Manuscript letter tells of American warship's attack on British brig months after peace is declared UK auctioneers will sell a unique letter detailing how USS Peacock attacked and captured the British brig Nautilus, seriously injuring her captain, after peace had been declared in the war of 1812.
Letter in Peter Wilson auction tells of
American warship's attack on British brig
months after peace is declared
The naval officer's copperplate handwriting is as clear as when his emotive letter was written in 1815, the year of Wellington's victory at Waterloo. The language is pure British understatement.
"I suppose you've heard of Boyce's misfortune … Boyce has lost his right leg, a one pound grape [shot] too passed through his breech; the leg being much shattered he suffered amputation and contrary to every expectation is now quite well".
The letter describes in part one of the most tragic outcomes of war: when one side knows peace has been declared, but the other side does not. The attack by USS Peacock, an American sloop of war, on the comparatively puny East Indiaman Nautilus, had naval and political repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Written by a J Nutting, who served on the Nautilus, to a fellow officer, Lt J Richardson of the Bombay Marine on December 10, 1815, the 3½ page document is among a fascinating collection of 18 manuscript letters to be sold by Cheshire fine art and antiques auctioneers Peter Wilson on September 7-8. Sent for sale by a local collector, they are expected to realise around £1,000.
Most of the letters are addressed to a Miss E Nutting in London from her brother and cover a period from 1807 to 1828. They provide a good picture of naval life at the time when Nutting was stationed in India and Java. He appears to have settled and makes considerable comment about life there, while the last letter is from his wife to his family in England, reporting that he had died.
However, it is the letter from Nutting to Lt Richardson, postmarked with a Liverpool Ship Letter mark, which is the most fascinating. Of Napoleon's defeat he writes: "In honour of Lord Wellington, for his success at Waterloo, a public ball was given at the government house yesterday evening. The city of Calcutta was also illuminated, the next news from Europe we expect will be of Peace."
Of his own experiences he writes: "... unable to procure a passage to Bengal, at the moment, I rejoined the Nautilus, Crawford, then in command; we started for the Straits of Bally, and on our return falling in with the Benares, Captain Eatwell ordered me to join his ship … Eatwell allowed me to join the Antelope then on the eve of sailing for Bengal, where after a passage of two months, we arrived safe and I am onshore looking out for myself.
His letter goes on: "I suppose you've heard of Boyce's misfortune. Boyce superseded Crawford in the command of the Nautilus in July 1815, on her way to Bengal, with dispatches … she fell in with the Peacock American sloop of war and although B assured them it was Peace, they desired him to haul down his colours twice which he peremptorily refusing