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Title: Gentlemen Rovers
Author: Powell, E. Alexander (Edward Alexander), 1879-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gentlemen Rovers" ***

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                       GENTLEMEN ROVERS
  [Illustration: Commodore Truxtun leaped into the shrouds.]

                       GENTLEMEN ROVERS

               BY E. ALEXANDER POWELL, F.R.G.S.


                   CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
                        NEW YORK 1913

                     COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY
                   CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                  Published September, 1913


                          MY FATHER

           "There's a Legion that never was 'listed,
           That carries no colors or crest,
           But, split in a thousand detachments,
           Is breaking the road for the rest.

              *       *       *       *       *

           The ends o' the Earth were our portion,
           The ocean at large was our share,
           There was never a skirmish to windward
           But the Leaderless Legion was there.

              *       *       *       *       *

           We preach in advance of the Army,
           We skirmish ahead of the Church,
           With never a gunboat to help us
           When we're scuppered and left in the lurch.
           But we know as the cartridges finish
           And we're filed on our last little shelves,
           That the Legion that never was 'listed
           Will send us as good as ourselves.

              *       *       *       *       *

           Then a health (we must drink it in whispers)
           To our wholly unauthorized horde--
           To the line of our dusty foreloopers,
           To the Gentlemen Rovers abroad!"

           --_The Lost Legion._


This book is written as a tribute to some men who have been overlooked
by History and forgotten by Fame. Though they won for us more than half
the territory comprised within our present-day borders, not only have no
monuments been erected to perpetuate their exploits in bronze and
marble, but they lie for the most part in forgotten and neglected
graves, some of them under alien skies. Boyd, Truxtun, Eaton, Reed,
Lafitte, Smith, Ide, Ward, Walker--even their names hold no significance
for their countrymen of the present generation, yet they played great
parts in our national drama. After two decades of history-making in
Hindustan, Boyd came back to his own country and ably seconded William
Henry Harrison in breaking the power of the great Indian confederation
which threatened to check the white man's westward march. When both
France and England were our enemies, and the gloom of despondency hung
like a cloud over the land, it was Truxtun and his bluejackets who put
new heart into the nation by their victories. Eaton and his motley army
marched across six hundred miles of African desert, and by bringing the
Barbary despots to their knees accomplished that which had been
unsuccessfully attempted by every naval power in Europe. Captain Reed,
of the _General Armstrong_, after holding off a British force twenty
times the strength of his own, sunk his vessel rather than surrender. To
a pirate and smuggler named Jean Lafitte, more than any other person
save Andrew Jackson, we owe our thanks for saving New Orleans from
capture and Louisiana from invasion. Jedediah Smith blazed the route of
the Overland Trail and showed us the way to California, and a quarter of
a century later Frémont, Ide, Sloat, and Stockton made the land beyond
the Sierras ours. William Walker came within an ace of changing the map
of Middle America, and made the name of American a synonym for courage
from the Rio Grande to Panama, while on the other side of the world
another American, Frederick Townsend Ward, raised and led that ever
victorious army whose exploits were General Gordon's chief claim to
fame. There was not one of these men of whom we have not reason to be
proud. But because they did their work unofficially, in what might
aptly be described as "shirt-sleeve warfare," and because they went
ahead without waiting for the tardy sanction of those who guided our
ship of state, the deeds they performed have never received befitting
recognition from those who follow by the trails they made, who grow rich
from the mines that they discovered, who dwell upon the lands they won.
And that is why I am going to ask you, my friends, as in the following
pages I lead these forgotten heroes before you in imaginary review, to
raise your hats in respect and admiration to this company of brave
soldiers and gallant gentlemen who so stoutly upheld American prestige
and American traditions in many far corners of the world.



    FOR RENT: AN ARMY ON ELEPHANTS                             1
    WHEN WE FOUGHT NAPOLEON                                   19
    WHEN WE CAPTURED AN AFRICAN KINGDOM                       45
    THE PIRATE WHO TURNED PATRIOT                             89
    THE MAN WHO DARED TO CROSS THE RANGES                    125
    THE FLAG OF THE BEAR                                     153
    THE KING OF THE FILIBUSTERS                              179
    CITIES CAPTURED BY CONTRACT                              217


    Commodore Truxtun leaped into the shrouds               _Frontispiece_

    The death of Tippo-Sahib at the storming of Seringapatam          12

    The battle of Tippecanoe                                          16

    The frigate _Philadelphia_ ran aground in the harbor of
    Tripoli, the Tripolitans capturing Captain Bainbridge
    and his entire crew                                               54

    But even in those days the fame of American gunners
    was as wide as the seas                                           86

    The battle of New Orleans                                        120

    Westward pressed the little troop of pioneers, across the
    sun-baked lava beds of southwestern Utah                         136

    The Sacramento Valley in 1845                                    164

    General William Walker and his men, after a long and stormy
    voyage, landing at Virgin Bay, en route to Costa Rica            196

    General Walker reviewing troops on the Grand Plaza, Granada      200

    The programme was always the same: the sudden rush
    of the filibusters with their high, shrill yell; the
    taking of the barracks and the cathedral in the Plaza            206

    "Come on, boys!" shouted Ward. "We're going in!" and plunged
    through the narrow opening, a revolver in each hand              230


The pitiless Indian sun had poured down upon the Hyderabad _maidan_
until its sandy surface glowed like a stove at white heat. Drawn up in
motionless ranks, which stretched from end to end of the great
parade-ground, was a division of cavalry: squadron after squadron of
scarlet-coated troopers on sleek and shining horses; row after row of
brown and bearded faces peering stolidly from under the white turbans.
The rays of the sun danced and sparkled upon ten thousand lance-points;
the feeble breeze picked up ten thousand pennons and fluttered them into
a white-and-scarlet cloud. Now and then the silence would be broken by a
clash of steel as a horse tossed its head or a _sowar_ stirred uneasily
in his saddle. Sitting a white Arab, a score of paces in advance of the
foremost rank, very stiff and soldierly in his gorgeous uniform, was a
tall young man whose ruddy cheeks and pleasant eyes looked strangely out
of place in so Oriental a setting.

From somewhere within the city walls a bugle spoke shrilly and was
answered by another and then another, each nearer than the one
preceding. The young man in the splendid uniform barked an order, and
men and horses stiffened into rigidity as sharply as though an electric
current had gone through them. Through the twin-towered gateway of the
city advanced a procession, colorful as a circus, dazzling as a durbar.
The two figures who rode at the head of the glittering cortege formed an
almost startling contrast. One of them answered in every detail the
popular conception of an Asiatic potentate: haughty of manner, portly of
person, with a clear, dark skin and wonderfully piercing eyes and a
great black beard, spreading fan-wise upon his breast. An aigret of
diamonds flashed and scintillated in his flame-colored turban; rubies,
large as robin's eggs, gleamed in his ears, and hanging from his neck
over his pale blue surtout was a rope of pearls which would have roused
the envy of an empress. His companion, to whom he paid marked attention,
was equally noticeable, though in quite a different fashion: a lean,
smooth-shaven, lantern-jawed man, still in the middle thirties, very
cold and reserved of manner, with a great beak of a nose and a jaw like
a granite crag. It did not need the cocked hat and gold epaulets of a
British general to mark him as a soldier.

As the cortege cantered onto the _maidan_ the massed bands of the
cavalry burst into a wild, barbaric march, brass and kettle-drums
crashing together in stirring discord. The strains ceased as abruptly as
they began, and the youthful commander, rising in his stirrups, shot his
blade into the air and called in a voice like a trumpet:

"Cheers for his Highness!"

And back came a guttural roar from ten thousand throats:

"Long live the Nizam!"

Obviously gratified at the warmth of his greeting, the ruler of the
Deccan wheeled his horse and came cantering up to the cavalryman, whose
sword flashed in salute.

"Boyd Sahib," he said, "you are a veritable magician. You turn ryots
into soldiers as readily as a fakir turns a stone into bread. Your men
are admirable. I congratulate you on their appearance."

Then, turning to his taciturn companion:

"Sir Arthur Wellesley, permit me to present to you Boyd Sahib, commander
of my cavalry and my trusted friend. General Boyd," he added, glancing
at the Englishman with a malicious smile, "is a very brilliant
soldier--and an American."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus met, when the nineteenth century was still in its
swaddling-clothes, two extraordinary men: Sir Arthur Wellesley, who in
later years, as the Duke of Wellington, was to gain undying fame by
conquering Napoleon; and General John Parker Boyd, an American soldier
of fortune, who rendered most gallant service to his own people, but
whose very name has been forgotten by them.

Jack Boyd, as his boyhood companions in Newburyport used to call him,
was born with the spirit of adventure strong within him. Almost before
he had graduated from dresses to knee-trousers he would linger about the
wharfs of the quaint old town, drinking in the stories of strange places
and stranger doings told him by the seafarers who were wont to
congregate along the water-front, or staring wistfully at the big, black
merchantmen about to sail for foreign parts. He was wont to say that it
was a perverse and unkind fate which caused him to be born in so
inauspicious a year as 1764, for, though there was no more ardent
youngster in all New England, his youth caused the recruiting sergeants
of the Continental Army to whom he applied for enlistment to pat him on
the shoulder and remark encouragingly: "Come again, son, when you're a
few years older."

Thus it was that he saw unroll before him that marvellous moving-picture
of the birth of a nation, which began on the greensward at Lexington and
ended before the British lines at Yorktown, without being able to play
any greater part in those stirring events than does a spectator in the
thrilling scenes which he pays his five cents to see depicted on a
screen. Indeed, a twelve-month passed after the last British soldier
left our shores before young Boyd achieved the ambition of his life by
obtaining an ensign's commission in the 2d Regiment of Foot and donned
the blue coat and buff breeches of an officer in the American army.
Although within a year he had been promoted to lieutenant, his was not
the temperament which could long endure the monotony of garrison life,
with its unending round of guard-mounting and small-arms practice and
company drill. It is scarcely to be wondered at, therefore, that before
the gold braid on his lieutenant's uniform had time to tarnish he had
handed in his papers and had booked passage on an East Indiaman sailing
out of Boston for Madras. The year 1788, then, saw this youngster of
four-and-twenty landed on the coast of Coromandel, poor in acquaintances
and pocket but rich in adventurousness and pluck.

He could have taken his military talents to no better market, for at
this period of India's troubled history a brilliant career awaited a man
whose wits were as sharp as his sword. The last quarter of the
eighteenth century found all India ablaze with racial and religious
hatred. Wars were as frequent as strikes are in the United States.
Though the French were still supreme in the south of the peninsula, the
English power was steadily rising in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. There
were really two distinct struggles in progress: the English were
fighting the French and the Hindus were fighting the Mohammedans. The
most powerful of the native princes at this time were the Nizam of
Hyderabad, and the Peishwa, as the ruler of the Mahratta tribes was
called--both of whom had, for reasons of policy, espoused the English
cause--and Tippoo Sahib, the son of a Mohammedan military adventurer who
had made himself Sultan of Mysore, who was an ally of the French. Ranged
on the one side, then, were the British, with their allies, the Nizam
and the Peishwa, while opposed to them were the French and Tippoo of
Mysore. All of the reigning princes of India maintained extensive
military establishments, and soldiers of fortune found at their courts
rapid promotion and lavish pay. When Boyd landed in India he was
confronted with the problem which of the rival causes he should make his
own, and it speaks well for his sagacity and foresight that he promptly
decided to offer his services to the allies of the English, for at that
time most students of politics, in India and out of it, believed that
the future of the peninsula was to be Gallic rather than Anglo-Saxon.

From Madras Boyd made his way on horseback to the Mahratta country,
where his attractive personality and soldierly appearance so impressed
the Peishwa that he gave the young American the command of a cavalry
brigade of fifteen hundred men. Boyd was now in possession of the raw
material for which he had hankered, and he forthwith proceeded to show
his extraordinary skill in welding, tempering, and sharpening it. From
daybreak until dark his camp resounded to the call of bugles, the words
of command, and the clatter of galloping hoofs. He hammered his men into
shape as a blacksmith hammers a bar of iron, until they combined the
inflexible discipline of Prussian foot-guards with the mobility and
endurance of Texas rangers. His chance to test the quality of his
handiwork came in 1790, when Tippoo Sultan, failing in his attempt to
bring on a renewal of the war between England and France, turned loose
his hordes and overran the land. In the three years' war which followed,
the British, under Lord Cornwallis, who was striving to regain in India
the reputation he had lost at Yorktown, were aided by the Mahrattas and
the Nizam, who were induced by fear and jealousy to join in the struggle
against their powerful neighbor. Thus Opportunity knocked sharply on
Boyd's door. Commanding a body of as fine horsemen as ever threw leg
across saddle, his name quickly became a synonym for audacity and
daring. Riding, wholly without support, into the very heart of Tippoo's
dominions, he would strike a series of paralyzing blows, burn a dozen
towns, capture or destroy immense stores of ammunition, exact a huge
indemnity, and be back in his own territory again before any troops
could be brought up to oppose him. Boyd's flying columns played no small
part, indeed, in the campaign which ended in 1792 with the defeat of
Tippoo--a defeat for which the Sultan had to pay by ceding half his
dominions, paying an indemnity of three thousand lacs of rupees (one
hundred million dollars), and giving his two sons as hostages for his
future good behavior.

Boyd, meanwhile, had never let slip an opportunity for improving his
knowledge of Hindustani and its kindred dialects or familiarizing
himself with the complex conditions, racial, religious, and political,
which prevailed in Hindustan. Realizing that the Mahratta power was on
the wane, he resigned from the service of the Peishwa, and, bearing
letters of the highest commendation from that ruler to the British envoy
at the court of the Nizam, he turned his horse's head toward Hyderabad.
In a letter to his father, written at this time, he says: "On my arrival
I was presented to his Highness in form by the English consul. My
reception was as favorable as my most sanguine wishes had anticipated.
After the usual ceremony was over he presented me with the command of
two _kansolars_ of infantry, each of which consists of five hundred
men." Continuing, he described in detail the army of the Nizam, which at
that time consisted of one hundred and fifty thousand infantry, sixty
thousand cavalry, and five hundred elephants, each of which bore a
"castle" containing a nabob and his attendants. Can't you picture the
scene when that letter, with its strange foreign postmarks, reached the
old brick house in the quaint New England town; how the parents read and
re-read that message from the son who was adventuring in foreign parts,
and how the neighbors dropped in of evenings to hear the latest news of
the boy they all knew, who was carving out a career with his sword half
the world away? Success is, after all, a rather tasteless thing if there
are no home folks to rejoice in it.

Fortuna, that capricious beauty whose favor so many brave men have
sought in vain, seemed to have lost her heart to the stalwart American,
for in 1799, when Tippoo and his savage soldiery once more broke loose
and swept across the peninsula, leaving a trail of corpses and burning
villages behind them, the Nizam, recalling the tales he had heard of
Boyd's exploits as a cavalry leader, gave him the command of a division
of ten thousand turbaned troopers. Nor did the fair goddess desert him
even when he was captured by a body of Mysore horsemen, taken before
Tippoo Sahib himself, and, upon his stoutly refusing to turn traitor to
the Nizam, condemned to death by torture. And the torturers of the
tyrant of Mysore bore a most evil reputation. Overpowering the sentries
who were set to guard him, he succeeded in making his way, thanks to his
fluency in Hindustani, through the enemy's lines, rejoining the Nizam's
forces in time to take part in the storming of the Sultan's capital of
Seringapatam, Tippoo being killed in a hand-to-hand struggle after a
last stand at the city gates. Thus died, as he would have wished--with
his boots on--the most dangerous adversary with whom Britain had to
contend in the winning of her Eastern empire.

[Illustration: The death of Tippo-Sahib at the storming of Seringapatam.

From a painting by R. de Moraine.]

Early in the nineteenth century Boyd, who, as the result of the generous
rewards he had received from his royal employers, had by this time
become possessed of considerable means, left the service of the Nizam,
much against the wishes of that monarch, and organized an army of his
own. Numerically, it wasn't much of an army, as armies go, having at no
time exceeded two thousand men, but it was as businesslike a force as
ever responded to a bugle. Boyd, whose reputation as a cavalry leader
extended from Bengal to Malabar, had the horsemen of all India to draw
from, and he recruited nothing but the best, the men with whom he filled
his ranks being as hard as nails and as keen as razors. His second in
command was an Irish soldier of fortune named William Tone, a brother of
Wolf Tone, the famous rebel patriot.

As Boyd reckoned on counterbalancing the smallness of his force by its
extreme mobility, he adopted the novel expedient of transporting his
artillery on the backs of elephants, thus making it possible for the
guns to keep pace with the cavalry even on his whirlwind raids, for an
elephant, though burdened with a field-piece and half a dozen soldiers,
can put mile after mile behind it at a swinging, ungainly gait which it
will tax any horse to maintain. Military history presents no more
fantastic picture than that of this sun-tanned Yankee adventurer
spurring across an Indian countryside with a brigade of beturbaned
lancers and a score or so of lumbering elephants, the muzzles of brass
field-guns frowning from their howdahs, tearing along behind him. What a
pity that the folk in Newburyport could not have seen him!

The entire outfit--elephants, horses, cannon, and weapons--was Boyd's
personal property, and he rented it to those princes who had need of and
were able to pay for its service precisely as a garage rents an
automobile. The prices he obtained for it were enormous, and ere long he
became a wealthy man. From one end of the country to the other he led
his scarlet-coated mercenaries, selling their services in turn to his
former employers, the Nizam and the Peishwa, and to the rulers of
Gwalior and Indore. When a force was needed for a particularly desperate
service or for a hopeless hope they sent for Boyd. And he always
delivered the goods. Fighting was going on everywhere, and he never
lacked employment. But he was far too discerning not to recognize the
fact that the power of England was steadily, if slowly, increasing, and
that her complete domination of India, which could not much longer be
delayed, must inevitably put an end to independent soldiering as a
profitable profession. In 1808, therefore, he sold his army, elephants
and all, to Colonel Felose, a Neapolitan who had seen service under many
flags, and with misted eyes and a choking throat for the last time rode
along the lines of his faithful troopers. A few days later he set sail
for Paris, for, with the Corsican's star high in the heavens, there
seemed no better place for such a man to seek adventure and advancement.
Disappointed in his hope of obtaining a commission under the Napoleonic
eagles, he turned his face toward home, and in 1810, after an absence of
more than twenty years, he felt the cobblestones of his native
Newburyport beneath his feet once more.

Boyd's adventurous career under his own flag and in the service of his
own people forms quite another though a scarcely less thrilling story.
Trained and experienced officers being in those days few and far
between, the government offered him the colonelcy of the 4th Regiment of
Infantry, which he promptly accepted, displaying such energy in drilling
his men that when his regiment marched through the streets of Boston on
its way to Pittsburg the local papers commented editorially on the
smartness of its appearance. When William Henry Harrison, then governor
of the Territory of Indiana (which included the present States of
Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin), realizing the imperative
necessity of smashing the great Indian confederation which Tecumseh, the
Shawnee warrior-statesman, was so painstakingly building to oppose the
white man's further progress westward, called for troops to do the
business, Boyd put his men on flat-boats, floated them down to the falls
of the Ohio, and marched them overland to Vincennes, his dusty, footsore
column tramping into Harrison's stockaded headquarters almost before
that veteran frontiersman had realized that they had started. Boyd was
in direct command, under Harrison, of the little expeditionary force of
nine hundred men throughout the whirlwind campaign which culminated on a
drizzling November morning in 1811 on the banks of the Tippecanoe
River. Tippecanoe was, I suppose, the only battle which our army ever
fought in high hats, for the absurd uniform of the American infantry,
discarded a few months later, consisted of blue, brass-buttoned
tail-coats, skin-tight pantaloons, and "stovepipe" hats with red, white,
and blue cockades. Though taken by surprise and outnumbered six to one,
Boyd's soldiery showed the result of their training by standing like a
stone wall against the onset of the whooping redskins, pouring in a
volley of buckshot at close range which left the hordes of warriors
wavering, undecided whether to come on or to retreat. At this
psychological moment Boyd ordered up the squadron of dragoons which he
had been holding in reserve for just such an opportunity. "Right into
line!" he roared in the voice which had resounded over so many fields in
far-off Hindustan. "Trot! Gallop! _Charge!_ Hip, hip, here we go!" It
was the charge of the cavalry, delivered with all the smashing
suddenness with which a boxer delivers a solar-plexus blow, which did
the business. The Indians, panic-stricken at the sight of the oncoming
troopers in their brass helmets and streaming plumes of horsehair, broke
and ran. Tippecanoe was won; Harrison was started on the road which was
to end in the White House; the peril of Tecumseh's Indian confederation
was ended forever, and the civilization of the West was advanced a
quarter of a century.

[Illustration: The battle of Tippecanoe.

From a print in the New York Public Library.]

In the following year, upon the outbreak of our second war with England,
Boyd, who had been commissioned a brigadier-general, commanded a
division of Wilkinson's army in the abortive American invasion of Upper
Canada, and, on November 11, 1813, fought the drawn battle of Chrysler's
Field. "Taps" were sounded to his picturesque career on October 4, 1830.
He died, not as he would have wished, sword in hand at the head of
charging squadrons, but quite peacefully in his bed, holding the prosaic
position of port officer of Boston, to which post he had been appointed
by that other gallant fighter, President Andrew Jackson. As the end
approached I doubt not that in mind he was far away from the brick and
plaster of the New England city, and that his thoughts harked back to
those mad, glad days when he and his lancers rode across the plains of
Hindustan and his elephants rocked and rolled behind him.


This is the story of some forgotten fights and fighters in a forgotten
war. The governments of the two nations which did the fighting--France
and the United States--refused, indeed, to admit that there was any war
at all, and, in a sense, they were right, for there was never any
declaration of hostilities, and there was never signed a treaty of
peace. But it was a very real war, nevertheless, with some of the
fiercest battles ever fought on deep water, and when it was over we had
laid the foundations of a navy, we had won the respect of the European
powers, and we had humbled the pride of Napoleon as it had been humbled
only once before, when Nelson annihilated the French fleet in the battle
of the Nile.

At the time that this narrative opens Bonaparte had just finished his
wonderful campaign in northern Italy, and the French nation, flushed
with confidence by his remarkable series of victories, was swaggering
about with a chip on its shoulder, and defying the nations of the world
to knock it off. In fact, the leaders of the Reign of Terror, drunk with
unaccustomed power, had lost their heads as completely as the victims
whom they had guillotined on the Place de la Révolution. Thoroughly
typical of this insolent and arrogant attitude was the French
Directory's peremptory demand that we instantly abrogate the treaty
which John Jay, our minister to England, had just concluded with that
country, basing its unwarrantable interference with our affairs on the
ground that the terms of the treaty were injurious to the commercial
interests of France. Upon our curt refusal to accede to this
preposterous demand, Charles C. Pinckney, our minister at Paris, was
notified by the French Government that it would hold no further
intercourse with him, and the very next mail-packet brought the news
that he had been expelled from France. Not content with this
extraordinary and uncalled-for affront to a friendly nation, French
cruisers began seizing our ships under a decree of their government
authorizing the capture of neutral vessels having on board any of the
products of Great Britain or her colonies, for at this time, remember,
France and England were at war, as they were, indeed, throughout nearly
the whole of Napoleon's reign. As the bulk of our trade at this period
was with the British colonies in the West Indies, it was evident that
this decree was aimed directly at us. Every packet that came from West
Indian waters brought news of American ships overhauled and plundered,
of sailors beaten and kidnapped, and of cargoes seized and confiscated
by the French, the authenticated despatches to the State Department
naming nearly a thousand vessels which had been captured. So bold did
the French become that one of their privateers actually had the audacity
to sail into Charleston Roads and, almost under the guns of the
batteries, to burn to the water's edge a British vessel which was lying
in the harbor.

Though it was evident that nothing short of a miracle could avert war,
President Adams, appreciating the ill-preparedness of the United States,
which had only recently emerged from the Revolution in a weakened and
impoverished condition, determined to make one more try for peace by
despatching to France a special mission composed of Minister Pinckney,
Elbridge Gerry, and John Marshall, the last-named later Chief Justice of
the United States. Though in all our diplomatic history we have sent
abroad no more able or distinguished embassy, the reception its members
received at the hands of the French Government was as disgraceful as it
was ludicrous. The French Directory at this time was composed of low
and irresponsible politicians of the ward-heeler type who had climbed to
power during the French Revolution, so that, incredible as such a state
of affairs may seem in these days, the negotiations soon degenerated
into an attempt to fleece the American envoys, who were informed quite
frankly that their success depended entirely upon their agreeing to
bribe--or, as the French politely put it, to give a _douceur_
to--certain avaricious members of the Directory. Not only this, but the
American diplomatists were told that, if the bribes demanded were not
forthcoming, orders would be given to the war-ships on the French West
Indian station to ravage the coasts of the United States. The chronicles
of our foreign relations contain nothing which, for sheer impudence and
insult, even approaches this attempt to levy blackmail on the nation.
Even the astute Talleyrand, at that time French Foreign Minister, so far
misjudged the characters of the men with whom he was dealing as to
insinuate that a gift of money to members of the government was a
necessary preliminary to the negotiations, and that a refusal would
bring on war. Then all the pent-up rage and indignation of Pinckney
burst forth. "War be it, then!" he exclaimed. "Millions for defence,
sir, but not one cent for tribute!"

Upon learning of this crowning insult to his representatives, President
Adams, on March 19, 1798, informed Congress that the mission on which he
had built his hopes of peace had proved a failure. Then the war-fever,
which had temporarily been held in abeyance, swept over the country like
fire in dry grass. Talleyrand's attempt to whip America into a
revocation of Jay's treaty had ignominiously failed. He had made the
inexcusable mistake of underestimating the spirit and resources of his
opponents. Congress promptly abrogated all our treaties with France,
prohibited American vessels from entering French ports, and French
vessels from coming into American waters, and voted a large sum for
national defence. The land forces were increased, the coastwise
fortifications strengthened, ships of war were hurriedly laid down,
volunteers from every walk of life besieged the recruiting stations,
Washington reassumed command of the army. At Portland, Portsmouth,
Salem, Chatham, Norwich, Philadelphia, and Baltimore the shipyards
resounded to the clatter of tools, for those were before the days of big
guns and armor-plate, and a man-of-war could, if necessary, be built and
equipped in ninety days.

Out from behind this war-cloud rose the thrilling strains of "Hail,
Columbia." When the war-fever was at its height, a young actor and
singer named Fox--a vaudeville artist, we should call him nowadays--who
was appearing at a Philadelphia theatre, called one morning on his
friend Joseph Hopkinson, a young and clever lawyer, and a son of that
Francis H. Hopkinson whose signature may be seen at the bottom of the
Declaration of Independence.

"Look here, Joe," said Fox, dropping into a chair, "I need some help and
you're the only man I know who can give it to me. No, no, old man, it's
not money I'm after. To-morrow night I'm to have a benefit at the
theatre, but not a single box has been sold; so, unless something can be
done to attract public attention, I'm afraid I shall have a mighty thin
house. Now it strikes me that, with all this war-fever in the air, if I
could get some patriotic verses, something really fiery and inspiriting,
written to the tune of 'The President's March,' I might draw a crowd.
Several of the people around the theatre have tried it, but they have
all given it up as a bad job, and say that it can't be done. So you're
my last hope, Joe, and I think you could do it."

Shutting himself up in his study, within an hour Hopkinson had completed
the first verse and chorus of what was to prove one of the greatest of
our national songs, and had submitted them to his wife, who sang them
to a harpsichord accompaniment. The tune and the words harmonized. A few
hours later the song was completed and was being memorized by Fox. The
next morning Philadelphia was placarded with announcements that that
evening Mr. Fox would sing, for the first time on any stage, a new
patriotic song. The house was packed to the doors. As the orchestra
broke into the familiar opening bars of "The President's March," and
Fox, slender and debonair, bowed from behind the footlights, the
audience grew hushed with expectancy. When the now familiar words,

    "Immortal patriots, rise once more!
    Defend your rights, defend your shore!"

went rolling through the theatre from pit to gallery, the audience went
wild. Eight times they made him sing it through, and the ninth time they
rose and joined in the rousing chorus:

    "Firm, united let us be,
    Rallying round our Liberty.
    Like a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find."

Night after night the singing of "Hail, Columbia," in the theatres was
applauded by audiences delirious with enthusiasm, and within a few days
it was being sung by boys in the streets of every city from Portland to
Savannah. Never since the days of Bunker Hill had the nation been so
stirred as it was in that summer of 1798.

