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Title: The Boys of 1812 and Other Naval Heroes
Author: Soley, James Russell
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boys of 1812 and Other Naval Heroes" ***

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     THE BOYS OF 1812

    THE BOYS OF '61;

    =Or, Four Years of Fighting.= By CHARLES CARLETON
    COFFIN. Fully illustrated. 8vo. Cloth. Gilt.

    THE BOYS OF 1812,

    =And Other Naval Heroes.= By Prof. J. RUSSELL
    SOLEY. Illustrated from original drawings. 8vo.
    Cloth. Gilt.



    By Prof. J. RUSSELL SOLEY.


                THE BOYS OF 1812




               _Copyright, 1887,_
              BY ESTES AND LAURIAT.

               _University Press:_


    CHAPTER                                            PAGE

          I. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE NAVY.                11

         II. BIDDLE AND THE "RANDOLPH."                 28

        III. WAR ON THE ENEMY'S COAST.                  35

         IV. PAUL JONES'S CRUISES.                      42

          V. BARRY AND BARNEY.                          60

         VI. HOSTILITIES WITH FRANCE.                   85

        VII. TRIPOLI.                                  104

       VIII. IMPRESSMENT.                              150

               AND THE "GUERRIÈRE."                    157

          X. THE FIRST SLOOP ACTION.                   177

         XI. DECATUR AND BAINBRIDGE.                   183

        XII. CAPTAIN JAMES LAWRENCE.                   196

       XIII. THE CRUISE OF THE "ESSEX."                210

        XIV. PERRY AND LAKE ERIE.                      246

         XV. THE SLOOP ACTIONS.                        263

        XVI. MACDONOUGH AND LAKE CHAMPLAIN.            280

       XVII. STEWART AND "OLD IRONSIDES."              292

      XVIII. THE WAR WITH ALGIERS.                     307

        XIX. THE WAR WITH MEXICO.                      318



    BRIG, HEAD ON                                 _Titlepage_

    "THE CUTLASS BREAKS AT THE HILT."          _Frontispiece_

      SINCE THEY WERE BOYS."                               16

      TO RAISE THE MINUTE-MEN."                            21

    NICHOLAS BIDDLE.                                       30


    THE "DRAKE" SURRENDERS TO THE "RANGER."                47



    "EVERYWHERE THE SHIP-YARDS WERE BUSY."                 91

    DAVID PORTER.                                          95




    COMMODORE EDWARD PREBLE.                              114

      HUNG FAST."                                         117



    STEPHEN DECATUR.                                      135



    CAPTAIN ISAAC HULL.                                   171


      FIRST."                                             179

      PARALLEL COURSES."                                  189

    JAMES LAWRENCE.                                       197

      PEOPLE HAD GATHERED."                               203

      TO."                                                213

    APPROACHING THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.                    222

    "'WE SURRENDER,' AND DOWN CAME THE FLAG."             225

    "MOSTLY CARRONADES."                                  239

      MAIN-TOPMAST."                                      241

    OLIVER HAZARD PERRY.                                  247


      FIRE."                                              259

      THE BURNING MERCHANTMEN."                           265

    CAPTAIN LEWIS WARRINGTON.                             270


      FRIGATE 'CONFIANCE.'"                               283

    CAPTAIN CHARLES STEWART.                              296

      CANAL."                                             313

    THE BOYS OF 1812,



Simply to defend themselves against the tyrannical encroachments of the
mother country was all that the thirteen colonies had in view when, in
1775, they took up arms against Great Britain. At this time the people
hoped, and many of them expected, that by making a determined resistance
they would induce the King and Parliament to treat them with fairness,
and to give them their rights as English citizens. It was only
gradually, during the summer and autumn of the first year,--after the
battle had been fought at Bunker Hill, and after Washington had been for
some time in command of the army which was laying siege to Boston, that
they began to feel that they could make a new nation by themselves, and
that independence was a thing that was worth fighting for, even though
it cost a long and bloody struggle, in which all of them would pass
through bitter suffering and many would give up their very lives.

As we look back upon it now, it is wonderful to think what a daring
thing it was for this small and scattered people, living in their little
towns along the seacoast from Maine to Georgia, or on farms and
plantations in the country, without an army or navy, without generals,
and above all without money,--for money is needed to carry on war more
than almost anything else,--to have thus made up their minds to stand up
bravely and manfully against such a power as Great Britain (one of the
greatest in the world), with all her troops and ships and immense
revenues. That we should have come out successfully from a contest so
unequal seems little short of marvellous; and we cannot but think that
it was the hand of an overruling Destiny that enabled us to succeed, by
giving us a general as skilful and prudent as Washington, statesmen as
wise as Franklin and Jefferson and Adams, an enemy as indolent as Sir
William Howe, and allies as powerful as our good friends the French.

Still, even from the beginning the colonists had some reason to hope for
success, at least in the war on land. They had no standing army, it is
true, but they were not without experience in the business of fighting.
In the Seven Years' War, which had come to an end only twelve years
before, they had furnished the soldiers who filled the ranks of the
English armies on American soil. These were the men who had fought the
bloody battles at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and whom the gallant
Wolfe had led on the Plains of Abraham. The veterans of the old war were
as ready to shoulder their muskets to protect themselves against the
tyranny of the King as against the incursions of their Canadian and
Indian neighbors. They knew something, too, of the soldiers who would be
sent to subdue them, and what they had seen did not give them much
reason to be afraid. They knew how hard it was for an invading army,
thousands of miles away from home, marching through a thinly-settled
country that was filled with enemies, to protect itself from those
incessant and harassing attacks that wear out its strength and destroy
little by little all its confidence and pluck. They knew that these
gayly-dressed redcoats, who made war according to rule, would find a new
kind of work before them among the wooded hills and valleys of America,
where every patriot was fighting for his own homestead, where every
farmer was a woodsman, and where every woodsman was a crack shot. When
that quiet but observant young Virginian, Major Washington, went out
with Braddock on his expedition against Fort Duquesne, and saw how the
gallant Colonel of the Guards insisted blindly upon following in the
backwoods his Old World tactics, and how easily his regulars were
defeated in consequence, he learned something that he never afterward
forgot; for neither Howe nor Clinton nor Earl Cornwallis himself was the
man to teach him a new lesson.

But all this was fighting on land. At sea, the colonists had had no such
training. The mother country, with her great fleets, had needed no help
from them in her sea-fights, and indeed was rather jealous of any
attempts that they might make toward a colonial navy. The colonists in
the old wars had fitted out a few privateers that harried the enemy's
commerce, but real naval warfare was wholly unknown to them. They had
had no ships-of-war of their own to serve in, and such of them as had
been admitted into the Royal Navy under the King's commission remained
in it almost to a man.

On the ocean, therefore, the colonists were badly off, for Great Britain
was here the worst enemy they could have. Her wooden walls had always
been her chief reliance, and from the days when Drake and Howard and
Raleigh defeated the Great Armada of Spain, they had asserted and
maintained British supremacy at sea. During this long period of two
hundred years the names of England's great naval captains had been a
terror to all her enemies. There was Robert Blake, who beat off the
Dutch, when Tromp sailed across the channel with a broom at his masthead
as a sign that he would sweep the English from the seas. There were Sir
Cloudesley Shovel and Sir George Rooke, who worsted the French in the
great battle of Cape La Hogue; there was the doughty old Benbow, who,
deserted by his captains, with his single ship kept at bay the squadron
of M. Ducasse in the West Indies; there was Boscawen, who captured the
fortress at Louisburg; Hawke and Anson, and finally Rodney and Howe,
already famous, and destined to become yet more so in the war that was
just begun.

The fleets that these famous admirals led into action were composed of
line-of-battle ships,--immense structures, with two, three, or even four
gun-decks, some of them carrying as many as one hundred guns, and the
smallest of them rated at sixty-four. After these came the frigates,
which had only one gun-deck, but which carried a battery on the
spar-deck also. These were not thought of sufficient strength to be
really counted as a part of the fighting force, although the largest
size, the 50-gun frigates, were sometimes taken into the line of battle.
But generally they served as scouts or outposts for the great fleets, or
they cruised by twos and threes in light squadrons, or even singly, to
attack privateers or unarmed merchantmen, or to make a raid on
unprotected coasts and seaports, or to carry orders to the different
stations. For all these uses they were of great service, being generally
faster than the line-of-battle ships, and yet carrying guns enough to
make them formidable to all the lesser craft. After the frigates came
the sloops-of-war, ship-sloops, and brig-sloops, as the English called
them; not the little boats with one mast that we are accustomed to call
sloops, but square-rigged vessels with three or two masts, as the case
might be, and carrying twenty guns or so. With all these three classes
of vessels the British were well supplied, and the larger ships carried
what at that day were heavy guns, 18-pounders and 24-pounders. In 1775,
when the war broke out, the Royal Navy numbered one hundred
line-of-battle ships, one hundred and fifty frigates, and three hundred
of the smaller vessels, and before the war ended it had two hundred and
fifty thousand seamen in its service.

The colonies, on the other hand, began the struggle without a single
armed vessel afloat. They had merchantmen which they could fit out as
privateers to cruise against the British merchantmen, but they had
nothing that could stand up against a ship-of-war. Even in guns they
were sadly deficient; for though there were scattered here and there in
the colonies a few 12-pounders and 9-pounders, they had to depend
largely upon sixes and fours, which were not much better than popguns;
while of eighteens and twenty-fours they had scarcely any for naval use.
Sailors they had, to be sure, all along the coast from New England down;
and especially in the northern part there were numbers of bold and hardy
men who had followed the sea since they were boys, some in
fishing-smacks that made long voyages to the Banks, some in coasters,
and some in the large merchant-ships that traded at ports beyond the
sea. But of what use are sailors without ships or guns? Besides, as the
Continental Navy was slow in forming, many of the best men went into the
army, which promised an easier life, or into the privateer service,
which held out greater prospects of reward; and when the navy finally
got to work, it was very hard to man the vessels.


