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Title: Yankee Ships and Yankee Sailors: Tales of 1812
Author: Barnes, James
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: "It was Lieutenant Allen!"]

Yankee Ships and Yankee Sailors:--Tales of 1812


James Barnes

Author of "Naval Engagements of the War of 1812"
"A Loyal Traitor," "For King or Country," etc.

With Numerous Illustrations by
R. F. Zogbaum and Carlton T. Chapman.

New York
The Macmillan Company
London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd.

_All rights reserved_

Copyright, 1897,
By The Macmillan Company.

Set up and electrotyped October, 1897. Reprinted November, 1897.

_Norwood Press
J. S. Cusbing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A._

_To my Brother_


In presenting this volume of "Tales of 1812" it is not the intention of
the author to give detailed accounts of actions at sea or to present
biographical sketches of well-known heroes; he wishes but to tell
something of the ships that fought the battles, whose names are
inseparably connected with a glorious past, and to relate incidents
connected with the Yankee sailors who composed their crews--"A Yankee
Ship and a Yankee Crew"--thus runs the old song; it is to exploit both
in a measure that is the intention of this book. Brave fellows, these
old-time Jackies were. Their day has gone by with the departed day
also, of the storm-along captains, the men who carried sail in all
sorts of weather, who took their vessels through dangerous passages
unmarked by buoys, with only the fickle wind to drive them, who sailed
into the enemy's cruising-grounds, and counting on the good Yankee pine
and live oak, had perilous escapes and adventures which fiction cannot
exaggerate. It stirs one's blood to read of these. Surely, it will not
arouse a hatred for by-gone enemies, to hark back to them.

The incidents made use of in the following pages are historical, or at
least authentic--some may perhaps come under the head of tradition.
Tradition is historical rumor; it may be proved by investigation to be
actual fact, or it may be accepted at its face value, on account of its
probability. To investigate, one is led to break open and dissect and
sometimes we destroy a wealth of sentiment in the proceeding; by
casting aside tradition that is harmless we destroy the color of
history; we may lose its side lights and shadows that give vividness
and beauty to the whole effect. It has not been a spirit of research
into the science of history, or a chance for deep delving into figures
and records, that has animated the author, although he has drawn upon
state papers for material, and all correspondence and important
references can be vouched for. He has endeavored to refreshen the
colors by removing the dust that may have settled. He has touched the
fragile bric-a-brac of tradition with the feather duster of
investigation. There is sufficient excuse for everything that is
written in this book. Facts are not lacking to prove much here to be
true. It will not confuse our historical knowledge to accept it thus.

We can draw accurate conclusions as to what kind of men these fine old
fellows were; how they looked; how they spoke and acted. Their deeds
are part of the nation's record, and their ships exist now in the shape
of a few old hulls. We can mark how carefully and strongly they were
constructed; we can imagine them swarming with men and quivering
beneath the thunder of broadsides. The author has tried to put the
sailor back upon his ship again. Here we have the old tales now retold;
retold by one who loves to listen to them, therefore to talk about
them. This is his prologue to the telling, and that is all there is to



Allen, of the _Chesapeake_                           1

Reuben James, Able Seaman                           23

The Men behind the Times                            33

The Coward                                          51

The Scapegoat                                       87

The Loss of the _Vixen_                            109

In the Harbor of Fayal                             125

The Escape of Symington                            147

The Narragansett                                   171

Fighting Stewart                                   195

Two Duels                                          215

Dartmoor                                           235

The Rival Life-Savers                              259

Random Adventures                                  271

List of Illustrations

                                                  Opposite Page

"It was Lieutenant Allen!"                                   18

"Reuben James sprang forward"                                30

"'What d'ye mean by attackin' a peaceful whaler?'"           47

"Carefully he lowered away"                                  79

"'Stay here no longer--though I would have you with me'"    104

"Everything was done that good seamanship could direct"     120

"There was a figure crawling up below him"                  141

"She came about like a peg top"                             167

"Over fence and hedge"                                      190

"A discussion that grew more heated every moment"           212

"'I observed it,' said the Lieutenant"                      225

"The deadly volley"                                         258

"'Now we have him, lads!'"                                  268


Give a ship an unlucky name, and it will last throughout the whole of
her career. A sailor is proverbially superstitious, and he clings
jealously to tradition.

It is told that when the frigate _Chesapeake_ was launched she stuck
fast on the ways, and did not reach the water until the following day,
which was Friday. Although she was a fine vessel to look at, she
grounded upon the bar upon her first attempt to sail, and, when once
free, behaved herself in such a lubberly fashion that those who
witnessed her starting out declared she was bewitched. Even after many
changes had been made in the length of her masts, in the weight of
spars, and the cut of sails, still she was considered by many a
failure. And, although her sailing qualities improved as time went on,
yet her bad name stuck to her, as bad names will.

Given this drawback, the unlucky captain of such a craft finds it
difficult to recruit a proper crew, and must often be content with
green hands, or the riffraff disdained by other ships' masters.

Commodore James Barron, who had been ordered to the _Chesapeake_, was a
brave officer. He had succeeded the peppery Commodore Preble in command
of the fleet that had so successfully negotiated the operations before
Tripoli, and there he had won for himself a name and reputation.
Nevertheless, he was not entirely popular with his officers. They
failed to find in him the graciousness of manner and deportment, the
strict adherence to the lines of duty, and yet the kindliness of
thought and conduct that distinguished young Captain Bainbridge; and
they missed, strange to say, the iron hand and stern rule of Preble,
the martinet.

Just before sailing from the Capes to relieve the _Constitution_ on the
Mediterranean station, the _Chesapeake_ had recruited, from Delaware
and Maryland, a green crew. Not above fifty of her complement were
men-of-warsmen. Perhaps one hundred more had seen service in deep-sea
craft, and had made long cruises; but the rest, numbering probably one
hundred and fifty, were longshoremen or landsmen. Lying inside the
mouth of Chesapeake Bay were several British men-of-war. As was usual
when in American ports, they were compelled to watch their crews most
closely, for the higher pay and the better treatment, which cannot be
denied, had tempted many an impressed seaman to leave his ship, and
take refuge under the American flag.

It was claimed by Vice-Admiral Berkeley in command of the English
fleet, that four British sailors had deserted from the _Melampus_,
and joined Barron's frigate. The following correspondence passed
between Robert Smith, the Secretary of the Navy at Washington, and
Commodore Barron, in relation to the matter. It explains in the best
way possible, how affairs stood at the outset.

    WASHINGTON, April 6, 1807.

    _To Commodore James Barron_:--

    SIR: It has been represented to me that William Ware, Daniel
    Martin, John Strachan, John Little, and others, deserters from a
    British ship of war at Norfolk, have been entered by the recruiting
    officer at that place for our service. You will be pleased to make
    full inquiry relative to these men (especially, if they are
    American citizens), and inform me of the result. You will
    immediately direct the recruiting officer in no case to enter
    deserters from British ships of war.


To this letter Commodore Barron made haste to reply, and the following
is taken _verbatim_ from his note to the Secretary:--

    "William Ware was pressed from on board the brig _Neptune_, Captain
    Crafts, by the British frigate, _Melampus_, in the Bay of Biscay
    (in 1805).... He is a native American, born at Bruce's Mills, on
    Pipe Creek, in the county of Frederick, Maryland, and served his
    time at said mills. He also lived at Ellicot's Mills, near
    Baltimore, and drove a waggon several years between Hagerstown and
    Baltimore. He also served eighteen months on board the U.S.
    frigate, _Chesapeake_, under the command of Captain Morris and
    Captain J. Barron. He is an Indian-looking man.

    "Daniel Martin was impressed at the same time and place; a native
    of Westport, in Massachusetts, about thirty miles to the eastward
    of Newport, Rhode Island; served his time out of New York with
    Captain Marrowby of the _Caledonia_; refers to Mr. Benjamin
    Davis, merchant, and Mr. Benjamin Corse, of Westport. He is a
    colored man.

    "John Strachan, born in Queen Ann's County, Maryland, between
    Centreville and Queenstown; sailed in the brigantine _Martha
    Bland_, Captain Wyvill, from Norfolk to Dublin, and from thence to
    Liverpool. He then left the vessel and shipped on board an English
    Guineaman; he was impressed on board the _Melampus_, off Cape
    Finisterre; to better his condition he consented to enter, being
    determined to make his escape when opportunity offered; he served
    on board said frigate two years; refers to Mr. John Price and ----
    Pratt, Esq., on Kent Island, who know his relatives. He is a white
    man, about five feet seven inches high.

    "William Ware and John Strachan have protections.[1] Daniel Martin
    says he lost his after leaving the frigate.

          [1] Papers proving their American citizenship.

    "John Little, _alias_ Francis and Ambrose Watts, escaped from the
    _Melampus_ at the same time, are known to the above persons to be
    Americans, but have not been entered by my recruiting officer."

The foregoing proves beyond all manner of doubt what ground Commodore
Barron had in taking the stand he did further on in the proceedings.
But Admiral Berkeley was a very proud, obstinate man. His feelings had
been hurt by the refusal of the Yankee commodore to give up his men,
and he bided his time.

On Monday, June 22, 1807, the _Chesapeake_ put to sea with her
ill-assorted and undisciplined crew. In the harbor of Lynnhaven lay the
British squadron under the command of Commodore Douglass, acting under
the orders of Vice-Admiral Berkeley. It consisted of the _Bellona_,
seventy-four, the _Triumph_, seventy-four, the _Leopard_, fifty, and
the _Melampus_, thirty-eight. Why it was that the _Leopard_ was
selected for the work which was to follow, is easy to surmise.
Vice-Admiral Berkeley had determined, at all hazards, to search the
American vessel to ascertain if she had in her complement those
"British seamen" who had deserted from the fleet. Barron's refusal to
allow a search made of his vessel while she was in port had been backed
up by the United States Government. This had exceedingly exasperated
the English commander, and he determined to wait until the _Chesapeake_
was at sea before putting his cherished project into practice. As soon
as the _Chesapeake_ set sail, the _Leopard_ was despatched to bring
her to. The _Melampus_ was not sent because she was too near the
_Chesapeake's_ armament, and resistance might be successfully made to
any attempt at high-handed interference. Nor did he take the trouble to
despatch one of his seventy-fours, which might have brought the
_Chesapeake_ under her guns, and compelled her to submit by the law
that "might makes right"; but the _Leopard_ was sent because she was
just large enough to insure success, and yet to humble the American
from the mere fact that he must inevitably yield to a vessel to which
he should by rights make some resistance.

It was a calm day with just enough wind to move the ships through the
water. The _Leopard_, that had really got under way first, overhauled
the smaller vessel, after a few hours' sailing. At three o'clock, when
forty-five miles off shore, she hove to across her bows, and the slight
wind that had wafted them from the Capes died away almost at the
moment. Hailing the American ship's captain, Humphreys stated that he
would like to send despatches by her--a privilege always accorded one
friendly nation by another.

On the _Chesapeake's_ deck, chatting with the officers, were two lady
passengers, who were bound with four or five gentlemen passengers for
the Straits. Part of the cabin had been allotted to the use of the
ladies and their maids. As they had come on board at a late hour, their
trunks and luggage were yet on the deck. Amicable relations existed
between America and England, and there was nothing especially
unfriendly in the attitude of the English frigate, although her action
excited much comment on board the ship, and gave rise to many surmises.
Captain Barron was on the quarter-deck, when news was brought to him
that the _Leopard_ had lowered a boat with an officer in it, and that
it was making for the _Chesapeake's_ side. The ladder was dropped,
the side boys were piped to the gangway, and Barron himself stepped
forward to greet the Lieutenant, extending his hand and welcoming him
graciously. Standing close by was Dr. John Bullus, a passenger, the
newly-appointed consul to the Island of Minorca, and the naval agent to
the United States naval squadron in the Mediterranean.

"Captain Humphreys' compliments," began the Lieutenant. "And he
requires the privilege of searching this vessel for deserters."

"What are their names, may I ask?" inquired Barron.

The officer replied, reading from a list he carried in his hand, but
describing the men as subjects of "His Majesty, King George."

When he had finished, Barron frowned.

"There has been a careful and full inquiry into the cases of these
seamen," he said at last, "and after a minute investigation into the
circumstances, the British Minister, Mr. Erskine, is perfectly
satisfied on the subject, inasmuch as these men were American citizens,
impressed by officers of the _Melampus_. This gentleman," turning
to Dr. Bullus, "our naval agent, is particularly acquainted with all
the facts and circumstances relative to the transaction. He received
his information from the highest possible source."

"From none less than the Honorable Robert Smith, the Secretary of our
Navy," put in Dr. Bullus, "and I am most willing to go on board the
_Leopard_ and inform your commander to that effect, Mr. Erskine----"

"I do not recognize Mr. Erskine in this business," interrupted the
young Lieutenant arrogantly. "Nor do I wish to talk with any one but
Captain Barron. There is much more to be said."

Barron took the doctor to one side. "You will pardon me for placing you
in a position to receive such an insult. I did not suppose it

"Make no mention of it," was the return; "I understand." With that the
agent walked away.

The Englishman could not have helped noticing the confusion upon the
American's decks. The crew were engaged under the direction of the
petty officers in coiling away the stiff, new running-gear and cables,
men with paint-pots and brushes were touching up the bulwarks and paint
work; others were polishing the brass; and it was altogether a peaceful
scene that struck his eye, even if the presence of the ladies had not
added the finishing touch.

On the quarter-deck, leaning carelessly against the railing, was a
young officer, Lieutenant William Henry Allen, third in rank. He was
but twenty-three years of age, a tall, boyish-looking fellow, with
beautiful features, clear eye and complexion, and ruddy cheeks. He
noticed the glance the English officer had given, and his face clouded.
He was near enough to hear what passed between Barron and the

"It is of such importance," went on the latter, continuing his previous
remarks, "that I should desire to speak to you in private, sir. If we
could but retire to your cabin----"

"With the greatest pleasure in the world," Barron returned, indicating
that the Lieutenant should precede him; and with that they disappeared
from view. Once seated at the cabin table, the Englishman broached the
subject without preamble.

"Commodore Douglass," he began, "is fully determined to recover the
deserters that are now harbored on board this ship. It is my desire to
warn you that it is best that you submit to a peaceable search, and in
return my commanding officer will permit you to do the same, and if any
of your men are found in our complement, you are welcome to take them
with you. This should bear great weight in helping you to form your
decision. Here is his letter."

Captain Barron took the paper, broke the seal, and read as follows:--

    _The Commander of H.B. Majesty's ship, "Leopard," to the Captain
    of the U.S. ship, "Chesapeake":_--

    AT SEA, June 22d, 1807.

    The Captain of H.B. Majesty's ship, Leopard, has the honor to
    enclose the Captain of the U.S. ship, _Chesapeake_, an order from
    the Honorable Vice-Admiral Berkeley, Commander-in-chief of His
    Majesty's ships on the North American Station, respecting some
    deserters from the ships (therein mentioned) under his command, and
    supposed to be now serving as part crew of the _Chesapeake_.

    The Captain of the _Leopard_ will not presume to say anything in
    addition to what the commander-in-chief has stated, more than to
    express a hope that every circumstance respecting them may be
    adjusted in a manner that the harmony subsisting between the two
    countries may remain undisturbed.

"As I before remarked," said the Lieutenant, noting that Barron had
finished the letter, "Captain Humphreys offers you the privilege of a
mutual search."

Captain Barron smiled. The idea that he should find any of his own men
serving on board King George's vessel was rather amusing.

"I have missed none of my crew," he said quietly, "and, while grateful
for the privilege, I do not desire to make use of it."

"And your answer?" broke in the Lieutenant.

"You will take this letter, that I shall write, to Captain Humphreys,
give him my best compliments, and of course inform him that I regret
that I can neither avail myself of his courtesy, nor with honor can I
permit a search to be made of my vessel."

"As you decide," returned the Lieutenant, sententiously.

For some minutes nothing was heard from the cabin. Barron was busily
employed in inditing the epistle, and when it was delivered, the two
officers came out together.

The following is a copy of the letter to Captain Humphreys:--

    _To the Commander of His Majesty's ship, "Leopard":_--

    AT SEA, June 22d.

    I know of no such men as you describe. The officers that were on
    the recruiting service for this ship were particularly instructed
    by my government through me not to enter any deserters from H.B.
    Majesty's ships. Nor do I know of any being here. I am also
    instructed never to permit the crew of any ship under my command to
    be mustered by any other than their own officers. It is my
    disposition to preserve harmony, and I hope this answer to your
    despatch will prove satisfactory.

    J. BARRON.

The Englishman was escorted to the side, and once in his boat, his
crew, as if urged to special exertion, made all haste to gain their

Allen turned and spoke to Benjamin Smith, the First Lieutenant. "I do
not like the look of things," he said.

"Nor I," responded Smith, advancing toward the Captain, who had stopped
to speak to one of the lady passengers. He saluted his commander, and
speaking in a low voice, he suggested the propriety of asking the
ladies to retire below, and of clearing ship.

"Tut, tut," replied Barron, carelessly; "you are over-nervous, Mr.
Smith. My letter to Captain Humphreys will convince him that our
actions are perfectly proper and peaceable, while any movement to prove
to the contrary might lead him to suppose that I wished to precipitate
some trouble. Nothing will occur, I warrant you."

"Had we not better open the magazines, sir?" asked Captain Gordon,
coming up at this moment.

"It is not necessary," Barron returned, and once more joined the

The keys of the magazine are always kept in the possession of the
ship's captain, and by him they are handed to the gunner, and are never
delivered to any one else. As was customary, the _Chesapeake's_
broadside guns were loaded and shotted, for a ship generally sailed
with them in this state of preparation; but they were not primed, and
but thirteen powder horns had been made ready, and they were locked
safe in the magazine. Around the foremast and in the cable tiers were
plenty of wads and sponges, and ready on deck, before each gun, was a
box of canister. But there were no matches prepared for service.

The peaceful work went on. The crew continued touching up the paint
work, and in the sunlight the brass shone brightly. From the galley
came the clatter of dishes, and from below came the sound of a
sea-song, chanted by one of the men off watch.

Barron called Captain Gordon to him on the quarter-deck. "Captain,"
said he, "I think that fellow yonder hailed us a moment since; I could
not make out what he said however. Perhaps we had better send the men
to their stations quietly."

"Very good, sir," returned the Captain, and he strolled forward
leisurely, for he, like Barron, suspected no surprise.

Allen had left the quarter-deck and had stepped forward to speak to Mr.
Brooks, the sailing-master. They stopped at the entrance to the galley,
which was in a caboose or deckhouse. Suddenly Lieutenant Smith looked
out across the water at the _Leopard_, that was swinging lazily
along at about the distance of a pistol shot.

Surely he could not be mistaken. The muzzle of one of the forward guns
was slewing around to bear upon the ship. Probably they were just
exercising; but there! another followed suit, and then three more, as
if moved by one command. His face blanched. What could it mean? But one
thing! He whirled and saw that Barron had gone below to his cabin.
Rushing to the ladies, he grasped them by the arms and having hardly
time to make explanations, he hurried them to the companionway.

"Below as far as you can go! Down to the hold!" he cried. "Don't stop;
don't talk!"

As he spoke he could scarce believe his eyes. A burst of white smoke,
with a vivid red dash of flame from the centre, broke from the forward
gun on the _Leopard's_ main deck. There was a crash just abaft the
break of the forecastle. A great splinter fully six feet long whirled
across the deck. The shock was felt throughout the ship. A man who had
been painting the bulwarks fell to his knees, arose, and fell again.
His shoulder and one arm were almost torn away; his blood mingled with
the paint from the overturned pot. He shrieked out in fright and agony.

"Beat to quarters!" roared Lieutenant Smith.

Up from below the men came tumbling. Barron ran from his cabin, with
his face as white as death. "To quarters!" he roared, echoing the
Lieutenant's order.

Everything was confusion. The men gathered at the useless guns. The
belated drummer began to sound the roll. Hither and thither rushed
officers and midshipmen. The green hands stood gawking about; some
overcome by fear and the suddenness of danger, plunged down the
companionway. Where were the matches? Where were the priming horns?
Barron turned to go to his cabin for the keys to the magazine. They
were locked in the drawer of his heavy desk, and now there came another
shot. It struck fair in the bulwarks, and the hammocks and their
contents were thrown out of the nettings. Three men were wounded by the
shower of splinters. And not a shot was fired yet in return.

"Matches! give us the matches!" roared some of the men at the guns, as
they tried to bring their harmless weapons to bear upon the Englishman.

A deadly broadside struck the helpless _Chesapeake_. Blocks and spars
fell from aloft. Suddenly from the entrance of the deckhouse ran a
hatless figure. Men made way for him. It was Lieutenant Allen! His jaws
were set and his eyes were glaring. Tossing between his hands, as a
juggler keeps a ball in the air, was a red hot, flaming coal.

"Here, sir!" cried one of the gunner's mates. "This one's primed, sir.
For God's sake, here, sir!"

Just as Allen reached forward, a shot from the _Leopard_ struck the
opening of the port. The man who had spoken was hit full in the breast.
Five of the eight surrounding the piece fell to the deck, wounded by
the murderous splinters. But Allen dropped his flaming coal upon the
breech of the gun, and pushed into place with his scorched and
blackened fingers.

It was the lone reply to the Englishman's dastardly gun practice! For
fifteen minutes the _Leopard_ fired steadily by divisions.

Covered with blood that had been dashed over him from the body of the
man the round shot had killed, Allen ran aft. The ship was full of
groans and shrieks and cursing. Forth from the cabin came Barron. He
looked an aged, heart-broken man. When he saw the young Lieutenant, he
stepped back a pace in horror. The scene of carnage on the deck
unnerved him.

"The keys! the keys!" shrieked Allen, almost springing at his
commander's throat. "Let us fight, if we must die!"

The thought that flashed through Barron's mind must have been the
uselessness of resistance, the terrible death and destruction, and the
inevitable loss that would be sure to follow. Almost resting himself
upon the group of officers, he raised both hands above his head, the
palms open and outstretched.

"Haul down the flag!" he ordered faintly.

A sailor, standing near by, caught the words and springing to the
halliards, down it came, tangling almost into a knot, as if to hide its
folds. The _Leopard_ ceased her murderous work; but the confusion was
great on board the _Chesapeake_. Men wept like babies. Wounded men were
being carried below. Curses and imprecations on the English flag and on
the distant ship rent the air. Many openly cursed their own commander.

"Tell him to come here, and look at this!" cried an old sailor,
pointing to one dead body on the deck. "Then will he lower the flag?
Give us a chance, for God's sake, to fight like men!"

Barron had hurried into the cabin.

"Send for the officers of the ship." They were all there to a man,
except the surgeon, who was busy down below. "Your opinions,
gentlemen," he faltered. There was not a sound. Captain Gordon was
silent. Tears were rolling down the First Lieutenant's cheeks. He tried
to speak, and could not.

"Sir, you have disgraced us!"

It was Allen speaking. To save his life he could not have helped
blurting out what he felt to be the truth. Barron spread out his arms
weakly, then dropped his head into his hands. It was then presumed that
he was wounded also, for blood was running down his wrists. They left
him there.

What use the rest of the story? The search was made, four men were
taken. All claimed to be Americans; they were prepared to prove it.
Captain Humphreys refused to accept the surrender of the vessel.
Barron, hitherto known as brave and capable, was dishonored and
relieved from all command, was sentenced to five years retirement
without pay. Oh yes, the British Admiral was sentenced also. Of course
the Board of Admiralty could not recognize such doings. They even made
apologies and all the rest of it, and returned two of the men, all
there were left, for one was hanged and another died. They sentenced
their Vice-Admiral with a smile of covert approval, and they promoted
him shortly afterwards.

The unfortunate officers who had been innocent parties to the surrender
felt keenly their position. They could not go through explanations to
every one. They became morbidly sensitive upon the subject. No less
then seven duels grew out of the affair, and Allen, who had fired the
gun, wrote to his father thus: "If I am acquitted honorably, if Captain
Barron is condemned, you may see me again. If not, never."--Poor Allen!
No disgrace shall ever be attached to his name. He died of wounds
received while bravely fighting on the deck of his own little vessel,
the _Argus_, some years later, and he was buried in foreign soil by a
guard of honor of his enemies, who appreciated his bravery and worth.

As for the _Chesapeake_, her bad name clung to her. And of her end,
there is much more to tell that will be told. But "Remember the
_Chesapeake_" became a watchword. This was the beginning, that was the
beginning of the end.


This is a story that has oft been told before. But in history, if a man
becomes famous by one act, and be that act something worth recording,
it will stand being told about again. So if this be an old yarn, this
is the only apology for the spinning, and here goes for it:--

Reuben James may be well remembered by men who are yet living, for he
died but some fifty years ago. He was born in the state of Delaware, of
the good old "poor but honest" stock. Sailor boy and man was Reuben,
with a vocabulary limited to the names of things on shipboard and the
verbs to pull and haul. He went to sea at the age of thirteen years,
and in 1797, when only a lad of sixteen, although he had already made
three or four cruises of some length, he was captured by a French
privateer during the quasi-war between this country and the citizen
Republic of France. Upon his liberation, Reuben made up his mind to
serve no longer in the merchant service, but to ship as soon as
possible in the best frigate that flew our flag; and as his
imprisonment lasted but some five or six months, he soon found
opportunity for revenge. Upon returning to the States he was fortunate
enough to find the old _Constellation_ in port picking up her crew.
This was in the year 1799, and the old ship was then in command of the
intrepid Commodore Truxtun, and he was her commander when she gave such
a drubbing to the French frigates _Insurgente_ and _Vengeance_, which
taught the citizens a lesson, and brought to an end, as much as any
other thing, the ridiculous situation of two nations not actually at
war fighting one another at sea whenever they met. In these actions
young James distinguished himself. He was by nature fearless to the
verge of recklessness, and he was probably in trouble, on account of
his devil-may-care propensities, more than once. In 1804, he sailed in
the frigate _United States_ to the Mediterranean, and when young
Stephen Decatur sailed into the harbor and successfully destroyed the
captured frigate _Philadelphia_, which the Tripolitans had anchored
beneath their batteries, Reuben James was one of the first to
volunteer. He returned from the successful accomplishment of the
design, impressed with the young leader's courage and magnetism, and as
often is the case between a beloved officer and the man who serves
under him, there grew up in the young sailor's heart--he and Decatur
were about the same age--a wild desire to do something to prove his
devotion. The affection of brave men for one another leads to deeds of
noble self-sacrifice, and Reuben James's chance was to come. Every time
that he was assigned to boat duty in the many skirmishes and little
actions, before the harbor of Tripoli, Reuben succeeded in going in
Decatur's boat, and one day to his delight he was promoted to be
cockswain, which must have proved that Decatur's keen eye had noticed

On the 3d of August, 1804, early in the morning, the orders were sent
throughout Commodore Preble's fleet to prepare for a general attack to
take place as soon as it was broad daylight. The American force
consisted of the _Constitution_ and a number of gunboats of the same
style and size as those composing the Tripolitan forces. Everything was
ready on time, but the lack of wind prevented the action from taking
place until late in the afternoon, when the _Constitution_, preceded by
three of the American gunboats, entered the harbor. There were nine of
the Bey's crack vessels, composing the eastern wing, waiting not far
from shore. The three Yankee gunboats bore down upon them without
hesitation, in gallant style. In slap-bang fashion, they sailed right
into the Tripolitans and captured, cutlass in hand, the three leading
ones. The other six fled and came plashing up the harbor, working their
heavy sweeps for all they were worth.

A few minutes after their retreat, one of the other vessels that, to
all appearances, had surrendered, broke away and started up the harbor,
scrambling along as fast as she could go. Decatur in his small boat was
not far away. There was a mist of battle smoke hanging over the water,
and for an instant he did not notice what was going on; but when he did
hear what had happened, all the fierce daring in his nature was
aroused, and mingled with the anger and desire for revenge, it
completely swept him away. He was told that the Tripolitan commander,
who had just made his escape, had treacherously risen upon the prize
crew sent on board of him, after he had struck his flag, and with his
own hands had killed Decatur's beloved brother James. When this news
reached him, Decatur did not falter.

"After him!" he cried to his crew. "Put me alongside of him!"

"We'll put you there, sir," said Reuben James, who was at the tiller.
And out of the smoke into the plain view of the guns of the battery and
also of the American captives, who had viewed the whole affair from the
window of their prison, the little boat started in the wake of the
felucca, whose force of men outnumbered hers by three to one. They
gained at every jump, and in a few minutes they had run their little
boat alongside, thrown down their oars, and to a man had scrambled on
board the Tripolitan. Decatur had set his eye upon a red-turbaned
figure that he knew to be the leader. This man had killed his brother!
Almost before the bowman had laid hold of the enemy's gunwale, he had
made a flying leap off it and gained the deck. Ignoring every risk,
scarcely pausing to ward off the many blows that were aimed at him, he
made straight for the man in the red turban. The pirate was armed with
a long spear and one of those deadly curved scimitars, sharp as steel
can stand it, capable of lopping off a limb at a single stroke; drawing
back he aimed a full-length thrust as soon as Decatur confronted him,
for he must have read his fate in the determined look on the latter's
face. Decatur dodged skilfully and tried to come to closer quarters;
but the Tripolitan by great agility succeeded in keeping out of the
way, and once more he lunged. This time as Decatur parried his
sword-blade broke off at the hilt; dropping it, he laid hold of his
enemy's spear, and in the wrestle for its possession, he succeeded in
tripping up the Turk, and both fell upon the deck. The red-turbaned
one, freeing one hand, drew a dagger from his waist-cloth, and just as
he was about to plunge it into the body of the young American, Decatur
managed to draw a small pistol, and lifting himself on his elbow, blew
off the top of his opponent's head.

Revenge was his. But what about our friend Reuben? The only reason that
Decatur had not been killed in the early part of the struggle by the
many blows that were aimed at him--for the American boarding party
numbered but twelve all told--was the fact that seaman Reuben James was
close behind him, warding off blow after blow. Disdaining to protect
himself, his right arm was rendered useless, so that he had to shift
his cutlass to his left hand. He was slashed seven times about the
body. A cut on the shoulder made him drop his weapon, and just at this
moment he saw that Decatur was lying upon the deck with his foeman over
him. Behind him a sinewy man was aiming a deadly blow directly
downward. Reuben James sprang forward. His right arm was useless and
his left almost so. There was nothing he could interpose between that
deadly blow and his beloved commander but his life! Trying weakly to
push back the Tripolitan, he leaned forward swiftly and caught the blow
from the scimitar on his own head. It fractured his skull, and he fell
insensible to the deck.

But a Yankee sailor is a hard man to kill--in three weeks cockswain
James was at his post again. His recovery was no doubt due to his
wonderful constitution and his youth.

[Illustration: "Reuben James sprang forward."]

As soon as the war with Great Britain was declared, Reuben made all
haste to join his old commander, and he served in the frigate _United
States_ when she captured the _Macedonian_, and afterwards in the
_President_ when she took the _Endymion_. In both actions he got as
near Decatur as he could, and in the last-named conflict he received
three wounds. Although suffering greatly, he refused to leave the deck
until after the _President_ had struck her flag to the squadron that
captured her, whereupon Reuben James was carried below weeping--not
from pain or anguish, but from sheer mortification and grief.

At Decatur's funeral he wept again, honest fellow, and whenever he came
to port he would visit his commander's grave. Reuben was in actual
service until the year 1836, when he arrived in Washington for the
purpose of obtaining a pension. He was suffering very much at this time
from an old musket-shot wound that had caused a disease of the bone of
his leg. It was exceedingly painful and becoming dangerous. After
consultation the doctors ordered amputation, and as he lay in the
hospital the decision was announced to him. With his old indifference
to danger, and his reckless spirit, Reuben replied in the following

"Doctor, you are the captain, sir. Fire away; but I don't think it is
shipshape to put me under jury masts when I have just come into

The day after the operation Reuben was very low, and it was thought
that he had but a few hours to live. The old sailor himself declared
that he had reached the bitter end of his rope, appeared resigned to
his fate, and begged the surgeon to "ease him off handsomely while he
was about it."

"Reuben," said the doctor, "we have concluded that we will give you a
good drink and allow you to name it. What will you have, brown stout or
brandy toddy?"

"I s'pose I won't take another for a long time, sir," Reuben responded,
with a twinkle in his eye. "So just s'pose you give us both; which one
first it doesn't much matter."

He prided himself that he had been in ten fights and as many
"skrimedges," and as he was a favorite character, he was allowed to
celebrate each in turn as they came around, so his happy days were
many. There was one subject to which, however, no one could ever
refer--Decatur's sad and untimely end. Always in his heart Reuben bore
a deep and lasting love, and an ever-living admiration for the man
whose life he had saved; and those friends of the young Commodore
always treated the old sailor with the greatest of deference. Had
Decatur lived, it is safe to state that wherever he went Reuben would
have gone also, and if the latter had not walked bare-headed and
weeping at his officer's funeral; and had it been the other way about,
with Reuben being put to earth, Decatur would have been there, if
possible, hat in hand, to shed a tear of sorrow.


Out of the north they came in their grimy, bluff-bowed ships--the men
behind the times! Three years away from home; three years outside the
movement of human government, of family life, ignorant of the news of
the world.

