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Battle of Craney Island

On June 20, 1813 a British naval force of three ships with 74 guns, one ship with 64 guns, four frigates, two sloops and three transports anchored off Craney Island.

Admiral George Cockburn and Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren planned an attack on Norfolk. The key to the defence of Norfolk was Craney Island. This island was located close to shore with a bridge that linked it to the mainland. The objective of this attack was to capture the frigate "Constellation" and destroy the shipyard.

On the north-west side of this island was a battery of 18 pounders, which Captain Cassin, commanding the U.S. naval forces at Norfolk assigned 100 sailors from the "Constellation". These men were commanded by Lieutenants Neale, Shubrick and Saunders. Also 50 marines were sent to defend the island under the command of Lieutenant Breckenbridge, 150 American defenders in all.

Admiral Warren ordered Captain Pechell of the ship "San Domingo" to lead the attack over the objections of Admiral Cockburn who had recommended Lieutenant Westphal.

On June 22nd 1813 a British force of 15 boats, containing seamen, marines, chasseurs and soldiers of the 102nd regiment, some 700 men in all made their way for Craney Island.

The Americans held their fire until the British were close in. When they opened fire it had a devastating effect. Approximately 70 yards from the guns one of the British boats grounded on a shoal, and the attack was checked. Three boats had been sunk by American artillery fire from the island, but the water was so shallow they were still above water. Crew members from the American ship "Constellation" waded out and took possession of the British boats.

The British then retreated in disorder having lost 91 men and three boats.