War of 1812

First Battle of Sacket's Harbor
The Attack on Sacketts Harbour ©Irwin John Bevan
1812 Jul 19

First Battle of Sacket's Harbor

Sackets Harbor, New York

Both the United States and the British Empire placed great importance on gaining control of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River because of the difficulties of land-based communication. The British already had a small squadron of warships on Lake Ontario when the war began and had the initial advantage. The Americans established a Navy yard at Sackett's Harbor, New York, a port on Lake Ontario. Commodore Isaac Chauncey took charge of the thousands of sailors and shipwrights assigned there and recruited more from New York.

On July 19, 1812, Captain Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, of USS Oneida, discovered from the masthead of his brig five enemy vessels sailing up to Sacket's Harbor. They demanded the surrender of American ships, including USS Oneida and a captured merchant vessel, Lord Nelson. The British threatened to burn the village if met with resistance. The battle commenced when the British fired at USS Oneida, which attempted to escape but ultimately returned to Navy Point. American forces, led by Captain Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, engaged the British, utilizing a 32-pounder cannon and makeshift defenses.

The engagement involved a brisk exchange of fire, with both sides inflicting damage on each other's vessels. However, a well-placed shot from the American side struck the flagship Royal George, causing significant damage and prompting the British fleet to retreat to Kingston, Upper Canada. The American troops celebrated their victory with cheers and "Yankee Doodle." General Jacob Brown attributed the success to various officers and the crew of the 32-pounder.

The First Battle of Sacket's Harbor, occurring on July 19, 1812, marked the initial engagement of the War of 1812 between the United States and the British Empire.