Cutting out the Sandwich


In May, 1800, the USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Silas Talbot, looked into the neutral port of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, (pictured above) and found a French privateer, the former British packet Sandwich, sheltered there. Captain Talbot tells the story:

I have now to acquaint you, Sir, that I have been for some time meditating an enterprize against a French armed ship, lying at Port Plate, protected by her own guns and a Fort of three heavy cannon. It was my first intention to have gone in with the Constitution, and to have silenced the fort and ship, which has all her guns on one side to co-operate with the fort in defending against any hostile force; but after the best information I could gain, I found it to be somewhat dangerous to approach the entrance of the harbor, with a ship of the draft of water of the Constitution.

Having detained the sloop Sally, which had left Port Plate but a few days before, and was to have returned there previous to her sailing for the United States, I conceived that this sloop would be a suitable vessel for a disguise. I therefore manned her at Sea from the Constitution, with about ninety brave seamen and marines, the latter to be commanded by captain [Daniel] Carmick [editor’s note: the short bio of Daniel Carmick is worth the read] and lieutenant [William] Amory, when on shore; but the entire command I gave to Mr. Isaac Hull, my first lieutenant, who entered the harbor of Port Plate yesterday in open day, with his men in the hold of the sloop, except five or six to work her in. They ran alongside the ship, and boarded her, sword in hand, without the loss of a man, killed or wounded. At the moment the ship was boarded, Agreeably to my plan, captain Carmick and lieutenant Amory landed with the marines, up to their necks in water, and spiked all the cannon in the fort, before the commanding officer had time to recollect and prepare himself for defence.

Perhaps no enterprize of the same moment was ever better executed; and I feel myself under great obligations to lieutenant Hull, captain Carmick, and lieutenant Amory, for their avidity in undertaking the scheme I had planned, and for the handsome manner and great address with which they performed this dashing adventure.

The ship, I understand, mounts four sixes and two nines; she was formerly the British packet Sandwich, and from the boasting publications at the cape, and the declaration of the officers, she is one of the fastest sailers that swims. She ran three or four years, (if I forget not,) as a privateer out of France, and with greater success than any other that ever sailed out of their ports. She is a beautiful copper bottomed ship; her cargo consists principally of sugar and coffee.

I am, &c.
Silas Talbot.

More of the story is here.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Naval Operations, Naval Tactics

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