At nearby Mount Pleasant Plantation, a landing party broke more than 120 panes of glass, cut up the window sash and trashed the stairs. Then they punctuated their visit by stealing 28 sheep, 40 geese and nearly all the vegetables in the garden.
On the north side of the James, the relentless barges began by attacking Denbigh Plantation.
Rather than retreating from the musket volley fired by the owners, however, the angry sailors speedily drove off their assailants and looted their home, leaving little but destruction.
Several other places in Warwick County suffered attacks, too, including Mulberry Island. And in each case, no herd of livestock was too large to herd aboard the Royal Navy boats, as evidenced by Wilson Miles Cary's loss of 65 sheep.
"The British felt they could do just about anything they wanted along the water," Butler says.
"And they could."
The marauders struck again at Jamestown Island, pillaging the Ambler house while the owner was away on militia duty.
Williamsburg resident St. George Tucker was among those who recorded the James City attacks. So did William Tazewell, who described the lack of resistance as "disgraceful."
"We have been for some days in a state of great consternation…," he wrote.
"Not less than 14 of the enemy's barges, accompanied by an armed Brig and 6 or 87 tenders, have engaged in the works of plundering and desolation in our immediate neighborhood."
Just days later, the raiding parties returned to Isle of Wight and Surry, attacking and burning vessels and rounding up livestock at Lawnes Creek and Hog Island.
By the 8th they'd prowled as far as Sandy Point in Charles City, sparking panic in Richmond.
Though the rampage finally stopped with the squadron's withdrawal a few days later, the fear remained — and it continued to resonate well after the war's end.
"The waterways made this a dangerous place to live — and they became avenues of invasion and destruction during the War of 1812," Hampton History Museum curator J. Michael Cobb says.
"We had very little defense against anyone who came through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay with a powerful navy. That's the reason we built Fort Monroe."
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