In spite of all these discouragements, the leaders in the country boldly
resolved that they would face Great Britain on the sea as well as on the
land. They bought or built their little ships, fitted them out with guns
and stores that were partly captured from the British, manned them with
crews from the sturdy mariners along the coast, and sent them forth to
war upon the enemy as best they might,--by capturing his transports and
storeships, by fighting his smaller cruisers when they could be found
alone, and sometimes even by daring raids upon his very coasts. Their
officers were volunteers from the merchant service; and though hardly
any had ever served in ships-of-war, there were some among them whose
name and fame have lived to our own day, and will live forever,--Biddle
and Manley, Paul Jones and Conyngham, Barry and Barney, and Wickes and
Dale,--the first men to show that American naval officers can hold their
own against any others in the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beginnings of the Continental Navy were made by Washington. When on
July 3, 1775, he took command of the army under the old elm-tree at
Cambridge in Massachusetts, he had a discouraging task before him. Not
only was it necessary for him to organize the troops and train them in
the art of war, but they had to be supplied with arms and ammunition and
all kinds of equipments. Not only was there a scarcity of money to buy
these things, but the things themselves were hardly to be got in the
colonies either for love or money. At the battle of Bunker Hill the
patriots had retired, not because they were beaten, but because their
ammunition was exhausted. During the whole summer Washington was writing
to the governors of the neighboring colonies, entreating them to send
him a little powder and lead. "No quantity," he said, "however small, is
beneath notice."

All this time the British, securely established in Boston, were
receiving supplies of all kinds from England. Though they were three
thousand miles away from home, they could get what they needed with more
certainty than the colonists, who were fighting in their own country: of
such importance is it in war to have the control of the sea. Washington
himself saw this, and he determined to dispute the control with the
enemy by sending out little vessels, just strong enough to attack the
transports and storeships coming to Boston. So he despatched to the
north shore, as it is called, to Beverly and Salem and Marblehead, two
of his trusted officers, Colonel John Glover of Marblehead, and Stephen
Moylan, the Muster-master-general of the army, to procure and fit out
the vessels. Late in October the first two schooners got to sea, the
"Lynch" and "Franklin," under Captain Broughton, who sailed for the Gulf
of St. Lawrence to intercept ships bound for Quebec. Ten days later
Moylan and Glover, by dint of hard work, got off two more of these
diminutive cruisers,--the "Lee," under Captain John Manley, and the
"Warren," under Captain Adams of the New Hampshire troops. These were
also schooners, and carried each four 4-pounders and ten
swivels,--little guns throwing a half-pound bullet mounted on pivots on
the gunwales, just as gatlings are mounted to-day. Each had fifty men,
most of whom were drafted from the army; but there was hardly any
ammunition to spare for them, and it went against the grain to give
them twenty rounds for each gun, which was all they carried.

At Plymouth, also, Washington had his small navy-yard, but it gave him
more trouble than it was worth. The schooner "Harrison," under Captain
Coit of Connecticut, was here, though she was old and weak; and a larger
ship, the "Washington." The "Washington" was a fine brigantine, and she
mounted ten carriage guns which had been brought by boats and wagons
from Bristol. But her captain, Martindale, was too ambitious, and wished
his ship to have all the equipments of a real man-of-war. The general
and his aides, Reed and Moylan, who had the work in charge, were sorely
tried by all this useless preparation, which delayed the vessel during
the precious weeks of autumn, when she should have been at sea. "Shall
we ever hear," wrote Moylan in the middle of November, "of Captain
Martindale's departure?" For he knew that the captain's business was to
seize the English stores, and to let ships-of-war alone. Coit's
schooner, also, the "Harrison," was delayed in port, and the sailors
were troublesome. "They are soured by the severity of the season," wrote
the agent, "and are longing for the leeks and onions of Connecticut." By
the third week in November the two ships got out; but the brigantine was
presently captured by an enemy's frigate, which showed that the
general's apprehensions had been right from the beginning. So the navy,
especially the Plymouth fleet, was a source of much anxiety and
discouragement to him during the month of November.

But suddenly the tide turned, for on the 29th of that month the news
came from Cape Ann that the "Lee" was in, and that Manley had captured
the brigantine "Nancy," loaded with all kinds of military stores. We
can fancy how the general must have felt as he read the invoice of her
stores: two thousand muskets and bayonets, thirty-one tons of
musket-shot, three thousand round shot for 12-pounders, eight thousand
fuzes, one hundred and fifty carcasses,--great frames for combustibles
to set buildings on fire,--a 13-inch mortar, two 6-pounders, and several
barrels of powder, besides great quantities of other valuable stores. No
wonder he sent Colonel Glover and Mr. Palfrey in hot haste to the Cape
to raise the minute-men from all the neighboring towns and land the
stores, and bring them under escort to headquarters! And the same day he
wrote to the President of Congress to tell him of Manley's fine capture,
and said: "I sincerely congratulate you, sir, on this great acquisition;
it more than repays all that has been spent in fitting out the

Manley was off to sea again in a day or two, and a week later he
captured three more vessels, the cargoes of which were sold, some of
them bringing a high price. For these services Manley was placed by
Congress on the list of Continental captains, and put in command of a
frigate. His schooner, the "Lee," was given to Captain Waters, who
cruised in her for several months, capturing a number of transports with
troops on board.

The other vessels also took their share of prizes, even the leaky old
"Harrison" bringing in a sloop and a schooner. Broughton's ships, the
"Lynch" and the "Franklin," seized several vessels that were supposed to
belong to Tories, but most of these were released. After their return
the "Franklin" was given to James Mugford, a daring Marblehead captain.
This was in the spring after the British had evacuated Boston, but
ships laden with supplies were still coming to America. One of these,
the "Hope," of six guns, fell in with Mugford near Boston, and he
determined to attack her, though an English squadron was in sight not
many miles away. He had just boarded her, when the English captain
ordered his men to cut the topsail-halliards, so that the ship would be
delayed until the squadron could come up. But Mugford roared out that
any man who carried out the order would suffer instant death, and no one
dared to move. The prize had fifteen hundred barrels of powder in her
hold, and it was almost hopeless to try to get her into the harbor by
the usual channel in the face of the enemy's fleet. But just then the
"Lee" came up, and Captain Waters, who knew every shoal and winding
passage in Boston harbor, told Mugford he would carry her in through
Shirley Gut, a narrow channel where none of the English ships would dare
to follow her. He made good his promise; for though the "Hope" did run
ashore on Handkerchief Shoal, he got her off, and brought her with her
precious cargo safely into Boston.


Poor Mugford did not long survive his exploit; for, leaving port a few
days later by this same Shirley Gut, he too grounded, and while he was
lying hard and fast, the boats from the enemy's fleet put off to capture
him. There were three times as many men as Mugford had on board the
"Franklin;" but he gave them a warm reception with his muskets and such
guns as he could bring to bear. They came alongside and prepared to
board; but as soon as any of them put their hands upon the rail, the
crew hacked them off with cutlasses. Mugford himself was in the hottest
of it, and as he leaned over the gunwale a bullet struck him in the
breast. He called his first lieutenant and said to him, "I am a dead
man: do not give up the vessel; you will be able to beat them off." And
so he died; but the enemy were driven back, with two of their boats
lost, and the ship was saved.

While General Washington was making his beginning of a Continental navy
about Boston, aided by the Massachusetts people, the other colonies were
working by themselves in the same direction. In Long Island Sound, on
the Hudson River, in the Delaware and Chesapeake bays, and along the
inlets of the southern coast, flotillas were fitted out to protect the
towns and to prey upon the enemy's commerce. In October, 1775, the
Continental Congress, which was then in session at Philadelphia,
following the example of Washington, decided to have a navy for the
general service of the colonies. With this early movement Stephen
Hopkins, a delegate from Rhode Island, had much to do; for Narragansett
Bay with its thriving farms and plantations offered a tempting prize to
the British raiders, whom the little colony would find it hard to keep
off. There were others, too, who took a deep interest in the
project,--above all John Adams, and Silas Deane of Connecticut, and
Robert Morris of Pennsylvania. Through their efforts a beginning was
made by purchasing two brigs, the "Lexington" and "Providence." These
were followed by two larger vessels, the "Alfred" and "Columbus,"
carrying each about twenty 9-pounders. Then two more brigs were bought,
the "Andrew Doria" and the "Cabot," which like Washington's schooners
carried only 4-pounders, though they had more of them. The "Lexington"
went to sea alone, but the others were assembled at Philadelphia in
December, ready to start out as the first Continental squadron.

It was not an easy thing to select a commander for the new squadron, for
there was hardly a man in the colonies who had seen any naval service.
Young Nicholas Biddle, of Philadelphia, had been a midshipman in the
Royal Navy, and had resigned his post to fight for his country; but he
was thought to be too young, though he had seen more real service than
his fellow officers. Finally, Hopkins's brother, Esek Hopkins, an old
Rhode Island sea-captain who had been made a brigadier-general, was
chosen to command the force. His son John was made captain of one of the
ships, and his cousin Abraham Whipple of another, while Hazard, who was
also a Rhode Islander, was assigned to the "Providence." Biddle, who, as
it turned out, was the best of them all, was given the little brig
"Doria." From an obscure place in Virginia, far away in the country,
came a letter from a young Scotchman named Paul Jones, who had followed
the sea from his boyhood but had finally settled in America, asking them
that he might have a commission. Although no one knew much of him, he
was offered one of the smaller brigs; but he preferred to go at first as
a lieutenant, and he was placed on board the "Alfred," the commodore's

The squadron was fitted out to cruise upon the southern coast; but it
was frozen up for six weeks in Delaware Bay, and when it sailed in
February, 1776, it made first for the Bahama Islands. It came to anchor
off Abaco, the northernmost of the islands. Here the commodore learned
that there was a fort, with many guns and a great quantity of powder,
but defended only by a feeble garrison, at New Providence, on the
Island of Nassau, the same place which afterward gained such fame during
the Rebellion as the refuge of the blockade-runners. Commodore Hopkins
resolved to attempt its capture, but advancing incautiously with his
whole fleet, gave a timely warning to the inhabitants; and the governor,
who till that moment had not dreamed of the near approach of an enemy,
succeeded in getting his powder to a place of safety. The marines were
landed and marched to the fort, which they captured with little
difficulty. The guns were taken, as well as all the stores except the
powder, and the governor was carried off a prisoner.

The squadron had now accomplished such results that Hopkins thought it
best to defer his operations on the southern coast, and made sail for
home. He arrived safely in New London, meeting only one of the enemy's
ships on the way, with which he had a battle; but neither side could
claim the victory. The captured guns were sent off to the points where
they were needed most, and Commodore Hopkins went to Philadelphia. But
Congress was not very well satisfied with him, especially the Southern
delegates, who had been promised protection for their shores. The old
commodore, too, was fussy and impatient, and as he stayed on in
Philadelphia, everybody began to grow tired of him; and finally Congress
passed a resolution in which they announced to him, rather harshly
perhaps, that they had no further use for his services. No doubt he had
meant well; but he was too old to be the leader of the new Continental
Navy, and this is the last we shall hear of him.