The years 1811 and 1812 were remarkable ones in the annals of the
whaling industry; vessels that had been cruising for months unrewarded
managed to fill their holds, and now, deep laden, they were returning
from the whaling grounds, singly or often in companies of a half-score
or more. They were ugly vessels, broad and clumsy, with heavy spars and
great wooden davits. They stenched of blubber and whale oil, and they
oozed in the warm sun as they labored southward, out of the realms of
ice and night into the rolling waters of the Pacific. They buffeted the
tempestuous weather of the Horn and climbed slowly northward along the
coasts of the Western hemisphere.

Sailing together homeward bound for New England in the fall of the year
was a fleet of these Arctic whalers--no matter their exact number or
their destinations. For the beginning, let it suffice that the vessel
farthest to the west was the good ship _Blazing Star_ of New Bedford.

Captain Ezra Steele, her skipper, had made a mental calculation, and he
knew exactly the profits that would accrue to him from the sale of the
barrels of sperm oil that now filled the deep hold of his ship. It was
his custom in fine weather to count these barrels and to go over all
these calculations again and again. He was a part owner of the _Blazing
Star_, and he had made up his mind exactly what he was going to do with
the proceeds of this cruise. He knew that just about this time of the
year, his wife and many other wives, and some who hoped to be, would be
watching for the sight of welcome sails. The Captain wondered if his
daughter Jennie would accept young Amos Jordan's offer of marriage. He
and Amos had talked it over. Amos was his first mate now, and the
Captain had been thinking of staying at home and sending the young man
out in command of the _Blazing Star's_ next cruise; but perhaps Jennie,
who had a will of her own, had married; or who knows what might have
occurred? It is now late October of the year 1812, and a great deal can
happen in three years, be it recorded.

Captain Ezra had all the sail that she could carry crowded on the
stiff, stubby yards of his vessel. He was anxious to get home again,
but the wind had been baffling for some days, hauling about first one
way, then another. Now, however, they were getting well to the north,
and the continued mildness of the air showed that probably they had
entered the waters of the Gulf Stream. The Captain was dressed in a
long-tailed coat and yellow cloth breeches thrust into heavy cowhide
boots that had become almost pulpy from constant soaking in the sperm
oil. He noiselessly paced the deck, now and then looking over the side
to see how she was going.

The old _Blazing Star_ creaked ahead with about the same motion and
general noise of it that an oxcart makes when swaying down a hill. From
the quarter-deck eight or ten other vessels, every one lumbering along
under a press of stained and much-patched canvas, could be seen, and a
few were almost within hailing distance. All were deep laden; every one
had been successful.

"Waal," said the Captain to himself, "if this wind holds as 'tis, we'll
make Bedford light together in about three weeks."

The nearest vessel to the _Blazing Star_ was the old _Elijah Mason_.
She had made so many last voyages, and had been condemned so many
times, and then tinkered up and sent out again, that it always was a
matter of surprise to the worthy gentlemen who owned her when she came
halting along with her younger sisters at the end of a successful
cruise. Her present captain, Samuel Tobin Dewey, who had sailed a
letter of marque during the Revolution, was a bosom friend of Captain
Steele. Many visits had they exchanged, and many a bottle of rare old
Medford rum had they broached together. As Captain Ezra turned the
side, he saw that they were lowering a boat from the _Elijah Mason_,
and that a thick, short figure was clambering down to it. So he stepped
to the skylight, and leaning over, shouted into the cabin.

"Hey, Amos!" he called, "Captain Dewey's comin' over to take dinner
with us. Tell that lazy Portugee to make some puddin' and tell him to
get some bread scouse ready for the crew. We'll keep 'em here for
comp'ny for our lads."

In a few minutes he had welcomed Captain Dewey, who, although almost
old enough to remember when his ship had made her maiden voyage, was
ruddy and stout in his timbers and keen of voice and eye. But by the
time that a man has been three years cooped up in one vessel, his
conversational powers are about at their lowest ebb; every one knows
all of the other's favorite yarns by heart, and so the greeting was
short and the conversation in the cabin of the _Blazing Star_ was
limited. It was with a feeling of relief that the captains heard the
news brought to them by a red-headed, unshaven boy of seventeen, that
there was a strange sail in sight to the northwest. The two skippers
came on deck at once. About four miles away they could make out a
vessel heaving up and down, her sails flapping and idle. For, a common
occurrence at sea, she lay within a streak of calm. Her presence had
probably been kept from being known before by the slight mist that hung
over the sea to the west and north. The long, easy swells were ruffled
by the slight wind that filled the sails of the whaling fleet, and were
dimpled to a darker color. But where the stranger lay there was a
smooth even path of oily calm. Beyond her some miles the wind was
blowing in an opposite direction. She lay between the breezes, not a
breath touching her.

"What d'ye make her out to be, Ezra?" asked Captain Dewey, his fingers
twitching anxiously in his eagerness to take hold of the glass through
which Captain Steele was squinting.

"Man-o'-war, brig," responded the taller man. "Sure's you're born,

"You're jest right," responded Dewey, after he had taken aim with the
telescope. "I'll bet her captain's mad, seein' us carryin' this breeze,
an' she in the doldrums. We'll pass by her within three mile, I reckon.
She may hang on thar all day long an' never git this slant of wind at
all. Wonder what she's doin aout here, anyhow?"

In about ten minutes Captain Ezra picked up the glass again. "Hello!"
he said. "By Dondy! they've lowered away a boat, an' they are rowin'
off as if to meet us. Wonder what's the row?" A tiny speck could be
seen with the naked eye, making out from the stretch of quiet water.
The crew of the _Blazing Star_ had sighted her also, and at the
prospect of something unusual to break the monotony, had lined the
bulwarks. Suddenly as the boat lifted into the sunlight on the top of a
wave, there came a flash and a glint of some bright metal. In a few
minutes it showed again. Captain Ezra picked up the glass.

"By gum!" he exclaimed; "that boat's chuck full of men all armed. What
in the name of Tophet can it mean?"

"Dunno--I'd keep off a little," suggested Captain Dewey.

The helmsman gave the old creaking wheel a spoke or two in response to
the Captain's order.

"She's baound to meet us anyhow," put in the lanky skipper. "What had
we better dew?"

"Got any arms on board?" inquired Dewey. "Look suspicshus. Think I's
better be gettin' back to my old hooker," he added half to himself.

Amos Jordan, the first mate, was standing close by. "I reckon we've got
some few," he said.

"Git 'em aout," ordered the Captain, laconically; "and, Cap'n Sam, you
stay here with us, won't ye?"

Amos started forward. In a few minutes he had produced four old
muskets, and a half-dozen rusty cutlasses. But there were deadlier
weapons yet on board, of which there were a plenty. Keen-pointed
lances, that had done to death many a great whale; and harpoons, with
slender shanks and heads sharp as razors. And there were strong arms
which knew well how to use them. The Captain went into the cabin and
came back with three great, clumsy pistols. One he slipped under his
long-tailed coat, and the two others he gave to Captain Dewey and Amos
Jordan. There were twenty men in the _Blazing Star's_ own crew. The
visitors from the old whaler added five more, and with the three mates
and the two captains, five more again. In all there were thirty men
prepared to receive the mysterious rowboat, and receive her warmly
should anything be belligerent in her mission.

"I dunno what they want," said Captain Ezra; "but to my mind it don't
look right."

"Jesso, jesso," assented Captain Samuel.

A plan was agreed upon; a very simple one. The men were to keep well
hid behind the bulwarks, and if the small boat proved unfriendly, she
was to be warned off the side, and if she persisted in trying to board,
then they were to give her a proper reception. The suspense would not
be long. The boat was now so close that the number of men in her could
be counted distinctly. There were eighteen in all, for the stern sheets
were seen to be crowded. The brig at this moment lay in her own little
calm, about two miles directly off the starboard beam. The rest of the
whaling fleet had noticed her, and had sighted the approach of the
armed cutter also. They were edging off to the eastward, evidently
hailing one another and huddling close together. But the _Blazing
Star_, with just enough wind to move her, held her course.

All was suppressed excitement, for the armed small craft was now within
a half a cable's length. "Ship ahoy!" hailed an officer in a short,
round jacket, standing up. "Heave to there; I want to board you!"

"Waal," drawled Captain Ezra, through his nose, "I dunno as I shall.
What d'ye want?"

There was no response to this; the officer merely turned to his crew:
"Give way!" he ordered, and in half a dozen strokes the cutter had slid
under the _Blazing Star's_ quarter. The man in the bow turned and made
fast to the main chains with a boat-hook. Captain Steele was smoking an
old corncob pipe. He looked to be the most peaceful soul in the world
as he stepped to the gangway, but under his long coat-tails his hand
grasped the old horse-pistol. Several heads now showed above the
bulwarks. The strange officer, who had evidently not expected to see so
many, hesitated. Captain Ezra blew a vicious puff of smoke from between
his firm lips.

"Better keep off the side," he said; "we don't want ye on board; who be
ye, anyhow?"

"Damn your insolence, I'll show you!" cursed the stranger. "On board
here, all you men!" He sprang forward. Captain Ezra did not pull his
pistol. He stepped back half a pace and his eye gleamed wickedly. The
unknown had almost come on board when he was met full in the chest by
the heel of Captain Ezra's cowhide boot. Now the Captain's legs were
very long and strong, and aided by the firm grasp he had on both sides
of the gangway, the gentleman in the round, brass-buttoned jacket flew
through the air over the heads of his crew in the boat below and
plumped into the water on the other side. One of the men in the boat
instantly drew a pistol and fired straight at the Captain's head--the
ball whistled through his old straw hat! But that shot decided matters.
It was answered by the four old rusty muskets, the last one hanging
fire so long that there was a perceptible time between the flash in the
pan, and the report. Two men fell over on the thwarts of the small
boat. The man who had fired the pistol sank back, pierced through and
through by the slender shank of a harpoon. But the crowning effect of
this attempt to repel boarders occurred just at this minute. A spare
anchor, that had been on deck close to the bulwarks, caught the eye of
Amos Jordan. "Here, bear a hand!" he cried, and with the help of three
others he hove the heavy iron over the bulwarks. It struck full on the
cutter's bows, and crushed them as a hammer would an eggshell. The
shock threw most of the occupants from off the thwarts; the boat filled
so quickly that in an instant they were struggling in the water--one
man gained the deck, but a blow on the head from the butt of Captain
Dewey's pistol laid him out senseless. One of the _Mason's_ crew hurled
a lance at one of the helpless figures in the water. It missed him by a

"Avast that!" roared Captain Ezra. "We don't want to do more murder!"

The officer who had been projected into the deep by the Captain's
well-timed kick had grasped the gunwales of the sunken boat. His face
was deathly white; thirteen of his crew had managed to save themselves
by laying hold with him. One of them was roaring lustily for some one
to heave a rope to him. To save his life, Captain Ezra could not help

"Waal," he said, "this is a pretty howdy do. Ye kin come on board naow,
if ye want tew, only leave them arms whar they be." As if in obedience
to this order, a sailor in a blue jacket with a white stripe down each
arm and trimming the collar, unbuckled his heavy belt with his free
hand and cast his cutlass far from him. Two others followed suit.

"Naow," said Captain Ezra, "one at a time come on board, an' we'll find
aout what ye mean by attackin' a peaceable whaler with dangerous
weapons, who's homeward baound an' hain't offended ye."

The first man up the side was a red-cheeked, black-whiskered
individual, who mumbled, as he sheepishly gazed about him: "Douse my
glims but this is a bloody rum go."

"Tie 'im up," ordered Captain Ezra. The man submitted to having his
hands made fast behind his back.

"Now for the next one," said Captain Ezra, blowing a calm puff of smoke
up in the air, and watching it float away into the hollow of the
mainsail. In turn the thirteen discomfited sailors were ranged along
the bulwarks, and no one was left but the white-faced officer, clinging
to the wreckage of the boat that was now towing alongside, for one of
the crew had heaved a blubber-hook into her, at the end of a bit of

"Spunky feller, ain't he?" suggested Captain Ezra, turning to Captain
Dewey, who, in the excitement had taken two big chews of tobacco, one
after another, and was working both sides of his jaws at once. "The
last t' leave his sinkin' ship. That's well an' proper."

The young man--for he was scarcely more than thirty--needed some
assistance up the side, for Captain Ezra's boot-heel had come nigh to
staving in his chest.

"Naow, foller me, young man," Captain Ezra continued, walking toward
the quarter-deck. He ascended the ladder to the poop, and the dripping
figure, a little weak in the knees, guarded by a boat-steerer armed
with a harpoon, obeyed and followed. As the Captain turned to meet him
he noticed that the man in uniform still had his side-arms.

"I'll trouble you for that thar fancy blubber-knife, young man," he
said, "an' then I'll talk t' ye." The officer detached his sword from
his belt and handed it over. He had not offered yet to say a word.

"Naow," said Captain Ezra, holding the sword behind his back, "who be
ye, an' what d' yer want? as I observed before."

"I'm Lieutenant Levison of His Majesty's brig _Badger_."

"Waal, ye ought to be ashamed of yourself," broke in Captain Ezra.

[Illustration: "'What d'ye mean by attackin' a peaceful whaler?'"]

"I am," responded the young man. "You may believe that, truly."

"Waal, what d'ye mean by attackin' a peaceful whaler?"

"Why, don't you know?" replied the officer, with an expression of

"Know what?"

"That there's a war between England and America?"

"Dew tell!" ejaculated Captain Steele, huskily, almost dropping his
pipe. He stepped forward to the break of the poop.

"Captain Dewey," he shouted, "this here feller says thar's a war."

"So these folks have been tellin'," answered the Captain of the _Elijah
Mason_; "but I don't believe it. They're pirates; that's what they be."

"Gosh, I guess that's so," said Captain Ezra. "I reckon you're
pirates," turning to the officer. "I hain't heard tell of no war."

"We are not pirates," hotly returned the young man. "Damn your
insolence, I'm an officer of His Britannic Majesty, King George!"

"Tush, tush! no swearin' aboard this ship. What was you goin' to do,
rowin' off to us?"

The officer remained silent, fuming in his anger. "I was going to make
a prize of you; and if I had you on board ship, I'd----"

"Belay that!" ordered Captain Ezra, calmly. "Ye didn't make a prize of
me, an' you're aboard my ship. Don't forgit it."

"Well," broke in the young man, angrily, "what are you going to do with
me?" Captain Dewey had by this time come up on the quarter-deck,
followed by the mates.

"I presume likely," said the skipper of the _Blazing Star_, rather
thoughtfully, "I presume likely we'll hang ye."

The Englishman--for all doubts as to his nationality were set at rest
by his appearance and manner of speech--drew back a step. His face,
that had grown red in his anger, turned white again, and he gave a
glance over his shoulder. The brig, hopelessly becalmed, lay way off
against the horizon.

As he looked, a puff of smoke broke from her bows. It was the signal
for recall. He winced, and his eye followed the glance of the stalwart
figure with the harpoon that stood behind him.

"For God's sake, don't do that!" he said hastily. "I tell you, sir,
that there is a war. There has been war for almost four months now.
Upon my word of honor."

The two captains exchanged looks of incredulity. Suddenly the
prisoner's face lit up. "I can prove it to you," he said excitedly.
"Here is a Yankee newspaper we took from a schooner we captured off the
Capes five days ago."

"_The New Bedford Chronicle_, by gosh!" exclaimed Captain Ezra, in
astonishment, taking the soaked brown package. He spread it out on the

"It's true, Cap'n Sammy, it's true," he continued excitedly. "Thar's a
war; listen to this," and he read in his halting, sailor manner, the
startling headlines: "The Frigate _Constitution_ Captures the British
Frigate _Guerrière_. Hurrah for Hull and his Gallant Seamen! Again the
Eagle Screams with Victory."

There was much more to it, and Captain Ezra read every word. "Young
man," he said at last, "I owe ye an apology. If ye'll come daown into
our cabin, I kin mix ye a toddy of fine old Medford rum. Between lawful
an' honest enemies there should be no hard feelin's, when the fate of
war delivers one into the hands of 'tother. Cap'n Sammy," he observed
as he reached the cabin, "if we had really knowed thar was a war, we'd
a gone back and took that thar brig."

"Yaas," returned Captain Dewey, "we be summat behind the times."

His eyes twinkled as he glanced out of the cabin window. Still becalmed
and almost hull down, H.M.S. _Badger_ was but a speck against the

The Englishman drew a long deep breath.

"Come, sir," spoke up Captain Ezra. "Don't get down hearted. 'Live an
learn,' that's my motto. We're drinkin' your good health, sir, join
right in."

                 *       *       *       *       *

When the _Blazing Star_ arrived in port, she turned over to the United
States authorities an officer and twelve men, prisoners of war.


He said that he had been impressed into the English service from the
brig _Susan Butler_, of New York. But what grounds the boarding officer
had taken in supposing him to be a British subject would puzzle most.
The cocked-hats generally left a merchant vessel's side with the pick
of the unfortunate crew. The qualifications necessary for a peaceable
Yankee merchant sailor to change his vocation and become a servant of
King George were plain and simple in 1810: ruddy cheeks--crisp curling
hair--youth, health, and strength, why! of English birth and parentage
most certainly! What use the papers stating that his name was Esek
Cobb, or Hezekiah Brown? His home port or natal town Portsmouth, N.H.,
Bath, Me., or Baltimore? He spoke the mother tongue; he was an A.B. His
services were needed to fight old England's enemies, and away he would
go in the stern sheets of the press boat, bitter curses on his lips and
irons on his wrists.

But this straight-haired, Indian-featured, narrow-shouldered half-man
who stood there on the _Constitution's_ deck, with his soaked, scanty
clothes, clinging to his thin, big-jointed limbs, why in the name of
the Lion or the Unicorn, or the Saint or the Dragon, for that matter,
had they chosen him? He told his tale in a low, whimpering voice, with
his eyes shifting from one deck-seam to another--Five years in the
Royal British Navy!--Five years of glorious service of the one who
rules the common heritage of all the peopled earth--Five years of
spirit-murdering slavery.

Not six cable-lengths away, a dark shape against the lights of the
town, lay the great ship from whose side he had lowered himself in the
darkness to swim to the shelter of the smart, tall-sparred frigate,
over whose taffrail he had watched his country's flag swinging in the
sunlight, tempting him all the day. He had fought against the swiftly
running tide until at last--just as his strength had left him--he had
been hauled on board by the anchor watch, and now his one prayer was
that they would not give him up. The men who stood about looked
pityingly at his shivering figure. A middy, attracted by the commotion,
had hastened aft to find the officer of the deck. The forecastle people
murmured among themselves.

"Captain Hull won't give you up, lad," said one, laying his hand on the
poor fellow's shoulder.

"This ship is not the _Chesapeake_," said another; "don't ye fear,

"Here's the Leftenant," put in another--"'tention!"

"What's going on here?" asked a low voice.

The sailor who had last spoken touched his cap.

"I was down making the running-boat fast to the boom, sir, when I hears
a faint cry, and I sees a man in the water just alongside, sir. I lays
hold of him, and thinkin' it's one of our crew, sir, we gets him
quietly at the forechains; then we sees as how he ain't one of us,
sir,--he says."

"That'll do; let him speak for himself. Where did you come from, my

"From the _Poictiers_, yonder, sir. For the sake of mercy don't give me

"Are you an American?"

"Yes, sir; God's truth, I am."

"Your name?"

"McGovern, sir."

"Where were you born, McGovern?"

The stern, matter-of-fact inquiry could scarce conceal the pity in the
tone; but it was the officer-voice speaking.

"In Water Street, New York, sir, not far from the big church--Oh, for
the love of----"

"You speak like an Irishman."

"My parents were Irish, your honor, but I was born in the little house
fourth from the corner. You won't let them---- Oh, God help me!"

The sturdy rocking beat of oars near to hand off the port quarter
caused an interruption. The fugitive gave a quick glance full of terror
in the direction of the sound; then he dropped forward upon his knees;
his whimpering changed to a hoarse weeping whisper.

"Don't give me up; I'd rather die--save me--save me," he croaked.

One of the watch came hurrying aft. "There's a cutter here at the
gangway," he said in a low voice, saluting the Lieutenant.

"Very good, my lad," responded the latter. "Take this man below, give
him dry clothes and a place to sleep."

Two men helped the abject creature to his feet and led him sobbing to
the forward hatchway. The Lieutenant stepped to the side.

"On board the cutter there," he called, "what do you want at this hour
of night?" Well he knew, and he spoke as if the answer had been given.

"On board the frigate," was the reply. "We're looking for a deserter;
he started to swim off to you; has he reached here?"

The Lieutenant disdained deception. "We fished a half drowning man out
of the water a few minutes since," he replied quietly, leaning over the
gangway railing.

"He's a deserter from my ship; I'll be obliged if you will hand him
over.--This is Lieutenant Colson, of the _Poictiers_."

"Sorry not to grant Lieutenant Colson's request; the man claims
protection as an American. Captain Hull will have to look into the
matter.--This is Lieutenant Morris, of the _Constitution_."

"I should like to see Captain Hull at once. In bow there, make fast to
the gangway."

"Hold hard, sir. The Captain is asleep; I cannot waken him."

"I demand you do--you are in one of His Majesty's ports."

"I know that well enough--keep off the side, sir." There was a moment's
silence, and then the same level tone was heard addressing some one on
the deck. "Call the guard; let no one come on board the ship to-night."

There was the sound of some movement on the _Constitution's_ deck;
the fast ebb tide clopped and gurgled about the vessel's counter
mirthfully. The Englishman, standing erect in the stern sheets of the
little cutter bobbing against the frigate's side, hesitated.

"On board the frigate, there!"

"Well, sir, in the cutter!"

"Heark'ee! You'll repent this rashness, I can warrant you that, my
friend; you will pay high for your damned Yankee insolence, mark my
words. Shove off there forward" (this to the bowman)--"shove off there,
you clumsy fool! Let fall!"

There had been no reply from the bulwarks to the Englishman's burst of
temper; but Lieutenant Morris stood there drumming with his fingers on
the hilt of his sword, and looking out into the darkness. Then an odd
smile that was near to being scornful crossed his face, and he turned
quietly and began the slow swinging pace up and down the quarter-deck.
That Captain Hull would sanction and approve his conduct, he did not
have the least suspicion of a doubt; if not on general principles, on
account of a certain specific reason--to be told in a few short

It had happened that three days previous to the very evening, a steward,
who had been accused of robbing the ward-room mess of liquor, and
incidentally of drunkenness arising from the theft, was up for
punishment--somehow he had managed to take French leave by jumping
out of a lower port. He had been picked up by the running-boat of the
flagship. At once he had claimed to be a subject of King George, and,
needless to record, the statement was accepted without question--whether
he was or not bore little weight, and cuts no figure in this tale.
Suffice it: Captain Hull's polite request for the man's return was
laughed at, very openly laughed at, and the Admiral's reply was a
thinly veneered sneer--why, the very idea of such a thing!

Now here was a chance for that soul-satisfying game of turn and turn
about. Lieutenant Morris, as he paced the broad quarter-deck, felt sure
he had voiced Captain Hull's feelings, and then he began a little
mental calculation, and as he did so, slightly quickened his stride,
and came a few paces further forward until he was opposite the port
gangway. There he stopped and looked out at the swinging anchor lights.
Six hundred odd guns against forty-four! And then there were the land
batteries and the channel squadron probably outside. But actually, what
mattered the odds? On the morrow there was going to be something to
talk about, that was fact, and Lieutenant Morris smiled as brave men do
when they look forward to contest, and know they have right with them.
The poor, whimpering dog who had claimed protection was probably not
worth his salt, and was certainly not needed; but rather than give him
up, Isaac Hull would go to the bottom (in his very best, brand-new
uniform, Morris knew that well enough), and with him would go four
hundred sturdy lads by the right of their own manly choice.

"And egad they'd have company," Morris reasoned out loud, with that
strange smile of his.

Captain Hull heard the news and all about it at breakfast, and the only
sign that it interested him in the least was the fact that he rubbed
his heavy legs in their silk stockings (he generally wore silk in port)
contentedly together beneath the table, and disguised a wide smile with
a large piece of toast.

"Have the man given a number and assigned to a watch, Mr. Morris," was
his only comment to the Lieutenant's story.

That was simple enough. But the heavy, red-faced Commodore, although
prone to extravagant indulgence in expansive shirt frills, jewelry, and
gold lace, usually went at matters in the simplest manner and after the
most direct fashion. There did not appear to be any question on this
present occasion; he to all appearances dismissed the subject from his
mind; but Morris knew better--"Wait," said he to himself, "and we will
see what we will see." And although this is the tritest remark in the
world, it was more or less fitting, as will be shortly proved.

At nine o'clock a letter arrived from the English Admiral. It was
couched in the usual form, it was full of "best compliments," and
bristled with references to "courtesy and distinguished conduct in the
past," and it was signed "Obd't servant." But it said and meant plainly
enough: "Just take our advice and hand this fellow over, Captain
Hull,--right away please, no delay; don't stop for anything. He
deserves to be abolished for presuming that he has a country that will
protect him."

The word had flown about the decks that the English cutter was
alongside with a message from the flagship. The crew had all tumbled up
from below, and a hum of voices arose from the forecastle.

"Bill Roberts, here, he was on watch when they hauled 'im on board,
warent ye, Bill?--I seed him when they brought 'im below--he had the
shakes bad, didn't he, Bill?" The speaker was a short, thickset man,
who had a way of turning his head quickly from side to side as he
spoke. His long, well-wrapped queue that hung down his back would whip
across from one shoulder to the other.

"We thought it was one of yesterday's liberty party trying to get back
to the ship," responded the man addressed as Bill. "But when we got him
on deck we seed as how he warent one of us, as I told the First Luf.
Did you see his back, Tom, when we peeled his shirt off?"

"God a' mercy! I seed it."

Well those marks were known. Deep red scars, crisscrossed with heavy,
unhealed, blue-rimmed cuts, feverish and noisome.

"He was whipped through the fleet ten days ago. So he says. I don't
know what for, exactly; says he found a midshipman's handkerchief on
deck, and not knowin' whose 'was, put it into his ditty box--some such
yarn.--Jack here, he tells of somethin' like that, when he was
impressed out of the _Ariadne_ into the old _Southampton_, don't ye,

"Yes, but damn the yarn--this fellow--where is he now?" asked a tall,
light-haired foretopman, around whose muscular throat was tattooed a
chain and locket, the latter with a very red-cheeked and exceedingly
blue-eyed young person smiling out through the opening in his shirt.

"He's hidin' somewhere down in the hold, I reckon," answered a little,
nervous man; "nobody could find him this morning; guess he's had all
the spunk licked out of him."

"I've heard tell of that before," remarked the tall foretopman. "His
spirit's broke."

Just at this moment the English Lieutenant who had borne the message
from the Admiral hurried up from the cabin where he had been in
consultation with Captain Hull. His face was very red, and he gave a
hasty glance at the crowded forecastle, as if trying to enumerate the
men and their quality. Then he hastened down the side, and when he had
rowed off some dozen strokes he gave the order to cease rowing. Then
standing up he looked back at the frigate he had left, taking in all
her points, the number of her guns, and marking her heavy scantling
with a critic's eye. Then he seated himself again, and pulled away for
the flagship.

His departure had been watched by four hundred pairs of eyes, and this
last act of his had not been passed by unnoticed.

"Takin' our measure," observed Bill Roberts, cockswain of the Captain's
gig, turning to Tom Grattan, the thickset, black-headed captain of the
maintop. The latter grinned up at him.

"There'll be the Divil among the tailors," he said.

The tall foretopman, who was standing near by, folded his heavy arms
across his chest.

"We'll have some lively tumbling here in about a minute, take my word
for that, mates," he chuckled, "or my name's not Jack Lange"; and as he
spoke, Captain Hull, followed by all of his lieutenants, came up on
deck. The Captain turned and spoke a few words to Mr. Cunningham, the
ship's master. The latter, followed by three or four midshipmen,
hurried forward. Some of the men advanced to meet him.

"All of you to your stations," he ordered quietly. "Gunners, prepare to
cast loose and provide port and starboard main-deck guns. The rest
stand by ready to make sail if we get a wind off shore."

He gave the orders for the capstan bars to be fitted, and turning to
the ship armorer he told him to provide cutlasses and small-arms for
the crew.

Quietly boarding-nettings were made ready to be spread, the magazines
were opened, even buckets of sand were brought and placed about; sand
to be used in case the decks became too slippery from the blood. Down
in the cockpit the doctor had laid out his knives and saws on the
table. In five minutes the _Constitution_ had been prepared for
action. And all this had been accomplished without a sound, without a
shouted order or the shrilling of a pipe!

Captain Hull inspected ship. Silent, deep-breathing men watched him as
he passed along. At every division he stopped and said a few words.
"Lads, we are not going to give this man up upon demand. Remember the
_Chesapeake_. We are going to defend ourselves if necessary, and
be ready for it." He made the same speech in about the same words at
least half a dozen times. Then he went into his cabin and donned his
best new uniform, with a shining pair of bullion epaulets. This done,
he gave a touch to his shirt frills before the glass and went on deck.

Signals were flying in the British fleet, and now the forts were
displaying little lines of striped bunting. There was scarce breeze
enough to toss them in the air. The sleepy old town of Portsmouth
looked out upon the harbor. Soon it might be watching a sight that it
never would forget. Perhaps history would be made here in the next few
minutes, and all this time the fugitive lay cowering among the
water-butts in the mid-hold.

A breeze sprang up by noon, and the two nearest vessels of the fleet, a
thirty-eight-gun frigate, and a razee of fifty, slipped their moorings
and came down before it. A hum of excitement ran through the Yankee
ship. There was not sufficient wind to move her through the water; but
the capstan was set agoing, and slowly she moved up to her anchor. As
the smaller English vessel drifted down, it was seen that her men were
at quarters. It was the same with the razee. But without a hail they
dropped their anchors, one on each side of the _Constitution's_ bows,
at about the distance of a cable's length. There they waited, in grim
silence. The men made faces at one another, and grimaced and gestured
through the open ports. The officers, gathered in groups aft, paid no
attention to their neighbors.

There followed more signalling. A twelve-oared barge left the flagship
for the admiralty pier. From the direction of the town came the sounds
of a bugle and the steady thrumming of drums. A long red line trailed
by one of the street corners. Already crowds began to gather on the
housetops and the water-front. Some clouds formed in the west that
looked as if a breeze might be forthcoming. Hull watched the sky

The midday meal was served with the men still at their posts. There was
no movement made on either side. Toward evening the wind came. No
sooner had it ruffled the surface of the water than the _Constitution_,
whose cable had been up and down all the day, lifted her anchor from
the bottom, and with her main topsail against the mast, she backed away
from her close proximity to her neighbors. Then, turning on her heel,
she pointed her bow for the harbor mouth. It was necessary for her to
sail past every vessel in the fleet. Drums rolled as she approached.
Men could be seen scurrying to and fro, and as she passed by the
flagship, a brand-new seventy-four, her three tiers of guns frowned
evilly down, and a half-port dropped with a clatter. A sigh of relief
went up as the _Constitution_ passed by unchallenged.

There were but three vessels now to pass,--a sloop of war, a large
brig, and a forty-four-gun frigate that lay well to the mouth of
the harbor. The latter, apparently in obedience to signals, was
getting in her anchor and preparing to get under way; but before the
_Constitution_ had reached her the breeze died down, and before
twilight was over it was dead calm. Hull dropped his anchor, and close
beside him, the Englishman dropped his. He was at least two minutes
longer taking in his topsails. It continued calm throughout the early
watches of the night. At three o'clock in the morning there was a sound
of many oars. The officers were on the alert. "They are coming down to
attack us in small boats," suggested one of the junior lieutenants. But
soon it was perceived that such was not the intention, for in the dim
light the big brig could be seen approaching, towed by a dozen boat's
crews working at the oars. There was no reason for longer maintaining
any secrecy, and Hull called his crew to quarters in the usual fashion.
The sounds might have been heard on shore; but the brig, when she had
once reached a berth on the American's quarter, dropped her anchor

With the gray of morning came a new wind from the westward, and with it
the _Constitution_ slipped out of port, the two vessels that had
menaced her all night long not making a movement to prevent her going.
Once well out in the channel, the feeling of suspense was succeeded by
one of relief and joy. The fugitive, soaked with bilge water, shivering
and hungry, emerged from his hiding-place as he felt the movement of
the vessel's sailing.

"How is that man McGovern doing?" asked Captain Hull of Lieutenant
Morris, who was dining with him in the cabin. "He ought to be of some
use after the trouble and worry he has caused us."

"I'm sorry to say he isn't," responded Morris, shrugging his shoulders.
"He isn't worth powder. Why, even the forecastle boys cuff him about
and bully him! He not only lacks spirit, but he is one of those men, I
think, who are somehow born cowards. But he has been a sailor at some
time or other, I take it, although he told me that he was only cook's
helper in the galley on board the _Poictiers_. That's his billet now on
board of us, by the way."

It was true: McGovern not only bore the name of a coward, but he looked
it, every inch of him. His shifty eyes would lift up for an instant,
and then slide away. His elbow was always raised as if to ward off a
blow. He acted as if he expected to have things thrown at him. He
invited ill treatment by his every look, and he received many blows,
and many things were thrown at him. And the unthinking made fun of all
this, and used him for their dirty work, and he did not resent it. He
took orders from the powder-monkeys, and cringed to the steerage
steward. As to the officers and midshipmen, he trembled when they
approached him, and after they had passed he would spring forward and
hide somewhere, panting, as if he had escaped some danger. The sight of
the boatswain deprived him of the power of speech. He acted like a cur
that had been whipped, and in fact he lived a dog's life. And yet for
this man, those who despised him would have gone to the bottom. Aye,
and cheerfully, for behind him lay the question soon to be cause enough
for the shedding of much blood.

