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The American Privateer “General Armstrong”

1814 on the Oceans

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1814 on the Oceans

The blockade of the east coast had become highly successful by the 1814 sailing season.  American ships engaged in fighting on the oceans were mostly privateers.  One of the most notable of these was General Armstrong, named for John Armstrong, Secretary of War

While General Armstrong resupplied at the port of Fayal in the Azores in mid-September, three British warships entered the harbor.  Accounts of what transpired differ, but it is agreed that the British sent a party in one or several boats to General Armstrong to demand the return of two deserters.  Samuel Chester Reid, Captain of General Armstrong, warned the party off and opened fire when they ignored the warning.  The Portuguese governor refused to take action against the American ship and British commander assembled a squadron of small boats to attack it at night.  At one point in the battle, General Armstrong was boarded, but Reid managed to beat back the invaders.  The next day H.M.S. Carnation took up the attack and after making some resistance, Reid scuttled after realizing that his ship could not overcome three.  He escaped ashore with his remaining crew, wounded, and dead.  The governor again refused to hand them over to the British and the warships left empty handed.  Perhaps the most significant outcome of the encounter was that in pursuing two deserters, the warships delayed their mission to ferry men and supplies to Jamaica, which in turn would have supplied Vice Admiral Cochrane’s force against New Orleans.

In March 1814, U.S.S. Peacock managed to slip out through the New York Harbor blockade.  It encountered H.M.S. L’Epervier off of East Florida.  The larger and better armed Peacock captured L’Epervier with little loss.