Before the squadron started on its cruise Congress had undertaken more
ambitious measures. Thirteen frigates were ordered to be built, and
different places were selected where the work should be done, so that
whatever part of the country the British might overrun, some of the new
ships might be finished and sent out. Thus the "Raleigh" was built at
Portsmouth, the "Hancock" and "Boston" in Massachusetts, the "Warren"
and "Providence" in Rhode Island, the "Trumbull" in Connecticut, and the
"Virginia" at Baltimore. Of the other six, two were begun at
Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson, and four at Philadelphia; but the only one
of the six that got to sea was the "Randolph," of Philadelphia, the
others being destroyed at one time or another to prevent their falling
into the hands of the enemy. More vessels were built later, and a few
were bought in Europe; but among them all there were no line-of-battle
ships, and even for frigates they were not very large or strong. But
they were the best that the colonies could get; there was not money
enough to build great fleets, and there were not guns enough to arm
them. Few and small as they were, they performed their part, and no
small part it was, in showing the King and the Parliament that the
colonies were thoroughly in earnest in the struggle upon which they had
entered, and that they would spare no labor, and would encounter any
danger, in order to secure their independence.



There were two men in Hopkins's squadron who far excelled all the others
in those qualities of energy, courage, and intelligence that are most
required in a naval officer. These were Biddle, the captain of the
"Andrew Doria," and Paul Jones, the lieutenant of the "Alfred." Jones
was at this time twenty-eight years old; the son of a Scotch gardener,
he was born and brought up on the shores of the Solway Frith. Across the
Frith lay the prosperous seaport of Whitehaven; and the boy when twelve
years old was apprenticed to a merchant of the place, who traded with
America, and his first voyage had been to Virginia. At a later time he
had served in a slaver; but leaving this distasteful occupation, he
became the master of a ship in the West India trade, and finally had
drifted to Virginia, where he had made his home two years before the
outbreak of the war.

After the squadron returned to New London, Jones was given command of
the brig "Providence," and in August he set off on a cruise to the
eastward. His ship was small, but she was smart and handy, and Jones was
the man to make her do her best. Presently he fell in with two frigates
of the enemy; but he got away from them after an exciting chase. A few
days afterward, while his ship was hove to, and his crew were fishing,
another English frigate came up,--the "Milford." Hastily calling his men
to their stations, he started off to try his speed with the new-comer,
for she was far too strong for him to attack or even to resist. He soon
found that he could outsail her, which was just as good; and shortening
sail, he allowed the "Milford" to come up a little. Then he started
ahead again, and so continued backing and filling, just to tease her, as
it were. The frigate turned and gave him a broadside which fell short,
and which he answered in derision by ordering a marine to fire a musket.
Finally he left the "Milford" and went on his way to the fishing
settlements in the eastern provinces, capturing the enemy's merchantmen
right and left, wherever he could find them. He raided the harbor of
Canso, to the great alarm of the inhabitants, and broke up the fishery.
Then he crossed over to Île Madame, where he destroyed the shipping. By
this time his ship was so loaded down with prisoners that he was obliged
to put about for home, where he arrived safely in October, having been
out six weeks and taken sixteen prizes.

After a month in port Jones started on a second cruise. This time he
took with him the "Providence" and also the "Alfred,"--the ship of which
he had been first lieutenant on the expedition to Nassau. Another raid
was made on Canso, and another batch of prizes was captured. One of
these, the "Mellish," had a cargo of clothing which was intended for the
enemy's troops, but which was needed even more by our own army, at this
time just beginning its winter campaign. When he came home from this
second cruise, Jones thought he had shown by what he had done that he
deserved a better ship, and Congress thought so too; and after some
little delay he was appointed to the new sloop-of-war "Ranger," which
was building at Portsmouth, and in which during the following year he
entered upon a new and larger field of operations.

[Illustration: NICHOLAS BIDDLE.]

About the time that Jones took command of the "Providence," his
companion in the squadron, Nicholas Biddle, was sent out in the brig
"Doria" on a cruise to the Banks. Biddle was at this time twenty-five
years old. He was born in Philadelphia, and had begun life as a sailor
before the mast at the age of fourteen. On his second voyage he was
wrecked in the West Indies, and narrowly escaped with his life.
Afterward he went to London, and in 1770, when a war was threatened
between Great Britain and Spain, he obtained an appointment as
midshipman in the Royal Navy under Captain Stirling. War did not break
out, however, and young Biddle joined the exploring expedition under
Commodore Phipps, which sought to reach the North Pole by the way of
Spitzbergen. On the same expedition was another youngster, by name
Horatio Nelson, who was destined afterward to lead the English fleet to
victory at the battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. After the return of
Phipps's ships, Biddle left the navy and came home to take his part in
the war that was now beginning. His first commission, from the Committee
of Safety in Philadelphia, was signed by its president, Benjamin
Franklin, and appointed him "Captain of the Provincial Armed Boat called
the 'Franklin,' fitted out for the protection of the Province of
Pennsylvania, and the Commerce of the River Delaware against all hostile
enterprises, and for the defence of American Liberty." But when Congress
formed its first squadron, under Commodore Hopkins, he was transferred
to the Continental Navy. The "Doria," which Biddle commanded on the
expedition to Nassau, and which he was now to take on her first
independent cruise, carried an armament of fourteen 4-pounders, which,
as I have said, were little better than popguns, and of course unfit for
fighting with a ship-of-war. Her crew numbered one hundred men. On her
way out, the "Doria" made three prizes. Off Newfoundland she captured
two transports, with four hundred troops on board. Any ordinary man
would have found it a difficult task to dispose of so many prizes and
prisoners; but Biddle had served in the navy, and he knew what
discipline meant. Manning the captured ships from his crew, he filled
their places on board the "Doria" with prisoners, and started to return
home. On the way back, six more vessels were taken. These were manned in
the same way, by stripping the brig of her sailors and taking the best
of the prisoners to do their work. Finally the "Doria" arrived at
Philadelphia, with all her prisoners and with only five men left of her
original crew. It would have been hard to find another man in the
service, even if it were Paul Jones himself, who could have kept in
check such a ship's company as that. One of the prizes was wrecked, and
another recaptured, but the rest got safely into port.

Congress now began to realize that this young fellow of five-and-twenty
was one of the very best officers in its employ; and indeed if he had
been made at the start the commander-in-chief of our forces afloat,
instead of an old weather-beaten merchant captain like Hopkins, his
experience and skill and impetuous bravery would beyond a doubt have
raised the navy to the highest point of excellence of which its scanty
resources were capable. He was appointed to command the "Randolph,"
which had lately been launched at Philadelphia. She was one of the best
of the new ships, but she had been hurriedly built,--too hurriedly, as
was shown on her first cruise; for no sooner had Biddle got out of sight
of land than a gale sprang up, and all her masts went by the board. To
add to his difficulties, he discovered a mutinous spirit in his crew,
several of whom were prisoners who had volunteered for the cruise. This
was promptly checked, for the captain, as we have seen, was not a man to
allow insubordination; and after rigging jury-masts he carried the ship
safely into Charleston. Here she was refitted, and from here she again
started on a cruise. She had been out only a few days when she captured
the "True Briton," a ship of twenty guns, and three West Indiamen that
formed her convoy. The captain of the "True Briton" had been looking
for the "Randolph,"--at least so he said,--and as the latter approached
him, he received her with a warm fire; but the "Randolph" only waited
till she got within pistol-shot, when she fired a single gun, and the
English captain incontinently struck his colors.

Returning once more to Charleston with her prizes, the "Randolph"
remained there for some time blockaded by the enemy's squadron. At last
the State of South Carolina fitted out a force of vessels to raise the
blockade and cruise with the "Randolph" under Biddle's command. Contrary
winds and the want of a high tide detained them for some time in
Rebellion Roads, and when they got over the bar the enemy had
disappeared; so they set out in quest of adventures.

The squadron had cruised for more than a month in the Atlantic with no
incident worthy of note, when on the 7th of March, 1778, being then to
the eastward of Barbadoes, at one o' clock in the afternoon a large ship
was seen in the distance, gradually approaching. By three o'clock she
had come near enough for Biddle to make out that she was a
ship-of-the-line. Knowing that the stranger must be an Englishman,--she
proved to be the "Yarmouth," of sixty-four guns,--and knowing too that
the "Randolph," even with the support of the smaller ships, was no match
for her powerful battery, he signalled to the fleet to make sail. All
the ships obeyed except the "General Moultrie," which obstinately
refused to leave her place, and remained hove to, giving no sign of
moving. This blundering conduct of the "Moultrie's" captain left Biddle
no choice but to abandon his consort or to remain and fight what seemed
to be a hopeless battle. He boldly chose the latter course; and as the
"Yarmouth" ranged up on his weather quarter, he hoisted the American
flag and opened on her with a succession of furious broadsides, giving
four to the enemy's one, and inflicting dangerous wounds upon her sails
and rigging. A few minutes after the action began, Biddle received a
shot in the thigh. As his people, alarmed, gathered around him, he
raised himself up, telling them it was only a slight touch, and calling
for a chair seated himself on the quarter-deck, where the surgeon came
to dress his wound. Here he was vigorously directing the course of the
battle, and in spite of the disparity between the two ships he was
gradually getting the advantage, when suddenly, without a moment's
warning, the magazine of the "Randolph" blew up, scattering spars, hull,
guns, officers, and men in a mass of fragments over the waters.

None ever knew how the accident happened. The other ships, seeing the
disaster, made off as fast as they could; but the "Yarmouth" was too
much disabled to follow them, and they made good their escape. Five days
after the action the English ship, still cruising about the spot, came
upon a floating piece of the "Randolph's" wreck, to which four of her
crew were still clinging. They had been drifting in this way for four
days with no sustenance except the rain-water which they had managed to
collect. These were all the survivors of that fatal battle,--a battle
which lost us not only a fine frigate, but, what was far worse, one of
our best and most gallant officers.