When the _Constitution_ reached New York, McGovern disappeared.

                 *       *       *       *       *

It was early in the month of June, 1812. There was evidence of a
feeling of great uneasiness that prevailed throughout the length and
breadth of the country. In the coffee-houses and taverns, at the
corners of the streets, in the gatherings in drawing-room or kitchen,
there was but one subject talked about--the approaching war with
England. It was inevitable, naught could prevent it, was the opinion of
some; while others, more cautious, saw nothing in the approaching
strife but the dimming of the American star of commerce which had
arisen, and death to progress in arts and manufactures. Their flag
would be swept from off the sea; the little navy of a handful of ships
would have to be dragged up into the shallows, and there dismantled and
perhaps never be set afloat again. Little did they know of the glorious
epoch awaiting. The makers of it were the sailormen in whose cause the
country was soon to rise.

Jack Lange was hurrying along Front Street; he had been transferred
from the _Constitution_ to the _Wasp_. It was but a moment before that
he had landed. He had the tall water-roll in his gait. He was very
jaunty in appearance, with his clean, white breeches very much belled
at the bottom, his short blue jacket and glazed cap, and from the smile
on his face one could see that he was very well pleased with himself.
The half-fathom of ribbon that hung over his left ear would
occasionally trail out behind like a homing pennant. He was bound for
Brownjohn's wharf, where he knew he might fall in with some of his old
messmates and gather up the news. As he luffed sharp about a corner he
passed some one hurrying in the opposite direction. It was a man of
about thirty years of age. His arms were held stiff at his side, and
his face was twitching nervously. His eyes were rolling in excitement.
Jack Lange turned, and lifting one hand to the side of his mouth, he
shouted: "Ship ahoy, there!" The other man whirled quickly, and the two
stood looking at one another for an instant before either spoke. Then
the big sailor advanced.

"What's the hurry, messmate?" he said. "This is McGovern, isn't it?
Don't you remember me?"

"Sure I remember you," returned the other in a voice with a touch of a
rich brogue. "Have you heard the news?" he added suddenly, his hand
trembling as he touched Lange on the arm.

"What is it--about war?" asked Jack, eagerly.

"Aye, the war, d'ye mind that? There'll be great doings before long!"

"I suppose they'll lay the navy up in ordinary, and we poor fellows
will join the sorefoots with a musket over our shoulders."

"Not a bit of it; they're going to outfit and sail to meet 'em,"
responded McGovern. "I'm off to tell my folks."

The news was all about the town. People were running hither and
thither, clapping on their hats, women called to one another from the
windows of the houses, crowds commenced to gather. Suddenly Jack
hesitated. Surely it was a cheer, a rousing, sailors' cheer, off to the
left down the alley! He listened again, and giving a hitch to his
breeches, he started in a lumbering, clumsy gait, swinging his cap
about his head. "Hurray!" he bellowed at top lung as he saw in a crowd
gathered before one of the little taverns the uniforms of some of the
_Constitution's_ men, and recognized also Bill Roberts, and his old
messmate Grattan.

When the _Wasp_ sailed again, she carried between her decks as fine a
crew as ever hauled a rope or manned a yard. Some of the men who had
served on board the _Constitution_ now swung their hammocks in the
crowded forecastle of the little sloop.

Grattan and Roberts were in the same watch, the port, which was in
charge of young Lieutenant James Biddle. Jack Lange was in the other
watch, and with him were two of the _Constitution's_ men,--the little,
black-eyed gunner, and a heavy, thickset man, who at first glance
appeared to be too fat and clumsy ever to be a topman; yet he was, and
one of the best.

Lange was stowing away his hammock but a few hours after the _Wasp_ had
gotten under way, when the short, thickset man approached him.

"D'ye see who is on board with us?" he asked. He pointed forward.

There, sitting with his back against the bulwarks was the Coward, his
eyes staring straight before him, and his fingers and toes--for he was
bare-footed--working nervously. Soon there came an order to shorten
sail. There was a scramble to the shrouds, and among the first to reach
them was McGovern. Close beside him was the fat topman.

"Out of the way, you swab!" he cursed, striking out with his elbow.
"This is man's work," he added. "Out of the way, can't you!"

The hot blood rushed to McGovern's face. He hesitated. At that moment
some one pushed him from behind, and before he knew it he had been
hustled off the bulwarks to the deck. Without a glance behind him he
slunk down the hatchway. And so he went back to rinsing the dishes in
the galley.

Inside of three months the _Wasp_ was back in port again. Once more
McGovern disappeared. No one missed him, and no one thought about it.

On the 13th of October Captain Jacob Jones set sail again in his trim
vessel, but just before the _Wasp_ had left her moorings a boat rowed
with quick, nervous strokes put out from shore. The man at the oars was
doing his best to catch the sloop of war before she should gain
headway. In the stern sheets sat an old woman. Now and then she would
encourage the man pulling at the oars. There was a short, choppy sea,
and both figures in the little boat were soaked with spray.

Suddenly the topsails filled, the headsails blew out with a vicious
snap, and just as the sloop lurched forward, the little boat was
abreast the forechains. The man dropped the oars, and, springing
outboard, managed to catch the lower shroud; with agility he hauled
himself up arm's length and sprawled over the bulwarks, down on deck.
It was McGovern, and his strange coming on board had been observed by
many. He arose quickly and gaining the shrouds once more, he waved his
hand. "Good-by, mither!" he cried, and then he turned back to greet a
burst of laughter. But all hands were too busy with the getting under
way to pay much attention to him, and he disappeared below.

The next morning it blew a heavy gale, and for four days the wind
lasted, and even after the danger had passed the day broke with a heavy
swell on the sea and the weather yet boisterous. The _Wasp's_ previous
cruise had been uneventful. She had failed to fall in with the enemy,
and now this continued stress of weather made the sailors, ever prone
to find reasons in their superstitions, to think that they must have
aboard with them a Jonah; some one who brought ill luck, and why they
should have settled upon poor McGovern it would be hard to tell.
Perhaps he was ignorant of the reason for the new meaning of the looks
of dislike and suspicion that were cast at him, or perhaps he failed to
notice them. At any rate he made no comment.

Surely it was not his fault if the second day out, during the height of
the storm, the jibboom had carried away, and two of the starboard watch
went with it and were lost.

There was a great deal of excitement attending this particular
daybreak, the morning of the 18th, for the night before, after the
clouds had cleared away and the stars had shone brightly forth, several
large sails had been reported to the eastward. Captain Jones had laid
his course to get to windward of them, so as to have the weather-gage
when day came. The vessels had disappeared as the weather had thickened
a little, and now all hands had gathered on deck, and the sloop was
romping along through the slight drizzle, almost dipping her yard arms
at times in the heavy seas that raced past.

"There they are.--Sails off the lee bow, two points away!" shouted a
lookout from the forecastle. It had cleared a trifle, and there they
were, sure enough, seven vessels, and nearer to, was a trim man-of-war
brig. She was edging up slowly, taking in sail as she did so, and the
_Wasp_ swung off to meet her.

"English, begad!" exclaimed Captain Jones. "Have the drummer beat to
quarters, Mr. Biddle, as soon as you get down the topgallant yard and
shorten sail."

"Very good, sir.--Hello, she shows the Spanish flag."

"Never mind that; she's English, I'll bet a thousand."

Biddle bawled out the orders, and the usual helter-skelter rush, from
which emerges such careful work and such wonderful precision, followed.
But the first man to gain the weather shrouds this time was McGovern.
Since the news that the enemy had been sighted had been passed below,
he had been very much in evidence. Instead of his greasy scullion's
rags, he wore a clean suit of canvas. His white shirt was trimmed with
blue silk, and his long hair, that usually straggled down his cheeks,
was twisted into a neat queue down his back. He paid no attention to
the questions addressed to him, took no heed of the merriment (for men
will jest on strange occasions); but kept his eyes shifting from the
group of officers on the quarter-deck, to the oncoming vessel that was
plunging heavily in the great seas. When he had seen the Spanish flag,
his face had fallen; but Bill Roberts was standing close beside him.

"Never mind that, my lads!" he roared to those about him. "No one but a
John Bull or a Yankee would bring his ship along like that; take my
word for it, my hearties!" and then had come the order to shorten sail.

McGovern was across the deck like a shot, at least three feet in
advance of the next man, who, as luck would have it, was the short, fat
topman before referred to. Whatever he may have thought was McGovern's
proper sphere and natural instincts, it required but a glance to show
that he knew what he was about as he started clearing away the parel
lashings and then unreeving the running-gear. It requires but two men
at the masthead to make fast the downhauls and look out for the lifts,
and on this occasion there were two pairs of skilful hands at work. The
older seamen looked into McGovern's face wonderingly; but the latter
was going silently about his work, occasionally looking out across the
rolling white of the sea at the little brig that would soon be within
gunshot. He could plainly make out the red coats of the marines grouped
along the rail. "Sway away!" and the topgallant yards came safely down
to the deck. The men were at quarters now, and the matches were

"Well done, McGovern!" exclaimed the fat sailor, with a shamefaced
smile. "Well done, McGovern!" called one of the midshipmen, grasping
him by the arm. "Here, take No. 2 at this twelve-pounder. Do you know
the orders, lad?"

"Yes, sir, yes," answered the Coward, excitedly. "I was captain of a
gun once, o' truth I was."

But a pistol shot's distance now separated the two vessels. Captain
Jones hailed through his trumpet. Down came the Spanish flag, and there
was the red cross of England! The brig let go a broadside; but just
before she did so, the sound of a cheer had come down on the wind.

There is no time to describe the details of the action. But few of the
_Wasp's_ crew had been in actual combat before. Soon there were deep
red spots on the deck; there were groans and curses, and much sulphur
smoke. Occasionally the muzzles of the guns would dip deep into the
water as the _Wasp_ hove down into the hollow of the surge. A sharp
crack aloft, and down came the main topmast, and with it fell the
topsail yard. It tangled in the braces, and rendered the headsails
useless. The Englishman was playing havoc with the rigging, braces,
and running-gear of the _Wasp_. Grape and round shot were mangling
everything aloft.

There had been a few men in the foretop when the action had commenced.
One of them was Roberts. Suddenly glancing up from his gun, McGovern
saw a sight that made him start and cry out, pointing. There was Bill
trying weakly to haul himself over the edge of the top. Blood was
running from a wound in his forehead, and his left arm hung useless;
his leg was hurt also. But he was still alive and dimly conscious. At a
sudden lurch of the vessel, he almost pitched forward down to the deck.
Then as McGovern watched him, he appeared to give up hope, and,
twisting his hand into the bight of a rope, he lay there without
moving. But no man could live there long! Splinters were flying from
the masts; blocks were swinging free and dashing to and fro; new holes
were being torn every second in the roaring, flapping sails. It may
have been that no one else had time to think about it; but McGovern did
not hesitate. He threw down the sponge and jumped into the slackened

[Illustration: "Carefully he lowered away."]

"Come out of that, you fool!" somebody shouted at him from below; but
he did not pause. A round shot whizzed by his elbow. A musket-ball
carried away a ratline above his head, just as he reached forward. He
felt as if a hot flame had licked across his shoulder, and in an
instant more his white shirt was white no longer, and was clinging to
his back. But it was nothing but a graze, and, undaunted, he kept on
ascending. He hauled himself into the top. There lay a dead marine,
shot through the temple. Now he bent over the prostrate sailor. Yes, he
was alive! Roberts was breathing faintly. Despite the interest and
excitement of the action men were watching him from below. But he must
work fast if he was to save a life--a bullet at any time might complete
the work already begun. He tried to lift the heavy figure on to his
shoulders, but found he could not. But good fortune! One of the
halliards had been shot away aloft, and hung dangling across the yard.
McGovern saw the opportunity. Passing the bitter end of it around
Roberts' body, close underneath the arms, he made it fast. Then passing
the rest of it through the shrouds he gave first a heave that swung the
prostrate figure clear of the blood-stained top, and then carefully he
lowered away until at last the body reached the deck.

Somehow the musket-balls had stopped their humming through the upper
rigging, and even the firing of the _Wasp_ had slackened, as McGovern,
reaching for one of the stays, rode down it safely and reached the
deck. And now occurred a thing that has been unchronicled, and yet has
had its parallel in many instances of history. A cheer arose, a strong,
manly cheer,--it came from across the water; it preceded by an instant
the roaring of the hoarse voices close about him. But McGovern's ear
had caught it.

"Hark!" he cried, pushing his way forward to reach his station. "Hark,
they're cheerin'! They must have thought we've struck. We'll show 'em!"
He picked up his sponge again.

Now the firing became incessant. Steadily as the blows of a hammer were
delivered the telling shots from the _Wasp's_ port divisions. The
flames of powder scorched the enemy's bows. All at once there came a
crash. The jibboom of the Englishman swept across the deck, tearing
away the shrouds and braces, and then with a heave and a lurch the
vessels came together, grinding and crunching with a sound of
splintering and tearing of timbers as they rolled in the heavy sea.

There was not a man on board the _Wasp_ that did not expect to see
the English sailors come swarming over the bow of their vessel, and
drop down to fight in the old-fashioned way, hand to hand and eye to
eye. But there must have been some delay. For an instant there was a
silence except for the ripping of the Englishman's bow against the
_Wasp's_ quarter. But the red-crossed flag was still flying.

Captain Jones saw his opportunity. The enemy lay in so fair a position
to be raked that some of the _Wasp's_ guns extended through her bow
ports. The men, who, without waiting for orders had caught up cutlasses
and boarding-pikes, were ordered back to their stations, and at such
close quarters the broadside that followed shattered the enemy's
topsides as might an explosion on her 'tween decks. Two guns of the
after division, loaded with round and grape, swept her full length.

But some of the more impetuous of the crew had not heard, or perhaps
had not heeded the order to return to their stations. Jack Lange had
made a great leap of it, and had caught the edge of the Englishman's
netting. As an acrobat twists himself to circle his trapeze, he swung
himself by sheer strength on to the bowsprit, and gaining his feet, he
stood there an instant, then he jumped over the bulwarks on to the
enemy's deck and disappeared. The handful of men who had sought to
follow his leadership had all failed their object, for a slant of the
wind had hove the two vessels so far apart that they were almost clear
of the tangle of shrouds and top-hamper that had made them fast. But
one man had made a spring of it and had caught the bight of one of the
downhauls that was hanging free. Hand over hand he hauled himself up to
the nettings, and after considerable difficulty--for he was all but
exhausted--he succeeded in getting his body half-way across the
bulwarks, and then with a lurch he disappeared. During all this, not a
shot had been fired. Every one had watched with anxiety the strange
boarding party of two. What would be the outcome of it? Suddenly, as
the sails that had been tearing and flapping, filled, and the noise
subsided, a strange sound came down from the direction of the other
vessel. It was like a great chorused groan--the mingling of many voices
in a note of agony! Then with a crash they met again, the English ship
fouling hard and fast in the _Wasp's_ mizzen rigging. Lieutenant
Biddle, followed by a score of armed boarders, jumped upon the bulwarks
and endeavored to reach the other vessel and be the first on board. In
this he would have succeeded had not little Midshipman Baker caught his
officers coat-tails and endeavored to emulate his eagerness. But at
last the Lieutenant and his followers gained the deck, there to be
witness of a wonderful sight.

There was a wounded man limply leaning against the wheel. Three
officers were huddled near the taffrail--but one was able to stand upon
his feet; the other two were badly wounded. Jack Lange and McGovern the
Coward had possession of the ship. But somehow, overcome by the sight,
they had not left the forecastle, and it was Lieutenant Biddle's own
hand that lowered away the flag.

His Majesty's sloop of war _Frolic_ was a prize. Frightful had been the
carnage! But twenty of the English crew were fit for duty. She was a
charnel ship. The _Wasp_ had lost but five men killed, and but five men
wounded. Among the latter was Bill Roberts. Although he was shot three
times, the surgeon declared that he would live.

To and fro the boats plied busily. The _Frolic's_ masts fell shortly
after she had been boarded, and now every effort was made to repair
damages and take care of the many wounded and the dying.

Every one talked about McGovern, he who had been the Coward; he who
had cringed to the loblolly boys, and who had taken orders from the
ward-room steward; who had washed dishes and dodged blows; _he_ was the
hero of the day. And how did he take all this new glory, the admiring
glances and the remarks of his messmates? Not as a vainglorious seeker
of reputation, not as a careless daredevil who had risked recklessly
his life for the mere excitement; but as a cool-headed, brave-hearted
man, who while there was yet work to do found no time to think of what
had been done. He was reincarnate, as if during the fire and smoke,
when the hand of death was everywhere, the spirit to do, and dare, had
been born within him. Forgotten had been the red scars of the
disgracing cat that seared his back. Here was his chance to show what
was in him; to even up matters with the power that had almost crushed
his soul. Every shot from the _Wasp's_ side made his heart beat with
joy. The born fighter had been awakened. He craved for more, and
animated by this feeling he went about his work with a half-delirious
strength that made him accomplish the task of two men. All eyes were on
him. His officers had marked him.

"Sail ho!" called down one of the men who was clearing away the
wreckage aloft. "Sail ho! off the starboard bow."

Driven by the strong breeze that had blown throughout the morning a
great sail was bearing down, looming larger and larger every minute.
The _Wasp_ cleared for action. The _Frolic_, aided by the little jury
masts that had been hastily rigged, was ordered to bear away to the
southward before the wind. The _Wasp_, wounded and bedraggled as she
was, bore up to meet the oncomer.

Slowly the great shape rose out of the water, sail by sail. A tier of
guns! another! and a third!--a seventy-four! With two ridges of white
foam playing out from her broad bow, she bowled along and passed so
close that her great yard arms almost overshadowed the little wounded
sloop. There came the sound of a single gun, and at this imperious
order the _Wasp's_ flag fluttered to the deck. It had not needed this
sight of the red cross curling and uncurling across the white expanse
of new sail to mark her as one of the great guard ships of old England.
English she was from truck to keelson, and long before she fired that
disdainful shot the gunners of the _Wasp_ had put out their smoking

And McGovern had watched her come with an ever-changing expression in
his eyes. His face, flushed with excitement and victory, had paled.
Once he had started as if to run below and hide. There was something
familiar in those towering masts and that gleaming white figurehead,
and as she sailed on to retake the little _Frolic_, McGovern was
compelled to hold fast to the bitts to prevent himself from falling.
The ports were crowded with jeering faces. The quarter-deck rail was
lined with laughing officers, in cocked hats and white knee-breeches.
Under her stern gallery he read the word _Poictiers_! From that he
glanced up at the main yard arm. Men had swung there at the end of a
rope--yes, he had once seen a convulsive, struggling figure black
against the sky. Men would swing there again! The maxim that 'a
deserter has no defence' recurred to him. He glanced about. Close by
was a chain-shot, two nine-pound solid shot connected by a foot of
heavy links. Like one afraid of being seen, he skulked across the deck
as he had skulked in the days before. He reached the side where part of
the bulwarks had been torn away, and crouching there he passed the end
of his heavy belt through a link of the chain, and without a sound
lurched forward, all huddled up, and struck sideways in the water.


It was a famous dinner party that Captain William Bainbridge, Commander
of the Charlestown Navy Yard, gave on the night of the 31st of May,
1813. In those days gentlemen sat long at a table; they knew good wines
when they tasted them, and if they drank a great deal at a sitting,
they sipped slowly.

The cloth had been removed, and upon the shining mahogany rested two
or three cut-glass decanters filled with the best Madeira. Captain
Bainbridge sat at the head of the table, in a high-backed oaken chair;
he was dressed in a blue uniform coat, with the gold-braided lapels
thrown back over his wide chest. In his snow-white shirt frill there
nestled a sparkling jewel given to him by the Sultan of Turkey, upon
the occasion when Bainbridge had brought the old frigate _George
Washington_ into the harbor of Constantinople and there for the first
time displayed the flag of the United States.

The candles had burned low in the candelabra, a silence had fallen upon
the company; it was evident that something had interrupted the easy
flow of wit and conversation. Captain James Lawrence, the guest of the
evening, was in full uniform, with epaulets and great gold buttons as
big as half-dollars. He sat opposite Captain Bainbridge, with both
elbows on the table, cracking walnuts and eating them as if to stave
off hunger; his face was flushed, and a frown was on his brow. A young
man of not more than twenty, with a gleaming mass of gold braid on his
left shoulder, the mark of the lieutenant, had the next seat to him; he
was nervously drumming on the table with his finger-nails. Occasionally
he would glance from Lawrence to Bainbridge, and then at the two other
officers who were sitting there in constrained silence.

Well did they all know how easy it was for the word to be spoken that
would fire the smouldering mine, and change what had been a jovial
gathering to the prologue of a tragedy. Men had to be careful how they
spoke in those days. There could never be any brawling or careless
flying of words; courtesy and gallantry limited their power of personal
offence; but epithets or implications once given expression could not
easily be withdrawn. Men who had been friends and who had fought for
the same cause would, with the stilted hat-tipping and snuff-offering
fashion of the time, meet one another in the gray of morning under
God's sky and do one another to the death.

At last Lawrence spoke.

"Are you not judging me harshly in this matter, sir?" he said. "You say
you doubt my caution." His gaze shifted from the brilliant jewel in
Bainbridge's breast to the frank, manly face above.

"Your caution; yes, Captain," was the return; "your courage, my dear
sir, never."

Lawrence cracked another walnut with a loud report. "Surely in my
little affair with the _Peacock_ you have granted that I used judgment;
and in regard to the distribution of prize money, which has not seemed
to suit our mutual views----"

Bainbridge interrupted him. "That is a question apart from our present
discussion, sir," he said. "I pray that you will postpone it. But I can
only say for the benefit of all concerned that I do not doubt an easy
adjustment. For what you decide must perforce be agreeable to me."

"You are my senior----"

"And for that reason I have taken the opportunity, as you have brought
up the subject, to express my opinions. I cannot order you; it is
outside my province or my wish. Before the company you have brought up
this matter, and for that reason I have discussed it. Every one must
agree that the Department authorities at Washington have treated you
most unhandsomely. Had you been given the command of the _Constitution_,
as was first intended and promised you, and were she in a condition
to put to sea, I should say nothing but what would encourage you to
exercise despatch."

"Ah, if I but had the _Constitution_ and her crew," put in Lawrence,
with a sigh; "if I but had them." Suddenly he brought his strong,
clenched fist down upon the table with a crash: "Then this English
captain would not be flaunting his flag at the harbor mouth, daring me
to come on and fight him; shaming us all here where we lie at anchor!
The _Chesapeake_ is ready!"

"Ah, but she is the _Chesapeake_," interrupted Bainbridge.

"True enough; but why not give me the chance to wipe the stain from off
her name?" He suddenly arose, and leaning across the table spoke
quickly and vehemently. "Order two hundred of the _Constitution's_ men
on board of her, and I will sail out and give battle to-morrow! I doubt
not, nor do I fear the consequences. I ask this of you as a proof of

In his excitement, Lawrence upset one of the tall wine-glasses. It
tinkled musically, and, reaching forward, he filled it to the brim, and
Bainbridge waited until this had been done.

"I cannot grant your request, Captain Lawrence," he said quietly at
last. "Your ship is in no condition to go out and fight at the moment.
She has a green crew. Her running-gear has not been tested."

"Then let me go into the yard and call for volunteers!" Lawrence
interrupted hotly.

"I cannot prevent you taking men who are not busily employed; but I
shall not order men from work. 'Twould be sanctioning your action."

The mine was on the point of being fired; the fatal word was trembling
on Lawrence's lips. The boy lieutenant half rose from his chair; but
Lawrence controlled himself with an effort. He may have realized how
senseless it would have been to impute to William Bainbridge lack of
courage. He may have thought of the wicked consequence of such a
speech. But he was obstinate. His nature was not one to be thwarted
easily. Throwing back his shoulders and looking around the table, he
raised the brimming wine-glass to his lips.

"Then, here's to the success of the _Chesapeake_!" he blurted, and
drained it to the bottom. "I shall go out and fight this fellow
to-morrow," he added sullenly. "You gentlemen," turning to the others,
who were all officers of his luckless ship, "shall share with me the
honor." Turning, he walked to the side of the room and picked up his
cloak and heavy bullion-edged cocked hat.

"Sir, to you good evening."

Bainbridge was about to speak; but on second thought he remained silent
and bowed slowly. Without a word Lawrence, followed by three of his
officers, left the room. The young Lieutenant lingered. His face had
flushed when his captain had spoken the word "glory," and yet the calm,
dispassionate judgment of Bainbridge had appealed to him. He was a
beautiful lad, this officer, with long-lashed eyes like those of a
young girl. His light brown hair curled softly over his white forehead.
One would expect nothing but laughter and song from those lips, and it
needed the strong, square-cut jaw to give the note of decision and
character to his face. It redeemed it from being too classical; too
beautifully feminine. He loved James Lawrence, his commander, and truly
a boy's love for a man who excites his admiration is much like a
woman's in its tenderness and devotion. Lawrence had been a father to
him, or better, an elder brother, for the _Chesapeake's_ commander was
but thirty-two years of age.

Young William Cox had been much at Captain Bainbridge's house since the
_Chesapeake_ had dropped her anchor in the Charles River, and the
Commandant had watched with approval the mutual attraction that existed
between the young officer and the beautiful Miss Hyleger, who was the
sister of Bainbridge's wife. He probably knew what was going through
the young man's mind. As he followed after the others Bainbridge
stopped him.

"Good night, James; may God watch over you. You will do your duty; of
that I am well assured."

"Thank you, sir," the lad returned, flushing as he took Bainbridge's
hand in both of his.

When left alone, the Commodore sat there in his great armchair, and on
his face was a great shadow of sorrow.

Lawrence did not go on board his ship that night; but Lieutenant
Ludlow, Mr. White, the sailing-master, and Lieutenants Cox and Ballard
repaired on board at once to make ready for the approaching conflict.
All night long James Lawrence walked alone under the trees in the river
park, and at early dawn, still dressed in his resplendent uniform, with
his silk stockings and white knee-breeches, he made his appearance at
the Navy Yard. Some sixty men responded to his call. But the older
sailors wagged their heads. It was not necessary. Ah, that was it! Had
it been a case of do or die, there was not a man who would not have
thrown down his work and jumped at the chance to fight. But the
_Chesapeake_! she was an unlucky vessel. Sailors avoided her. Her crew
was riffraff in a measure; men not wanted on other ships; many of
foreign birth; Portuguese and Spaniards; a few Danes, and without doubt
some renegade servants of King George.

As the morning mist cleared away from the water, there in the offing
was the English frigate that had been hovering and flaunting her
challenging flag for the past three days.... Boston was all agog with
the news. The whole city had flocked to the water front. Before nine
o'clock the _Chesapeake_ was surrounded by a flotilla of small craft.
Men cheered themselves hoarse. Flags floated from the buildings, and
women waved handkerchiefs from the docks. But yet, some of the wise
ones wagged their heads.

The bulwarks and top sides of the _Chesapeake_ had been freshly
painted, and the paint was not yet dry. As her crew stretched out the
new yellow hempen running-gear, they smudged everything with the
pigment. There was no time to be careful; it was a hurly-burly haste on
every hand. The officers were reading the lists of the men at the guns.
They did not know them by name or sight, and were trying to impress
their faces on their minds at this short notice. There was bawling and
hauling and shouting and confusion. How different from the clockwork
methods on board the _Constitution_! But at last everything was as
ready as it could be. Lawrence, after his sleepless night, pale but
nerved to tension by excitement, came from the cabin. As he looked down
the deck, his spirits must have sunk. Things were not shipshape--at
this very instant he may have regretted that he had formed the decision
to go out and fight. But it was too late to withdraw! He gave the
orders, and, to the tune of Yankee Doodle, they began getting in the
anchor. The pilot was on board, standing beside the helmsman. Lawrence
went back to his cabin and wrote a letter that has only recently been
given to the public. It was addressed to James Cox, the uncle of young
Lieutenant Cox, of his own ship. The whole tone of the missive displays
the despondent attitude of mind under which Lawrence was now laboring.
The postscript that he added, after referring to the possibility of his
untimely end, reads as follows:--

"10 A.M. The frigate is in plain sight from our decks, and we are now
getting under way."

It was the last sentence he ever penned. As soon as he had sealed the
letter he came on deck and delivered it to the pilot, who left the ship
within half an hour.

Now came the ordeal. The small boats that had surrounded the vessel
were being left behind as she gained headway. But some of the faster
sailers among them managed to keep pace, and cheer after cheer sounded.
A crew of rowers in a whaleboat kept abreast of the _Chesapeake's_
bows, shouting words of encouragement to the crew. But the men did not
appear eager. The officers could not help but notice it, and the
impression must have been most heart breaking.

"Muster the crew," Lawrence ordered at last, turning to young Ludlow;
"I will say a few words to them." The men gathered in the waist,
whispering and talking among themselves.

"James," said Lawrence, to Lieutenant Cox, before he began to make the
customary address that a ship's captain in those days made before going
into action,--"James, I know that I can trust you--you will do your
duty." The young man at his side touched his cap. "You will find me
here, sir," he replied, "unless my duty is elsewhere." Lawrence stepped
a few feet forward.

"Men of the _Chesapeake_," said he, "it is our good fortune to be able
to answer the call that our country has made upon our honor. We will
answer it with our lives if necessary. Do your duty; fight well and
nobly. Your country's eyes are on you, and in her heart she thanks you
in advance. Yonder British frigate must return under our lee. Let no
shots be wasted. To your stations."

There was some low grumbling off to one side of the deck. A
black-visaged, shifty-eyed fellow came pushing to the front. A double
allowance of grog had been already served; but many of the men had been
imbibing freely, owing to the proximity of the shore and the ease with
which liquor could be obtained. The man strode out before the crowd and
stopped within a few paces of the Captain. He spoke in broken English.
Lawrence listened in anger and almost in despair. The man complained in
insolent tones that he and his messmates had not been paid some prize
money due them now a long time. Lawrence's hand sought the hilt of his
sword. He would have run the fellow through as he well deserved, did he
not see that among the crew he numbered many followers. Their surly
looks and gestures proved their evil temper. _The man declared that
unless he and thirty of the others were paid at once they would decline
to fight._

Here was mutiny at the outset! A fine state of affairs to exist on
board a vessel going to fight a battle.... There was nothing for it but
to acquiesce. He could not treat the cur as he deserved.

"Take these men to the cabin and pay them what they say is due them,"
said Lawrence, bitterly. There was not money enough on board the ship,
and he was forced to go to the cabin himself, and sign due bills for
the amount. And all this time the enemy was in the offing prepared and

The English frigate hauled her wind and put out to sea as she saw the
_Chesapeake_ approach. Her flag was flying, and now Lawrence unfurled
his. At the main and mizzen and at the peak he flew the Stars and
Stripes, while at the fore he displayed the motto flag: "Free trade and
sailors' rights." On the two vessels sailed over the bright, sunlit
sea. The day was almost without a cloud. One or two small sailing
vessels still followed in the _Chesapeake's_ wake. At four P.M. she
fired a challenging gun.

There were no seamen of the good old school that could not if they
had seen the English ship but admire her. With calm precision the
_Shannon_--for it was well known who she was--braced back her
maintopsails and hove to. In silence the two manoeuvred. At every point
the English vessel had the better of it. Which would fire first? There
was one moment when the _Chesapeake_ had the advantage. Owing to her
clumsiness more than to her agility, she came about within pistol-shot
distance under the enemy's stern. But her commander held his fire. A
minute more and they were on even terms, sailing in dead silence beside
one another, nearing all the time--who would have thought that they
were craving each other's blood? The orders on board one ship could be
heard on board the other. The word "Ready" was passed at the same
moment; but the discharge of the Englishman's broadside preceded that
of the _Chesapeake_ by a perceptible moment. How well those guns must
have been trained! Every one was double shotted and heavily charged.
The _Chesapeake_ quivered from the shock. In that second, in the time
it takes a man to catch his breath, the whole aspect of affairs had
changed. Mr. White, the sailing-master, was immediately killed; Mr.
Ballard, the Fourth Lieutenant, was mortally wounded. Ten sailors fell
dead to the decks. Twenty-three were badly hurt. The bulwarks were
crushed in, and the cabin was torn to pieces.

"Steady!" roared Lawrence. "Steady, boys, have at them!"

There was a marine with a musket in one of the Englishman's tops. He
was aiming at the resplendent figure in gold epaulets, carefully as one
aims at a target, and at last he pulled the trigger. Lawrence fell down
on one knee; but leaning against the companionway, he pulled himself
erect again. Not an expression or exclamation came from him; but his
white knee breeches were streaked and stained with red. Nearer yet the
two ships drifted. Their crashing broadsides scorched each other. The
Englishmen cheered, and the Yankees answered them--the volunteers from
the Charlestown yard were giving a good account of themselves. But
several times the _Chesapeake_ yawed and fell off her course as if she
had lost her head, like a man dizzy from a blow that deadens the brain.
And good reason why: three men in succession were shot away from her
wheel. The expert riflemen placed in the _Shannon's_ mizzentop were
doing their work well. A puff of wind took the American all aback, she
fell off and swung about. Her anchor caught in the _Shannon's_ after
port. And now not a gun could be brought to bear! Whole gun's crews
left their places and plunged down the companionway to the deck below.
But the _Shannon_ was taking advantage of her opportunity. Charges of
grape and canister raked and swept the decks.

