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November 8, 2012

Trial of Capt. Dacres


COMMENT: The Boston-born Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe (1763-1851) succeeded Sir Isaac Brock as British Commander (and governor) of Upper Canada, when Brock was killed during the Battle of Queenston Heights. However, when in 1813 the Americans captured York (today’s Toronto, and the capital of Upper Canada) Sheaffe was recalled to England. (The burning of public buildings in Washington, in 1814, was in retaliation for the American burning of the public buildings in York the year before.)

Maj. John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen) was a Mohawk Indian chief (born of a Scottish father and a Cherokee mother) who had been adopted as a nephew by the famous Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. A writer as well as a soldier, Norton translated the Gospel of John into the Mohawk language, and his autobiography (“The Journal of Major John Norton,” 1816) is one of the best firsthand accounts of the War of 1812.

 Trial of Capt. Dacres

A Halifax paper of the 9th inst. (Oct.) gives the result of capt. Dacres’ trial for surrendering his ship to the Constitution. He has been honorably acquitted -- but the opinion of the court is tinctured with that spirit of illiberality and injustice which is the most prominent feature of the British character.

It averts, “that the loss of the masts of the Guerriere was occasioned more by their defective state, than from the fire of the enemy, though so greatly superior in guns and men; and that the crew, while prisoners, were offered high bribes to enter into the land and sea service of the U. States.”

It is truly astonishing that the Guerriere’s masts should so suddenly have got into such a “defective state;” as it will be recollected that when the British squadron chased the Constitution a short time previous, the Guerriere was the headmost ship, and had every inch of canvass set that it was possible to spread upon her masts and yards.

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