We have seen how the beginning of naval enterprise made by Washington in
the summer of 1775 was taken up and borne along by the Continental
Congress at Philadelphia, until little by little it had obtained a force
at sea that was able to inflict serious loss upon the enemy. But a field
for operations was now to be found in a new quarter; and happily for
America, their direction was in the hands of its wisest and most
far-sighted statesman. On the 7th of December, 1776, the United States
brig-of-war "Reprisal" arrived at Nantes with Benjamin Franklin on board
as a passenger, who had come over with a letter from Congress, naming
him a commissioner to treat with France. The "Reprisal" was commanded by
Capt. Lambert Wickes, a gallant naval officer who had been cruising
during the summer before in the West Indies, where he had shown himself
worthy of the people's trust. And indeed it was a heavy responsibility
that rested with him on this voyage across the Atlantic; for had his
ship with its passenger been captured, it is hard to say what troubles
would have come upon the country, or how the Revolution would have held
its own during the next five years. But Franklin was carried safely to
his destination; and not only that, but two English brigs laden with
cargoes of wine were captured by the "Reprisal" on the voyage and came
with her into port. It was in this way that Franklin's mind was turned
to the benefits which his country might reap from ocean warfare,--above
all, in the seas which English commerce most frequented,--and after he
arrived in Paris he lost no time in putting in practice what he had

At this early period, although the King of France was indifferent, if
not hostile, to the American cause, the ministers and people warmly
favored it. The friendly feeling was strengthened by Franklin's coming,
and his winning manners, simple and frank, but full of dignity, made him
a favorite with all, both high and low. Persuaded thus by their own
desires, and by Franklin's strong but gentle influence, they went just
as far in their efforts to aid the Americans as they possibly could
without declaring open war against England. Large sums of money were
given; the departure of ships laden with arms and munitions of war was
winked at; and when Lord Stormont, the English ambassador, complained of
the admission of the "Reprisal" and her prizes into French ports, the
Frenchmen gave evasive answers, and the vessels under one pretext or
another were allowed to stay. Wickes even made a little roving cruise in
the Bay of Biscay, from which he brought in as trophies three more
prizes. To satisfy the English protests, he was forbidden to sell his
prizes in the ports; but he took them just outside the harbor, where he
held mock sales, and thus disposed of all of them. These little
subterfuges were continued until the conclusion of the treaty, which
came about in the following year.

In the spring after Wickes arrived, the brig "Lexington" came out, under
Captain Johnston. She was the first vessel that had been purchased by
the Continental Congress, and she had already done good service on the
American coast. Johnston had with him as lieutenant one of the best and
bravest of the Revolutionary officers, Richard Dale. Dale was at this
time twenty years of age. Eight years before he had first gone to sea
from his home in Virginia, and already since the beginning of the war he
had been twice a prisoner; but the strangest part of his career was yet
to come.

Franklin now thought it would be wise to join together the "Reprisal"
and the "Lexington" and the little 10-gun cutter "Dolphin" in a squadron
under the command of Wickes, who was to make a dash around the coast of
Ireland and capture or destroy whatever he might find. The ships sailed
from Nantes in June, and in August they came back successful from their
perilous enterprise. They had captured fourteen prizes. Approaching the
French coast on their return, they were discovered and chased by an
English line-of-battle ship of seventy-four guns; but by separating they
succeeded in making good their escape, though the "Reprisal" barely
managed to get into port in time.

This expedition made so great a commotion that the French Government
found itself obliged to notice it, and ordered the ships to leave the
territory. Accordingly they set sail on the voyage home; but unhappily
the "Reprisal," upon reaching the Banks of Newfoundland, foundered in a
gale, and only one of the crew was saved. The "Lexington," soon after
starting, fell in with the English cutter "Alert" in the Bay of Biscay.
Both ships fought gallantly for two hours; but at length the
"Lexington," which was short of ammunition, had used up nearly all her
powder and shot and made sail to get away from the enemy. The "Alert"
had been badly cut up aloft in the fight; but she speedily bent new
sails and in a short time overtook her antagonist. Captain Johnston held
out as long as there was any hope, firing now and then a gun, and using
every scrap of iron he could lay his hands on for a missile; but after
he had fired his last charge of powder, and several of his officers had
been killed, to prevent the useless slaughter he surrendered.

The prisoners were carried off to Plymouth, where they were confined in
the Mill Prison. Here the harsh treatment and sufferings they underwent
soon prompted them to devise a means of escape. A hole was dug under the
wall, the officers and men working upon it with their fingers whenever
an opportunity offered, but making slow progress, as they could only
hide the dirt from the excavation by carrying it in their pockets when
they went out for exercise, and scattering it when the sentry's back was
turned. Finally one night, when all was ready, they passed out through
the opening and escaped into the country.

But their troubles had only just begun. The hue and cry was raised, and
parties were sent in pursuit of the fugitives. Separating into twos and
threes, they were barely able to elude pursuit. One night Dale was
concealed under the hay in a barn, when the officers entered it in
search of him. At last he reached London and took passage in a vessel
bound to Dunkirk; but before she had left the Thames she was visited by
a press-gang, and poor Dale was seized, and when they found out who he
was, sent back to prison. The captain, though, got safely off.

This was now the fourth time that Dale had been a prisoner. To punish
him for trying to escape, he was thrown into the black hole--a dungeon
that was only used for the worst offenders--and treated with the utmost
rigor. After a time he was put on his old footing as a prisoner of war;
but he was a reckless youth, and having roused the wrath of the jailers
by singing what they called "rebellious songs," he served another term
in the black hole. At length by some means, which to his dying day he
never would disclose, he obtained the uniform of a British officer, and
in this disguise he walked through the gates in plain sight of the
sentinel. Rendered more cautious by what had befallen him after his
first escape, he laid his plans with care, and at last succeeded in
reaching France, after a year and a half of captivity. He came in good
time; for it was just as he arrived that Paul Jones was setting out on
his great cruise in the "Bon Homme Richard," and Dale was made his first
lieutenant. Here we shall leave him for the present.

About the time that the "Lexington" had come out from America, in the
spring of 1777, the commissioners at Paris, finding that they could not
get more ships in France, because the English made so great an outcry,
bethought themselves that they would send a trusty agent across the
channel to Dover, to see what he could get there. In this way they
purchased secretly a swift English cutter, the "Surprise," and they
appointed to command her Gustavus Conyngham, a bold and adventurous
officer. He started on a cruise in May from Dunkirk, and in a few days
returned with two of the enemy's brigs,--one of them a mail-packet which
he had captured off the coast of Holland. The English ambassador again
protested, and the French Government told Franklin that, though much
against its will, it would be compelled to restore the prizes. It even
went so far as to imprison Conyngham and his crew; but this was only a
make-believe, for they were shortly afterward released.


Unmoved by this event, Franklin immediately procured another cutter, the
"Revenge," and giving Conyngham a new commission, he sent him off from
Dunkirk in charge of her. The second cruise was even more successful
than the first. Conyngham roved about with his little ship as he
pleased, keeping carefully away from the enemy's cruisers, which vainly
sought to catch him, and capturing prizes on all sides. These he
destroyed, or sometimes when he saw his chance sent into seaports on the
Continent. Once during his cruise, being hard pushed for supplies, he
touched at a small town in Ireland and bought them. At another time when
off the English coast, finding his vessel unseaworthy and needing some
repair, he took her into one of the smaller ports and refitted there,
with the help of the inhabitants, without being discovered. Finally,
when so many ships were sent out in pursuit of him that his
cruising-ground became too hot, he made for Ferrol, in Spain, and after
staying there awhile carried his ship safely to America.

The cruises of Wickes and of Conyngham, with their tiny craft, were the
beginning of the great work that was to be taken up on a larger scale in
the next two years by Paul Jones. The enterprise and hardihood of these
bold captains, who carried the war, as it were, to the very threshold of
the enemy's country, were not without results both in England and on the
Continent. They showed foreign nations that the rebels in America were
making war in truest earnest, and that they would leave no honorable
means unused to help them in asserting independence. In England they
spread alarm among the merchants, and the insurers of English ships
demanded double rates; while London traders, rather than run the risk of
losing their goods by shipping them in their own vessels, were induced
to employ their foreign rivals to carry cargoes for them,--a thing which
before this time had been almost unheard of.



Sometime in the summer of 1777 Paul Jones was ordered to command the
sloop-of-war "Ranger," at that time nearly completed at Portsmouth. The
officers were detailed for their ships by resolution of Congress; and
the same resolution that gave Jones his command, on the 14th day of
June, is memorable as the first adoption of the flag of thirteen stars
and stripes which was carried by Jones's ship, and which ever since has
been the national emblem. The young captain had hard work before him to
get his ship ready for sea; but at last everything was in order, and on
the 1st of November he set sail for France. He had laid down for himself
a clear plan of action. He knew that England's navy was too powerful to
be met on the sea, but that all along the English coast were unprotected
seaports where the people were not looking for attack, and where a sharp
and sudden blow would take them off their guard. He had hopes, too, that
the commissioners in Paris would give him a larger ship,--perhaps two or
three of them,--and he carried with him a letter from the President of
Congress asking them to aid his enterprise. But in this he was
disappointed. When he arrived at Nantes he found that the "Indien," a
fine frigate that Franklin was having built at Amsterdam, was to be
presented to the King of France, whose friendship the commissioners were
anxious to obtain, that by this means they might bring about an alliance
against Great Britain. So after waiting awhile he thought it well to
lose no more time, and on the 10th of April he started with the "Ranger"
for a cruise in the Irish Sea.

The undertaking was full of danger. There was no knowing how large a
force of ships the enemy might have stationed to guard the coast, for
the cruises of Wickes and Conyngham had given the alarm, and the British
might have known that their own waters were no longer safe. Besides,
Paul Jones was a Scotchman who had lived only two years in America,
though he had given himself heart and soul to his new country's cause,
and if captured, especially near Kirkcudbright or Whitehaven, where many
people knew him well, he ran a good chance of being hanged as a pirate
and a traitor. But Jones was a man who cared nothing about danger, and a
great deal about success and the rewards which it brings. He was never
deterred for a moment by the risk he was running, and if he thought
about it at all, he decided that the obstinate belief of the British in
their own invincibility would lead them to neglect preparations; and for
the rest he only asked to be allowed to take his chances. In this he
proved to be right; for although the "Ranger" had been lying for months
at a French port, preparing for her expedition, the narrow seas had been
left with no protection except the "Drake,"--a sloop of the "Ranger's"
size,--which lay snugly at anchor in the harbor of Carrickfergus.

