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First Battle of Sacket's Harbor
Part of War of 1812
NYMap-doton-Sackets Harbor.PNG
Map of New York, the red dot is Sackets Harbor.
DateJuly 19, 1812
LocationSackets Harbor, New York
Result U.S.victory
United Kingdom United Kingdom  United States
Commanders and leaders
unknown Melancthon Taylor Woolsey
2 sloops-of-war
1 brig
2 schooners
1 shore battery
1 brig
Casualties and losses
~8 killed none

The First Battle of Sacket's Harbor (also spelled as Sackett's) [1] was a naval battle fought on July 19, 1812, between the American and British naval forces that resulted in the American forces repelling the attack on their town and the shipbuilding yard located there.


Sacket's Harbor is located on Lake Ontario in Northern New York State. It was the chief shipbuilding yard for the United States during the War of 1812. It had a good strategic position on the lake, with abundant resources, and an excellent natural harbor which became the center of military and naval operations for the war's northern theater. Following the first battle, the town and harbor became a large and centralized military complex, with a fortification served by thousands of troops.[2]

On Sunday, July 19, 1812, Captain Woolsey, of USS Oneida, discovered from the mast head of his brig five enemy vessels sailing up Sacket's Harbor. The British vessels were HMS Royal George; of twenty-four guns; HMS Seneca; of eighteen guns; HMS Prince Regent; of twenty-two guns; HMS Earl of Moira, of twenty guns and HMS Simcoe of ten guns. The British had captured a merchant ship carrying flour nearby and sent the men to shore with the demands that the Americans surrender the USS Oneida and the HMS Lord Nelson, a ship that the Americans had captured and that if a shot was fired at them they would burn the village of Sacket's Harbor. [1]


The first shots were fired by the British at the brig USS Oneida, under the command of Commodore Chauncey,[3] which attempted to escape the incoming British vessels but failed and returned to the point. The British continued on and dropped anchor. Back at the point Oneida was moored with one broadside of nine guns to the enemy, while the others were taken out and hastily placed on a breastwork along the shoreline, near where a 32-pounder cannon, intended for the Oneida, but found too heavy, had been mounted on a pivot. Below the cannon, a protective mound about six feet high had been constructed.[4]

Alarm guns were fired and expresses were sent to call in the neighboring militias. Unfortunately for the Americans, most of the militia did not arrive in time to render assistance, but by the end of the day, some 3,000 local militia had assembled but they did not engage. The British had been misinformed about the defenses of the harbor and assumed there was nothing to be feared in the way of ordnance. The force at that time in town was, besides the crew of the Oneida, a regiment under Colonel Bellinger, a volunteer company of artillery under Captain Camp, and the militia.

Captain Woolsey, leaving his brig in charge of a lieutenant, took command on shore, the 32-pounder being in charge of William Vaughan a sailing master, and the other guns under that of Captain Camp. There was no shot in town larger than 24-pound balls, which were used with the aid of patches made of carpet, in the 32-pounder. By the time these arrangements were made, the enemy had arrived within range, nearly in front of the battery. The action was commenced, the first shot was fired from the 32-pounder which failed to hit any of the British ships. A shout of laughter was heard from the fleet just after, indicating that the Americans first shot fell too short of target. The British returned a salvo briskly at the American battery and continued for two hours. Most of the British shots were reportedly accurate. The Americans returned fire throughout the bombardment, USS Oneida's broadsides and their 32-pounder inflicted many hits or near hits on the Royal Navy vessels. [5]

Towards the close of the action, as the flagship Royal George was maneuvering to fire another broadside, a 24-pound shot struck her stern and raked her whole length, killing eight men, and doing much damage. Royal George also had severe damage to her top mast and rigging. Other British warships were damaged but the extent is unknown. Upon this the signal of retreat was given and the British fleet bore away for Kingston, Ontario without ceremony. At this, the band struck up the national tune of Yankee Doodle, and the troops yelled three cheers of victory.


On July 24, 1812, General Jacob Brown attributed the success of the day to the gallant spirit of officers Woolsey, Bellinger and Camp, in their respective capacities, and especially to the crew of the 32 pounder. William Vaughan, who had commanded the 32 pounder, claimed the honor of having fired the first hostile gun in the war. One of the men at this gun, named Julius Torry, an African-American, better known as Black Julius, and a great favorite in the camp, served at his post with remarkable activity and courage. As there was no opportunity for the use of small arms, the greater part of the troops who were drawn up, were spectators of the engagement.

See also


  1. Roosevelt, 1883 pp.155, 228, 233, 251, etc
  2. Paine, 1920 pp.293-304
  3. Roosevelt, 1883 pp.153-154
  4. Roosevelt, 1883 pp.150-151
  5. Cooper, 1856 pp.401-403


  • Maclay, Edgar Stanton (1894
    D. Appleton & Company, New York). A history of the United States Navy, from 1775 to 1893. pp. 647.
  • Mahon, John H. (1972). The War of 1812
    Da Capo Press, in arrangement with University of Florida Press, 1972
    . pp. 496. ISBN 0-306-80429-8.

Further reading

  • Homans, Benjamin (1833
    Thompson and Homans, Washington). The Military and Naval Magazine of the United States, Volumes 1-2. pp. 393.
     , E'Book

External links

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