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An officer of the
Connecticut militia wrote in December, "Our engagements with the enemy
have become so frequent that it would be in vain to attempt a
particular statement of each."[147]

Similar conditions prevailed along the entire seaboard, from Maine to
Georgia; being of course greatest where inland navigation with wide
entrances, like Long Island Sound, had given particular development to
the coasting trade, and at the same time afforded to pursuers
particular immunity from ordinary dangers of the sea. Incidental
confirmation of the closeness of the hostile pressure is afforded by
Bainbridge's report of the brig "Siren's" arrival at Boston, June 11,
1813, from New Orleans. "Although at sea between thirty and forty
days, and great time along our blockaded coast, she did not see one
enemy's cruiser."[148] The cause is evident. The Chesapeake and
Delaware were blockaded from within. Ships watching New York and Long
Island Sound would be far inside the course of one destined to Boston
from the southward. From Hatteras to the Florida line the enemy's
vessels, mostly of small class, kept in summer well inside the line
from cape to cape, harassing even the water traffic behind the
sea-islands; while at Boston, her port of arrival, the "Siren" was
favored by Broke's procedure. In his eagerness to secure action with
the "Chesapeake," he had detached his consort, the "Tenedos," with
orders not to rejoin until June 14. Under cover of her absence, and
the "Shannon's" return to Halifax with her prize, the "Siren" slipped
into a harbor wholly relieved of the enemy's presence. With such
conditions, a voyage along the coast could well be outside the British
line of cruising.

Owing to the difficulty of the New York entrance, except with good
pilotage, and to the absence thence of ships of war after Decatur's
departure, that port ceased to present any features of naval activity;
except as connected with the lake squadrons, which depended upon it
for supplies of all kinds. The blockade of the Sound affected its
domestic trade; and after May its external commerce shared the
inconveniences of the commercial blockade, then applied to it, and
made at least technically effective. What this pressure in the end
became is shown by a casual mention a year later, under the heading
"progress of luxury. A private stock of wine brought the average
'extraordinary' price of twenty-five dollars the gallon; while at the
same period one auction lot of prize goods, comprising three decanters
and twelve tumblers, sold for one hundred and twelve dollars."[149]
The arrival in August, 1813, of a vessel in distress, which, like the
"Siren," had passed along the whole Southern coast without seeing a
hostile cruiser, would seem to show some lapse of watchfulness; but,
although there were the occasional evasions which attend all
blockades, the general fact of neutrals turned away was established. A
flotilla of a dozen gunboats was kept in commission in the bay, but
under an officer not of the regular navy. As might readily have been
foreseen from conditions, and from experience elsewhere, the national
gunboat experiment had abundantly shown that vessels of that class
were not only excessively costly in expenditure, and lamentably
inefficient in results, as compared with seagoing cruisers, but were
also deleterious to the professional character of officers and
seamen. Two years before the war Captain Campbell, then in command
both at Charleston and Savannah, had commented on the unofficer-like
neglect noticeable in the gunboats, and Gordon now reported the same
effect upon the crew of the "Constellation," while thus detached for
harbor defence.[150] The Secretary of the Navy, affirming the general
observation, remarked that officers having knowledge of their business
were averse to gunboat duty, while those who had it yet to acquire
were unwilling, because there it could not be learned. "It is a
service in which those who are to form the officers for the ships of
war ought not to be employed."[151] He therefore had recommended the
commissioning of volunteer officers for this work. This local New York
harbor guard at times convoyed coasters in the Sound, and at times
interfered, both in that quarter and off Sandy Hook, to prevent small
cruisers or boats of the enemy from effecting seizures of vessels,
close in shore or run on the beach. Such military action possesses a
certain minor value, diminishing in some measure the grand total of
loss; but it is not capable of modifying seriously the broad results
of a strong commercial blockade.

