1855 Destruction of American Ship During War of 1812 - Fight for Compensation
The entire title of this pamphlet is:
United States Court of Claims.
DECISION OF THE CASE of the Private Armed Brig General Armstrong, Captain Sam C. Reid, and Other Claimants VS THE UNITED STATES.
This pamphlet is from 1855 and is only the case as it is litigated in the US Court of Claims in 1855. There were previous and further cases presented to the Congress, the government of Portugal, and the government of France (who was supposed to be the neutral negotiator) about this case for compensation.
This is only part of a very sad but true story of the attack on the privately armed Brig General Armstrong on September 26, 1814 in the 'neutral' Port of Fayal in Portugal during the War of 1812. The basis of the court cases and claims for compensation was that the General Armstrong, while in the neutral port at Fayal, was attacked by three British warships while the General Armstrong was at anchor taking on fresh water and supplies. There were only two men on the ship when
'The British commander, Robert Lloyd, seems to irrationally delay his mission: to join the flotilla assembling in the Caribbean for the Battle of New Orleans. He loses over 200 men attacking the ARMSTRONG (to 2 Americans) and, even after the privateer is scuttled, wanted to pursue the American crew on land on the Azores and "demanded two men, who, he said, deserted from his vessel when in America.' (from a letter by a British eyewitness on shore on the Portuguese Azores on September 26, 1814. From "A Collection of Sundry Publications and other Documents in relation to the attack made during the late war upon the Private Armed Brig General Armstrong of New York". New York, John Gray, 110 Fulton Street, 1833.)
This was an unprovoked attack on a private ship in what was supposed to be a neutral port during the War of 1812 (in which the US was the instigator) but it was also raised great patriotic fervor in the United States with the knowledge that two American sailors were able to hold off three fully armed British warships. This attack and subsequent case to recover the value of the ship was big news to the American public and many illustrations (Nathaniel Currier and others), songs, and stories were written about the bravery of these merchant sailors.
In reality, it took until 1870 for any money to be awarded to the heirs of the owners of the ship, the sailors, and the captain (Samuel C Reid) for the loss of the General Armstrong with the final petition against the government of the United States and the subsequent award of over $60,000.00.
This court case as it reads is fascinating but what is also fascinating it the history of the man for whom it was named. General John Armstrong (Secretary of War during this time) was held responsible for the capture and burning down of the US Capitol by British forces in August 1814!
As you can tell, I have only scratched the surface of this historic case and the facts surrounding it. To read more please check out this online timeline from the book: United States Serial Set:
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