Historical naval battle
This December will mark the 200th anniversary of an important battle fought in neighboring Hancock County.
It’s called the Battle of Bay St. Louis and on Saturday, members of Picayune’s Daughters of the American Revolution listened to a presentation about this lesser-known battle from Hancock County Historical Society Executive Director Charles Gray.
The Battle of Bay St. Louis played an important role in ending the War of 1812, Gray said. The battle has quite a few names including the Battle of Pass Christian.
According to history.com, the War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain. Causes of the conflict included the restriction of U.S. trade by the British, the Royal Navy’s recruitment of American seamen and the United States’ aspiration to expand territory.
On Dec. 12, 1814, 8,000 British soldiers landed at Ship Island, Gray said. On Dec. 13, the British rode from Gulfport to Henderson Point, which is at the foot of the Bay St. Louis Bridge, and dropped anchor.
“The Americans had seven barges and two schooners in the Mississippi Sound,” Gray said. “The larger schooner was the Seahorse and the smaller was the Creole.”
There was a large ammunitions dump in Bay St. Louis and the American’s didn’t want the ammunitions to fall into the British hands, so they sent the Seahorse up the coastline to get rid of the ammunitions, Gray said.
The residents of Hancock County dressed in their best outfits to watch the British sail by the coastline that day to sink the Seahorse, Gray said.
The British sent seven boats to sink the Seahorse, Gray said. On the bluff there were two cannons in defense of the ammunitions dump, but there were no soldiers to defend them.
The Mayor of Bay St. Louis was there, along with his guest, a Mrs. Claiborne of Natchez, Gray said.
“She watched as the British closed in on the Seahorse and she said ‘Will nobody fire a shot in defense of our country?’” Gray said. “She took the mayor’s cigar and lit one of the cannons and it fired over the Seahorse and almost out to the British.”
Captain Johnson of the Seahorse assumed he had fire cover from shore so he turned and attacked the British, Gray said. He sunk or so badly damaged seven enemy boats that they had to return to the fleet.
The British then brought their main line of about 40 or 50 boats and closed in on Johnson and the Seahorse, Gray said.
“Rather than surrender the Seahorse, Johnson blew her up and waded to shore,” Gray said. “The Rutherford Pier, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, was built over the ruins of the Seahorse.”
The ammunition was loaded into the American barges and they were anchored near Bayou Caddy to wait for the British, Gray said. On the morning of Dec.15, after morning tea, the British attacked and fought until about 3 p.m.
“The casualties were greater on the British side,” Gray side. “The Americans had sent the little ship Creole to Chalmette, La. to warn Andrew Jackson that the British were coming. The Creole returned in the middle of the battle and was sunk also.”
The British proceeded to New Orleans.
“This was the last American Naval battle ever fought on American soil with a foreign power,” Gray said. “It also delayed the British two full days on their march to Chalmette and gave Andrew Jackson time to build up his defenses.”
This December, the Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse will host a reenactment of the Battle of Bay St. Louis on Dec. 13, 2014.
To learn more about the, Daughters of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and the Krewe of Seahorse visit www.dar.org, www.history.com and www.mystickreweoftheseahorse.com.