Marines routed Brits in battle for Craney Island
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    Cool Marines routed Brits in battle for Craney Island

    Issue Date: April 19, 2004

    The Lore of the Corps
    Marines routed Brits in battle for Craney Island

    By Don Burzynski
    Special to the Times

    During the War of 1812, the British, after raiding various Eastern seaboard towns, on June 22, 1813, turned their sights on the naval yard in Norfolk, Va. Since the Americans were building faster, better frigates, the British thought razing Norfolk would help ensure their mastery of the seas.
    But in their way stood a contingent of 51 Marines — led by one Lt. Breckinridge — and 150 sailors, who, with about 500 regular troops and riflemen, manned the heavy guns on Craney Island, situated on the approach to the city at Hampton Roads.

    Shortly after midnight, a horseman dashed into the American camp to report the British were landing two miles to the west. Drums beat the long roll, and as daylight appeared, a continuing flow of British troops could be seen headed to shore from their ships anchored in the Roads. Maj. Faulkner, a Virginia militia commander of artillery, ordered the three heavy guns on the southeast end of the island repositioned to the northwest, next to the four 6-pounders. One, commanded by a Marine lieutenant named Hale, lay in wait. These seven guns in battery made a formidable defense. Behind them, infantry, riflemen and extra artillerymen formed a line behind the guns.

    Marines and sailors from the frigate Constellation — which anchored nearer to the city of Norfolk — manned the 18-pounder, while Virginia militiamen commanded two 24-pounders and 6-pounders. A U.S. flag was fixed to a long pole and placed in the redoubt. On the water, a crescent of U.S. gunboats were stationed in a line stretching from Craney Island.

    The British force of 2,500 infantry and Royal marines landed at Hoffleur’s Creek, stealthily crept through the forest and emerged at the confluence of Wise’s Creek and the straight, then opened fire with a barrage from a field piece, a howitzer and a bevy of Congrieve rockets. The tactic was meant to cover the movement of a detachment sent across the creek and to divert the Americans, who answered with grape and canister and drove the attack away.

    At the same time, the British landing barges approached with another 1,500 sailors and marines from the enemy’s ships, hugging the shore to keep out of range of the gunboat artillery.

    The Americans waited anxiously as the British slowly approached, until the order was given to fire.

    Marines, sailors and militia artillery let loose with an eruption of round, grape and canister shot, and continued the volleys until the enemy fell into disarray and retreated.

    The British thought the fight would be a cakewalk and had brought along their breakfast, shaving kits and dogs. But before sunset, the attack on Norfolk, the navy yard and the Constellation was abandoned, with no American losses. The British casualties included six killed, 24 wounded and 114 missing — of which 40 were prisoners and deserters.

    The battle was also the first time U.S. Marines had repulsed a battalion of Royal marines, forcing them to retreat back to sea.


    Vietnam 1968/69
    Once a Marine...Always a Marine

  2. #2
    I'll give them an overdue Fortitudine for this one.
    Constellation's Marines never lost a fight.

    "The battle was also the first time U.S. Marines had repulsed a battalion of Royal marines, forcing them to retreat back to sea"

    Got that right.
    First time was Banks Island in 1779.
    The very last time was after New Orleans in 1815, altough the Constitution accepted the surrender of the Levant and Cyane months later.
    Bootnecks had to surrender on both occasions.

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