On the fourth day out from Brest, in St. George's Channel, the "Ranger"
made her first capture of a brigantine, which was burned on the spot.
Three days afterward, as Jones was nearing Dublin, he took a London ship
bound for that port, which he manned and sent in to Brest. Next day he
moved over toward Whitehaven, whose port, crowded with shipping, he had
known so well as a boy, and attempted to approach the harbor, so that
his boats might go in and destroy the vessels. The enemy had burned and
destroyed property wherever they could on the American coast, and it
seemed to Jones that the best way to stop them was to do the like on
theirs. But the wind began to blow fiercely toward the land, and the
"Ranger" turned her head seaward again, to avoid the dangers of a lee
shore. In the next two days she captured a schooner and a sloop, which
were sunk one after the other. This was small game for Jones; and
learning from a fishing-boat just where the "Drake" was moored at
Carrickfergus, he determined to run in and surprise her in the night.
All was made ready. The decks were cleared for action, the lights were
put out, the guns concealed, the grapnels at hand to hook on to the
enemy's ship, and the boarders standing by with pikes and cutlasses to
dash over the side. The "Drake" was lying with her head pointing
seaward, and Jones's plan was to place himself athwart her cable and
bring up on her bow. The "Ranger" came in silently but swiftly, with a
captured fisherman to pilot her, and so approached the enemy. The order
was given to "let go the anchor;" but either it was not quickly obeyed
or the anchor hung from the jamming of the hawser, and the "Ranger" shot
by in the darkness. It was of no use to try again, for a second attempt
to get alongside would arouse suspicion; so Jones cut his cable and ran
out, leaving his anchor in the bay behind him.

On the next night he made another trial at Whitehaven, but this too was
a failure. The wind was so light that the ship could not come close in
until much of the night had worn away, and the boats, with Jones and
thirty of his men, only reached the outer pier at daybreak. One party,
under Lieutenant Wallingford, was sent to the north basin, and another
to the south, to burn the ships there; while Jones, with a handful of
men, made his way into the fort, surprised the sentries, captured the
little garrisons and spiked the guns, so that his retreat might be
secure. When he returned to where the ships were lying, expecting to see
them in a blaze, he was distressed to find that his men had let their
candles burn away, and there was nothing left to kindle the fire. At
last one of the men brought a light from a house near by; but by this
time the people of the town had roused themselves, and began to move
about the streets and to gather near the wharves. A fire started in one
ship was helped on by a tar-barrel; and while his men were fanning it
into a blaze, Jones stood before them on the wharf and kept the enemy
away. But angry crowds were now collecting, and it was time to be off;
so the captain manned his boats in haste, and embarking, pulled away to
his ship, leaving the frightened inhabitants to wonder what this strange
attack at their very doors could mean.

The "Ranger" now ran over to the Scotch coast, and was next seen off St.
Mary's Isle, the country-seat of the Earl of Selkirk. Jones knew the
spot, and he had formed the plan of landing with a boat's crew and
carrying off the Earl, whom he meant to keep as a hostage in order that
the prisoners taken by the English might have better treatment. But the
Earl was not at home, and the men grumbled at having only their trouble
for their pains. To quiet them, Jones told the party that they could go
back and demand the silver plate that was in the house. The Lady
Selkirk, who, looking from the window of her house, had seen the men as
they came on shore, had felt no alarm, thinking that they were revenue
officers, or perhaps a press-gang; but she was undeceived when they came
back to the house, and she hurriedly gave them the silver tea-service,
just as it was, on the breakfast-table. So they carried it away. It was
a shameful thing to do, only worthy of a tramp or a marauder, and Jones
was heartily sorry for it afterward; so much so, that at the sale of the
prizes he bought in all the Earl's plate with his own prize-money, and
sent it safely back to Lady Selkirk.

The last two exploits of the "Ranger" had alarmed the whole
country-side; and as she came once more in sight of the coast of the
three kingdoms, beacon-fires could be seen burning on every headland.
The "Drake," too, had caught the alarm, and came out from Carrickfergus
to capture the bold American. She was looking for an encounter, and
Jones had no wish to disappoint her. As the enemy came out, the "Ranger"
was kept stern on, which caused her to be mistaken for a merchantman,
and a boat put off from the "Drake" to gain some information. The boat's
crew gained more than they bargained for, for they were no sooner
alongside than the "Ranger" took them on board. Then, after drawing away
for a while from the land, she waited for her adversary to come up.
There was no doubt now about her character, and the two ships fired
their broadsides as soon as they had come within range. It was a running
fight, broadside to broadside, and the two enemies were fairly matched.
But the "Ranger's" men were better at the guns, and their steady fire
soon began to tell, as the people who lined the shores could see to
their dismay. The shots rained thick and fast upon the "Drake," sweeping
her decks, wounding her sides, and cutting up her rigging. Her ties were
shot away and the fore and main top-sail yards fell upon the caps. The
jib hung in the water ahead and the ensign drooped astern. Presently the
captain received a shot in the head, and soon afterward the first
lieutenant fell, mortally wounded; finally, after an hour of hot
fighting, the "Drake" surrendered. On board the "Ranger" poor
Wallingford was killed, but Jones had not been touched. Securing his
prisoners and his prize, on board of which he found the anchor which had
been left in Carrickfergus harbor, and which the "Drake" had fished up
for herself, he made sail with the two ships around the north of
Ireland. There was little time to be lost, for the enemy would soon have
a squadron in pursuit of him. Off he went, and made his passage safely
around the Irish coast, and on the 8th of May the "Ranger" and the
"Drake" arrived at Brest, just four weeks after Jones had started.


With the great name that Jones had gained from his successful cruise, he
now thought, and with reason, that his friends in France would bestir
themselves to find for him a suitable command. He went to Paris, and
received such fair promises from those in power, that he decided to send
home the "Ranger" and wait abroad for the fine new ship which he
expected to command. As the French had now openly concluded an
alliance, they were ready to take part in any enterprise against the
common enemy but they wanted to use their ships for their own officers,
and the commissioners had no money to build ships on their own account.
Jones went back to Brest, determined to bide his time, and meanwhile to
leave no stone unturned in his efforts to secure a vessel. From Brest he
wrote most pressing and incessant letters to every one in Paris who was
likely to advance his scheme,--to Franklin, to M. de Sartine, the
Minister of Marine, to the Prince of Nassau, and to Chaumont, a French
official who had devoted much of his time and money to helping the
American cause.

About this time Lafayette came over to France in a splendid new frigate,
the finest ship in the American Navy, which had been named the
"Alliance," to show how much the Americans valued their French friends.
For the same reason the command of the "Alliance" had been given to
Pierre Landais, a French merchant-captain. This was a serious mistake,
as it was no great compliment to France, and Landais was as poor an
officer as could have been selected. It was now proposed that a descent
should be made on the English coast, with Lafayette in command of the
land forces and Jones as the leader of the fleet, which was to include
the "Alliance" and several other vessels. But this plan also fell

Jones was not in despair, for he never was that, although he had good
reason to be so now; but he was beginning to be very angry. He had been
told to look about in the seaports and select a vessel, and he had
selected several; but his letters all seemed to be pigeon-holed when
they got to Paris. One day he chanced to take up an old number of the
"Poor Richard's Almanac," which Franklin had written years before, and
read in it these words: "If you want a thing done, go and do it; if not,
send!" Acting upon this advice he went to Paris, and in a few days after
his arrival he was gratified by the announcement that one of the ships
he had seen was to be fitted out for him.

The ship was the "Duc de Duras," an old Indiaman; and Jones was so
grateful for the advice which had prompted him to go to Paris, that he
had her rechristened the "Poor Richard," or "Bon Homme Richard," as they
called it in French. She was not a first-rate ship, but she would answer
the purpose, and Jones knew that beggars should not be choosers. The
larger frigates of that day carried 18-pounders, but the "Richard," as
we shall call her, had only 12-pounders. Jones managed, however, to get
six 18's, which he mounted in the gun-room, cutting ports for them in
the side. Besides his own ship he was to have four others,--the
"Alliance," under Landais, and three smaller vessels, the "Pallas,"
"Cerf," and "Vengeance," commanded by French officers, and with crews of

The crew of the "Bon Homme Richard" was made up partly of Americans,
many of whom were exchanged prisoners, and she carried a considerable
body of French marines. The rest of her people were taken from the
foreign sailors of all nations and classes that are to be found in every
seaport. Her officers were Americans. Of these the best was the first
lieutenant, Richard Dale, one of the most gallant young officers that
was ever borne upon the rolls of the American Navy, of whose career you
have already heard something in the last chapter, and who, as I told
you then, had made his final escape from prison just in time to set out
in the "Richard." The commodore, as Jones was now called, would have
been badly off if it had not been for Dale; for through accidents he
became short of officers on the cruise, and in the great battle that
ended it, Dale was almost the only one of rank upon whom he could rely.

The squadron sailed from Lorient on the 14th of August, 1779. The plan
was to sail to the northward along the Irish and Scotch coasts, thence
to the east, and back by way of the North Sea, keeping near the shore,
and so circling around the United Kingdom. When a few days out, at dusk
one evening, off the Irish coast, the crew of the "Richard's" barge,
which was towing at the time, cut the tow-line and pulled off. The
master, Lunt, was sent in another boat in chase, but a thick fog coming
up, he was unable to rejoin the ship. Next day the "Cerf" went in toward
the coast to find him, the others remaining meanwhile outside in the
track of vessels. Lunt saw the "Cerf" approaching him, but as she was
flying English colors, he mistook her for an enemy, and made off to the
shore, where he and his boat's crew were taken prisoners. The "Cerf"
seized the opportunity to leave her duty and go back to France.

After this incident the squadron, now composed of the "Bon Homme
Richard," the "Alliance," the "Pallas," and the "Vengeance," pursued its
way, taking prizes and destroying them or sending them in. All the
French captains were insubordinate, but Landais was the worst. Sometimes
he flatly refused to obey the commodore's orders, and at all times he
opposed and thwarted him as far as he dared. Still, the cruise was
successful, the squadron doubled Cape Wrath, and about the 15th of
September arrived off the Frith of Forth.

