The Naval history of Great Britain:
from the declaration of war by France in 1793 to the accession of George IV
On the 5th September, at daylight, as the British brig-sloop (late gun-brig), Boxer, of 12 carronades,
18 pounders, and two sixes, Captain Samuel Blyth, was lying at anchor near Penguin point, a few miles to the eastward of Portland in the United States, the American gun-brig Enterprise, of 14 carronades, 18 pounders, and two nines, Lt-commandant William Burrows, was seen in the South-south-east.
At 7h. 30m. p.m.
leaving her surgeon, two of her midshipmen, and an army officer, a passenger, on shore at Manhegan, "shooting pigeons", the Boxer got under way, and, at 8h. 30m., hoisting three English ensigns, bore up for the Enterprise, then standing on the larboard tack.
At 9. a.m. the latter tacked and stood to the southward.
At 9h. 30m., when the two brigs were about four miles apart, it fell calm; and at 11h. 30m a breeze sprang up from the southward, which placed the American brig to windward.
At 2p.m. the Enterprise made sail on a wind, to try her rate of sailing with the Boxer; and, in half an hour, having clearly ascertained his advantage in this respect, as well as that the Boxer was inferior in size and force, Lt Burrows hoisted three American ensigns, and firing a shot of defiance, bore up to engage.
At 3h. 15m p.m. the Boxer, being on the starboard tack, fired her starboard broadside, and immediately received the larboard broadside of the Enterprise in return; the two brigs then not more than half pistol-shot apart. In the very first broadside, an 18-pound shot passed through Captain Blyth's body, and shattered his left arm. The command of the Boxer then devolved upon her only Lt., David McCreery. At about the same time a musket-ball fired from the Boxer mortally wounded Captain burrows.
At 3h 30m the Enterprise, now commanded by Lt. Edward R. McCall, ranged ahead, and, rounding to the starboard tack, racked the Boxer with her starboard guns, and shot away her maintopmast and foretopsail-yard. The American brig then set her foresail, and, taking position on the starboard bow of her now wholly unmanageable antagonist, continued pouring in successive raking fires until 3h. 45m when the Boxer surrendered.
The Boxer was much cut up in hull and spars, and, out of her 60 men (12 absent) and six boys, lost besides her commander, three men killed, and 17 men wounded, four of them mortally.
The Enterprise suffered very little injury in her hull and spars; but her rigging and sails were a good deal cut. Out of her 120 men and three boys the American brig lost one man killed, her commander, one midshipman (both mortally), and 11 men wounded, one of the latter mortally.
The established armament of the Boxer was 10carronades;
and that number, with her two six-pounders, was as many as the brig could mount with effect or carry with ease. but when the Boxer was refitting at Halifax, Captain Blyth obtained two additional carronades; had he taken them onboard, instead of them 20 additional seamen, the Boxer would have been a much more effective vessel.
Against the English 18-pounder carronade, complaints have always been made, for its lightness and unsteadiness in action; but the American carronade of that calibre is much shorter in the breech, and longer in the muzzle: there fore it heats more slowly, recoils less, and carries farther.While on the subject of carronades, we may remark, that even the few disadvantages in the carronade, which the Americans have not been able to entirely to obviate, they have managed to lessen, by using not only stouter, but double, breechings; one of which, in case the ring-bolt should draw, is made to pass through the timberhead.
The same is the case, indeed, with all the varieties of the carronade used by the Americans; and they, in consequence, derive advantages in the employment of that piece of ordnance not possessed by the English, whose carronades are notoriously the lightest and most inefficient of any in use. If the English carronade, especially of the smaller calibre's, had displayed its imperfections, as these pages have frequently shown that the English 13-inch mortar was in the habit of doing, by bursting after an hour or two's firing, the gun must have either been improved in form, or thrown out of the service.
Although it was clearly shown, by the number of prisoners received out of her, that the Boxer commenced the action with only 66 men and boys, Captain Isaac Hull was so officious as to address a letter to Commodore Bainbridge at boston, purposely to express his opinion, that the British brig had upwards of "100 men on board; for" says Captain hull, "I counted upwards of 90 hammocks". As the American public did not know that in the british service, every seamean and marine has two hammocks allowed to him, this statement from one of their favourite naval officers produced the desired effect all over the Republic, Washington not excepted.
The Boxer measured 181 tons and a fraction, the enterprise at least 245 tons; and, while the bulwarks of the latter were built of solid oak, those of the former consisted, with the exception of one timber between each port, of an outer and inner plank, pervious to every grape-shot that was fired.
As a proof of the difference in size of the two vessels, the mainmast of the Enterprise was 15 inches more in circumference than the Boxer, and her mainyard upwards of 10 feet longer.
We will, however admit that, but for the twofold disparity in their crews, these two vessels would have been a tolerably fair match. It was not in the number of men only that the disparity existed; an acting-master's mate, Hugh James, and three seamen, as proved at the court-martial assembled to try the surviving officers and crew for the loss of the Boxer, deserted their quarters in the action. So that, as the two midshipmen were absent, Lt McCreery was the only officer left after the death of the Captain, and the latter, it will be recollected, was killed in the first broadside; where as the Enterprise, after her gallant commander fell, had still two remaining lieutenants, one or two master's mates, and four midshipmen.
Her crew, also, had evidently been well practised at the guns; but the Boxer's men appear to have known very little what use to make of their guns. the sentence of the court-martial refers particularly to this disgraceful circumstance. upon the whole, the action of the Boxer and Enterprise was a very creditable affair to the Americans; but, excepting the Frolic's action, and that was a case sui generis, it was the first engagement in which an American vessel had succeeded against a British vessel nearly equal to her in guns; and, even in this case, the American vessel was doubly superior in crew, better formed in every respect, nearly a third larger, and constructed, as we have already stated, of much stouter scantling.
On the 7th of September the gallant commanders of the two brigs were buried at Portland with military and civic honours; and the few surviving officers of the Boxer, to testify their regard for their late commander, caused a tombstone, with a suitable inscription, to be placed over his grave. None of the praises lavished on the "fine brig of war Boxer" could gain her a place among the national vessels of the United States. She was put up to auction, and sold for a merchant-brig; for which service only, and that in peaceable times, she was ever calculated.
War of 1812
Letter from Edward McCall
of USS Enterprise
reporting capture of