Lawrence looked in despair at the frightful havoc. He knew what now
would happen. Every minute he expected to see the English boarders come
tumbling on board. Lieutenant Cox had been sent below to take charge of
the second division. Lawrence looked for an officer. The only one in
sight was Lieutenant Ludlow. Had it not been for his uniform no one
would have known him. He was blood and wounds from head to foot. He
could not stand erect, and was dragging himself about the deck, one
useless leg trailing behind him.

"The bugler! call the bugler!" thundered Lawrence. "To repel boarders
on the spar-deck! Where is the after-guard?"

Ludlow fell, better than clambered, down the main-hatch. "Pass the word
for the bugler!" he cried. "Boarders away!" But the bugler could not be
found. And good reason why. He was down in the deep hold hiding amid
the stores. Young Lieutenant Cox heard the order. "Boarders away!" he
shouted. As he started to rally his men and rush up from below, he was
met by the crowd fleeing from the terrible slaughter that was taking
place above. But at last he managed to work his way up the companion
ladder. He too was wounded and bleeding--a splinter had gashed him in
the neck and another in the shoulder. What a sight he saw! Lawrence,
his beloved friend, his idol, weakly holding fast to one of the
belaying-pins, still repeating his fruitless cry for the men to rally
on the deck. As Cox leaped toward him a second bullet from the
mizzentop struck the captain in the abdomen--Cox caught him as he fell.
Lawrence grasped his hand.

"Don't give up the ship!" he cried weakly. "Don't give up the ship!" He
placed one arm about the boy's shoulder. He was so young; he loved his
leader so much. He was faint from loss of blood. It was his first
action. Never before had he seen dying men, or listened to the groans
and shrieks of the wounded. Who would expect him to break away from
that last fond grasp that had not relaxed? He did not know that he was
now commander! Almost carrying his wounded leader, he staggered down
the ladder to where the surgeon and his mates were busy at their
direful work. He did not see, just as he left the deck, the English
boarders headed by their own Captain, the brave and gallant Broke,
spring over the railing. He did not know that he and the wounded Ludlow
were the only officers now left to handle ship.... As the surgeon
hastened to Lawrence's side, Cox knelt down upon one knee. He could not
control the tears of sorrow and bitterness. The whole scene of the
previous night flashed through his mind. Lawrence, his beloved, eager
for glory, now shattered with the hand of death upon him. The Captain
released the boy's hand.

"You are a brave lad, James," he said. "But stay here no longer, though
I would have you with me."

[Illustration: "'Stay here no longer--though I would have you with

There was more rushing and shouting from the decks above. Cox hastened
up as fast as his weakened limbs would carry him. It was hand to hand
now; cutlasses plying, men stabbing on the decks, growling and
grovelling in their blood like fighting dogs. There was a party making
an onslaught toward the bows. Cox drew his sword and joined them. The
first thing he knew, they were slashing at him with their heavy blades.
They were Englishmen! He did not know his own crew by sight. The firing
had stopped; the summer breeze was blowing the smoke away. But what a
sight and what a sound! The battered, reddened hulls, and the groans
that rose in chorus! Of the further details there is little to relate.
Poor Ludlow was killed at last by a cutlass in the hands of a British
sailor; for after the flag had been hauled down, a second action had
been started by a hot-headed boy firing at a British sentry placed at
the gangway. The English, by mistake, had hoisted the captured flag
uppermost, but it was soon discovered and hauled down again--the fight
was over. The _Chesapeake_ has been reckoned one of England's dearest

The sorrowful news of her defeat was carried quickly into Boston. The
wise ones wagged their heads again. At the house of the Commandant of
the navy yard at Charlestown, Bainbridge paced the room alone, deep
lines of grief marking his rugged face, and on the floor above, a young
girl lay insensible, for the word as first brought was that with the
other officers James Cox had had his death. Captain Broke, the
Englishman, had fought a gallant, manly fight, all honor to him! He was
badly wounded, and, like poor Lawrence, it was thought that he would
die. The latter, when he had heard the firing cease, had said to the

"Run to the deck. Tell them not to strike the colors! While I live they
shall wave!" Brave Lawrence! They were the last words he ever spoke.
Although he lingered four long suffering days, not a sound passed his
lips. Broke, on the contrary, was raving in a delirium, and these were
the words he kept repeating--words he must have spoken before the
action had begun:--

"See the brave fellow! How grandly he brings his ship along! How
gallantly he comes to action!"

Ah, how Halifax rejoiced when the _Shannon_ sailed in there with a
Yankee frigate under her lee. How the guns boomed, and how the city
went mad with joy! And how England rejoiced, and the "Thunderer"
thundered and the king clapped his hands! And how much they made of it!
How proudly they preserved every relic of the captured ship! How they
cherished her figurehead and exhibited her logbook! And they builded
her timbers into an old mill, where they can show them to you to-day,
scarred with cannon shot.

Yes, and how America lamented! Aye, and grew angry in her distress and
cried for vengeance! Many times during the trial which followed in the
investigation of the causes for the vessel's loss and capture, must
have young James Cox wished that he were dead, that it had been he the
British cutlasses and musket-balls had hacked to pieces. The navy had
lost a ship in single combat,--the press and the authorities did not
like that,--some one must suffer. What excuse was there that could hold
good? said they--the great public which clamored for a reason. And so
in the flush of the hot feeling he was sentenced by court martial;
sentenced and disgraced. The charge of cowardice was disproved. From
that he was exonerated--he had been wounded. But why had he not cut
down the men as they left their guns? (one man against fifty,
forsooth!) Why had he left the deck and gone below? Why had he stayed
for one moment's time at the side of his dying friend and leader? And
so he was made the scapegoat, although if he had been six men or ten,
he could not have prevented what had happened. What is the use of
"ifs"? The best ship had won. But when the trial was over, two hearts
were broken. The young officer was execrated by those that did not
know, and yet who talk and write. Could he dare just then to ask a
woman's hand?

The navy pitied him, the scapegoat of the _Chesapeake_. How he
petitioned to be given a chance to win back his fair name, and how
often it was denied him! The members of the court that sentenced him
wrote kindly letters almost without exception. But even the brave
Decatur did not dare to help him--public opinion is more formidable to
face than an armed ship. And so James Cox, maybe in the hope that an
honorable death would visit him, shouldered a musket and fought as a
common soldier in the ranks on land.

And when the war was over, he sought refuge in the new country of the
west, where perhaps they would not know. And there he lived and died;
died an old man, honored and respected by his neighbors. But those that
loved him marvelled at one thing; he never smiled. And even his
grandchildren (for he married late in life) knew not that he had once
been a gay young lieutenant with a shining epaulet on his left
shoulder. They never heard that he had started one fine June day to
find glory and fame; and that death had come near to him but passed him
by, which he had more than once regretted bitterly.

After he had been laid to rest letters and papers were found showing
that to the last he had been trying to have his name placed back upon
the navy lists. But if they were too angry to listen before in their
deep chagrin, they were too busy now; they had other things to think
about. And people who wrote history, aye and taught it in the schools,
did not search dispassionately for what had occurred to view the
facts. They took the feverish verdict of the times and applied
adjectives to his conduct that were out of place; some called it
"pusillanimous"--"cowardly." We can look at things differently now,
and judge them for their worth. There is proof enough to clear his
name, so be it cleared if these few words can help to do it.


On the 22d of October, 1812, at nine A.M., the United States brig
_Vixen_ crossed St. Mary's bar outward bound for a cruise to the
southward. It was not expected that she would be absent from home
waters for more than a month. Her commander was George W. Reed, a good
officer, although he had had little experience in actual warfare. The
hundred and ten men under his immediate command had trust in his
judgment and were all animated with a hope of coming in again with one
of the enemy under their lee, or at least they trusted that they should
be fortunate enough to make one or two rich captures and return with
prize money to their credit. As one of the _Vixen's_ crew wrote: "All
hands were in high health and spirits, and filled with the idea of soon
returning with some fruit of the consequence of the war."

Day after day the _Vixen_ sailed on and saw one sail after another; but
owing to her having been well to the leeward in every case she had been
unable to bring any to close quarters. On the tenth morning after her
departure a sail was descried, and this time it so happened that the
little brig was well to the windward. Setting every stitch of her
canvas, she made after the stranger. Judging from all reports, the
_Vixen's_ intentions must have been better than her powers of putting
them into practice; for if her legs had been faster, so to speak, the
expectations of her crew might have been answered, and this story
(which is nothing but a record of events, however) would never have had
a chance to be written. So it is safe to draw the conclusion that she
was not as fast as many of our little vessels were at this period of
our naval history.

While chasing the strange sail, another was perceived to be bearing
down from the northwest. This put another face on the matter. The
_Vixen_ hauled her wind and waited. As it was perceived the second
stranger was undoubtedly armed and was a large brig, Reed called his
men together as was the custom and made the following little speech:--

"Now, my lads, there she is; I expect every man to stand to his guns.
Don't fire a gun until you are within pistol shot; take good aim and
show her fair play."

As the vessel came on without raising her flag, she fired a broadside
of round and grape, which, however, served no other purpose than to
churn the water into foam some distance ahead of the _Vixen's_ bow.
The latter returned the compliment, and planted a double-shotted
eighteen-pound charge in her antagonist's hull, above the sternpost.
Again the stranger fired and missed, although at musket-shot distance.

Now, odd to relate, the unknown ran up signals, which, not
understanding, Captain Reed replied to with an assortment of grape. At
this the signals came down and the Spanish colors went up in their
place. Bitter was the disappointment; she was to be no costly prize,
after all. Seeing there was some difficulty on board of her, Captain
Reed lowered a boat, and ascertained that she was a Spanish brig of
fourteen guns from Havana, bound for Cadiz. Finding out that she only
had two or three men slightly wounded, Captain Reed went on his way,
after regretting that the "mistake" had occurred. However, in the log
there was entered on this day that "owing to the good chance for target
practice the morning had not been spent amiss."

For just one month everything seemed to run away from the poor little
_Vixen_. The men were getting discouraged. They would see a convoy,
most probably made up of rich merchantmen, somewhere off to leeward,
and then a fog would shut down, and when it cleared away nothing would
be seen but an expanse of empty horizon. With nothing done, and a sorry
and disappointed crew, she was within two days' sail of St. Mary's, in
the state of Maryland, when as luck would have it the man at the
masthead reported a sail on the starboard beam.

Much better would it have been for the little _Vixen_ if the fog had
closed down or a contrary wind had sprung up, or had she gone about her
business and made for home as soon as possible. It was just daylight in
the morning. Steering-sails were set on both sides as she was headed
out again to meet the stranger, who had evidently not observed her
presence. By six o'clock it was made out that the unknown was a frigate
and no less. This was more than the _Vixen_ had bargained for.
With all her canvas standing as it was, she tacked ship and hauled up
on the wind, which was extremely light. But the frigate proved herself
to be a good one at going; she had set all of her light canvas that she
could, and it was a caution the way she came down upon the little brig.

Although it is only a preliminary to the story, which has another side
than that of the amusing, one cannot read an extract from the _Vixen's_
log without feeling inclined to smile. Therefore to quote: "At ten,
finding the chase gained on us, increasingly, commenced starting water
out of the fore and main holds to lighten the brig. At eleven dead
calm; out sweeps and continued rowing without intermission until
twelve. Slow work; but we had now gained some advantage over the chase.
Then a breeze springing up we quickly lost it. In sweeps, and to
lighten the brig still more, hove every article, in and under the
boats, overboard. Stationed hands by the anchors to cut them away when
ordered. Half past twelve P.M., discharged all the shot from the racks.
At one, cut away both anchors. At two P.M., the chase still gaining,
hove two elegant brass nine-pounders after the anchors. Chase still
gained. Broached all the water in the casks, hove over all our
broadside guns, and everything that seemed to carry weight. Finding
that in despite of our exertions the _Vixen_ would not sail an inch
faster than her old gait, we now had the melancholy satisfaction of
knowing our capture was a certainty. But we were determined to use
every exertion to avoid it. Thus we commenced manoeuvring with the
sails, which kept the men on the jump and had only the effect of
putting off the capture for an hour or two. At three P.M., all her guns
were visible, at half past, coming up, hand over hand, she gave us a
shot which fell short. A few minutes later another was sent which went
between our foremast and mainmast. Answered by running up our colors
and firing a musket to windward. The chase having English colors up,
and as it would have been madness to engage her, we fired another shot
to leeward and hauled our colors down. At four P.M., she ranged

And now, strange to say, all those on board the brig were astonished to
see that the frigate had the word "Constellation" painted on her stern.
The crew of the _Vixen_ looked at each other in astonishment. Had there
been another mistake? But there was something unmistakably English
about the cut of her jib, and the red coats of a party of marines who
were scrambling down into a boat which she had lowered plainly showed
her character. Besides this, Captain Reed knew well that the Yankee
_Constellation_ was aground in the mud-flats of the James River, where
she stayed during the war.

The officer, who was soon on board, with his seamen and marines,
informed Captain Reed and his lieutenants that the _Vixen_ was a prize
to His Britannic Majesty's frigate _Southampton_, thirty-six guns, Sir
James Lucas Yeo, commander. At once Captain Reed entered the English
boat and went on board the frigate. As he rode close under the stern he
saw that the word "Constellation" had been painted on a wide strip of
canvas, tacked neatly over the name "Southampton." He did not ask the
reason for this; it was easy to guess. If she happened to put in to one
of the small harbors along the coast, it would conceal successfully her
identity. Probably Sir James did not know that the real _Constellation_
was fast in the mud-flat.

Sir James was a gentleman and a nobleman by action as well as by birth,
and his very first doing proved it. He came forward to meet Captain
Reed and lifted his hat in a courtly salute; Captain Reed presented the
hilt of his sword in token of surrender.

"No, no, sir," spoke up the Captain of the _Southampton_. "I cannot
accept this from you; and I wish to commend you, sir, upon the skill
you displayed in endeavoring to save your vessel. My ship is a very
fast one."

"And mine a very slow one," put in Captain Reed.

"But I am sure you did everything that any one could do to get speed
out of her."

"We hove everything overboard but our top sides and scantlings,"
returned Reed.

The officers standing about smiled, for the _Vixen's_ frantic endeavors
to escape had been watched closely through the glass.

The kindness shown to the brig's commander was extended in every way to
the other officers and to the crew also. As the frigate was very
crowded, but seventy of the _Vixen's men_ were transferred to her. The
other forty were kept as prisoners on board their own vessel. Every man
was allowed to take his dunnage, and the prisoners on board the
_Southampton_ were given the run of the forward and main holds,
although the hatchways were closely guarded by armed sentinels.
Excepting for the confinement, which was absolutely necessary, of
course, and which was in direct accordance with the rules of war, the
prisoners suffered no inconvenience. Twice a day in details of twenty
they were permitted to be on deck to enjoy the fresh air. The
_Southampton's_ crew were already on short allowance, owing to their
having been at sea for some length of time, and the dole allowed the
Americans was almost, if not quite, equal to that given the Englishmen.
The officers were treated with the greatest of politeness and civility,
and Captain Reed dined daily with Sir James in the cabin. All hands
voted him a fine man and gentleman, and that he was a naval officer was
proved conclusively enough by his actions subsequently when at the head
of the British operations on the Lakes.

Five days after the capture the weather was fine, but a small sea was
running. The _Southampton_, under easy sail, was leading, and crowding
on all she could carry; the _Vixen_ managed to keep within signalling
distance of her. In three or four days every one expected to be
anchored safe in Jamaica.

It was about half past eleven on a bright starry night when the lookout
forward suddenly gave the cry, "Land ho!" A line of breakers could be
seen about two miles to the westward, and above them the shores of a
little island, at its highest point but twelve or fourteen feet above
the water. Evidently the sailing-master of the frigate was out of his
course. He probably had not allowed for the drift of one of those
strange Gulf currents which have caused the destruction of many a fine

The _Southampton_ was put about in a hurry, and as she was such a good
sailer and was so quick in manoeuvring, no danger was apprehended, and
she jogged along to the eastward to escape the proximity of the shoals.
The _Vixen_ was following her and taking in some of her sail as the
wind commenced to blow much fresher. At twelve o'clock the sky had
darkened, and it was difficult for one vessel to distinguish the other,
although in the early part of the evening, by the aid of the moon and
stars, everything had been visible. The mid-watch was just coming on,
when, with a sudden shock, the _Southampton_ struck on a sunken ledge
of rocks; but she slid over the first, tearing the sheathing from her
hull and wedging herself firmly in at the stern. Immediately a gun was
fired to warn the _Vixen_, that was following in the wake; and also to
be a signal of distress, as the greatest consternation prevailed now on
board the frigate--that was leaking badly. But the usual ill fortune of
the _Vixen_ pursued her. At first she hove to and shortened sail,
preparing to come to the frigate's assistance. Just as she was about to
heave to the second time and lower a boat, she struck with such a
vicious force that her bows drove high out of water, she was stove in
completely, and all the prisoners, who had been wondering what was
going on, now terrified and in great fear of immediate death, rushed up
on deck to see a strange sight. It was pitch dark; the waves were
breaking on every hand, and off the port bow the big frigate could be
seen hard and fast, signalling in great distress.

Her position, in fact, was much worse than that of the brig, for she
was filling and settling rapidly. Everything was being done that
knowledge and good seamanship could suggest or direct. The top-gallant
yards and masts were sent down, and top-masts were struck; and
notwithstanding the sea was very rough, two boats were lowered, and
although one was crushed against the vessel's side, the other set out
to search for a safe passage through the reef. On board the _Vixen_ the
boats had been called away, and the American and English crews were
mingled, but without confusion. A Yankee sat beside John Bull on a
thwart, and deeming that their own vessel was in no immediate danger,
but that the _Southampton_ was about to sink, they started to act the
part of life-savers and rescue as many of the frigate's crew as they
could. There was no thought of their being enemies, no observance of
the differences between prisoners and captors; all sought to act for
the cause of humanity and to save human life. But they had not
proceeded far from the side of the brig when they were called back in a
hurry. The _Vixen_ had slipped from her firm position on the jagged
rock and was surely sinking. So instead of being a rescue party to
others they found they had all they could do to save themselves. But
every man was taken off and brought on board of the _Southampton_.

[Illustration: "Everything was done that good seamanship could

Daylight was waited for most anxiously, and when it came, a dreary
prospect was before the ship-wrecked ones. Not far away was a low
island that was pronounced at once to be the island of Conception.
Nothing but the topgallant masts of the _Vixen_ showed above the water,
as she had sunk during the night. The _Southampton's_ pumps had been
kept going for six hours. But she was so badly bilged, and the water
was gaining so fast, that her hours were numbered. With a rising sea
there was immediate danger of her going to pieces, and in her crowded
condition the consequent loss of life would have been too terrible to
think of. It was a row of about ten miles from the reef on which the
ship lay to the distant low-lying, sandy shore. All the boats were made
ready, a raft was built and floated alongside, and the boatswain,
obeying orders from the quarter-deck, began bawling: "Away there, you
Vixens, away!" So the prisoners were to go first; but since the vessels
had struck they had not been treated as prisoners at all. They had
obeyed Sir James's orders as though they were members of his own crew,
and they had not been shown the slightest evidences of bad blood or ill
feeling on the part of the ordinary seamen. Before the day was over all
the crew had been transferred to the island, and a boatload of
provisions had been safely landed. Sir James and his officers spent the
first night on board ship; but on the following morning, as she showed
all evidences of a speedy breaking up, a tent was made for him on

A strange life now followed. The great lack felt upon the island was
that of proper drinking-water. Conches and shellfish and land-crabs
there were in plenty. The four hundred odd men who now found themselves
marooned on this island far removed from the usual course of trade, and
but seldom visited, had to depend upon a small pond for their
drinking-supply. If this should be exhausted, their position would be
perilous in the extreme. Two boats had been despatched to summon aid if
possible. One to see if there were not some cruiser at Cat Island, with
orders to proceed to Nassau, and the other to make for the island of

A little settlement composed of tents and wig-wams made from ship's
wreckage soon grew up. Friend and foe mingled together in hunting for
conches, or in sports to while away the time.

After a week a small vessel arrived from Cat Island, for the message
calling for help had been received, bringing eighteen sheep and a
quantity of meal, and the skipper showed where there was hidden a well
which the mariners had failed to discover. An empty hogshead was sunk,
and a sign-post erected on which was cut "The Southampton's Well,
November, 1812." For many years it stood there. The sheep did not last
long, and soon resort was had again to the conches. On the eighth of
December, three English vessels arrived, the _Caledonia_, a cutter,
_Rolla_, privateer, and the government brig _Rhodian_. Captain Sir
James Yeo made a speech to his crew and their "guests," which was the
term he used in referring to the Vixens, in which he thanked the latter
for their assistance, their cheerfulness and good behavior, and he
stated that he would do everything in his power to help get them
exchanged, or provide them with a cartel to take them to their own
country on their arrival at Jamaica, whither they were bound. Then,
forming into a ragged company, arm in arm, Yankee sailors and British
tars marched out from their little settlement, a fifer at their heads
playing The Girl I Left Behind Me. Leaving their little island to the
mercies of the half-breed wreckers whose small craft swarmed about,
they sailed away. The rescued "guests" were prisoners again.


On the lake front at Chicago during the World's Fair, close by the
entrance to the long walk that led out to the marvellously constructed
imitation battle-ship, the _Illinois_, rested an old iron muzzle-loader.
It was a clumsy-looking piece of ordnance compared to the shining,
complicated bits of machinery that compose the batteries of a modern
war-ship. It looked very out of date and harmless, and people who did
not know its history passed it by with hardly a second glance. But yet
this old gun had taken more white men's lives in battle than all the
great modern breech-loaders on the fleets of Europe combined to-day.
It was but nine or ten feet long and threw a solid ball twenty-four
pounds in weight. A small inscription on a metal plate told the
inquisitive that the gun was the "Long Tom," from the privateer
_General Armstrong_, that had been sunk in the harbor of Fayal, in
September of the year 1814; that it had subsequently been raised and
presented by the Portuguese government to the United States. There
were some who knew the story, for it had been told many times, and
long years ago the country rang with it. Every one then knew the main
facts of the incident, and because of a long controversy in the courts
owing to claims that arose from the action for indemnity against the
Portuguese government, the matter was kept alive up to a very recent
date. But an unfamiliar story in connection with a well-known fact may
not be amiss, and this is a tale of the harbor of Fayal that perhaps
few have heard before.

But to get to the telling of it, it is necessary to recount a good deal
of what is recorded history.

The _General Armstrong_ was a privateer brig outfitted at New York. She
was owned in part by a New York merchant, a Mr. Havens, and in part by
her commander, Samuel C. Reid, and a better sailor never stood in
sea-boots. She was not a big ship; but her armament had been skilfully
chosen. Her crew of picked men had been drilled man-of-war fashion. She
mounted eight long nine-pounders, four on a side, and amidships she
carried the big twenty-four-pounder before referred to. Her First
Lieutenant was a Mr. Alexander O. Williams, a very young man, but a
thorough and practical seaman; her Second was named Worth; her Third
Lieutenant's name was Johnson; her crew, all Americans, numbered ninety
souls all told. Among them was an active, handsome fellow, named
William Copeland. He was down on the privateer's books as able seaman;
but before the _General Armstrong_ had been two weeks at sea, Copeland
was promoted for meritorious conduct in an action with a British armed
schooner, that was sent home as a prize, to be quarter gunner. It was
Reid and himself that squinted along the black barrel of the old Long
Tom, when she fought in the harbor of Fayal.

It was the 26th day of September that the _General Armstrong_ cast
anchor there. The weather had been very fine, and Captain Reid, very
proud of his vessel, had done everything to make her look smart and
tidy. Her rigging was all tuned up to concert pitch; her decks were as
white as sand and holystone could make them, and the men, contrary to
the habit of most privateers, were dressed in suits of white duck and
blue. The American Consul, John D. Dabney, felt a thrill of pride as he
saw the man-of-war fashion with which the _General Armstrong_ came to
anchor. As the long white gig came rolling up to the pier, and the men
boated their oars, Mr. Dabney recognized that the officer sitting in
the stern sheets was an old friend of his.

"Ah, Captain Reid," he exclaimed. "Glad to see you. My compliments to
you on the appearance of your vessel. I thought at first that she must
be one of the regular navy; in fact, I took her for the _Enterprise_."

"Well, I flatter myself that she is quite as shipshape," returned
Captain Reid. "And I have to work my crew pretty hard to keep from
showing how well satisfied I am with them. I tell you, Dabney, it isn't
every man that has had such a fine lot of fellows under him. As to my
success so far, it has been fair enough; but I'd really like to measure
distances and exchange a few shots with some of His Majesty's little

"You have come to a good place to look for them," Dabney returned. "It
is seldom that a week passes without having one or more of them drop
anchor in the roads."

Chatting together in this friendly fashion, the two gentlemen went up
into the town. It was late in the evening before Reid came to the
water-front to signal for his boat. Dabney was still with him. They
walked down to the end of the pier, and Reid suddenly pointed:--

"By Jupiter!" he exclaimed, "here we come," and following his finger
Dabney saw three big vessels lazily moving along before the slight
wind, toward the harbor entrance. Their earlier approach had been
hidden by the headlands.

The harbor of Fayal is surrounded by hills, on the slopes of which the
town is built, and the bay extends in a semicircle with two
wide-reaching arms. The water runs deep into the shore. The sun was
setting in the calm evening sky, and there was scarce enough movement
on the surface of the bay to catch the red reflections. Dabney turned
to Captain Reid after the first long look.

"English, or else I'm much mistaken," he said quietly.

"Not the least doubt of it in my mind," Reid returned, "and if there
was more of a wind, by Jove, I'd try to get out of this.... Do you
think it is safe to stay?"

"It is a neutral port," Dabney returned, "and Portugal and England have
been such friends, that I do not think John Bull would take advantage
of his position here. In my opinion they will respect the neutrality."

"Well, they won't catch me napping," Reid returned, as he stepped into
the gig; and after requesting the Consul's presence at dinner on the
following evening, he gave the order to shove off, and pulled away for
his vessel.

Mr. Williams, the First Lieutenant, met him at the gangway. "You have
observed our friends yonder?" he asked, pitching his thumb over his
shoulder. "I wish we were out of here."

"So do I," Reid returned, "but we must make the best of it."

It was a beautiful sight to see the great square-rigged ships come to
anchor. Forward and aft all hands were on deck watching the English
men-of-war perform the manoeuvre.

"Well done!" exclaimed William Copeland, the quarter gunner, turning to
a group of his messmates. "It takes an Englishman or a Yankee to make a
vessel behave as if she were alive. By Davy's locker!" he exclaimed
suddenly, "I know that nearest ship; it's the _Plantagenet_, I'll bet
my prize money. Good cause have I to remember her; she picked me up in
the North Sea and I served three years in her confounded carcass. Three
wicked, sweating years, my lads."

"Where did you leave her, Bill?" asked one of the seamen standing near

"At Cape Town, during the war against the Dutch. I'll spin the yarn to
you some day. My brother and I were took at the same time. The last I
seed of him was when we lowered ourselves out of the sick bay into the
water to swim a good three miles to the whaler--that was three years

"Do you reckon he was drownded, Bill?"

"Reckon so. Leastways I haven't heard from him, poor lad!"

Further talk was interrupted by an order from the quarter-deck calling
away the first cutter to carry a stream anchor in towards shore in
order to warp the brig close under the walls of the "castle" a little
battery of four or five guns that commanded the inner harbor. Captain
Reid's suspicions had been awakened by seeing a boat put off from the
shore, and noticing that one of the frigates was getting up her anchor
preparatory to drawing in nearer. In less than half an hour he was
moored stem and stern so close under the walls of the little fort that
he could have hurled a marline-spike against the walls from his own
quarter-deck. As it grew darker he could see from the flashing of
lights that the English vessels were holding communication with one
another, and occasionally across the water would come the sound of
creaking blocks or the lilt of a pipe. He knew well enough that such
goings on were not without some object, and calling all of his officers
aft they held a short consultation. It was exactly eight o'clock in the
evening. From shore there came a sound of fiddles and singing. Although
Captain Reid had promised the men liberty that evening, owing to the
position of affairs the order had been rescinded, but nevertheless
there was some grumbling in the forecastle; for if a sailor doesn't
grumble when he gets a chance, he is not a sailor.

"I'll be shot if I can see why the old man won't let us ashore,"
growled a sturdy young topman. "D'ye hear them fiddles, Jack? Can't you
see the señoritas adancin'? My heels itch for the touch of a springy
floor and my arm has a crook to it that would just fit a neat young
waist. Do you remember--"

"Stow your jaw, Dummer," broke in a heavy voice half angrily. "And you
too, Merrick, clap a stopper on it," turning to another of the
malcontents. "Hush now, listen all hands.... Oars! can't ye hear 'em?
And muffled too, by the Piper! Pass the word below; all hands!" With
that William Copeland ran aft to the quarter-deck. Captain Reid met him
at the mast.

"Their boats are coming, sir," Copeland whispered excitedly; "five or
six of 'em, I should judge."

"Are the broadside guns ready?"

"Aye, aye, sir, and double-shotted; two of them with grape and

"How's the Long Tom?"

"Ready to speak for himself, sir," Copeland replied with a touch of
pride, for the big gun was his especial pet.

The three lieutenants had now grouped close together. "See that the
magazine is opened, Mr. Worth, and Mr. Williams call the men to their
stations quietly. They will try to come in on the port hand most
probably. Gentlemen, to your stations. No firing until you get the word
from the quarter-deck, and stop all talking on the ship."

Even the sentry, patrolling his beat on the castle walls, did not hear
or notice anything extraordinary on board the privateer, so silently
were the orders followed out. The moon was struggling to pierce through
the thin, filmy clouds that obscured her light. It was one of those
nights when objects appear suddenly out of the invisible and take shape
with distinctness close to hand. But every one could hear the sounds

"Thrum, thrum, thrum," the swing of oars; despite that the rhythm was
muffled and subdued.

Reid was leaning over the rail with a night glass aimed in the
direction of the frigate. A figure hurried to his side. It was
Lieutenant Williams. "We can see them from for'ard, sir," he said
breathlessly. "Everything is ready, and there's surely some mischief

"Yes, I can see them now; four of them, chock a block with men," Reid
returned, closing the glass with a snap. "Now stand by, all hands, for
orders." Then raising his voice, he shot the following question out
into the semi-darkness: "On board the boats, there! There is no landing
here. Keep away from our side."

The rowing ceased; but it was only an instant and then it began again.

"I warn you to come no nearer!" shouted Reid. "You do so at your

Four dark shapes were now visible without the aid of any glass. The
plash of the oars could be heard as they caught the water. Reid just
noticed the figure of William Copeland bending over the breech of the
Long Tom, whose muzzle extended across the bulwarks.

"Keep off or I shall fire!" he warned for the third time. There came an
answer to this clear enough to be heard by every man standing at the

"Give way, lads, together."

"Fire!" roared Reid, in a voice that must have been heard distinctly
along the shore. The reply was a scarlet burst of flame and a crash
that sent the echoes up the hills. It stopped the fiddles in the
dance-house; it set the drums and bugles rolling and tooting in the
fortress, and the American Consul, sitting over his coffee on the
public square, jumped to his feet, and ran, followed by a clamoring
crowd, to the pier-head.

From the direction of the boats came a confusion of orders following
the broadside. Groans and shrieks for help arose from the darkness.
Some spurts of flame came quickly and several musket-balls whistled
over the _Armstrong's_ deck. Then the loud report of a heavy boat gun,
and a groan and cry followed immediately from the brig's forecastle.

All was silent now except for the sound of plashing in the water and
some groans and muffled cries. Reid was about to hail when he saw three
men hurrying aft with a heavy burden in their arms.

"It's Mr. Williams, sir; he's shot in the head, and Dummer, of the
forward division, sir, is killed," one of them said gruffly. Poor
Dummer! He would dance no more with the señoritas--there were to be no
more liberty parties for him.

Reid's intention of lowering away a boat faded from his mind. There
would be more of the same sort of work before long; that he knew well.
One of the boats had been sunk, for the wreck came drifting in close to
the brig's side. The other three could be heard making off to the
ships, their rowing growing fainter every minute. Lieutenants Worth and
Johnson came aft to report.

"We are in for it, gentlemen," said Reid; "but they won't cut this
vessel out without more discussion on the subject. The idea of such
treachery in a friendly harbor! They received their just deserts." His
anger got the better of him for an instant, and he could say no more.
"Poor Williams!" he murmured at last. "Is he badly hurt?"

"He is mortally wounded, sir, I am afraid," Mr. Johnson returned.

"A good friend and a fine officer gone," put in Lieutenant Worth. "So
much for this night's work."

"Do not fear; there'll be more of it, and we'll have our hands full,"
Reid continued. "Mr. Johnson, you will see that the boarding-nettings
are spread, and load the midship gun with lagrange and a star shot.
Have pikes and cutlasses ready."

