Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Eyewitness Account of Naval Engagement off Oswego

New York Mercury (New York, NY), July 26, 1756
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Eyewitness Account of Naval Engagement off Oswego
His Majesty's Sloop Oswego.
Oswego, July 2d, 1756

I have been out with Commodore Bradley on two cruises. On the first we were out twelve days, endeavoring to get to Niagara, but the wind blowing constantly from the westward, we were forced to return, having made no discovery but what related to a further knowledge of the Lake.

Last Wednesday, seven nights we sailed on a second course , and the Sunday following, at day dawn, as we were steering a course for Oswego, (having promised Col. Mercer to return off the harbor in four days,) we saw four sail of French vessels, from whom we were glad to make all the sail we could.

As I make no doubt this affair will be variously represented at New York, I shall give an impartial account of the same, which is as follows: At half past two, A.M., we saw two sail standing toward us from the N.W., on which we immediately made the signal for the "Ontario" to chase, and got all ready for action, with our ship, and stood for them. At three-quarters past three, we saw two more sail from the same quarter. At this time, one of the two vessels, which proved to be the "Commodore," fired two guns to leeward and hoisted a French flag at his foretop-masthead, which we took for a signal for the two sternmost vessels to make sail and join, as he and the next to him directly hauled on the wind, and clewed up their main top sails.

At 5 o'clock, being them about one and a half miles from them, we found they were all four schooners, and the two whose distance I have just mentioned, very large vessels with several guns of a side. The other two appeared as large, but of what force we could not see, they being farther off. On which Capt. Lafroy came on board and a council being called, it was thought most prudent to avoid an engagement, the enemy being far superior to us, and our welfare being of the utmost consequence.

Our force consisted of: first the "Oswego," Com. Bradley, with only four 4-pounder guns, 1 three-pounder, and 45 seamen and soldiers; the "Ontario," Capt. Lafory, with 4 four-pounders, 1 three-pounder, and 45 seamen and soldiers; a small schooner , not bigger than a four-cord boat, under the command of Mr. Farmer, with 6 swivels, and 12 seamen and soldiers.

At half past five, we put about and made the best of our way to Oswego. On which the enemy gave chase, and had the French Commodore behaved at the time he ought, he might have brought us to action very soon and taken us; but he was unwilling to attack without his little fleet close together, and in chasing fired single shot at us; to do which, he was obliged to luff up in the wind, having no bow chase, by which means he lost every time, twice his length. At 7 o'clock, he being little better than half a mile off, first luffed up in the wind, then clapt his helm hard a-weather, wore round, and fired his broadside at Capt. Lafory, astern of us, and left off chase - none of which, or those before, did any execution.

At our first making off, we found Mr. Farmer to drop astern very fast, on which the Commodore hailed the "Ontario" to tell him to bear up more large. The two sternmost schooners gave chase to him, and soon after we saw him firing at him, which guns by the report they made were heavy. At three P.M. we got into Oswego.

The new brigantine and sloop are to be launched tomorrow, the "Snow" in ten or twelve days. But we are greatly disappointed in guns for them for Col. Bradstreet arrived here yesterday with 600 battoes, and with him came only sixteen carriage guns and sixteen swivels, whereas the Brigantine alone should mount sixteen carriage guns. However, we shall get some small guns from the Fort for the sloop, and directly go and look for Monsieur, who I am afraid will not give us the opportunity of speaking to him, as they have been to Niagara and I suppose have carried provisions sufficient for the garrison.

We are yet much troubled by scalping parties - large bodies lying within six or seven miles of us, and as our garrison is not sufficient to dislodge them, they do us much damage. We are obliged to have large parties to cover the carpenters; others to clear the woods around the garrison - that it would be imprudent to attempt it till we are stronger. For these ten days past we have quitted the Fort on the Hill, on Oswego side, [Fort George] it not being tenable, but as some troops (about 2000 are come up with Col. Bradstreet, we expect to be immediately put in a posture of defence. Provisions we abound in. but now the cry is "men!" So believe we shall rest on the defensive this summer and winter. What is the occasion, time may discover; and may the enemies of our country meet their just deserts is my sincere wish.

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Date of Original
July 26, 1756
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  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.45535 Longitude: -76.5105
Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Eyewitness Account of Naval Engagement off Oswego