Jones was now eager to accomplish some great achievement, for so far he
had done nothing that was more noteworthy than his cruise in the
"Ranger." As he came up the Frith, he decided to stand in toward Leith,
the seaport of Edinburgh, and anchoring before the unprotected town, to
demand a ransom of £200,000 as the price of sparing it. His plan was
laid with care, and he had only to wait till night, when the "Pallas"
and the "Vengeance," which were a little behind, should join him. The
"Alliance" at this time was away at sea, having been separated from the
squadron. When the other ships came up, their captains demurred at
Jones's plan, and the whole night was lost in tedious debate and
argument. Finally the Frenchmen were won over to consent; but now that
morning had come, the wind was contrary, and for two days all the ships
were working up the Frith. At last they had nearly reached the
anchorage, when a furious gale came on and drove them all out to the
North Sea, running ashore one of the prizes they had taken. The
commodore at first was for making a second trial; but when he found that
the alarm had been given in the town, and that batteries had been thrown
up along the shore, and arms had been served out to the trade-guilds so
that they might be ready to receive him, he reluctantly gave up the

It was a few days after this, on the afternoon of the 23d of September,
as the four ships were working their way gradually to the southward
along the English coast, that Jones's opportunity at length arrived. He
had just passed Flamborough Head, a long promontory jutting out in the
North Sea, when he descried a sail coming out beyond the point to the
northward, then another, and another, then more, by twos and threes,
until at last there were fifty of them. Fifty of the enemy's
merchant-vessels in plain sight! It seemed almost too good to be true,
for this was the great fleet of Baltic trading-ships, which it was the
dearest wish of Jones's heart to meet. In an instant he had hoisted the
signal to attack them; but presently the headmost merchant-ships, seeing
the advancing enemy, put about and made off under the land, followed by
the others like a flock of frightened geese. Two of the vessels alone
kept on their course, and it was presently discovered that these were
ships of war convoying the fleet,--the fine 18-pounder frigate
"Serapis," just from the dock-yard, under Captain Pearson, and a smaller
vessel, the "Countess of Scarborough." These two vessels stood gallantly
out to sea to get between the convoy and Jones's squadron. Jones held on
his course to meet them; but Landais, either from cowardice or
treachery, disobeyed the commodore's signals, and sailing off, left him
in the lurch. The "Vengeance" being too small to be of any service, and
the "Pallas" engaging the "Countess of Scarborough," the "Bon Homme
Richard" was left to fight the "Serapis" alone.

It was seven o'clock in the evening when the first shots were exchanged
between the two frigates, and for three hours, under the bright
moonlight of a clear September night, the battle raged between them with
unremitting fury. At first Jones tried to get into a good position
across the enemy's bow; but the "Serapis" was a much faster vessel than
the "Richard," and easily evaded her. After manoeuvring for a time the
two vessels got foul, and Jones with his own hands made fast the
jib-stay of the "Serapis" to his mizzen-mast. At the same time the
English vessel's anchor hooked in his quarter, and the "Serapis" having
let go her other anchor, the two ships, firmly lashed together, swung
side by side to the single cable.

This position was much the best that Jones could have taken; for the
"Serapis" outsailed him, and if the ships had remained apart, she would
soon have knocked him to pieces with her heavy battery. As it was, her
18-pounders cleared the "Richard's" lower deck, knocking all her ports
into one, and blowing out the two sides of the ship. At the beginning of
the battle, two of the old 18-pounders which Jones had taken care to
mount in his gun-room burst, and the crew refused to have anything more
to do with them. Lieutenant Dale, who commanded the lower battery, fired
his little 12-pounders as long as the men could stand to their guns,
though in order to load them the rammers had to be run in through the
enemy's ports, so close were the two ships. Presently word was brought
to Dale that the ship was sinking, and he sent some men to man the
pumps. Then the master-at-arms, overcome by panic, set loose all the
prisoners,--there were more than a hundred of them,--and the men
stationed in the magazine, seeing them crowding up, were afraid to send
up any more powder. But Dale was below again in a twinkling, and
overawing the prisoners, he set them to work in gangs at the pumps. When
he returned to the gun-deck he found it almost deserted, for the sides
were nearly all open, and the cannon-balls were passing through and
falling into the water beyond. Then indeed it seemed as if all hope was
lost and the "Bon Homme Richard" was a beaten ship, and it would be
folly to hold out longer.

But all this time another fight had been going forward on the deck
above, where Jones himself was in command. Pearson, seeing the havoc
that had been made on the gun-deck of the "Richard," hailed the
commodore to know if he surrendered; but Jones, though his ship was
sinking, his gun-deck riddled, his prisoners loose, and, worst of all, a
fire had broken out near the magazine, sang out in answer that he "had
not yet begun to fight." And he was as good as his word. Though the
purser, who had charge of the battery on the quarter-deck, had been shot
in the head, and some of the guns had been disabled, Jones had others
moved across the deck, and pointing them himself, poured round after
round of grape-shot upon the enemy. The French marines, too, with their
muskets, were stationed in the tops, and taking steady and deliberate
aim killed man after man on the spar-deck of the "Serapis," until
Pearson was left there almost alone. Other marines and sailors lying out
on the yard-arms of the "Richard," which overhung the enemy's deck,
flung hand-grenades through the open hatchways. Finally one of these
struck the piles of cartridges that were lying on the lower deck of the
"Serapis," and caused a series of deafening explosions, by which twenty
men were killed and many more were wounded.

This last mischance was too much for Captain Pearson, and left alone and
unsupported as he was on the quarter-deck, he surrendered, hauling down
his flag with his own hands. Instantly Dale, who had been with Jones
during the last part of the battle, caught a pendant that was hanging
from the main-yard, and swung himself over to the enemy's deck. He was
quickly followed by Midshipman Mayrant and a party of men who scrambled
over the rail; but so little did those below know of what had happened,
that a man ran Mayrant through the leg with a pike, and the English
first lieutenant, rushing up on deck, asked Dale if the Americans had

"No," said Dale, calmly; "it is you who have surrendered, and you are my

The crew were then secured, the ships were disentangled, and the victory
was won.

While the great fight was going on between the large vessels, the
"Countess of Scarborough" had fallen an easy prey to the "Pallas," which
was a heavier ship. The "Alliance," if Landais had done his duty, might
have destroyed the enemy single-handed; but she took no part in the
fight except to fire a few broadsides at the two ships as they lay
together, which did more harm to the "Richard" than to her foe. Landais
was led to this most treacherous conduct by his jealousy of Jones; but
so far from injuring the commodore, it only benefited him, for it left
to him alone all the glory of the victory.

The "Richard" was kept afloat with difficulty that night; but next day a
gale sprang up, and seeing that it was impossible to save her, Jones
took off all his people and their prisoners to the captured ship. Then
the "Bon Homme Richard," whose career had been so short and glorious,
slowly settled, until at last the waves closed over her. The other ships
made sail and put into the Dutch port of the Texel, where Jones took
command of the "Alliance," and soon after, carrying her through the
midst of the Channel fleet, arrived safely at Brest. The miserable
Landais was tried by a court-martial, and dismissed from the service in
disgrace,--a punishment which he richly deserved.

In the whole war of the Revolution there was no event, excepting the
battles of Saratoga and Yorktown, where Burgoyne and Cornwallis laid
down their arms, that so encouraged our friends and wrought confusion to
our enemies, as the victory of the "Bon Homme Richard." The battle had
been fought on the English coast, and in the sight of a thousand
Englishmen. The "Serapis" was a noble ship, well armed, commanded by a
gallant officer, while her victorious enemy was old and rotten, an India
trading-vessel never meant for war, with guns of no great service. No
wonder that when Paul Jones went to Paris after the battle the people of
all degrees vied with one another in doing honor to the victorious
commodore. He went to Court, where he was graciously received, and the
King presented him with a golden sword, and made him a chevalier of his
Order of Merit,--an honor which it was said had only been conferred
before that time upon those who had borne arms under the commission of
France. The Continental Congress, too, was mindful of his great service,
and caused a medal to be struck in commemoration of the victory.

It was Paul Jones's last exploit in the navy of his country. When the
"America," the first ship-of-the-line that was built by the United
States, was nearly finished, Congress passed a resolution, without one
dissenting voice, giving the command to Jones. But in 1782, when the
ship was ready, the war was almost over, and it was then thought best to
give her to the French, to take the place of the ship "Magnifique,"
which had been lost in Boston Harbor. So there was nothing left for
Jones to do; but if in his whole life he had accomplished nothing else
but the conquest of the "Serapis," that single act would have been
enough to make his country hold him forever in grateful remembrance.

Some years after the end of the Revolution the Russian Empress
Catherine, who was then fighting against the Turks, sent for Paul Jones
to lead her fleet against the enemy. Thus it came about that he became a
Russian Admiral, and commanded the squadron in the Black Sea, where he
increased his fame by winning victories over the Turkish vessels. After
this service he came back to Paris, where he died in 1792, in the midst
of the French Revolution.



During the time that Wickes and Conyngham and Paul Jones were carrying
on the war with such success in the enemy's waters under the guidance of
Franklin, the Continental Navy was cruising on the American coast as
actively as was possible, in the neighborhood of the great English
fleets. But it was a work of the utmost danger and difficulty. Several
of the ports at one time or another were in the enemy's hands, and in
all of them the Tories, or Loyalists, as they called themselves, were
ready to give information whenever a vessel was fitted out for sea.
Outside the ports, and up and down the coast, from Halifax to Florida,
were innumerable cruisers of the enemy, sailing alone or in light
squadrons, ever on the watch, and ready to capture the insurgent ships,
which almost always were of lesser force. Of the thirteen frigates that
were built by Congress in 1775, five never got to sea at all, and
several of the others, like Biddle's ship, the "Randolph," were captured
or destroyed before they had had time to do much service. The first one
taken was the "Hancock," under Captain Manley, the same who, by his
capture of the brig "Nancy," had so rejoiced the army before Boston. He
was cruising toward the Banks, and had made one good prize, the armed
ship "Fox," when, rashly looking into Halifax, he was chased out and
captured by Sir George Collier in the "Rainbow" frigate. This was in
1777. The next year was full of disasters. First came the blowing up of
the "Randolph" in March, the story of which has been already told. In
April, the "Virginia," which had been built at Baltimore, was taken
while aground on her first passage down the Chesapeake. In August, too,
the "Raleigh" had to yield, but only after a hard-fought battle, of
which we shall hear more presently. In the next year the "Warren," under
Commodore Saltonstall, sailing on an expedition against the British post
on the Penobscot, fell in with a large squadron of the enemy and was
burned to prevent capture. The "Providence" and "Boston" were taken a
year later, at the surrender of Charleston; but, like the "Warren," they
had done good service and taken many prizes before they fell into the
hands of the enemy. The last of all the thirteen frigates was the
"Trumbull," and she held on till 1781, when she was overpowered by a
squadron and struck after a desperate resistance.