"Are you going ashore, sir, to see the commander of the fort? He surely
should protect us?" asked Mr. Worth.

"We need count no longer on him," was Reid's rejoinder. "We will have
to do our own protecting. See that every musket and pistol is loaded
and laid handy and, stay," he added, "cut away the bulwarks just abaft
the gangway and bring two of those starboard guns across the deck. We
will need them all, to my way of thinking."

The crowds gathered on the shore could hear the sounds of preparation.
From the English squadron also came a babble of orders and movement.
The lights were doubled in number. Every port shone brightly. The moon
had now risen until objects could be seen quite plainly.

"They are preparing for an attack in force," Reid said, handing the
glass to Mr. Johnson, who had already seen that the boarding-nettings
had been spread above the railing. The men forward were busy setting
some spare spars to act as booms to keep the boats from gaining the
vessel's bows. Time passed swiftly. At twelve o'clock the oars began
again. But they were not muffled now! "Click, clock," they came onward
with a rush. Voices could be heard urging the rowers to more exertion,
as if they were racing crews out for a practice spin. Reid was
levelling the glass.

"Ten, twelve, thirteen, fourteen--fourteen boats loaded to the guards,"
he said. "God's love, there must be four hundred men: they mean to take
us if they can." He looked down at his own little deck. He had less
than ninety now; but they were ninety stout, good fellows who would not
flinch. In the rays of the battle lanterns and the pale light of the
moon, Captain Reid saw that they were ready to fight their last fight

It was no time to make a speech; but the men could hear every word he
said without gathering nearer. "Lads," he said, "reserve your fire
until you get the word from me. Don't waste a single shot, and remember
this: aim low.... Copeland!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

"Cover that leading boat."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

A big pinnace or barge, holding perhaps eighty men, was heading the
flotilla by almost a hundred feet. The grinding of a handspike on the
deck broke the silence, as the Long Tom was slewed about to bear upon

"Handsomely now, men," cajoled Copeland. "Handsomely; that's well."

The great boat was rowing in directly on that gun as if towed by a
line. She was heading on to death and destruction!

Consul Dabney, standing with the anxious crowd on the shore, held his

Was Reid going to submit to be taken without striking another blow? Not
much. With a long flare of flame that leaped from the _Armstrong's_
side, arose a great shout from the spectators.

The bow of the pinnace was stove in, and she pitched forward into the
water like an angry bull brought to his knees by a rifle shot. Men
absolutely boiled out of her. The moonlit water was dotted with black
objects; some threshing with their arms, others silent and motionless.
There came a rattling reply of small-arms from the boats, and the long
nines answered them. The action was on in earnest. No one can gainsay
the courage that was displayed by the attacking force. They were
Englishmen; it is not necessary to say more. The firing became
incessant. The men on the _Armstrong_ had scarce time to reload their
guns. They would snatch up a pistol here and a musket there and fire
out at the water that was crisscrossed with the red flashes of the
answering shots. More than once a boat had reached the side. On two
occasions men had sprung to the bulwarks, and clung to the
boarding-nettings until shot away. Every now and then the Long Tom
would let go a half-bucketful of grape and scrap iron, hurling death
into the boats. Every one of the privateer's crew seemed gifted with
four arms. From one point of attack to another they chased about the
deck. It seemed as if she numbered three times her complement. Bill
Copeland was fighting like a demon. Twice had he run along the top of
the bulwarks, exposed to every aim. Suddenly he saw that one of the
boats had worked around to the starboard side. Giving the alarm, and
followed by a half-score of the after-guard, he ran across to meet this
unexpected danger. One of the men who followed him caught up a
twenty-four-pound solid shot in his arms as he ran. Another followed
his example. Both shot crashed through the bottom of the boat, and a
volley was poured down into them. But three or four of the men had
already reached the chains.

[Illustration: "There was a figure crawling up below him."]

Copeland sprang to the bulwarks with his cutlass in his hand. There was
a figure crawling up below him. Leaning forward, he made a quick stroke
that would have severed the man's throat had he not leaned back
suddenly and avoided it. Again he drew back his sharpened cutlass for
the death blow, and then he saw that the fellow was unarmed. Something
stayed his hand; he bent still further forward, and just as the
Englishman was about to fall back into the water, he grasped him by the

"My God, Jed!" he cried, and exerting all his strength he dragged his
prisoner over the rail on to the deck. Those who had time to witness
it, saw a curious sight. There was Bill Copeland holding fast to
another man, their arms on each other's shoulders.

"Jed, don't ye know me?" Bill was crying; "but, Lord love ye lad,
you're wounded." A shudder went through him as he realized how close he
had been to sending home that fatal thrust. The man with a pigtail down
his back leaned forward weakly.

"I'm hurted bad, Bill," he said. "But go on and fight; leave me alone;
egad, you've whipped 'em." Sure enough, the firing had now slackened.
Four or five of the boats had retreated beyond gun shot. _They were
all that could do so unaided._

"Cease firing!" ordered Captain Reid, hastening about the deck. "Cease
firing here! They have given up. Where is Mr. Johnson?" he roared,
pushing his way into a group of men who were about to reload one of the
nine-pounders. He had to cuff his way amongst them to make them desist.
"Where is Mr. Johnson?" he repeated.

"He's wounded, sir."

"And Mr. Worth is wounded too, sir," put in another man. "I helped him
below myself."

As suddenly as the action had begun it had ended. By the light of a
lantern Captain Reid glanced at his watch. It was forty minutes since
the first gun had been fired. He looked about his decks. Although they
were littered with loose running-gear, handspikes, cutlasses, and
muskets, at the sight his heart gave a great bound of joy. There were
no mangled figures or pools of slippery blood. It seemed hardly

But from the wreckage in the water came groans and cries. He looked
over the side. There lay, rocking, two broken boats filled with huddled
figures, some moving weakly.

"Here!" he shouted to some of the men. "Bear a hand; save all we can."

It was a sudden transition, this, from taking life to saving it; but
the men turned to with a will. In one of the boats twelve dead bodies
were found, and but seventeen of her crew had escaped with their lives,
and they were all badly wounded. Of the four hundred men who had
commenced that bold attack, only one-half returned to the ships unhurt.
Reid hurried down into the cockpit. It seemed past believing. _But two
of his men, including the brave Williams, had been killed, and but
seven wounded!_ This is history.

But a sight he saw attracted the Captain's attention. It was Bill
Copeland sitting on the deck, with his arms about a pale figure whose
head lay in Copeland's lap. The resemblance between the men was

"What have we here?" asked Captain Reid.

"My brother, sir," Copeland returned.

"Your brother!"

"Aye, sir; from the _Plantaganet_. He was the only one who got on board
of us!"

The man spoke with an accent of pride, and the wounded one opened his

"Bill, here, he hauled me on board," he said.

When the surgeon found time to attend to Copeland's wounds, he
pronounced them not to be of a dangerous character, and the man was
soon made comfortable.

All night long, the _Armstrong's_ people slept beside their guns, but
there was no evidence of any further intention to attack on the part
of the British. The _Carnation_, which was the nearest of the vessels
to the privateer, had her boats out at daybreak. All day long they
kept carrying their dead on shore. From the _Rota_ there were seventy
funerals! But the _Armstrong_ was not left unmolested. At eight
o'clock the _Carnation_ began firing at close range. For a few
minutes, Captain Reid replied with some effect. But resistance was
useless, and at nine he ordered all hands into the boats, and made for
the shore, every one arriving there in safety. He had bored a large
hole in the _Armstrong's_ bottom, but before she sank, two boats from
the _Carnation_ rowed out to her, and the English set her on fire....
The inhabitants of the town, all of whose sympathies were with the
Americans, did everything in their power to assist the wounded, and
many were the indignant protests against the action of Captain Lloyd,
the English senior officer.

It now came to light that Mr. Dabney had complained to the commander of
the Castle as soon as the firing had begun the previous night, and that
the Portuguese commander had written a letter to Lloyd, but the
latter's reply had been only a menacing insult. So angry were the
English at the fearful drubbing they had received, that they insisted
upon the government officials delivering the crew of the _Armstrong_ up
to them, upon the ground that there were deserters among them. There
existed, between Portugal and England, a treaty that demanded the
return of prisoners accused of high treason, and Captain Lloyd, by
claiming that deserters were guilty of this crime, had a technical
right for examination of the American refugees.... But hearing the
danger they were in, Captain Reid and his men, after securing some
arms, barricaded themselves in a small stone church, back in the
country, where they dared the Englishmen to come and take them. It was
a difficult position for them to maintain. If Captain Lloyd's statement
was correct, then the Portuguese government was bound to hand them over
as deserters, or place themselves in a bad position with England. After
a long deliberation, Reid consented to have his men submit to an
examination. They were all arrested, and brought to town, and not a
single deserter was found among them!

But what of Copeland, the wounded prisoner? He lay hidden in one of the
houses of a friendly Portuguese, and his name was probably reported on
the _Plantagenet's_ books as "missing." On the 28th of the month, two
British sloops of war, the _Thais_ and _Clypso_, came into port, and
were immediately sent back to England with the British wounded. The two
Copeland brothers returned to the United States, with the rest of the
_Armstrong's_ crew, and both served in the navy for the rest of the

The owners of the _Armstrong_ attempted for many years to obtain
redress for the loss of their ship. Again and again were they put off
and denied. But in this year, 1897, some money was received, and
strange to say, was paid to the widow of the owner, Mr. Havens. She
died but a short time ago, at the age of ninety-eight, at Stamford,


Captain Myron Symington was a long-legged Yankee. There was no
mistaking him for anything else but an out-and-out downeaster. As to
the length of his underpinning, that was apparent also. When seated, he
did not appear above the average height; but when erect he stood head
and shoulders above the crowd, so of course it was in his legs.
Symington spoke English with a lazy drawl, and conversation ebbed from
him much after the manner that smoke issues from a tall chimney on a
perfectly still day--it rolled forth in slow volumes. But Symington's
French was very different; he could be clearly understood, for he spoke
it well; but he discharged every word like a pistol shot, and he paused
between each sentence as if he had to load and prime, and cast loose
for the next.

Since the beginning of the war Symington had not been to America. But
he had sent many messages thither; and although his headquarters were
at Brest when ashore, and the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay
when afloat, his name had become well known in the United States, and
he had done a thriving international business on his own account--which
may require some explaining.

The little privateer _Rattler_ (of which he was owner and commander)
had sent home no less than twenty vessels that had been snapped up when
almost under the guns of England's coastwise fortresses. Whenever he
needed provisioning or recruiting, Symington would make for one of the
French ports, run the blockade that the English had established the
whole length of the coast, drop his anchor in the harbor, and then get
anything he chose for the mere asking for it; for Symington's name was
as good and in fact better than the promise of some governments. Years
before the outbreak of the war Symington had commanded the fastest and
luckiest Yankee craft engaged in the European trade that sailed from
Baltimore or Boston. He was a good seaman, it was reputed that he was
immensely wealthy, and many believed also that he possessed some charm
or fetich that insured success. Certainly it had crowned his endeavors
to divert the direction of Great Britain's proper freight ships.

Symington was sitting at a table in one of the cafés off the Rue
Bonaparte in the city of Brest, and he had just finished a very heavy
noonday meal. Suddenly glancing up, he saw a man go past the door
leading from the hallway into the garden. Lengthening himself to his
full height by a succession of jerks, in a couple of strides he had
caught the man by the elbow and almost pulled him back into the room.

"Just back, ain't ye, Captain Edgar?" he drawled.

"Post haste," the man replied, "from Paris."

"Any news?"

"Well, I should say there was. By Hickey, Captain, Napoleon's jig is
up! Already the people are showing the white cockade, and those who yet
fly the tricolor have the other in their pocket."

"So!" exclaimed Symington, prolonging the syllable until it sounded
like a yawn; "then our friends the English will have a finger in the
pie in short order. It is a shame that they will have to break up such
a harmless and profitable business, this Channel cruising."

It was April of the year 1814. Europe had completed the humiliation of
the little great man who had come nigh to conquering her, unaided. And
as soon as the last of his ramparts were down, any one with common
sense could see what would be the outcome of it all. The exiled King,
Louis the Eighteenth, who had been hiding in London, would be placed
upon the throne! To Great Britain more than to any other power he would
owe his translation from debt, poverty, and seclusion to position,
affluence, and a crown. From being England's enemy, France would become
her ally. Could it be expected of her to continue to harbor in her
ports those ocean pests, the Yankee privateers, who had compelled
England to give the services of two-thirds of her fighting force to
convoying and guarding her merchant fleets?

Symington and his friend, the short man, seated themselves at a table
and continued the conversation.

"I'd put to sea to-morrow if I had enough of a crew to work the old
_Siren_," said the little Captain. "I had hard enough work getting
into port after manning all my prizes. But if I could get four more
good hands, I'd have enough."

"There are just fourteen men-o'-war and three battle-ships off the
harbor mouth, and what chance would ye have of gettin' through this
open weather?" grumbled Symington. "We'll have to wait until we get a
good blow out of the southeast; that'll scatter 'em, and then, by Hick,
we can make a try for it. Two weeks longer, and we'll probably have no

"I'll be startin' for Boston town some dark night this week, Captain
Symington, just as soon as I get men enough to handle the _Siren's_
main sheet, as I told ye."

"And I, too, Captain Edgar, as soon as I get enough hands to get up the
_Rattler's_ anchor. But I'll choose my weather, sir!"

After a few words more the two skippers shook hands and left the café,
each bound to the waterfront by a different direction. It was certainly
a peculiar position that the Yankee craft found themselves occupying
about this time in European waters. Sometimes they would be in a port
where lay eight or ten half-dismantled frigates, and over twice as many
smaller cruisers and merchantmen belonging to the Empire, all cooped up
and kept in there by four or five English sloops of war, or perhaps a
guard ship of fifty or sixty guns patrolling up and down the harbor
mouth. On the other side of the water, however, the English had
succeeded in blockading but one American frigate, the _Constellation_,
early in the war. Afterwards for a few months they hemmed in the
_United States_, the _Macedonian_, and the little _Hornet_ in the
harbor of New London; but what would not the United States have given
to have possessed those thousands of idle guns that lay in the French
naval stations? She would have manned the helms, spread the sails, and
put those great hulks into motion. She might even have done a little
"fleet sailing" on her own account.

But there was some excuse for France. Napoleon had depleted his
seacoasts to fill his armies. There were not sufficient able seamen to
answer the demand, and besides, so long had the French run away from
the English at sea, that a thirty-eight-gun frigate of the Empire had
been known to escape a meeting with a British twenty-gun sloop by
turning tail and making off. The French flag was a rarity afloat. So
every time the Yankee privateers entered or left a port it was
necessary to run the blockade that the British had established at the
entrance. As this was the state of the home ports also, they had become
quite used to it. Seldom or never were they caught in the act.

But the day came, as the Yankee captains had agreed it would, when
Napoleon succumbed entirely. Out came the white cockades; the tricolor
disappeared. No longer was it "the Emperor," but "the King," and the
first request that England made was that the Yankee shipping in French
ports should be confiscated and the privateers detained. Great was the
consternation of the skippers; some who had crews sufficient in number
to man their vessels put to sea instanter and were taken in by the
Channel squadron forthwith. Others remained waiting for the weather to
thicken and trusting that King Louis would hesitate long enough to give
them a chance for life. But the order came at last. The privateers were
to be allowed to leave the harbor any time they found a chance to do
so; but before they left, the French King, who was holding fast to his
rickety throne, and was merely kept in place by the supporting arms of
England, Russia, and Germany, issued a decree. It was to the effect
that the vessels should sail unarmed; that their broadsides should be
taken from them, their cutlasses and small-arms removed, and thus shorn
of their teeth and claws, they should be allowed to depart. As every
merchantman, almost without exception, in those days carried at least
four or five guns handy on the spar deck, this decree was equivalent to
presenting them to any English vessel that might get range of them.
Before the order could be executed more of the vessels got to sea, and
not a few were gobbled up at once by the English cruisers; some were
forced to put back again, and only one or two ever reached the shores
of America.

The day the news arrived early in May, Captain Edgar was one of the
first to get his anchor in and make out past the headland as soon as
dusk had settled. In a few minutes Symington, also, although his vessel
was very short-handed, was getting up his mainsail, and he too would
have sailed no doubt, had there not suddenly arisen a sound of firing
from the offing. Of course there being now peace between France and
England, it was possible for the English ships to anchor beside the
Americans if they had chosen to do so, and in fact in some of the
harbors so penned in were the privateers, that, as one captain
expressed it, "they would have to sail across the deck of a
seventy-four to escape to sea." England had respected the neutrality of
the French ports thus far; but if an American vessel was seen preparing
to get under way, she would be watched carefully, and if not
accompanied by an English ship, her going out would be signalled to the
blockaders off the shore. As the cannonading was kept up for so long a
time, Captain Symington supposed, or at least hoped, that the _Siren_
had escaped her enemies. Perhaps the confusion that followed would be a
good moment for him to take advantage of, and he determined to sail out
at once.

But it was not to be; for hardly had he got under way when he was
boarded by a cutter filled with armed men, under the command of a
Frenchman, dressed in a voluminous coat and a huge cocked hat, who
described himself in a breathless sentence as "Monsieur le Capitaine
Georges Binda, Inspector of the Port for His Majesty, King Louis." But
a few months previously he had been at Napoleon's beck and call, having
been one of the recruiting officers of the district.

Captain Symington's expostulations were of no avail, although owing to
his peculiar manner of speech, they appealed to the whole harbor.

His long twelve-pounder was taken from him, and his neat little battery
of carronades, six on a side, were confiscated also. Before noon of the
next day the _Rattler_ had been changed from a tiger cat to a harmless

The discomforting news also arrived that Captain Edgar had been blown
out of the water, after he had almost succeeded in getting past the
English line. This was most disheartening, and that very day many of
the Americans, despairing of ever getting free, attempted to dispose of
their ships by sale. But not so with Symington. He determined not to
give up until compelled to; to hold out until the very last minute.

The _Rattler_ was light in ballast, and in trim for fast sailing. There
were enough men now on board of her to handle her at a pinch, and she
could have shown a clean pair of heels to any one of the English
cruisers then afloat. Although not altogether a beauty to look at, for
she was a comparatively old vessel, she was marvellously quick in
stays, and came about like a sharpie. In pointing, too, she was a
marvel, and once given the windward gage she could choose her own
distance. No man could sail the _Rattler_ the way Symington could, and
no skipper ever knew the capacities or character of his craft better
than did the lank Yankee. She was his pet; why give her up to be sailed
by a lubberly Frenchman? The very first chance he saw he was going to
take. It arrived no later than the second evening after the despoiling.

The moon came up early in the morning; but about an hour or so before
the time for her appearance a soft gray fog blew in from the sea. At
first the great outline of a British troop-ship close alongside on the
_Rattler's_ port hand disappeared gradually. Then the numerous anchor
lights and the lanterns of the town that had been twinkling brightly in
the darkness became but hazy blurs of light through the thickening
mist. But when the moon began to cast her silvery light, a marvellous
thing happened that caused the second mate, who was on watch, to hurry
down into the cabin and call Captain Symington to the deck. The rays of
moonlight in the fog caused an opaque, impenetrable veil to surround
the ship. So thick was it, that the sensation was as if a white cloth
had been tied across the eyes. The masts disappeared a few feet above
the deck. If one turned around, it was impossible to tell in which
direction the vessel extended. The _Rattler_ lay but a few hundred
feet astern of a big French brig that was anchored with a stream anchor
over her side to keep her from swinging in toward a point of rocks
which was surmounted by a small battery. As soon as Captain Symington
reached the deck he stepped across to the bulwarks, and lowering
himself down as far as he could go by the chains he perceived what
often happens in thick weather: the fog was lifted some feet from the
surface of the water, and close to the water objects could be discerned
at some distance. There was not wind enough to sail; to use the sweeps
would have called down on him a fleet of armed small craft in an
instant! Well he knew that rather than see him escape, the transport
would go afoul of him and try to explain matters afterwards.

Now Captain Symington had a remarkably retentive memory. It was said
that he never had to look at a chart more than twice; that he could
take a vessel over shoals where he had been only once before, and that,
years previously. Now this gift stood him in good stead. Just ahead of
him lay the big French brig. Within a cable's length of her, a large
French man-of-war, but half dismantled; beyond, an English sloop; then
two more vessels. Once outside of them, and there was nothing to
prevent him from gaining the mouth of the harbor! How was it to be
done? The fog might last for two or three hours, and yet again it might
disappear at any moment. But Symington was not discouraged; a brilliant
idea came to him; the crew were called into the cabin, and there by the
dim light of a lantern Captain Symington explained his plan.

The men listened in astonishment. Many stories of wonderful escapes had
they heard, and many adventures had they been through; but such a bold
plan of action they had never heard proposed before.

When all hands returned to the deck, there was not a sound. Although
having almost to feel their way, a light new cable was brought up and
flaked neatly up and down the deck. Then Captain Symington took the end
of it into the stern sheets of his gig, which was silently dropped into
the water, and with four men pulling at the carefully muffled oars he
made off from beneath the bows, heading for the big French brig, the
cable noiselessly paying out into the water over the _Rattler's_ bows.
It did not take him long to make fast to the moorings of the brig. This
done, he waited anxiously.

"They are heaving away now, sir," whispered one of the men in the bow
of the boat. Sure enough, the cable had tautened under the strain that
was being put upon it. Symington at first feared that some attention
might be attracted on board the Frenchman; but there came no sound, and
he knew that his people on board the _Rattler_ had silently slipped
moorings and that she had way upon her.

On board the privateer's deck, barefooted men were walking away with
the cable over their shoulders and causing their light vessel to come
boldly along through the water. At a certain length from where the
cable was to be made fast, a bit of marline had been tied, and when
this came inboard the orders were to 'vast heaving, belay, and drop the
anchor that had been only "hove short"; that is, lifted from the sand.
Soon this point was reached. Symington, cast loose, came on board; a
second cable was prepared and spliced to the first, and off he started
to make fast to the next vessel lying farther out.

And thus did Symington warp himself beyond the mouth of the inner
harbor to a place where he considered it safe enough to get out his
sweeps. Manning these, for an hour and more he kept at it. But it was
dangerous work. The tides were going down, and although he kept the
lead going, he might run on one of the sand-bars at any moment. That he
was well out of the channel he knew to a certainty. So at last he
dropped anchor, silently, and patiently waited for the fog that had
saved him so far, to clear up enough for him to get his bearings.

Toward daylight a slight breeze sprang up, and to his alarm Symington
found that a stretch of low beach was under his lee, and it behooved
him well to work the _Rattler_ farther out. Getting sail enough up to
enable him to trip his anchor, he drew away from shore. Slowly the fog
closed down upon him again quite as thick as it had been some hours
previously; but all at once the First Mate, who was forward, cried out
in fright:--

"Starboard your helm! Hard a starboard!"

The _Rattler's_ bow fell off a few points, and at that instant there
came the shock of a collision, followed by a hail in good sea-faring
English, seemingly from up in the air.

"What are you doing there? What vessel is that?" Then there was some
bawling and much noise of movement and another hail in a voice that had
not yet spoken.

"On board that vessel! answer me, or I'll blow you out of the water!"

By this time Captain Symington was firing off his explosive French
sentences, which, as it is impossible to give their full force even in
the language in which they were spoken, we will translate.

"Who are you and what are you doing here? Answer."

"The _Cigalle_ of Havre. I try to get into the harbor here."

There came a laugh from the direction of the strange vessel. "Strange
sort of weather for a Frenchman to be sailing in, sir," some one
observed. "More than likely one of the Yankees trying to get out."

That was exactly what Captain Symington was trying to do, but the
collision with the stranger had carried away his port cathead, and with
it the anchor had gone to the bottom. By the effect of this unfortunate
accident, and the force of the tide, which was now against her, the
_Rattler's_ head was swung around again, and before anything could
prevent it, she once more went afoul of the big vessel, whose decks
towered higher than her cross-trees. There she hung, under the other's
lee, while the English commander, sometimes in French and sometimes in
English, was cursing Symington for a clumsy Frenchman and threatening
to send a shot on board of him.

It was daylight almost and the wind was freshening. Clearer and clearer
the outlines of the great vessel could be seen.

She was an English seventy-four, that, trying to make the harbor, had
been headed off by darkness and had anchored in the roads.

In ten minutes after the breeze began to blow, the air was free from
mist. There was no use in trying to indulge in any deception now. The
character of the small vessel had been discovered by the big one. A
crowd of laughing officers lined the rail, and on her gallery appeared
a number of ladies bound most probably for the new court of the new
King. The wind was off shore. From the shrilling of whistles and
babbling of orders it was seen that the battle-ship was getting under
way. A man in gold lace leaned out over the rail and said in an
off-hand manner:--

"On board the Yankee there! Keep under our lee and return to the
harbor, or we'll sink you instantly; play no tricks, if you value your
safety. Mark you that."

Why it was that the Englishman did not drop a boat and put a prize crew
on board the _Rattler_, it might be hard to guess. Symington feared
that this would happen, and, although he gave no answer to the
imperious order, he set about obeying it with every evidence of haste
and alacrity.

But such clumsy work had never been seen before on board a Yankee
privateer. Often in naval actions in the old sailing days, when orders
were blared through a speaking-trumpet, and not given by little
electric bells and signals, as now we have them, the "rule of contrary"
was passed in order to deceive the enemy who might overhear and thus

"Hard a port" meant "hard a starboard." A vessel that was supposed to
be on the point of luffing would bear away, sheets flying.

Now, on board the _Rattler_, although no such order had been passed,
the men had understood well enough the whispered word. It is a
well-known fact that the fore-and-aft rig was best understood in
America, where it had really been brought to perfection. The English,
after they had captured a vessel of the _Rattler's_ class, never
succeeded in getting the same sailing qualities out of her, and the
upshot of it was that they generally changed her rigging and cut down
her masts and sail plan. But no crew was ever clumsier than was the
privateer's on this occasion. They tumbled over one another, they got
the halliards twisted, they pretended to be breaking their backs in
getting in the anchor when they were not lifting a pound, and all the
time the First Mate was running hither and thither like the busy man at
the circus, chattering a jargon made up of scraps of Portuguese, Dutch,
and Spanish, while above all the confusion, Captain Symington's
explosive French adjectives rang out like snaps of a whip.

There had not been the least doubt in the English officers' minds a
moment since that the little vessel they were looking down upon was an
American; but now they were somewhat puzzled, and the whole scene was
so laughable that very soon the taffrail was lined again with a
tittering crowd, who discussed, in very audible tones, their varying

But lazily the great ship was swinging about with a great creaking of
yards and flapping of sails. Soon she was moving through the water. A
few minutes later and the _Rattler_ was in her wake, and Captain
Symington, who certainly did not look French, despite his wonderful
vocabulary, made a proud and elaborate bow, and lifted his great beaver
hat to the ladies who were now on the quarter-deck enjoying the sight.

But if the English officers had been puzzled at first and amused
afterwards, there was one person on board H.M.S. _Ajax_ who had enjoyed
the same sensations in a more intensified fashion. He was looking out
of one of the stern ports on the lower gun-deck. A short, thickset man,
who did not belong to the battle-ship's company, for he was a prisoner.
It was Captain Edgar, and it was the _Ajax_ that had picked up the
_Siren_ in a sinking condition after she had sustained the fusillade of
two nights previously. But every foot the _Rattler_ sailed brought her
further into the harbor and lessened the ultimate chances for escape.
But that there was a plan in Captain Symington's mind, Edgar did not
doubt. He knew that the _Rattler_ was as handy as a whip, and he kept
his eyes open for any sudden development. He did not have to wait long;
there came an unexpected shift of the wind more to the southward just
as the _Ajax_ was slowly heaving about to go off on the other tack. It
caught her all aback; the great sails clattered, and her headway
stopped. She had missed stays.

It is no laughing matter for a big ship to have this happen to her when
approaching a harbor or nearing shallow water. At once the boatswain's
whistle began piping away; orders were shouted, and there was trouble
below and aloft.

[Illustration: "She came about like a peg-top."]

But what happened to the clumsily handled craft astern? She was
immediately under the port galleries, within half a cable's length,
doddering along under foresail and mainsail. At the first sign of what
had occurred to the battle-ship there ensued a transformation scene.

Have you ever seen an unwilling dog accompanying its master on a walk?
how he sneaks close at the heels, watching his chance when the
attention is not directed to him? How suddenly he turns tail, and after
a few cautious movements that bring him beyond the reach of stick or
arm, he breaks into a run at full speed, disdaining call or whistle,
and puts back for home? That is exactly what the _Rattler_ did.
Scarcely had the canvas of the _Ajax_ begun the ominous fluttering
that showed the change of the wind's direction, than the privateer
swung off to meet it.

Slowly at first and then with a rush she came about like a peg top.
Without an order being given, out broke the great foresail, the
topsails dropped from the gaskets and were sheeted home, and with a
lurch to leeward the _Rattler_ stretched out back over her course
for the harbor entrance, setting her flying kites as she bowled along!

So busy was everybody on board the three-decker, who had troubles of
her own to look after, that no one noticed the sudden manoeuvre of the
privateer; no one except one of the ladies who happened to be the wife
of the Admiral, for the _Ajax_ was a flagship. She, after a minute,
succeeded in attracting the attention of one of the lieutenants, who
with the rest had gone forward to the break of the poop and was
watching what was going on below and above him.

"The little ship," she inquired innocently, "where is she going?"

The officer turned and immediately had to beg the lady's pardon most
abjectly, for he broke forth into an oath.

"Tricked, after all!" he exclaimed, grasping one of his companions by
the arm and pointing.

But there was one other person who had noticed all these goings on. It
was the prisoner on the lower spar-deck.

"You can soak me for a squilgee if that weren't neat," he chuckled, and
then lifting his hands to his cheeks, he roared out something through
the port.

The _Rattler's_ Captain, who was at the wheel, had jumped as if the
_Ajax_ had suddenly whirled about and let fly a broadside at him, for
he heard the words as plain as could be.

"Good-by, Captain Symington! Give my regards to all at home!"

He recognized his old friend Edgar's voice, and it gave him a thrill of
pleasure to know that he was alive even if he was a prisoner.

The _Ajax_ was still in stays; but her commander found time to fire his
battery of stern-chasers, the balls whistling harmlessly past the
_Rattler's_ stern, missing her widely. In reply to this Captain
Symington again lifted his old beaver hat.

Far away to the leeward were the sails of the blockading squadron.
Attracted by the firing of the _Ajax_, they flew their little flags and
crowded on their canvas. But by this time the _Rattler_ had doubled the
point and was making out into the dancing waters of the Channel. And
who was going to touch her where she had sea-room? As if anxious to
have everything understood, Symington raised his ensign. The English
captain, who had been forced to boxhaul his great vessel in order to
avoid running on the shoals, cursed beneath his breath. One of the
ladies turned to the Admiral's wife.

"I wonder why we did not start after her, Madame?" she asked.

"Oh, because we couldn't turn round quick enough, I suppose," she
rejoined. Then turning to her spouse she asked:--

"Was not that it, Sir John?"

"Yes, my dear," responded the Admiral, grimly; "that was just it."

Down below, Captain Edgar had not yet recovered from his laughing fit;
and when he and Captain Myron Symington met again, as they did many
times afterwards, they used to laugh over it together.


"Twenty of those confounded Yankees give me more trouble than three
decks full of Frenchmen," remarked Captain Brower of the prison-ship
_Spartan_, one of the fleet of dismantled battle-ships that thronged
the harbor of Plymouth, England.

Lieutenant Barnard, commanding the neat little sloop of war _Sparrow_,
then on the guard station, laughed.

"They are troublesome beggars, sure enough," he said; "but the funny
thing is that they behave almost exactly the way our fellows do, or at
least would under the same circumstances; that I verily believe."

"Well, such insolence and impudence I never saw in my life," returned
Brower. "I shall be glad when I get rid of this last batch and will
rest easy when they have been sent ashore to Dartmoor. You should have
seen the way they behaved about two weeks ago. Let me see, it was the
evening of the fourth, I believe. In fact the whole day through they
were at it--skylarking and speech-making and singing."

It was July, 1814. Many vessels in the government service of Great
Britain, returning from America, or from the high seas, brought into
Plymouth crews of American vessels, and not a few of the troops
captured about the Lakes and on the Canadian frontier had been brought
over also. They were usually kept on board one of the prison hulks for
three or four months; sometimes it was a year or more before they were
transferred to the military prisons, the largest of which was situated
at Dartmoor, and the second in size at Stapleton, not far from the town
of Gloucester. Although the prison-ships and the prisons themselves
were crowded with Frenchmen, the Yankees were three or four times as
much trouble to control and to command. When they were not planning to
escape, they were generally bothering the sentinels, drawing up
petitions, or having some row or other, if only for the fun of turning
out the guard.

"I wish somebody else had this position," grumbled Captain Brower,
pouring out a glass of port. "I don't think that I was made for it.
When I am left alone, I am liable to become too lenient, and when I am
angered, perhaps I may be too hasty.... At any rate, I wish some one
else was here in my place.... I had to laugh the other day, though; you
know old Bagwigge of the _Germanicus,_ here alongside, what a
hot-tempered, testy old fellow he is? Well, the other day he was
walking up and down his old quarter-deck, and about fourscore of my
Yankee prisoners were up on deck for air and exercise. Suddenly they
began singing. Now, I don't object to that; if they'd never do anything
worse, I'd be happy. They've only cut four holes through different
parts of this ship, and once well-nigh scuttled her; but never mind; to
go on: Bagwigge, he walks to the side and shouts across to my vessel:
'Hi, there! you confounded Yankees! avast that everlasting row.' I
didn't see that it was any of his business, as it was on my own ship;
but the Yankees--I wish you had seen them, Barnard, upon my soul."

