"A sharp cannonade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, without returning a shot," Napier lamented in his journal.
"We despise the Yankees too much."
Whatever the exact damage inflicted by the American guns, however, the humiliated British fleet retired almost immediately and never threatened Norfolk again.
Not a single defender was lost.
"You can't go visit Craney Island today. It's not immortalized by a song like the 'Star-Spangled Banner,'" Quarstein says.
"But the battle there was the first big American victory in a long string of defeats on the Chesapeake Bay — and it deserves to be better remembered."
Find more stories on Hampton Roads history at dailypress.com/history and Facebook.com/hrhistory.
The War of 1812 in Hampton Roads
In February: War comes to Hampton Roads
June 12: A bloody battle on the York
June 19: Gunboats attack off Newport News
Today: An American surprise at Craney Island
Coming up: British raiders pillage Hampton
Terror along the James
Want to go?
Battle of Craney Island Bicentennial
Tours and exhibits at historic Fort Norfolk. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, June 22 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, June 23. Free. Corner of Colley Avenue and Front Street, Norfolk. 757-640-1720.
Celebrate Kids, featuring activities and games. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Nominal fees charged. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Lightship Portsmouth Museum, 2 High St. and High Street Landing, Portsmouth. 757-393-8983.
Portsmouth's Patriotic Celebration, featuring re-enactors, flag raising, patriotic music and more. 11:30 a.m.-noon Saturday. Free. High Street Landing, Portsmouth.
Norfolk's Victory Celebration, featuring flag-raising, 21-gun salute and the pealing of church bells. Noon Saturday. Free. Fort Norfolk.
For more information: http://www.craneyisland1813.com
Online: Go to dailypress.com/warof1812 for more stories on the War of 1812 in Hampton Roads.