Battle of Woody Point
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (May 2013)|
|Battle of Woody Point|
|Part of The Maritime Fur Trade|
The Tonquin, passing the Columbia River bar in 1811.
|American Fur Company||Nuu-chah-nulth|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Jonathan Thorn †||unknown|
|1 bark||2 war-canoes|
|Casualties and losses|
1 bark scuttled
|~200 killed or wounded|
The Battle of Woody Point was an incident involving the Tla-o-qui-aht natives of the Pacific Northwest and a United States-registered merchant ship. After trading in the region for furs in June 1811, the American vessel was massacred by the natives and scuttled by her crew off Vancouver Island, in Clayoquot Sound.
On March 22, 1811, the Tonquin, a 290 ton bark, reached the Columbia River with the intention of trading with the natives of the northern Pacific coast. To do this a trading post was necessary, after sailing around the Columbia River's mouth for a while, the traders established Fort Astoria, the first American claim on the Pacific. Now after establishing a base of operations, the traders were free to explore the region in pursuit of fine furs.
The Tonquin was crewed by twenty-three men during the time of battle, she also carried ten cannons. Though the vessel was American-flagged and commanded by a United States Navy officer, most of her crew were British subjects. On June 5, 1811 the Tonquin left Fort Astoria and sailed north to trade with the Nuu-chah-nulth around Nootka Sound. About two weeks later, off Vancouver Island, at a place named Woody Point, the Tonquin began trading with the Tla-o-qui-aht Nuu-chah-nulth.
On June 14, 1811, a chief came aboard the Tonquin. Lieutenant Thorn hoped to purchase sea otter pelts which were offered by the natives. Unsatisfied with price of the pelts, the lieutenant tossed the pelt he was inspecting back at the chief. Apparently insulted, the chief left the vessel and later that night, a native woman came aboard the ship and warned the lieutenant that the Nuu-chah-nulth were planning to attack the ship the following day. Thorn failed to believe the woman until the next day when large numbers of native warriors were spotted on the coast. Still Thorn was unconvinced the Nuu-chah-nulth were hostile, a large canoe with over twenty native men was allowed to come to the ship and another canoe of some twenty men followed behind. The first twenty boarded with their weapons concealed under their clothing.
Somehow Lieutenant Thorn realized the danger his ship was in and gave the orders to hoist the anchor and sails. At this moment the Nuu-chah-nulth revealed their weapons, killed Thorn, and began to attack the crewmen. The Nuu-chah-nulth were armed with knives and some pistols and immediately the Tonquin's crew armed themselves and began to resist the boarders. Eventually the second canoe arrived and another wave of warriors came pouring onto the deck. The crew fell back into the cabins. Close quarters combat ensued until the Nuu-chah-nulth were defeated, though all but five of the crewmen died in the engagement. Four of the remaining men attempted to escape in their own canoe the following day but three of whom were killed by the Nuu-chah-nulth after a gale blew them onto the coastline.
Only one man, a half Chinook pilot named George Ramsay, or Lemazee, survived. One wounded man stayed aboard the Tonquin, James Lewis. After destroying the majority of Tonquin's crew, the Nuu-chah-nulth returned to the Tonquin to plunder her. James Lewis was capable of reaching the powder magazine, once there he lit some of the powder and the resulting explosion sunk the ship, killed Lewis, and dozens of natives. The Nuu-chah-nulth acknowledged at least 100 dead and many more wounded, although other accounts say sixty-one to 200 natives were killed.
- Eddins, O. Ned. "John Jacob Astor - Pacific Fur Company: Astorians - Tonquin - Fort Astoria". Mountain Man Plains Indian Canadian Fur Trade. TheFurTrapper.com. http://www.thefurtrapper.com/astorians.htm. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
- Franchère, Gabriel (1851). "Narrative of a voyage to the Northwest coast of America, in the years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814, or, The first American settlement on the Pacific". Early Canadiana Online. http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/mtq?id=526827c58b&doc=35175. Retrieved 2010-04-11.