9.15.2014

Letter to Andrew Jackson from William Lawrence

Fort Bowyer
15 Septr 1814 12 oClock at Night

Sir,

      After writing the enclosed I was prevented by the approach of the Enemy of sending it by an express. At Meridian they were under full Sail, with an easy and favourable breeze standing directly for the Fort and at 4 P.M. we opened our Battery, which was returned from two Ships, and Two Briggs; as they approached. The Action became General at about 20 Minutes past 4 and was continued without intermission on either side untill 7; when One Ship and Two Briggs were compelled to retire: The leading Ship supposed to be the Commodore Mounting 22. 32 Pound Carronades having Anchored nearest our Battery was so much disabled, her Cable being cut by our Shot that she drifted on shore within 600 Yards of the Battery, and the other Vessels having got out of our reach, we kept such a tremendous fire upon her, that she was set on fire, and abandoned by the few of the Crew who survived; at 10 P.M. we had the pleasure of witnessing the explosion of her Magazine. The loss of lives on board must have been immense as we are certain no boats left her except three which had previously gone to her assitance, & one of those I believe was sunk; in fact one of her boats was burned along side of her.
        The Brig that followed her I am certain was much damaged both in hull and Rigging. The other two did not approach near enough to be so much injured, but I am confident they did not escape, as a well directed fire was kept on them during the whole time.
        During the Action a Battery of a 12 Pounder and a Howitz, was opened on our rear, but without doing any execution and was silenced by a few Shot. Our loss is four privates killed, and five privates wounded. The Surgeon reports on Man lost: owing to the want of Surgical Instruments as he was compelled to amputate his arm with a Razor The Man shortly after expired.
       Towards the close of the Action the Flag Staff was Shot away but the Flag was immediately hoisted on a Sponge Staff over the Parrapett: while the Flag was down the Enemy kept up their most incessant, and tremendous fire, the Men were withdrawn from the Curtains & N.E. Bastion, as the Enemys own Shot completely protected our rear except the position they had closed for their Battery.
       Where all behave well, it [is] unnessary to discrimminate suffice it to say every Officer and Man did his duty, the whole behaved with that coolness & intrepidity which is Characterestic of the true American and which could scarcely have been expected from Men most of whom had never seen an Enemy, and were now for the first time exposed for nearly 3 Hours to a Force of nearly or quite 4 Guns to One.
       We fired during the Action between 4 & 5 hundred Guns most of them Double Shotted, and after the first half hour, but a few missed an effect.

Septr. 16th 11 oClock A.M.

    Upon an examination of our Battery this Morning, we find upwards of 300 Shot & Shot holes in the inside of N. and East curtains & N.E. Bastion, of all Callibres, from Musket ball to 32 pound Shot in the N. E. Bastion there were three Guns dismounted; one of which a four Pounder was broken off near the Trunnions by a 32 pound Shot and another much battered; I regret to say that both the 24 Pounders are cracked in such a manner as to render them unfit for service; & I trust Sir, the affair of Yesterday will point out the necessity of heavy Mettle at this Post.
    I am informed by two deserters from the Land force,  who have just arrived here, and whom I send for your disposal, that a reinforcement is expected when they will doubtless endeavor to wipe off the stain of Yesterday.
     I beg you Sir to send Vessels to take off the Sick and wounded, as there is no means of protecting them from the heat of the Sun & inclemency of the Weather; if left here they will certainly die as we have neither Medacines, Hospital Stores, or aid whatever; and if you will send the Amelia down, we may probably save most or all of the Ships Guns, as her Wreck is lying in 6 or 7 feet Water and some of them are just covered. They will not however answer for the Fort as they are too short.
       By the Deserters we learn that the Ship we have destroyed was the Hermas, but her Commander's name they did not recollect. It was the Comadore, and doubtless fell on his Quarter Deck, as we had a raking fire upon it about 200 Yards distance for some time.
       I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you hear shortly; when I think you will be convinced of the necessity of supplying with the Articles heretofore required.
       By Capt. Sands who will have the honor of handing you this dispatch I have sent a list of articles necessary to enable us to sustain a simular attack as the one of Yesterday, and I beg you to order such Articles in his Department as he may not have on hand to him. I also refer you for a more particular accounts of the movements of the Enemy than may be contained in my letters; his services both before and during the Action were of great importance, an I consider fully justify me in having detained him. Capt. Walsh and several Men were much burned by the accidental explosion of 2 or 3 Cartridges they are not included in the list of wounded heretofore given.
        The Enemies fleet this Morning at Day break were at anchor in the Channel about 4 miles from the Fort, shortly after it got under way and stood to Sea, After passing the Bar they hove too and Boats have been constantly passing between the disabled Brig & the others. I presume the former is so much injured as to render it necessary to lighten her. 15 Minutes after 1 P.M. The whole Fleet has this moment made Sail and are standing to Sea I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obt. Servt.

N.B. I hope you will pardon me for detaining Lt. Conway. as yet I cannot dispense with his services. In a few days I will send him with such information that I may have to communicate

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