On July 6, with the red-white-and-blue ensign streaming proudly from her
main truck, the sloop of war _Delaware_, twenty guns, of Baltimore,
under Stephen Decatur, Sr., put to sea to an accompaniment of booming
cannon. Cape Henry had scarcely sunk below the horizon before she was
hailed by a merchantman which had been boarded and plundered by a French
privateer only the day before. Upon hearing this news Decatur set off in
a pursuit as eager as that with which a bloodhound follows the trail of
a fugitive criminal. A few hours later his lookouts reported four
vessels dead ahead. Being unable to determine which was the privateer,
he ran in his guns, closed his ports, and keeping on his course until he
was sure that he had been seen, stood hurriedly off, as though afraid of
being captured. Just as he had anticipated, the Frenchman fell into the
trap, and piling on his canvas, bore down upon him. It was not until the
privateersman drew close enough to make out the gun-ports and the
unusual number of men on the American's decks, that he discovered
Decatur's ruse and attempted to escape. But it was too late. The
_Delaware's_ superior speed enabled her easily to overhaul the
Frenchman, which proved to be _La Incroyable_, fourteen guns and seventy
men. So accurate and deadly was the fire poured into her by the
_Delaware's_ gunners (forerunners, remember, of those bluejackets who
handle the twelve-inch guns on the dreadnaught _Delaware_ to-day) that
within ten minutes after the action had commenced the French tricolor
came fluttering down. We had struck our first blow against the power of

The captured vessel was sent into port under a prize crew, was refitted,
added to the American Navy as the _Retaliation_--fitting name!--went to
sea under command of William Bainbridge (the same who a few years later
was to lose the war-ship _Philadelphia_ to the Barbary pirates in the
harbor of Tripoli), and shortly afterward was recaptured by the French
frigate _l'Insurgente_, being the only vessel of our little navy taken
by the French.

By the beginning of 1799 the West Indian waters were as effectually
patrolled by American war-ships as a great city is patrolled by
policemen. The newly built American frigates were objects of great
amusement and derision to the French and British officers stationed in
the West Indian colonies, for they were far too heavily armed,
according to European ideas, carrying almost double the number of guns
usual to vessels of their class. It is interesting to recall the fact,
however, that sixty-odd years later European officers were equally
derisive and sceptical of another American innovation in war-ships which
was destined to revolutionize naval warfare--the monitor. But before
long the sceptics were compelled to revise their opinions of the
fighting qualities of our infant navy. Our fleet was at this time
divided into two squadrons, both of which made their headquarters at St.
Christopher, or, as it was more commonly called, St. Kitts, on the
island of Antigua; one, under Commodore Barry, running as far south as
the Guianas, while the other, under Commodore Truxtun, cruised northward
to Santo Domingo, thus effectually cutting off from commercial
intercourse with the mother country the rich French colonies in the

Truxtun was a most picturesque and romantic figure. Short and stout,
red-faced, gray-eyed, loud-voiced, gallant with women and short-tempered
with men, he was as typical a sea fighter as ever trod a quarter-deck
with a brass telescope tucked under his arm. From the time when, as a
boy of twelve, he ran away to sea, until, a national hero, he was laid
to rest in Christ Church graveyard in Philadelphia, his life was as full
of hair-breadth escapes and hair-raising adventures as that of one of
Mr. George A. Henty's heroes. A sailor before the mast when scarcely in
his teens, he was impressed into the British Navy, where his ability
attracted such attention that he was offered a midshipman's warrant,
which he refused. When only twenty years of age he commanded his own
ship, in which he succeeded, though at great personal hazard, in
smuggling large quantities of much-needed powder into the rebellious
colonies. Eventually his ship was captured and he was made a prisoner.
Escaping from the British prison in the West Indies where he was
confined, he made his way to the United States, obtained letters of
marque from the first Continental Congress, and was the first to get to
sea of that long line of privateersmen who, first in the Revolution, and
afterward in the War of 1812, practically drove British commerce from
the Atlantic. At the close of the Revolution Truxtun returned to the
merchant service, in which he rose to wealth and position. When the
American Navy was organized under the stimulus of French aggression, he
was offered and accepted the command of the thirty-eight-gun frigate
_Constellation_, a new and very beautiful vessel, splendidly officered
and manned, and with heels as fast as her gun-fire was heavy.

While cruising off Antigua, on February 9, 1799, the _Constellation's_
lookout reported a French war-ship, which, upon being overhauled, proved
to be _l'Insurgente_, forty guns, which had the reputation of being one
of the fastest ships in the world, and was commanded by Captain
Barreault, an officer celebrated in the French Navy as a desperate
fighter and a resourceful sailor. As the _Constellation_, with her crew
at quarters and her decks cleared for action, came booming down upon
him, Captain Barreault broke out the French tricolor at his masthead and
fired a gun to windward, which signified, in the language of the seas,
that he was ready for a yard-arm to yard-arm combat. Truxtun's reply was
to range alongside his adversary, a flag of stripes and stars at every
masthead, and pour in a broadside which raked _l'Insurgente's_ decks
from stem to stern. The first great naval action in which the American
Navy ever bore a part had begun.

Waiting until the _Constellation_ was well abreast of her, at a distance
of perhaps thirty feet (modern war-ships seldom fight at a range of less
than three miles), _l'Insurgente_ replied, firing high in an attempt to
disable the American by bringing down her rigging. Midshipman David
Porter, a youngster barely in his teens, was stationed in the foretop.
Seeing that the top-mast, which had been seriously damaged by the French
fire, was tottering and about to fall, but being unable to make himself
heard on deck above the din of battle, he himself assumed the
responsibility of lowering the foretopsail yard, thus relieving the
strain on the mast and preventing a mishap which would probably have
changed the result of the battle. That midshipman rose, in after years,
to be an admiral and the commander-in-chief of the American Navy.

Barreault, who had a much larger crew than his adversary, soon saw that
his vessel was in danger of being pounded to pieces by the American
gunners who were making every shot tell, and that his only hope of
victory lay in getting alongside and boarding, depending upon his
superior numbers to take the American vessel with the cutlass. With this
in view, he ordered the boarding parties to their stations, sent men
into the rigging with grappling-irons with which to hold the ships
together when they touched, directed the guns to be loaded with small
shot that they might cause greater execution at close quarters, and
then, putting his helm hard down, attempted to run alongside the
_Constellation_. But Truxtun had anticipated this very manoeuvre, and
was prepared for it. Seizing his opportunity--and in sea-battles
opportunities do not last long or come often--he whirled his ship about
as a polo player whirls his pony, and ran squarely across the enemy's
bows, pouring in a rain of lead as he passed, which all but annihilated
the boarding parties drawn up on the deck of _l'Insurgente_.

Foiled in his attempt to get to hand-grips with his enemy, the Frenchman
sheered off and the duel at short range continued, the _Constellation_,
magnificently handled, sailing first along _l'Insurgente's_ port side,
firing as she went, and then, crossing her bows, repeating the manoeuvre
on her starboard quarter. Nothing is more typical of the iron discipline
enforced by the American naval commanders in those early days than an
incident that occurred when this duel between the two frigates was at
its height. As a storm of shot from the Frenchman's batteries came
crashing and smashing into the _Constellation_, a gunner, seeing his
mate decapitated by a solid shot, became so demoralized that he
retreated from his gun, whereupon an officer drew his pistol and shot
the man dead.

Time after time Truxtun repeated his evolution of literally sailing
around _l'Insurgente_, until every gun in her main batteries had been
dismounted, her crew being left only the small guns with which to
continue the action. It speaks volumes for Barreault's bravery that,
with half his crew dead or wounded, and with a terribly battered and
almost defenceless ship, he did continue the action, his weary,
blood-stained, powder-blackened men loading and firing their few
remaining guns dauntlessly. Seeing the weakened condition of his enemy,
Truxtun now prepared to end the battle. Before the French had time to
grasp the full significance of his manoeuvre, he had put his helm hard
down, and the _Constellation_, suddenly looming out of the battle smoke,
bore down upon _l'Insurgente_ with the evident intention of crossing her
stern and raking her with a broadside to which she would be unable to
reply. Though no braver man than Barreault ever fought a ship, he
instantly appreciated that this would mean an unnecessary slaughter of
his men; so, with the tears streaming down his cheeks, he ordered his
colors to be struck, and in token of surrender the flag of France
slipped slowly and mournfully down. The young republic of the West had
avenged the insult of Talleyrand.

It is a remarkable fact that, notwithstanding the desperate fighting
which characterized this battle, the _Constellation_ had only two of her
crew killed and three wounded, while the French loss was nearly twenty
times that number. Lieutenant Rodgers and Midshipman Porter were
immediately sent aboard the captured vessel with a prize crew of only
eleven men. After the dead had been buried at sea, the wounded cared for
by the American surgeons, and about half of the prisoners transferred to
the _Constellation_, Rodgers set such sails on _l'Insurgente_ as the
wrecked rigging would permit, and laid his course for St. Christopher,
it being understood that Truxtun would keep within hail in case his
assistance was needed. During the night a heavy gale set in, however,
and when day broke upon the heaving ocean the _Constellation_ was
nowhere to be seen. It was a ticklish situation in which the thirteen
Americans found themselves, for they had their work cut out for them to
navigate a leaking, shattered, and dismasted ship, while below decks,
awaiting the first opportunity which offered to rise and overpower their
captors, were nearly two hundred desperate and determined prisoners.
There were neither shackles nor handcuffs on board, and the hatchcovers
had been destroyed in the action, so that the prisoners were perfectly
aware that, could they once force their way on deck by a sudden rush,
the ship would again be theirs. But they reckoned without Rodgers, for
the first men who put their heads above the hatchway found themselves
looking into the muzzles of a pair of pistols held by the American
lieutenant, whose fingers were twitching on the triggers. During the
three days and two nights which the voyage to St. Christopher lasted, a
guard of American bluejackets stood constantly around the open hatchway,
a pile of loaded small arms close at hand, and a cannon loaded with
grape-shot trained menacingly into the prisoner-filled hold. On the
evening of the third day, after Truxtun had given her up for lost,
_l'Insurgente_ limped into port with the flag of the United States
flaunting victoriously above that of France.

The 1st of February of the following year found the _Constellation_,
still under the command of Commodore Truxtun, cruising off Guadaloupe in
the hope of picking up some of the French privateers which were using
that colony as a base from which to prey on our West Indian commerce.
While loitering off the port of Basse Terre, and praying that something
would turn up to pay him for his patience, Truxtun sighted a vessel
coming up from the southeast, which from her size and build was
evidently a French frigate of the first class. As she approached, the
keen-eyed American naval officers, scanning her through their glasses,
recognized her as the fifty-two-gun frigate _La Vengeance_, one of the
most formidable vessels in the French Navy. It was evident from the
first, however, that she would much rather run than fight, this anxiety
to avoid an encounter being due to the fact that she had on board a
large number of officials, high in the colonial service, whom she was
bringing out to the colonies from the mother country. No sooner did she
perceive the character of the _Constellation_, therefore, than she piled
on every yard of canvas and headed for Basse Terre and the protecting
guns of its forts. Never had the _Constellation_ a better opportunity to
display her remarkable sailing qualities, and never did she display them
to better advantage. It was well after nightfall, however, before she
was able to overhaul the flying Frenchman, so that it was by the light
of a full moon, which illumined the scene almost as well as though it
were day, that the preparations were completed for the combat. The sea,
which was glasslike in its smoothness, as is so often the case in
Caribbean waters, seemed to be covered with a veil of shimmering silver,
while the battle-lanterns which had been lighted on both vessels swung
like giant fireflies across the purple sky.

Seeing that escape was hopeless, the French commander hove to and
prepared for a desperate resistance. Now, Truxtun had made up his mind
that this was to be no long-range duel, in which the Frenchman's heavier
metal could not fail to give him an advantage, but a fight at close
quarters, in which the smashing broadsides which the _Constellation_ was
specially designed to deliver could not fail to tell. Just before the
beginning of the battle the stout commodore, red-faced, white-wigged,
cock-hatted, clad in the blue tail-coat and buff breeches of the
American Navy, descended to the gun-deck and walked slowly through the
batteries, acknowledging the cheers of the gunners, but emphatically
warning them against firing a shot until he gave the word. No one knew
better than Truxtun the demoralizing effect of a smashing broadside
suddenly delivered at close quarters, and it was this demoralization
which he intended to create aboard the enemy. "Load with solid shot," he
ordered, and added, speaking to his officers so that the men could hear:
"If a man fires a gun before I give the order, shoot him on the spot."
Then with boarding-nettings triced up, decks sanded, magazines opened,
and the tops filled with marines whose duty it was to pick off the
French gunners, the _Constellation_, stripped to her fighting canvas,
swept grandly into action. As she came within range the French commander
opened with his stern-chasers, and in an instant the ordered decks of
the American were turned into a shambles. The wounded were carried
groaning to the cockpit, where the white-aproned surgeons, their arms
bared to the elbow, awaited their grim work, while the dead were hastily
ranged along the unengaged side--rows of stark and staring figures
beneath the placid moon. Again and again the guns of _La Vengeance_
belched smoke and flame, and redder and redder grew the sand with which
the _Constellation's_ decks were spread, but she still kept coming on.
Not until she was squarely abreast of the Frenchman did Truxtun, leaping
into the shrouds, bellow through his speaking-trumpet: "Now, boys, give
'em hell!" The American gunners answered with a broadside which made _La
Vengeance_ reel. The effect was terrible. On the decks of the Frenchman
the dead and dying lay in quivering, bleeding heaps. But not for an
instant did the French sailors flinch from their guns. Broadside
answered broadside, cheer answered cheer, while the men, French and
American alike, toiled and sweated at their work of carnage. So rapidly
were the American guns fired that the men actually had to crawl out of
the ports, in the face of a withering fire, for buckets of water with
which to cool them off.

The different tactics adopted by the two commanders soon began to show
results, for, whereas Truxtun had given orders that his men were to
disregard the upper works and to concentrate their fire on the main-deck
batteries and the hull, the French commander had from the first directed
his fire upon the American's rigging in the hope of crippling her.
Shortly after midnight the French fire, which had grown weaker and
weaker under the terrible punishment of the _Constellation's_ successive
broadsides, ceased altogether, and an officer was seen waving a white
flag in token of surrender. Twice before, in fact, _La Vengeance_ had
struck her colors, but owing to the smoke and darkness the Americans had
not perceived it. And there was good reason for her surrender, for she
had lost one hundred and sixty men out of her crew of three hundred and
thirty, while the _Constellation_ had but thirty-nine casualties out of
a crew of three hundred and ten. Though the French fire had done small
damage to the _Constellation's_ hull, and had killed a comparatively
small number of her crew, it had worked terrible havoc in her rigging,
it being discovered, just as she was preparing to run alongside her
capture and take possession, that every shroud and stay supporting her
mainmast had been shot away, and that the mast was tottering and about
to fall. The men in the top were under the command of a little
midshipman named James Jarvis, who was only thirteen years old. He had
been warned by one of his men that the mast was likely to fall at any
moment, and had been implored to leave the top while there was still
time, which he would have been entirely justified in doing, particularly
as the battle was over. But that thirteen-year-old midshipman had in him
the stuff of which heroes are made, and resolutely refused to leave his
post without orders. The orders never came, for before the crew had time
to secure it the great mast crashed over the side, carrying with it to
instant death little Jarvis and all of his men save one. Though his name
and deed have long since been forgotten by the nation for which he died,
he was no whit less a hero than that other boy-sailor, Casabianca, whose
self-sacrifice at the battle of the Nile has been made familiar by song
and story.

The falling of the _Constellation's_ mast reversed conditions in an
instant, for the surrendered frigate, taking prompt advantage of the
victor's temporary helplessness, crowded on all sail and slowly
disappeared into the night. By the time the wreck had been chopped away
any pursuit of her was hopeless. A few days later she put into the Dutch
port of Curaçao in a sinking condition.

Thus continued until February, 1801, an unbroken series of American
successes, French war-ships, French privateers, and French merchantmen
alike being sunk, captured, or driven from the seas. France's trade with
her West Indian colonies was paralyzed, and the prestige of her navy was
enormously diminished. Napoleon, as First Consul, had abolished the
Directory, and was now the virtual ruler of France, having entire
command of all administrative affairs, both civil and military. Forced
to admit that from first to last his ships had been out-sailed,
out-fought, and out-manoeuvred by the despised Americans, and that a
continuance of the war could only result in further disaster and loss of
prestige, he began negotiations which led, about the time that the
nineteenth century passed its first birthday, to a suspension of

During the two and a half years of this unofficial war with the most
powerful military nation in the world our infant navy had captured
eighty-four armed French vessels, mounting over five hundred guns--a
success all the more remarkable when it is remembered that our entire
naval establishment at the outbreak of hostilities comprised but
twenty-two vessels, with four hundred and fifty-six guns. In other
words, we had captured almost four times as many ships as we possessed.
Not only had we practically destroyed French commerce on this side of
the Atlantic, but our own commerce had risen, under the protection of
our guns, from fifty-seven million dollars in 1797 to more than
seventy-eight million dollars in 1799. Most important of all, however,
we had shown to France and to Europe that, when occasion demanded, we
both would and could, in the words of our national song, defend our
rights and defend our shore.


Did you ever, by any chance, leave the Boston State House by the back
door? If so, you found yourself in a quiet and rather shabby
thoroughfare, cobble-paved and lined on the farther side by
old-fashioned red-brick houses, with white, brass-knockered doors, and
iron balconies, and green blinds. That is Derne Street. Though a man
standing on Boston Common could break one of its violet-glass windows
with a well thrown ball, it is, as it were, a placid backwater of the
busy streams of commerce which flow so noisily a few rods away. I wonder
how many of the smug frock-coated politicians who hurry through it as a
short cut daily have any idea how it got its name; I wonder if any of
the people who live upon it know. Though the exploit which this Boston
byway was named to commemorate has been overlooked by nearly all our
historians, perhaps because its scene was laid in a remote and barbarous
country, yet it was a feat which, for picturesqueness, daring, and
indomitable courage, is deserving of a more generous share of the
calcium light of public appreciation. Though I am perfectly aware that
history only too often makes dull reading, this chronicle, I promise
you, is as bristling with romance and adventure as a hedgehog is with

You must understand, in the first place, that the declining years of the
eighteenth century found a perfectly astounding state of affairs
prevailing in the Mediterranean, where the four Barbary states--Morocco,
Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli--which stretched along its African shore,
collected tribute from every nation whose vessels sailed that sea as
methodically as a street-car conductor collects fares. Asserting that
they were no common, vulgar buccaneers who plundered vessels
indiscriminately, the Barbary corsairs, claiming for themselves the
virtual ownership of the Mediterranean, turned it into a sort of
maritime toll-road, and professed themselves at war with all who refused
to pay roundly for using it. Nor was their boast that they were the
masters of the Middle Sea a vain one, scores of captured merchantmen and
thousands of European slaves laboring under the African sun proving
indubitably that they were amply capable of enforcing their demands. As
far as the question of economy was concerned, it was about as cheap for
a nation to be at war with these bandits of the sea as at peace, for so
heavy was the tribute they demanded that their friendship came almost as
high as their enmity. It cost Spain, at that time a rich and powerful
empire, upward of three million dollars to obtain peace with the Dey of
Algiers in 1786. Though England boasted herself mistress of the seas,
and in token thereof English admirals carried brooms at their mastheads,
she nevertheless spent four hundred thousand dollars annually in
propitiating these African despots. Previous to the Revolution there
were close on a hundred American vessels, manned by more than twelve
hundred seamen, in the Mediterranean, but with the withdrawal of British
protection this commerce was entirely abandoned. The ink was scarcely
dry on the treaty of peace, however, before we had despatched diplomatic
agents to the Barbary coast to purchase the friendship of its rulers,
and had taken our place in the line of regular contributors. We were in
good company, too, for England, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland,
Denmark, and the Italian states had been paying tribute so long that
they had acquired the habit. Think of it, my friends! Every great
seafaring nation in the world meekly paying tribute to a few thousand
Arab cutthroats for the privilege of using one of the seven seas, and
humbly apologizing if the payment happened to become overdue!

Our friendly relations with the Dey of Algiers were of short duration,
however, and by 1793 his swift-sailing, heavily armed cruisers had
captured thirteen American vessels, and sixscore American slaves were at
work on the fortifications of his capital. In his prison-yard, indeed,
one could hear every American inflection, from the nasal twang of Maine
to the drawl of Carolina. After two years of procrastination, Congress,
spurred to action by public indignation, purchased the liberty of the
captives and peace with Algiers for eight hundred thousand dollars,
though the Dey remarked gloomily, as he scrawled his Arabic flourish at
the foot of the treaty: "If I keep on making peace at this rate, there
will soon be no one left to fight. Then how shall I occupy my corsairs?
What shall I do with my fighting men? If they have no one else to rob
and slaughter, they will rob and slaughter me!"

The Bashaw of Tripoli at this time was a peculiarly insolent and
tyrannical Arab named Yussuf Karamanli, who had gained the throne by
the effective method of winning over the body-guard, quietly
surrounding the palace one night, and deposing his elder brother, Ahmet,
whom he promptly exiled. Despite the annual tribute of twenty-two
thousand dollars which we were paying to the Bashaw, not to mention the
seventeen thousand dollars' worth of presents which we presented
biennially to the officers and officials of his court, he complained
most bitterly to the American consul at Tripoli that he was not getting
as much as his neighboring rulers, and that unless the matter was
remedied immediately, he would have to get some American slaves to teach
him English. Now, Yussuf was a bad man to have for an enemy, for his
cruisers were numerous and loaded to the gunwales with pirates who would
rather fight than eat, and he had, in addition, the reputation of being
most inconsiderate to those sailors who fell into his hands, sometimes
going so far as to wall a few of them up in the fortifications which he
was constantly building. To put it bluntly, he was not popular outside
of his own circle. As Mr. Cathcart, the American consul, did not take
his demands for a larger tribute very seriously, the Bashaw wrote to
President Jefferson direct, mincing no words in saying that the American
government had better grant his request, and be quick about it, or
American seamen would find the Mediterranean exceedingly unhealthy for

Incredible as it may seem in this day and age, the authorities at
Washington ordered a vessel to be loaded with the arms, ammunition, and
naval stores demanded by the Bashaw, their total value being thirty-four
thousand dollars, and hurriedly despatched it to Tripoli, with profuse
apologies for the delay. A few months later the Bashaw, who evidently
knew a good thing when he saw it, suggested that a token of our esteem
for him in the form of jewels would be highly acceptable, whereupon the
American minister in London was instructed to purchase jewelry to the
value of ten thousand dollars and have it hurried to Tripoli by special
messenger. Emboldened by his undreamed-of success in shaking the
republican tree, the Bashaw reached the very height of audacity by again
sending a peremptory note to President Jefferson, demanding that the
United States immediately present him with a thirty-six-gun war-ship! As
no attention was paid to this modest request (and in view of the other
outrageous concessions made by our government, it is somewhat surprising
that this demand was not granted also), the Bashaw ordered the flagstaff
of the American consulate to be chopped down as a sign of war, and
turned his corsairs loose on American commerce in the Mediterranean. The
war opened most disastrously for the United States, for a few months
later the frigate _Philadelphia_ ran aground in the harbor of Tripoli,
the Tripolitans capturing Captain Bainbridge and his entire crew. No
wonder the Bashaw went to the mosque that day to give thanks to Allah,
for had he not received an even larger war-ship than he had demanded,
and did he not have two hundred American slaves to instruct him in the
English tongue? "God is great!" exclaimed the Bashaw devoutly, as he
knelt on his silken prayer-rug, and "God is great!" echoed the rows of
corsairs who knelt behind him.

It was shortly after this American misfortune that William Eaton,
soldier, diplomat, and Indian-fighter, swaggered upon the scene, and
things began to happen with a rapidity that made the Bashaw's turbaned
head whirl. By birth and upbringing Eaton was a Connecticut Yankee, and
he possessed all the shrewdness, hardihood, and perseverance so
characteristic of that race. The son of a schoolmaster farmer, before he
was sixteen he had run away from home to join the Continental Army,
which he left at the close of the Revolution with the chevrons of a
sergeant on his coat-sleeve. Far-sighted enough to see the value of a
college education, he went from the camp straight to the college
classroom. Graduating from Dartmouth in 1790, he re-entered the army as
a captain, served against the Indians in Georgia and Ohio, and in 1798
received an appointment as American consul at Tunis. Resolute,
energetic, and daring, impatient with any one who did not agree with his
views, no better man could have been selected for the place. Thoroughly
understanding the Arab character, from the very outset he took a high
hand in his dealings with the Tunisian ruler. He alternately quarrelled
with and patronized the Bey, bullyragged his ministers, and actually
horsewhipped an insolent official of the court in the palace courtyard,
for five years keeping up an uninterrupted series of altercations,
provocations, and procrastinations over the payment of tribute-money. He
acted with such energy and boldness, however, that he secured to the
commerce of his country complete immunity from the attacks of Tunisian
cruisers, and made the name American respected on that part of the
Barbary coast at least. In 1801, as I have already remarked, the
American flagstaff in the adjoining kingdom of Tripoli came crashing
down at the Bashaw's order, and war promptly began between that
country and the United States. Two years later the Bey of Tunis, harried
beyond endurance by the half-insolent, half-patronizing fashion in which
Eaton treated him, ordered that gentleman to leave the country.

[Illustration: The frigate _Philadelphia_ ran aground in the harbor of
Tripoli, the Tripolitans capturing Captain Bainbridge and his entire

Returning to the United States, Eaton went immediately to Washington and
laid before President Jefferson and his Cabinet a scheme for bringing
the war with Tripoli to a successful conclusion, and exchanging our
humiliating position as a contributor to a gang of pirates for one more
consistent with American ideals. The plan which he proposed was,
briefly, that the United States should assist in restoring to the
Tripolitan throne the exiled Bashaw, Ahmet Karamanli, on the
understanding that, upon his restoration, the exaction of tribute from
the American government and the depredations on American commerce should
cease. Eaton was outspoken in urging the desirability of carrying out
this plan, arguing that the dethronement of one of the Barbary despots
would impress the people of all that region as nothing else could do. I
can see him standing there beside the long table in the Cabinet room of
the White House, his lean Yankee face aglow with enthusiasm, his every
motion bespeaking confidence in himself and his plan, while Jefferson
and his sedate, conservative advisers lean far back in their chairs and
regard this visionary half curiously, half amusedly, as he outlines his
schemes for overturning thrones and reapportioning kingdoms. From the
President and his Cabinet he received the sort of treatment which timid
governments are apt to bestow on men of spirit and action. He was given
to understand that he was at liberty to carry out his plans, but that,
if he was successful, the government would take all the credit, and
that, if he failed, he would have to take all the blame. The only way to
explain the astounding apathy of the American government to events in
the Mediterranean is that a bitter political struggle was then in
progress in the United States, and that the very remoteness of the
theatre of war probably lessened its importance in the eyes of the
administration. At any rate, President Jefferson signed the appointment
of Eaton as American naval agent in the Mediterranean, and, happy as a
schoolboy at the beginning of the long vacation, at the wide latitude of
action conferred upon him by this purposely vague commission, he sailed
a few days later with the American fleet for Egypt. His great adventure
had begun.

Aware that the dethroned Bashaw had fled to Cairo, Eaton landed at
Alexandria, and, hastening to the Egyptian capital by camel, succeeded
in locating the exiled Ahmet, whom he found in the depths of poverty and
despair. Seated cross-legged beside him in a native coffee-house, Eaton
outlined his plan and proposition. He told Ahmet that the United States
would undertake to restore him to the Tripolitan throne upon his
agreeing to repay the expenses of the expedition immediately upon his
restoration, and upon the condition that Eaton should be
commander-in-chief of the land forces throughout the campaign, Ahmet and
his followers to promise him implicit obedience. Ahmet snapped at the
chance, slim though it was, to regain his kingdom, as a starving dog
snaps at a proffered bone. Eaton's plan of campaign was as simple as it
was reckless. He proposed to recruit a force of Greek and Arab
mercenaries, officered by Americans, in Alexandria, and, following the
North African coast-line westward across the Libyan Desert, to surprise
and capture Derna (or, as it was spelled in those days, Derne), the
capital of the easternmost and richest province of Tripoli. With Derna
as a base of operations, and with the co-operation of the American
fleet, he held that it would be a comparatively simple matter to push on
along the coast, taking in turn Benghazi, Tobruk, and the city of
Tripoli itself. The chief merit of the scheme lay in its sheer
audacity, for of all the leaders who have invaded Africa, this unknown
American was the only one who had the courage to face the perils of a
march across a waterless, trackless, sun-scorched, and uninhabited
desert. But there was in Eaton the stuff of which great conquerors are
made, and instead of letting his mind dwell on the dangers which the
desert had to offer, he dreamed of the triumphs which awaited him beyond

To raise the men for so hazardous an expedition, Eaton had need of all
the energy and magnetism at his command, alternately employing the
specious promises of a recruiting sergeant and the persuasive arguments
of a campaign orator. On March 3, 1805, Eaton and the man to whom he had
promised a kingdom reviewed their forlorn hope--and it was very forlorn
indeed--at a spot called the Arab's Tower, some forty miles southwest of
Alexandria. I doubt if so strangely assorted a force ever marched and
fought under the shadow of our flag. The army, if army it could be
called, consisted of eight Americans besides Eaton: Lieutenant O'Barron,
Sergeant Peck, and six marines borrowed from the American fleet;
thirty-four Greeks, who went along professedly because they wanted to
fight the Moslem, but really because they needed the money; twenty-five
Egyptian Copts, Christians at least in name, who claimed to be trained
artillerymen, and to lend color to their assertion brought with them a
small brass field-gun; those of Ahmet's personal adherents who had fled
with him into exile, numbering about ninety men; and a squadron of Arab
mercenaries, whose services had been obtained by the promise of
unlimited opportunities for loot--these with the drivers of the
baggage-camels bringing the total strength of the "Army of North Africa"
to less than four hundred men. With this motley and ill-disciplined
force behind him, and six hundred miles of yellow sand in front, Eaton
turned his horse's nose Tripoliward, so that at about the time President
Jefferson was delivering his second inaugural address the adventurous
American was leading his little army across the desert, with the courage
of an Alexander the Great, to conquer an African kingdom.

