Enterprise and Boxer
DESCRIPTION: "Come all ye sons of Freedom, Come, listen unto me." American Enterprise and British Boxer fight. "Though the Enterprise is but small, soon made the Boxer tame." The Americans, upon boarding, see much British blood. The singer cheers for liberty
EARLIEST DATE: 1818 (The Book of Birds, acccording to Gray)
KEYWORDS: ship battle death nonballad
Sep 5, 1813 - Battle between the _Enterprise_ and the _Boxer_
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Gray, pp. 148-150, "Enterprise and Boxer" (1 text)
NOTES [485 words]: There appear to be two songs titled "Enterprise and Boxer," this and another found in the Forget-Me-Not Songster; neither appears to have gone into tradition. There is also a poem by Longfellow which of course exists only as a poem.
As is almost standard in poetic accounts of battles from the War of 1812, this one ignores much of the story. Jameson, p. 221, has this to say of the Enterprise:
[A]n American brig of fourteen guns, Captain Burrows. September 5, 1813, the brig, while sailing off the Maine coast, met the British brig "Boxer," also of fourteen guns. Both vessels opened fire at the same time. The wind was light and the cannonading very destructive. The "Enterprise," crossing the bows of the "Boxer," gave such a raking that the latter surrendered. The battle lasted forty minutes. Both commanders were killed. Two days later the prize was taken into Portland harbor.
Even before this battle, Enterprise (the third navy ship of that name) had had a complex history, Paine, p. 167, notes that she was built as a schooner during the Quasi-War with France, and captured several French privateers at that time. In 1812, after being laid up for some years, she was refitted as a brig and given the armament of 14 18-pound carronades and two 9-pound long guns which she carried during the War of 1812. Paine says Boxer had only 12 guns during their engagement.
On her next major voyage, Enterprise was forced to flee a British ship, and jettisoned most of her cannon to escape. Like most of the American navy, she spent the latter part of the war stuck in harbor. Just as with the victories of the U. S. S. Constitution, Enterprise had won her battle but done nothing of significance to win the war. She was wrecked in 1823 (Paine, p. 168).
The Enterprise class does not seem to have been much of a success; Heidler/Heidler, p. 169, report that two sisters, Nautilus and Vixen "had both been captured by the British and later wrecked." They add that Lt. William Burrows of the Enterprise and Capt. Samuel Blyth of the Boxer, both of whom died in the battle, were buried side by side in Portland.
The Boxer probably should have avoided battle; although the two ships were the same length, Enterprise had a larger mast (hence more sail, so she was probably faster), and heavier guns, and a much larger crew (102 men, to 66 on Boxer; Mahon, p. 127) ButBoxer had been convoying a Swedish merchantman when she ran into Enterprise (Mahon, pp. 126-127). In any case, Captain Blyth, who was the sort to nail his colors to the mast (Heidler/Heidler, p. 169), wanted to fight -- and paid for it. The Americans managed to "cross the T" and rake the British ship, and the officer who succeeded Blyth surrendered without waiting to be boarded (Mahon, p. 127). Just as well, given that the British had suffered 21 casualties to 12 for the Americans (Heidler/Heidler, p. 169). - RBW
Last updated in version 3.8
- Heidler/Heidler: David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, editors, Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, 1997 (I use the 2004 Naval Institute Press edition)
- Jameson: J. Franklin Jameson, Dictionary of United States History 1492-1895, Puritan Press, 1894
- Mahon: John K. Mahon, The War of 1812, 1972 (I used the undated Da Capo paperback edition)
- Paine: Lincoln P. Paine, Ships of the World, Houghton Mifflin, 1997
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