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William Robins
Gunner’s mate at the Battle of Lake Borgne, War of 1812

Triton XX, Lot: 1631. Estimate $4000.
Sold for $4000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

GREAT BRITAIN, Hanover. Victoria. 1837-1901. AR Naval General Service Medal (36mm, 36.39 g, 12h). By W. Wyon. Dated 1848. Issued to William Robins, gunner’s mate, for service at the Battle of Lake Borgne during War of 1812. VICTORIA REGINA, crowned bust left; 1848 below / Britannia seated left on hippocamp, holding trident in right hand and olive branch in right. Bar inscribed: 14 DEC BOAT SERVICE 1814. Edge: WILLIAM ROBINS. BBM 39 (unlisted bar). EF, lightly polished, now retoning. Attached to original blue and white ribbon. Extremely rare.

Instituted in 1847, the Naval General Service Medal (along with the Military General Service Medal) was issued to officers and men who had served in various naval actions between 1793 and 1840, and included actions in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. To denote the pertinent military action, a special clasp, known as a bar, indicating the service, was attached to the ribbon.

The Battle of Lake Borgne occurred on 14 December 1814 between the British Navy, including the Royal Marines, and the US Navy, as well as the US Marines. Following their inability to take the city of Mobile, the British then decided to attack New Orleans. Learning of this action, the American commander of the New Orleans Squadron, Commodore Daniel Patterson, assembled all available types of naval defenses to protect Louisiana’s numerous coastal waterways. Upon the arrival of the British at Lake Borgne, they were met with a small American flotilla of five gunboats, a schooner, and two sloops-of-war acting as tenders. While proceeding to the head of the lake, from where they would disembark to begin the attack on New Orleans, three of the British ships were fired upon. The British commander of one of the British ships, Commander Nicholas Lockyer, was ordered to find and defeat the American ships. After a lengthy search, Lockyer found the Americans blocking one of the main channels. After a two-hour battle, the British, who greatly outnumbered the Americans, won the engagement and gained control of the waters around New Orleans. The Americans, on the other hand, did considerable damage and delayed the British advance, providing General Andrew Jackson additional time to strengthen the defenses of the city.

According the the London Gazette for 28 January 1849, 205 British survivors of the battle claimed the special bar.

Additional Information

It has been brought to our attention that there were two William Robins that claimed this bar for the Battle of Lake Borgne. One was a Private in the Royal Marines and one was the Gunner’s Mate that we have attributed this piece to. Interestingly, both Robins were on the HMS Tonnant, which has a fascinating back-story.

The HMS Tonnant was originally the Tonnant of the French Navy. It was captured by Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson at Aboukir Bay off the coast of Egypt at the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798. After seeing extensive service during the Napoleonic Wars, the Tonnant “joined the War of 1812 late.”

From Wikipedia:

“She was fitted for sea in the first quarter of 1814, being recommissioned in January under Captain Alexander Skene. In October, Captain Charles Kerr assumed command as (the) Tonnant served as the flagship for Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane during most of the campaign in Chesapeake Bay. From her, he directed attacks on Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.”

“On 13–14 September 1814, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner were dining aboard the ship after negotiations to release some captured prisoners, during the Battle of Baltimore. Key went on to write what later became the words to the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, after watching the British attack on Baltimore 's Fort McHenry.”

The “Tonnant continued to serve Cochrane as a flagship when he directed the British naval forces at the Battle of New Orleans. Immediately before the battle, boats from Tonnant participated in the British victory at the Battle of Lake Borgne.”