The task which lay before him was one which great military leaders, all
down the ages, had declared impossible. For a distance equal to that
from Philadelphia to Chicago stretched an unbroken expanse of pitiless,
sun-scorched desert, boasting no single living thing save an occasional
band of nomad Arabs or a herd of gazelles. Midway between Alexandria
and Derna was the insignificant port of Bomba, where, according to a
prearranged plan, the _Argus_, under Captain Isaac Hull--the same who
became famous a few years later for his victories over the British in
the War of 1812--was to meet the expedition with supplies. Unless you
have seen the desert it will be difficult for you to appreciate how
hazardous this adventure really was. Imagine a sea of yellow sand with
billow after billow stretching in every direction as far as the eye can
see; without a tree, a shrub, a plant, a blade of grass; without a
river, a brook, a drop of water except, at long intervals, a stagnant,
green-scummed pool; the air like a blast from an open furnace-door and
overhead a sky pitiless as molten brass! During the seven weeks of the
march the thermometer never dropped during the day below 120 degrees.

The arrangements for the transport had been left to Ahmet Pasha, and it
was not until the expedition was two hundred miles into the desert, and
the camel-drivers abruptly halted and announced that they were going
back to Egypt, that Eaton learned that they had been engaged only to
that point. As the desertion of the camel-drivers and the consequent
inability to transport the tents, ammunition, and supplies would wreck
the expedition, Eaton pleaded with the men to stick by him two or three
days longer, until he could reach an encampment of Arabs with whom he
could make another contract. This they consented to do on condition that
they were paid in advance. By borrowing every piaster which his
Americans and Greeks had to lend, Eaton succeeded in raising six hundred
and seventy-three dollars, and with this the camel-drivers were
apparently content. Nothing shows more strikingly the shoe-string on
which the enterprise was being run than the fact that this unexpected
disbursement reduced Eaton's war-chest to three Venetian
sequins--equivalent to six dollars and fifty-four cents! Despite this
payment, all but four of the camel-drivers deserted the very next night,
and the four that remained sullenly refused to go any farther. In the
darkness of the following night they, too, quietly untethered their
camels and slipped silently away. Here, then, were three hundred and
fifty men, with a rapidly diminishing supply of food and water and
absolutely no means of transport, as completely marooned as though they
were on a desert island.

To make matters worse, if such a thing were possible, Eaton learned that
Ahmet had induced his Tripolitans and the Arabs to refuse to advance
until they had news of the arrival of the _Argus_ at Bomba. Eaton,
striding across to Ahmet's tent, shook his fist menacingly in the face
of the cringing Tripolitan. "I know you're a coward," said he, "and I
suspect that you're a traitor and I've a damned good mind to have you
shot." The Pasha, now thoroughly frightened, replied that his men were
too tired to march any farther. "You can take your choice between
marching and starving," Eaton retorted, turning on his heel, and placing
a guard of American marines around the tent containing the provisions,
he ordered them to shoot the first Arab who approached it. This resolute
action had an immediate effect, for the Pasha and his men lost their
tired feeling with amazing quickness, fifty of the camel-drivers
returned, and the desperate march was resumed. It was but a day or two,
however, before the Arabs became as turbulent and unruly as ever. Then
another mutiny broke out, Ahmet and his people announcing that they
preferred to be well-fed cowards rather than starved heroes, and that
they were going back to the flesh-pots of Egypt forthwith. Just as they
were on the point of departure, however, a messenger who had been
despatched to Bomba reached camp with the news that the _Argus_ was
awaiting them in the harbor. These unexpected delays had wholly
exhausted the supplies, which were slim enough, goodness knows, in the
beginning, so that during the remainder of the march to Bomba they were
compelled to kill some of the camels for food, living upon them and upon
such roots as they could gather on the way.

It was a half-starved and utterly exhausted expedition that plodded up
the sand dunes which overlook the little port of Bomba, so what must
their despair have been when they found no vessel awaiting them in the
harbor, and that the town itself had been deserted. Captain Hull,
apparently having given them up as lost, had departed. This time a more
serious mutiny occurred, the Arabs, desperate with hunger and furious
from disappointment, preparing to attack Eaton and his handful of
Europeans. Appreciating the peril of his position, Eaton hastily formed
his men into a hollow square. Just as the Arabs were preparing to charge
down upon them the musket of one of the marines was prematurely
discharged, the bullet whistling in uncomfortable proximity to the
Pasha's ear. So terror-stricken was that worthy that he called off his
men and attempted to parley with Eaton, who, standing alone well in
front of his command, relieved his mind by telling Ahmet his opinion of
him in what, according to the accounts of those who heard it, must have
been an epic in objurgation. While the two factions were growling at
each other like angry bull-dogs one of the Americans, happening to
glance seaward, suddenly broke the dangerous tension by shouting: "A
sail! A sail!" Hull, true to his promise, was returning, and the
expedition was saved. Supplies were quickly landed from the _Argus_ for
the starving men; with full stomachs the courage of the Arabs returned,
and Eaton and his little band once more turned their faces toward the
setting sun.

On the evening of April 25 the vanguard sighted the walls of Derna. A
feat that veteran soldiers had jeered at as impossible had been
accomplished, and Eaton, without the loss of a man, had brought his army
across six hundred miles of desert, in the heat of an African spring,
and in the remarkable time, when the scantiness of the rations and the
many delays are considered, of fifty-two days. With their goal actually
in sight, still another mutiny took place, the craven Arabs claiming
that they were too few in number to attempt the capture of a walled and
heavily garrisoned city, and it was not until Eaton promised them a
bonus of two thousand dollars if they succeeded in taking it that they
could be induced to advance. The more one learns of this man the more
one must admire his unfailing resource, his tenacity of purpose, and his
bull-dog courage; for, in addition to the appalling natural obstacles
which he overcame, he was constantly harried by intrigue, treachery, and

On the morning of the 26th a message was sent to the governor of Derna,
under a flag of truce, offering him full amnesty if he would surrender
and declare his allegiance to his rightful sovereign, Ahmet. The answer
that came back was as curt as it was conclusive: "My head or yours," it
read. Just as the sun was rising above the sand-dunes the following
morning the _Argus_, the _Nautilus_, and the _Hornet_ swept grandly into
the harbor, their crews at quarters, their decks cleared for action, and
the red-white-and-blue ensign of the oversea republic floating defiantly
from their main trucks. Under cover of a terrific bombardment by the
war-ships, Eaton's force advanced upon the city, planning, with their
single field-piece, to effect a breach in the walls and carry the place
by storm. So murderous was the fire that the Tripolitan riflemen poured
into them from the walls and housetops, however, that they were thrown
into confusion, their single piece of artillery was put out of action
by a well-directed cannon-shot, and Eaton himself was severely wounded.
Seeing that his raw troops were on the verge of panic, and knowing that
his only chance of holding them together lay in a charge, Eaton ordered
his buglers to sound the advance, and with a cheer like the roar of a
storm his whole line--Americans, Greeks, and Arabs--swept forward on a
run. "Come on, boys!" shouted Eaton, as he raced ahead, sword in one
hand, pistol in the other. "At the double! Follow me! Follow me!" And
follow him they did. Cheering like madmen they crossed a field swept by
a withering rifle-fire. They clambered over the ramparts, and by the
very fury of their assault drove back the defenders, who outnumbered
them twenty to one. They fought with them hand to hand, sabre against
cimiter, bayonet against clubbed matchlock. Swarming into the batteries,
they cut down the gunners and turned their guns upon the town. The
defences of the city once in his possession, Eaton directed an assault
upon the palace, where the governor had taken refuge, utilizing his Arab
cavalry meanwhile to cut off the retreat of the flying garrison. Before
the sun had disappeared into the Mediterranean, Eaton, at a cost of only
fourteen killed and wounded (all of whom, by the way, were Americans
and Greeks), had made himself master of Derna. His moment of triumph
came when, still begrimed with dirt and powder, his arm in a
blood-stained sling, he stood with drawn sword before the line formed by
his ragged soldiers and the trim bluejackets from the fleet, and,
watching a ball of bunting creep up that palace flagstaff from which so
recently had flaunted the banner of Tripoli, saw it suddenly break out
into the Stars and Stripes. Our flag, for the first and only time, flew
above a fortification on that side of the Atlantic.

Reinforced by a party of bluejackets from the fleet, Eaton wasted not a
moment in preparing the city for defence. He was none too soon, either,
for the Bashaw, learning of the loss of his richest province, despatched
an overwhelming force for its recapture. This army arrived before the
walls of Derna on May 13, and immediately made an assault, which Eaton
repulsed, as he did a second one a few weeks later. By this time the
news of Eaton's victory had spread across North Africa as fire spreads
in dry grass, and thousands of natives, many of them deserters from the
Bashaw's forces, hastened to assert their undying loyalty and to offer
their services to Ahmet, for your Arab is far-seeing and takes good care
to be found on the side which he believes to be the winning one. With
his army thus largely augmented, with ample supplies, with Derna as a
base of operations, and with his own prestige equivalent to an
additional regiment, Eaton had completed the preparations for continuing
his victorious advance along the African coast-line. There is little
doubt, indeed, that with the co-operation of the fleet he could have
marched on to Benghazi, taken that city as easily as he did Derna, and
in due time planted the American flag on the castle of Tripoli itself.

So it was with undisguised amazement and indignation that on June 12 he
received orders from Commodore Rodgers to evacuate Derna and to withdraw
his forces from Tripoli, Colonel Tobias Lear, the American consul at
Algiers, having, in the face of Eaton's successes, signed an inglorious
treaty of peace with the Bashaw of Tripoli. No more degrading terms were
ever assented to by a civilized power. The Bashaw at first demanded two
hundred thousand dollars for the release of Bainbridge and the
_Philadelphia's_ crew, but as Eaton had captured a large number of
Tripolitans in the storming of Derna, an exchange was eventually
arranged, the United States agreeing to pay the pirate ruler sixty
thousand dollars to boot. The city of Derna and the great province of
which it was the capital were surrendered without so much as the mention
of an equivalent, not even the relinquishment of the ransom of the
American prisoners. The unfortunate Ahmet Pasha, who had been decoyed
from his refuge in Egypt on the promise of American assistance in
effecting his restoration, was deserted at a moment when success was
actually ours, and had to fly for his life to Sicily, his wife and
children being held as hostages by his brother and the heads of his
adherents being exposed on the walls of the Tripolitan capital. Thus
shamefully ended one of the most gallant and romantic exploits in the
history of American arms; thus terminated an episode which, more than
any other agency, compelled the rulers of the Barbary coast to respect
the citizens and fear the wrath of the United States. Though an
expedition of scarcely four hundred men may sound insignificant, the
humbling of a Barbary power was an achievement which every European
nation had attempted and which none of them had accomplished.

Disappointed and disgusted, Eaton returned to the United States in
November, 1805, to find himself a national hero. From the moment he set
his foot on American soil he was greeted with cheers wherever he
appeared; it was "roses, roses all the way." The cities of Washington
and Richmond honored him with public dinners; Massachusetts, "desirous
to perpetuate the remembrance of an heroic enterprise," granted him ten
thousand acres of land in Maine; Boston named a street after the city
which he had captured against such fearful odds; President Jefferson
lauded him in his annual message; and in recognition of his services in
effecting the release of some Danish captives in Tripoli, he was
presented by the King of Denmark with a jewelled snuff-box. He was
complimented everywhere except at the seat of government, and received
every honor except that which he most deserved--a vote of thanks from
Congress. Though his expedition had involved an expense of twenty-three
thousand dollars, for which he had given his personal notes and the
repayment of which exhausted all his means, Congress never reimbursed
him. Notwithstanding the astounding indifference and ingratitude of the
nation on whose flag he had shed such lustre, he indignantly rejected
the advances of Aaron Burr, who tried ineffectually to enlist him in his
conspiracy to establish an empire beyond the Mississippi, and died,
poverty-stricken and broken-hearted, on June 1, 1811. Though the most
modest of monuments marks his resting-place in Brimfield churchyard, and
though not one in a hundred thousand of his countrymen have so much as
heard his name, his fame still lives in that wild and far-off region
where it took an Italian army of forty thousand men to repeat the
exploit which he accomplished with four hundred.


We leaned over the rail of the _Hamburg_, Colonel Roosevelt and I, and
watched the olive hills of Fayal rise from the turquoise sea. Houses
white as chalk began to peep from among the orange groves; what looked
at first sight to be a yellow snake turned into a winding road; then we
rounded a headland, and the U-shaped harbor, edged by a sleepy town and
commanded by a crumbling fortress, lay before us. "In there," said the
ex-President, pointing eagerly as our anchor rumbled down, "was waged
one of the most desperate sea-fights ever fought, and one of the least
known; in there lies the wreck of the _General Armstrong_, the privateer
that stood off twenty times her strength in British men and guns, and
thereby saved Louisiana from invasion. It is a story that should make
the thrills of patriotism run up and down the back of every
right-thinking American."

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything about her, from the carved and gilded figure-head, past the
rakish, slanting masts to the slender stern, indicated the privateer.
As she stood into the roadstead of Fayal late in the afternoon of
September 26, 1814, black-hulled and white-sparred, carrying an amazing
spread of snowy canvas, she made a picture that brought a grunt of
approval even from the surly Azorian pilot. Hardly had the
red-white-and-blue ensign showing her nationality fluttered to her peak
before a harbor skiff bearing the American consul, Dabney, shot out from
shore; for these were troublous times on the Atlantic, and letters from
the States were few and far between. Rounding her stern, he read, with a
thrill of pride, "_General Armstrong, New York_."

The very name stood for romance, valor, hair-breadth escape. For of all
the two-hundred-odd privateers that put out from American ports at the
outbreak of the War of 1812 to prey on British commerce, none had won so
high a place in the popular imagination as this trim-built, black-hulled
schooner. Built for speed, and carrying a spread of canvas at which most
skippers would have stood aghast, she was the fastest and best-handled
privateer afloat, and had always been able to show her heels to the
enemy on the rare occasions when the superior range of her seven guns
had failed to pound him into submission. Her list of captures had made
rich men of her owners, and had caused Lloyd's to raise the insurance on
a vessel merely crossing the English Channel to thirteen guineas in the

The story of her desperate encounter off the mouth of the Surinam River
with the British sloop of war _Coquette_, with four times her weight in
guns, had fired the popular imagination as had few other events of the
war. Although her commander, Samuel Chester Reid, was not long past his
thirtieth birthday, no more skilful navigator or daring fighter ever
trod a quarter-deck, and his crew of ninety men--Down-East fishermen,
old man-o'-war's men, Creole privateersmen who had fought under Lafitte,
reckless adventurers of every sort and kind--would have warmed the heart
of bluff old John Paul Jones himself.

Just as dusk was falling the officer on watch reported a sail in the
offing, and Reid and the consul, hurrying on deck, made out the British
brig _Carnation_, of eighteen guns, with two other war-vessels in her
wake: the thirty-eight-gun frigate _Rota_, and the _Plantagenet_, of
seventy-four. Now, as the privateer lay in the innermost harbor, where a
dead calm prevailed, while the three British ships were fast approaching
before the brisk breeze which was blowing outside, Reid, who knew the
line which marks foolhardiness from courage, appreciating that the
chances of his being able to hoist anchor, make sail, and get out of the
harbor before the British squadron arrived to block the entrance were
almost infinitesimal, decided to stay where he was and trust to the
neutrality of the port, a decision that was confirmed by the assurances
of Consul Dabney that the British would not dare to attack a vessel
lying in a friendly harbor. But therein the consul was mistaken, for
throughout the entire duration of the war the British as cynically
disregarded the observance of international law and the rights of
neutrals as though they did not exist.

The _Carnation_, learning the identity of the American vessel from the
pilot, hauled close into the harbor, not letting go her anchor until she
was within pistol-shot of the _General Armstrong_. Instantly a string of
signal-flags fluttered from her mast, and the message was promptly
acknowledged by her approaching consorts, which thereupon proceeded to
stand off and on across the mouth of the harbor, thus barring any chance
of the privateer making her escape. So great was the commotion which
ensued on the _Carnation's_ deck that Reid, becoming suspicious of the
Englishman's good faith, warped his ship under the very guns of the
Portuguese fort.

About eight o'clock, just as dark had fallen, Captain Reid saw four
boats slip silently from the shadow of the _Carnation_ and pull toward
him with muffled oars. If anything more were needed to convince him of
their hostile intentions, the moon at that moment appeared from behind a
cloud and was reflected by the scores of cutlasses and musket-barrels in
all four of the approaching boats. As they came within hailing distance
Reid swung himself into the shrouds.

"Boats there!" he shouted, making a trumpet of his hands. "Come no
nearer! For your own safety I warn you!"

At his hail the boats halted, as though in indecision, and their
commanders held a whispered consultation. Then, apparently deciding to
take the risk, and hoping, no doubt, to catch the privateer unprepared,
they gave the order: "Give way all!" The oars caught the water together,
and the four boats, loaded to the gunwales with sailors and marines,
came racing on.

"Let 'em have it, boys!" roared Reid, and at the word a stream of flame
leaped from the dark side of the privateer and a torrent of grape swept
the crowded boats, almost annihilating one of the crews and sending the
others, crippled and bleeding, back to the shelter of their ship.

By this time the moon had fully risen, and showed the heights
overlooking the harbor to be black with spectators, among whom were the
Portuguese governor and his staff; but the castle, either from weakness
or fear, showed no signs of resenting the outrageous breach of
neutrality to which the port had been subjected. Angered and chagrined
at their repulse, the British now threw all caution aside. The
long-boats and gigs of all three ships were lowered, and into them were
crowded nearly four hundred men, armed with muskets, pistols, and
cutlasses. Reid, seeing that an attack was to be made in force,
proceeded to warp his vessel still closer inshore, mooring her stem and
stern within a few rods of the castle. Moving two of the nine-pounders
across the deck, and cutting ports for them in the bulwarks, he brought
five guns, in addition to his famous "long tom," to bear on the enemy.
With cannon double-shotted, boarding-nets triced up, and decks cleared
for action, the crew of the _General Armstrong_ lay down beside their
guns to await the British attack.

It was not long in coming. Just as the bells of the old Portuguese
cathedral boomed twelve, a dozen boats, loaded to the water's edge with
sailors and marines, whose burnished weapons were like so many mirrors
under the rays of the moon, swung around a promontory behind which they
had been forming and, with measured stroke of oars, came sweeping down
upon the lone privateer. The decks of the _General Armstrong_ were black
and silent, but round each gun clustered its crew of half-naked gunners,
and behind the bulwarks knelt a line of cool, grim riflemen, eyes
sighting down their barrels, cheeks pressed close against the butts. Up
and down behind his men paced Reid, the skipper, cool as a winter's

"Hold your fire until I give the word, boys," he cautioned quietly.
"Wait till they get within range, and then teach 'em better manners."

Nearer and nearer came the shadowy line of boats, the oars rising and
falling with the faultless rhythm which marks the veteran man-o'-war's
man. On they came, and now the waiting Americans could make out the
gilt-lettered hat-bands of the bluejackets and the white cross-belts and
the brass buttons on the tunics of the marines. A moment more and those
on the _Armstrong's_ deck could see, beneath the shadow of the leather
shakoes, the tense, white faces of the British boarders.

"Now, boys!" roared Captain Reid; "let 'em have it for the honor of the
flag!" and from the side of the privateer leaped a blast of flame and
lead, cannon and musketry crashing in chorus. Never were men taken more
completely by surprise than were those British sailors, for they had
expected that Reid, relying on the neutrality of the port, would be
quite unprepared to resist them. But, though the American fire had
caused terrible havoc in the crowded boats, with the bull-dog courage
for which the British sailors were justly famous, they kept indomitably
on. "Give way! Give way all!" screamed the boy-coxswains, and in the
face of a withering rifle-fire the sailors, recovering from their
momentary panic, bent grimly to their oars. Through a perfect hail-storm
of lead, right up to the side of the privateer, they swept. Six boats
made fast to her quarter and six more to her bow. "Boarders up and
away!" bellowed the officers, hacking desperately at the nettings with
their swords, and firing their pistols point-blank into the faces they
saw above them. The _Armstrong's_ gunners, unable to depress the muzzles
of their guns enough so that they could be brought to bear, lifted the
solid shot and dropped them from the rail into the British boats,
mangling their crews and crashing through their bottoms. From the
shelter of the bulwarks the American riflemen fired and loaded and fired
again, while the negro cook and his assistant played their part in the
defence by pouring kettles of boiling water over the British who were
attempting to scramble up the sides, sending them back into their boats
again scalded and groaning with pain.

There has been no fiercer struggle in all the annals of the sea. The
Yankee gunners, some of them gray-haired men who had seen service with
John Paul Jones in the _Bon Homme Richard_, changed from cannon-balls to
grape, and from grape to bags of bullets, so that by the time the
British boats drew alongside they were little more than floating
shambles. The dark waters of the harbor were lighted up by spurts of
flame from muskets and cannon; the high, shrill yell of the Yankee
privateersmen rose above the deep-throated hurrahs of the English
sailors; the air was filled with the shouts and oaths of the combatants,
the shrieks and groans of the wounded, the incessant trampling of
struggling men upon the decks, the splash of dead and injured falling
overboard, the clash and clang of steel on steel, and all the savage,
overwhelming turmoil of a struggle to the death. Urged on by their
officers' cries of "No quarter! Give the Yankees no quarter!" the
British division which had attacked the bow hacked its way through the
nettings, and succeeded by sheer weight of numbers in getting a footing
on the deck, all three of the American lieutenants being killed or
disabled in the terrific hand-to-hand struggle that ensued.

At this critical juncture, when the Americans on the forecastle, their
officers fallen and their guns dismounted, were being pressed slowly
back by overwhelming numbers, Captain Reid, having repulsed the attack
on the _Armstrong's_ quarter, led the after division forward at a run,
the privateersmen, though outnumbered five to one, driving the English
overboard with the resistless fury of their onset. As the British boats,
now laden with dead and dying, attempted to withdraw into safety, they
were raked again and again with showers of lead; two of them sank, two
of them were captured by the Americans. Finally, with nearly three
hundred of their men--three-quarters of the cutting-out force--dead or
wounded, the British, now cowed and discouraged, pulled slowly and
painfully out of range. Some of the most brilliant victories the British
navy has ever gained were far less dearly purchased.

At three in the morning Reid received a note from Consul Dabney asking
him to come ashore. He then learned that the governor had sent a letter
to the British commander asking him to desist from further hostilities,
as several buildings in the town had been injured by the British fire
and a number of the inhabitants wounded. To this request Captain Lloyd
had rudely replied that he would have the Yankee privateer if he had to
knock the town into a heap of ruins. Returning on board, Reid ordered
the dead and wounded taken ashore, and told the crew to save their
personal belongings.

At daybreak the _Carnation_, being of lighter draught than the other
vessels, stood close in for a third attack, opening on the privateer
with every gun she could bring to bear. But even in those days the fame
of American gunners was as wide as the seas, and so well did the crew of
the _General Armstrong_ uphold their reputation that the _Carnation_ was
compelled to beat a demoralized retreat, with her rigging cut away, her
foremast about to fall, and with several gaping holes between wind and
water. But Reid, appreciating that there was absolutely no chance of
escape, and recognizing that further resistance would entail an
unnecessary sacrifice of his men's lives, by which nothing could be
gained, ordered the crew to throw the nine-pounders which had rendered
such valiant service overboard and to leave the ship. The veteran
gunners, who were as much attached to their great black guns as a
cavalryman is to his horse, obeyed the order with tears ploughing
furrows down their powder-begrimed cheeks. Then Reid with his own hand
trained the long-tom down his vessel's hatchway, and pulling the lanyard
sent a charge of grape crashing through her bottom, from which she at
once began to sink. Ten minutes later, before a British crew could reach
her side, the _General Armstrong_ went to the bottom with her flag still
defiantly flying.

Few battles have been fought in which the odds were so unequal, and in
few battles have the relative losses been so astounding. The three
British war-ships carried two thousand men and one hundred and thirty
guns, and of the four hundred men who composed the boarding party they
lost, according to their own accounts, nearly three hundred killed and
wounded. Of the American crew of ninety men, two were killed and seven
wounded. This little crew of privateersmen had, in other words, put out
of action more than three times their own number of British, and had
added one more laurel to our chaplet of triumphs on the sea.

The Americans had scarcely gained the shore before Captain Lloyd--who,
by the way, had been so severely wounded in the leg that amputation was
necessary--sent a peremptory message to the governor demanding their
surrender. But the men who could not be taken at sea were not the men to
be captured on land, and the Americans, retreating to the mountainous
centre of the island, took possession of a thick-walled convent, over
which they hoisted the stars and stripes, and from which they defied
British and Portuguese alike to come and take them. No one tried.

[Illustration: But even in those days the fame of American gunners was
as wide as the seas.]

All of the following day was spent by the British in burying their one
hundred and twenty dead--you can see the white gravestones to-day if you
will take the trouble to climb the hill behind the little town--but it
took them a week to repair the damage caused by the battle. And so deep
was their chagrin and mortification that when two British ships put into
Fayal a few days later, and were ordered to take home the wounded, they
were forbidden to carry any news of the disaster back to England.

To Captain Reid and his little band of fighters is due in no small
measure the credit of saving New Orleans from capture and Louisiana from
invasion. Lloyd's squadron was a part of the expedition then gathering
at Pensacola for the invasion of the South, but it was so badly crippled
in its encounter with the privateer that it did not reach the Gulf of
Mexico until ten days later than the expedition had planned to sail.
The expedition waited for Lloyd and his reinforcements, so that when it
finally approached New Orleans, Jackson and his frontiersmen, who had
hastened down by forced marches from the North, had made preparations to
give the English a warm reception. Had the expedition arrived ten days
earlier it would have found the Americans unprepared, and New Orleans
would have fallen.

Captain Reid and his men, landing on their native soil at Savannah,
found their journey northward turned into a triumphal progress. The
whole country went wild with enthusiasm. There was not a town or village
on the way but did them honor. The city of Richmond gave Captain Reid a
great banquet, and the State of New York presented him with a sword of
honor. But of all the tributes which were paid to the little band of
heroes, none had the flavor of the concluding line of a letter written
by one of the British officers engaged in the action to a relative in
England. "If this is the way the Americans fight," he wrote, "we may
well say, 'God deliver us from our enemies.'"


How many well-informed people are aware, I wonder, that the fact that
the American flag, and not the British, flies to-day over the
Mississippi valley is largely due to the eleventh-hour patriotism of a
pirate? Of the many kinds of men of many nationalities who have played
parts of greater or less importance in the making of our national
history, none is more completely cloaked in mystery, romance, and
adventure than Jean Lafitte. The last of that long line of buccaneers
who for more than two centuries terrorized the waters and ravaged the
coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, his exploits make the wildest fiction
appear commonplace and tame. Although he was as thorough-going a pirate
as ever plundered an honest merchant-man, I do not mean to imply that he
was a leering, low-browed scoundrel, with a red bandanna twisted about
his head and an armory of assorted weapons at his waist, for he was
nothing of the sort. On the contrary, from all I can learn about him, he
appears to have been a very gentlemanly sort of person indeed, tall and
graceful and soft-voiced, and having the most charming manners. Though
he regarded the law with unconcealed contempt, there came a crisis in
our national history when he placed patriotism above all other
considerations, and rendered an inestimable service to the country whose
laws he had flouted and to the State which had set a price on his head.
Indeed, we are indebted to Jean Lafitte in scarcely less measure than we
are to Andrew Jackson for frustrating the British invasion and conquest
of Louisiana.

