tuesday at half past 6, a gentleman saw from the top of a house at Westchester, two frigates, a sloop of war, and 8 sloops their prizes -- at the same time 7 or 8 sail were standing towards them, supposed to have been captured by their boats.

Returned, the sloop Clio, Jones, bound to Stamford; the sloop Diana, Pearsall, bound to Fairfield; the packet Agusta [sic], Tolles, bound to New-Haven, with a valuable cargo -- and several others. By these vessels we learn, that there is a British frigate and a sloop of war about 12 or 14 miles above Sands' point, where they anchored at sunset on Tuesday evening, having, according to the different reports, captured between 20 and 30 sail of coasters most of which were at anchor alongside the frigate. The Augusta was chased at 10 o'clock on Tuesday evening by an armed smack to within a mile of City Island, and received several shot through her sails, &c. but made her escape by the smack's pursuing two other sloops which she had a chance of cutting off.

The enemy were at anchor yesterday at Tinicock Point, about 30 miles from this City.

They landed a number of men from their barges in the neighborhood of Rye, and carried off a number of sheep. The militia were assembling to oppose any further attempts to land, A company of flying artillery left this city yesterday for Westchester.

We learn by the passengers in the stage arrived last evening from Boston, that the shps [sic] of war off Tinicock are the Acasta frigate and Atalanta sloop of war."

Source: The Enemy, Connecticut Journal, Sep. 13, 1813, Vol. XLVI, Issue 2394, p. 2, col. 5.

This period seems to have been one of much alarm in lower Westchester County including the Town of Pelham. Yet another similar item appeared in the September 11 issue of Voice of Nation. It read:

"NEW-YORK, Sept. 9.

Latest from the Enemy's Squadron, in the Sound.

Yesterday morning, a British frigate and a sloop of war, were at anchor off Rye Neck, about ten miles above New Rochelle, in the middle of the Sound where they remained at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, becalmed, with six sloops and schooners, (their prizes) at anchor astern of them, and several tenders cruizing [sic] about the Sound, two of which, apparently smacks, were several miles this side of New Rochelle. In the morning at eleven o'clock, the enemy had nine sloops and schooners at anchor astern of rhem [sic], all of which were supposed to be prizes.

A gentleman from Mamaroneck, informed us that the enemy made 30 prizes on Tuesday afternoon, 20 of which they sent off to the eastward; and that the same evening, they sent their barges ashore in the neighbourhood of Mamaroneck, and stole from 60 to 80 sheep. A sloop was also chased into Mamaroneck, by one of the tenders, and escaped without any other damage than a shot through the mainsail. A sloop that had made a harbour in Stamford, was cut out by one of the tenders, who fired a volley of musquetry at several gentlemen who were walking on the beach, but fortunately did not hit them.

We have not been able to learn the names of the vessels captured, but understand one is a Rhode Island Packet, and another sloop belonging to Hartford.

We are informed, that a gun brig and a frigate, are cruizing [sic] about ten miles to the eastward of Rye Neck.

The inhabitants from Haerlem to Stamford are considerably alarmed, and the militia have turned out with the greatest alacrity -- they are, however, in want of small arms, artillery and ammunition which is not to be had in their neighborhood, in consequence of which, we understand, they have made application to the commanding officer of this city for the necessary supplies, which we presume will be readily granted.

We likewise understand that the gunboat Flotilla are bound up sound, and are confident, if they meet the enemy in a similar situation to that of yesterday, they could be able to give a very satisfactory account of him.

A company of mounted artillery, with two pieces of cannon, left this city yesterday afternoon, for New Rochelle, and arrived at Haerlem about sun down.

In addition to the above, a friend has favoured us with a letter from Huntington, dated the 7th inst. of which the following is an extract:

'Yesterday we were alarmed by the arrival at 11 o'clock, of two British ships of war off our harbour, one of which was seen to capture the Packet Amazon, captain J. Conklin, the other stood to the westward, opposite Hog Island, and at sun set, off Lloyds Neck, was seen to capture five sloops.

'Three other ships (supposed to be British) were at the same time discovered several miles to the eastward, and we have no doubt, but the Sound will be closely blockaded as low down as Sand's Point, which will make it very hazardous for any coasters to attempt to pass the sound.

'We are all under arms, and have sent a guard to the Sound shore, to watch the movements of the enemy, who will give a good account of him should he attempt to land.

'Among the passengers on board the Amazon, were several ladies, Mr. John Slesson, Mr. John Graham, a lieutenant in the U. States' army, and Mr. Stephen Ketchum.'"

Source: New-York, Sept. 9. Latest from the Enemy's Squadron, in the Sound, Voice of the Nation, Sep. 11, 1813, Vol. 1, Issue 13, p. 3, col. 1.

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