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Loyal American Rangers/Black River Volunteers/Indian Dept.
Fall of Black River Fort

Gov. CAMPBELL’s Account of our Successes on the Mosquito Shore.


Whitehall, November 30, 1782.

Copy of a letter from Archibald CAMPBELL, Esq; Governor of Jamaica, dated October 10, 1782; received at the Office of the Right Honourable Thomas TOWNSHEND, his Majesty’s principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, Nov. 29.

Jamaica Oct. 10, 1782.

My Lord,

I HAVE the pleasure to inform your lordship, that the plan which I projected for defeating the Spaniards in their attack upon the British settlers and Mosquito Indians at Cape Gracias a Dios, has succeeded equal to my most sanguine expectations.

Captain John CAMPBELL, of the Wanks river district, who had collected 150 able negroes for the purpose of harrassing the Spanish garrison, stationed at Black River, continued with unremitting assiduity, from the 14th of July, to annoy the enemy, and narrow the limits of their posts to the Eastward, till, by a judicious movement of his whole corps to the Westward, he passed their centinels unnoticed, got close, on the night of the 23d of August, to Cape River Fort, (lately Fort Dalling,) and by a very gallant assault, carried it with the loss of two men only.

Sixty-five Spaniards were killed on the spot, nine taken prisoners, mostly wounded, and about forty escaped by flight.

Three field pieces brass, three field pieces iron, one cohorn, and one garrison piece, with a quantity of ammunition, and one stand of colours fell into the hands of the assailants, who destroyed the works, and retreated to their former works.

This success, together with repeated skirmishes, in which the enemy met with considerable loss, contributed to render the Spaniards at Black River an easy to conquest to the force then in motion against them.

On the 28th of August the little army formed at Cape Gracias a Dios, consisting of 80 American Rangers under Major CAMPBELL, 500 shoremen, free people of colour, and negroes, and 600 Musquito Indians, under their respective chiefs, who had elected for their leader Lieutenant Colonel DESPARD, (Captain in the 79th regiment) reached the mouth of Plantain River, about seven leagues to the Eastward of the enemy.

On the 30th the troops arrived at Black River Bluff, opposite to the Eastern blockhouse, when the enemy dispatched a flag to enquire who they were and what they wanted.

A summons to surrender the Spanish posts, troops, and artillery, to his Britannic Majesty’s forces was sent to the Commander in reply; and, after some altercation, the garrison, consisting of 27 officers and 715 rank and file, chiefly of the regiment of Guatimala, thought fit to lay down their arms as prisoners of war, stipulating to be conducted to Omoa in the most convenient and expeditious manner.

With this detachment were taken 1 stand of colours 2 twelve-pounders, 7 six-pounders, 11 four-pounders iron, 4 four-pounders brass, 1 eight-inch howitzer, and 1000 firelocks, which, together with the artillery in Fort Dalling, amount to 31 pieces of cannon, 1 cohorn, 1 howitzer, 1000 firelocks, a quantity of ammunition, and 2 stand of colours.

I have likewise the pleasure to inform your lordship, that the day after the Spanish troops laid down their arms at Black River, a polacre, of 16 guns, loaded with provisions for the Spanish garrison at that post, was taken by one of Captain PARRY’s squadron.

This polacre had also some money on board, and 100 soldiers as a reinforcement for Truxilla.

I think it my duty to inform your lordship that Col. DESPARD has expressed to me his obligations to Captain PARRY, commanding his Majesty’s ships of war on that expedition, for his ready co-operation and assistance;

and I think it also a justice due to Lieutenant Colonel DESPARD, to express my acknowledgements to him, for having chearfully, at the request of the shoremen and Indians, taken the command of the land-forces, when he was merely on that coast with a view to recover part of his baggage, which had escaped the enemy’s hands at Rattan.

The zeal of the gentlemen and settlers on the shore, the forward spirit of the rangers, and the chearful alacrity of the Musquito Chiefs and Indians, merit every commendation.

The business of the shore being over, I have directed ODELL’s Rangers to return immediately to Jamaica; and I can assure your lordship, that the British settlers and friendly Indians on that coast, have, for this season, a fair prospect of enjoying their plantations in transquility; while the Spaniards, who have been at an immense expence and fatigue, have lost the fruits of their costly and laborious exertions.

Captain THOMAS, of his Majesty’s ship Resource, who can inform your lordship of the state of matters in this quarter, will have the honour of presenting to you the Spanish colours taken at Cape River Fort, and the works at Black River, which I beg may be laid at his Majesty’s feet.

I have the honour to be, &c.

To the Earl of Shelburne, &c.

The POLITICAL MAGAZINE and Parliamentary, Naval, Military, and Literary Journal for December, 1782, page 753.

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