Though the palmy days of piracy in the Gulf of Mexico really ended with
the seventeenth century, by which time the rich cities of Middle America
had been impoverished by repeated sackings and the gold-freighted
caravels had taken to travelling under convoy, even at the beginning of
the nineteenth century these storied waters still offered many
opportunities to lawless and enterprising sea-folk. But the pirates of
the nineteenth century, unlike their forerunners of the seventeenth,
preyed on slave-ships rather than on treasure-galleons. Consider the
facts. On January 1, 1808, Congress passed an act prohibiting the
further importation of slaves into the United States. By this act the
recently acquired territory of Louisiana, over which prosperity was
advancing in three-league boots, was deprived of its supply of labor.
With crops rotting in the fields for lack of laborers, the price of
slaves rose until a negro fresh from the coast of Africa would readily
bring a thousand dollars at auction in New Orleans. At the same time,
remember, shiploads of slaves were being brought to Cuba, where no such
restrictions existed, and sold for three hundred dollars a head. Under
such conditions smuggling was inevitable. At first the smugglers bought
their slaves in the Cuban market, and running them across the Gulf of
Mexico, landed them at obscure harbors on the Louisiana coast, whence
they were marched overland to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The smugglers
soon saw, however, that the slavers carried small crews, poorly armed,
and quickly made up their minds that it was a shameful waste of money to
buy slaves when they could get them for nothing by the menace of their
guns. In short, the smugglers became buccaneers, and as such drove a
thriving business in captured cargoes of "black ivory," as the slaves
were euphemistically called.

As the demand was greatest on the rich new lands along the Mississippi,
it was at New Orleans that the buccaneers found the most profitable
market for their human wares, for they could easily sail up the river to
the city, dispose of their cargoes, and be off again with the quick
despatch of regular liners to resume their depredations. But the
buccaneers did not confine their attention to slave-ships, so that in a
short time, despite the efforts of British, French, and American
war-ships, the waters of the Gulf became as unsafe for all kinds of
merchant-vessels as they were in the days of Morgan and Kidd.

As a base for their piratical and smuggling operations, as well as for
supplies and repairs, the buccaneers chose Barataria Bay, a place which
met their requirements as though made to order. The name is applied to
all of the Gulf coast of Louisiana between the mouth of the Mississippi
and the mouth of another considerable stream known as the Bayou La
Fourche, the latter a waterway to a rich and populous region. The Bay of
Barataria is screened from the Gulf, with which it is connected by a
deep-water pass, by the island of Grande Terre, the trees on which were
high enough to effectually hide the masts of the buccaneers' vessels
from the view of inquisitive war-ships cruising outside. Between the
Mississippi and the La Fourche there is a perfect network of small but
navigable waterways which extend almost to New Orleans, so that the
buccaneers thus had a back-stairs route, as it were, to the city, which
brought their rendezvous at Grande Terre within safe and easy reach of
the great mart of the Mississippi valley.

Such supplies as the buccaneers did not get from the ships they
captured, they obtained by purchase in New Orleans. For the chains which
were used in making up the caufles of slaves for transportation into the
interior, they were accustomed to patronize the blacksmith-shop of the
Brothers Lafitte, which stood--and still stands--on the northeast corner
of Bourbon and St. Philippe Streets. Of the history of these brothers
prior to their arrival in New Orleans nothing is definitely known. From
their names, and because they spoke with the accent peculiar to the
Garonne, they are credited with having been natives of the south of
France, though whence they came and where they went are questions which
have never been satisfactorily answered. They were quite evidently men
of means, and might have been described as gentlemen blacksmiths, for
they owned the slaves who pounded the iron. Being men of exceptional
business shrewdness, it is not to be wondered at that from doing the
buccaneers' blacksmithing they gradually became their agents and
bankers, the smithy in St. Philippe Street coming in time to be a sort
of clearing-house for many questionable transactions. Now Jean Lafitte
was an extremely able man, combining a remarkable executive ability with
a genius for organization, and had he lived a century later these
traits, together with his predatory instincts and his utter contempt for
the law, would undoubtedly have made him the president of a trust.
Through success in managing their affairs, he gradually increased his
usefulness to the buccaneers until he obtained complete control over
them, and ruled them as despotically as a tribal chieftain. This was
when his genius for organization had succeeded in uniting their
different, and often rival, efforts and interests into a sort of
pirates' corporation, composed of all the buccaneers, privateers, and
freebooters doing business in the Gulf, this combination of outlaws,
incredible as it may seem, as effectually controlling the price of
slaves and many other things in the Mississippi valley as the Standard
Oil Company controls the price of petroleum to-day.

The influence of this new element in the buccaneer business soon made
itself felt. At that time New Orleans was a sort of cross between an
American frontier town and a West Indian port, its streets and barrooms
being filled with swaggering adventurers, gamblers, and soldiers of
fortune from every corner of the three Americas, the presence of most of
whom was due to the activity of the sheriffs in their former homes. It
was from these men, cool, reckless, resourceful, that Lafitte recruited
his forces. Leaving his brother Pierre in charge of the New Orleans
branch of the enterprise, Jean Lafitte took up his residence on Grande
Terre, where, under his directions, a fort was built, around which there
soon sprang up a veritable city of thatched huts for the shelter of the
buccaneers, and for the accommodation of the merchants who came to
supply their wants or to purchase their captured cargoes. Within a year
upward of a dozen armed vessels rendezvoused in Barataria Bay, and their
crews addressed Jean Lafitte as "_bosse_." One of the Baratarians, a
buccaneer of the walk-the-plank-and-scuttle-the-ship school named
Grambo, who boldly called himself a pirate, and jeered at Lafitte's
polite euphemism of privateer, was one day unwise enough to dispute the
new authority. Without an instant's hesitation Lafitte drew a pistol and
shot him through the heart in the presence of the whole band. After that
episode there was no more insubordination.

By 1813 the Baratarians, who had long since extended their operations to
include all kinds of merchandise, were driving such a roaring trade that
the commerce and shipping of New Orleans was seriously diminished (for
why go to New Orleans for their supplies, the sea-captains and the
plantation-owners argued, when they could get what they wanted at
Barataria for a fraction of the price), the business of the banks
decreased alarmingly under the continual lessening of their deposits,
while even the National Government began to feel its loss of revenue.
The waters of Barataria, on the contrary, were alive with the sails of
incoming and outgoing vessels; the wharfs which had been constructed at
Grande Terre resounded to the creak of winches and the shouts of
stevedores unloading contraband cargoes, and the long, low warehouses
were filled with merchandise and the log stockades with slaves waiting
to be sold and transported to the up-country plantations. So defiant of
the law did Lafitte become that the streets of New Orleans were
placarded with handbills announcing the auction sales at Barataria of
captured cargoes, and to them flocked bargain-hunters from all that part
of the South. An idea of the business done by the buccaneers at this
time may be gained from an official statement that four hundred slaves
were sold by auction in the Grande Terre market in a single day.

Of course the authorities took action in the matter, but their efforts
to enforce the law proved both dangerous and ineffective. In October,
1811, a customs-inspector succeeded in surprising a band of Baratarians
and seizing some merchandise they had with them, but before he could
convey the prisoners and the captured contraband to New Orleans Lafitte
and a party of his men overtook him, rescued the prisoners, recovered
the property, and in the fight which ensued wounded several of the
posse. Some months later Lafitte killed an inspector named Stout, who
attempted to interfere with him, and wounded two of his deputies. Then
Governor Claiborne issued a proclamation offering a reward for the
capture of Lafitte dead or alive, at the same time appealing to the
legislature for permission to raise an armed force to break up the
buccaneering business for good and all. The cautious legislators
declined to take any action, however, because they were unwilling to
interfere with an enterprise that, however illegal it might be, was
unquestionably developing the resources of lower Louisiana, and
incidentally adding immensely to the fortunes of their constituents. As
for the Baratarians, they paid as scant attention to the governor's
proclamation as though it had never been written. Surrounded by groups
of admiring friends, Lafitte and his lieutenants continued to swagger
through the streets of New Orleans; his men openly boasted of their
exploits in every barroom of the city, and in places of public resort
announcements of auctions at Barataria continued to be displayed.

Then Governor Claiborne played his last card, and secured indictments of
the Lafittes on the charge of piracy. Pierre Lafitte was arrested in his
blacksmith-shop and confined without bail in the calaboose. Jean Lafitte
promptly trumped the governor's card by retaining the services of Edward
Livingston and John R. Grymes, the two most distinguished members of the
Louisiana bar, at the enormous fee of twenty thousand dollars apiece.
Grymes was then the district attorney, but he resigned his office for
the fee. When his successor accused him in open court of having bartered
his honor for pirate gold Grymes challenged him to a duel, and crippled
him for life with a pistol bullet through the hip. When the two eminent
lawyers had cleared their poor, innocent, persecuted clients of the
unfounded and outrageous charges brought against them, and had taught
them certain legal tricks whereby they could continue doing business at
the old stand and still keep on the right side of the bars, Pierre
Lafitte sent them an invitation to visit Barataria and collect their
fees in person. Livingston, a cautious gentleman who had no desire to
risk himself among the pirates whose virtues he had just extolled so
highly to a jury, declined the invitation with thanks, offering his
colleague a commission of ten per cent to collect his fee for him.
Grymes, who was a hard-drinking, high-living Virginian, and afraid of
nothing on two feet or four, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and
until the end of his life was wont to convulse his friends with lurid
descriptions of the magnificent entertainment which Lafitte provided for
him. After a carouse which lasted for a week, and which, from Grymes's
accounts, was a combination of the feasts of Lucullus with the orgies of
Nero, Lafitte sent his legal adviser back to New Orleans in a sailing
vessel, together with several huge chests containing his fee in Spanish
gold pieces. It is an interesting commentary on the customs which
prevailed in those days that by the time Grymes reached New Orleans,
after having visited the various plantations along the lower Mississippi
and tried his luck at their card-tables, not a dollar of his fee

Now, it should be understood that the feebleness which characterized all
the attempts of the Federal Government to break the power of the
buccaneers was not due to any reluctance to prosecute them, but to the
fact that it already had its attention taken up with far more pressing
matters, for we were then in the midst of our second war with Great
Britain. The long series of injuries which England had inflicted on the
United States, such as the plundering and confiscation of our ships, the
impressment into the British Navy of our seamen, and the interruption of
our commerce with other nations, had culminated on June 18, 1812, by
Congress declaring war. So unexpected was this action that it found the
country totally unprepared. Our military establishment was barely large
enough to provide garrisons for the most exposed points on our far-flung
borders; the numerous ports on our seaboard were left unprotected and
unfortified; and our navy consisted of but a handful of war-ships. The
history of the first two years of the struggle, which was marked by
brilliant American victories at sea, but by a disastrous attempt to
invade Canada, has no place in this narrative. Early in the summer of
1814, however, the British Government, exasperated by its failure to
inflict any vital damage in the northern States, determined to bring
the war to a quick conclusion by the invasion and conquest of Louisiana.
The preparations made for this expedition were in themselves startling.
Indeed, few Americans have even a faint conception of the strength of
the blow which England prepared to deal us, for with Napoleon's
abdication and exile to Elba, and the ending of the war with France, she
was enabled to bring her whole military and naval power against us. The
British armada consisted of fifty war-ships, mounting more than a
thousand guns. It was commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane,
under whom was Sir Thomas Hardy, the friend of Nelson, Rear-Admiral
Malcolm, and Rear-Admiral Codrington, and was manned by the same sailors
who had fought so valorously at the Nile and at Trafalgar. This great
fleet acted as convoy for an almost equal number of transports, having
on board eight thousand soldiers, which were the very flower of the
British Army, nearly all of them being veterans of the Napoleonic
campaigns. Such importance did the British Government attach to the
success of this expedition that it seriously considered giving the
command of it to no less a personage than the Duke of Wellington. So
certain were the British that the venture would be successful that they
brought with them a complete set of civil officials to conduct the
government of this new country which was about to be annexed to his
Majesty's dominions, judges, customs-inspectors, revenue-collectors,
court-criers, printers, and clerks, together with printing-presses and
office paraphernalia, being embarked on board the transports. A large
number of ladies, wives and relatives of the officers, also accompanied
the expedition, to take part in the festivities which were planned to
celebrate the capture of New Orleans. And, as though to cap this
exhibition of audacity, a number of ships were chartered by British
speculators to bring home the booty, the value of which was estimated
beforehand at fourteen millions of dollars. Whether the British
Government expected to be able to permanently hold Louisiana is
extremely doubtful, for it must have been fully aware that the Western
States were capable of pouring down a hundred thousand men, if
necessary, to repel an invasion. It is probable, therefore, that they
counted only on a temporary occupation, which they expected to prolong
sufficiently, however, to give them time to pillage and lay waste the
country, a course which they felt confident would quickly bring the
government at Washington to terms.

This formidable armada set sail from England early in the summer of 1814
and, reaching the Gulf of Mexico, established its base of operations,
regardless of all the laws of neutrality, at the Spanish port of
Pensacola. One morning in the following September a British brig hove to
off Grande Terre, and called attention to her presence by firing a
cannon. Lafitte, darting through the pass in his four-oared barge to
reconnoitre, met the ship's gig with three scarlet-coated officers in
the stern, who introduced themselves as bearers of important despatches
for Mr. Lafitte. The pirate chief, introducing himself in turn, invited
his unexpected guests ashore, and led the way to his quarters with that
extraordinary charm of manner for which he was noted even among the
punctilious Creoles of New Orleans. After a dinner of Southern
delicacies, which elicited exclamations even from the blasé British
officers, Lafitte opened the despatches. They were addressed to Jean
Lafitte, Esquire, commandant at Barataria, from the commander-in-chief
of the British forces at Pensacola, and bluntly offered him thirty
thousand dollars, payable in Pensacola or New Orleans, a commission as
captain in the British Navy, and the enlistment of his men in the naval
or military forces of Great Britain if he would assist the British in
their impending invasion of Louisiana. Though it was a generous offer,
no one knew better than the British commander that Lafitte's
co-operation was well worth the price, for, familiar with the network of
streams and navigable swamps lying between Barataria Bay and New
Orleans, he was capable of guiding a British expedition through these
secret waterways to the very gates of the city before the Americans
would have a hint of its approach. It is not too much to assert that at
this juncture the future of New Orleans, and indeed of the whole
Mississippi Valley, hung upon the decision of Jean Lafitte, a pirate and
a fugitive from justice with a price upon his head.

Whether Lafitte seriously considered accepting the offer there is, of
course, no way of knowing. That it must have sorely tempted him it seems
but reasonable to suppose, for he was not an American, either by birth
or naturalization, and the prospect of exchanging his hazardous outlaw's
life, with a vision of the gallows ever looming before him for a
captain's commission in the royal navy, with all that that implied,
could hardly have failed to appeal to him strongly. That he promptly
decided to reject the offer speaks volumes for the man's strength of
character and for his faith in American institutions. Appreciating that
at such a crisis every hour gained was of value to the Americans, he
asked time to consider the proposal, requesting the British officers to
await him while he consulted an old friend and associate whose vessel,
he said, was then lying in the bay. Scarcely was he out of sight,
however, before a band of buccaneers, acting, of course, under his
orders, seized the officers and hustled them into the interior of the
island, where they were politely but forcibly detained. Here they were
found some days later by Lafitte, who pretended to be highly indignant
at such unwarrantable treatment of his guests. Releasing them with
profuse apologies, he saw them safely aboard their brig, and assured
them that he would shortly communicate his decision to the British
commander. But that officer's letter was already in the hands of a
friend of Lafitte's in New Orleans, who was a member of the legislature,
and accompanying it was a communication from the pirate chief himself,
couched in those altruistic and patriotic phrases for which the rascal
was famous. In it he asserted that, though he admitted being guilty of
having evaded the payment of certain customs duties, he had never lost
his loyalty and affection for the United States, and that,
notwithstanding the fact that there was a price on his head, he would
never miss an opportunity of serving his adopted country. A few days
later Lafitte forwarded through the same channels much valuable
information which his agents had gathered as to the strength, resources,
and plans of the British expedition, enclosing with it a letter
addressed to Governor Claiborne in which he offered the services of
himself and his men in defence of the State and city on condition that
they were granted a pardon for past offences.

Receiving no reply to this communication, Lafitte sailed up the river to
New Orleans in his lugger and made his way to the residence of the
governor. Governor Claiborne was seated at his desk, immersed in the
business of his office, when the door was softly opened, and Lafitte,
stepping inside, closed it behind him. Clad in the full-skirted,
bottle-green coat, the skin-tight breeches of white leather, and the
polished Hessian boots which he affected, he presented a most graceful
and gallant figure. As he entered he drew two pistols from his pockets,
cocked them, and covered the startled governor, after which ominous
preliminaries he bowed with the grace for which he was noted.

"Sir," he remarked pleasantly, "you may possibly have heard of me. My
name is Jean Lafitte."

"What the devil do you mean, sir," exploded the governor, "by showing
yourself here? Don't you know that I shall call the sentry and have you

"Pardon me, your Excellency," interrupted Lafitte, moving his weapons
significantly, "but you will do nothing of the sort. If you move your
hand any nearer that bell I shall be compelled to shoot you through the
shoulder, a necessity, believe me, which I should deeply regret. I have
called on you because I have something important to say to you, and I
intend that you shall hear it. To begin with, you have seen fit to put a
price upon my head?"

"Upon the head of a pirate, yes," thundered the governor, now almost
apoplectic with rage.

"In spite of that fact," continued Lafitte, "I have rejected a most
flattering offer from the British government, and have come here, at
some small peril to myself, to renew in person the offer of my services
in repelling the coming invasion. I have at my command a body of brave,
well-armed, and highly disciplined men who have been trained to fight.
Does the State care to accept their services or does it not?"

The governor, folding his arms, looked long at Lafitte before he
answered. Then he held out his hand. "It is a generous offer that you
make, sir. I accept it with pleasure."

"At daybreak to-morrow, then," said Lafitte, replacing his pistols, "my
men will be awaiting your Excellency's orders across the river." Then,
with another sweeping bow, he left the room as silently as he had
entered it.

Governor Claiborne immediately communicated Lafitte's offer to General
Andrew Jackson, then at Mobile, who had been designated by the War
Department to conduct the defence of Louisiana. Jackson, who had already
issued a proclamation denouncing the British for their overtures to
"robbers, pirates, and hellish bandits," as he termed the Baratarians,
promptly replied that the only thing he would have to do with Lafitte
was to hang him. Nevertheless, when the general arrived in New Orleans a
few days later, Lafitte called at his headquarters and requested an
interview. By this time Jackson was conscious of the feebleness of the
resources at his disposal for the defence of the city and of the
strength of the armament directed against it, which accounts, perhaps,
for his consenting to receive the "hellish bandit." Lafitte, looking the
grim old soldier squarely in the eye, repeated his offer, and so
impressed was Jackson with the pirate's cool and fearless bearing that
he accepted his services.

On the 10th of December, 1814, ten days after Jackson's arrival in New
Orleans, the British armada reached the mouth of the Mississippi. Small
wonder that the news almost created a panic in the city, for the very
names of the ships and regiments composing the expedition had become
famous through their exploits in the Napoleonic wars. It was a
nondescript and motley force which Jackson had hastily gathered to repel
this imposing army of invasion. Every man capable of bearing arms in New
Orleans and its vicinity--planters, merchants, bankers, lawyers--had
volunteered for service. To the local company of colored freedmen was
added another one composed of colored refugees from Santo Domingo, men
who had sided with the whites in the revolution there and had had to
leave the island in consequence. Even the prisoners in the calaboose had
been released and provided with arms. From the parishes round about came
Creole volunteers by the hundred, clad in all manner of clothing and
bearing all kinds of weapons. From Mississippi came a troop of cavalry
under Hinds, which was followed a few hours later by Coffee's famous
brigade of "Dirty Shirts," composed of frontiersmen from the forests of
Kentucky and Tennessee, who after a journey of eight hundred miles
through the wilderness answered Jackson's message to hurry by covering
the one hundred and fifty miles between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in
two days. Added to these were a thousand raw militiamen, who had been
brought down on barges and flat-boats from the towns along the upper
river, four companies of regulars, Beale's brigade of riflemen, a
hundred Choctaw Indians in war-paint and feathers, and last, but in many
respects the most efficient of all, the corps of buccaneers from
Barataria, under the command of the Lafittes. The men, dragging with
them cannon taken from their vessels, were divided into two companies,
one under Captain Beluche (who rose in after years to be
admiral-in-chief of Venezuela) and the other under a veteran
privateersman named Dominique You. These men were fighters by
profession, hardy, seasoned, and cool-headed, and as they swung through
the streets of New Orleans to take up the position which Jackson had
assigned them, even that taciturn old soldier gave a grunt of

Jackson had chosen as his line of defence an artificial waterway known
as the Rodriguez Canal, which lay some five miles to the east of the
city, and along its embankments, which in themselves formed pretty good
fortifications, he distributed his men. On the night of December 23 a
force of two thousand British succeeded, by means of boats, in making
their way, through the chain of bayous which surrounds the city, to
within a mile or two of Jackson's lines, where they camped for the
night. Being informed of their approach (for the British, remember, had
the whole countryside against them), Jackson, knowing the demoralizing
effect of a night attack, directed Coffee and his Tennesseans to throw
themselves upon the British right, while at the same moment Beale's
Kentuckians attacked on the left. Trained in all the wiles of Indian
warfare, the frontiersmen succeeded in reaching the outskirts of the
British camp before they were challenged by the sentries. Their reply
was a volley at close quarters and a charge with the tomahawk--for they
had no bayonets--which drove the British force back in something closely
akin to a rout.

Meanwhile Jackson had set his other troops at work strengthening their
line of fortifications, so that when the sun rose on the morning of the
day before Christmas it found them strongly intrenched behind
earthworks, helped out with timber, sand-bags, fence-rails, and
cotton-bales--whence arose the myth that the Americans fought behind
bales of cotton. The British troops were far from being in Christmas
spirits, for the truth had already begun to dawn upon them that men can
fight as well in buckskin shirts as in scarlet tunics, and that these
raw-boned wilderness hunters, with their powder-horns and abnormally
long rifles, were likely to prove more formidable enemies than the
imposing grenadiers of Napoleon's Old Guard, whom they had been fighting
in Spain and France. On that same day before Christmas, strangely
enough, a treaty of peace was being signed by the envoys of the two
nations in a little Belgian town, four thousand miles away.

On Christmas Day, however, the wonted confidence of the British soldiery
was somewhat restored by the arrival of Sir Edward Pakenham, the new
commander-in-chief, for even in that hard-fighting day there were few
European soldiers who bore more brilliant reputations. A brother-in-law
of the Duke of Wellington, he had fought side by side with him through
the Peninsular War; he had headed the storming party at Badajoz; and at
Salamanca had led the charge which won the day for England and a
knighthood for himself. An earldom and the governorship of Louisiana, it
was said, had been promised him as his reward for the American

Pakenham's practised eye quickly appreciated the strength of the
American position, which, after a council of war, it was decided to
carry by storm. During the night of the 26th the storming columns, eight
thousand strong, took up their positions within half a mile of the
American lines. As the sun rose next morning over fields sparkling with
frost, the bugles sounded the advance, and the British army, ablaze with
color, and in as perfect alignment as though on parade, moved forward to
the attack. As they came within range of the American guns, a group of
plantation buildings which masked Jackson's front were blown up, and the
British were startled to find themselves confronted by a row of ship's
cannon, manned as guns are seldom manned on land. Around each gun was
clustered a crew of lean, fierce-faced, red-shirted ruffians, caked with
sweat and mud: they were Lafitte's buccaneers, who had responded to
Jackson's orders by running in all the way from their station on the
Bayou St. John that morning. Not until he could make out the brass
buttons on the tunics of the advancing British did Lafitte give the
command to fire. Then the great guns of the pirate-patriots flashed and
thundered. Before that deadly fire the scarlet columns crumbled as
plaster crumbles beneath a hammer, the men dropping, first by twos and
threes, then by dozens and scores. In five minutes the attacking
columns, composed of regiments which were the boast of the British army,
had been compelled to sullenly retreat.

The British commander, appreciating that the repulse of his forces was
largely due to the fire of the Baratarian artillery, gave orders that
guns be brought from the fleet and mounted in a position where they
could silence the fire of the buccaneers. Three days were consumed in
the herculean task of moving the heavy pieces of ordnance into position,
but when the sun rose on New Year's morning it showed a skilfully
constructed line of intrenchments, running parallel to the American
front and armed with thirty heavy guns. While the British were thus
occupied, the Americans had not been idle, for Jackson had likewise
busied himself in constructing additional batteries, while Commodore
Patterson, the American naval commander, had gone through the sailors'
boarding-houses of New Orleans with a fine-tooth comb, impressing every
nautical-looking character on which he could lay his hands, regardless
of nationality, color, or excuses, to serve the guns. With their
storming columns sheltered behind the breastworks, awaiting the moment
when they would burst through the breach which they confidently expected
would shortly be made in the American defences, the British batteries
opened fire with a crash which seemed to split the heavens. Throughout
the artillery duel which ensued splendid service was rendered by the men
under Lafitte, who trained their guns as carefully and served them as
coolly as though they were back again on the decks of their privateers.
The storming parties, which were waiting for a breach to be made, waited
in vain, for within an hour and thirty minutes after the action opened
the British batteries were silenced, their guns dismounted, and their
parapets levelled with the plain. The veterans of Wellington and Nelson
had been out-fought from first to last by a band of buccaneers,
reinforced by a few-score American bluejackets and a handful of
nondescript seamen.

Pakenham had one more plan for the capture of the city. This was a
general assault by his entire army on the American lines. His plan of
attack was simple, and would very probably have proved successful
against troops less accustomed to frontier warfare than the Americans.
Colonel Thornton, with fourteen hundred men, was directed to cross the
river during the night of January 7, and, creeping up to the American
lines under cover of the darkness, to carry them by assault. His attack
was to be the signal for a column under General Gibbs to storm Jackson's
right, and for another, under General Keane, to throw itself against the
American left, General Lambert, who had just arrived with two fresh
regiments, being held in reserve. So carefully had the British
commanders perfected their plans that the battle was already won--in

No one knew better than Jackson that this was to be the deciding round
of the contest, and he accordingly made his preparations to win it with
a solar-plexus blow. He also had received a reinforcement, for the
long-expected militia from Kentucky, two thousand two hundred strong,
had just arrived, after a forced march of fifteen hundred miles, though
in a half-naked and starving condition. Our history contains nothing
finer, to my way of thinking, than the story of how these mountaineers
of the Blue Ridge, foot-sore, ragged, and hungry, came pouring down from
the north to repel the threatened invasion. The Americans, who numbered,
all told, barely four thousand men, were scattered along a front of
nearly three miles, one end of the line extending so far into a swamp
that the soldiers stood in water to their waists during the day, and at
night slept on floating logs made fast to trees.

Long before daybreak on the morning of the 8th of January the divisions
of Gibbs and Keane were in position, and waiting impatiently for the
outburst of musketry which would be the signal that Thornton had begun
his attack. Thornton had troubles of his own, however, for the swift
current of the Mississippi, as though wishing to do its share in the
nation's defence, had carried his boats a mile and a half down-stream,
so that it was daylight before he was able to effect a landing, when a
surprise was, of course, out of the question. But Pakenham, naturally
obstinate and now made wholly reckless by the miscarriage of his plans,
refused to recall his orders; so, as the gray mists of the early morning
slowly lifted, his columns were seen advancing across the fields.

"Steady now, boys! Steady!" called Jackson, as he rode up and down
behind his lines. "Don't waste your ammunition, for we've none to spare.
Pick your man, wait until he gets within range, and then let him have
it! Let's get this business over with to-day!" His orders were obeyed
to the letter, for not a shot was fired until the scarlet columns were
within certain range. Then the order "Commence firing" was repeated down
the line. Neither hurriedly, nor excitedly, nor confusedly was it
obeyed, but with the utmost calmness and deliberation, the frontiersmen,
trained to use the rifle from boyhood, choosing their targets, and
calculating their ranges as unconcernedly as though they were hunting in
their native forests. Still the British columns pressed indomitably on,
and still the lean and lantern-jawed Jackson rode up and down his lines,
cheering, cautioning, exhorting, directing. Suddenly he reined up his
horse at the Baratarian battery commanded by Dominique You.

"What's this? What's this?" he exclaimed. "You have stopped firing? What
the devil does this mean, sir?"

"Of course we've stopped firing, general," said the buccaneer, touching
his forelock man-o'-war fashion. "The powder's good for nothing. It
might do to shoot blackbirds with, but not redcoats."

Jackson beckoned to one of his aides-de-camp.

