Battle of Fort Bowyer – 14-16 September 1814
Of great interest to the British as a possible invasion route was a road that lead to New Orleans from Mobile, Alabama, via Natchez. The main advantage of this road was that it effectively by-passed all of the numerous water obstacles posed by the other approach routes to the Crescent City. However, to use this road the British had to first to gain possession of Mobile via Mobile Bay and that was not possible from the sea without first capturing Fort Bowyer, a small but newly built mainly wooden fortification on sandy Mobile Point that guarded the entrance to the bay. Targeting the capture of Mobile [delete] as a prelude to the invasion of Louisiana, a combined British naval and land force attempted to capture Fort Bowyer in mid-September. A couple of weeks before the British descent, Andrew Jackson ordered Major William Lawrence to beef up the fort’s defences – just in time. A small squadron of Royal Navy vessels under the command of Captain William Percy, acting on his own initiative, opened the attack but when the British flagship, the HMS Hermes, ran aground the attack ended in disaster, with the ship being abandoned and blown up. Ashore, a small force of Royal Marines and allied Creek warriors commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Nicolls had landed. In the ensuing fighting, Nicolls was blinded in one eye, although he was aboard ship by this time. Overall British strategy about gaining Mobile and its road was well conceived but the attack on Fort Bowyer was premature and poorly executed by Percy and Nicolls. The opportunity to secure a potential base to thrust towards New Orleans had been lost as well as a chance for a much needed morale boosting victory for the Creek warriors and to show their lukewarm Spanish allies. Instead the Americans had a morale-boosting victory to savour – and exploit. Nicolls, having previously issued a bombastic proclamation to the citizens of Louisiana to join the British, had failed to match his rhetoric with delivery on the ground.