One of the Philadelphia frigates which never got to sea was the
"Effingham." Near the latter part of 1776 she was assigned to the
command of John Barry, a Philadelphia sea-captain of Irish birth, who
was much trusted and respected by the great merchants of his adopted
city, and who had entered the navy at the beginning of the war. Under
such difficulties did the Colonies labor in the preparation of their
ships-of-war, that the "Effingham" was at this time far from being in a
condition to proceed to sea, and while waiting for her during the
winter, Barry saw some service with the army as a volunteer. The spring
and summer passed away, and still his ship was not ready. At last, in
September, Sir William Howe suddenly appeared in the Chesapeake, and
after landing and fighting the battle of the Brandywine, he marched
across the country to the Delaware, and took possession of Philadelphia.
The "Effingham" and the other ships which had been lying there were
hurried away to places of safety either up or down the river. The
British threw up works to command the river, and the frigate "Delaware,"
attacking them, ran aground and was lost. The Continental troops in the
river forts--Fort Mercer and Fort Mifflin--were vigorously assailed by
the British and the Hessians; and though the invaders were repulsed with
heavy loss, the forts were finally evacuated. The ships below the
town--among them Biddle's famous little brig the "Andrew Doria"--were
then destroyed, and the passage was opened to the enemy from
Philadelphia to the sea.

The "Effingham" and "Washington"--the two unfinished frigates--had been
carried up the stream, where they remained, as it would seem, secure
from all attack. Barry grew impatient in his enforced idleness, and
conceived a plan to use the frigates' boats for a cutting-out expedition
down the river, where the enemy's freight-ships and transports, loaded
with supplies and stores, were constantly passing and repassing on their
way to and from the sea. Selecting thirty men on whom he could rely, he
rowed down the stream, and evading all the lookouts, made his way
successfully past the town. Pausing now cautiously to reconnoitre, he
presently discovered four store-ships which had anchored in the river
before discharging their cargo. Stealthily he crept up to the nearest
of them, boarded her with his men, overcame the watch, and in a few
seconds had taken possession of her. The same course was pursued with
the other three. Barry was strongly tempted to try to carry off his
prizes; but by this time the alarm had been given and signals were
displayed, and before long the enemy's patrol boats would approach.
There was nothing left but to destroy the vessels; and Barry, taking
only time enough to see that the work had been well done, made for the
opposite shore, and after landing his men safely, returned without loss
to the frigate.

The boldness with which Barry had performed this dashing exploit won for
him a reputation with both friends and foes. The story goes that Howe,
struck by the captain's daring, made overtures to him to join the
British service, and even went so far as to promise him a reward of
£15,000 if he would betray his trust. "Not the value or command of the
whole British Navy," was Barry's prompt answer, "would seduce me from
the cause of my country!"

The French alliance, and the change it wrought upon the face of the war,
led the British to determine upon the evacuation of Philadelphia, which
came about accordingly in the following summer. But before going away
they struck one blow from which the Continental Navy could not easily
recover. Major Maitland, with a force of gunboats and barges,
accompanied by a detachment of infantry and artillery, made a raid up
the river and sought out all the vessels which had been lying snugly
concealed there during the winter. They had no batteries, and were in no
way capable of offering resistance; and all, including the "Effingham"
and "Washington," were burned. A month later the British abandoned

Barry was now appointed to the "Raleigh," one of the best of the
thirteen frigates, which had already been at sea under another captain.
At this time she was lying at Boston, and on the 25th of September,
1778, Barry weighed anchor and sailed down the harbor, bound on a cruise
to the eastward. She had been only six hours out of port, when two large
ships were seen approaching her from a distance. These proved to be a
British frigate, the "Experiment," of fifty guns, and the sloop
"Unicorn." The "Experiment" alone was nearly double the "Raleigh's"
size, and Barry used his best endeavors to escape from them. But they
had seen him, and crowded sail in chase. Night fell, and concealed both
pursuers and pursued. The next day was hazy; but at noon the fog lifted
and showed the enemy still far away, but doing all he could to lessen
the distance. So the chase continued for the rest of the day and the
whole of the night, and the next day too, the enemy occasionally lost to
view, and so raising the hopes of Barry and his crew, but each time
reappearing, and still in hot pursuit. On the morning of the third day
the wind freshened, and the "Raleigh," which now was off the coast of
Maine, gradually increased her speed and seemed about to cast off her
pursuers; but in the afternoon the breeze again fell light, giving them
once more the advantage, until at five o'clock the larger ship, the
"Experiment," had barely managed to come up, and opened fire.

The chances of escape now seemed slight indeed; but Barry was not a man
to let himself be taken without a struggle, even by an enemy that was
twice his size, and boldly joining battle, he began a contest which was
to last for seven long hours, and in which the steadfast courage and
unyielding purpose of the commander would have done credit to Paul Jones
himself. At the second fire of the enemy the "Raleigh's" fore-topmast
toppled over and fell. Nevertheless, she kept up a furious cannonade at
close quarters, pouring in broadside after broadside at her big
antagonist. The latter now found herself badly injured, and moved to a
point some distance off, keeping up her fire at long range. Never
allowing himself to be discouraged for a moment, although he had little
reason to hope, Barry took advantage of this breathing-space to repair
his damages. Then he followed the enemy and attempted to close with her
and carry her by boarding. It was a desperate measure, but it seemed to
be the only chance; for the "Unicorn" had now come up, and Barry found
himself between two fires. The "Experiment," however, discovered his
purpose and avoided him successfully. It had now grown very dark, and as
a last resort Barry sought to get away and elude his opponents among the
islands which at this point are thickly dotted along the shores of
Maine; but they hung to him closely, and as a crowning misfortune his
vessel ran aground. The struggle was now hopeless, and it would have
been madness to hold out any longer. Abandoning his ship, Barry made for
the land. This, with great difficulty, he at length reached, and so
succeeded in escaping with some part of his crew; but the frigate which
he had so gallantly defended fell into the hands of the enemy.

Thus ended the cruise of the "Raleigh,"--a cruise which had lasted only
three days, but of which every moment had been filled with intense
excitement, alternating between faint hope and blank despair, ending in
failure, but which gave to her captain a name and fame that lasted long
after the close of the Revolution. No man of his day in the navy was
more honored by his equals and more beloved and reverenced by those
below him in rank. His sailors adored him; there was nothing they were
not ready to do for him. He was always frank and generous to his friends
and humane to his enemies. On board his ship he exacted full obedience,
and he got it, both from officers and men, but always by gentle means.
With a fine and noble presence, and a face that bespoke a true heart and
ready hand guided by a strong purpose and a lofty courage, there was
none in all the navy more regarded and esteemed than John Barry.

After the cruise of the "Raleigh," Barry served for a time in
privateers. Like Paul Jones, he should have had a good ship, but there
was none to give him. Finally in 1780, after Landais came back disgraced
from Europe, Barry was ordered to take command of the "Alliance," and in
the following winter he sailed for France, taking with him as a
passenger Henry Laurens, who went out as the new Minister to France. In
May, 1781, he left Lorient on his return; and on the 28th, being then
near the Banks of Newfoundland, in the evening he discovered in his
neighborhood two sail of the enemy,--the ship "Atalanta," of twenty
guns, and the brig "Trepassey," of fourteen. Barry waited for daylight
to attack them; but the next morning the wind fell, and not a ripple
broke the shining surface of the water; while the "Alliance," with her
tall and graceful spars, and her sails hanging loose in the dead calm,
slowly rose and fell with the broad swell of the Atlantic. There she lay
like a huge log, unable to move a yard this way or that. Her very size
was a misfortune now, for her two antagonists, smaller and more handy,
could manoeuvre as they pleased, with their long sweeps; and moving up
they took positions on her quarter, and opened on her with their guns.
The "Alliance" could not reply with a single cannon, her heavy battery
was useless, and the "Atalanta" and her consort kept up a steady fire
for the whole morning and well into the afternoon. It was a galling
thing for Barry to be placed thus at the mercy of a lesser force, to see
his men shot down around him, and to be powerless himself to fire a shot
in their defence.

At two o'clock Barry, who had all this time been waiting with impatience
on the quarter-deck for the unwilling breeze, received a wound in the
shoulder from a grape-shot. Stung as he was by the sharp pain, he
refused to leave the deck; but at length, fainting from loss of blood,
he was carried below to the cockpit, where the surgeon set about
dressing his wound. Presently the first lieutenant came down to report
the condition of the ship, upon whose deck many of the crew were lying
killed or wounded, and ending his report, asked if he should strike the
flag. Barry indignantly refused. "If the ship," said he, "cannot be
fought without me, they shall carry me again on deck."

This answer revived the drooping spirits of the crew and gave fresh
vigor to their efforts. Soon after this a little wind sprang up. It
barely gave the frigate way to bring her guns to bear upon the enemy;
but it was enough, and only a few broadsides from her 18-pounders were
needed to settle the result. The captain of the "Trepassey" fell, and
his ship immediately surrendered. His comrade Edwards, who commanded
the "Atalanta," refused at first to yield, but a few more broadsides
cut his vessel well-nigh to pieces, and at three o'clock his flag too
was hauled down. As the brave Edwards came on board the "Alliance" to
give up his sword, Barry, forgetting his wound and the anxious hours
that his opponent had made him pass, generously gave it back to him,
saying as he did so, "Keep it, my friend. You richly deserve it; and
your king ought to give you a better ship."

The "Alliance" during the next year was still cruising under Barry's
command. But the war, though in name it still continued, was almost at
an end. It was now certain that the king would do the thing he most
abhorred, which was to recognize the independence of America,--and
hostilities on land had really ceased. The seas still swarmed with
British cruisers, but none of them were able to capture the "Alliance,"
and she was brought safely home. After the treaty was concluded, the
Government, no longer needing her, sold her to Philadelphia merchants,
and she became a peaceful trading-vessel.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was one officer among the younger men of the navy who resembled
Barry no less in bravery and seamanlike skill than in the winning
frankness and generosity of his nature. This was Joshua Barney. Three
years before the war broke out he had gone to sea on his first voyage,
and had risen in two years to be the second mate of his vessel. Early in
1775, not dreaming of the hostilities that were shortly to occur; he
had set out from Baltimore on a voyage to the Mediterranean. The captain
died at sea, the chief mate had been left behind, and Barney found
himself, when only sixteen years of age, in the command of a leaky ship,
with a long voyage before him, and all the responsibility resting on his
shoulders. It was a hard trial for him; but he had gained the good-will
of his crew, and to a man they obeyed and supported him. Just before
sighting the coast of Spain he fell in with a gale of wind; and he only
managed to get into Gibraltar as his ship was on the point of going
down. Here he obtained assistance and repairs by giving bonds,--for he
had no money,--and he was thus enabled to deliver his cargo at Nice,
which was the port of destination. The firm to which the cargo was
consigned refused to pay the bonds, although there could be no doubt
that it was their duty. "Well, then," said Barney, "you shall not have
your cargo."