"Tell the ordnance officer that I will have him shot in five minutes as
a traitor if Dominique complains again of his powder," and he
galloped off. When he passed that way a few minutes later the rattle
of the musketry was being punctuated at half-minute intervals with the
crash of the Baratarian guns. "Ha, friend Dominique," called Jackson,
"I'm glad to see you're at work again."

[Illustration: The battle of New Orleans.

From a painting by D.M. Carter.]

"Pretty good work, too, general," responded the buccaneer. "It looks to
me as if the British have discovered that there has been a change of
powder in this battery." He was right. Before the combined rifle and
artillery fire of the Americans the British columns were melting like
snow under a spring rain. Still their officers led them on, cheering,
pleading, threatening, imploring. Pakenham's arm was pierced by a
bullet; at the same instant another killed his horse, but, mounting the
pony of his aide-de-camp, he continued to encourage his disheartened and
wavering men. Keane was borne bleeding from the field, and a moment
later Gibbs, mortally wounded, was carried after him. The panic which
was just beginning to seize the British soldiery was completed at this
critical instant by a shot from one of the Baratarians' big guns which
burst squarely in the middle of the advancing column, causing terrible
destruction in the solid ranks. Pakenham's horse fell dead, and the
general reeled into the arms of an officer who sprang forward to catch
him. Terribly wounded, he was carried to the shelter of a spreading
oak, beneath which, five minutes later, he breathed his last. Then the
ebb-tide began. The shattered regiments, demoralized by the death of
their commander, and themselves fearfully depleted by the American fire,
broke and ran. Ten minutes later, save for the crawling, agonized
wounded, not a living foe was to be seen. But the field, which had been
green with grass half an hour before, was carpeted with scarlet now, and
the carpet was made of British dead. Of the six thousand men who took
part in the attack, it is estimated that two thousand six hundred were
killed or wounded. Of the Ninety-third Regiment, which had gone into
action nine hundred strong, only one hundred and thirty-nine men
answered to the roll-call. The Americans had eight men killed and
thirteen wounded. The battle had lasted exactly twenty-five minutes. At
eight o'clock the American bugles sounded "Cease firing," and
Jackson--whom this victory was to make President of the United
States--followed by his staff, rode slowly down the lines, stopping at
each command to make a short address. As he passed, the regimental fifes
and drums burst into "Hail, Columbia," and the rows of weary,
powder-grimed men, putting their caps on the ends of their long rifles,
swung them in the air and cheered madly the victor of New Orleans.

There is little more to tell. On March 17 the British expedition,
accompanied by the judges and customs-inspectors and revenue-collectors,
and by the officers' wives who had come out to take part in the
festivities which were to mark the conquest, set sail from the mouth of
the Mississippi, reaching Europe just in time to participate in the
Waterloo campaign. In the general orders issued by Jackson after the
battle the highest praise was given to the Lafittes and their followers
from Barataria, while the official despatches to Washington strongly
urged that some recognition be made of the extraordinary services
rendered by the erstwhile pirates. A few weeks later the President
granted a full pardon to the inhabitants of Barataria, his message
concluding: "Offenders who have refused to become the associates of the
enemy in war upon the most seducing terms of invitation, and who have
aided to repel his hostile invasion of the territory of the United
States, can no longer be considered as objects of punishment, but as
objects of generous forgiveness." Taking advantage of this amnesty, the
ex-pirates settled down to the peaceable lives of fishermen and
market-gardeners, and their descendants dwell upon the shores of
Barataria Bay to this day. As to the future movements of the brothers
Lafitte, beyond the fact that they established themselves for a time at
Galveston, whence they harassed Spanish commerce in the Gulf of Mexico,
nothing definite is known. Leaving New Orleans soon after the battle,
they sailed out of the Mississippi, and out of this story.


About the word frontiersman there is a pretty air of romance. The very
mention of it conjures up a vision of lean, sinewy, brown-faced men, in
fur caps and moccasins and fringed buckskin, slipping through virgin
forests or pushing across sun-scorched prairies--advance-guards of
civilization. Hardy, resolute, taciturn figures, they have passed
silently across the pages of our history and we shall see their like no
more. To them we owe a debt that we can never repay--nor, indeed, have
we even publicly acknowledged it. We followed by the trails which they
had blazed for us; we built our towns in those rich valleys and pastured
our herds on those fertile hillsides which theirs were the first white
men's eyes to see. The American frontiersman was never a self-seeker.
His discoveries he left as a heritage to those who followed him. In
almost every case he died poor and, more often than not, with his boots
on. David Livingstone and Henry M. Stanley, the two Englishmen who did
more than any other men for the opening up of Africa, lie in Westminster
Abbey, and thousands of their countrymen each year stand reverently
beside their tombs. To Cecil Rhodes, another Anglo-African pioneer, a
great national memorial has been erected on the slopes of Table
Mountain. Far, far greater parts in the conquest of a wilderness, the
winning of a continent, were played by Daniel Boone, William Bowie, Kit
Carson, Davy Crockett; yet how many of those who to-day enjoy the fruits
of the perils they faced, the hardships they endured, know much more of
them than as characters in dime novels, can tell where they are buried,
can point to any statues or monuments which have been erected to their

There are two million four hundred thousand people in the State of
California, and most of them boast of it as "God's own country." They
have more State pride than any people that I know, yet I would be
willing to wager almost anything you please that you can pick a hundred
native sons of California, and put to each of them the question, "Who
was Jedediah Smith?" and not one of them would be able to answer it
correctly. The public parks of San Francisco and Los Angeles and San
Diego and Sacramento have innumerable statues of one kind and another,
but you will find none of this man with the stern old Puritan name; they
are starting a hall of fame in California, but no one has proposed
Jedediah Smith as deserving a place in it. Yet to him, perhaps more than
to any other man, is due the fact that California is American: he was
the greatest of the pathfinders; he was the real founder of the Overland
Trail; he was the man who led the way across the ranges. Had it not been
for the trail he blazed and the thousands who followed in his footsteps
the Sierra Nevadas, instead of the Rio Grande, might still mark the line
of our frontier.

The westward advance of population which took place during the first
quarter of the nineteenth century far exceeded the limits of any of the
great migrations of mankind upon the older continents. The story of the
American onset to the beckoning West is one of the wonder-tales of
history. Over the natural waterway of the great northern lakes, down the
road to Pittsburg, along the trail which skirted the Potomac, and then
down the Ohio, over the passes of the Cumberland into Tennessee, round
the end of the Alleghanies into the Gulf States, up the Missouri, and so
across the Rockies to the head waters of the Columbia, or south-westward
from St. Louis to the Spanish settlements of Santa Fé, the hardy
pioneers poured in an ever-increasing stream, carrying with them little
but axe, spade, and rifle, some scanty household effects, a small store
of provisions, a liberal supply of ammunition, and unlimited faith,
courage, and enterprise.

During that brief period the people of the United States extended their
occupation over the whole of that vast region lying between the
Alleghanies and the Rockies--a territory larger than all of Europe,
without Russia--annexed it from the wilderness, conquered, subdued,
improved, cultivated, civilized it, and all without one jot of
governmental assistance. Throughout these years, as the frontiersmen
pressed into the West, they continued to fret and strain against the
Spanish boundaries. The Spanish authorities, and after them the Mexican,
soon became seriously alarmed at this silent but resistless American
advance, and from the City of Mexico orders went out to the provincial
governors that Americans venturing within their jurisdiction should be
treated, whenever an excuse offered, with the utmost severity. But,
notwithstanding the menace of Mexican prisons, of Indian tortures, of
savage animals, of thirst and starvation in the wilderness, the pioneers
pushed westward and ever westward, until at last their further progress
was abruptly halted by the great range of the Sierra Nevada,
snow-crested, and presumably impassable, which rose like a titanic wall
before them, barring their further march.

It was at about the time of this halt in our westward progress that
Captain Jedediah Smith came riding onto the scene. You must picture him
as a gaunt-faced, lean-flanked, wiry man, with nerves of iron, sinews of
rawhide, a skin like oak-tanned leather, and quick on his feet as a
catamount. He was bearded to the ears, of course, for razors formed no
part of the scanty equipment of the frontiersman, and above the beard
shone a pair of very keen, bright eyes, with the concentrated wrinkles
about their corners that come of staring across the prairies under a
blazing sun. He was sparing of his words, as are most men who dwell in
the great solitudes, and, like them, he was, in an unorthodox way,
devout, his stern and rugged features as well as his uncompromising
scriptural name betraying the grim old Puritan stock from which he
sprang. His hair was long and black, and would have covered his
shoulders had it not been tied at the back of the neck by a leather
thong. His dress was that of the Indian adapted to meet the
requirements of the adventuring white man: a hunting-shirt and trousers
of fringed buckskin, embroidered moccasins of elkhide, and a cap made
from the glossy skin of a beaver, with the tail hanging down behind. On
hot desert marches, and in camp, he took off the beaver-skin cap and
twisted about his head a bright bandanna, which, when taken with his
gaunt, unshaven face, made him look uncommonly like a pirate. These
garments were by no means fresh and gaudy, like those affected by the
near-frontiersmen who take part in the production of Wild West shows;
instead they were very soiled and much worn and greasy, and gave
evidence of having done twenty-four hours' duty a day for many months at
a stretch. Hanging on his chest was a capacious powder-horn, and in his
belt was a long, straight knife, very broad and heavy in the blade--a
first cousin of that deadly weapon to which William Bowie was in after
years to give his name; in addition he carried a rifle, with an
altogether extraordinary length of barrel, which brought death to any
living thing within a thousand yards on which its foresight rested. His
mount was a plains-bred pony, as wiry and unkempt and enduring as
himself. Everything considered, Smith could have been no gentle-looking
figure, and I rather imagine that, if he were alive and ventured into a
Western town to-day, he would probably be arrested by the local
constable as an undesirable character. I have now sketched for you, in
brief, bold outline, as good a likeness of Smith as I am able with the
somewhat scanty materials at hand, for he lived and did his pioneering
in the days when frontiersmen were as common as traffic policemen are
now, added to which the men who were familiar with his exploits were of
a sort more ready with their pistols than with their pens.

The dates of Smith's birth and death are not vital to this story, and
perhaps it is just as well that they are not, for I can find no record
of when he came into the world, and only the Indian warrior who wore his
scalp-lock at his waist could have told the exact date on which he went
out of it. It is enough to know that, just as the nineteenth century was
passing the quarter mark, Smith was the head of a firm of fur-traders,
Smith, Jackson & Soublette, which had obtained from President John
Quincy Adams permission to hunt and trade to their hearts' content in
the region lying beyond the Rocky Mountains. It would have been much
more to the point to have obtained the permission of the Mexican
governor-general of the Californias, or of the great chief of the
Comanches, for they held practically all of the territory in question
between them. Those were the days whose like we shall never know again,
when the streams were alive with beaver, when there were more elk and
antelope on the prairies than there are cattle now, and when the noise
made by the moving buffalo herds sounded like the roll of distant
thunder. They were the days when a fortune, as fortunes were then
reckoned, awaited the man with unlimited ammunition, a sure eye, and a
body inured to hardships. What the founder of the Astor fortune was
doing in the Puget Sound country, Smith and his companions purposed to
do in the Rockies; and, with this end in view, established their base
camp on the eastern shores of the Great Salt Lake, not far from where
Ogden now stands. This little band of pioneers formed the westernmost
outpost of American civilization, for between them and the nearest
settlement, at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers,
stretched thirteen hundred miles of savage wilderness. Livingstone, on
his greatest journey, did not penetrate half as far into unknown Africa
as Smith did into unknown America, and while the English explorer was at
the head of a large and well-equipped expedition, the American was
accompanied by a mere handful of men.

In August, 1826, Smith and a small party of his hunters found
themselves in the terrible Painted Desert, that God-forsaken expanse of
sand and lava where the present States of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada
meet. Water there was none, for the streams had run dry, and the horses
and pack-mules were dying of thirst and exhaustion; the game had
entirely disappeared; the supplies were all but finished--and five
hundred miles of the most inhospitable country in the world lay between
them and their camp on Great Salt Lake. The situation was perilous,
indeed, and a decision had to be made quickly if any of them were to get
out alive.

"What few supplies we have left will be used up before we get a quarter
way back to the camp," said Smith. "Our only chance--and I might as well
tell you it's a mighty slim one, boys--is in pushing on to California."

"But California's a good four hundred miles away," expostulated his
companions, "and the Sierras lie between, and no one has ever crossed

"Then I'll be the first man to do it," said Smith. "Besides, I've always
had a hankering to learn what lies on the other side of those ranges.
Now's my chance to find out."

"I reckon there ain't much chance of our ever seeing Salt Lake or
California either," grumbled one of the hunters, "and even if we do
reach the coast the Mexicans 'll clap us into prison."

"Well, so fur's I'm concerned," said Smith decisively, "I'd rather be
alive and in a Greaser prison than to be dead in the desert. I'm going
to California or die on the way."

History chronicles few such marches. Westward pressed the little troop
of pioneers, across the sun-baked lava beds of southwestern Utah, over
the arid deserts and the barren ranges of southern Nevada, and so to the
foot-hills of that great Sierran range which rears itself ten thousand
feet skyward, forming a barrier which had theretofore separated the
fertile lands of the Pacific slope from the rest of the continent more
effectually than an ocean. The lava beds gave way to sand wastes dotted
with clumps of sage-brush and cactus, and the cactus changed to stunted
pines, and the pines ran out in rocks, and the rocks became covered with
snow, and still Smith and his hunters struggled on, emaciated, tattered,
almost barefooted, lamed by the cactus spines on the desert, and the
stones on the mountain slopes, until at last they stood upon the very
summit of the range and, like that other band of pioneers in an earlier
age, looked down on the promised land after their wanderings in the
wilderness. No explorer in the history of the world, not Columbus, nor
Pizarro, nor Champlain, nor De Soto, ever gazed upon a land so fertile
and so full of beauty. The mysterious, the jealously guarded, the
storied land of California lay spread before them like a map in
bas-relief. Then the descent of the western slope began, the transition
from snow-clad mountain peaks to hillsides clothed with subtropical
vegetation amazing the Americans by its suddenness. Imagine how like a
dream come true it must have been to these men, whose lives had been
spent in the less kindly climate and amid the comparatively scanty
vegetation of the Middle West, to suddenly find themselves in this
fairyland of fruit and flowers!

[Illustration: _Copyright, 1906, by P.F. Collier & Son._

Westward pressed the little troop of pioneers, across the sun-baked lava
beds of southwestern Utah.]

"It is, indeed, a white man's country," said Smith prophetically, as,
leaning on his long rifle, he gazed upon the wonderful panorama which
unrolled itself before him. "Though it is Mexican just now, sooner or
later it must and shall be ours."

Heartened by the sight of this wonderful new country, and by the
knowledge that they must be approaching some of the Mexican settlements,
but with bodies sadly weakened from exposure, hunger, and exhaustion,
the Americans slowly made their way down the slope, crossed those
fertile lowlands which are now covered with groves of orange and lemon,
and so, guided by some friendly Indians whom they met, came at last to
the mission station of San Gabriel, one of that remarkable chain of
outposts of the church founded by the indefatigable Franciscan, Father
Junipero Serra. The little company of worn and weary men sighted the
red-tiled roof of the mission just at sunset, and though Smith and his
followers came from stern New England stock which prided itself on
having no truck with Papists, I rather imagine that as the sweet, clear
mission bells chimed out the angelus they lifted their hats and stood
with bowed heads in silent thanksgiving for their preservation.

I doubt if there was a more astonished community between the oceans than
was the monastic one of San Gabriel when this band of ragged strangers
suddenly appeared from nowhere and asked for food and shelter.

"You come from the South--from Mexico?" queried the father superior,
staring, half-awed, at these gaunt, fierce-faced, bearded men who spoke
in a strange tongue.

"No, padre," answered Smith, calling to his aid the broken Spanish he
had picked up in his trading expeditions to Santa Fé, "we come from the
East, from the country beyond the great mountains, from the United
States. We are Americans," he added a little proudly.

"They say they come from the East," the brown-robed monks whispered to
each other. "It is impossible. No one has ever come from that direction.
Have not the Indians told us many times that there is no food, no water
in that direction, and that, moreover, there is no way to cross the
mountains? It is, indeed, a strange and incredible tale that these men
tell. But we will offer them our hospitality in the name of the blessed
St. Francis, for that we withhold from no man; but it is the part of
wisdom to despatch a messenger to San Diego to acquaint the governor of
their coming, for it may well be that they mean no good to the people of
this land."

Had the good monks been able to look forward a few-score years, perhaps
they would not have been so ready to offer Smith and his companions the
shelter of the mission roof. But how were they to know that these ragged
strangers, begging for food at their mission door, were the skirmishers
for a mighty host which would one day pour over those mountain ranges to
the eastward as the water pours over the falls at Niagara; that within
rifle-shot of where their mission stood a city of half a million souls
would spread itself across the hills; that down the dusty Camino Real,
which the founder of their mission had trudged so often in his sandals
and woollen robe, would whirl strange horseless, panting vehicles,
putting a mile a minute behind their flying wheels; that twin lines of
steel would bring their southernmost station at San Diego within twenty
hours, instead of twenty days, of their northernmost outpost at Sonoma;
and that over this new land would fly, not the red-white-and-green
standard of Mexico, but an alien banner of stripes and stars?

The four years which intervened between the collapse of Spanish rule in
Mexico and the arrival of Jedediah Smith at San Gabriel were marked by
political chaos in the Californias. When a governor of Alta California
rose in the morning he did not know whether he was the representative of
an emperor, a king, a president, or a dictator. As a result of these
perennial disorders, the Mexican officials ascribed sinister motives to
the most innocent episodes. No sooner, therefore, did Governor Echeandia
learn of the arrival in his province of a mysterious party of Americans
than he ordered them brought under escort to San Diego for examination.
Though those present probably did not appreciate it, the meeting of
Smith and Echeandia in the palace at San Diego was a peculiarly
significant one. There sat at his ease in his great chair of state the
saturnine Mexican governor, arrogant and haughty, beruffled and
gold-laced, his high-crowned sombrero and his velvet jacket heavy with
bullion, while in front of him stood the American frontiersman, gaunt,
unshaven, and ragged, but as cool and self-possessed as though he was at
the head of a conquering army instead of a forlorn hope. The one was as
truly the representative of a passing as the other was of a coming race.
Small wonder that Echeandia, as he observed the hardy figures and
determined faces of the Americans, thought to himself how small would be
Mexico's chance of holding California if others of their countrymen
began to follow in their footsteps. He and his officials cross-examined
Smith as closely as though the frontiersman was a prisoner on trial for
his life, as, in a sense, he was, for almost any fate might befall him
and his companions in that remote corner of the continent without any
one being called to account for it. Smith described the series of
misfortunes which had led him to cross the ranges; he asserted that he
desired nothing so much as to get back into American territory again,
and he earnestly begged the governor to provide him with the necessary
provisions and permit him to depart. His story was so frank and
plausible that Echeandia, with characteristic Spanish suspicion,
promptly disbelieved every word of it, for why, he argued, should any
sane man make so hazardous a journey unless he were a spy and well paid
to risk his life? For even in those early days, remember, the Mexicans
had begun to fear the ambitions of the young republic to the eastward.
So, despite their protests, he ordered the Americans to be
imprisoned--and no one knew better than they did that, once within the
walls of a Mexican prison, there was small chance of their seeing the
outside world again. Fortunately for the explorers, however, it so
happened that there were three American trading-schooners lying in San
Diego harbor at the time, and their captains, determined to see the
rights of their fellow countrymen respected, joined in a vigorous and
energetic protest to the governor against this high-handed and
unjustified action. This seems to have frightened Echeandia, for he
reluctantly gave orders for the release of Smith and his companions, but
ordered them to leave the country at once, and by the same route by
which they had come.

When the year 1827 was but a few days old, therefore, the Americans
turned their faces northward, but instead of retracing their steps in
accordance with Echeandia's orders, they crossed the coast range,
probably through the Tejon Pass, and kept on through the fertile region
now known as the San Joaquin Valley, in the hope that by crossing the
Sierra farther to the northward they would escape the terrible rigors of
the Colorado desert. When some three hundred miles north of San Gabriel
they attempted to recross the ranges, but a feat that had been hazardous
in midsummer was impossible in midwinter, and the entire expedition
nearly perished in the attempt. Several of the men and all the horses
died of cold and hunger, and it was only by incredible exertions that
Smith and his few remaining companions, terribly frozen and totally
exhausted, managed to reach the Santa Clara Valley and Mission San José.
So slow was their progress that the news of their approach preceded them
and caused considerable disquietude to the monks. Learning from the
Indians that he and his tatterdemalion followers were objects of
suspicion, Smith sent a letter to the father superior, in which he gave
an account of his arrival at San Gabriel, of his interview with the
governor, of his disaster in the Sierras, and of his present pitiable
condition. "I am a long way from home," this pathetic missive
concludes, "and am anxious to get there as soon as the nature of the
case will permit. Our situation is quite unpleasant, being destitute of
clothing and most of the necessaries of life, wild meat being our
principal subsistence. I am, reverend father, your strange but real
friend and Christian brother, Jedediah Smith." As a result of this
appeal, the hospitality of the mission was somewhat grudgingly extended
to the Americans, who were by this time in the most desperate condition.

Hardships that would kill ordinary men were but unpleasant incidents in
the lives of the pioneers, however, and in a few weeks they were as fit
as ever to resume their journey. But, upon thinking the matter over,
Smith decided that he would never be content if he went back without
having found out what lay still farther to the northward, for in him was
the insatiable curiosity and the indomitable spirit of the born
explorer. But as his force, as well as his resources, had become sadly
depleted, he felt it imperative that he should first return to Salt Lake
and bring on the men, horses, and provisions he had left there.
Accordingly, leaving most of his party in camp at San José, he set out
with only two companions, recrossed the Sierra at one of its highest
points (the place he crossed is where the railway comes through to-day)
and after several uncomfortably narrow escapes from landslides and from
Indians, eventually reached the camp on Great Salt Lake, where he found
that his people had long since given him and his companions up for dead.

Breaking camp on a July morning, in 1827, Smith, with eighteen men and
two women, turned his face once more toward California. To avoid the
snows of the high Sierras, he chose the route he had taken on his first
journey, reaching the desert country to the north of the Colorado River
in early August. It was not until the party had penetrated too far into
the desert to retreat that they found that the whole country was burnt
up. For several days they pushed on in the hope of finding water. Across
the yellow sand wastes they would sight the sparkle of a crystal lake,
and would hasten toward it as fast as their jaded animals could carry
them, only to find that it was a mirage. Then the horrors preliminary to
death by thirst began: the animals, their blackened tongues protruding
from their mouths, staggered and fell, and rose no more; the women grew
delirious and babbled incoherent nothings; even the hardiest of the men
stumbled as they marched, or tried to frighten away by shouts and
gestures the fantastic shapes which danced before them. At last there
came a morning when they could go no farther. Such of them as still
retained their faculties felt that it was the end--that is, all but
Jedediah Smith. He was of the breed which does not know the meaning of
defeat, because they are never defeated until they are dead. Loading
himself with the empty water-bottles, he set out alone into the desert,
determined to follow one of the numerous buffalo trails, for he knew
that sooner or later it must lead him to water of some sort, even if to
nothing more than a buffalo-wallow. Racked with the fever of thirst, his
legs shaking from exhaustion, he plodded on, under the pitiless sun,
mile after mile, hour after hour, until, struggling to the summit of a
low divide, he saw the channel of a stream in the valley beneath him.
The expedition was saved. Stumbling and sliding down the slope in his
haste to quench his intolerable thirst, he came to a sudden halt on the
river-bank. It was nothing but an empty watercourse into which he was
staring--the river had run dry! The shock of such a disappointment would
have driven most men stark, staring mad. Only for a moment, however, was
the veteran frontiersman staggered; he knew the character of many
streams in the West--that often their waters run underground a few feet
below the surface, and in a moment he was on his knees digging
frantically in the soft sand. Soon the sand began to grow moist, and
then the coveted water slowly began to filter upward into the little
excavation he had hollowed. Throwing himself flat on the ground, he
buried his burning face in the muddy water--and as he did so a shower of
arrows whistled about him. A war-party of Comanches, unobserved, had
followed and surrounded him. He had but exchanged the danger of death by
thirst for the far more dreadful fate of death by torture. Though struck
by several of the arrows, he held the Indians off until he had filled
his water-bottles; then, retreating slowly, taking advantage of every
particle of cover, as only a veteran plainsman can, blazing away with
his unerring rifle whenever an Indian was incautious enough to show a
portion of his figure, Smith succeeded in getting back to his companions
with the precious water. With their dead animals for breastworks, the
pioneers succeeded in holding the Indians at bay for six-and-thirty
hours, but on the second night the redskins, heavily reinforced, rushed
them in the night, ten of the men and the two women being killed in the
hand-to-hand fight which ensued, and the few horses which remained alive
being stampeded. I rather imagine that the women were shot by their own
husbands, for the women of the frontier always preferred death to
capture by these fiends in paint and feathers.

How Smith, calling all his craft and experience as a plainsman to his
assistance, managed to lead his eight surviving companions through the
encircling Indians by night, and how, wounded, horseless, and
provisionless as they were, he succeeded in guiding them across the
ranges to San Bernardino, is but another example of this forgotten
hero's courage and resource. Having lost everything that he possessed,
for the whole of his scanty savings had been invested in the ill-fated
expedition, Smith, with such of his men as were strong enough to
accompany him, set out to rejoin the party he had left some months
previously at Mission San José. Scarcely had he set foot within that
settlement, however, before he was arrested and taken under escort to
Monterey, where he was taken before the governor, who, he found to his
surprise and dismay, was no other than his old enemy of San Diego, Don
José Echeandia. This time nothing would convince Echeandia that Smith
was not the leader of an expedition which had territorial designs on
California, and he promptly ordered him to be taken to prison and kept
in solitary confinement as a dangerous conspirator. Thereupon Smith
resorted to the same expedient he had used so successfully, and begged
the captains of the American vessels in the harbor of Monterey for
protection. So forcible were their representations that Echeandia
finally agreed to release Smith on his swearing to leave California for
good and all. To this proposal Smith willingly agreed and took the oath
required of him, but, upon being released from prison, was astounded to
learn that the governor had given orders that he must set out
alone--that his hunters would not be permitted to accompany him. His and
their protestations were disregarded. Smith must start at once and
unaccompanied. He was given a horse and saddle, provisions, blankets, a
rifle--and nothing more. It was a sentence of death which Echeandia had
had pronounced on this American frontiersman, and both he and Smith knew
it. Without having committed any crime--unless it was a crime to be an
American--Jedediah Smith was driven out of the territory of a supposedly
friendly nation, and told that he was at perfect liberty to make his way
across two thousand miles of wilderness to the nearest American
outpost--if he could.

Striking back into that range of the Sierras which lies southeast of
Fresno, Smith succeeded in crossing them for a fourth time, evidently
intending to make his way back to his old stamping-ground on the Great
Salt Lake. Our knowledge of what occurred after he had crossed the
ranges for the last time is confined to tales told to the settlers in
later years by the Indians. While emerging from the terrible Death
Valley, where hundreds of emigrants were to lose their lives during the
rush to the gold-fields a quarter of a century later, he was attacked at
a water-hole by a band of Indians. For many years afterward the
Comanches were wont to tell with admiration how this lone pale-face,
coming from out of the setting sun, had knelt behind his dead horse and
held them off with his deadly rifle all through one scorching summer's
day. But when nightfall came they crept up very silently under cover of
the darkness and rushed him. His scalp was very highly valued, for it
had cost the lives of twelve Comanche braves.

But Jedediah Smith did not die in vain. Tales of the rich and virgin
country which he had found beyond the ranges flew as though with wings
across the land; soon other pioneers made their way over the mountains
by the trails which he had blazed; long wagon-trains crawled westward
by the routes which he had taken; strange bands of horsemen pitched
their tents in the valleys where he had camped. The mission bells grew
silent; the monk in his woollen robe and the _caballero_ in his
gold-laced jacket passed away; settlements of hardy, energetic,
nasal-voiced folk from beyond the Sierras sprang up everywhere. Then one
day a new flag floated over the presidio in Monterey--a flag that was
not to be pulled down. The American republic had reached the western
ocean, and thus was fulfilled the dream of Jedediah Smith, the man who
showed the way.


