(Figure 4: Fayal Roads channel, as seen from the Santa Cruz fort in Horta, Faial, with the island of Pico in the background. Photo by John J. Baker, 2013.)
In face of the testimony of all Fayal and a number of respectable strangers who happened to be in this place at the moment, the British commander endeavors to throw the odium of this transaction on the American captain, Reid, alleging that he sent the boats merely to reconnoitre the brig and without any hostile intentions; the pilots of the port informed them of the privateer the moment they entered the port. To reconnoitre an enemy’s vessel in a friendly port, at night, with four boats carrying by the best accounts 120 men, is certainly a strange proceeding! The fact is, they expected as the brig was warping in, that the Americans would not be prepared to receive them, and they had hopes of carrying her by a “coup de main.” If anything could add to the baseness of this transaction on the part of the British commander, it is want of candor, openly and boldly to avow the facts. In vain can he expect by such subterfuge to shield himself from the indignation of the world, and the merited resentment of his own government and nation for thus trampling on the sovereignty of their most ancient and faithful ally and for the wanton sacrifice of British lives.
On the part of the Americans the loss was comparatively nothing, two killed and seven slightly wounded; of the slain we have to lament the loss of the second Lieut. Mr. Alexander O. Williams of New York, a brave and meritorious officer. Among the wounded are Messrs. Worth and Johnson, first and third Lieutenants; Capt. Reid was thus deprived early in the action of the services of all his lieutenants; but his cool and intrepid conduct secured him the victory. On the morning of the 27th. ult. one of the British ships placed herself near the shore and commenced a heavy cannonade on the privateer. Finding further resistance unavailing, Capt. Reid ordered her to be abandoned after being partially destroyed, to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy, who soon after sent their boats and set her on fire.
At 9 o’clock in the evening (soon after the first attack) I applied to the Governor, requesting his Excellency to protect the privateer, either by force, or by such remonstrance to the commander of the squadron as would cause him to desist from any further attempt. The Governor indignant at what had passed, but feeling himself totally unable with the slender means he possessed, to resist such a force, took the part of remonstrating, which he did in forcible but respectful terms. His letter to Capt. Lloyd had no other effect than to produce a menacing reply, insulting in the highest degree. Nothing can exceed the indignation of the public authorities, as well as of all ranks and description of persons here, at this unprovoked enormity. Such was the rage of the British to destroy this vessel, that no regard was paid to the safety of the town; some of the inhabitants were wounded and a number of houses much damaged. The strongest representations on this subject are prepared by the Governor for his court.
Since this affair the commander Lloyd, threatened to send on shore an armed force and arrest the privateer’s crew, saying there were many Englishmen among them and our poor fellows afraid of his vengeance have fled to the mountains several times and have been extremely harassed. At length Capt. Lloyd, fearful of losing more men if he put his threats into execution, adopted this stratagem: he addressed an official letter to the Governor, stating that in the American crew were two men, who deserted from his squadron in America, and as they were guilty of high treason, he required them to be found and given up. Accordingly a force was sent into the country, and the American seamen were arrested and brought to town, as they could not designate the pretended deserter all the seamen here passed an examination of the British officers, but no such persons were to be found among them. I was requested by the Governor and British Consul to attend this humiliating examination, as was also Capt. Reid; but we declined to sanction by our presence any such proceedings.
Captain Reid has protested against the British commanders of the squadron for the unwarrantable destruction of his vessel in a neutral and friendly port, as also against the government of Portugal for their inability to protect him. No doubt this government will feel themselves bound to make ample indemnification to the owners, officers and crew of this vessel for the great loss they have severally sustained. I shall as early as possible transmit a statement of this transaction to our Minister at Rio Janeiro for his government. I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, your most obedient serv’t.
JOHN B. DABNEY