J. F. H. Claiborne, in his 1876 address, told that a regiment of Mississippi militia was stationed in support of the battery, but made a hasty retreat to the Big Spring. An invalid lady from Natchez implored the colonel to fire one gun for the honor of the country, but failing to do so, she touched off a cannon with a cigarette handed her by John B. Toulme. It is, however, at least capable of inference from the official reports that the battery took part in the engagement. Subsequently a number of the young men of the region, led by Mr. Toulme, took their rifles and went in pirogues to aid in the defense of New Orleans.
Mississippi Sound, Naval Engagements, 1814.
Commodore Daniel T. Patterson had been in command, from near the beginning of the war, of what there was of the United States navy on the New Orleans station. The insignificance of the naval force anywhere had been the humiliation of America.
In 1812 there had begun the building of a flat-bottomed frigate, or gun boat in Lake Ponchartrain, to carry forty-two cannon, but the construction had been suspended, despite the protests of Patterson and Claiborne. Patterson had a few gunboats when the time of need arrived, a mere shadow compared to the strength of the British armament. A letter was sent him from Pensacola, December 5, announcing the arrival of the British fleet of sixty sail men of war and transports of the army for the capture of New Orleans.
Gen. Jackson was already in the city beginning the preparation for defense. Patterson for his part, did what he could to thwart or at least watch the hostile movements. He sent five gunboats, a tender, and despatch boat, toward "the passes Mariana and Cristiana" under the command of Thomas Catesby Jones, with orders to make a last stand at Rigolets and sink the enemy or be sunk.
Lieutenant Jones detached two gun boats, under McKeever and Ulrick, to go as far as Dauphine Island, where they espied one or more of the British advance scouts the Seahorse, Armide and Sophie. Vice Admiral Cochrane commanding the British expedition. Reported (from the Armide off Cat Island Dec. 15) that the two gunboats fired upon the Armide. But they could not have sustained the action, and turned about and joined the other three gunboats off Biloxi.
As Cochrane intended to anchor at Isle au Vaisseau (Ship Island) and send the troops in small boats to land at the Bayone Catalan (or Des Pecheurs) at the head of lake Borgne, "it became impossible", he said, "that any movement by the troops could take place till this formidable flotilla was either captured or destroyed." Rear-admiral Malcolm came up, with the fleet, on the 11th, and anchored between Cat and Ship islands, and Jones retired to pass Mariana, and next day off Bay St. Louis, obeying orders to avoid being cut off from the Rigolets.
Cochrane, on the 12th, put "the launches, barges and pinnaces of the squadron", under the command of Captain Lockyer, of the Sophie, aided by Captains Montressor and Roberts, against Jones, who then determined to take station near the Malheureux island. About 2 p.m., on the 13th, the British boats were at Pass Christian. The water was so low because of westerly wind, that three of the gunboats could not be got afloat, even by throwing all that they could spare overboard, until flood tide at 3:30. Three of the British ships entered the Bay St. Louis, to cut off the schooner Seahorse that Jones had sent in to remove the stores deposited there. A few shots drove the barges out of range, but they were reinforced by four others, and the attacked renewed.
Sailing master Johnson of the Seahorse was supported by a shore battery of two six pounders, after a sharp action of 30 minutes, the enemy drew off, with one boat damaged and several men wounded or killed. But it was necessary at 7:30, to blow up the schooner, and burn the public store house.
Early in the morning on the 14th Jones was compelled by a failure of wind to drop anchor "in the west end of the Malheureux island passage."
At daylight the calm continued and the British rowboats anchored about nine miles distant, prepared to advance. Jones called his subordinates on board his flagship gunboat #156 and gave orders. The boats took position in a close line across the channel, anchored by the stern with springs on the cable, against the strong current of ebb tide "thus we remained," he wrote in his report, "anxiously awaiting attack from the advancing foe, whose force I clearly distinguished to be 42 heavy launches and gun barges, with three light gigs, manned with upwards to a thousand men and officers."