Because the battles which marked its establishment were really only
skirmishes, in which but an insignificant number of lives were lost, and
because it boasted less than a thousand citizens all told, certain of
our historians have been so undiscerning as to assert that the Bear Flag
Republic was nothing but a travesty and a farce. Therein they are wrong.
Though it is doubtless true that the handful of frontiersmen who raised
their home-made flag, with its emblem of a grizzly bear, over the
Californian presidio of Sonoma on that July morning in 1846 took
themselves much more seriously than the circumstances warranted, it is
equally true that their action averted the seizure of California by
England, and by forcing the hand of the administration at Washington was
primarily responsible for adding what is now California, Nevada,
Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and more than half of Wyoming and Colorado to
the Union. The series of intrigues and affrays and insurrections which
resulted in the Pacific coast becoming American instead of European
form a picturesque, exciting, and virtually unwritten chapter in our
national history, a chapter in which furtive secret agents and haughty
_caballeros_, pioneers in fringed buckskin, and naval officers in
gold-laced uniforms all played their greater or their lesser parts.

To fully understand the conditions which led up to the "Bear Flag War,"
as it has been called, it is necessary to go back for a moment to the
first quarter of the last century, when the territory of the United
States ended at the Rocky Mountains and the red-white-and-green flag of
Mexico floated over the whole of that vast, rich region which lay
beyond. Under the Mexican régime the territory lying west of the Sierra
Nevadas was divided into the provinces of Alta (or Upper) and Baja (or
Lower) California, the population of the two provinces about 1845
totalling not more than fifteen thousand souls, nine-tenths of whom were
Mexicans, Spaniards, and Indians, the rest American and European
settlers. The foreigners, among whom Americans greatly predominated,
soon became influential out of all proportion to their numbers. This was
particularly true of the Americans, who, solidified by common interests,
common dangers, and common ambitions, obtained large grants of land,
built houses which in certain cases were little short of forts,
frequently married into the most aristocratic of the Californian
families, and before long practically controlled the commerce of the
entire territory.

It was only to be expected, therefore, that the Mexicans should become
more and more apprehensive of American ambitions. Nor did President
Jackson's offer, in 1835, to buy Southern California--an offer which was
promptly refused--serve to do other than strengthen these apprehensions.
And to make matters worse, if such a thing were possible, Commodore T.
ApCatesby Jones, having heard a rumor that war had broken out between
the United States and Mexico, and having reason to believe that a
British force was preparing to seize California, landed a force of
bluejackets and marines, and on October 21, 1842, raised the American
flag over the presidio at Monterey. Although Commodore Jones, finding he
had acted upon misinformation, lowered the flag next day and tendered an
apology to the provincial officials, the incident did not tend to
relieve the tension which existed between the Mexicans and the
Americans, for it emphasized the ease with which the country could be
seized, and hinted with unmistakable plainness at the ultimate
intentions of the United States. That our government intended to annex
the Californias at the first opportunity that offered the Mexicans were
perfectly aware, for, aroused by the descriptions of the unbelievable
beauty and fertility of the country as sent back by those daring souls
who had made their way across the ranges, the hearts of our people were
set upon its acquisition. The great Bay of San Francisco, large enough
to shelter the navies of the world and the gateway to the Orient, the
fruitful, sun-kissed land beyond the Sierras, the political domination
of America, and the commercial domination of the Pacific--such were the
visions which inspired our people and the motives which animated our
leaders, and which were intensified by the fear of England's designs
upon this western land.

As the numbers of the American settlers gradually increased, the
jealousy and suspicion of the Mexican officials became more pronounced.
As early as 1826 they had driven Captain Jedediah Smith, the first
American to make his way to California by the overland route, back into
the mountains, in the midst of winter, without companions and without
provisions, to be killed by the Indians. In 1840 more than one hundred
American settlers were suddenly arrested by the Mexican authorities on
a trumped-up charge of having plotted against the government, marched
under military guard to Monterey, and confined in the prison there under
circumstances of the most barbarous cruelty, some fifty of them being
eventually deported to Mexico in chains. Thomas O. Larkin, the American
consul at Monterey, upon visiting the prisoners in the local jail where
they were confined, found that the cells had no floors, and that the
poor fellows stood in mud and water to their ankles. Sixty of the
prisoners he found crowded into a single room, twenty feet long and
eighteen wide, in which they were so tightly packed that they could not
all sit at the same time, much less lie down. The room being without
windows or other means of ventilation, the air quickly became so fetid
that they were able to live only by dividing themselves into platoons
which took turns in standing at the door and getting a few breaths of
air through the bars. These men, whose only crime was that they were
Americans, were confined in this hell-hole, without food except such as
their friends were able to smuggle in to them by bribing the sentries,
for eight days. And this treatment was accorded them, remember, not
because they were conspirators--for no one knew better than the Mexican
authorities that they were not--but because it seemed the easiest means
of driving them out of the country. Throughout the half-dozen years that
ensued American settlers were subjected to a systematic campaign of
annoyance, persecution, and imprisonment on innumerable frivolous
pretexts, being released only on their promise to leave California
immediately. By 1845, therefore, the harassed Americans, in sheer
desperation, were ready to grasp the first opportunity which presented
itself to end this intolerable tyranny for good and all.

It was not only the outrageous treatment to which they were subjected,
however, nor the weakness and instability of the government under which
they were living, nor even the insecurity of their lives and property
and the discouragements to industry, which led the American settlers to
decide to end Mexican rule in the Californias. Texas had recently been
annexed by the United States against the protests of Mexico, an American
army of invasion was massed along the Rio Grande, and war was certain.
It required no extraordinary degree of intelligence, then, to foresee
that the coming hostilities would almost inevitably result in Mexico
losing her Californian provinces. Now it was a matter of common
knowledge that the Mexican Government was seriously considering the
advisability of ceding the Californias to Great Britain, and thus
accomplishing the threefold purpose of wiping out the large Mexican debt
due to British bankers, of winning the friendship and possibly the
active assistance of England in the approaching war with the United
States, and of preventing the Californias from falling into American
hands. The danger was, therefore, that England would step in before us.
Nor was the danger any imaginary one. Her ships were watching our ships
on the Mexican coast, and her secret agents who infested the country
were keeping their fingers constantly on the pulse of public opinion.
Though it remains to this day a matter of conjecture as to just how far
England was prepared to go to obtain this territory, there is little
doubt that she had laid her plans for its acquisition in one way or
another. If California was to be added to the Union, therefore, it must
be by a sudden and daring stroke.

Meanwhile the authorities at Washington had not been idle. Though Larkin
was ostensibly the American consul at Monterey and nothing more, in
reality he was clothed with far greater powers, having been hurried from
Washington to California for the express purpose of secretly encouraging
an insurrectionary movement among the American settlers, and of keeping
our government informed of the plans of the Mexicans and British.
Receiving information that a powerful British fleet--the largest, in
fact, which had ever been seen in Pacific waters--was about to sail for
the coast of California, the administration promptly issued orders for a
squadron of war-ships under Commodore John Drake Sloat to proceed at
full speed to the Pacific coast, the commander being given secret
instructions to back up Consul Larkin in any action which he might take,
and upon receiving word that the United States had declared war against
Mexico to immediately occupy the Californian ports. Then ensued one of
the most momentous races in history, over a course extending half-way
round the world, the contestants being the war-fleets of the two most
powerful maritime nations, and the prize seven hundred thousand square
miles of immensely rich territory and the mastery of the Pacific.
Commodore Sloat laid his course around the Horn, while the English
commander, Admiral Trowbridge, chose the route through the Indian Ocean.
The first thing he saw as he entered the Bay of Monterey was the
American squadron lying at anchor in the harbor.

Never was there a better example of that form of territorial expansion
which has come to be known as "pacific penetration" than the American
conquest of California; never were the real designs of a nation and the
schemes of its secret agents more successfully hidden. Consul Larkin, as
I have already said, was quietly working, under confidential
instructions from the State Department, to bring about a revolution in
California without overt aid from the United States; the Californian
coast towns lay under the guns of American war-ships, whose commanders
likewise had secret instructions to land marines and take possession of
the country at the first opportunity that presented itself; and, as
though to complete the chain of American emissaries, early in 1846 there
came riding down from the Sierran passes, at the head of what pretended
to be an exploring and scientific expedition, the man who was to set the
machinery of conquest actually in motion.

The commander of the expedition was a young captain of engineers, named
John Charles Frémont, who, as the result of two former journeys of
exploration into the wilderness beyond the Rockies, had already won the
sobriquet of "The Pathfinder." Born in Savannah, of a French father and
a Virginian mother, he was a strange combination of aristocrat and
frontiersman. Dashing, debonair, fearless, reckless, a magnificent
horseman, a dead-shot, a hardy and intrepid explorer, equally at home
at a White House ball or at an Indian powwow, he was probably the most
picturesque and romantic figure in the United States. These
characteristics, combined with extreme good looks, a gallant manner, and
the great public reputation he had won by the vivid and interesting
accounts he had published of his two earlier journeys, had completely
captured the popular imagination, so that the young explorer had become
a national idol. In the spring of 1845 he was despatched by the National
Government on a third expedition, which had as its ostensible object the
discovery of a practicable route from the Rocky Mountains to the mouth
of the Columbia River, but which was really to lend encouragement to the
American settlers in California in any secession movement which they
might be planning and to afford them active assistance should war be
declared. Just how far the government had instructed Frémont to go in
fomenting a revolution will probably never be known, but there is every
reason to believe that his father-in-law, United States Senator Benton,
had advised him to seize California if an opportunity presented itself,
and to trust to luck (and the senator's influence) that the government
would approve rather than repudiate his action.

[Illustration: The Sacramento Valley in 1845.

From a steel engraving of the period.]

All told, Frémont's expedition numbered barely threescore men--no
great force, surely, with which to overthrow a government and win an
empire. In advance of the little column rode the four Delaware braves
whom Frémont had brought with him from the East to act as scouts and
trackers, and whose cunning and woodcraft he was willing to match
against that of the Indians of the plains. Close on their heels rode the
Pathfinder himself, clad from neck to heel in fringed buckskin, at his
belt a heavy army revolver and one of those vicious, double-bladed
knives to which Colonel Bowie, of Texas, had already given his name, and
on his head a jaunty, broad-brimmed hat, from beneath which his long,
yellow hair fell down upon his shoulders. At his bridle arm rode Kit
Carson, the most famous of the plainsmen, whose exploits against the
Indians were even then familiar stories in every American household.
Behind these two stretched out the rank and file of the
expedition--bronze-faced, bearded, resolute men, well mounted, heavily
armed, and all wearing the serviceable dress of the frontier.

Frémont found the American settlers scattered through the interior in a
state of considerable alarm, for rumors had reached them that the
Mexican Government had decided to drive them out of the country, and
that orders had been issued to the provincial authorities to incite the
Indians against them. As they dwelt for the most part in small, isolated
communities, scattered over a great extent of country, it was obvious
that, if these rumors were true, their lives were in imminent peril.
They had every reason to expect, moreover, that the news of war between
Mexico and the United States would bring down on them those forms of
punishment and retaliation for which the Mexicans were notorious. They
were confronted, therefore, with the alternative of abandoning the homes
they had built and the fields they had tilled and seeking refuge in
flight across the mountains, or of remaining to face those perils
inseparable from border warfare. Nor did it take them long to decide
upon resistance, for they were not of the breed which runs away.

Leaving most of his men encamped in the foot-hills, Frémont pushed on to
Monterey, then the most important settlement in Upper California, and
the seat of the provincial government, where he called upon Don José
Castro, the Mexican commandant, explained the purposes of his
expedition, and requested permission for his party to proceed northward
to the Columbia through the San Joaquin valley. This permission Castro
grudgingly gave, but scarcely had Frémont broken camp before the
Mexican, who had hastily gathered an overwhelming force of soldiers and
vaqueros, set out upon the trail of the Americans with the avowed
purpose of surprising and exterminating them. Fortunately for the
Americans, Consul Larkin, getting wind of Castro's intended treachery,
succeeded in warning Frémont, who instead of taking his chances in a
battle on the plains against a greatly superior force, suddenly occupied
the precipitous hill lying back of and commanding Monterey, known as the
Hawk's Peak, intrenched himself there, and then sent word to Castro to
come and take him. Although the Mexican commander made a military
demonstration before the American intrenchments, he was wise enough to
refrain from attempting to carry a position of such great natural
strength and defended by such unerring shots as were Frémont's
frontiersmen. Four days later Frémont, feeling that there was nothing to
be gained by holding the position longer, and confident that the
Mexicans would be only too glad to see his back, quietly broke camp one
night and resumed his march toward Oregon.

Scarcely had he crossed the Oregon line, however, before he was
overtaken by a messenger on a reeking horse, who had been despatched by
Consul Larkin to inform him that an officer with urgent despatches from
Washington had arrived at Monterey and was hastening northward to
overtake him. Frémont immediately turned back, and on the shores of the
Greater Klamath Lake met Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, who had
travelled from New York to Vera Cruz by steamer, had crossed Mexico to
Mazatlán on horseback, and had been brought up the Pacific coast to
Monterey in an American war-ship. The exact contents of the despatches
with which Gillespie had been intrusted will probably never be known,
for having reason to believe that his mission was suspected by the
Mexicans, and being fearful of arrest, he had destroyed the despatches
after committing their contents to memory. These contents he
communicated to Frémont, and the fact that the latter immediately turned
his horse's head Californiawards is the best proof that they contained
definite instructions for him to stir up the American settlers to revolt
and so gain California for the Union by what some one has aptly
described as "neutral conquest."

The news of Frémont's return spread among the scattered settlers as
though by wireless, and from all parts of the country hardy, determined
men came pouring into camp to offer him their services. But his hands
were tied. His instructions from Washington, while ordering him to lend
his encouragement to an insurrectionary movement, expressly forbade him
to take the initiative in any hostilities until he received word that
war with Mexico had been declared--and that word had not yet come. These
facts he communicated to the settlers. Frémont's assurance that the
American Government sympathized with their aspirations for independence,
and could be counted upon to back up any action they might take to
secure it, was all that the settlers needed. On the evening of June 13,
1846, some fifty Americans living along the Sacramento River met at the
ranch of an old Indian-fighter and bear-hunter named Captain Meredith,
and under his leadership rode across the country in a northwesterly
direction through the night. Dawn found them close to the presidio of
Sonoma, which was the residence of the Mexican general Vallejo and the
most important military post north of San Francisco. Leaving their
horses in the shelter of the forest, the Americans stole silently
forward in the dimness of the early morning, overpowered the sentries,
burst in the gates, and had taken possession of the town and surrounded
the barracks before the garrison was fairly awake. General Vallejo and
his officers were captured in their beds, and were sent under guard to
a fortified ranch known as Sutter's fort, which was situated some
distance in the interior. In addition to the prisoners, nine field-guns,
several hundred stands of arms, and a considerable supply of ammunition
fell into the hands of the Americans. The first blow had been struck in
the conquest of California.

The question now arose as to what they should do with the town they had
captured, for Frémont had no authority to take it over for the United
States, or to muster the men who took it into the American service. The
embattled settlers found themselves, in fact, to be in the embarrassing
position of being men without a country. After a council of war they
decided to organize a _pro-tem_. government of their own to administer
the territory until such time as it should be formally annexed to the
United States. I doubt if a government was ever established so quickly
and under such rough-and-ready circumstances. After an informal ballot
it was announced that William B. Ide, a leading spirit among the
settlers, had been unanimously elected governor and commander-in-chief
"of the independent forces"; John H. Nash, who had been a justice of the
peace in the East before he had emigrated to California, being named
chief justice of the new republic.

For a full-fledged nation not to have a flag of its own was, of course,
unthinkable; so, as most of its citizens were hunters and adventurers,
when some one suggested that the grizzly bear, because of its
indomitable courage and tenacity and its ferocity when aroused, would
make a peculiarly appropriate emblem for the new banner, the suggestion
was adopted with enthusiasm and a committee of two was appointed to put
it into immediate execution. A young settler named William Ford, who had
been imprisoned by the Mexicans in the jail at Sonoma, and who had been
released when his countrymen captured the place; and William Todd, an
emigrant from Illinois, were the makers of the flag. On a piece of
unbleached cotton cloth, a yard wide and a yard and a half long, they
painted the rude figure of a grizzly bear ready to give battle. This
strange banner they raised, at noon on June 14, amid a storm of cheers
and a salute from the captured cannon, on the staff where so recently
had floated the flag of Mexico, and from it the Bear Flag Republic took
its name.

Scarcely had Frémont received the news of the capture of Sonoma and the
proclamation of the Bear Flag Republic than word reached him that a
large force of Mexicans was on its way to retake the town. Disregarding
his instructions from Washington, and throwing all caution to the
winds, Frémont instantly decided to stake everything on giving his
support to his imperilled countrymen. His own men reinforced by a number
of volunteers, he arrived at Sonoma after a forced march of thirty-six
hours, only to find the Bear Flag men still in possession. The number of
the enemy, as well as their intentions, had, it seems, been greatly
exaggerated, the force in question being but a small party of troopers
which Castro had despatched to the Mission of San Rafael, on the north
shore of San Francisco Bay, to prevent several hundred cavalry remounts
which were stabled there from falling into the hands of the Americans.
Realizing the value of these horses to the settlers in the guerilla
campaign, which seemed likely to ensue, Frémont succeeded in capturing
them after a sharp skirmish with the Mexicans. Hurrying back to Sonoma,
he learned that during his absence Ide and his men had repulsed an
attack by a body of Mexican regulars, under General de la Torre,
reinforced by a band of ruffians and desperadoes led by an outlaw named
Padilla, inflicting so sharp a defeat that the only enemies left in that
part of the country were the scattered fugitives from this force; these
being hunted down and summarily dealt with by the frontiersmen. Having
now irrevocably committed himself to the insurgent cause, and feeling
that, if he were to be hanged, it might as well be for a sheep as for a
lamb, Frémont decided on the capture of San Francisco. The San Francisco
of 1846 had little in common with the San Francisco of to-day, remember,
for on the site where the great Western metropolis now stands there was
nothing but a village consisting of a few-score adobe houses and the
Mexican presidio, or fort, the latter containing a considerable supply
of arms and ammunition. Accompanied by Kit Carson, Lieutenant Gillespie,
and a small detachment of his men, Frémont crossed the Bay of San
Francisco in a sailing-boat by night, and took the Mexican garrison so
completely by surprise that they surrendered without firing a shot. The
gateway to the Orient was ours.

Frémont now prepared to take the offensive against Castro, who was
retreating on Los Angeles, but just as he was about to start on his
march southward a messenger brought the great news that Admiral Sloat,
having received word that hostilities had commenced along the Rio
Grande, had landed his marines at Monterey, and on July 7, to the
thunder of saluting war-ships, had raised the American flag over the
presidio, and had proclaimed the annexation of California to the Union.
When the Bear Flag men learned the great news they went into a frenzy of
enthusiasm; whooping, shouting, singing snatches of patriotic songs,
and firing their pistols in the air. Quickly the standard of the
fighting grizzly was lowered and the flag of stripes and stars hoisted
in its place, while the rough-clad, bearded settlers, who had waited so
long and risked so much that this very thing might come to pass, sang
the Doxology with tears running down their faces. As the folds of the
familiar banner caught the breeze and floated out over the flat-roofed
houses of the little town, Ide, the late chief of the three-weeks
republic, jumping on a powder barrel, swung his sombrero in the air and
shouted: "Now, boys, all together, three cheers for the Union!" The
moist eyes and the lumps in the throats brought by the sight of the old
flag did not prevent the little band of frontiersmen from responding
with a roar which made the windows of Sonoma rattle.

Now, as a matter of fact, Admiral Sloat had placed himself in a very
embarrassing position, for he had based his somewhat precipitate action
in seizing California on what he had every reason to believe was
authentic news that war between the United States and Mexico had
actually begun, but which proved next day to be merely an unconfirmed
rumor. If a state of war really did exist, then both Sloat and Frémont
were justified in their aggressions; but if it did not, then they might
have considerable difficulty in explaining their action in commencing
hostilities against a nation with which we were at peace. So Sloat began
"to get cold feet," asserting that he was forced to act as he had
because he had received reliable information that the British, whose
fleet was lying off Monterey, were on the point of seizing California
themselves. Frémont, on his part, claimed to have acted in defence of
the American settlers in the interior, who without his assistance would
have been massacred by the Mexicans. At this juncture Commodore Stockton
arrived at Monterey in the frigate _Congress_, and as Sloat was now
thoroughly frightened and only too glad to transfer the responsibility
he had assumed to other shoulders, Stockton, who was the junior officer,
asked for and readily obtained permission to assume command of the
operations. Frémont, who had reached Monterey with several hundred
riflemen, was appointed commander-in-chief of the land forces by
Stockton, and was ordered to embark his men on one of the war-ships and
proceed at once to capture San Diego, at that time by far the most
important place in California. Stockton himself, after raising the
American flag over San Francisco and Santa Barbara, sailed down the
coast to San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, where he disembarked a
force of bluejackets and marines for the taking of the latter city,
within which the Mexican commander, General Castro, had shut himself up
with a considerable number of troops, and where he promised to make a
desperate resistance.

As Stockton came marching up from San Pedro at the head of his column he
was met by a Mexican carrying a flag of truce and bearing a message from
Castro warning the American commander in the most solemn terms that if
his forces dared to set foot within Los Angeles they would be going to
their own funerals. "Present my compliments to General Castro," Stockton
told the messenger, "and ask him to have the kindness to have the church
bells tolled for our funerals at eight o'clock to-morrow morning, for at
that hour I shall enter the city." Upon receipt of this disconcerting
message Castro slipped out of Los Angeles that night, without firing a
shot in its defence, and at eight o'clock on the following morning,
Stockton, just as he had promised, came riding in at the head of his

After garrisoning the surrounding towns and ridding the countryside of
prowling bands of Mexican guerillas, Stockton officially proclaimed
California a Territory of the United States, instituted a civil
government along American lines, and appointed Frémont as the first
Territorial governor. Before the year 1846 had drawn to a close these
two Americans, the one a rough-and-ready sailor, the other a youthful
and impetuous soldier, assisted by a few hundred marines and
frontiersmen, had completed the conquest and pacification of a territory
having a greater area and greater natural resources than those of all
the countries conquered by Napoleon put together. Thus ended the happy,
lazy, luxury-loving society of Spanish California. Another society, less
luxurious, less light-hearted, less contented, but more energetic, more
progressive, and better fitted for the upbuilding of a nation, took its
place. There are still to be found in California a few men, white-haired
and stoop-shouldered now, who were themselves actors in this drama I
have described, and who delight to tell of those stirring days when
Frémont and his frontiersmen came riding down from the passes, and the
embattled settlers of Sonoma founded their short-lived Republic of the


In one of the public squares of San José, which is the capital of Costa
Rica, there is a marble statue of a stern-faced young woman, with her
foot planted firmly on a gentleman's neck. The young woman is symbolic
of the Republic of Costa Rica, and the gentleman ground beneath her heel
is supposed to represent the American filibuster and soldier of fortune,
William Walker. Now, before going any farther, justice requires me to
explain that Walker's downfall was not due to Costa Rica, as the
citizens of that little republic would like the world to believe, and as
the bombastic statue in the plaza of its capital would lead one to
suppose, but to a far greater and richer power, whose victories were won
with dollars instead of bayonets, whose capital was New York City, and
whose name was Cornelius Vanderbilt.

To the younger generation the name of William Walker carries no
significance, but to the gray-heads whose recollections antedate the
Civil War the mention of it brings back a flood of thrilling memories,
while throughout the length and breadth of that wild region lying
between the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Isthmus of Panama it is still
a synonym for unfaltering courage. His weakness was ambition; his fault
was failure. Had he succeeded in realizing his ambitions--and he failed
only by the narrowest of margins--he would have been lauded as another
Cortez, and would have received stars and crosses instead of bullets.
Had his life not been cut short by a Honduran firing-party, it is
possible, indeed probable, that, instead of there being six states in
Central America there would be but one, and in that one the institution
of slavery might still exist. Though I have scant sympathy with the
motives which animated Walker, and though I believe that his death was
for the best good of the Central American peoples, he was the very
antithesis of the cutthroat and blackguard and outlaw which he has been
painted, being, on the contrary, a very brave and honest gentleman, of
whom his countrymen have no reason to feel ashamed, and that is why I am
going to tell his story.

The eldest son of a Scotch banker, Walker was born in 1824 in Nashville,
Tennessee. His father, a stiff-necked Presbyterian who held morning and
evening prayers, asked an interminable grace before every meal, and
took his family to church three times on Sunday, had set his heart on
his son entering the ministry, and it was with a pulpit and parish in
view that young Walker was educated. By the time that he was ready to
enter the theological school, however, he decided that he preferred M.D.
instead of D.D. after his name, whereupon, much to his father's
disappointment, he insisted on taking the medical course at the
University of Tennessee, following it up by two years at the University
of Edinburgh. Thoroughly equipped to practise his chosen profession, he
opened an office in Philadelphia, but in a few months the routine of a
doctor's life palled upon him, so, taking down his brass door-plate, he
went to New Orleans, where, after two years of study, he was admitted to
the bar. But he soon found that briefs and summonses were scarcely more
to his liking than prescriptions and pills, so, with the prompt decision
which was one of his most marked characteristics, he closed his
law-office and obtained a position as editorial writer on a New Orleans
newspaper. Within a year the restlessness which had led him to abandon
the church, medicine, and the bar caused him to give up journalism in
its turn. At this time, 1852, the Californian gold fever was at its mad
height, and to the Pacific coast were pouring streams of
fortune-seekers and adventure-lovers from every quarter of the globe.
One of the latter was Walker, and it was while editor of the San
Francisco _Herald_, when only twenty-eight years old, that his amazing
career really began.

Walker was not of the sort who could content himself for any length of
time within the stuffy walls of an editorial sanctum. His fingers were
made to grasp something more virile than the pen. Nor did he make any
attempt to win a fortune with pick and shovel in the gold fields. His
ambitions were neither intellectual nor mercenary, but political, for
from his boyhood days in Nashville he had dreamed, as all boys worth
their salt do dream, of some day founding a state, with himself as its
ruler, in that wild and savage region below the Rio Grande. Enlisting
half a hundred kindred souls from the hordes of the reckless, the
adventurous, and the needy which were pouring into California by boat
and wagon-train, Walker chartered a small vessel and set sail from San
Francisco for the coast of Mexico. His avowed object was a purely
humanitarian one: to protect the women and children living along the
Mexican frontier from massacre by the Indians, the state of Sonora being
at that time more under the dominion of the Apaches than it was under
that of Mexico. But it was not the protection of the women and
children--though they needed protection badly enough, goodness
knows--which led Walker to embark on this hare-brained expedition. He
was lured southward by a dream of empire, an empire of which he should
be the ruler, and which should be founded on slavery. By this time,
remember, the slavery question in the United States had become
exceedingly acute, the future of the institution on this continent
largely depending upon whether the next States admitted to the Union
should be slave or free. Walker was a sincere, even fanatical, believer
in slavery. Born and reared in an atmosphere of slavery, to Walker it
was as sacred, as God-given an institution as the Fast of Ramadan is to
the Moslem or the Feast of the Passover to the Jew. Convinced that
friction over this question would sooner or later force the
slave-holding States to secede from the Union, he determined to extend
the area of slavery by conquering that portion of northern Mexico
immediately adjacent to the United States, to establish an independent
government there, and eventually to annex his country to the South, thus
counteracting the growing movement for abolition, which, with the
admission of new Northern territories, already hinted at the overthrow
of slavery.

Financed by Southern friends whose motives were probably considerably
less altruistic than his own, Walker landed at Cape San Lucas, the
extreme southern point of the Mexican territory of Southern California,
in October, 1852, with an "army of invasion" of forty-five men. Instead
of hastening to protect the women and children of whom he had talked so
feelingly, he sailed up the coast to the territorial capital of La Paz,
which he seized, where he issued a proclamation announcing the
annexation of the neighboring state of Sonora, in which he had not yet
set foot, giving to the two states the name of the "Republic of Sonora,"
and proclaiming himself its first president. As soon as the news of this
initial success reached San Francisco, Walker's sympathizers there
busied themselves in recruiting reinforcements, three hundred
desperadoes who boasted that they were afraid of nothing "on two feet or
four" being shipped to him at La Paz a few weeks later. These men were
looked upon as hard cases even in the San Francisco of the early
fifties, and, if they had not consented to leave the country to assist
Walker, many of them would probably have left it sooner or later at the
end of a rope in the hands of the local vigilance committee. When this
force of scoundrels arrived at La Paz and found themselves under the
command of a quiet, mild-mannered, beardless youth of twenty-eight,
instead of the brawny, foul-mouthed, swashbuckling leader whom they had
expected, they promptly hatched a scheme to blow up the magazine, seize
the ship and the stores of the expedition in the ensuing confusion, and
make their way back to the United States, leaving Walker to shift for
himself. Warning of the conspiracy reaching him, however, Walker
displayed for the first time those traits which were later to make his
name a word of terror in the ears of men who bragged that they feared
neither God nor man. Arresting the ringleaders, he had two of them tried
by court-martial and shot within an hour; two of the others he ordered
flogged and drummed out of camp, to take their chances among the hostile
Mexicans and Indians. But, though this act gained Walker the fear and
respect of his followers, the newcomers among them had no stomach for a
leader who could punish, so when he called for volunteers to accompany
him in the conquest of Sonora less than a hundred men offered to follow

From the very first the shadow of failure hung over the enterprise. To
begin with, there is no more savage and desolate region on the American
continent than the peninsula of Lower California, it being so barren and
destitute that even the lizards have to scramble for an existence.
Mexicans and Indians hung upon the flanks of the little column night and
day, as buzzards follow a dying steer. There was neither medicine nor
medical instruments with the expedition, and the wounded died from lack
of the most elementary care. Their shoes gave out and the men marched
bare-foot over sun-scorched rocks and needle cactus, leaving a trail of
crimson behind them in the sand. Their provisions were soon exhausted,
and their only food was beef which they killed on the march. For years
afterward the route of that ill-fated expedition could be traced from La
Paz to the Colorado River by the bleaching skeletons of the men who fell
by the way. By the time the head of the Gulf of California was reached
the expedition had dwindled to barely twoscore men. It was no longer a
question of conquering Sonora; it was a question of getting back to the
States alive.