"What did they do? Slanged him, I suppose, terrible."

"Well, you see," continued Captain Brower, "the potatoes had just been
given out for the use of the prison mess cooks, and three big baskets
of them lay there on the deck. One of the Yankees threw a potato that
caught old Captain B. fair and square on the side of his head,
capsizing his hat and nearly fetching away his ear. 'You insolent
villains!' he cried, almost jumping up on the rail, 'I'll make you
sweat your blood for this.' Well, ha, ha, not only one potato was
thrown this time, but about half a bushel. I' faith, but those rascals
were good shots. Old Bagwigge, he was raked fore and aft. Turning, he
ran for it, and dove in the cabin."

The younger man laughed. The officer about whom the tale had been told
was not popular in the service. He had had no Americans on board his
prison hulk, and the Frenchmen who were temporarily his guests trembled
at his frown and cringed at his gesture. He was an overbearing,
hot-tempered martinet, and was hated accordingly. But this was not the
end of Captain Brower's story, and as soon as the Lieutenant had
stopped laughing, he resumed:--

"Let me go on, for I haven't finished yet. When Bagwigge returned, he
had with him a file of marines. Up he marches 'em, and the Yankees
greeted them with a cheer, and then seeing that the Captain was going
to speak to them, they desisted to let him talk.

"'Now,' he said, 'you impudent scoundrels, below with you; every
mother's son of you, or I'll----' He hadn't got any farther than that
when the same fellow who threw the first potato hit him again. He was
only about forty feet away, you know, and with such force was the
vegetable thrown that it nearly took his head off his shoulders.
'Fire!' he roared. 'Fire at them!' I doubt whether the marines could
have taken aim, they were so busy dodging potatoes, and as for Bagwigge
himself, he was jumping, bubbling, and sizzling like a blob of butter
in a skillet. I rushed forward and jumped on to the forecastle rail.

"'If you dare fire, Captain Bagwigge,' I cried, 'you'll swing for it!'
At this, he dove down the companionway again, with his marines after
him. I turned to the prisoners and ordered them below, where they went
readily enough. As to Bagwigge, I don't suppose that I'll hear from him
again; I hope that he will attend to his own vessel and leave mine

All this conversation, or at least the relation of Captain Brower's
story, had taken place in the _Spartan's_ cabin, and when the two
officers left, a detail of the prisoners was on the deck, walking
briskly back and forth under the eyes of armed sentries, who guarded
the gangways and patrolled narrow board walks, raised some two or three
feet above the hammock-nettings.

"Do you see that tall, brown fellow, there?" asked Captain Brower,
pointing. "He is the one who did such sharp shooting with the

"A strange-looking creature, surely," responded the Commander of the
_Sparrow_. "He looks a half-tamed man. Well, I wish you less trouble
and all success. Good day to you; I have to return to my ship."

Brower turned and went back into his cabin. Although he did not know
it, and would have denied it if he had been told the truth, he was
exactly the man for the position, for he was just and painstaking,
humane and careful. Although there had been all sorts of attempts to
escape formulated among the Yankees, and almost carried into successful
execution, Brower had not lost a single prisoner, and his presence
among them could restore order and quell a disturbance better than the
parading of a file of soldiers.

They were a strange lot, these captives. They came from all walks of
life, and from every sort of place. Raw militiamen, who had been
surrendered by Hull (the army Hull, mark you, not the brave Commodore),
privateersmen, captured in all sorts of crafts and dressed in all
fashions, but now principally in rags, and men-of-warsmen who had given
themselves up while serving on board English ships rather than fight
against their country. These last held themselves rather aloof from the
others and messed by themselves. Poor devils, they had never had the
satisfaction, even, of having struck a blow. They had turned from one
kind of slavery to another; that was all.

The tall, odd-looking figure that Captain Brower had pointed out,
belonged to the wildest mess on the orlop deck. His appearance might,
perhaps, be called startling; he was far from ill-looking, with
straight aquiline features, deep-set and quick black eyes that could
laugh or look cruel almost at the same moment. His teeth were
beautifully white and even, and although he was not heavy or compact
looking, he was as strong almost as any two other men on board the
ship. He spoke English without an accent, but with an odd form and
phrasing that would have attracted attention to him anywhere. His clear
skin was the color of new copper sheathing, and his straight black hair
that was gathered sailor fashion into a queue was as coarse as a
horse's mane. The grandson of a chief he was, a descendant of the line
of kings that had ruled the Narragansett tribes--a full-blooded Indian.
But he rejoiced in no fine name. A sailor before the mast he had been
since his sixteenth year, and he had appeared on the books of the
privateer brig _Teaser_ as John Vance, A.B. It is a wrong supposition
that an Indian will never laugh or that he is not a fun-maker. John
Vance was constantly skylarking, and he was a leader in that, as he was
in almost all the games of skill or strength. Every one liked him, and
to a certain extent he was feared, for a tale was told in which John
and a knife figured extensively. The flash that would come into his eye
gave warning often when the danger limit was being approached, yet he
was popular, and even the detested marine guard treated him with some
deference. In the last attempt to escape, the Narragansett had been
captured after he had swum half-way to the shore and had dived more
than twenty times to escape musket-balls from the guard-ships. Suddenly
the order came "Prisoners below"--and the ship-bell struck eight
sonorous strokes. As the last four or five men left the deck, the
Indian touched one of them upon the shoulder.

"Watch me," he said, "and say nothing."

There was a narrow door in a bulkhead close to the companionway, but
out of reach unless there was something like a box or barrel on which
to stand. It was closed by a padlock thrust through two iron staples.
As John descended, he caught the combing of the hatch and drew himself
up to a level with his chin. Holding himself there with one arm, he
reached forward and caught the padlock in his brown, sinewy fingers.
Slowly he turned his hand. The iron bent and gave a little. A grin
crossed his face. Swinging himself forward, he landed on a man's
shoulders beneath him, and with a wild warwhoop he tumbled a half-dozen
down the rest of the ladder, and they sprawled in a heap on the deck.
Disdaining to notice the half-humorous curses, he sprang to his feet.
Three other men who belonged to his mess followed him.

"Can you do it, Red?" asked one.

"Yes, surely," John replied. "So I can to-night."

The whole of the gun-deck forward of the forecastle hatch had been
divided, by a strong partition, into a sort of storeroom. There was one
entrance into it from above from the topgallant forecastle, where part
of the marine guard were stationed, and the other opening onto the
hatchway, to be used in case of emergency.

It was just past the midnight watch when four stealthy figures crept
out from the shadows into the light of the dingy lantern that hung at
the foot of the companionway. At night there was only one sentry
stationed there, and he generally sat halfway up the ladder, and it was
impossible for the prisoners to tell without crossing the dead-line
that was drawn at night whether he was asleep or not. This was the risk
that had to be undertaken; for if the man should see any one pass
beneath that old rope that was drawn across the deck, he would have a
right to fire. If the fellow was asleep, yet to gain the deck above,
the venturesome prisoner would have to pass within arm's length of him.

Perhaps John Vance had inherited from his long line of red ancestors
the peculiar knack of moving without sound, the art of crawling on his
belly like a snake, perhaps he had a acquired it by constant practice
since he had been a prisoner. For it was his boast, and one that had
been proved to be true, that contrary to rules he had visited every
part of the ship, and after hours; as has been told, he had been
retaken a number of times when just on the point of making good his

The three seamen who accompanied him on this occasion could see the
legs of the sentry from the knee down, as he sat on the steps of the
ladder leading to the berth-deck above. They could also see the butt of
his musket as it rested beside him. Vance had disappeared in the black
shadow that lay along the starboard side, and now the watchers saw a
curious thing take place. The sentry's musket suddenly tilted forward,
as if of its own volition, and then disappeared backward into the
darkness, without a sound, much in the manner of a vanishing slide in a
magic lantern. The man's legs did not move.

"He is asleep," whispered Ned Thornton to Bill Pratt.

"He's asleep," reiterated Bill Pratt to Gabe Sackett, who made the
fourth one of the "constant plotters," as they were termed by the other

But in one minute that sentry was seen to be very wide awake indeed.
That is, if movement signified wakefulness. His legs shot out in two
vicious and sudden kicks. A hand, with wide-spread, reaching fingers,
stretched out as if searching for the missing musket. The man wriggled
from one side to another and floundered helplessly, with his body
half-way off the edge of the ladder. But not one sound did he utter!

"Red's got hold of him," croaked Thornton, and with the assurance of
hunters who had watched their quarry step into the trap that held him
fast, they stepped forward without fear or caution.

It was as Thornton had said. The poor sentry's head was wedged against
the steps. Around his throat were clasped the fingers of two sinewy,
bronze-colored hands that held the victim as closely and in as deadly a
clasp as might the strap of the Spanish garrote. The scene was really
horrible. Sackett leaned about the edge of the ladder, and then he saw
what a wonderful thing the Narragansett had done. The combing of the
hatchway was fully six feet from where the sentry sat. Below yawned the
black abyss into the mid-hold. Across this Vance had been forced to
lean, balancing himself with one hand when he relieved the sentry of
his musket, and then springing forward he had caught him from behind,
about the throat. There the Indian hung as a man might hang over the
mouth of a well. No wonder the unfortunate marine had been unable to
cry out!

"Let go of him, Red," whispered Gabe. "You've choked him enough." The
Indian stretched out one of his feet and hooked it over the hatch
combing. With a supple movement and without a stumble, he stood erect
upon the deck. The sentry would have plunged over into the hold, had
not the two others grasped him firmly by the shoulders. They carried
him to one side and laid him in the deep shadow against a bulkhead. He
was breathing, but insensible.

The rest of the escape can be told in a few words: The lock of the door
leading into the storeroom was wrenched away, and noiselessly the four
entered, closing it behind them. They had been just in time, for they
could hear, on the deck above, the new watch coming on. A port on one
side of the storeroom was guarded by three flimsy iron bars. There was
enough light outside from the young moon to show the direction of the

Vance bent the irons double at the first attempt. They were almost
twenty feet above the water, for the old hulk floated high. But
everything seemed working for the furtherance of their plan. There was
a new coil of rope on the deck, and looking out of the port right
beneath them, they could see a ship's dingy with the oars in it.
Sackett slid down first; the other two followed, and Vance remained
until the last. No sooner had he made the boat in safety than a great
hubbub and confusion sounded through the ship. There came a sharp blare
of a bugle, the rolling of the alarm drum, and they could hear the
slamming of the heavy hatches that prevented communication from one
part of the vessel to the other. The prisoners, cooped up below, knew
what it all meant. Some one was out, and there in the pitch darkness
they fell to cheering.

But to return to the "constant plotters," in the dingy: they had made
but a dozen boat's-lengths when they were discovered, for there was
light enough to see objects a long distance across the water. There
came a quick hail, followed by a spurt of flame.

"Lord!" Pratt, who was pulling stroke oar with Sackett alongside of
him, groaned; "I caught that in the shoulder." One of his arms drooped
helplessly, but he continued rowing with the other.

"Let go," grunted Sackett; "I can work it alone--lie down in the stern

There were three or four vessels, mostly prison or sheer hulks, to be
passed before they gained the shore. From each one there came a volley.
Poor Sackett received a ball through his lungs and fell into the bottom
of the boat, bleeding badly. And now the boats were after them!

Vance and Thornton pulled lustily at the oars; but the others gained a
foot in every four. The dingy was splintered by the hail of
musket-balls. One of the prison hulks--the last they had to pass--let
go a carronade loaded with grape. It awoke the echoes of the old town.
So close was the charge delivered that it had hardly time to scatter,
and churned the water into foam just astern of the little boat as if
some one had dumped a bushel of gravel stones into the waters of the
harbor. Not three hundred feet ahead of the foremost pursuing boat, the
dingy's keel grated on the shingle.

The Narragansett sprang out, Thornton after him. Sackett could not be
raised. Pratt, holding his wounded and disabled arm, staggered up the
incline towards some stone steps leading to the roadway above. But he
had hardly reached the foot when there came another shot. He fell face
downward and made no attempt to rise. Sackett and he would join in no
more plots; but Vance and Thornton were now running down a side street.

They dodged about a corner into an alley; crossed a small common, and
just as they reached the other side they ran, bows on, into a heavy
cloaked figure, who, seeing their haste, hailed them peremptorily, and
sprang a huge rattle, making much the same noise that a small boy does
when he runs down a picket fence with a stick. Thornton was laboring
ahead like a wherry in a tideway. But the Indian was striding along
like a racehorse, with the easy, springing gait inherited from his own
father, "Chief Fleetfoot," who, if the story told be true, could run
down a red deer in the woods. He turned to assist his comrade by taking
hold of him and giving him a tow. But as he did so, Thornton's foot
struck a round stone and he fell forward, and lay there groaning.

"Run on, Red! run on!" he cried breathlessly. "I've broken a leg;
something's carried away in my pins; on with you!"

"Come you with me too," answered the Narragansett, pulling Thornton to
his feet with one hand; but the poor lad groaned and fell again.

"Run ahead, curse you!" he said. "Don't stay here and be taken!"

The watchman's rattle had attracted the notice of the people in the
houses. Windows were opened and heads were thrust forth, and from about
a corner came another cloaked figure carrying a lantern, and a big pike
was in his hand.

There was nothing else to do, and, obeying Thornton's angry order, the
Indian struck out again into his long distance-covering gait. Which way
he ran it made little matter to him. He did not know the country; he
had no plans; but the feel of the springy earth beneath his feet was
good to him. The sight of the stars shining through the branches of the
trees overhead--for he had soon reached the open country and left the
town behind him--made him breathe the air in long, deep breaths, and
tempted him to shout. It was freedom; liberty! The dim moonlight
softened everything, and to his mind he seemed to be flying. He passed
by great stone archways leading to private parks and great estates.
Twice he had avoided little hamlets of thatched cottages. Once he had
run full speed through the streets of a little village, and had been
hailed by the watchman, who sprang his harmless rattle. But it was
growing light. He must find some place to hide, for travel during the
daytime he knew he could not. Leaping a fence, he made his way into an
adjoining field and lay down, panting, beneath some bushes.

Soon cocks began to crow; daylight widened; a bell in an ivy-covered
tower tolled musically. Insects commenced their morning hum; birds
twittered, and people moved out to their toil. From his hiding-place
the Narragansett watched the unusual sight. In a field below him--for
he lay at the top of a small hill--he could see some men and women
working in a field of grain. One of the girls had placed a basket
beneath the shade of a bush. The Indian was hungry. It required little
trouble to snake himself through the grass and secure the contents of
the little hamper, a loaf of bread and a large piece of cheese. Then he
carefully replaced the cover and stole back to his former hiding-place.
Soon he observed, in the road below him, a man riding along at a fast
gait; he pulled in his horse and shouted something to the workers in
the field. This done, he rode at top speed into the village. Very soon
another horseman appeared, and soon quite a little band of them, among
whom was a mounted soldier or two, and three or four in the pink coats
of the hunting-field.

But near footsteps sounded. A man in leather gaiters, with a
fowling-piece over his shoulder, was coming down a little path from
some deep woods on the right. A setter dog played in front of him. The
man was reading a freshly printed notice. The ink was smeared from
handling. The man spelled it out aloud. "Escaped from the hulks; a
dangerous prisoner; a wild American Indian; ten pounds reward," and
much more of it.

All of a sudden the dog stopped; then with a short bark, he sprang
forward. At the same instant the gamekeeper dropped the printed notice
that had been handed to him but a minute previously by a horseman on
the road. Surely he could not be mistaken, something had dodged down
behind yonder hedge; and as the setter sprang forward, barking
viciously, a strange figure arose, a man with a copper-colored face,
and streaming, unkempt, black locks; he wore big gold ear-rings, and he
was clad in a torn canvas shirt and trousers, with a sailor's
neckerchief around his throat. The dog was bounding forward when
suddenly the figure raised its arm. No cricketer that ever played on
the village green could throw with such unerring force. A large stone
struck the dog and took the fight out of him. Yelping, he sneaked back
to his master's heels. The startled gamekeeper raised his gun and
fired. Whether it was because of his sudden fright or the quickness
with which the agile figure dropped at the flash, the charge whistled
harmlessly through the leaves. But the sound of the shot had attracted
the attention of the people in the fields. A cry arose, as a weird
figure broke from the bushes and dashed down the hill, making for the

"Gone away! gone away! whoop, hi!"--the view hallo of the huntsman.

A man in a red coat had sighted the chase. He leaped a fence, and four
or five other horsemen followed. Soon there came the shrill yelping of
the dogs as they found the plain trail of the barefoot man running for
his life.

[Illustration: "Over fence and hedge."]

It was a great run, that man-hunt, and one remembered to this day. Over
fence and hedge, across ditch and stream, the Narragansett led them. No
trained hurdler that ever ran across country in the county of
Devonshire could have held the pace that Vance kept up. Twice he threw
them off the scent by running up a stream and doubling on his tracks.
But the whole countryside was out and after him. The dogs were gaining
on him swiftly, and at last at the foot of a great oak they had him
cornered. He fought them off with a broken branch, and soon the pack
surrounded him in a yelping circle, not daring to come nearer.

Up came the huntsmen. They halted at some distance and talked among
themselves. Who among them was brave enough to go up and lay hold of
this strange wild man? They called off the dogs and waited for the
soldiers. Eight or ten yokels and some farmer folks joined the gaping
crowd. Five men appeared with muskets, and one with a long coil of
rope. But all this time the Narragansett had stood there with his back
against an oak tree, with a sneer on his thin lips. They talked aloud
as to how they should capture him. Some were for shooting him down at
once; but as yet no one had addressed a word to him direct. Surely, he
must speak an outlandish foreign tongue! Suddenly, the fugitive took a
step forward and raised his hand.

"Englishmen," he said, "listen to me."

All started back in astonishment. Why, this wild man spoke their own

"Who is the chief here? Who is the captain?" Every one looked at a
middle-aged man astride a sturdy brown cob. He was the Squire, and
magistrate of the neighborhood.

"Well, upon my soul," he began, "I suppose----"

But the Narragansett interrupted him. "To you I give myself," he said,
advancing. He glanced at the others with supreme contempt. As he came
forward, he held out his hand, and involuntarily the man on horseback
stretched forth his. It was a strange sight, that greeting. The crowd
gave way a little, and three or four mounted dragoons came tearing up
hill. They stopped in astonishment.

"You gave us a good run," said the Squire, with some embarrassment, not
knowing what to say.

"You are too many; I am your prisoner," was the answer.

No one laid hands on him. Walking beside the Squire's horse down to the
road, followed by the gaping, gabbling crowd, who still, however, kept
aloof, the Narragansett walked proudly erect. When he reached the
highway, he turned. There was a cart standing there. The Squire
dismounted from his horse and spoke a few words to the driver. Then he
mounted to the seat. John Vance sprang up beside him. At a brisk pace
they started down the road towards Portsmouth, the soldiers and the
horsemen trailing on behind them. At the landing where the boat from
the old _Spartan_ met them--for a horseman had ridden on with the
news--was waiting a sergeant of marines. He advanced with a pair of

"None of that!" exclaimed the Squire. "This man has given me his word."

"The word of a chief's son," put in the Narragansett. The two men shook
hands again; then proudly John Vance stepped into the boat, and
unmanacled sat there in the stern sheets.

In twenty minutes he was once more down in the close, foul-smelling
'tween decks.

The only notice taken of the Narragansett's break for liberty was the
fact that he was numbered among the next detail bound for Dartmoor; but
the tradition of the man-hunt of Squire Knowlton's hounds, and its
curious ending, lives in Devonshire to-day.


An old sailor sat on the _Constitution's_ forecastle, with his back
against the carriage of one of the forward carronades. He was skilfully
unwinding a skein of spun yarn which he held over his two bare feet,
while at the same time he rolled the ball deftly with his stubby,
jointless fingers. A young boy, not over fourteen years of age, lay
sprawled flat on the deck beside him, his chin supported in the hollows
of his two hands, his elbows on the deck.

"It comes all along o' drinkin' rum, says I," went on the old sailor,
continuing some tale he had been telling. "That, I claims, is the
reason for many unfortunate doin's; and that is why all them men I was
tellin' you about was eat by the cannibals."

"I don't see as it made any difference," broke in the boy, "except
perhaps in the taste. If they were bent on going where they did, they'd
have been eaten anyhow, wouldn't they?"

"As to that," returned the old sailor, "I contradict ye. Rum sometimes
makes a fellow want to fight when it's a tarnel sight braver to run;
that is, upon some occashuns."

"Some folks get so they can't even wiggle, let alone run," observed the
boy. "I saw our bo'sun----"

"Don't speak uncharitable of your neighbors, son," observed the old
man. "All I can say is that I don't take no stock in grog; thereby
being' the peculiarest man in the service, I dessay. I've seen lessons,
as I was tellin' ye. You see, all those friends of mine would been
livin' to-day if they hadn't taken on cargoes of that thar African
wine. Yes, they got to suppose that they could lick about twenty times
their weight of black niggers, and so they started in, and never come
back. But I, not drinkin' nothin', jes' kep' by the boat, an' when them
savages come after me, I warn't there. Had a terrible time gettin' off
to the ship all alone; but I done it, an' thar's the best temperance
lecture I know of. I got a hull lot of texts out of the Good Book; but
most people won't listen to 'em; leastways on board of this ship."

"I reckon you are the only man what don't take his grog here," said the

"That I be," returned the old sailor, "and, by Sal, I'm proud of it!
'No, thankee, messmate,' says I when it comes around, 'I don't need
that to keep my chronometer goin'.' Then they all laughs generally, and
calls me a fresh-water moss-back. Some day 'an I'll git even with 'em."

Old Renwick, although somewhat of a butt of the crew, was respected
nevertheless because of his being a good seaman, and because he also
had made a record for himself in the old days during the war with
France and the adventurous times with Preble in the Mediterranean. He
was a great favorite with Captain Stewart, then the Commander of the
old frigate, and by him he had been promoted to the position of
quartermaster. He would never have succeeded in qualifying for the
position of boatswain or for any higher grade than that which he now
held, for the simple reason that the old fellow was too lenient in his
discipline and too ready to condole with the faults of others except
where rum was concerned.

It was Renwick's greatest delight to secure a solitary and attentive
listener and spin a long yarn to him. He spoke without the usual
profane punctuation,--the habit of most seamen,--and when off watch he
read his Bible most assiduously. He had had many adventures in his
forty-four years at sea, and his memory being a most retentive one, it
required little excuse for him to start on a long mental peregrination
through the laden fields of his memory.

Many were the occasions when the boy found time to become Renwick's
solitary auditor. The lad was bright, and this was but his second
voyage at sea. He was one of those children who, although born inland
and away from the smell of the ocean, still must inherit from their
ancestors the keen desire to seek adventures and see strange
countries--he dreamed of ships and the deep. Once firmly rooted, this
feeling never dies; despite hardships, wrecks, and disasters, the
sailor returns to his calling.

The boy had never seen an action. But he had rejoiced with the rest at
America's many victories; he had joined with the crowd that had
followed the parading sailors in New York after Hull's great victory,
and he had peeped in at the window of the hotel upon the occasion of
the dinner given to Decatur and to Bainbridge and to the _Guerrière's_
conqueror--all this while on a visit to the city from his home in the
mountains of New Jersey. And thus inflamed with the idea, he had run
away to sea, and had made his first voyage, eight or ten months
previous to the opening of the story, in a little privateer that had an
uneventful cruise and returned to port after taking two small prizes
that had offered no resistance. His entering on board the
_Constitution_ had been with the permission of his parents, who saw
that the only way to hold him from following his bent would be to keep
him at home forever under their watchful eyes.

A great war-ship is a small floating world, and, like the world, the
dangers that beset a young man starting alone on his career are many.
There are the good and the bad, the leaders and the led; the people who
lift up others, and those who lean. It was rather well for the boy that
he had met with old Renwick and conceived a friendship for him. From
the old sailor the lad had learned much. He was an expert at tying
knots already, and he had learned to hand, reef, and steer after a
fashion on board the privateer schooner. The royal yards on a
man-of-war are always manned by boys, because of their agility and
lightness. This boy was a born topman; he exulted in the sense of
freedom that comes to one when laying out upon a swaying yard; the
bounding exhilaration of the heart, the exciting quickening of the
pulse as the great mass describes arcs of huge circles as the vessel
far below swings and rises through the seas.

The attention of the officers had been called to him more than once,
and if there was a ticklish job aloft above the cross-trees, the boy
was sent to perform it. On one occasion he had excited a reprimand for
riding down a backstay head foremost, the First Lieutenant observing,
and speaking to him thus: "While that would do for a circus, it wasn't
the thing for shipboard." But he was a perfect monkey with the ropes,
and nothing delighted him better than scampering up the shrouds, or
shinning to the main truck to disengage the pennant halliards. He used
to sing, in his shrill, high voice, even when struggling to get in the
stiffened canvas in a gale.

On the 20th of February (the year was 1815) the First Lieutenant made
the early morning inspection of the ship. He had hoped that the clouds
and thickness that had prevailed for a few days would disappear, for it
seemed as if for once "Old Ironsides" was pursued by the demon of bad
luck in the way of weather. At one P.M., after a fruitless attempt to
catch a glimpse of the sun for a noonday sight, the clouds broke away
and the breeze freshened. The boy and his companions jumped at the
orders to "shorten sail and take in the royals." Quickly they climbed
the shrouds, passed one great yard after another in their upward
journey, and came at last to the royals. The boy was first. He looked
down at the narrow deck below him, and at the curved surfaces of the
billowing sails. It seemed as if his weight alone would suffice to
overturn the vessel. The lightness and delicacy of the entire fabric
were never so apparent to him. He could see his companions crawling up,
their faces lifted, and panting from their exertions. The sunlight cast
dark blue shadows on the sails below. Two great ridges of foam
stretched out from the _Constitution's_ bows. The taut sheets had
begun to hum under the stress of the increasing breeze. The boy began
to chant his strange song--a song of pure exhilaration.

With so many light kites flying, something might carry away at any
moment, however, and he heard the officer of the deck shout up for them
to hasten. Then he let his eyes rove toward the horizon line as he took
his position in the bunt.

Far away against the sky where the clouds shut down upon the water, he
saw a speck of white! Leaning back from the yard, he drew a long
breath; those on deck stopped their work for an instant, the officer
took a step sideways in order the better to see the masthead.

"Sail ho!" clear and distant had come down from the royal yard.

"Where away?" called the officer, making a trumpet of his hands.

"Two points off the larboard bow, sir," was the reply.

"Clew up and clew down," was now the order. The steersman climbed the
wheel, and with a great bone in her teeth the _Constitution_ hauled her
wind and made sail in chase of the distant stranger. In a quarter of an
hour she was made out to be a ship, and then came the cry a second
time: "Sail ho!" There was another vessel ahead of the first! A half an
hour more, and both were discovered to be ships standing close-hauled,
with their starboard tacks on board. At eight bells in the afternoon
they were in plain sight from the deck, little signal flags creeping up
and down their halliards--ship fashion, they were holding consultation.
Then the weathermost bore up for her consort, who was about ten miles
distant and to leeward; and crowding on everything she could carry
again, the _Constitution_ boiled along after her. The lower, topmast,
topgallant, and royal studding-sails were thrown out, and hand over
hand she overhauled them.

The boy was aloft again. He had caught the fever of excitement that
even the old hands felt, as they saw that the magazine was open and
that powder and shot were being dealt out for the divisions. The
half-ports to leeward had to be kept closed to prevent the water from
flooding the decks.

The boy stayed after the other youngsters had descended. He could feel
the royal mast swaying and whipping like a fishing-rod--the stays were
as tight as the strings of a fiddle. They felt like iron to the grasp;
they had narrowed under the tension. The wind in the deep sails below
played a sonorous bass to the high treble of their singing. The ship
was murmuring like a hive, now and then creaking as she lurched under
the pressure.

How it happened the boy never knew; but as suddenly as winking there
came a report as of a cannon aloft; the main royal, upon the yard of
which he was leaning, flew off, and caught by the tacks and sheets,
fell down across the yard below. The main-topgallant mast had been
carried clean away. No one, not even the boy himself, knew how it all
occurred. Perhaps he had laid hold of one of the reef points. Perhaps
he had made a lucky jump. But there he lay in the bight made by the
folds of the royal, softly resting against the bosom of the sail below,
unhurt, but slightly dizzy. From the hamper of wreckage above hung one
of the loosened clew-lines. The end of it reached down to the
cross-trees. Reaching forth, the young topman tested it, and seeing it
would hold, emerged from his hanging nest, and swinging free for an
instant, managed with his monkey-like powers to lay hold of a stay and
reach the shrouds. There was a cheer from below, as he sprang to the
deck, and this time there was no reprimand.

The loss of her upper sails appeared to impede the speed of the frigate
but little. It would not be long now before the bow-chasers might be
expected to begin. The men were mustered on the deck. Along came the
stewards and the mess-men with the customary grog.

The officers all this time had been busy surveying the two ships. An
hour ago they had been pronounced to be English.

Old Renwick grumbled as he watched the men pour down the half pannikin
of scalding liquor.

"Well, here's to us," chuckled a tall, red-nosed sailor, emptying the
stuff down his throat as if it had been spring water. "Here's to us,
and every stick in the old ship."

"We ought to get double allowance," put in another man just before it
was his turn to take his portion. "There are two of 'em to fight, which
makes me twice as thirsty. Here's to the best thing in the

Quartermaster Renwick did not like to hear all this, and overcome by a
sudden impulse, he stepped out from behind the bitts. There were two
buckets full of the strong-smelling drink resting on the deck. With a
sweep of his foot he upset them both! A howl of rage went up from all
sides. One of the men loosened a belaying-pin and advanced
threateningly. The old sailor stood his ground.

"Avast this 'ere swillin', lads," he said; "there shall be no Dutch
courage on board this ship." He folded his arms and stood looking at
the angry crowd. The First Lieutenant had observed the whole
occurrence, and immediately gave the order to beat to quarters. The
boy, thinking that his old friend was about to be attacked, had jumped
to his side. But his station in action was on the forecastle, where he
was powder-monkey for the two forward guns.

The call to quarters and the rolling of the drum had stopped any
trouble that might have arisen owing to the quartermaster's sudden
action, but the men were surly, and it would have been hard for him if
they could have reached him unseen.

Every second now brought the _Constitution_ closer to the enemy. Never
could the boy forget his sensations as he saw the gunners bend down and
aim the forward gun on the larboard bow. The smoke from the shot blew
back through the port. The gun next to it now spoke, but both balls
fell short, and neither of the ships replied.

They were both ably handled, and their commanders had now reached
some understanding as to the conduct of the action; for when the
_Constitution_ was yet a mile's distance from them they passed near
enough to one another to speak through the trumpet.

The beginning of an action at sea, before the blood is heated by the
sight of carnage and the ear accustomed to the strange sounds and the
indifference to danger has grown over the consciousness of self, is the
most exciting moment. There is a sense of unreality in the appearance
of the enemy. If he is coming bravely up to fight, there is no hatred
felt for him. Men grow intensely critical at such moments, strange to
say. They admire their opponent's skill, although they are inclined to
smile exultantly if they perceive he is making missteps. Captain
Stewart and his officers, grouped at the side, were discussing calmly
the probable designs of the enemy.

"Egad! They are hauling by the wind, and they are going to wait for
us," said Stewart.

"They are not going to run, at any event," observed the First
Lieutenant. "They are tidy-looking sloops of war, sir!"

In five minutes both the English vessels had made all sail,
close-hauled by the wind, with the plain intention of trying to
outpoint the frigate.

"No, you don't, my friends," remarked Stewart to himself. "Not if I
know my ship."

The crew, who were watching the oncomers, shared his sentiment, for
they knew that the _Constitution_ was not to be beaten on that point of
sailing; and the strangers soon noticed this, also, for they shortened
sail and formed on a line at about half a cable's length apart. Not a
shot had been fired since the two bow guns had given challenge, but now
the time had come, the huge flag of the _Constitution_ went up to the
peak, and in answer both ships hoisted English ensigns. Scarce three
hundred yards now separated the antagonists. The English ships had
started cheering. It was the usual custom of the Anglo-Saxon to go into
battle that way. Quartermaster Renwick called for three cheers from the
_Constitution's_ men, but they had not forgotten, at least some of
them, his upsetting of the grog. His unpopularity at that present
moment was evident, for few answered the call, and thus silently the
men at the guns waited for the word to fire.

The boy was half-way down the companion ladder when it came. There was
a great jar the whole vessel's length. A deafening explosion, and the
fight was on!

For fifteen minutes it was hammer and tongs. Broadside after broadside
was exchanged, and then it was noticed that the English had begun to
slacken their return; and now they suddenly were silent. A strange
phenomenon here took place. As all the combatants were close-hauled and
the wind was light, a great bank of opaque sulphurous smoke had
gathered all about them. The _Constitution_ ceased firing, also; for
although the enemy was within two hundred yards' distance, not a sight
of either ship could be seen. They were blotted out; their condition
and their exact positions were unknown. Not a gun was fired for three
minutes, and then the smoke cleared away.

