Copy of a letter from M.T. Woolsey to Commodore Chauncey
Sir - I have already had the honor to inform you of the affair at Sandy Creek on the 30th ult. but for want of time at that juncture I had it not in my power to give you the particulars, and as most of my communications since measures were adopted for a push from Oswego Falls to Sandy Creek, with the naval stores, have been made in great haste, I avail myself of a leisure moment to make a report in detail, of my proceedings since that period.
On the 17th, I dispatched Mr. Hugunun to Mexico, to hire a number of ox teams and to engage a quantity of forage, & c. I also sent orders to Oswego Falls to have an additional number of large wheels made for transporting the guns and cables back across the portage, and caused reports to be circulated in every direction that I had received your orders to send all the naval stores to Oneida Lake, with all possible expedition. On the morning of the 28th, when these reports were well in circulation and when (as I have since heard from good authority) they had been faithfully detailed to sir James, I had the honor to receive per express your communication of the 27th, vesting in me discretionary powers.
I immediately dispatched Mr. Dixon in the long gig, to reconnoiter the coast. I went with my officers to the falls, to run the boats down over the rapids. at sunset we arrived at Oswego with boats (19 in number) loaded in all with 21 long 32 pounders, ten 24 pounders, three 42 do. (carronades) and 10 cables, beside some light articles, and distributed in the batteaux a guard of about 150 riflemen, under command of Major Appling. Mr. Dixon having returned with a report of the coast being clear, we set off at dark and arrived at Big Salmon river about sunrise on the 29th, with the loss of one boat having on board two 24 pounders and one cable. I cannot account for her having separated from us, as every possible exertion was made to keep the brigade as compact as possible.
At Big Salmon we met the Oneidas, whom I had dispatched the day previous, under the command of Lieut. Hill, of the rifle regiment. As soon as they had taken up their line of march along the ashore to Big Sandy Creek, I started with all the boats and arrived at noon at our place of destination about two miles from the creek. In this laborious and hazardous duty I feel much indebted to Major Appling, his officers and men, for their exertions, having assisted my officers and seamen in rowing the boats without a moment's rest, 12 hours, and about half the time enveloped in darkness and deluged with rain - also to some of the principal inhabitants of the village of Oswego, who volunteered their services as pilots. At 2 A.M. on the 30th, I received your letter of the 29th, 6 P.M. per express, and agreeably to the order contained therein, sent Lieut. Pierce to look out as far as Stony Point: about 6 o'clock he returned, having been pursued by a gunboat and three barges.
The best possible disposition was made of the riflemen and Indians, about half a mile below our boats. About 8 A.M. a cannonading at long shot was commenced by the enemy, and believing (as I did) that no attempt would be made to land with their small force, I ordered Lieut. Pierce to proceed in erecting sheers and making preparations to unload the boats; and, as all the teams had retrograded in consequence of the cannonading, I sent in pursuit of them to return. About 9 o'clock Captain Harris with a squadron of dragoons, and Capt. Melvin with a company of light artillery and two 6 pounders, arrived. Capt. Harris, the commanding officer, agreed with me that this reinforcement should halt as the troops best calculated for a bush fight were already on the ground, where they could act to the greatest advantage, and that the the enemy seeing a large reinforcement arrive, would most probably retreat. About 10 A.M. the enemy having landed and pushed up the creek with three gun-boats, three cutters and one gig - the riflemen under that excellent officer, Major Appling, rose from their concealment, and after a smart fire of about 10 minutes, succeeded in capturing all the boars and three crews, without one having escaped.
At about 5 P.M. after having buried, with the honors of war, Mr. Hoare (a British midshipman) killed in the action, I relieved Capt. Ridgely, whom you did me the honor to send to Sandy Creek for that purpose. All the prisoners, except the wounded, having been removed, and expecting another attack at night, I remained to assist Capt. Ridgely in that event - but yesterday morning seeing nothing in the offing, I availed myself of my relief, and I returned to this place. In performing, to the best of my abilities, the duty for which I was ordered to Oswego Falls, I have great satisfaction in acknowledging the unremitted exertions of Lieut. Pearce, sailing master Vaughan and midshipmen Mackey, Hart and Caton; also to Major Appling, his officers and men for their kind assistance in the same duty.
The report of killed, wounded and prisoners, and also the number and description of the captured boats, has been already remitted by Capt. Ridgely and myself.
I have the honor to be, & c.
(Signed) M.T. WOOLSEY.
Commodore Isaac Chauncey,
Commanding U.S. forces on the lakes.
Further particulars. - Captured in Sandy Creek, in the late affair there, three gun-boats, one carrying a long 24 pounder and a 68 pound carronade; each of the others one or two heavy guns; two cutters and an elegant gig; two post-captains (Popham and Spilsbury) four sea-lieutenants, two midshipmen, two lieutenants of marines, and about one hundred and seventy sailors and marines, including the wounded. Captain Woolsey had put into Sandy creek with sixteen boats from Oswego, loaded with guns and naval stores.
Major Appling was with him, and mustered 150 riflemen and 125 Indians. The enemy, about 200 strong, succeeded in capturing one of our boats in the morning, containing two 24 pounders. One midshipman was killed on their part, besides 20 men and two marines mortally wounded, and between 30 and 40 men badly. But one of our men hurt (slightly). Sir James was informed by a lag, on the 1st of June, that the whole of his detachment was either captured or destroyed; but still he continued the blockade of Sackets Harbor on the 2d, his fleet being moored in a line about eight miles from the harbor.
The British prisoners taken at Sandy Creek, have arrived at Albany. Popham wrote to Yeo that he was taken by 600 men. A good British "official." He also said that he had landed only 150 men, and had the modesty to tell one of our officers so -- who counted them on the instant, (206) and made him blush!