Friday, April 6

A Gamecock aboard an American Warship

The Saratoga and Eagle vs. the Confidence during the battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain

Submitted by Tony Gerard

An account of a gamecock aboard an American warship comes from “The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American independence” by Benson John Lossing.

On September 11, 1814, at the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay on Lake Champlain in New York a British naval squadron under Captain George Downie sailed into battle against a smaller American naval force under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough. Downie was killed early in ensuing fight and after several hours the British surrendered. As the hostilities commenced “ The Linnet, as she was passing to attack the Eagle, gave the Saratoga a broadside, but without serious effect. One of her shots demolished a hen-coop on the Saratoga, in which was a young game-cock which some of the seamen had lately brought on board. The released fowl, startled by the noise of the cannon, flew upon a gun-slide, and, clapping his wings, crowed lustily and defiantly. The sailors cheered, and the incident, appearing to them as ominous of victory for the Americans, strengthened the courage of all”.

In a further footnote Lossing notes his source- “Satement to the author by Commodore Samuel L Breese, who was commander of the gun-boat Netley in the action and James Sloan, of Oswego, who, as we have observed was Macdonough’s clerk, and was a witnessto the affair. He says that some of the sailors were fond of cock-fighting.Thisparticular bird, owned on shore, had been a formidable antagonist, and,by “hook or by crook”, they had obtained possession of him.”

Lossing further notes- “The following allusion to this event is contained in a rhyming “Episle of brother Jonathan to Johnny Bull, said to have been written near the close of 1814 :

Oh, Johnny Bull, my joe, John,
Behold on Lake Champlain,
With more than equal force, John,
You tried your fists again:
But the cock saw how ’twas going,
And cried Cock-a-doodle-doo,
And Macdonough was victorious,
O, Jonny Bull, my joe!”

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