"Here they are!" cried Stewart, and his exclamation was drowned with a
broadside, for the gunners of the _Constitution_ had discovered that
the headmost ship was just abreast of them and but a hundred feet away.
The sternmost was luffing up with the intention of reaching the
_Constitution's_ quarter. The smoke from the big guns had hidden
everything again, but orders were now coming fast from the
quarter-deck. Men were hastening aloft, and others were tailing on to
the braces, tacks, and sheets. The main and mizzen top-sails were
braced aback against the mast, and slowly the _Constitution_ began to
move stern foremost through the water. It was as if nowadays the order
had come to reverse the engines at full speed. All the sailors saw the
importance of this act. They were cheering now, and they had good right
to do so. Instead of finding herself on the larboard side and in good
position for raking, the English vessel was in a very bad position. It
must have astonished her commander to find himself so unexpectedly
confronted, but he was directly beneath the _Constitution's_ guns
again. There was no help for it. He was forced to receive her fire. The
big sloop of war, which had been deserted so unceremoniously, kept on
making a great hubbub, aiming at the place where she supposed the
Yankee frigate yet to be.

To repeat all the details of the rest of the struggle would be but to
recount a tale filled with the detailed working of a ship and nautical
expressions, but it is safe to state that never was a vessel better
handled, and never did a captain win a title more honestly than did
Charles Stewart the sobriquet of "Fighting Stewart."

It was ten minutes of seven in the evening when the first English
vessel struck her flag. She proved to be His Britannic Majesty's sloop
of war _Cyane_, under the command of Captain Gordon Falcon, a gallant
officer, and one who had earned distinction in the service. His ship,
that he had fought bravely, mounted thirty-four guns. He was so
overcome with emotion at having to surrender, that he could scarcely
return Captain Stewart's greeting when he came on board, for he had
entered the fight declaring that he was going to receive the Yankee's
sword. As soon as he had placed a prize crew on board the _Cyane_,
Stewart headed the _Constitution_ for the other sloop of war, who was
doing her best to get away. So fast did he overhaul her that the
_Levant_--for that was her name--turned back to meet her big opponent,
and bravely prepared to fight it out. But it was no use, and after some
firing and manoeuvring Captain George Douglass struck his colors, as
his friend Falcon had been forced to do some time earlier.

But what of old Renwick and the boy? They lay below in the cockpit--the
old man with a shattered leg and the hero of the royal yard with a bad
splinter wound across his chest. Men forget their wounds in moments of
great mental excitement; since he had been brought below, the
quartermaster had been following every movement of the ship as if he
had been on deck.

"We are luffing up," he would say. "Ah! there we go, we headed her that
time! By tar, my hearties, we will win the day! Hark to 'em! Hear 'em
bark!" And so he kept it up, regardless of the fact that his shattered
leg was soon to be taken off; and all of the thirteen wounded men there
under the surgeon's care listened to him, and when the news came down
that the first vessel had struck, Renwick called for cheers, and they
were given this time with a will!

[Illustration: "A discussion that grew more heated every moment."]

Three or four days after the fight, Captain Stewart was dining in his
cabin, and as usual his guests were the English captains, who had not
yet entirely recovered from the deep chagrin incident to their
surrender. How it started, no one exactly knew. It is not on record
which of the gentlemen was at fault for the beginning of the quarrel,
but they were fighting their battles over again in a discussion that
grew more heated every moment. Suddenly one of the officers, jumping to
his feet, accused the other of being responsible for what he termed
"the unfortunate conclusion of the whole affair." Hot words were
exchanged. Stewart, who, of course, had his own opinions on the matter
in question, said nothing, until at last he perceived that things might
be going too far, and it was time for him to interfere. Smiling
blandly, and looking from one of the angry men to the other, he spoke
as follows:--

"Gentlemen, there is only one way that I see, to decide this
question,--to put you both on your ships again, give you back your
crews, and try it over."

This ended the argument, but the story went the rounds of the ship, and
one of the lieutenants in writing to a brother officer described the
incident in those exact words.

Quartermaster Renwick survived the loss of his leg, and he used to
relate the story of how and where he lost it to the youngsters who
would gather about his favorite bench fronting the Battery seawall.

The boy recovered also, and he served his country until they laid him
on the shelf after the Civil War was over. Very nearly forty years
had he passed in the navy, where he grew to be a great hand at
yarn-spinning, and was much quoted, for he linked the service back to
the days of wind and sail, although he had lived to see the era of
steam and steel. His favorite story of them all was of the old
_Constitution_ and how she behaved under the command of "Fighting


"Oh, Bainbridge, you're going ashore with us, aren't you?"

At these words a young man who was walking up and down the frigate's
quarter-deck turned quickly. He was dressed in the same uniform as the
one who had just asked the question,--that of a midshipman of the
American navy.

"Not if you are starting at once, Raymond," he replied. "I won't be off
duty for a quarter of an hour. Is the boat ready?"

"Not yet--maybe you will have time--have you asked for leave?"

"I have that right enough, but I can't be in two places at once. I'd
like to go, though, if I could."

"It's too bad; all the fellows were counting on your coming." And
Midshipman Raymond left the quarter-deck, and strolled forward to the
mast, where five or six other middies were waiting, all dressed in
their best uniforms, with rows of polished brass buttons, and neat
little dirks swung at their left hips by slender chains. They were
impatient at the delay. Every one wished to be ashore, as it was the
intention to dine together and afterwards to attend a concert at the
Malta Theatre; for the _Constitution_ was lying at anchor just off
the town, and not far from the walls of the heavy fortifications
that make the island England's greatest stronghold in the Eastern
Mediterranean--second in importance among her possessions only to the
impregnable Gibraltar.

"I hear Carlotti is going to sing to-night," observed one of the
midshipmen knowingly, interrupting the chorus of grumblings at the
slowness of the shore boat in returning. "She's great," he added.

"How do you know?" asked a short tow-headed reefer; "you never heard

"No, but Bainbridge has, and he told me."

"Wish Bainbridge was going with us----"

"So do we all," was the chorus to this, and just at this moment the
ship's bell clanged the hour, and the one to whom they referred ran
past them. He paused at the head of the ladder.

"I'll be up in a minute; don't you fellows go without me."

With these words he jumped below, and running into the steerage, he
slammed open the lid of his chest and shifted into his best uniform in
"presto change" fashion. He was just in time to hasten down the ladder
and leap into the boat as she shoved off from the side. There were two
lieutenants going ashore, and they don't wait for tardy midshipmen.

"Quick work, Joseph," said Middy Raymond, laying his hand on
Bainbridge's knee.

"Rather," was the panted reply. "Do I look shipshape? Feels as if I'd
forgotten something."

"All ataunto--far as I can see."

Joseph Bainbridge was a younger brother of Commodore William
Bainbridge, and like him he had gifts of popularity. He possessed a
magnetic personality that attracted to him the notice of both officers
and men, and a bold, adventurous spirit that won their admiration.
Added to this was the fact that he was tall and strong, and conceded to
be the handsomest young officer in the service.

When the boat drew up at the pier, the middies flocked off by
themselves, and the two young lieutenants fell behind.

"You didn't hear the lecture,--the lecture the old man gave us while
you were below, Bainbridge," said Midshipman Raymond. "Phew! but he
piled it on thick in telling us how to behave ourselves. Any one might
think that we were going ashore to offer challenges right and left to
all the British army."

"What do you mean?" asked Bainbridge, slipping his arm through his
friend's, and looking down at him, for he stood head and shoulders
above the other youngsters.

"Why, just this," was the response. "The old man" (in this manner was
the Commodore referred to) "says that there are plenty of fire-eating,
snap-shooting 'eight-paces' chaps, just longing for a chance to pick a
quarrel with a Yankee officer; and as he told us it took two to make
trouble, he said he would hold us responsible if there was any row. We
will have to mind our tacks and sheets. He expects us to be blind to
all ugly looks, and deaf to all remarks, I suppose. Besides, we are all
under promise to return by the last boat, that leaves at eleven

"Well," observed the tall midshipman, laughing, "there seems to be no
great hardship in that; we have some hours before us. Let's turn in
here and get our grub--then, ho for the theatre!"

The crowd of laughing young fellows entered a café, and seated
themselves quietly at a corner table. But their entrance had been
observed. A group of officers, in scarlet coats and gilt braid and
shoulder knots, gazed insolently at them.

"Young Yankee puppies," observed one, turning to his companions.

"Rather airy,--I should say breezy," was the rejoinder.

Before long, the fun grew fast and furious at the middies' table;
laughter and even the snatch of a song broke from them. Pretty soon one
of the English officers arose--the one who had first noticed their
presence. He walked over to their table, and rapped on the edge with
the hilt of his sword.

"Less noise, less noise here!" he said.

Bainbridge was about to spring to his feet, when Raymond restrained
him. "Have a care," he said softly.

No one noticed the Englishman's presence, and slightly abashed he
returned to his seat. But he covered his confusion with an air of
bravado. "Taught 'em a lesson," he sniggered.

In a few minutes the whole party had adjourned to the play-house.

Carlotti sang her best, every one was enjoying the music and anxious
for more, when the curtain fell on the first act. The _Constitution_
lads applauded so long that one might have thought they wished to have
the whole thing over again, which they would have liked exceedingly.
But seeing at last that the prima donna would not respond,--she had
been out five times,--the lads arose and strutted into the lobby in a

"There's that officious Britisher," said Bainbridge, nodding his head
toward a group of scarlet coats that stood blocking up a doorway.

"Oh, I just heard about him," put in one of the smallest reefers. "He's
Tyrone Tyler, the dead shot,--I overheard some one pointing him out.
He's killed eleven men, they say."

The officer in question was tall and exceedingly slender, and he might
have been called good-looking if it were not for the insolent eyes, the
leering mouth, and arrogant chin that made him so conspicuous. He made
some remark that caused the others to laugh as he put up his eyeglass
and stared into the faces of the Yankee middies. Some reddened and
dropped their glances, but Bainbridge returned the stare with interest.
The Englishman frowned and let his glass fall from his eye.

"Care for cub-hunting, Twombly?" he inquired of a red-faced man at his
elbow. "Here's a chance for you!"

The midshipmen heard this, but said nothing, and soon they were all
lost in the theatre crowd.

During the next intermission all kept their seats but Raymond and
Bainbridge, who again strolled out. The taller lad, who looked some
years older than his age, which was but nineteen, attracted some
attention; many looks of admiration were thrown at him as he passed
through the lobby. Suddenly he collided with somebody, who pushed him

"Beg pardon," said Bainbridge, making way.

There was no reply, and the lad's handsome brows contracted as he saw
the evil face of Captain Tyrone Tyler smiling sneeringly at him. In the
course of a few minutes they met again, and once more came together.

"Beg pardon, sir."

The words had a peculiar intonation this time. They were spoken in the
tone of voice one uses when compelled to move something that may
disturb another. Bainbridge lifted the infantry captain past with a
firm grasp on both his elbows. He moved him as easily as one might lift
a lashed hammock to one side.

"Beg pardon, sir," said he again.

The officer grew livid, and had it not been that some one grasped his
arm, he would have struck the midshipman across the face. But
Bainbridge and Raymond moved quickly away.

As they turned to leave the hall after the performance was over the
word was brought that Tyler and three others were waiting at the
entrance. After a consultation it was agreed that it would be best to
remain, and avoid a meeting if possible. So talking in low voices, the
midshipmen stayed on until warned by the dimming lights that the place
was being closed. At last a plan was settled on. Bainbridge, who was
eager to go out first, was persuaded to remain with Raymond, and follow
shortly after the others had left. They singled out, and when the last
two stepped past the door, Tyler was still waiting.

"Now for the training," said he, stepping forward. As he spoke he put
one elbow in Bainbridge's face, and with the other grasped for his

But he reckoned wrongly. The middy ducked quickly and picked up his cap
that had been pushed off by the blow. Then he straightened himself.

"You are a cowardly bully," he said calmly. "But I understand you. My
card, sir; I am at your service."

As he spoke, he extended a bit of engraved pasteboard. Captain Tyler
took it, handed it to one of his friends, and gave his name, adding:--

"I trust that you will meet me on the beach under the west fort
to-morrow morning at nine o'clock."

"Can you make it earlier?"

"Certainly; at eight, then."

The Englishman laughed as he moved off with his companions.

"Be on hand, my young monkey jacket; I should hate to be turned out so
early for nothing."

"Never fear," was Bainbridge's return.

"Oh, Joseph, what have you done?" wailed little Raymond, suddenly.
"They will never let you off the ship, and we've broken orders, and are
in a frightful mess."

[Illustration: "'I observed it,' said the Lieutenant."]

"I'm not going on board again, Sammy; I'm to meet that bully, and I
will do it. It's either disgrace or death, and I'm reckless now. But
run along, you; leave me to myself."

"I shall stay if you do," replied Raymond, stoutly. "It will never be
said that----"

"Come, young gentlemen, 'tis about time you were making for the boat.
Commodore Preble's orders were very strict; don't forget them."

The speaker was a tall, graceful young man, wrapped in a long
watch-cloak. It was Stephen Decatur, the First Lieutenant, and the idol
of the ship. He descended the few steps from the entrance to the lobby,
and continued as he acknowledged the midshipmen's salute:--

"Come, let's all be moving--stir your stumps now, Mr. Raymond."

As they reached the archway of the pier, Bainbridge held back.

"Come, Mr. Bainbridge, a word with you," said Decatur, taking the lad
kindly by the arm. He was but five or six years the senior, but his
manner was almost fatherly. "Have you anything to tell me?"

"Yes, sir. I have broken orders."

"I observed it," said the Lieutenant. "Have you anything else to say."

"Yes, sir; unless you insist, I'd rather stay on shore to-night."

"You will return to the ship."

"Very good, sir."

In silence the party was rowed back, and in silence they climbed the
side and came on deck.

Then the First Lieutenant spoke. "Mr. Bainbridge, wait on deck here
until my return."

"What's up, Raymond?" asked the lads as soon as they had gone below to
the steerage where they swung their hammocks. "Did Bainbridge have a
row, after all? What's going to happen?"

"Don't ask me," was the reply; "you know as much as I do." Raymond
concluded that it was best to keep mum on the subject, and with this he
tumbled into his hammock.

Bainbridge waited up on deck for half an hour. He had not the least
idea what was going to be done with him. But he was grieving bitterly.
If he did not meet the Englishman, he was disgraced,--his name was
known, "he owed it to the honor of the service"; for that was the way
the code was established. But how could he have disobeyed the order of
Decatur to proceed on board ship? That would have been impossible,
also. Yet, strange to say, he did not regret his action, and he had not
once felt a thrill of fear. True, Tyler was a noted man-killer, but
that did not worry Bainbridge in the least. He may have been a
fatalist, but that was not the only reason: he knew without bragging
that he was a good shot.

Suddenly he heard some one approaching. He lifted his despondent head
out of his hands. Was he going to be called into the cabin to take a
rating from the fiery tongue of the Commodore. Could he stand that!

"Mr. Bainbridge."

"Yes, sir."

"Commodore Preble's orders are for me to go on shore to-morrow at seven
thirty in the morning. By the way, you will go with me----"

"Oh, thank you, sir," interrupted the midshipman, his voice breaking;
"thank you."

"I shall attend to everything, if you will allow me the honor."

Bainbridge put out his hand; Decatur took it without a word.

The next morning, on a narrow stretch of beach, there was a curious
little gathering, or, better, two separate groups: one composed of five
men talking together, and at a few paces' distance two silent figures.

The five men were conversing in whispers.

"Nevertheless, I intend doing it," said the tall slender man who was in
the centre. "Do you see the button at his throat? A Yankee more or less
does not count."

"Are you ready, gentlemen?"

The others stepped back, and there stood two tall figures fronting one
another: each held a long heavy pistol in the right hand. The faces of
the men were pale, but the midshipman was just as cool as his
experienced opponent; a determined gleam was in his light blue eyes.

The officer who had last spoken began counting, and then there came a
flash and one report. The pistols had been discharged at the same

Bainbridge reeled slightly, and passed his hand about his throat.

"I am all right," he said calmly.

"Thank God! Then let's be off," was Decatur's sole return.

Lying on the sand was Tyler "the dead shot," the surgeon fumbling at
his chest. Decatur and the midshipman raised their hats as they passed

                 *       *       *       *       *

So much for the first duel; now for the sequel. In this modern day we
can scarcely imagine the complaisant attitude assumed by press and
public towards such happenings as this. Were they less careful of human
life, or did they view matters in such a different light that their
perceptions were altogether blunted? No, not that exactly; many men
fought duels who did not believe in the resort to arms at all. They
were compelled to by the deluded custom of the times. Few men were
_brave_ enough to refuse a challenge. But one thing, a man who was
known to have figured on the field of honor, sooner or later found
himself there again, and generally it was once too often.

The second duel to be told about here, has a slight connection with the
first, and yet belongs more properly to history. Commodore William
Bainbridge, who was one of Decatur's most intimate friends, was
grateful indeed for the manner in which he had stood by his brother,
and when Decatur stood in need of some one to do the same thing by him,
it was but natural that he should turn to Bainbridge.

But now to get back to history: Stephen Decatur had, against his will,
been one of the members of the court martial that had sentenced
Commodore Barron to suspension from the navy for five years because of
the affair of the _Chesapeake_ and the _Leopard_. Barron had gone
abroad, and was in England when the War of 1812 was declared. His
period of suspension ended shortly after the declaration, but he did
not return to America until over a year had elapsed; and then
presenting himself without explanation, he demanded the command of an
important ship. Decatur used every effort to prevent his securing
active employment, taking the ground, as he explained in a letter
written to Barron himself, that the latter's conduct "had been such as
to forever bar readmission into the service." He disclaimed any feeling
of personal enmity, but was firm in his opposition. For years this was
the state of affairs; the correspondence between Barron and Decatur
grew more bitter and ironical, and at last it culminated thus:--

Writes Barron on the sixteenth of January, 1820, dated Norfolk:--

    SIR: Your letter of the 29th ultimo, I have received. In it you say
    that you have now to inform me that you shall pay no further
    attention to any communications that I may make to you, other than
    a direct call to the field; in answer to which I have only to reply
    that whenever you will consent to meet me on fair and equal
    grounds, that is, such as two honorable men may consider just and
    proper, you are at liberty to view this as that call. The whole
    tenor of your conduct to me justifies this course of proceeding on
    my part. As for your charges and remarks, I regard them not,
    particularly your sympathy. You know no such feeling. I cannot be
    suspected of making the attempt to excite it.

    I am, sir, yours, etc.,


To this, Decatur replied as follows:--

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 1820.

    SIR: I have received your communication of the 16th, and am at a
    loss to know what your intention is. If you intend it as a
    challenge, I accept it, and refer you to my friend, Commodore
    Bainbridge, who is fully authorized to make any arrangements he
    pleases as regards weapons, mode, or distance.

    Your obedient servant,


And so the fatal meeting was arranged. Captain Elliot, Barron's
representative, and Bainbridge chose Bladensburg, a beautiful spot
within driving distance of the Capitol, as the duelling ground. Letters
describing contemporary events give such vivid pictures of past scenes,
that it is well to quote entire the letter of Samuel Hambleton, one of
Decatur's closest friends, who was present. This letter was written
shortly after the meeting had taken place.

    WASHINGTON, March 22, 1820.

    ... This morning, agreeably to his request, I attended Commodore
    Bainbridge in a carriage to the Capitol hill, where I ordered
    breakfast at Beale's hotel for three persons. At the moment it was
    ready, Commodore Decatur, having walked from his own house, arrived
    and partook of it with us. As soon as it was over he proceeded in
    our carriage towards Bladensburg. At breakfast he mentioned that he
    had a paper with him that he wished to sign (meaning his will), but
    that it required three witnesses, and as it would not do to call in
    any third person for that purpose he would defer it until we
    arrived at the ground. He was quite cheerful, and did not appear to
    have any desire to take the life of his antagonist; indeed, he
    declared he would be very sorry to do so. On arriving at the valley
    half a mile short of Bladensburg we halted and found Captain Elliot
    standing in the road on the brow of the hill beyond us. Commodore
    Bainbridge and myself walked up and gave him the necessary
    information, when he returned to the village. In a short time
    Commodore Barron, Captain Elliot, his second, and Mr. Lattimer
    arrived on the ground, which was measured (eight long strides) and
    marked by Commodore Bainbridge nearly north and south, and the
    seconds proceeded to load. Commodore Bainbridge won the choice of
    stands, and his friend chose that to the north, being a few inches
    lower than the other.

    On taking their stands, Commodore Bainbridge told them to observe
    that he should give the words quick--"Present; one, two, three,"
    and they were not, at their peril, to fire before the word "one"
    nor after the word "three" was pronounced. Commodore Barron asked
    him if he had any objections to pronouncing the words as he
    intended to give them. He said he had not, and did so.

    Commodore Barron, about this moment, observed to his antagonist
    that he hoped, on meeting in another world, they would be better
    friends than they had been in this; to which Commodore Decatur
    replied, "I have never been your enemy, sir." Nothing further
    passed between them previous to the firing. Soon after Commodore
    Bainbridge cautioned them to be ready, crossed over to the left of
    his friend, and gave the words of command precisely as before; and
    at the word "two" they both fired so nearly together that but one
    report was heard.

    They both fell nearly at the same instant. Commodore Decatur was
    raised and supported a short distance, and sank down near to where
    Commodore Barron lay; and both appeared to think themselves
    mortally wounded. Commodore Barron declared that everything had
    been conducted in the most honorable manner, and told Commodore
    Decatur that he forgave him from the bottom of his heart. Soon
    after this, a number of gentlemen coming up, I went after our
    carriage and assisted in getting him into it; where, leaving him
    under the care of several of his intimate friends, Commodore
    Bainbridge and myself left the grounds, and, as before agreed to,
    embarked on board the tender of the _Columbus_ at the Navy Yard. It
    is due to Commodore Bainbridge to observe that he expressed his
    determination to lessen the danger to each by giving the words
    quick, with a hope that both might miss and that then their quarrel
    might be amicably settled.


Commodore Bainbridge told of hearing the following conversation as
Decatur and Barron lay beside each other bleeding on the ground.

"Barron," said the Commodore, "we both, I believe, are about to appear
before our God. I am going to ask you one question. Answer it if you
feel inclined.... Why did you not return to America upon the outbreak
of hostilities with England?"

Barron was suffering great agony, but he turned and spoke clearly in a
low tone. "Decatur, I will tell you what I expected never to tell a
living man. I was in an English prison for debt!"

"Ah, Barron," returned Decatur, "had I known that, had any one of your
brother-officers known it, the purse of the service would have been at
your disposal, and you and I would not have been lying here to-day."

"Had I known you felt thus," answered Barron, "we would have no cause
to be here."

Sad words these, sad unfortunate words, because they came too late.
Poor Decatur! he died at half past ten o'clock that night. When he was
struck by the ball which lodged in his abdomen, he is said to have
spoken thus, "I am hurt mortally, and wish that I had fallen in defence
of my country." Yes, that was his great sorrow; he saw the uselessness
of it all.

So much for the code duello, so much for false pride and extreme ideas
of what should touch one's honor. Can we think that such things really
happened, and so short a time ago! Have we not reason to rejoice that
it is all over? That people no longer start at the sound of shots in
shady lanes, run across tragedies on lawns or in tavern courtyards?
There is just another word or so to add that points a stronger moral
and rounds up the chapter: Joseph Bainbridge fell also in a duel. He,
alas, had many of them; but like all the rest, there was a last one.
The public mourned many times because good men were lost for causes in
which the nation had no interest and that could have been passed by
with a wave of the hand. A sad history that of "the field of honor."


The word "Dartmoor" means little to the ear of the American of this
generation, for it is the name of a town on the bleak open stretches
back from the sea in Devonshire. But during our war with England, and
for a long time afterward, the word "Dartmoor" brought up much the same
kind of recollections that "Andersonville" or "Libby" does to-day. It
was the prison where England kept in confinement those unfortunates
that the fate of war had thrown upon her hands. It was a safe
seclusion, indeed, and for the better explanation of the story that is
to be told here, it might be well worth the while to tell in a few
words what manner of place it was. Surrounding an enclosure, circular
in shape, and containing about eight acres, was a high stone wall,
where the sentries patrolled their beats, where they could look down
into the courtyards of the gloomy prison buildings some twenty feet
below them. The enclosure was divided into three partitions, by walls
that crossed the main space diagonally, and through which there were
grated gateways leading from one department to the other. The
buildings, seven in number, radiated from a common point like wheel
spokes. They were built of brick, with small iron-barred windows, and
in the entrance archway, leading from one yard to another (each
building had a separate yard), there were always stationed after sunset
two armed sentries with primed muskets. While the occupants of any one
building had access to all parts of it and to the others during the
daytime, it was difficult, indeed, to make a journey, or pay a visit,
after nightfall.

Here were confined six thousand prisoners, and here were suffered
hardships without number. There would be scarcely space to tell of the
prison life, but some there were there who had been immured so long
that they had almost forgotten that they had lived anywhere else. They
had become so resigned to the lot of a prisoner of war, that they had
begun to doubt if they should ever see their own beautiful country
again. From the upper windows of the prisons, the view above the walls
was nothing but a stretch of bleak, rolling country, treeless and
barren--the Dartmoor heaths. The inmates had formed a government among
themselves; as was done in most military prisons, many worked at their
trades, as well as they could; they had markets in which they sold
their wares; they had theatrical companies, which served to keep up
their spirits, and lighten the dreary hours; but there was one thought
in the hearts of all: the day when they should receive their liberty.
Many were never to see that day.

There was a young sailor confined in the prison building known as No.
5. His strong constitution and his youth had kept him in a fair state
of health for one who had been so long in close confinement, for he had
been captured in a privateer in the first year of the war. Many times
had he thought of his far-away home on the hills above the old town of
Salem. He was popular with his fellow-prisoners, and had been a leader
among them in their sports and pastimes. George Abbott was his name. He
was but six and twenty years of age, and yet he had followed the sea
for over twelve. When he had been captured there had been taken with
him a young lad of but eighteen, who had run away from a comfortable
home and a loving family, to enlist on board the privateer, but he was
not of the tough fibre of which the sailor should be made, and since
his arrival in prison he had been gradually succumbing to the effects
of his long imprisonment. Between Abbott and this young man there had
grown up a deep affection. The sailor had shielded the landsman from
much of the rough treatment of the forecastle while on board ship, and
now that they were prisoners together, they had been constant
companions; but it was plain to see that the younger of the two would
not last long enough to see the dawn of liberty unless it came quickly.
He had grown so weak that by the middle of February, 1815, it was
expected by all that every day he would be taken from the prison
buildings and sent to the Depot Hospital, from which, alas, few ever
returned. But Abbott nursed him carefully, and watched over him with
all the care of an elder brother, trying to be always cheerful.

March came, and with it the gloomy mists that rose from all around
settled down on the gloomy heaths, shrouding the prison buildings in
impenetrable clouds. It was hard to keep either dry or warm. Those
fortunates who owned little stoves would huddle around their handful of
fire, but the prisons being unheated and unprovided with chimneys, the
stoves were very small, their little pipes being led out of the

Lying in a hammock that had been swung low, so that its occupant almost
lay upon the floor, was the young landsman. He stretched out his hand
toward the roughly made brazier of sheet iron, and so thin were they
that they looked more like claws than the fingers of a human being.

"Lord help us and deliver us," he murmured.

"Hallo, Harvey," cried a voice, breaking in upon his prayer. "I didn't
expect to be so long. We've waited a long time, but here it is, my lad,
and now let's begin. Shall I pitch in first? I ain't much of a reader."

He held aloft in his hand a copy of a smudgy, dog-eared book, smirched
and torn by constant handling.

"We've been waiting our turn on this for three weeks, now. Sam Jordan,
he promised to get it for me though, and so he did."

"What's the name?" inquired the pinched-faced lad in the hammock.

"It's R-a-s-s-e-l-a-s," was the response. "I dunno how to pronounce it,
but they say as how it's good reading. Say the word, and I'll fire

He flung himself down on the floor and opened the pages. It was
storming hard outside, and the rain beat against the roof and poured
from the gutters down on the stone courtyard. There was just enough
light to see the print, if one was not afraid of ruining one's eyes,
and Abbott began:--

"'Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy and
pursue'----" He had read as far as the first half-page, when suddenly
the sick man put out his hand and touched him on the shoulder.

"Listen," he said hoarsely, "what's that going on below?"

Some one on the floor beneath had given a loud staccato whoop. It was
followed by another, and then by an increasing murmur of voices. The
sailor had risen to his knees and dropped the book.

"Some skylarking or tomfoolery," he said; "or perhaps it's the Rough
Alleys," he added.

The "Rough Alleys" was the name given to the gangs of hard customers
and those of the lower order of prisoners who had been compelled by
their more circumspecting and better behaved companions to mess by
themselves, and to generally toe the mark, as much as possible.
Occasionally, however, they would break out in some sort of raid or
riot that would require suppressing, and it was to this habit of theirs
that Abbott referred. But this time he was mistaken.

"Listen to that!" he cried, all at once springing to an erect position.
A roaring, rousing cheer came up from below, and then from the other
buildings they heard it echoed.

The invalid arose from his hammock.

"Stay here," cried Abbott; "I'll fetch the news to you."

He hastened to the head of the stone stairway. A breathless man dressed
in fantastic rags met him half-way up.

"What's the row, Simeon?" asked Abbott, in excitement.

"Heard the news, messmate?" the man cried in answer. "Heard the news?
There's peace between America and England!"

There came a strange sound from the head of the stairs. The young
prisoner had heard the words, and Abbott was just in time to catch him
in his arms as he plunged forward senseless.

                 *       *       *       *       *

What had these men expected? These prisoners who had danced and sung
and gone wild with delight and joy at the message that had been brought
to them that bleak March day? Why, liberty at once. They were going to
return to their homes. It was freedom! And did they get it? Listen!
There is more to tell. Here begins the story:--

Of course it was not to be supposed that the British government should
at once set these prisoners free, as one might set free birds from a
cage by opening the door and allowing them to fly. It was a grave
question what was to be done with them, and there is no use denying the
fact that the United States, or at least its representative in England,
was in a great measure responsible for what subsequently occurred. Ten
days went by, and there was nothing done. In that space of time the
men's spirits sank to zero. Had their country deserted them? Had their
fellow-citizens forgotten them? It was past believing that such things
could be. And it was just at this time that there was most complaint,
arising from the quality of the bread and the insufficiency of the food
supplied by the prison authorities. The Governor of the Depot, as it
was called by the English, was a Captain Shortland, a man so well hated
and despised by those under him that if murderous looks had the power
to kill, he would long ago have been under the sod. Many of the
prisoners, as they had caught glimpses of him, had longed to sink their
fingers into his throat, and now they hated him worse than ever before.
In the beginning of the second week information was sent the rounds of
the prison, that the delay was occasioned by the difficulty that the
representative of the United States government found in obtaining
cartels, or vessels, to bring the released ones back to their own
again. But the delay was bitter.

The poor sick boy had rallied a little during the first days after the
arrival of the news of peace. Probably he supposed that he would be
released at once, but as the days dragged on, and there were no signs
of any change in their condition, he sank again into the unfortunate
path of the men who slowly died because they had no hope.

From a condition of joyousness, the majority of the prisoners had
relapsed into sullen anger--anger at their own country, and an
increased hatred for the red coats who guarded them. Among so many
prisoners of all classes there were, of course, men of all kinds and
character: there were the ignorant and degraded, and those who could
well lay claim to education and enlightenment. Harvey Rich, who was now
so weak that he could scarcely totter from his hammock to the head of
the stairway, had been prepared to enter Harvard College, when he had
caught the fever of adventure and had run away to sea. At the request
of the inmates of Prison No. 5, he had drawn up a letter addressed to
Mr. B.---- (the American agent), requesting him to make all haste; and,
at least, if he could do no more, to secure to them an additional
supply of provisions, or make a monthly allowance of some kind to save
the men from actual starvation. Anxiously was an answer awaited, but
none came.

One day late in the month, when, for a wonder, the sun was shining
brightly, there was a strange group gathered near one of the open
windows on the top floor of Prison No. 5. Propped up by blankets, so as
to get as much of the sunshine that came in at the grated window as
possible, was Harvey Rich. Beside him sat the young seaman, and
squatted on the floor near by was a remarkable-looking human being. His
face was black, his dark hair was shorn close to his head, and a
bandage made of a torn bandanna handkerchief was pushed up on his
forehead. At first glance, one would have taken him for a negro,
although his features showed no trace of African descent. The torn
shirt that he wore was unloosed and open at the bosom. The skin which
showed through from underneath was fair and white. Every now and then
he would give a nervous start and look back over his shoulder.

"They almost had you last night, Simeon," said Abbott to the half-black

"Yes," returned the other; "I thought my jig was up, for sure; but,
confound it! now that there is peace, I don't see why they wish to
hound me any more. 'Tis that brute,--Shortland. He's angry at his lack
of success as a man-catcher. I'd like to get my hands upon him,--only
once, just once,--that's all."

Abbott happened to look out of the window at this instant.

"Egad!" said he, "your friends are out again."

