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War of 1812 Quiet Here

Footnotes to Long Island History

War of 1812 Quiet Here

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


          The War of 1812 gave Suffolk county comparatively little trouble besides the danger of attack that threatened at all times.

          In 1813 a British fleet occupied Gardiner’s bay, and from there made attacks at different points.  A draft was made upon the militia for three months service at Sag Harbor, where the danger of an attack seemed greatest.  Several frigates crossed the sound and attacked the trading sloops plying between the ports along the north shore of the county and New York.  This interfered seriously with the shipping of cordwood from county forests to the New York market, which was in those days an important business.  The shortage of wood in the New York market sent prices up so high that those who were daring enough to undertake risk and fortunate enough to get through to New York with a sloop load of wood received two or three times the regular price for their cargo.

          The British cruising frigates were on the alert and often captured a prize.  Some of the vessels captured were held for a ransom and others were burned.  Considerable property was destroyed but few, if any, lives were lost during the war.

                                                Port Jeff Action

          During the war at Port Jefferson, shipping was attacked and considerably damaged by the British cruisers which sailed up and down the sound.  A small fortification was erected at the northern end of Dwyer’s neck, overlooking the west side of the harbor and on this was mounted a single gun throwing a 32-pound ball.  At one time seven sloops were taken from the harbor under cover of darkness by two English frigates, the Indemnity and the Paramoon.  In working them out of the harbor, one of the sloops ran aground on the flats, and was set on fire and burned to the water’s edge.  The rest were afterward ransomed by their owners.

          During the war an American cutter, closely pursued by a British man-of-war, was run ashore east of Baiting Hollow on the sound shore, and a determined fight took place between the militia, which had been quickly gathered, and the pursuing barges from the ship.  The American forces kept up such a hot fire from behind the bank that the British were several times thrown back, and although helped by a heavy cannon fire from the ship were forced to retreat.  The ship sailed down the sound to the British fleet at Orient and returned the next day to renew the fight.  This time she was able to capture the disabled and sinking American ship.

          On one of the trips of the schooner, Glorian, with Captain Joseph Robinson of East Patchogue in command, which was carrying cord wood to the New York market, Capt. Robinson found 12 other boats waiting at fire Island to cross the bar.  The British thought the schooners could be easily captured, and manned a barge with 12 men at the oars and a cannon at the bow.  They sailed across the bar with the intention of capturing the schooners and destroying them.

                                                ‘Yankee Trick’

          The crews of the schooners went ashore and although unarmed, swung their hats, inviting the British to come on with their boat.  They answered by firing the cannon, and as soon as they saw the smoke from the cannon, the schooner’s crews dropped behind a sand dune on the ocean shore and escaped injury although the balls struck the sand near them.  the British thought this was some Yankee trick and that they might be captured, so abandoned their attempt and returned to their ship.  This act of courage by the captains of the schooners saved their fleet and preserved for themselves a history characteristic of men of their time.

          The close of these years brought to an end the war history of Suffolk county until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  For 50 years the county had a period of peaceful prosperity.

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