Dr. Edward Harris 0000-00-00 00:00:00
“Well, if the breeze fails, it will be a good turn I have done the Yankees.” —Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm, Bermuda, August 4, 1814. The year 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which was declared against Great Britain by the United States. The time arose for the British to teach the upstart Americans a lesson for the sack of York (Toronto), and during the summer of 1814, soldiers under the command of Major General Robert Ross were amassed at Bermuda for an assault against the heart of the country at Washington. In Murray’s Anchorage, 18 vessels, including the flagship HMS Tonnant (86 guns) and HMS Royal Oak (74) lay at anchor, awaiting a signal for departure to the continent. The Admiral on command could view the fleet from Mount Wyndham, and in the dining room of that Admiralty House, the plans were hatched for the frying of American bacon. On August 1, 1814, HMS Tonnant, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane commanding, and HMS Surprise, carrying General Ross, departed the Narrows for the Chesapeake. Whilst the bulk of the fleet of invaders readied for sea, the wind changed direction, making a departure via the Narrows impossible. Over dinner at Mount Wyndham, “a gentleman” suggested that he could take the fleet out through a channel by North Rock, a dangerous passage in a sea of reefs, even for small vessels. Admiral Malcolm made the decision to proceed and the channel was buoyed by the warden of the “King’s Pilots.” The die was cast and on August 4, led by HMS Royal Oak, the fleet of 16 warships departed Bermuda via the North Rock Passage, possibly marked in white and red buoys. Joseph Nicholas Hayward was credited as being the “only man in the island who would undertake to pilot the Royal Oak through.” However, it seems that another pilot by the name of Outerbridge was also involved, for a brooch of silver and paste jewels yet exists. On its back is inscribed: “Rear Admiral Cockburn to Mrs. Outerbridge, commemorating her husband’s daring feat of piloting through North Rock Passage the British Fleet responsible for the sacking and burning of Washington. Bermuda 1814.” It is hoped that the descendants of said Outerbridges are not in need of U.S. visas. Sacking is not without its benefits, and four paintings of George III and Queen Charlotte were found in a warehouse in Washington on August 24 or 25, 1814 (where, presumably, they had been dumped after the Revolution). “Sir George Cockburn had the portraits put on board his flagship [and] on her arrival in Bermuda [he presented the] portraits of the Royal Couple to each of the newly created Corporations of St. George’s and Hamilton.” That booty from the 1814 sack of Washington now hangs, a pair apiece, in Bermuda’s parliament, the House of Assembly and at the Cabinet Office of the Bermuda Government: the “Mad King” might have been much amused.
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