Capture of HMS Boxer
|Capture of HMS Boxer|
|Part of the War of 1812|
|United Kingdom||United States|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Samuel Blyth †||William Burrows †|
|Casualties and losses|
|1 brig captured||1 brig damaged|
The capture of HMS Boxer in 1813 was a naval battle of the War of 1812, in which the United States Navy brig USS Enterprise defeated the Royal Navy brig HMS Boxer. The ship was sold at auction and continued for at least a decade as a merchantman. However, six US Navy ships would eventually carry the name.
On 5 September 1813, USS Enterprise with fourteen 18-pound carronades and two-9 pound long guns and 102 men sighted HMS Boxer with twelve 18-pound carronades and two 9 pound long guns and 66 men off Pemaquid Point, Maine, and closed on the enemy brig. Local tradition holds that the ensuing battle was visible from the rooftop of a house on Metinic Island. Interestingly, Boxer was in the area having for a fee escorted an American merchantman with Swedish papers from New Brunswick to the Kennebec River. British Commander Samuel Blyth prepared for a fight to the finish, nailing one's flag to the foremast. In Enterprise, Lieutenant William Burrows demonstrated similar resolve. He moved one of his two long 9-pounders from the bow to a stern port, declaring: " We are going to fight both ends and both sides of this ship as long as the ends and the sides hold together."
The two brigs opened fire, and Blyth was killed during the initial fusillade, and Burrows suffered a mortal wound moments later. The fierce contest ended in 30 minutes with Boxer in ruins. Command of Enterprise passed to Lieutenant Edward McCall, while Lieutenant David McGrery assumed command of the battered Boxer. The dying Lieutenant Burrows declined to accept Commander Blyth's sword, directing it be sent to the family of the dead British captain. "I am satisfied, I die contented," Lieutenant Burrows exclaimed. McCall went into nearby Portland, Maine with the two ships and the casualties.
A court martial later found that a number of British seamen had deserted their quarters during the action.
Newspapers in the United States rejoiced in "another brilliant naval victory." After two days of planning, authorities conducted an impressive state funeral for the two commanders, and they rest side by side in Portland's Eastern Cemetery. Next to them is the comparable grave of Lieutenant Kerwin Waters who suffered mortal wounds as a midshipman during the battle but lived for two more years.
" The captain of HMS Boxer, Commander Samuel Blyth, was killed early in the action by a cannon ball; had he lived he might have defended his ship more desperately, but it is not probable with more success. He was an officer of distinguished merit; having received a sword from government for his good conduct under Sir James L. Yeo, in the capture of Cayenne. Blyth was also one of the pall-bearers of our lamented James Lawrence, when buried at Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was his fate now to receive like courtesy at the hands of his enemy. His remains, in company with those of the brave Burrows, were brought to Portland , where they were interred with military honours in Eastern Cemetery. It was a striking and affecting sight, to behold two gallant commanders, who had lately been arrayed in deadly hostility against each other, descending into one quiet grave, there to mingle their dust peacefully together. "
This battle was referenced by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "My Lost Youth":
"I remember the sea-fight far away,
How it thundered o'er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay
Where they in battle died.
And the sound of that mournful song
Goes through me with a thrill:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
- Lohnes (1973), p.326.
- Washington Irving, Analectic Nagazine, November 1813
- Ellis, James H. A Ruinous and Unhappy War: New England and the War of 1812 (New York: Algora Publishing, 2009), pp. 134–142.
- Frost, John (1985) The Pictorial Book Of The Commodores; Comprising Lives Of Distinguished Commanders In The Navy Of The United States. (New York:Nafis & Cornish).
- Lohnes, Barry J. (1973) "British Naval Problems at Halifax During the War of 1812". Mariner's Mirror 59, 317-333.
- Smith, Joshua M. Battle for the Bay: The War of 1812 (Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2011), pp. 75–91.