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Letter from a midshipman on the Otter [Extract]
No Author
December 09, 1775 - January 09, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 394-395

[Reprinted from American Archives. Vol. 4. Page 452.]
Extract of a Letter from a Midshipman on Board His Majesty's Ship Otter, commanded by Captain Squire, dated January 9th 1766.

December 9.—Our troops, with about sixty townsmen from Norfolk, and a detachment of sailors from the ships, among whom I had the honour to march, set out from Norfolk to attack, once more, the Rebels at the Great-Bridge, who had been lodged there some time, and had erected a breastwork opposite to our fort on their side of the river. We arrived at the fort half an hour after three, in the morning, and after refreshing ourselves, prepared to attack the Rebels in their intrenchments.

Captain Squire, ever ready to assist my Lord in the publick cause, had sent his gunners and men to manage two pieces of cannon who were in the front, and ordered to begin the attack. But how can it be supposed, that with two hundred men we could force a strong intrenchment, defended by at least two thousand? Yet this was attempted, and we marched up to their works with the intrepidity of lions. But alas! we retreated with much fewer brave fellows than we took out. Their fire was so heavy, that, had we not retreated as we did, we should every one have been cut off. Figure to yourself a strong breastwork built across a causeway, on which six men only could advance abreast; a large swamp almost surrounded them; at the back of which were two small breastworks to flank us in our attack on their intrenchments. Under these disadvantages, it was impossible to succeed; yet our men were so enraged, that all the entreaties, and scarcely the threats of their officers, could prevail on them to retreat, which at last they did. The cannon were secured within the fort. We had sixty killed, wounded, and taken prisoners; among whom were the gallant Captain Fordice of the

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Grenadiers of the Fourteenth Brigade, Lieutenants Napier and Leslie, and Lieutenant Batut wounded and taken prisoner; men all universally esteemed, and for whom all shed tears; we set out on our return to Norfolk about seven o'clock in the evening, at which place we arrived at twelve, and the soldiers were embarked on board vessels prepared for that purpose.

December 14.—The Rebels having now nothing to obstruct their passage, arrived and took possession of Norfolk, and in the evening saluted us with a volley of small-arms; which, the next morning, I was sent on shore to their Commander, to inform him that, if another shot was fired at the Otter, they must expect the town to be knocked about their ears.

January 9.—The detested town of Norfolk is no more! Its destruction happened on New Year's day! About four o'clock in the afternoon the signal was given from the Liverpool, when a dreadful cannonading began from the three ships, which lasted till it was too hot for the Rebels to stand on their wharves. Our boats now landed and set fire to the town in several places. It burnt fiercely all night and the next day; nor are the flames yet extinguished; but no more of Norfolk remains than about twelve houses, which have escaped the flames.



Additional Notes for Electronic Version: Although the date given on the document is 1766, the destruction of Norfolk took place in 1776.