United States Ship SARATOGA, Plattsburg-Bay
Lake Champlain, Sept 12 1814
The painful task of making you acquainted
with the the circumstances attending the capture of his
Majesty's squadron yesterday, by that of the Americans
under Commodore M'Donough, it grieves me to state,
becomes my duty to perform, from the ever-to-be-lamented
loss of that worthy and gallant officer, Captain Downie,
who unfortunately fell early in the action.
In consequence of the
earnest solicitation of his Excellency, Sir G. Prevost,
for the co-operation of the naval force on this Lake to
attack that of the enemy, who were placed for support of
their works at Plattsburg, which it was proposed should
be stormed by the troops, at the same moment the naval
action should commence in the bay; every possible
exertion was used to accelerate the armament of the new
ship, that the military movements might not be postponed
at such an advanced season of the year, longer than was
On the 3rd inst. I
was directed to proceed in command of the flotilla of
gun-boats to protect the left flank of our army advancing
towards Plattsburg, and, on the following day, after
taking possession and patrolling the Isle La Motte, I
caused a battery of three long 18-pdr guns to be
constructed for the support of our position abreast of
Little Chazey, where the supplies for the army were
ordered to be landed.
The fleet came up on the 8th inst , but for the want of
stores for the equipment of the guns, could not move
foreward until the 11th; at daybreak we weighed, and at
seven were in full view of the enemy's fleet; consisting
of a ship, brig, schooner, and one sloop, moored in line
abreast of their encampment, with a division of five
gun-boats on each flank; at forty minutes past seven,
after the officers commanding vessels and the flotilla
had received their final instructions as to the plan of
attack, we made sail in order of battle. Capt. Downie had
determined on laying his ship athwart-hawse of the
enemy's directing Lieut. M'Ghee (
At eight the enemy's
gunboats and smaller vessels commenced a heavy and
galling fire on our line; at ten minutes after eight, the
CONFIANCE having two anchors shot away from her larboard
bow, and the wind baffling was obliged to anchor (though
not in the situation proposed), within two cable's length
of her adversary; the LINNET and the CHUBB soon after
took their alloted stations, something short of that
distance, when the crews on both sides cheered and
commenced a spirited and close action; a short time,
however, deprived me of the valuable services of Lieut.
M'Ghee, who, from having his cables, bowsprit and
main-boom shot away, drifted within the enemy line and
was obliged to surrender.
From the light airs
and the smoothness of the water, the fire on both sides
proved very destructive from the commencement of the
engagement, and with the exception of the brig, that of
the enemy seemed united against the CONFIANCE. After two
hours severe conflict with our opponents she cut her
cable, run down and took shelter between the ship and the
schooner, which enabled us to direct our fire against the
division of the enemy gun-boats and ship, which had so
long annoyed us during our close engagement with the brig
without any return on our part; at this time the fire of
the enemy ship slackened considerably, having several of
her guns dismounted, when she cut her cable, and winded
her larboard broadside to bear on the CONFIANCE, who, in
vain, eneavoured to effect the same operation; at
thirty-three minutes after two, I was much distressed to
see that the CONFIANCE had struck her colours.
The whole attention of
the enemy force then became directed towards the LINNET,
the shattered and disabled state of the masts, sails,
rigging and yards, precluded the most distant hope of
being able to effect an escape by cutting the cable; the
result of doing so must, in a few minutes, have been her
drifting alongside the enemy's vessels, close under our
lee; but in the hope that the flotilla of gun-boats, who
had abandoned the object assigned them, would perceive
our wants and and come to our assistance, which would
afford a reasonable prospect of being towed clear, I
determined to resist the then destructive cannonading of
the whole of the enemy's fleet, and at the same time,
despatched Lieut. H. Drew to ascertain the state of the CONFIANCE. At forty-five minutes after ten I was
appraised of the irreperable loss she had sustained by
the death of her brave commander ( whose merits it would
be presumption in me to extol), as well as the great
slaughter which had taken place on board, and observing
from the manoeuvers of the flotilla, that I could enjoy
no further expection of relief, the situation of my noble
comrades who had so nobly fought, and even now fast
falling by my side, demanded the surrender of his
Majesty's brig entrusted to my command to prevent a
useless waste of valuable lives, and at the request of
the surviving officers and men, I gave the painful orders
for the colours to be struck.
