Map: The tale of the Cutter Eagle


1: May 30, 1814, four months before the defense of the Eagle: British ships attack the shore at Wading River, burning American vessels and about 300 cords of wood lying on the beach, ready for transport. The next day, a British sloop-of-war attempts to capture another American vessel — the sloop Nancy — in the same area, but is beaten back by the local militia. Several details of this engagement are later inaccurately included in local writer Samuel Terry Hudson’s account of Eagle skirmish. 

2: Oct. 10, 1814: The American merchant ship Susan is captured by a British sloop disguised as an American vessel. That night, American Captain Frederick Lee gathers volunteers and heads toward Long Island in the U.S. Revenue Service cutter Eagle, hoping to intercept the British ship and reclaim the Susan.

3: Oct. 11, 1814, morning: Capt. Lee discovers that another, larger British ship — the 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Dispatch — has stumbled upon his chase and come between him and the Susan. Knowing he is outgunned, Capt. Lee intentionally beaches the Eagle near the old Hallock farm.

4: Oct. 11, 1814: As American sailors drag cannons from the Eagle up the beach bluffs to fight back the British, a 10-year-old Herman Hallock of Riverhead rides his horse up and down Sound Avenue, alerting the local militia that the British are attacking. Militia members team up with the Eagle’s sailors, but the Dispatch cripples the Eagle.

5: Oct. 12, 1814: With the Eagle incapacitated, the Dispatch travels to Connecticut to deliver prisoners from the Susan. One contemporary report states that the Dispatch’s captain, James Gallaway,and an American military officer share drinks in a local public house, toasting to a “speedy and honorable peace” between their countries. Capt. Gallaway later sails the Dispatch southeast. Meanwhile, near the Riverhead coast, the Americans patch up the damaged Eagle.

6: Oct. 13, 1814: The Dispatch encounters another British warship, the frigate HMS Narcissus, fitted with 32 guns. Together, the ships return to capture the Eagle. Though Capt. Lee and some militia attempt to protect the ship, the British are eventually able to tow the Eagle away, departing with yet another prize. Two days later, Capt. Lee writes to his superiors, admitting that he lost the Eagle but praising the sailors and local militia who fought to defend it.