At the start of the Great Siege, many towers and high buildings were pulled down and others destroyed by bombardment and fire. Also demolished, for reasons of security, was the stone Landport Bridge which would later be replaced by a bridge with access to the Landport itself by way of a drawbridge.
The gateway, or more probably its sally port below the bridge, would become synonymous with one of the more spectacular events of that protracted and drawn out siege. In the early hours of the morning of 27th November 1781, a surprise military mission, comprising 2,435 soldiers and 99 officers, set off to attack the Spanish front lines. Samuel Ancell, a clerk to the 58th Regiment, wrote about the event, as follows:
‘This morning at two o’clock the detachment of officers, non-commissioned officers and men, under the command of Brigadier Ross, marched from the Red Sands, where they had assembled, through Bay-side and lower Forbes’s, to storm the enemy’s advanced works…..the workmen and seamen began with their tomahawks (small hatchets, having a sharp point on the back), devil’s (an inflammable composition bound in small bundles) and warlike combustibles, to set the batteries on fire, while the artillery spiked up ten mortars, and eighteen pieces of cannon….in a few minutes the isthmus appeared an entire blaze, and the reflection of the light was so great, that a person might have perused a book upon our batteries…. Our Gallant and veteran Governor (General George Augustus Eliott), accompanied by Captain Curtis, went out to be an eye-witness of the transaction….and said to his men ‘Look round, my boys, and view how beautiful the rock appears, by the light of this glorious fire.’…The enemy had only recovered their surprise, and beat to arms, when the detachment was repassing of Land-port gate, so that you will say we were expeditious in destruction.’