The Battle of Plattsburg Bay
The Plattsburg Bay Naval Battle: The British
Carpenters and riggers spend the week preceding the battle frantically working to finish the British flagship Confiance. There is so much work to be done that the craftsmen leave the vessel only minutes before the start of the engagement. The British naval commander, George Downie, has been under tremendous pressure from Governor General George Prevost. Prevost is waiting outside of Plattsburg with his army and does not want to attack until the British fleet arrives.
Prevost has sent a series of urgent messages to Downie. At one point, he even questions Downies willingness to fight. These letters goad the naval commander into attacking, though he knows his fleet is not ready. Perhaps even more dangerous is the fact that Downie decides to engage the Americans on their terms: U.S. commander Thomas Macdonough has been allowed to dictated the location and strategy of the battle.
The British fleet consists of the Confiance, Linnet, Chubb, Finch and 12 gunboats. George Downie sails his vessels into Plattsburg Bay on the morning of September 11, 1814. Hampered by unfavourable winds and under heavy fire, the Confiance anchors prematurely and fouls some of its anchors. Captain George Downie is killed only fifteen minutes into the action and is replaced by Lieutenant James Robertson on the Confiance, overall command goes to Captain Daniel Pring.
After knocking the Preble and the Eagle out of action, it looks like the British fleet is poised to win. Macdonough, then makes a surprise move. He winches his flagship Saratoga around to bring a new broadside to bear on the battered Confiance. The British flagship, with its fouled anchors, is unable to copy the maneuver.
The British gunboats flee. Robertson realizes he is beaten and the Confiance strikes her colours. The British squadron surrenders.