With sinking heart, but imperturbable face, Walker led his little band
of starving, fever-racked, exhausted men toward the Californian line.
Three miles of road led through a mountain pass into the United States
and safety. But the pass was held by a force of Mexican soldiery under
Colonel Melendrez, and his Indian allies were scattered over the plain
below. And, as though to give a final touch of irony to the situation in
which Walker and his men found themselves, from their position on the
Mexican hillside they could look across into American territory, could
see the American flag, their flag, fluttering over the military post
south of San Diego, could even see the sun glinting upon the bits and
sabres of the troop of American cavalry drawn up along the border. Four
Indians bearing a flag of truce approached. They bore a message from the
Mexican commander to the filibusters. If they would surrender their
leader and give up their arms, Melendrez sent word, they would be
permitted to leave the country unmolested. But after you have fought and
bled and marched and starved with a man for a year, you are not likely
to abandon him, particularly when the end is in sight, so they sent back
word to Melendrez that if he wanted their arms he would have to come and
take them. Meanwhile the American commander, Major McKinstry, had drawn
up his troopers along the boundary-line and awaited the result of the
unequal struggle like an umpire at a foot-ball game. Walker, who knew
perfectly well that he deserved no aid from the United States, and that
he would get none, appreciated that if he was to get out of this
predicament alive it must be by his own wits. Concealing a dozen of his
men among the rocks and sage-brush which lined the road on either side,
with the remainder of his force he pretended to beat a panic-stricken
retreat. Melendrez, confident that it was now all over but the shouting,
swept down the road in pursuit. But as the Mexicans rode into the ambush
which Walker had prepared for them the hidden filibusters emptied a
dozen saddles at a single volley, and the soldiers, terrified and
demoralized, wheeled and fled for their lives. Thirty minutes later the
President, the Cabinet, and all that remained of the standing army of
the late Republic of Sonora stumbled across the American boundary and
surrendered to Major McKinstry. It was May 8, 1854, and in such fashion
Walker celebrated his thirtieth birthday.

Sent to San Francisco as a political prisoner, Walker was tried for
violating the neutrality laws of the United States, was acquitted--for
the members of a Californian jury could not but sympathize with such a
man--and once again found himself writing editorials for the San
Francisco _Herald_. His narrow escape from death in Mexico had only
served to whet his appetite for adventure, however, so when he was not
doing his newspaper work he was poring over an atlas in search of some
other land where a determined man might carve out a career for himself
with his sword. Staring at the map of Middle America, his finger again
and again paused, as though by instinct, on Nicaragua. Here was indeed a
fertile field for the filibuster. Not only was the country enormously
rich in every form of natural resources, but it had a kindly and
moderately healthy climate, and, what was the most important of all,
owing to its peculiar geographical position, it commanded what was at
that time one of the great trade-routes of the world. At this time there
were three routes to the Californian gold-fields: one, the long and
weary voyage around the Horn; another, by the dangerous and costly
Overland Trail; and the third, which was the shortest, cheapest, and
most popular, across Nicaragua. If you will glance at the map, you will
see that, barring the Isthmus of Panama, which is several hundred miles
farther south, Nicaragua is the narrowest neck of land between the two
great oceans, and that in the middle of this neck is the great Lake
Nicaragua, which is upward of fifty miles in width. An American
corporation known as the Accessory Transit Company, of which the first
Cornelius Vanderbilt was president, had obtained a concession from the
Nicaraguan Government to transport passengers across Central America by
this route. Passengers _en route_ from New York or New Orleans to the
gold-fields were landed by the company's steamers at Greytown, on the
Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, and transported thence by light-draught
steamers up the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua. Here they were
transferred to larger steamers and taken across the lake to Virgin Bay,
the twelve-mile journey from there to the port of San Juan del Sur, on
the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, being performed in carriages or on the
backs of mules. During a single year twenty-five thousand passengers
crossed Nicaragua by this route. It did not take Walker long to
appreciate, therefore, that the man who succeeded in making himself
master of this, the shortest route to California, would be in a position
of considerable strength. Not only this, but Nicaragua was torn by
internal dissensions; the army was divided into a dozen factions; the
peasantry were down-trodden and poverty-stricken; the government was
inconceivably corrupt; and the usual revolution was, of course, in
progress, in which the sister republics of Honduras and Costa Rica were
preparing to take a hand. Everything considered, Nicaragua's only hope
of salvation from anarchy lay in finding for a ruler a man with an
inflexible sense of justice and an iron hand. Walker determined to be
that man.

In view of what I have already told of his exploits, you have doubtless
pictured Walker as a tall, broad-shouldered man of commanding presence.
As a matter of fact, he was nothing of the sort. In height he was but
five feet five inches, and correspondingly slender. A remarkably square
jaw and a long chin lent strength and determination to features which
were plain almost to the point of coarseness. His eyes, which were of a
singularly light gray, are universally spoken of as having been his most
noticeable feature, for they were so large and fixed that the eyelids
scarcely showed, and so penetrating that they seemed to bore holes into
the person at whom they were looking. He was extremely taciturn, and
when he did speak it was briefly and to the point. He had an unusual
command of English, however, and his words were always carefully chosen.
A stranger to fear, men who followed him on his campaigns assert that
even under the most trying and perilous circumstances they had never
seen him change countenance or betray emotion by so much as the
contraction of a muscle. He was wholly lacking in personal vanity, and
when in the field wore his trousers tucked into his boots, a flannel
shirt open at the neck, and a faded black campaign hat. In a land where
all three habits were universal, he neither drank, smoked, nor swore; he
never looked at women; his word, once given, was never broken; the
justice he meted out to disobedient followers, though stern to the point
of brutality, was absolutely impartial. Highly ambitious, it is paying
but the barest justice to his memory to say that his aspirations,
however little we may sympathize with them, were wholly political and
never mercenary, his whole career showing him to be utterly careless of
wealth. Taking everything into consideration, we have good reason to be
proud that William Walker was an American.

In 1854, as I have already remarked, Nicaragua was split asunder by
civil war. The opposing parties were the Legitimists and the Democrats.
What they were fighting about is of no consequence; perhaps they did not
know themselves. In any event, in August of that year an American named
Byron Cole, acting as an agent for Walker, arrived at the headquarters
of the Democratic forces with a novel offer. Briefly, he agreed to
contract to supply the Democratic party with three hundred American
"colonists liable to military duty," these settlers to receive a grant
of fifty-two thousand acres of land, and to have the privilege of
becoming citizens of Nicaragua. This contract was approved and signed by
General Castillon, the Democratic leader, and with it in his pocket Cole
hastened to San Francisco and Walker. After taking the precaution of
submitting the contract to the civil and military authorities in San
Francisco, and receiving their assurances that it did not violate the
neutrality laws of the United States, Walker immediately set about
recruiting his "colonists," and in May, 1855, just a year after his
escape from Mexico, he was ready to sail. Although, as I have said, the
Federal authorities had passed upon the legality of the contract, it was
a noticeable fact that the peaceable settlers took with them Winchester
rifles instead of spades, and Colt's revolvers instead of hoes, and that
the hold of the brig _Vesta_, on which they sailed from San Francisco,
was filled with ammunition and machine guns instead of agricultural
implements and machinery.

After a long and stormy voyage down the Pacific coast Walker and his
men landed, on June 16, at the port of Realejo, in Nicaragua, where he
was met by Castillon. Walker was at once commissioned a colonel;
Achilles Kewen, who had just come from Cuba, where he had been fighting
under the patriot Lopez, a lieutenant-colonel; and Timothy Crocker, a
fighting Irishman, who was a veteran of Walker's Sonora expedition, a
major; the corps being organized as an independent command under the
name of _La Falange Americana_--the American Phalanx. At this time the
Transit route from the Atlantic to the Pacific was held by the
Legitimist forces, and these Walker was ordered to dislodge, it being
essential to the success of the Democrats that they gain possession of
this interoceanic highway. Accordingly, a week after setting foot in
Nicaragua, Walker, at the head of fifty-seven of his Americans and one
hundred and fifty native soldiers, set out for Rivas, a town on the
western shore of Lake Nicaragua held by twelve hundred of the enemy. The
first battle of his Nicaraguan campaign ended in the most complete
disaster. At the first volley his native allies bolted, leaving the
Americans surrounded by ten times their number of Legitimists. The enemy
instantly perceived this defection, and pressed the Phalanx so hard
that its members were driven to take shelter behind a row of adobe huts.
No one knew better than Walker that if the enemy charged he and his men
were done for, so he decided to do the charging himself. Out from behind
the huts dashed the red-shirted filibusters, firing as they came, and so
ferocious was their onslaught that they succeeded in cutting their way
through the encircling army and escaping into the jungle. Though six of
the Americans were killed, including Walker's two lieutenants, Kewen and
Crocker, and twice as many wounded, the battle of Rivas established the
reputation of Americans in Central America for years to come, for a
hundred and fifty of the enemy fell before their deadly fire.

[Illustration: General William Walker and his men, after a long and
stormy voyage, landing at Virgin Bay, en route to Costa Rica.

From a print in the New York Public Library.]

Bleeding and exhausted from battle and travel, Walker and his men, after
an all-night march through the jungle, limped into the port of San Juan
del Sur, and, finding a Costa Rican vessel in the harbor, they seized it
for their own use. Still bearing in mind the necessity of getting
control of the Transit route, Walker gave his men only a few days in
which to recover from their wounds and weariness, and then was off
again, this time for Virgin Bay, the halting-place for passengers going
east or west. Though in the fight which ensued Walker was outnumbered
five to one, his losses were only three natives killed and a few
Americans wounded, while one hundred and fifty of the enemy fell before
the rifles of the filibusters. This disparity of losses emphasizes, as
does nothing else, the deadliness of the American fire.

After the fight at Virgin Bay Walker received from California fifty
recruits, thus bringing the force under his command up to some four
hundred men, about a third of whom were Americans. The Legitimists,
learning that he was planning to again attack Rivas, hastened to
reinforce the garrison of that town by hurrying troops there from their
headquarters at Granada, which was farther up the lake, planning to give
Walker a warm and unexpected reception. But it was Walker who did the
surprising, for, having his own channels of secret information, he no
sooner learned of the weakened condition of Granada than he determined
to direct his efforts against that place, instead of Rivas, and by
capturing it to give the Legitimist cause a solar-plexus blow. Embarking
his men on a small steamer with the announced intention of attacking
Rivas, as soon as night fell he turned in the opposite direction and,
with lights out and fires banked, steamed silently up the lake. Dawn
found him off Granada, the garrison and inhabitants of which were
sleeping off a drunken debauch with which they had celebrated a recent
victory. Even the sentries drowsed at their posts. Unobserved, the
Americans landed in the semi-darkness of the early dawn, and it was not
until they had reached the very outskirts of the town that a sentry
suddenly awakened to their presence and gave the alarm by letting off
his rifle, the shot being instantly answered by a crackle of musketry as
the Americans opened fire. "Charge!" shouted Walker, "Get at 'em! Get at
'em!" and dashed forward at a run, a revolver in each hand, with his
followers, cheering like madmen, close at his heels. "Los Filibusteros!
Los Filibusteros!" screamed the terror-stricken inhabitants, catching
sight of the red shirts and scarlet hat-bands of the Americans. "Run for
your lives!" The demoralized garrison made a brief and ineffective stand
in the Plaza, and then threw down their arms. Walker was master of
Granada. He at once instituted a military government, released over a
hundred political prisoners confined in the local jail, policed the town
as effectually as though it were a New England village, and when he
caught one of his native soldiers in the act of looting, ran him through
with his sword.

Walker was now in a position to dictate his own terms of peace, and,
four months after he and his fifty-seven followers landed in Nicaragua,
an armistice was arranged and the side to which the Americans had lent
their aid was in power. A native named Rivas was made provisional
president, and Walker was appointed commander-in-chief of the army,
which at that time numbered about twelve hundred men. Though
insignificant in numbers when judged by European standards, this was
really a remarkable force, and perhaps the most effective for its size
known to military history. The officers had all seen service under many
flags and in many lands--in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Algeria,
Italy, Egypt, Russia, India, China--and the men, nearly all of whom had
been recruited in San Francisco, boasted that "California was the pick
of the world, and they were the pick of California." There was scarcely
a man among them who could not flick the ashes from a cigar with his
revolver at a hundred feet, or with his rifle hit a dollar held between
a man's thumb and forefinger at a hundred yards. All the strange, wild
natures for whom even the mining-camps of California had grown too tame
were drawn to Walker's flag as iron filings are drawn to a magnet.
Frederick Townsend Ward, the New England youth who raised, trained, and
led the Ever-Victorious Army, who rose to be an admiral-general of
China, and who performed the astounding exploits for which General
Charles Gordon received the credit, gained much of his military training
under Walker; Joaquin Miller, "the poet of the Sierras," was another of
his devoted followers, while scores of the other men who fought under
the blue-and-white banner with the scarlet star in later years achieved
name and fame in many different lands.

[Illustration: General Walker reviewing troops on the Grand Plaza,

From a print in the New York Public Library.]

Says General Charles Frederic Henningsen, the famous English soldier of
fortune who was Walker's second in command: "I have heard two greasy
privates disputing over the correct reading and comparative merits of
Æschylus and Euripides. I have seen a soldier on guard incessantly
scribbling strips of paper, which turned out to be a finely versified
translation of his dog's-eared copy of the _Divina Commedia_." The same
officer, who had fought with distinction under Don Carlos in Spain,
under Schamyl in the Caucasus, and under Kossuth in Hungary, who had
introduced the Minié rifle into the American service, and was a
recognized authority on the use of artillery, and therefore knew whereof
he spoke, also testifies to the heroism and astounding fortitude of
Walker's men. "I have often seen them marching with a broken or a
compound-fractured arm in splints, and using the other to fire the
rifle or revolver. Those with a fractured thigh, or with wounds which
rendered them incapable of removal, often (or rather, in early times,
always) shot themselves, sooner than fall into the hands of the enemy.
Such men do not turn up in the average of every-day life, nor do I ever
expect to see their like again. I was on the Confederate side in many of
the bloodiest battles of the late war, but I aver that if, at the end of
that war I had been allowed to pick five thousand of the bravest
Confederate or Federal soldiers I ever saw, and could resurrect and pit
against them one thousand of such men as lie beneath the orange-trees of
Nicaragua, I feel certain that the thousand would have scattered and
utterly routed the five thousand within an hour. All military science
failed, on a suddenly given field, before assailants who came on at a
run, to close with their revolvers, and who thought little of charging a
battery, pistol in hand." As a matter of fact, at the first battle of
Rivas, ten Americans, all officers of the Phalanx, armed only with
bowie-knives and revolvers, actually did charge and capture a battery
manned by more than a hundred Costa Ricans, half of the little band
being killed in that astounding exploit. Some estimate of the deeds of
these unsung heroes, so many of whom lie in unmarked graves beneath an
alien sky, may be gathered from the surgical reports, which showed that
the proportion of wounds treated was _one hundred and thirty-seven to
every hundred men_.

For several months after the taking of Granada and the establishment of
a provisional government, the dove of peace hovered over Nicaragua as
though desirous of alighting, but in February, 1856, it was driven away,
at least for a time, by a fresh splutter of musketry along the southern
frontier, where Costa Rica, alarmed by Walker's reputed ambition to make
himself master of all Middle America, had begun an invasion with the
expressed purpose of driving the _gringos_ from Central American soil.
After a few months of desperate fighting, in which the Americans fully
maintained their reputation for reckless bravery, the Costa Ricans were
driven across the border, and for a brief time the harassed Nicaraguans
were able to exchange their rifles for their hoes. The country now being
for the moment at peace, Rivas called a presidential election,
announcing himself as the candidate of the Democrats. The Legitimists,
recognizing in Walker the one strong man of the country, had the
political shrewdness to choose him, their former enemy, to head their
ticket. Two other candidates, Ferrer and Salazar, were also in the
field. The election was regular in every respect, the voting being
entirely free from the usual disturbances. According to the Nicaraguan
constitution, every male inhabitant over eighteen years of age,
criminals excepted, is entitled to the suffrage. When the votes were
counted it was found that Rivas had received 867 votes; Salazar, 2,087;
Ferrer, 4,447; and Walker, 15,835. By such an overwhelming majority, and
in an absolutely fair election, was William Walker made President of
Nicaragua--the first and only time an American has ever been chosen
ruler of a foreign and independent state.

In all its troubled history Nicaragua has never been governed so justly
and so wisely as it was by the American soldier of fortune. Had he been
free from foreign interference there is little doubt that he would have
made Nicaragua a progressive, prosperous, and contented country, and
that he would in time have brought under one government and one flag all
the states lying between Yucatan and Panama. But that was precisely what
the peoples of those states were fearful of, so that, a few weeks after
Walker was inaugurated, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, and San
Salvador declared war. This time Walker took the field with three
thousand trained and seasoned veterans, while opposed to him were
twenty-one thousand of the allies. To describe the campaign that ensued
would be as profitless as it would be tedious. The programme was always
the same: the march by night through the silent, steaming jungle, and
the stealthy surrounding of the threatened town in the early dawn; the
warning crack of a startled sentry's rifle; the sudden rush of the
filibusters with their high, shrill yell; the taking of the barracks and
the cathedral in the Plaza, nearly always at the pistol's point; and the
panic-stricken retreat of the little brown men in their uniforms of
soiled white linen. Everywhere the arms of Walker were triumphant, and
had he not at this time deliberately crossed the path of a soldier of
fortune of quite another kind, in a few months more he would have
realized his life-dream and have made himself the ruler of a Central
American empire.

Upon investigating national affairs after his election, Walker found
that the Accessory Transit Company had not lived up to the terms of its
concession from the government of Nicaragua. By the terms of its charter
it had agreed to pay to the Nicaraguan Government ten thousand dollars
annually, and ten per cent of its net profits. The company claimed, and
the government as stoutly denied, that the ten thousand dollars had been
regularly paid, though the concessionaires admitted that the ten per
cent on the profits had not been paid, giving as their excuse that there
had been no profits. Upon an examination of the books it was quickly
discovered that the company had so juggled with the accounts as to make
it appear that there were no profits, when, as a matter of fact, the
enterprise was an enormously profitable one. Upon discovering the fraud
which had been perpetrated upon the government and people of Nicaragua,
Walker demanded back payments to the amount of two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars, and upon the company insolently refusing to pay them,
he promptly revoked its charter, and seized its steamboats, wharves, and
warehouses as security for the debt. Though this action was perfectly
justifiable under the circumstances, it was, in view of the instability
of Walker's position, an unwise move, for it made an implacable enemy of
one of the most powerful and perhaps the most unscrupulous of the
financiers of the time.

[Illustration: The programme was always the same: the sudden rush of the
filibusters with their high, shrill yell; the taking of the barracks and
the cathedral in the Plaza.

From a print in the New York Public Library.]

Cornelius Vanderbilt was not a person who could be bluffed or
frightened. Infuriated at the action of the filibuster President, he
immediately withdrew from service the ships of the Transit Company in
both oceans, thus cutting off communication between Nicaragua and the
United States, and thereby Walker's source of supplies. But the grim old
financier was not content with that. Recruiting a force of foreign
adventurers on his own account, he despatched them to Central America
with orders to assist the Costa Ricans, whom he liberally supplied with
money, arms, and ammunition, in their war against Walker. Turning then
to Washington, he had little difficulty in inducing Secretary of State
Marcy, who was known to be one of his creatures, to use the government
forces in driving Walker out of Nicaragua. To Commodore Mervin, who was
his personal friend, Secretary Marcy communicated his wishes, or rather
Vanderbilt's wishes, and these Mervin in turn transmitted to Captain
Davis, commanding the man-of-war _St. Mary's_, who was ordered to
proceed at full speed to San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific coast of
Nicaragua, and to force Walker out of that country. Never has the
government of the United States lent itself to the designs of predatory
wealth so disgracefully and so flagrantly as it did when, at the
dictation of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and without a shadow of right or
excuse, it used the American navy to oust William Walker from the
presidency to which he had been legally elected by a sovereign people.
Its unjustified persecution of Walker to serve the spite of a money-lord
forms one of the darkest stains on our national history.

When Davis arrived in Nicaragua he found Walker, his forces terribly
reduced by death, fever, and desertion (for his means of supply had, as
I have said, been stopped), besieged by the allies in the town of Rivas.
Food was running short, the hospital was filled with wounded, and many
of his men were helpless from fever. Captain Davis demanded that Walker
surrender to him upon the ground of humanity, but the indomitable
filibuster replied that when he did not have enough men left to man the
guns he intended to take refuge on board his little schooner, the
_Granada_, which lay in the harbor, and seek his fortune elsewhere. "You
will not do that," answered Davis, "for I am going to seize your
vessel." With his only hope of escape thus cut off, there was nothing
for Walker to do but capitulate. Therefore, on May 1, 1857, William
Walker, President of Nicaragua, whose title was as legally sound as that
of any ruler in the world, surrendered to the forces his own country had
sent against him, and one more argument was given to those who claimed
that it was not liberty which we upheld and worshipped, but the almighty
dollar. When Walker arrived in New York a few weeks later he found the
city bedecked with flags and bunting in his honor. On but two other
occasions has the American metropolis given such a reception to a
visitor: once when Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot, rode up Broadway, and
years later, when Dewey returned, fresh from his victory at Manila.
Walker's drive from the Battery to Madison Square was like a triumphal
progress, for his gallantry in action and his successes against
overwhelming odds had aroused the admiration of his countrymen, just as
his outrageous treatment by the government had excited their
indignation. Though legally he had serious grounds for complaint, he
received scant consideration when he placed his demands for reparation
before the Department of State at Washington. But the cold shoulder
turned toward him by official Washington was more than made up for by
the welcome he received in the South, where he was acclaimed as a hero
and a martyr. He was banqueted in every town and city from Baltimore to
New Orleans, and when he entered a box in the opera-house of the latter
place, the audience, forgetting the play, rose as one man to cheer him.

Within a month Walker had raised enough money and recruits in the South
to enable him to try his fortunes once more in Nicaragua. Sailing from
New Orleans with one hundred and fifty men, he landed at San Juan del
Norte, on the Caribbean side, marched upon and captured the town of
Castillo Viejo together with four of the Transit Company's steamers, and
was, indeed, in a fair way to again make himself master of Nicaragua
when the United States once more interfered, the frigate _Wabash_, under
command of Commodore Hiram Pawlding, dropping anchor in a position where
her guns commanded the filibusters' camp, her commander demanding
Walker's immediate surrender. The flag-officer who presented Walker with
Pawlding's demand tactlessly remarked: "General, I'm sorry to see you
here. A man like you deserves to command better men." "If I had even a
third of the force you have brought against me," Walker responded
grimly, "I'd soon show you who commands the better men." For the third
time in his career Walker was forced to surrender to his own countrymen,
and was sent north under parole as a prisoner of war. But, although
Pawlding had acted precisely as Davis had done, President Buchanan,
instead of thanking him, not only publicly reprimanded him, but retired
him from active service, and when Walker presented himself at the White
House as a prisoner, refused to receive his surrender, or to recognize
him as being in the custody of the United States. All of which, however,
was scant consolation for Walker.

To regain the presidency of which he had been unjustly deprived had now
become an obsession with Walker. In spite of a proclamation issued by
President Buchanan forbidding him to take further part in Central
American affairs, he sailed from Mobile, on December 1, 1858, with a
hundred and fifty of his veterans. His voyage was brought to a sudden
and wholly unlooked-for termination, however, for he was wrecked in a
gale off the coast of Honduras, whence he was rescued by a British
war-ship which happened to be in the vicinity and brought back to the
United States. By this time Walker had become almost as much of a
nightmare to the governments of the United States and Great Britain (for
the latter, both because of the proximity of her colony of British
Honduras and of her large financial interests in the other Central
American countries, had no desire to see that region again plunged into
war) as Napoleon was to the Holy Alliance, and as a result both the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua were patrolled by the
war-ships of the two nations to prevent Walker's return. Appreciating
that, under the circumstances, it was about as easy for him to land on
Nicaraguan soil as it was to land on the moon, Walker, with a hundred of
his devoted followers, slipped silently out of Mobile harbor on an
August night in 1860, and landed, a few days later, on a little island
off the coast of Honduras known as Ruatan.

And so we come to the last chapter in this extraordinary man's
extraordinary career. Within a day after his landing at Ruatan, Walker
had crossed to the mainland and captured the important seaport of
Trujillo. But the ill-fortune which from the beginning had dogged him
like a shadow was not to desert him now, for scarcely had the flag of
Honduras which fluttered above the barracks been replaced by the
blue-and-white banner of the filibusters when a British frigate dropped
anchor off the town. Twenty minutes later a boat's crew of British
bluejackets tossed their oars as they ran alongside Trujillo wharf, and
a naval officer immaculate in white and gold, stepping ashore, inquired
for General Walker, and presented him with a message. It was from
Captain Salmon, commanding the British man-of-war _Icarus_, which lay
outside, and demanded the immediate evacuation of the city by the
filibusters, as the British Government held a mortgage on the revenues
of the port and intended to protect them, by force if necessary. Walker
answered that as he had made Trujillo a free port, the British claims
were no longer valid. "Captain Salmon instructs me to inform you, sir,"
replied the British officer, as he prepared to re-enter his gig, "that
he will give you until to-morrow morning to make your decision. If you
do not then surrender he will be compelled to bombard the town." As a
strong force of Hondurans had in the mean time appeared on the land side
of the city and were preparing to attack, Walker realized that his
position had become untenable, so that night he and his men slipped
silently out of the sleeping city and started down the coast with the
intention of making their way overland to Nicaragua. When the British
landed the next morning they were only just in time to prevent the sick
and wounded whom Walker had been forced to leave behind him in his
retreat from falling into the hands of the ferocious Hondurans. Learning
of Walker's flight, Salmon immediately started down the coast on the
_Icarus_ in pursuit.

They overtook Walker at a little fishing village near the mouth of the
Rio Negro, several boat-loads of sailors and marines being sent up the
river to take him. But the coast of Honduras is a good second to the
Gold Coast in the deadliness of its climate, so that when the landing
party reached the little cluster of wretched hovels where Walker and his
men had taken refuge, they found the filibusters too far gone with fever
to oppose them. To Captain Salmon's demand for an unconditional
surrender, Walker, who was so weak that he could scarcely stand,
inquired if he was surrendering to the English or to the Hondurans.
Captain Salmon twice assured him distinctly that it was to the English,
whereupon the filibusters, at Walker's orders, laid down their arms and
were taken aboard the _Icarus_. No sooner had he arrived back at
Trujillo, however, than Captain Salmon, breaking the word he had given
as an officer and a gentleman, and in defiance of every law of humanity,
turned his prisoners over to the Honduran authorities. Salmon, who was
young and pompous and had a life-size opinion of himself and his
position, interceded for all of the prisoners except Walker, and
obtained their release, but he informed the filibuster chieftain that he
would plead for him only on condition that he would ask his intercession
as an American citizen. But Walker, imbittered by the treatment he had
received at the hands of his own government and disdaining to turn to it
for assistance in his adversity, answered proudly: "The President of
Nicaragua is a citizen of Nicaragua," and turned his back upon the
Englishman who had betrayed him.

He was tried by court martial on September 11, 1860, and after the
barest formalities was sentenced to be shot at daybreak the next
morning. The place selected for his execution was a strip of sandy
beach, and to it the condemned man walked as coolly as though taking a
morning stroll. Before him tramped a detachment of slovenly Honduran
infantry, who, with their brown, wizened faces, their ill-fitting
uniforms, and their jaunty caps, looked more like monkeys than men;
behind him marched the firing-party, with weapons at the charge; beside
him was a priest bearing a crucifix and murmuring the prayers for the
dying. As the little procession came to a halt within the hollow square
of soldiery, Walker waved away the handkerchief with which they would
have blindfolded him, and, cool and straight and soldierly as though in
command of his Phalanx, took his stand before the firing-party.

