If you’ve read the Caroline books and payed attention in history class, then you know that her books, written by Kathleen Ernst, do a beautiful job of portraying actual historic events. Caroline’s books are my second favorite out of all the AG series, Addy’s being my very favorite. The book Meet Caroline concludes with a battle between the American and the British forces, which conveys the actual real First Battle of Sackets Harbor. (If you continue to read her books, you will learn that there is also a Second Battle of Sackets Harbor that happens later.) The First Battle happened on July 19th, 1812, 203 years ago today.
I did a bit of research on the First Battle of Sackets Harbor, which was admittedly difficult. It was more of a skirmish than a battle, so there aren’t exactly textbooks devoted to it. My best source ended up being the book History of the Navy by James Fenimore Cooper. It is quite dry, so I definitely skipped to the section with the information I needed, but what I learned was that research really wasn’t necessary! Meet Caroline conveys almost perfect historic fact. The Peek Into the Past expands upon the accurate events portrayed in the story. The reason for the battle was the desire of the British to capture the ship SS Oneida, the only gunboat on Lake Ontario at the time. This incidentally ended up being the ship that won the battle for U.S. Navy when it inflicted enough damage upon the British ship to cause them to surrender. This was not because the U.S. Navy had better troops, equipment, ships, etc., (quite the contrary, in fact) but was mostly because the British expected Sackets Harbor to be poorly defended (they were kind of right about this; read the next paragraph). About 3,000 militia men did assemble, but by the time they arrived most of the fighting was over. The book character Lieutenant Woolsey was a real person and did lead the defense of Sackets Harbor 203 years ago today.
In Meet Caroline the residents of Sackets Harbor scramble to help the local “gun crew” (meaning militia?) with the battle, which is probably not entirely accurate since the militia did little fighting. However, I did learn that the cannon balls really were too small for the cannons, and as depicted in Meet Caroline, they really did use pieces of carpet to fill the void when loading them into the cannons! Now, unfortunately there is not any historical evidence that I could find to show that a clever, quick-witted nine-year-old came up with this brilliant solution, but who knows. 🙂 Maybe 203 years ago today there really was a brave girl who helped bring the soldiers carpet. Maybe after the battle was won she really did feel hopeful and encouraged that her father would come home from being a prisoner of war.