He had, as stated, five gunboats, with 23 guns and 182 men, under the command of Lieutenant John D. Ferris, Isaac McKeever, Thomas A.C. Jones, Robert Spedden and George Ulrick. The sloop Alligator, 1 gun and 8 men, under Master R. S. Sheppard, was two miles away to the southwest, held by the calm. This boat was first captured by a detachment of Lockyer's boats, after which the attacking force was united. "At 10:30," says Jones, "the enemy weighed, forming a line abreast in open order, and steering direct for our line, which was unfortunately in some degree broken by the force of the current, driving Nos. 156 and 163 about 100 yards in advance.
As soon as the enemy came within reach of our shot, a deliberate fire from our long guns was oepned upon him, but without much effect, the objects being of so small a size. At 10 minutes before 11, the enemy opened a fire from the whole of his line, when the action became general and destructive on both sides.
About 11:49 the advance boats of the enemy, three in number, attempted to board No. 156, but were repulsed with the loss of nearly every officer killed and wounded and two boats sunk. A second attempt to board was then made by four other boats, which shared almost a similar fate. At this moment I received a severe wound in my left shoulder, which compelled me to quit the deck, leaving it in charge of Mr. George Parker, master's mate, who gallantly defended the vessel until he was severely wounded, when the enemy, by his superior numbers, succeeded in gaining possession of the deck about 10 minutes past 12 o'clock.
The enemy immediately turned the guns of his prize on the other gunboats and fired several shots previous to striking the American colors. The action continued with unabating severity until 40 minutes past 12 o'clock, when it terminated with the surrender of No. 23, all the other vessels having previously fallen into the hands of the enemy." Lieutenants Spedden and McKeever were also wounded, spedden losing an arm, and a considerable number of men were killed and wounded. The British reports show 45 boats, with 43 cannon, engaged.
Capt. Lockyer reported that on his barge, that fought Jones' boat, he was severely wounded, and most of his officers and crew were either killed or wounded. He succeeded only by the aid of the Tonnant's boats, under Lieut. Tatnall.
The total British loss was 17 killed and 77 wounded, including the captain and 15 officers. For his victory Lockyer was promoted to command of the captured flotilla, and Montressor, in temporary command, at once made use of it to secure possession of Lake Borgne. (See Latour's Historical Memoir and appendix.)
The advance guard of the infantry was landed on "Isle aux Pois, a small swampy spot at the mouth of the Pearl River," on December 16, and was joined there by Maj.-Gen. Keane and Admirals Cochrane and Codrington on the next day.
During the remainder of the campaign Ship Island harbor was the station of the British fleet, under Vice Admiral Cochrane, whose flagship was the Tonnant, 80 guns, and Rear Admirals Codrington and Malcolm, the latter of whom carried his flag on the Royal Oak, a seventy-four. There were three other "seventy-fours" in this Mississippi harbor, the Norge, Bedford, Raminies, and Asia; the Dictator of sixty-four, Diomede of fifty, Gordon of forty-four, and eleven ships whose guns were in the thirties, besides ten others of inferior armament. Some of these great men-of-war were then or afterwards famous in the annals of sea fighting.
(Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, Vol. I, by Dunbar Rowland, 1907, pages 165-267)
Near the pierhead of John Martin's Wharf at Bay St. Louis, lies, in about eight feet of water, a bronze eighteen pounder cannon –a gun that was mounted on the bluff opposite in 1814 from one of the American gunboats that were shortly afterwards captured by Admiral Cochrane's boat Flotilla.
This gun was thrown into the sea, where it lies now, in 1861 (1862 ?) during one of the alarms created by the U.S. New London, the first Federal war steamer in these waters. This gun ought to be raised as it is a curious historical relic, having been captured by the Americans from one of the old English three-deckers.
(Daily Picayune Thursday, March 24, 1870 p2 c1) -(Bay St. Louis Gazette March 19, 1870) From MISSISSIPPI by Dunbar Rowland page 226.