"I die a Roman Catholic," he said in Spanish in a voice clear and
unafraid. "The war which I made upon you was wrong and I take this
opportunity of asking your pardon. I die with resignation, though it
would be a consolation for me to feel that my death is for the good of
society." As he ceased speaking, the officer in command of the troops
dropped the point of his sword, the levelled rifles of the firing-party
spoke as one, and Walker fell. But, though every bullet entered his
body, he still lived. So a sergeant stepped forward with a cocked
revolver and blew out his brains. With that shot there passed the soul
of a very brave and gallant gentleman who deserved from his country
better treatment than he received.


I have known men who, from need of money or from love of adventure, have
contracted to do all sorts of seemingly impossible things. Some
conquered apparently unconquerable chasms by means of daring bridges;
others built railways across waterless, yellow deserts, where experts
had asserted that no railway could go; one contracted to find and raise
a treasure galleon sunk three hundred years ago; another agreed to
compose an opera in a week; while still another engaged to find a man
who for two years had been lost in equatorial Africa. It took a New
Englander, however, to sign a contract to capture walled and hostile
cities, at a stipulated price per city, just as a Chicago meat-packer
would contract to supply a government with beef at so much a pound.

The man who entered into this amazing agreement was baptized Frederick
Townsend Ward, but bore at his death the adopted name of Hwa. Though
born within biscuit-throw of Salem wharves he was by residence a citizen
of the world, and by profession a soldier of fortune. Now the trouble
with most soldiers of fortune is that they don't make good in the end.
They are generally entertaining fellows, with vast stores of information
on an amazing variety of subjects, wide acquaintanceships with
personages whose names you see in the daily papers, and an intimate
knowledge of the little-known places, but they rarely save any money,
they seldom rise to high positions, and they usually end their checkered
careers by being ingloriously arrested for breaking the neutrality laws,
or by dying, picturesquely but quite uselessly, between a stone wall and
a firing-party.

That Frederick Ward was a striking exception merely proves the soundness
of my remarks. Though he was a soldier of fortune (he fought under at
least six flags) he did make money, for he capitalized his remarkable
military genius by signing a contract to capture rebellious cities, at
seventy-five thousand dollars a city, and took a dozen of them, one
after another; he rose to be an admiral-general of China, and a Mandarin
of the Red Button, which was equivalent to being a Dewey, a Kitchener,
and a Cromer rolled into one; and though he died when scarcely thirty,
it was on the walls of a captured city, directing a victorious charge.
Though the Manchu dynasty of China, to which he gave an additional
half-century of existence, has fallen, the soldiers of the new republic
continue to invoke his spirit as that of a god of battles, and the
priests of Confucius still burn incense before his tomb.

The story of how this adventurous American youth recognized the splendid
fighting material into which the Chinese were capable of being
transformed; how he took that material and heated and hammered and
tempered it into a serviceable weapon, and gave that weapon a keen
cutting edge; how, with a force which never numbered more than six
thousand men, he broke the backbone of a rebellion which turned China
into a shambles; and how his battalions came to be known, in the annals
of time, as the "Ever-Victorious Army," forms a chronicle of courage and
thrilling incident the like of which can not be found in history. If the
almost incredible exploits of Ward have escaped the notice of our
historians, it is because, at the time they took place, Americans were
too intent on the business of their own great slaughter-house to be
interested in a similar performance going on, in much less workmanlike
fashion, half the world away. Though British writers slightingly allude
to Ward as "an obscure Yankee adventurer," the officer who succeeded
him, General Charles George Gordon, merely completed the work which his
predecessor had begun, and built his military reputation on the
foundations which the American had laid. Though the name of Frederick
Townsend Ward holds but little meaning for the vast majority of his
countrymen, it is still a name to conjure with in that country which he
saved from anarchy.

Though a youth in appearance and in years, Ward was a seasoned veteran
long before he set out on his last campaign. Before he was
five-and-twenty he had had enough experiences to satisfy a dozen
ordinary men. Coming from New England seafaring stock, it was only to be
expected that a passion for adventure should course through his veins.
From the time he donned short trousers he dreamed of a cadetship at West
Point, and a commission under his own flag. But it was destined that his
military genius should profit another country than his own, and that he
should fight and die under an alien banner. His father, a stern old
merchant captain, held that there was no training for a boy like that to
be had in the school of the sea, and so, when young Ward was scarce
half-way through his teens, he was packed off aboard a sailing-vessel
bound for the China seas. By the time he was twenty he held a first
mate's warrant, and had paid for it with three long voyages. Joining
Garibaldi's famous Foreign Legion, he saw service under that great
soldier in the war between the Republic of the Rio Grande and Brazil.
Afterward he helped the young Republic of Uruguay to defeat Manuel
Rosas, the Argentine dictator. At the outbreak of the Crimean War he
obtained a lieutenant's commission in a regiment of French zouaves, and
followed the tricolor until the Treaty of Paris brought that bloody
campaign to an end. Turning his steps toward Latin America again, he
joined William Walker in his ill-fated Nicaraguan adventure, and after
that leader's execution in Honduras he offered his sword and services to
Juarez, and helped to win for him the presidency of Mexico. With the
triumph of Juarez, peace settled for a time upon the western hemisphere,
and Ward, finding no market for his military talents, was driven by
financial necessities to take up the occupation of a ship-broker in New
York City. But the shackles of trade soon proved intolerable to this man
of action. He was like a race-horse harnessed to a milk-wagon. Though
his talk was of cargoes and bottomry and tonnage, his thoughts were far
away, on those distant seaboards of the world where history was in the
making. At the beginning of 1859, the only country in the world where
fighting on a large scale was going on was China, which was being
devastated by the great Taiping Rebellion. In the spring of that year
Ward, unable to longer resist the call to action which was forever
sounding in his ears, turned the key in the door of his New York office,
saddled his horse, and, unaccompanied, rode across the continent to San
Francisco, where he booked a passage for Shanghai. It was no random
adventure which he had undertaken. He had laid his plans carefully and
knew exactly what he intended doing. Nor did the magnitude of his
project dishearten him. He had set out to save an empire, and he
intended to win fame and fortune in doing it.

The conditions which prevailed in China between 1850 and 1863 can be
compared only to the French Reign of Terror, or to the rule of the Mahdi
in the Sudan. About the time that the nineteenth century was approaching
the half-way mark, a Chinese schoolmaster named Hung-siu-Tseuen,
inflamed by the partially comprehended teachings of Christian
missionaries, had inaugurated a propaganda to overthrow the Confucian
religion, and incidentally the reigning dynasty. There speedily rallied
to his banners all the floating scoundrelism of China. In 1852 the rebel
hordes had moved into the province of Hunan, murdering, pillaging, and
burning as they went; advanced down the Kiang River to the Yang-tse,
down which they sailed, capturing and sacking the cities on its banks.
Making Nanking his capital, the rebel leader assumed the title of Tien
Wang, or "Heavenly King," and proclaimed the rule of the Ping Chao, or
"Peace Dynasty," which, with the prefix Tai ("great") gave the rebellion
its name, Taiping. Wang's great hordes of tatterdemalions, flushed with
their unbroken series of successes, gradually overran the silk and tea
districts, the richest in the empire, threatened Peking, and advanced
almost to the gates of Shanghai, carrying death and destruction over
fifteen of the eighteen provinces of China. Perhaps it will give a
better idea of the magnitude of this rebellion when I add that reliable
authorities estimate that it cost China _two billion five hundred
million dollars, and twenty million human lives_. By the autumn of 1859
such of the imperial forces as remained loyal had been whipped to a
stand-still, and the European powers having interests in China had their
work cut out to defend the treaty ports; the rebels were undisputed
masters of all Central China; the rivers were literally choked with
corpses, and the smoke of burning cities overhung the land. The
atrocities committed by order of the Taiping leader shocked even the
dulled sensibilities of China. On one occasion, six thousand people,
suspected of an intention to desert, were gathered in the public square
of Nanking. A hundred executioners stood among the prisoners with bared
swords, and, at a signal from the Wang, slashed off heads until their
arms were weary, and blood stood inches deep in the gutters. Ward had
indeed chosen a good market in which to sell his services.

Through an English friend in the Chinese service, Ward obtained an
introduction to Wu, the Taotoi of Shanghai, and to a millionaire
merchant and mandarin named Tah Kee. The plan he proposed was as simple
as it was daring. He offered to recruit a foreign legion, with which he
would defend Shanghai, and at the same time attack such of the Taiping
strongholds as were within striking distance, stipulating that for every
city captured he was to receive seventy-five thousand dollars in gold,
that his men were to have the first day's looting, and that each place
taken should immediately be garrisoned by imperial troops, leaving his
own force free for further operations. Wu on behalf of the government,
and Tah Kee as the representative of the Shanghai merchants, promptly
agreed to this proposal, and signed the contract. They had, indeed,
everything to gain and nothing to lose. It was also arranged that Tah
Kee should at the outset furnish the arms, ammunition, clothing, and
commissary supplies necessary to equip the legion. These preliminaries
once settled, Ward wasted no time in recruiting his force, for every day
was bringing the Taipings nearer. A number of brave and experienced
officers, for the most part soldiers of fortune like himself, hastened
to offer him their services, General Edward Forester, an American, being
appointed second in command. The rank and file of the legion was
recruited from the scum and offscourings of the East, Malay pirates,
Burmese dacoits, Tartar brigands, and desperadoes, adventurers, and
fugitives from justice from every corner of the farther East being
attracted by the high rate of pay, which in view of the hazardous nature
of the service, was fixed at one hundred dollars a month for enlisted
men, and proportionately more for officers. The non-commissioned
officers, who were counted upon to stiffen the ranks of the Orientals,
were for the most part veterans of continental armies, and could be
relied upon to fight as long as stock and barrel held together. The
officers carried swords and Colt's revolvers, the latter proving
terribly effective in the hand-to-hand fighting which Ward made the
rule; while the men were armed with Sharp's repeating carbines and the
vicious Malay _kris_. Everything considered, I doubt if a more
formidable aggregation of ruffians ever took the field. Ward placed his
men under a discipline which made that of the German army appear like a
kindergarten; taught them the tactics he had learned under Garibaldi,
Walker, and Juarez; and finally, when they were as keen as razors and as
tough as rawhide, he entered them in battle on a most astonished foe.

The first city Ward selected for capture was Sunkiang, on the banks of
the Wusung River, some twenty-five miles above Shanghai. In choosing
this particular place as his first point of attack, Ward showed himself
a diplomatist as well as a soldier, for it was one of the seven sacred
cities of China, and to it had been wont to come thousands of pilgrims
from the most distant provinces, to prostrate themselves in the temple
of Confucius, the oldest and most revered shrine in the empire. Its
capture by the Taipings and their desecration of its altars had sent a
thrill of horror through the imperialists, such as was not even caused
by the loss of the great metropolis of Nanking.

Ward, who appreciated the necessity of winning the recognition and
confidence of the higher authorities, well knew that the regaining of
this sacred city would endear him to the religious heart of China as
nothing else could do. But Sunkiang, with its walls twenty feet high and
five miles in circumference, and with a garrison of five thousand
fanatics to defend those walls, was no easy nut to crack even for a
powerful force well supplied with artillery. The idea of its being taken
by Ward and his five hundred desperadoes was preposterous, unthinkable,
absurd. He first tried the weapon he had so painstakingly forged on a
July morning, in 1860. Just as his European critics in Shanghai had
prophesied, the attack on Sunkiang proved the most dismal of failures.
His stealthy approach being discovered by the Taipings, he was greeted
with such a withering fire upon reaching the walls that, being without
supports, and perceiving the hopelessness of the situation, he ordered
his buglers to sound the retreat.

But Ward was one of those rare men to whom discouragements and disasters
are but incidents, annoying but not disheartening, in the day's work. He
spent a fortnight in strengthening the weakened _morale_ of his force,
and then he tried again, making his onset with the suddenness and fury
of a tiger's spring just at break of day. Slipping like ghosts through
the grayness of the dawn, Ward and his men stole across the surrounding
rice-fields, and were almost under the city walls before the Taiping
sentries discovered their approach. As the first rifle cracked, Ward and
one of his lieutenants raced ahead with bags of powder, placed them
beneath the main gate of the city, and lighted the fuse. Like an echo of
the ensuing explosion rose the shrill yell of the legionaries, who
dashed forward like sprinters in a race. Instead of the gates being
blown to pieces as they had expected, they found that they had been
forced apart only enough for one man to pass at a time--and on the other
side of that door of death five thousand rebels waited eagerly for the
first of the attackers to appear. "Come on, boys!" roared Ward, his
voice rising above the crash of the musketry, "We're going in!" and
plunged through the narrow opening, a revolver in each hand. Hard on his
heels crowded his legionaries. Though they were going to what was almost
certain death, such was the magnetism of their leader that not a man
hung back, not a man faltered. Before half a dozen men were through they
were attacked by hundreds, but, so deadly was the fire they poured in
with their repeaters, they were able to hold off the defenders until
the whole attacking force was within the gate. Then began one of the
most desperate and unequal fights in history. The key to the city was
the howitzer battery, which was stationed on the top of the massive main
gate, forty feet above. Up the narrow ramps the legionaries fought their
way, five hundred against five thousand, hacking, stabbing, firing, at
such close range that their rifles set fire to their opponents'
clothing, driving their bayonets into the human wall before them as a
field-hand pitchforks hay. Wherever there was space for a man to plant
his feet or swing his sword, there a Taiping was to be found. The
passageway was choked with them, but they sullenly gave way before the
frenzy of Ward's attack as a hillside slowly disintegrates before the
stream from a hydraulic nozzle. Ward was wounded, and his men were
falling about him by dozens, but those that were left, mad with the lust
of battle, fought on, until with a final surge and cheer they reached
the top, and the position which commanded the city was in their hands.
Then the Taipings broke and fled, some to be overtaken and slaughtered
by the legionaries, others throwing themselves into the streets below.
Bayoneting the rebel gunners, the howitzers were turned upon the city,
raking the streets, sweeping the crowded walls and house-tops, and
leaving heaps of dead and dying where Taiping regiments had stood

[Illustration: "Come on, boys!" shouted Ward. "We're going in!" and
plunged through the narrow opening, a revolver in each hand.]

For four-and-twenty hours Ward and the exhausted survivors of his
legion, without food and without water, held the gate in the face of the
most desperate efforts to retake it. Then the Chinese reinforcements for
which he had asked tardily arrived, and Sunkiang was an Imperial city
again. The American had taken the first trick in the great game he was
playing. It was at fearful cost, however, for of the five hundred men
who followed him into action, but one hundred and twenty-eight remained
alive, and of these only twenty-seven were without wounds. In other
words, the casualties amounted to _more than ninety-four per cent of the
entire force_. Ward had ridden out of Shanghai a despised adventurer to
whom the foreign officers refused to speak. He returned to that city a
hero and a power in China. The priesthood acclaimed him as the saviour
of the sacred city; the emperor made him a Mandarin of the Red Button;
the merchants of Shanghai voiced their relief by adding a splendid
estate to the promised reward of seventy-five thousand dollars. His
reputation would have been secure if he had never fought another

Leaving Sunkiang heavily garrisoned by imperial troops, Ward withdrew to
Shanghai for the purpose of recruiting his shattered forces. Such a
glamour of romance now surrounded the legion that Ward was fairly
besieged by European as well as Oriental volunteers. Shortly after the
capture of Sunkiang, Ward had occasion to visit Shanghai with reference
to the care of his wounded. While riding through the streets of the city
he was arrested by a British patrol, and despite his protestations that
he was an officer in the imperial service, was hustled aboard the
flag-ship of Admiral Sir James Hope, which lay in the harbor, and was
placed in close confinement. In reply to his inquiries he was told that
he was to be tried for recruiting British man-o'-war's-men for service
in his legion. Though the arrest was high-handed and unjustified, there
seemed no immediate prospect of release, for the American consul-general
refused to interfere on the ground that Ward, by taking service under
the Chinese government, had forfeited his right to American protection;
the imperial authorities were powerless to take any action; while the
British were notoriously fearful of the dangerous ascendancy which this
American might gain if his successful career was permitted to continue.
The only hope for Ward--and for China--lay in his escape. A friend
perfected a plan of flight. While visiting Ward, who was confined in an
outside cabin of the flag-ship, with a marine constantly on guard at the
door, he synchronized his watch with that of the cabin clock, and
whispered to the prisoner that he would be in a sampan under his cabin
window at precisely two o'clock in the morning. Taking off his coat and
shoes that he might be unhampered in the water, Ward sat on the edge of
his berth with his eyes on the face of the clock. Just as the
minute-hand touched the figure II, Ward made a dash for the window and
sprang head-foremost through the sash, for the windows of the old
fashioned men-of-war were much larger than the ports of modern
battle-ships. He had hardly touched the water before he was pulled
aboard a sampan, which disappeared in the darkness long before the
flag-ship's boats could be manned and lowered. This daring exploit
enormously increased Ward's prestige among both Chinese and Europeans,
with whom the British, as a result of their insolent and overbearing
attitude, were intensely unpopular. Some days later Admiral Hope sent a
message to Ward requesting an interview, and, upon Ward assuring him
that he would no longer recruit his ranks from the British navy, the
old sea fighter became his strong partisan and friend.

With his ranks once more repleted, Ward made preparations for a second
venture. This time it was the city of Sing-po toward which he turned;
but the Taipings, getting wind of his intentions, secretly threw an
overwhelming force into the place under a renegade Englishman named
Savage. Ward was without artillery with which to breach the walls, and,
after several desperate assaults, in leading which he was severely
wounded, he was forced to retire. Ten days later, regardless of his
wounds, he tried again, but this time he was taken in the rear by a
Taiping army of twenty thousand men, his little force being completely
surrounded. So certain was the rebel leader that the famous general was
within his grasp, that he consulted with his officers as to what methods
of torture they should use upon him. But he was a trifle premature, for
Ward struck the Taiping cordon at its weakest point, fought his way
through, and reached Shanghai with a loss of only one hundred men. His
secret agents bringing him word that the powerful force from which he
had just escaped was to be used in the recapture of Sunkiang, Ward, by
making night marches, slipped unperceived into that city. When the
Taipings attempted to carry it by storm a few days later, instead of
meeting with the half-hearted resistance which they had grown to expect
from Chinese garrisons, they were astounded to see the helmeted figure
of the dreaded American upon the walls, and were greeted with a blast of
rifle fire which swept away their leading columns and crumpled up their
army as effectually as though it had encountered an earthquake.

Dangerously weakened by half a dozen wounds, Ward was reluctantly
compelled to go to Paris in the fall of 1860 for surgical attention.
Back at Shanghai again at the beginning of the following summer, he
found that the Taipings, emboldened by his absence, were flaunting their
banner within sight of the city walls. From end to end of the empire
there existed an unparalleled reign of terror, the rebels now having
grown so strong that they demanded the recognition of the European
powers. Ward, meanwhile, had become convinced that the true solution of
the problem lay in raising an army of natives, rather than foreigners,
for not only was the supply of Chinese unlimited, but his experience had
shown him that there was splendid fighting material in them if they were
properly drilled and led. When he asked permission of the imperial
government to raise and drill a Chinese force, therefore, it was gladly

An opportunity to put his theories regarding the fighting capabilities
of the Chinese to a test soon came. Learning that a force of rebels, ten
thousand strong, was advancing in the direction of Shanghai, Ward
sallied forth from his headquarters at Sunkiang with two thousand five
hundred men, struck the Taiping army, curled it up like a withered leaf,
and drove it a dozen miles into the interior. Pressing on, he captured
the city of Quan-fu-ling, which the rebels had garrisoned and fortified,
and with it several hundred junks loaded with supplies. Throughout these
actions his Chinese displayed all the steadiness and courage of European
veterans. That he showed sound judgment in pinning his faith to natives
is best proved by the fact that from that time on he never met with a
reverse. His motto was "Cold steel," and his tactics would have
delighted the old-time sea fighters, for, appreciating the fact that few
Oriental troops are capable of remaining steady under a galling
long-range fire, he invariably threw his men against the enemy in an
overwhelming charge, and finished the business at close quarters with
the bayonet.

Moving up from Sunkiang with a thousand of his men, Ward joined a
combined force of French and British bluejackets, who had with them a
light howitzer battery, in an attack on Kaschiaou, just opposite
Shanghai, which was the city's main source of supplies, and which the
rebels had seized and fortified. Using the contingent from the war-ships
as a reserve, Ward and his Chinamen did the work alone, carrying the
stockades by storm and capturing two thousand rebels, as a result of
which the enemy fell back from the neighborhood of Shanghai. So strongly
impressed were the British officers with the behavior of Ward's soldiery
that Sir James Mitchel, the commander-in-chief on the China station,
strongly urged that the task of suppressing the rebellion be placed in
the American's hands, and that he be empowered to raise his force to ten
thousand men. A few weeks later Ward received an imperial rescript
acknowledging his great services to China, and appointing him an
admiral-general of the empire, the highest rank that the emperor could
bestow. With this came the authority to recruit his force to six
thousand men, and its baptism, by imperial order, with the sonorous and
thrilling title of _Chun Chen Chun_, or the Ever-Victorious Army.

As the barometer of Ward's fortunes steadily rose, that of his native
country began to fall, the dark cloud of secession hanging
threateningly over the land. It has been said of Ward that he
denationalized himself by marrying a Chinese wife and adopting a Chinese
name, but there is no doubt that it was only his stern sense of duty
which kept him at the task he had undertaken in China when the guns of
Sumter boomed out the beginning of the Civil War. He immediately sent a
contribution of ten thousand dollars to the Union war fund, however,
with a message that his services were at the disposal of the North
whenever they were required. At the time of the _Trent_ affair, when war
between England and the United States was momentarily expected, and the
British in China had laid plans to seize American shipping and other
property in the treaty ports, Ward effected a secret organization of
American sympathizers and prepared to surprise and capture every British
war-ship and merchant vessel in Chinese waters. In view of his success
in equally daring exploits, there is good reason to believe that he
would have accomplished even so startling a _coup_ as this.

While recruiting his army to its newly authorized strength, Ward did not
give the Taipings a moment's rest. He kept several flying columns
constantly in the field, attacking the rebels at every opportunity,
cutting up their outposts, harrying their pickets, breaking their lines
of communication, and demoralizing them generally. One day Ward would be
reported as operating in the south, and the Wang would draw a momentary
breath of relief, but the next night, without the slightest warning, he
would suddenly fall upon a city a hundred miles to the northward and
carry it by storm. By such aggressive tactics as these Ward struck fear
to the heart of the Taiping leader, who saw the despotism he had built
up crumbling about him before the American's smashing blows. It was
said, indeed, that the mere sight of Ward's white helmet in the van of a
storming party was more effective than a brigade of infantry. With a
thousand men of his own corps and six hundred royal marines he attacked
and captured Tsee-dong, a walled city of considerable strength, and
cleared the rebels from the surrounding region as though with a
fine-tooth comb. The town of Wong-kadza was in the possession of the
Taipings, and Ward decided to capture it. General Staveley, who had
succeeded Sir James Mitchel in command of the British forces, offered to
co-operate with him. It was agreed that they should rendezvous outside
the town. Ward reached there first with six hundred of his men. Without
waiting for the British to come up, he ordered his bugles to sound the
charge, and after a quarter of an hour of desperate fighting he carried
the stockade, and the rebels broke and ran, Ward's men killing more of
them in the pursuit than they themselves numbered. When General Staveley
arrived a few hours later he was chagrined to see the imperial standard
flying over the city and to find that the impetuous American had done
the work and reaped the glory. The allied forces now pressed on to the
Taiping stronghold of Tai-poo, which was held by a strong and well-armed
garrison. While the British engaged the attention of the rebels in front
with a fierce artillery fire, Ward and his Chinamen made a détour to the
rear of the city, and were at and over the walls almost before the
garrison realized what had happened.

The Ever-Victorious Army now numbered nearly six thousand men. It was
well drilled and under an iron discipline; it was fairly well armed; it
was magnificently officered; it was emboldened with repeated successes.
The man who was the maker and master of such a force might well go a
long way. That Ward dreamed of eventually making himself dictator of
China there can be but little doubt. Louis Napoleon, remember, climbed
to a throne on the bayonets of his soldiers. By this time the American
soldier of fortune had become by long odds the most popular figure in
the empire; the army was with him to a man; he possessed the confidence
of the great mandarins and merchant princes; and he had to his credit an
almost unparalleled succession of victories. Dictator of the East! What
American ever had a more ambitious dream and was within such measurable
distance of realizing it? It is no exaggeration to say that, had Ward
lived, the whole history of the Orient would have been changed, and
China, rather than Japan, would doubtless have held the balance of power
in the Farther East.

In April, 1862, Ward, the Viceroy Lieh, and the French and British
commanders held a council of war in Shanghai. Ward suggested a plan of
campaign designed to break the Taiping power in that part of China for
good and all. Briefly put, his scheme was to capture a semicircle of
cities within a radius of fifty miles of Shanghai and the coast. This
would result in the rebels being held within their own lines by a cordon
of bayonets, and, as they had utterly devastated the regions they had
overrun, would mean starvation for them. Thus cut off from the seaboard,
Ward argued, they would be unable to obtain ammunition and supplies,
and the rebellion would soon wither. The series of operations was
carried out as planned, Ward's corps being reinforced by three thousand
French and British. It ended in the capture, in rapid succession, of the
cities of Kah-ding, Sing-po, Najaor, and Tsaolin. In every case Ward
insisted on being given the post of honor; he and his Chinamen, who
fought with an appalling disregard for life, carrying the defences at
the bayonet's point, while his European allies covered his advance with
artillery fire and supported his whirlwind attacks. Leaving garrisons
barely large enough to hold the captured cities, he pushed on by forced
marches to Ning-po, which was a large and strongly fortified city. Twice
his storming parties were driven back. The third time the men, exhausted
by the continuous fighting in which they had been engaged and the long
marches they had been called upon to perform, momentarily faltered in
the face of the terrible fire which greeted them. Instantly Ward ordered
the recall sounded, formed them into line within easy rifle-range of the
city walls, and calmly put them through the manual of arms with as much
precision as though they were on parade, while a storm of bullets
whistled round them, and men were momentarily dropping in the ranks.
Then, his men once more in hand, the bugles screamed the charge and the
yellow line roared on to victory.

Ward gave his last order to advance--he had forgotten how to give any
other--on September 21, 1862. With a regiment of his men he was about to
attack Tse-Ki, a small fortified coast town a few miles from Ning-po.
With his habitual contempt for danger he was standing with General
Forester, his chief of staff, well in advance of his men, inspecting the
position through his field-glasses. Suddenly he clapped his hand to his
breast. "I've been hit, Ed!" he exclaimed, and fell forward into the
arms of his friend. Very tenderly his devoted yellow men carried him
aboard the British war-ship _Hardy_, which was lying in the harbor, but
the naval surgeons shook their heads when an examination showed that the
bullet had passed through his lungs. "Don't mind me," whispered Ward.
"Take the city." So Forester, heavy at heart, ordered forward the
storming parties. That night the great captain died. The last sound he
heard was his Chinamen's shrill yell of triumph.

With extraordinary solemnity the dead soldier was laid to rest in the
temple of Confucius in Sunkiang, the most sacred shrine in China and
the very spot where he had established his headquarters after his first
great victory. His body, which was followed to the grave by imperial
viceroys, European admirals, generals, and consuls, and Chinese
mandarins, was borne between the silent lines of his Ever-Victorious
Army. By order of the emperor his name was placed in the pantheon of the
gods. Temples to commemorate his victories were built at Sing-po and
Ning-po, and a magnificent mausoleum was erected in his honor in
Sunkiang. In it the yellow priests of Confucius still burn incense
before his tomb. In all his history there can be found no hint of
dishonor, no trace of shame. He was a great soldier and a very gallant
gentleman, but he has been forgotten by his own people. To paraphrase
the lines of Matthew Arnold:

    "Far hence he lies,
    Near some lone Chinese town,
    And on his grave, with shining eyes,
    The Eastern stars look down."

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

    Punctuation normalized.

    Page 66: "cimiter" retained as printed.

    Various: retained as printed "Tippo-Sahib" and "Tippoo Sahib".

    Page 104: "govenment" replaced with "government" in "government
    of this new country which was about to be annexed".

    Page 115: "alignement" changed to "alignment".

    Page 116: "caufles" retained as printed.

    Page 157: "lowered the flag next day" and "Commodore T. ApCatesby
    Jones" retained as printed.

    Duplicate chapter headings removed.

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