Britannia certainly ruled the waves in 1814. Everyone knew that, except, perhaps, the mad Americans. Their navy, insignificant in numbers compared to the Royal Navy, had put up quite a fight during the War of 1812 and won a series of ship to ship duels that had injured the pride of the British nation. Their privateers had damaged British commerce by hunting British merchantmen throughout the Seven Seas. Therefore, it can come as little surprise to learn that when Captain Lloyd of the Royal Navy led a squadron into the port of Fayal in the Azores on September 26, 1814 he immediately commenced combat operations when he spotted an American privateer, The General Armstrong, a schooner of 14 guns, also in the port, even though the port was controlled by a neutral power, Portugal.
Although vastly outnumbered by the English squadron, Captain Samuel Reid, the skipper of The General Armstrong, had no intention of giving up without a fight. The British initially attempted to seize the schooner with four boats filled with Marines and sailors. Reid opened fire with his guns and drove them off. The British tried again after dark. Around midnight the British sent 12 large barges with mounted cannon and filled with 400 men against the schooner. The British reached the schooner, shouted “No quarter” and boarded her. The heavily outnumbered Americans fought back ferociously, beating off the attack and killing most of the attackers.
The next morning the British began to attack the schooner with long range gunnery. Still The General Armstrong fought on, holding its own in this lop-sided contest. Ultimately the Americans scuttled The General Armstrong and escaped on shore. Few injuries to the pride of the Royal Navy were greater than this contest with one American privateer. (more…)