On February 7, 1815 in what will be the last known skirmish of the British in the Chesapeake, HM schooner Dauntless was off shore having sent her tender’s crew previously on James Island near the mouth of the Choptank River to raid livestock on nearby farms. On February 7 the Dauntless ships log recorded; “at daylight saw ourselves surrounded with ice and by 7 o’clock the ship was fast…Noon. Fine hard weather saw nothing of our boats…8 p.m. fresh breezes with severe frost the boats not having returned fear they are frozen in.”
The tender had come within 400 yards off shore and soon became enclosed by ice. The militia gathered by Joseph Fookes Stewart (1777-1839), a private in Captain Thomas Woolford’s company of the 48th Maryland Regiment gave his report that the tender was “described afloat between the body of ice attached to the shore and the cake which had drifted in from the bay, and at about 400 yards distance from the shore. – They descried, too, a mound of ice, which had been formed at about 150 yards from the tender…” The militia made there careful way across the pack ice and commenced firing their muskets, the crew of tender retired with their own.
Lieutenant Matthew Phibbs, R.N., the tender’s commander, a midshipman, three Royal Marines and thirteen sailors soon found themselves in a difficult situation. On board was a black man named Abraham Travers and a black woman cook named Becca. For nearly two hours the musketry continued until suddenly the entire crew of nineteen men and a colored woman came up from the tender’s hold and surrendered under a white handkerchief, were made prisoners and taken ashore.
Onboard the militia found a 12-Pounder carronade, a swivel gun, seventeen muskets and six pistols and amounts gunpowder. The militia known to have accompanied Stewart in the capture and listed in his report were: Moses Navy, William Geohagan, John Bell, Moses Geoghegan, Robert Travers, Henry K. Travers, Daniel Travers, Mathias Travers, Nicks North, William Dove, Thomas Tolly, John Tolly, James Hooper, Hugh Roberts, Moses Simmons and a unknown black man. In all sixteen militia had taken the HM schooner Dauntless tender. Afterwards in a deposition to attain the prize money, Stewart gathered another twenty six other militia who had served. On February 27, H.M. ship Dauntless departed the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
A question arises of why had not the tender’s crew utilized their carronade? It may have been due to the constant musket fire poured upon them and realizing their being encased in ice, surrendered.
Joseph F. Stewart died at his residence on August 4, 1839 at Tobacco Stick (Madison), Dorchester County. Though the attack was successfully made, a musket ball only has a range of 75 yards! The carronade taken from the tender was named for two of the twenty captured. Commander Lt. Matthew Phibbs, and a African-American cook Becca. By tradition the carronade on exhibit at MAdison, Md., has come to be called “Becky Phipps”.
The site of the captured “Becky-Phillips” carronade is on the westserb side of the Taylor’s Island Bridge on Maryland Route 16.
Sources: Stewart, Robert G. “The Battle of the Ice Mound, February 7, 1815” (Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 70, No.4, Winter, 1975), 372-378; Captain’s Logbook, HMS Dauntless, Public Records Office, Admiralty 52/3902, London; Joseph was the son of John T. and Elizabeth Fookes of Church Creek, Cambridge, Md; “Battle of the Ice Mound,”Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Adv., February 22, 1815; Somerset Herald (Md.), August 20, 1839.