Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pratt Stories - The Bartram Family VI

Continuing from "Sea of Glory" (it's at night in Boston Harbor):
In the meantime, the four Yankee schooners had fallen in with the brig Defence of the Connecticut Navy, commanded by Captain Seth Harding (our Ebenezer second in command), she carried sixteen 6-pounders, twenty swivels, and one hundred seventeen men. Joined by the Hancock, the ships moved past the stranded Arbella and eased along in the night until the stout hull of the George loomed ahead. Four of the schooners anchored in front of the bow of the transport, and the fifth behind her stern, while the Defence took up station on her starboard side. From out of the night Harding demanded to know from where the transport had come. "From Great Britain", came the reply.
"Then strike your colors to America."
"What brig is that?" asked a British officer.
"The Connecticut brig Defence", sang out Harding. "I do not want to kill your men, but have your ship I will. So strike your flag, or I will open fire."
"Aye, I'll strike," was the derisive reply.
With that, the British 6-pounders unleashed a broadside into the brig. The compliment was returned, with the schooners joining in. The George concentrated on the Connecticut ship. Luckily, the transport's sides towered over her and the enemy's fire mostly cut up her sails and rigging. A few shots struck home, for nine of the Defence's crew were wounded. Samuel Smedly, the brig's (second) lieutenant, later accused the officers of the schooners of cowardice, charging they had refused to close with the transport. But some of the schooners must have taken part in the struggle because four of their crewmwn were reported wounded.
The deck of the George was a shambles. The commander of the Highlanders reported that the seamen had refused to fight but "not an officer, non-commissioned officer, or private of the 71st, but who stood to quarters with a ready and cheerful obedience." A major and seven soldiers were killed and another twelve Highlanders were wounded. The battle raged for an hour and a half and ended only when the Scots had run out of ammunition. At sunrise the next day, they buried the Highland dead on an island in the harbor, as a lone bagpiper skirled a mourful and haunting farewell.
Three days later, the Americans (I believe it was the Defence) captured another Scotch transport, the Lord Howe, carrying the grenadier company of the 71st. She was taken without a fight. This brought the number of Highlanders captured to 354 men, plus another 83 women and children---the latter members of officer's families or their servants.
NEXT: More about Ebenezer.

Emailed Sept. 27

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