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Commodore Thomas Macdonough*
Hero of the Battle of Plattsburg

Commodore T. Macdonough
Commodore Thomas Macdonough, USN
(Macdonough Centennial,
Vergennes, Vermont 1914
)

 

Actual transcripts of letters from Commodore Thomas Macdonough, commanding US fleet on Lake Champlain to Hon. William Jones, Secretary of the Navy1.

NB: Spelling and punctuation are as copied from original.

 

U.S. SHIP SARATOGA
off Plattsburg, Sept. 11th, 1814

SIR:

The Almighty has been pleased to grant us a signal victory on Lake Champlain, in the capture of one frigate, one brig, and two sloops of war, of the enemy.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir,
your obedient servant,


T. MACDONOUGH,
Commanding.


Second Letter from Commodore Thomas MacDonough to Hon. William Jones, Secretary of the Navy.

U.S. SHIP Saratoga,
Plattsburg Bay, Sept.13,1814

SIR,

I have the honor to give you the particulars of the action which took place on the 11th instant on this lake.

For several days the enemy were on their way to Plattsburgh by land and water, and it being understood that an attack would be made at the same time by their land and naval forces, I determined to await at anchor the approach of the latter.

At eight A.M. the lookout boat announced the approach of the enemy. At 9, he anchored in a line ahead, at about three hundred yards distance from my line; his ship opposed to the Saratoga, his brig to the Eagle, Captain Robert Henley; his galleys, thirteen in number, to the schooner, sloop, and a division of our galleys; one of his sloops assisting their ship and brig, the other assisting their galleys; our remaining galleys with the Saratoga and Eagle.

In this situation, the whole force, on both sides, became engaged, the Saratoga suffering much from the heavy fire of the Confiance. I could perceive, at the same time, however, that our fire was very destructive to her. The Ticonderoga, Lieutenant Commander Cassin, gallantly sustained her full share of the action. At half past 10 o'clock, the Eagle, not being able to bring her guns to bear, cut her cable, and anchored in a more eligible position, between my ship and the Ticonderoga, where she very much annoyed the enemy, but unfortunately, leaving me exposed to a galling fire from the enemy's brig. Our guns on the starboard side being nearly all dismounted, or not manageable, a stern anchor was let go, the bower cable cut, and the ship winded, with a fresh broadside on the enemy's ship, which soon after surrendered. Our broadside was then sprung to bear on the brig, which surrendered in about 15 minutes after.

The sloop that was opposed to the Eagle, had struck some time before, and drifted down the line; the sloop which was with their galleys having struck also. Three of their galleys are said to be sunk, the others pulled off. Our galleys were about obeying, with alacrity, the signal to follow them, when all the vessels were reported to me to be in a sinking state; then it became necessary to annul the signal to the galleys, and order their men to the pumps. I could only look at the enemy's galleys going off in a shattered condition, for there was not a mast in either squadron that could stand to make sail on; the lower rigging being nearly shot away, hung down as though it had been just placed over mastheads.

The Saratoga had fifty-five round shot in her hull, the Confiance one hundred and five. The enemy's shot passed principally over our heads, as there were not twenty whole hammocks in the nettings at the close of the action, which lasted, without intermission, two hours and twenty minutes.

The absence and sickness of lieutenant Raymond Perry, left me without the services of that excellent officer; much ought fairly to be attributed to him for his great care and attention in disciplining the ship's crew, as her first lieutenant. His place was filled by a gallant young officer, Lieutenant Peter Gamble, who I regret to inform you, was killed early in the action. Acting lieutenant Vallette worked the first and second division of guns with able effect. Sailingmaster Brum's attention to the springs, and in the order to wind the ship, and occasionally at the guns met my entire approbation; also captain Young's, commanding the acting marines, who took his men to the guns. Mr. Beale, purser, was of great service at the guns, and in carrying my orders throughout the ship with Midshipman Montgomery. Master's Mate Joshua Justin had command of the third division; his conduct during the action was that of a brave and correct officer. Midshipmen Monteath, Graham, Williamson, Platt, Thwing and acting-midshipman Baldwin, all behaved well and gave evidence of their making valuable officers. The Saratoga was twice set on fire by hot shot from the enemy`s ship.

I close, sir, this communication with feelings of gratitude, for the able support I received from every officer and man attached to the squadron which I have the honor to command.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir
your most obedient servant,

T. MACDONOUGH

*The reader will note I use two different variations on the spelling of the Commodore's name. It is my understanding that both are correct. Supposedly Macdonough himself used both the small and capital "D" when writing his name. [jpm]

Sources:

1 U.S. Congressional Documents- Annals of Congress, 13th Congress, 3rd session, Pages 1795-1800.
Library of Congress- "American Memory- A Century of Lawmaking: 1774-1873."

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