The Delaware and the Chesapeake--the latter particularly--became the
principal scenes of active operations by the British navy. Here in the
early part of the summer there seems to have been a formed determination
on the part of Sir John Warren to satisfy his Government and people by
evidence of military exertion in various quarters. Rear Admiral George
Cockburn, an officer of distinction and energy, had been ordered at the
end of 1812 from the Cadiz station, with four ships of the line and
several smaller cruisers, to re-enforce Warren. This strong detachment,
a token at once of the relaxing demand upon the British navy in Europe,
and of the increasing purpose of the British Government towards the
United States, joined the commander-in-chief at Bermuda, and accompanied
him to the Chesapeake in March. Cockburn became second in command. Early
in April the fleet began moving up the bay; an opening incident, already
mentioned,[152] being the successful attack by its boats upon several
letters-of-marque and privateers in the Rappahannock upon the 3d of the
month. Some of the schooners there captured were converted into tenders,
useful for penetrating the numerous waterways which intersected the
country in every direction.

The fleet, comprising several ships of the line, besides numerous
smaller vessels, continued slowly upwards, taking time to land parties
in many quarters, keeping the country in perpetual alarm. The
multiplicity and diverseness of its operations, the particular object
of which could at no moment be foreseen, made it impossible to combine
resistance. The harassment was necessarily extreme, and the sustained
suspense wearing; for, with reports continually arriving, now from one
shore and now from the other, each neighborhood thought itself the
next to be attacked. Defence depended wholly upon militia, hastily
assembled, with whom local considerations are necessarily predominant.
But while thus spreading consternation on either side, diverting
attention from his main objective, the purpose of the British admiral
was clear to his own mind. It was "to cut off the enemy's supplies,
and destroy their foundries, stores, and public works, by penetrating
the rivers at the head of the Chesapeake."


On April 16 an advanced division arrived off the mouth of the
Patapsco, a dozen miles from Baltimore. There others successively
joined, until the whole force was reported on the 22d to be three
seventy-fours, with several frigates and smaller vessels, making a
total of fifteen. The body of the fleet remained stationary, causing
the city a strong anticipation of attack; an impression conducing to
retain there troops which, under a reasonable reliance upon adequate
fortifications, might have been transferred to the probable scene of
operations, sufficiently indicated by its intrinsic importance. Warren
now constituted a light squadron of two frigates, with a half-dozen
smaller vessels, including some of those recently captured. These he
placed in charge of Cockburn and despatched to the head of the bay. In
addition to the usual crews there went about four hundred of the naval
brigade, consisting of marines and seamen in nearly equal numbers.
This, with a handful of army artillerists, was the entire force. With
these Cockburn went first up the Elk River, where Washington thirty
years before had taken shipping on his way to the siege of Yorktown.
At Frenchtown, notwithstanding a six-gun battery lately erected, a
landing was effected on April 29, and a quantity of flour and army
equipments were destroyed, together with five bay schooners. Many
cattle were likewise seized; Cockburn, in this and other instances,
offering to pay in British government bills, provided no resistance
was attempted in the neighborhood. From Frenchtown he went round to
the Susquehanna, to obtain more cattle from an island, just below
Havre de Grace; but being there confronted on May 2 by an American
flag, hoisted over a battery at the town, he proceeded to attack the
following day. A nominal resistance was made; but as the British loss,
here and at Frenchtown, was one wounded on each occasion, no great
cause for pride was left with the defenders. Holding the inhabitants
responsible for the opposition in their neighborhood, he determined to
punish the town. Some houses were burned. The guns of the battery were
then embarked; and during this process Cockburn himself, with a small
party, marched three or four miles north of the place to a cannon
foundry, where he destroyed the guns and material found, together with
the buildings and machinery.

"Our small division," he reported to Warren, "has been during the
whole of this day on shore, in the centre of the enemy's country, and
on his high road between Baltimore and Philadelphia." The feat
testified rather to the military imbecility of the United States
Government during the last decade than to any signal valor or
enterprise on the part of the invaders. Enough and to spare of both
there doubtless was among them; for the expedition was of a kind
continuously familiar to the British navy during the past twenty
years, under far greater difficulty, in many parts of the world.
Seeing the trifling force engaged, the mortification to Americans must
be that no greater demand was made upon it for the display of its
military virtues. Besides the destruction already mentioned, a
division of boats went up the Susquehanna, destroyed five vessels and
more flour; after which, "everything being completed to my utmost
wishes, the division embarked and returned to the ships, after being
twenty-two hours in constant exertion." From thence Cockburn went
round to the Sassafras River, where a similar series of small injuries
was inflicted, and two villages, Georgetown and Frederickstown, were
destroyed, in consequence of local resistance offered, by which five
British were wounded.

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