From the grated bars, a view of the neighboring courtyard could be
obtained. There was a sight that, when seen, used to make the
prisoners' blood boil hotly. Three men, heavily manacled, were walking
with weak steps to and fro along the narrow space enclosed between the
high brick walls. The clanking of their chains could be heard as they
moved. But as if this were not enough, beside them walked three
sentries, with bayonets fixed. For half an hour each day, they made
this sorrowful parade. It was their only glimpse of the sky and the
sunlight, their one breath of fresh air during the twenty-four; and, as
soon as it was over, they were hustled back to their place of
confinement,--a dungeon known as the Cachet,--where no light could
penetrate, and the only air that reached them was through the shaft of
a disused chimney. No wonder that their eyes blinked and the tears
rolled down their cheeks when they emerged into God's bright sunlight.
No wonder that their haggard, pale faces grew each day more deathlike.
These men were being killed by inches. For what crime? It will be
shown. The man whom Abbott had addressed as "Simeon" had crawled to the
window and was peeping cautiously out. A wild curse broke from him, as
he viewed the sight.

"Look at poor Whitten," he said; "take note of him; he's not for long.
He used to tell me that he knew that he was going mad. He's that
already. See the poor devil jabbering."

He gave a shudder. It was only six weeks since he had walked to and fro
in that same courtyard. There was a grated gateway at one end. It came
within a few feet of the archway at the top. A silent crowd of
prisoners were gathered there, closely watching the unfortunates. Well
did they all remember the day when there were four of them; that day
when, just as the prisoners turned, in following the footsteps of the
sentries, one of them had left his companions, and, making a great leap
of it, had clambered up the iron gate, and, manacled as he was, had
thrown himself down among them.

Immediately they had carried him into one of the prison houses, where
they had filed and removed his shackles, and had since hidden and
protected him at great cost and sacrifice. Many of their privileges had
been withdrawn because they would not give up this man; they had been
routed out at night by files of soldiers; they had been counted and
mustered, over and over again, and yet, among the many thousand who
knew where Simeon Hays was hiding, there was not one so base as to
betray him, not one to point the directing finger. All honor to them.
Many were the disguises that Simeon had been forced to assume. He had
been a mulatto mess-cook, speaking with the French accent of Louisiana;
he had appeared as a black-faced yawping Sambo, who had cracked
guffawing jokes on the heads of the searchers; he had passed a day and
a night in a coffin-like space between the floor-beams, when they had
him cornered, and yet they had not caught him.

And for what crime were these men treated thus? For a crime that was
never proved against them. They had been taken by a British frigate
from a recaptured prize, and shortly afterward the vessel had been
found to be on fire. These men had been accused of attempting to blow
up the ship and her company, and when they were sent to Dartmoor they
were under sentence to close confinement. Here was Shortland's
opportunity. His cruel and vindictive spirit rejoiced in carrying out
the order, and it chagrined him deeply that one should have made his
escape, and every day he attempted to locate his hiding-place and
return him to the prison--to the torture of the dreaded Cachet.

Soon the half-hour's breathing space had expired, and the manacled ones
had been withdrawn from sight. The prisoners flocked to their buildings
for their midday meal. Hays, who had descended to the courtyard, had
made all haste to return to No. 5, where he was then supposed to be
hiding, although, owing to his bold disposition, he oftentimes made the
range of the lot; and as he passed by the open space on this day,
although he did not know it, a turnkey recognized him, and soon those
in No. 5 Prison were alarmed by the cry "The guard is coming! Lie low,
lie low!" But they found that the entrances were held by a squad of
armed soldiers, and that this time Hays appeared certain to be
apprehended. But search here or there, the soldiers could not find him.
Many times had they stepped over his hiding-place in the floor.

Captain Shortland, who had been afraid to enter the building to
personally conduct the search, remained outside with a strong guard.
The disappointed officer reported at last that he was unsuccessful.

"Why don't you drive them from the building, then?" Shortland

"They are sailors, sir, and will not be driven by soldiers, they say.
They seem to treat the whole affair as a great joke, laughing and
scampering ahead of my men, and paying no attention to my orders."

"Run them through then," Shortland returned. "A little cold steel will
teach a serviceable lesson!"

At this minute one of the turnkeys approached.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, saluting; "if you let me turn the
men out in the usual manner, I think they will leave quietly, but you
must withdraw the soldiers."

Reluctantly, Shortland gave the order, and the red coats filed out,
drawing up in line, behind which he carefully placed himself. The
turnkey entered the building alone. He had been an old boatswain in the
service, and drawing a silver whistle from his pocket he piped all
hands. Then in a stentorian voice he ordered the prisoners into the
yard. They all obeyed, crowding out to the number of one thousand or
more, and they filed past the soldiers in a compact body. One of the
last to leave the building was Harvey Rich. He tottered down, alone,
and joined the crowd, that stood packed in a sullen body, crowded
within a few paces of the handful of soldiers, who stood with their
muskets cocked and ready. Soon the officer returned from his fruitless

"The man cannot be found, sir," he said.

Shortland swore viciously.

"Turn them back in the building, then," he roared, "and keep them there
without water. That will fetch them to their senses.--Back through that
doorway, all of you," pointing with the heavy stick which he always
carried, for he was a gouty man.

But the prisoners had heard his threat, and not one of them moved a
step. There was a large trough of clear water in the yard, to which
they had free access. The weather was warm and clear. Suddenly one of
them stepped forward. All eyes turned upon him. It was George Abbott.

"We will not return there, under those conditions," he said loudly. "We
will stay here, and die, first, every man Jack of us."

A movement began among the prisoners. They crowded in closer in the
narrow space, and a murmur as of a subdued cheer arose among them.
Shortland was furious.

"Seize that man," he cried; "seize him! He shall go without bread and
water both."

No one moved.

"You cowards," he muttered. "I'll do it myself, then; make way here!"

He crowded through the file of soldiers and approached the sailor, who
was standing there calmly, with folded arms. But before he had taken
three short steps, something most unexpected happened. Harvey Rich, who
was standing but a few feet away, stooped swiftly and picking up a
loosened bit of the stonework of the courtyard, he hurled it full at
Shortland's head. It would have killed him had it struck him, but it
only grazed his cheek. Shortland halted and retreated hurriedly.

"Fire on them," he cried. "Take aim and fire."

Thirty or forty muskets were brought to the shoulder. But the young
officer in command of the detachment kept his senses. Calmly he walked
out to the front. He knocked up the muzzles with his unsheathed sword.

"Steady," he said. "As you were."

Shortland flung an oath at him, and turning to the red coats he
screeched at the top of his voice:--

"Fire, you rascals, fire!"

Again the officer sprang forward and threw up the points of the muskets

"As you were; steady, men."

That cool authoritative tone saved a frightful scene; for had the
volley been delivered at such close range, there is no telling how much
slaughter had followed. But mark this: there would have been enough men
left to strew the dismembered bodies of the red coats about the yard
with no other weapons but their naked hands!

Shortland, stamping and fuming in anger, turned upon his heel, and
hastened out through the gate. Immediately, the Lieutenant called his
men to a shoulder arms, and marched them after him, he himself
remaining until the last of the squad had passed under the archway.
Then he drew a thankful breath. One or two of the sailors nearest the
entrance saluted him. Gravely he touched his heavy bearskin hat. There
was not a cheer or a sound of the usual merriment that might have
accompanied the discomfiture of the "lobster backs." Every one had been
too much impressed with the seriousness of the matter in hand. Yet,
there was no one to chide Rich for his impetuous action. Silently they
all returned to the prison, and once more Simeon Hays emerged from his

This night news was brought to the prisoners that the United States
government was going to allow them the sum of seven shillings sixpence
per head in addition to their rations given them by the Crown; also the
news was circulated that the first cartel would start the following
week, and the detachment of those going in her would be read at the
morning's muster. The names were to be taken in alphabetical order.
Again there followed great rejoicing in all of the prison buildings.
Men whose names began with the first letters of the alphabet were in
high spirits. They were congratulated and made much of; while the poor
chaps who were to tail off the list were correspondingly depressed. A
rather important occurrence took place on this night, also. Simeon
Hays, who, as a special treat and in honor of the occasion, had washed
the smut from his face, had been recognized and taken. Poor fellow,
before his friends could interfere, he had been hurried off to the
confinement of the Cachet. Before this news had circulated through the
building, Rich and Abbott had held a long conversation. The former was
objecting strenuously and earnestly to a proposition that the young
sailor had made.

"I cannot think of such a thing," he remonstrated. "It would not be

Abbott interrupted him, "What is the use, mess-mate, of talking about
right, in such a case?" He lowered his voice, "Do you think I could go
out and look any man square up and down if I left ye here? You've got
to do it."

Rich shook his head weakly, "I can't think of doing such a thing," he

"We'll stow all further conversation," was the reply, and with that he
got up and left Rich alone.

The next morning, in each prison, a number of names were read off until
two hundred had been called. Abbott's was the first read in Prison No.
5. The lucky ones were told to get their dunnage ready and report at
the prison entrance at half past ten. At the hour named, all were

"George Abbott," called out the officer in charge of the guard-room.

"Here," answered a weak voice, and to the surprise of those who knew
him, Harvey Rich stepped forward. A moment later, and he had passed
forth into the free air outside.

Abbott answered to his friend's name at the roll-call, and thereafter
passed by the name of Rich. They would come to his name on the list
some day, he reasoned, and he knew well enough that another week or so
of prison life would have finished his young friend for good and all.

On the 3d of April, owing to the prison authorities trying to change
the fare from soft bread to hardtack, there was a small riot among the
prisoners, which, however, resulted in their obtaining their object by
breaking down the barriers and raiding the bread-room. This did not
increase Shortland's good humor, nor did the taunts levelled at the
soldiery tend to improve the feeling existing between them and the
triumphant sailors. On the sixth of the month, it was fine, clear
weather, and the prisoners were put in good spirits by the news that
Hays and his companions, the word of whose condition had reached higher
ears than Shortland's, had been liberated and had left the prison. From
all the various yards there was shouting and singing. The morning's
"Liberty Party," as the sailors called the lucky ones who were to start
for America, had been seen off, with rousing cheers. Those left behind
were trying to amuse themselves by games and horseplay. A score or more
were playing ball against the cross-wall dividing the barrack yard of
the soldiers from that of No. 7. In some way, the ball, thrown by a
careless hand, sailed across the barrier and fell almost at the feet of
a sentry on the opposite side.

"Hi, there, Johnny Bull! heave it back to us," requested one of the
men, through the iron grating. The sentry paid no attention, and soon
there was a clamoring crowd surrounding the opening, beseeching the
imperturbable red coat in all sorts of terms to "Be a good fellow, and
toss back the ball."

"Just heave it over, Johnny," called one. "Don't you think you're
strong enough?"

The sentry whirled angrily. "Come and get it, if you want it," he said.

"Can we?" shouted a half-dozen voices.

"I won't touch it," the sentry responded. With that, he resumed his
beat, cursing the ball players for "a lot of troublesome Yankee

Half laughing, the sailors had loosened one of the stones close against
the wall, and by luck found that the ground was soft and yielding. The
mortar, too, they were able to remove easily, and with such objects as
they could pick up to help them, they fell to burrowing like rabbits.
The sentry, who did not know what was going on, or how his words had
been taken up, was surprised when suddenly he saw a man's head and
shoulders appear at the base of the wall on his side.

"The prisoners are digging out!" he roared, firing his musket.

At once, the soldiers on the walls began firing, forming into squads
and keeping up a constant shooting as long as any prisoners were in
sight. Those in the central yard, known as the Market, not knowing the
reason for the fusilade, and wondering why the alarm bell was ringing,
did not retreat into their buildings; and the first thing they knew,
Shortland himself appeared, entering the big gate at the head of a
company of soldiers with fixed bayonets. They advanced at a
double-quick step, the prisoners were so crowded together that they
could not escape. Some, not seeing why they should be charged in this
fashion, stood their ground. Shortland had lost all control of himself.

"Halt! Aim!" And before the astounded victims knew what was going to
happen, he had given the word to fire.

A crashing volley sounded. When the smoke cleared away, wounded and
dying men filled the yard. The rest, panic-stricken, had retreated into
the buildings. Seven were killed and fifty-six were wounded! Poor
Abbott, who had been trying to urge his comrades to hasten, was among
the first to fall, shot through the lungs. As no one told of his
exchange of names, he was buried under the name he had assumed, Harvey
Rich. And what of the real owner of that name? Alas, he, poor fellow,
also, did not live to see his home in the New Hampshire hills, for he
died at sea not long after the cartel in which he was returning had set
sail. He was sent overboard in the sailor's canvas shroud, and the name
"George Abbott" was stricken from the list of liberated ones. Few knew
the truth, and, perhaps, few there were who cared.

[Illustration: The deadly volley.]


It was February, the year after the war. The month had been cold and
stormy. Frequent and sudden squalls had kept everybody on the alert.
For over two months the United States frigate _Macedonian_ (she once
had H.M.S. prefixed to her name, by the way) had been facing the bad
weather, that had ranged from the Bermudas as far to the eastward as
the Bay of Biscay. It was blowing great guns on this particular
morning, and blowing with that promise of thick weather that seamen
learn to recognize so readily. Not two miles away an English frigate
was seen coming grandly along as she shortened sail.

It did not require the aid of the falling barometer or the sight of the
thick black clouds gathering to the northeast, to prove that they were
in for it again.

Two men were on the _Macedonian's_ main topgallant yard. They were
trying to spill the wind out of the sail that was standing straight up
above their heads like a great balloon.

"Confound this business, anyhow," grunted the older man. "Did you ever
see such an evil-acting bit of rag in your life?" He pounded into the
struggling canvas, as if he could sink his blunt fingers in the folds
and obtain a better grasp. But the wind had firm hold on it, and had
filled it so taut that it was struggling and moving like the body of a
living thing.

"Hold hard!" suddenly exclaimed the younger man; "I see what's the
matter." Just the second before he spoke, the leech of the topgallant
sail had caught over the end of the yard arm. He lay out on the yard to
clear it, his loosened hair and his big collar flapping across his

The elder man shouted something to him, probably in warning; but the
sails were making such a thunder of it that his words could not be
heard. When the leech was cast loose, the yard gave a heavy pitch, the
sail gave a jump that tore it from the hands of the men nearer inboard,
and the young fellow, whose balance was upset by the sudden movement,
lost his hold and fell back with a sudden cry of fright. He caught at
one of the beckets as he slipped; but it carried away, and down he
went, striking the water within a few feet of the frigate's side.

The officer of the deck, who had been roaring up angry imprecations to
the "lazy lubbers" on the yard to "make haste and get in that sail,"
jumped back toward the wheel. Carrying the press of canvas she was then
under, the _Macedonian_ was making not far from thirteen or fourteen
knots, and almost directly before the wind. It was no laughing matter
to bring her up all standing, as it were; and though men were jumping
here and there, hauling and heaving with the added strength that comes
from the dread cry "Man overboard!" it was almost five minutes before
the great ship had headed up, and during that time she had left the
spot where the poor lad had gone down, by a mile and more. The
Lieutenant, when he had given his first order, had thrown overboard one
of the boat's gratings, and this had been followed by one of the
chicken coops on the forecastle. With the squall coming down upon her,
and the stiff wind increasing every minute, the _Macedonian_ lurched up
and down, almost burying her nose in the roaring, tumbling sea. Every
one was on deck.

"'Tis no use trying to lower away a boat now, Mr. Edwards," observed
Captain Stewart. "'Twould be only risking the lives of brave men. Stand
by for a few minutes and keep sharp lookout." Although it was blowing
hard, the air was filled with a thick, gray mist, and the sky now
appeared to close down upon the water. It was a lonely, fearful place
for a man to be out there in the waste of the waters, fighting for his
life. It was a lonely, fearful feeling for men to have who must leave
him there. And they all knew him well; they liked him, for he was a
cheerful, laughing lad. The old sailor who had been on the yard arm
with him had descended to the deck. He was telling it breathlessly to
the men gathered about him.

"Why," said he, "I hollers to him to be careful when the sail fetched
away. It was just as if the yard tried to fling him off like that." He
snapped his fingers at arm's length.

A man who was standing on one of the anchor-flukes well forward
suddenly pointed out to leeward. The English frigate, that had been
last seen holding a course due west, was now, evidently, engaged in
making all snug for the coming blow. She had heaved to, and was now
lying with topsail aback, rearing and plunging,--sometimes pitching
down until her hull was completely hidden in the hollows of the seas.
The mist had blown away. A clear, shadowless, distance-killing light
succeeded it. It was hard to tell whether the frigate was two miles
off, or whether she was a little toy boat in the near perspective. But
the heaving water that lay between the ships, crossed with its lines of
white, rolling foam, was no toy thing. It had an angry, spiteful look.
It was pitiless, and yet had lost the dread that it held when hidden in
the treacherous half-gloom of the mist.

But why had the English frigate come up into the wind? All hands had
rushed to the side. It was almost as if they had forgotten the
frightful cause of their own delaying. Soon all was understood. There
was a tiny, white speck drifting to the southward of the English
vessel. It would heave to the top of a great sea and disappear again.

"One of their boats is out!" roared the man who was standing forward,
using his hands for a trumpet.

The officers on the quarter-deck had now sighted both the vessel and
the little object far astern of her. The First Lieutenant was squinting
through the glass and talking excitedly.

"Egad, sir, I can make it out; there's a man clinging to a cask or
something just to leeward of that cutter. There are eight good men in
that boat, I can tell you," he added, "but I think they have lost sight
of him."

The lashings of the whaleboat, which most American vessels carried, had
been cast loose some time before. The Captain touched the Lieutenant on
the arm.

"He's as near to us as he is to them; call away the whaleboat," he said
quietly; and then, turning to a young, boyish-looking officer,--one of
the senior midshipmen,--he said, "Mr. Emmett, you will go with her."

"Clear away the bowlines!" roared the Lieutenant. "Man the
after-braces! Be lively, lads--lower away!"

With a cheer, the men of the crew--picked oarsmen and ex-whalemen they
were--Nantucket and New Bedford fellows--jumped to the side. The long,
narrow boat was lowered with half her crew in her. The other half slid
down the falls. Mr. Edwards leaned over the side, holding his hat on
with both his hands.

"Mr. Emmett," cried he, "you bring back that man; don't let the
Britishers beat you!"

The midshipman looked up, touched his cap, and grinned.

The man handling the steering-oar was a grizzled, hawk-nosed
down-easter. Many a time had he brought his boat up to the side of a
whale when the seas were running high, and when it would have appeared
that a small boat could not have lived, much less fight the greatest,
strongest beast to be found on all this earth.

The excitement of the moment cut into the blood of the oarsmen. They
were going down with the wind, and they fairly jumped the boat from one
wave-crest to the other. But occasionally, as a heavier sea would come
up astern of them, they would race down and lag for an instant in the
hollow until lifted by the next.

The tall Yankee must have been reminded of the time when he raced with
the other rival boats in order to get fast with the harpoon first, for
he began encouraging in the old whaleman fashion:--

"Give way, my lads, give way! A long, steady stroke now! Do ye love
gin? A bottle of gin to the best man!" forgetting that he was no longer
the first mate of the old _Penobscot_. "Oh, pile it on while you have
breath! pile it on! On with the beef, my bullies!"

The men, with set teeth and straining backs, were catching together
beautifully, despite the fact that the wind threatened to twist the
oars out of their grasp. The little middy, sitting in the stern sheets,
had folded his arms; but he was swinging backward and forward to every
lift and heave, with the same strange grin upon his face. And now the
steersman caught sight of the English boat as she hove up to the top of
a great wave. It was plain that they had lost sight of the object they
were seeking. "Oars!" cried the steersman. The men ceased rowing, and
watched him with anxious and nervous eyes, waiting for the word to get
down to it again.

"There he is, Mr. Emmett! about a half a mile away there, sir, almost
dead ahead! And egad, they see him too!" for just as he had spoken the
English sweeps had caught the water with a plash.

Once more the boat-steerer's tongue was set awagging. It was a race now
down the two sides of a triangle; a fair race and a grand one.

"Every devil's imp of you pull! No talking; lay back to it! Now or
never!" yelled the steerer.

The heavy English cutter, with her eight men at the oars, had caught
the fever too, and the five rowers in the Yankee boat had work cut out
for them. The midshipman was now standing up, balancing himself easily,
with his legs spread wide apart.

"We'll have that man, my lads!" he shrieked. "Only think he's ours, and
there's no mistake, he will be ours! Give way, give way! Now we have

The man could now plainly be seen, clinging to the top of the chicken

"It's Brant, of the starboard watch, sir," said the steersman, leaning
over. "Harkee, he sees us."

It appeared as if both boats would arrive at the same moment, when
suddenly a most surprising thing occurred. The man waved his hand, and
leaving the small but buoyant raft that had supported him, he plunged
head first into the water and struck out for the whaleboat hand over
hand. The bow oar leaned over and caught him by the back of the shirt.
A quick heave, and he was landed between the thwarts.

[Illustration: "'Now we have him, lads!'"]

"I hated to spoil a good race, messmates," he panted, "or I'd come off
to you before."

The English cutter was now alongside. The men in the two boats were
looking at one another curiously.

"Thank you very much for your trouble," cried Midshipman Emmett, taking
off his hat, and having to shout his words very slowly and distinctly
in order for them to be heard.

"Nothing at all, I assure you, sir," came the answer from the young man
in the other boat. "We saw the whole thing happen, and would have been
glad to pick him up for you. This is Mr. Farren of the _Hebe_."

"This is Mr. Emmett of the _Macedonian_. Good day!"

"Good day!"

The stern way of the English vessel had carried her well to leeward of
the boats; the frigate had come about, and was slowly bearing down to
pick the whaleboat up. Amid great cheering she was hoisted in at the
davits. The hero of the occasion saluted the quarter-deck and walked
forward through the crowd, whose anxiety had now changed to merriment.
At last he saw the old sailor who had been on the main topsail-yard
with him.

"Bill," said he, "what was you sayin' when I left the yard to umpire
that thar race?"


The newspapers published during the War of 1812, granted even that they
were vastly prejudiced of course, contained so much of thrilling
interest, and so much that is now forgotten, that a complete file, for
instance, of "Niles's Register" is a mine of wealth to a student of the
times. Every week a stirring chapter was added to the records of Yankee
ships and Yankee sailors. Fabulous sums were paid in prize money,
fortunes were made often in a single venture.

One of the luckiest cruises of the war, so far as rich returns are
concerned, was made by a little squadron of four vessels that sailed
from Boston on October 8th under the command of Commodore Rogers. It
consisted of the _President_, the _United States_, and the _Congress_
frigates, and the _Argus_ sloop of war. Five days after sailing the
_United States_ and the _Argus_ became separated from the others in a
gale of wind, and afterwards cruised on their own account. On the 15th,
the _President_ captured the British packet _Swallow_, having on board
two hundred thousand dollars in specie--a rich haul, indeed. On the
31st of the month, the _Congress_ captured a South Sea ship loaded with
oil that was being convoyed by an English frigate, the _Galatea_; the
latter made off and left her consort to her fate. The _President_, on
the 25th of October, captured the fine English frigate _Macedonian_,
and sent her safely into New London harbor. After taking one or two
smaller prizes, the _President_ and _Congress_ sailed into Boston the
last of December, having covered over eight thousand miles. The landing
of the money taken from the _Swallow_ and the other prizes was made
quite a function. It was loaded into several large drays, and escorted
from the Navy Yard to the bank by the crews of the frigates and a
detachment of marines, "drums beating and colors flying," as an
old-time account has it. The gold dust and specie amounted to the value
of three hundred thousand dollars, besides the value of the vessels

But the little _Argus_, under the command of Captain Sinclair, had
some adventures worth the telling, before she returned to port laden
with the fruits of war. After parting company with the squadron, she
laid her course for the coast of Brazil, then one of the most
profitable cruising grounds, although the waters swarmed with British
war vessels. From Cape St. Roque to Surinam she sailed and there made
two prizes; thence she cruised through the West Indies and hovered in
the vicinity of the Bermudas; afterwards she went as far north as
Halifax along the coast before she turned her head towards home.

The _Argus_ must have been a nimble vessel, for, according to her
logbook, she had escaped imminent capture a score of times, owing to
her speed and capacity for sailing close on the wind. Once she had
fallen in with a British squadron of six sail, two of them being ships
of the line. For three days and nights they pursued her closely. One of
the big fellows, proving to be a very fast sailer, outstripped the
others, and twice was almost within gunshot. On the fourth day the
_Argus_ came up with a large English merchant ship about sunset. The
wind had shifted so as to give her the windward gage of the pursuing
battle-ship. In full sight of her, and of the others that were distant
some ten or twelve miles, the _Argus_ captured the merchantman; and,
under cover of the dark, stormy night that shut down, she made her
escape with her prize. After a cruise of ninety-six days, she put into
the harbor of New York. The actual value of the prizes she had captured
amounted to upwards of two hundred thousand dollars--more than enough
to pay for her original cost three times over.

But to leave the deeds of the regular navy and take up those of a few
of the private armed vessels: less is known of their doings, of course;
they should be given a separate volume to themselves in writing the
history of our wars with England--and the volume is yet unwritten, but
some day it may be. Bravely they fought, often against odds, and more
than once they contributed to the defence of our coast in cooperation
with the regular navy and the land forces. Take operations of the
English blockading squadron under Admiral Warren that was sent to
close up the waters of the Chesapeake. Many were the times that the
privateers eluded his watch-dogs and sailed in and out through his
fleet, and more than once did he have a chance to test their metal. The
schooner _Lottery_, of Baltimore, mounting six guns and having a crew
numbering but thirty-five, in February, 1813, was attacked by nine
large British boats containing over two hundred and forty armed men.
For an hour and a half the privateer stood them off, and before she was
finally captured, she had killed more of the enemy than her own crew
numbered! The privateer _Dolphin_, also hailing from Baltimore, was
taken after the same heroic defence, and Admiral Warren must have found
such work to be rather uncomfortable experience. The United States
schooner _Asp_, three guns and twenty-one men, was pursued up a shallow
creek by a detachment of boats from the English fleet; and, after
beating off her pursuers for some time, she was taken by superior
numbers and upon her capture was set on fire. But the Americans, who
had retreated to shore, returned and succeeded in extinguishing the
flames and saving their vessel. A remarkable thing in connection with
the presence of the English fleet in the Chesapeake was the attempt to
blow up the flagship _Plantagenet_ with a torpedo. The news that
Americans were working upon such a line of invention had filled the
English with dread and horror, they declared that any one captured
while engaged in such a work would be hanged at once without a trial,
for they denounced such methods of warfare as "crimes against
humanity." But this did not deter an adventurous projector by the name
of Mix from trying to rid the bay of its unwelcome visitors. For a long
time he had been at work perfecting a "new explosive engine of great
destructive powers," and on the 18th of July, at midnight, he dropped
down with the tide alone in a small rowboat, and, when within forty
fathoms of the _Plantagenet_, he put his torpedo into the water with
the intention of having it drift with the tide athwart the flagship's
bows. But an alert sentry on one of the guard boats discovered him and
hailed; Mix drew his infernal machine into his boat and escaped. Every
night for a week the inventor tried his luck, but was spied before he
could complete his preparations, and was forced to draw off. But once
he so frightened the English officers that they made sail and shifted
their anchorage, and upon another occasion the flagship let go a
pell-mell broadside, and threw up rockets and blue lights to ascertain
the whereabouts of the lone adventurer.

On the night of the 24th Mix came very near to accomplishing his
purpose, and a contemporary printed account gives such a vivid
description of it that it is well worth quoting: "When within one
hundred yards the machine was dropped into the water, and at the same
moment the sentinel cried, 'All's well,' the tide swept it towards the
vessel, but it exploded a few seconds too soon. A column of water full
fifty feet in circumference was thrown up thirty or forty feet. Its
appearance was a vivid red tinged with purple at the sides. The summit
of the column burst with a tremendous explosion, and fell on the deck
of the _Plantagenet_ in torrents, while she rolled into the yawning
chasm below and nearly upset." Then the account shortly remarks, "She,
however, received but little injury." But this early attempt at waging
submarine warfare made the British exceedingly weary of anchoring in
our ports, which was to our advantage.

But to leave this digression and return to the privateers again:
justice has not been done them, as we have said. But to take the names
of a few and tell of their experiences is perhaps a good idea. Well
known were they to the public eighty odd years ago. For instance, the
schooner _Atlas_, of nineteen guns, that sailed from Philadelphia soon
after war was declared with England--she was famous! Her captain's name
was David Moffat, and he was a fearless commander and a "right good
seaman." The _Chronicle_ and the _Naval Temple_, published in 1816,
give each a short account of one of his encounters with the enemy; to
quote from the latter:--

"On the third of August at eight A.M., the _Atlas_ discovered two sail,
for which she bore away. At eleven o'clock the action was commenced
with a broadside and musketry. She continued engaged with both ships
till noon, when the smaller one struck her colors. The _Atlas_ then
directed the whole of her fire against the large ship, when the small
one, although her colors were down, renewed her fire on the _Atlas_,
which had to recommence firing on her; in a few minutes every man was
driven from her decks. Twenty minutes past twelve the large ship
struck. Possession was immediately taken of both of them. One proved to
be the ship _Pursuit_, Captain Chivers, of four hundred and fifty tons,
sixteen guns, and thirty-five men. The other was the ship _Planter_,
Captain Frith, of two hundred and eighty tons, twelve guns, and fifteen
men." They proved to be richly laden, and with both of them in her wake
the _Atlas_ started for home; she had lost but two men killed and five
wounded. The _Pursuit_ arrived safe in port on the same day as the
privateer, but the _Planter_ was recaptured off the cape of the

The privateer _Decatur_ under command of Captain Divon, after a long
and severe fight, captured a schooner of the English service that
mounted fifteen guns--over twice as many as the _Decatur_ carried. The
_Saratoga_ of New York, Captain Aderton, took the _Morgania_, a British
packet of eighteen guns, off Surinam, and in the action both vessels
were nearly dismantled. The _Comet_, of Baltimore, had a running fight
with three English merchant-men and a Portuguese sloop of war; she beat
off the latter, who officiously interfered, and compelled all three of
the Englishmen to strike their colors. The _Young Eagle_ took two
British ships at once--one quite as large and as powerful as she was.
The _Montgomery_, Captain Upton of Boston, mounting twelve guns, fought
yard arm to yard arm with a fine sloop of war belonging to the English
navy, mounting twenty guns. The _Surinam_, for that was her name, gave
up the fight, and, much crippled, put in at Barbadoes. They were rare
good fighters--these privateers.

But perhaps one of the strangest adventures was that of the _Young
Teazer_--what a saucy, impudent name for a vessel; but, according to
account, it suited her to a nicety. Captain Dobson of New York was part
owner and commander, and while cruising off Halifax he was chased by a
large armed ship, the _Sir John Sherbroke_. As she kept gaining
steadily, Dobson headed his own vessel straight for Halifax harbor; he
passed the lighthouse, and as he did so hoisted up English colors over
the American in order to lead his pursuer to suppose he was an English
prize. As if in disgust at having wasted so much time, the _Sir John
Sherbroke_ hove about and put to sea, and as soon as she was at a
safe distance, Dobson hauled down his misleading colors and did
likewise, successfully escaping.

The journals of the time are crowded with adventures such as these, and
the few here referred to have been selected merely at random. But they
give an idea of the adventurous spirit and daring enterprise of the
Yankee tars and captains.

On Many Seas.






12mo. Cloth. $1.50.


"Every line of this hits the mark, and to any one who knows the
forecastle and its types the picture appeals with the urgency of old
familiar things. All through his four hundred and more pages he is
equally unaffected and forcible, equally picturesque. To go through one
chapter is to pass with lively anticipation to the next. His book is
destined to be remembered."--_New York Tribune._

"The book reads like a romance, but is at the same time realistic
history, before which the fancy ships and the fancy sailors of the
novelist are pale and faded."--_Baltimore Sun._

"The charm of the book is its simplicity and truth. The author, as I
happen to know, can spin thrilling yarns by the hour, and this book of
his is simply one long yarn of his life. A seaman every inch of him, he
writes as only a sailor can. No landsman, no amateur yachtsman, could
write a book like this. The entire book bears the stamp of truth, and
in this age of literary shams that is a crowning merit."--_New York

                 *       *       *       *       *




Captain Marryat.

With an Introduction to each volume by DAVID HANNAY, and 40
Illustrations by an Eminent Artist.

Printed on Antique Paper, uniformly bound in Cloth. 12mo. $1.50 each.

    JAPHET IN SEARCH OF A FATHER. Illustrated by Henry M. Brock.
    JACOB FAITHFUL. Illustrated by Henry M. Brock.
    PETER SIMPLE. Illustrated by J. Ayton Symington.
    MIDSHIPMAN EASY. Illustrated by Fred Pegram.
    THE KING'S OWN. Illustrated by F. H. Townsend.
    THE PHANTOM SHIP. Illustrated by H. R. Millar.
    POOR JACK. Illustrated by Fred Pegram.
    SNARLEYYOW. Illustrated by H. R. Millar.
    MASTERMAN READY. Illustrated by Fred Pegram.
    FRANK MILDMAY. Illustrated by H. R. Millar.
    THE PIRATE AND THE THREE CUTTERS. Illustrated by E. J. Sullivan.
    NEWTON FORSTER. Illustrated by E. J. Sullivan.

                 *       *       *       *       *



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