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Stand of Sergeant-Major Mayeaux, Royal Marines, 1814
The following article, which appeared in a Virginia newspaper in June or July 1814, was reprinted in the Quebec Gazette, 25 August 1814, from which it is reproduced below. It described what happened when a determined NCO of the Royal Marines made a stand against a force of local militia cavalry.
Alexandria, June 25
The late affair at Benedict, having excited considerable interest in this place, principally because some of our fellow citizens bore a distinguished part in it, we have endeavoured to obtain a correct and particular account of the occurrences of the day. The following statement may be relied upon.
The cavalry of the district arrived on Tuesday evening at five o'clock, and at the moment General Stuart was preparing to attack the enemy who were in possession of Benedict. At this moment a small detachment of the enemy presented themselves at the foot of the hill, not far distant from the place where the cavalry were posted. The order was immediately given to charge and intercept their retreat, which was done in so much haste and impetuosity as to break the ranks, which considering the nature of the ground, was not injudicious. Five of the enemy were presently prisoners. The sergeant of the guard, having been separated from his men and endeavouring to make his escape, was pursued.
Among the first who overtook him, was Mr. Francis Wise of the Alexandria Dragoons who made a bold but unsuccessful assault upon him, and being unable to check his horse, passed ten or fifteen paces beyond him. On turning his horse, he received the fire of the sergeant and fell dead. At this moment Mr. Alexander Hunter, a young gentleman of this town ... came up, when the sergeant faced upon and received the fire of his pistol which seemed to take effect. Mr. Hunter's horse being alarmed at the report ran some distance from the spot. When Mr. H. returned he found Gen. Stuart engaged with this intrepid soldier. He immediately advanced to the general's relief -- upon which the sergeant having had his bayonet unshipped, dropped his musket and mounting an adjoining fence, fell upon the other side on his back.
Mr. Hunter dismounted, and unarmed, immediately followed and engaged him, demanding of several who had advanced, to aid in securing him. Two of whom presented their pistols, and after calling to Mr. H. to disengage himself from his antagonist, discharged their pistols, without effect. This brave marine then retreated unpursued to the adjoining swamp.
His escape appearing certain unless pursued, Mr. H. begged the loan of a sword, which was presented to him by the general, and with which he alone pursued and soon overtook him when a conflict ensued between them, the brave enemy endeavouring by many and vigorous efforts to get possession of the sword, and refusing though repeatedly urged, to surrender except with his life, which a fortunate stroke soon after terminated. At this time, a trooper made his appearance who drew the brave and expiring enemy to the border of the marsh, whence he was removed but a short distance before he expired.
The man's name was Mayeaux, a Sergeant-Major of Marines with 17 years service.
Copyright: Donald E. Graves, not to be reproduced without permission of the author 2001