Liet. Hicks of the FINCH, had the mortification to strike on a reef of
rocks, to the eastward of Crab Island, about the middle
of the engagement, which prevented him rendering that
assistance to the squadron, that might, from an officer
of such ability, have been expected.
...when it is taken into consideration that 16 days
before the CONFIANCE was on the stocks, with an
unorganized crew, composed of several drafts of men who
had recently arrived from different ships at Quebec, many
of whom only joined the day before and were totally
unknown either to the officers or to each other, with the
want of gun-locks as well as other necessary appointments
not to be procured in this country, I trust you will feel
satisfied of the decided advantage that the enemy
possessed, exclusive of their great superiority in point
The fine style in
which Capt. Downie conducted the squadron into action
amidst a tremendous fire, without returning a shot until
secured, reflects the greatest credit to his memory as
also on Lieuts. M'Ghee and Hicks, for so strongly
attending to his example and instructions. I cannot help
noticing the individual conduct of Lieut. Robertson, who
succeeded to the command of the CONFIANCE, and Lieuts.
Cresswick and Hornby, and Mr Pryden, the master,
for their particular exertion in attempting to bring the
CONFIANCE's starboard side to bear on the enemy after
most of their guns were dismounted on the other br. My
first lieutenant, Mr William Drew behaved in a most
exemplary manner. By the death of Mr Paul, acting second
lieutenant, the service has been deprived of a valuable
and brave officer. Great credit is due to Mr Giles, the
purser, and Mr Mitchell, the surgeon.
Mr Jackson, the
boatswain was killed a few moments before the action
terminated. I recommend to your notice Mr Muckle, the
gunner, Mr Clarke, master's mate, Messrs. Towke and
Sinclair, midshipmen, the latter of whom was wounded in
the head, as well as the whole of my gallant little crew.
I have much
satisfaction in making you acquainted with the humane
treatment the wounded have received from Commodore
M'Donough. They were immediately removed to his own
hospital on Crab Island, and were furnished with every
I have the honour to be,
Captain, late of H.M. Sloop
A Statement of the Enemy's
Squadron engaged with his Majesty's late Squadron on Lake
11 September 1814
Ship SARATOGA, of 8 long 24-pounders, 12
32-pounder carronades, 6 42-pounder carronades.
Brig EAGLE, of 8 long 18-pounders, 12 32-pounder
Schooner TICONDERAGO, of 4 long 18-pounders, 10
12-pounders, 3 32-pounder carronades.
Cutter PREBLE, of 7 long 9-pounders.
Six gun boats of 1 long 24-pounder, 1 18-pounder
Four gun boats of 1 long 12-pounder each.
Impossible to ascertain the number of men.
A Return of the Killed and
Wounded on board his Majesty's late Squadron.
CONFIANCE - 3 officers, 38 seamen and marines
killed, 1 officer, 39 seamen and marines wounded.
LINNET - 2 officers, 8 seamen killed, 1 officer,
13 seamen and marines wounded.
CHUBB - 6 seamen and marines killed, 1 officer, 15
seamen and marines wounded
FINCH - 2 seamen and marines wounded. -- TOTAL -
From the CONFIANCE's crew having been landed after
the action, no opportunity has offered a muster.
Names of the Officers Killed And Wounded.
Killed - CONFIANCE - G. Downie, captain; A.
Anderson, capt. RM; W. Gunn, midshipman.
LINNET - W. Paul, act. lieut.; C. Jackson,
Wounded - CONFIANCE - Lee, midshipman
LINNET - J. Sinclair, midshipman.
CHUBB - J. M'Ghee, lieut.