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June 6, 2013

Attack on Sacket's Harbor

Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, June 5, 1813

Compiled, with comments


American Victory

“Sacket’s Harbor, May 29. The British fleet, of 5 or 6 sail, were discovered off our harbor early yesterday morning. By 9 o’clock it was reduced to a certainty that it was their intention to land. Alarm guns were immediately fired, and every preparation made to give them a warm reception. A light wind and some other causes prevented their landing until 4 o’clock this morning, when they effected it with considerable loss. The action continued warm and general until 6 o’clock, when it terminated in the retreat of the enemy to their fleet.

“I am not able to give you the number of killed or wounded, on either side, but it is considerable on both. Lt. Col. MILLS, of the volunteers, is among the slain. Col. BACKUS of the 1st regt. light dragoons is said to be mortally wounded. Two General officers of the enemy were found dead on the field. It is understood that Gov. Provost commanded the enemy. Gen. BROWN commanded our forces, and fought bravely. The enemy are now making their way out of the Harbor. You must wait for particulars. In haste, &c.”

We learn, since the above was received, that our loss in killed, did not probably exceed 25. The enemy must have suffered more severely. Gen. Gray, who led on the British regulars, was slain.

We regret to add, that some persons, without orders, set fire to one of our barracks, by which means considerable public property was consumed. Col. Tuttle, with his regiment, arrived a short time after the engagement. Utica Gazette, June 1.

COMMENT: Sacket’s Harbor, near the beginning of the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario, was the principal American naval base on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. The British landing in May 1813 was repulsed after some fighting, although an American naval officer, fearing a British victory, burned many American supplies (worth $500,000). The Americans lost 153 men who were killed or wounded and 154 captured. The British lost 230 killed or wounded, plus 35 captured.

The British attack was led by the British governor and commander-in-chief in Canada, Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost (1763-1822). It was the only British attack on this base during the War of 1812, and as stated here proved mostly unsuccessful. [COOPERSTOWN NOTE: General Prevost’s half-brother, Major Augustine Prevost (1744-1821), married a daughter of George Croghan, who gave him 6,000 acres at the head of Lake Otsego, where he built and settled at what is now called Swanswick.]

The American defense was led by Major General Jacob Brown (1775-1828) of Pennsylvania, who led the New York state militia and was one of the first really competent American officers to rise to command during the war. After the war, he was named American Commander-in-Chief. When he died in 1828, President John Quincy Adams said at his funeral that: “General Brown was one of the eminent men of this age and nation. Through bred a Quaker, he was a man of lofty and martial spirit, and in the late war contributed perhaps more than any man to redeem and establish the military character of his country.” Alas, he has been practically forgotten in the panoply of great America military leaders.

British Abandon Siege of Fort Meigs

Letter from Gen. W. H. Harrison to the Secretary of War, HEAD-QUARTERS Camp Meigs, May 9, 1813:

SIR—I have the honor to inform you the enemy having been several days making preparation for raising the siege of this post, accomplished this day the removal of their artillery from the opposite bank, and about 12 o’clock left their encampment below, were soon embarked and out of sight. I have the honor to enclose you an agreement entered into between Gen. Proctor and myself for the discharge of the prisoners of the Kentucky militia in his possession, and for the exchange of the officers and men of the regular troops which were respectively possessed by us.

COMMENT: The repulse of the British at Fort Meigs, in northern Ohio, helped pave the way for additional American victories in the “old northwest.” American losses were 81 men killed and 189 wounded.

Capture of Mobile

The fortress of Mobile surrendered on the 13th of April, to a detachment of the United States army under the immediate command of major gen. Wilkinson. The fortress is within the limits of the purchase of Louisiana, made by the United States, and has been retained, under various pretenses, from that period to the present time. This expedition ... has been conducted ... without the loss of a single life ...

Our troops made their landing on the 12th of April, and the first intimation the Spanish garrison had of their approach was the music of “Hail Columbia,” by a full band, followed by a summons to the commandant to evacuate the place as part of the United States territory ...

The effect of the surprise carried itself into the negotiation, and the Spanish garrison was embarked for Pensacola.

COMMENT: “West Florida,” including parts of Louisiana and the coastline of Mississippi and Alabama was still Spanish, but contained many American settlers who wanted the U.S. to capture and annex it.


The annual Meeting of the Otsego County Bible Society, will be held in the village of Cooperstown, on the 10th day of June inst. at 11 o’clock A. M. at which time an appropriate Sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Daniel Nash, President of said Society. HENRY JONES, Rec’. Sec’y.

COMMENT: The society was founded on March 7, 1813 by local Presbyterians and Episcopalians with the purpose of distributing free bibles to the poor. Young James Fenimore Cooper became an active member. Daniel Nash (1763-1837) was the first Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Cooperstown.