James Madison Papers

Notes on the British Force at Tangier Island, ca. 12 June 1814

Notes on the British Force at Tangier Island

[ca. 12 June 1814]

Information of Lt. Wise of the Accomac Militia who lives near Tangier Island, given on his way to the Ex of Virga. to the President.

1–74 & 2 frigates with smaller vessels remaining there.

abt. 1300 troops & 3.700 marines, & 600 uniformed blacks, of these, 200 blacks in Patuxent and also the greater part of the marines.

on the Island a fort 149 yds. square, begun to be filled up with Cannon—inclosing a very large Hospital full of sick & 2 houses of worship just built.


They take & seek Negroes, women & children not excepted


In the late skirmish the loss was chiefly among the negroes who moved in the front.1


A late combination of abt. 60 negroes (headed by an Intelligent Pilot) who had been tired of their situation attempted to desert—but were discovered & the Pilot executed.


The Negroes notwithstanding much disposed to get to the Enemy

Ms (DLC). Undated; dated 1814 in the Index to the James Madison Papers; conjectural date assigned here based on comparison with Thomas M. Bayly to JM, 11 June 1814.

1JM probably referred to a British attack at Pungoteague, in Accomack County, Virginia, on 29 May 1814. Firing their single cannon, the local militia defended a small fortification there until they ran out of ammunition. The British force of “at least 400 men, white and black—a great many blacks” then landed, and in the fighting that followed, sustained losses of nine killed and fifteen wounded, according to an American estimate (Baltimore Patriot & Evening Advertiser, 20 June 1814). One of the killed and five of the wounded were black marines from a corps of at least two hundred escaped slaves trained under Adm. Sir George Cockburn in May 1814 on Tangier Island (Cassell, “Slaves of the Chesapeake Bay Area and the War of 1812,” Journal of Negro History 57 [1972]: 150–51).

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