The merchants were astounded at the attempt of this boy of sixteen to
make resistance, and upon their presenting a complaint to the governor,
the latter threw Barney into prison. Making his escape by a stratagem,
young Barney went at once to Milan and laid his case before the British
minister, with such effect that in three days he had returned to Nice,
the governor had apologized, his bond had been paid, and his ship

After a short stay Barney set out on his voyage home. As he was coming
up the Chesapeake, he learned for the first time, from an English
sloop-of-war that boarded him, of the stirring events that had
occurred,--that battles had been fought at Lexington and Bunker Hill,
and that Washington was besieging Boston, and the war for independence
was begun. As soon as he landed, he made the offer of his services to
the Government.

At first Barney served as a volunteer in small vessels; but he soon
became a lieutenant, and he was ordered late in the summer of 1776 to
the "Andrew Doria," now under the command of Captain Robinson. In this
ship he made a cruise to the West Indies. While here, the "Doria" put in
at the Dutch island of St. Eustatius to get some ammunition that was
stored there for the Continental Congress, and upon arrival she fired a
salute to the governor's flag. The governor, without much thought
perhaps, returned the salute. This was the first time that the flag of
the new American State had been recognized by any foreign power, and the
Americans were much rejoiced that it should come about. But the British,
who still felt that the Colonies were a part of Britain, and who knew
that Holland was bound so to regard them, were incensed at the
governor's act, and demanded his recall. The Dutchmen, who did not dare
refuse, ordered him home; and the poor governor lost his post in
consequence of his unthinking courtesy.

Soon after this the "Doria," now on her way home, met an enemy's
sloop-of-war, the "Racehorse," which had been sent by Admiral Parker to
lie in wait for her off Porto Rico. But the admiral did not count upon
the bravery of the Americans, or he would have sent a larger ship; for
the "Racehorse," after a hot engagement for two hours, was herself
forced to surrender.

A few days later the "Doria" captured an English snow,--an armed
merchant-vessel of peculiar rig,--and Barney was detached to take her
home. As had happened before with the "Doria's" prizes when Biddle was
in command, the brig's crew was too small to man them, and Barney made
up the needed number from the prisoners. On the way north he had heavy
weather, for it was now December,--a month in which no seaman likes to
pass Cape Hatteras,--and day after day the vessel encountered a
succession of furious gales and heavy seas. Keeping well out to the
eastward until he had fetched a point from which he could reach the
Chesapeake, Barney now headed for the land, and at last found himself,
on Christmas night, in a driving easterly storm, close on the breakers
of the Jersey coast. To keep his vessel away from the lee shore and its
certain perils, the young prize-master, as his only course, resolved to
ride out the gale and let go his only anchor. So the night fell upon him
and his men,--a fearful night, what with the roaring tempest, and the
sea rolling mountains high, while every wave broke over the bows of the
ship. It seemed each instant, from the violence of the sea, that the
small cable must part, and with it she would lose her only hope. The
men, yielding themselves to blank despair, were sinking into lethargy.
It was then that Barney, though he had little cause to hope himself,
talked to them with cheering words, trying to rouse them from their
stupor. He called to mind the battles they had fought, and how they had
been ready to stand up bravely before the enemy and face death in
another form.

"I am not much of a chaplain, my good lads," he said, "but this I know,
that the same Power that protected you then can protect you now; and if
we are all to go to Davy Jones's locker, we might as well go with a bold
face as a sheepish one."

Barney's good example shamed the men to greater courage; but the night
wore on and the day broke, and still the fury of the storm kept up. The
crew were in the tops, and Barney with them. Soon a cry was heard of
"Sail ho!" and every eye was turned toward a small sloop, which appeared
in sight driven before the gale, yet trying to make an offing. Anxiously
the men watched the frail boat, one moment rising on the wave till they
could see her keel, and the next plunging down till she was lost to
view. Each time it seemed as if she could not rise again; but each time
she shot up on the foaming crest, seemingly steadying herself an instant
before the next downward plunge. Suddenly there was heard a long, shrill
shriek of terror piercing through the din and crash of breakers, and the
sloop was swallowed up in the seething waters.

After this sight no words of Barney's could rouse his men from their
terrors. But fortunately toward the middle of the afternoon the wind
abated and the sea gradually went down. Barney lost no time in getting
his crew down from aloft as soon as it was safe, and they were only too
glad to come.

"Up with the anchor! Man the capstan! Cheerily, my lads!" rang out from
Barney; and the men went to their duties with a will, and getting
underway, headed for the harbor of Chincoteague, near by, where they
found a temporary shelter.

After resting here for a few days Barney started for the Chesapeake. On
the second day out he was discovered by the "Perseus," one of the
enemy's blockading vessels, which immediately started in pursuit. Barney
would have got off, as he had the faster ship; but the prisoners in his
crew, who had been planning mutiny, and were only waiting till they
sighted an English ship-of-war, refused to go to their stations. Barney
singled out the ringleader and ordered him to his duty, and as the
man did not stir he shot him then and there, though without giving him a
mortal wound. This put an end to the mutiny; but through the delay the
"Perseus" had been enabled to overtake the prize-vessel, and so she was
recaptured. The wounded mutineer told his story to Captain Elphinstone,
the commander of the "Perseus," thinking that he would at once have
Barney put in irons; but the captain set his complaint at nought, and
said that if he had been in Barney's place he would have done the same.


Barney remained a month on board the "Perseus." Her captain,
Elphinstone, who afterward became the famous Admiral Lord Keith, was a
generous enemy, and treated his prisoners as became an honorable and
gallant officer. Upon one occasion the purser, a hot-tempered Scotchman,
struck Barney in the face, on the quarter-deck, whereupon the young
lieutenant knocked him down. The captain, when he heard of it, sent word
to them both to come to his cabin, and without asking any questions he
commanded the purser to make apology on his knees to the unarmed
prisoner whom he had affronted. So Barney fared well in the "Perseus;"
but he was not sorry, soon afterward, at Charleston, to leave her on
parole and go to Philadelphia, to which place his old ship the "Andrew
Doria" had meanwhile come without mishap.

For some months Barney could not join his ship, being bound by his
parole, but at last an accident relieved him of it. It happened that
Lieutenant Moriarty, of the English frigate "Solebay," with a
boat's-crew, had incautiously gone ashore for water somewhere in the
Chesapeake, and had been seized and taken prisoner by a party of
Virginians. Captain Elphinstone now made an agreement with Gov. Patrick
Henry, of Virginia, to exchange the two lieutenants; and so Barney was
released from his parole in time to bear his part in the actions in the
Delaware River during the weeks that followed Sir William Howe's
occupation of the city. How the "Doria" and the other vessels were
destroyed after the surrender of the forts has been already told; and
Barney, being now without a ship, was ordered to march with a detachment
of his men to Baltimore, and there to join the new frigate "Virginia."

It was just at New Year's, in 1778, that Barney arrived in Baltimore;
and as the frigate of which he was to be the first lieutenant was not
yet ready for sea, he took command of a pilot-boat to cruise about the
bay and watch the movements of the enemy, who had then several ships in
the Chesapeake. One night, as he was returning from a reconnoissance, he
found a merchant-sloop from Baltimore on her way down the bay, and
hailed her, telling her what dangers she would meet below. To his no
small surprise he was answered by a volley of musketry. He tacked in
order that he might the better return this unlooked-for fire, and
presently discovered on the off side of the sloop a ship's barge lashed
alongside. It was now clear why his seeming friend had fired on him. The
enemy had cut out the sloop, and they were using her as a decoy to
capture Barney. But he served them the same turn that he had served the
"Racehorse;" for after a short and sharp struggle he captured them and
took them to the city. The barge belonged to His Majesty's ship "Otter;"
and Barney, mindful of the treatment he had received on board the
"Perseus," took the best of care of his prisoners,--above all of Gray,
the officer in charge, who had been wounded, and sent a flag-of-truce
boat to the "Otter," to bring them what they needed.

On the last day of March the "Virginia" left Baltimore, and attempted
under cover of the night to pass the British lookouts in the bay, and so
get out to sea. No doubt she would have done it safely had not the
pilot, losing his way, run her ashore on the Middle Ground, a large
shoal in the lower Chesapeake. The morning broke, and found her hard and
fast aground, with three of the enemy's frigates close at hand.
Nicholson, the captain of the "Virginia," now called away his barge and
left the ship, making his escape to land. It is a story that one must
grieve to tell of an American officer; but it can only be supposed that,
having but just entered the navy, he did not know what honor and duty
meant. There was nothing left now but surrender, for the rest could not

Barney was now a prisoner on board the "Emerald" frigate. It is clear
that even in a bitter war not only one good turn deserves another, but
secures another; for the kind treatment which Barney had received from
Captain Elphinstone resulted in his kindness to the "Otter's" men, and
this again, which was well known throughout the British squadron, gained
for him equal favors in his new captivity. But this did not last long;
for after a little while he was sent to New York, where for the first
time he came to know the horrors of a prison-ship.

Late in August Barney was exchanged, and found himself again in
Baltimore; but there was little now for him to do. After all the
disasters of this disastrous year of 1778, only four frigates were left
on the American coast, and the smaller vessels had mostly been destroyed
or captured. While he was in this plight a merchant offered him the
command of a privateer schooner, carrying two guns and a crew of eight
men; and Barney, being so reduced for want of naval occupation,
consented to take her to St. Eustatius with a cargo of tobacco. He must
have been truly at his wit's end to have undertaken such a voyage in
such a craft; for even if he could have carried out the undertaking, he
would have gained neither glory nor profit from it. But he was not
destined to carry it out; for even before he reached the capes he met a
larger privateer, carrying four guns and sixty men, which speedily
disposed of him after a running fight of a few minutes. The enemy, not
caring to be troubled with prisoners, put him and his little crew
ashore; and his voyage being thus curtailed, he found himself a few days
later again in Baltimore. Here he remained for several weeks.

Strange as it must seem, Barney was now only nineteen years old, yet
there had been crowded into his short boy-life more adventures and
perilous enterprises than most men of three times his years have gone
through. Since the war began, he had been thrice made a prisoner, but
each time he had been fortunate in having humane captors. But the worst
was yet in store for him. After a successful privateering voyage to
Bordeaux, he sailed in 1780 in the "Saratoga," under Captain Young.
Early in October she captured four prizes, one of which was given to
Barney to command. He left the "Saratoga," and it was fortunate he did,
for she was never seen or heard of afterward; but the prize which he
commanded was herself captured only one day later by a British squadron.
Barney was taken to New York, and soon after sent to England in the
"Yarmouth." On board this ship the prisoners were confined in the hold,
in a space three feet high, and without light or air; and the horrors
of the voyage, which lasted seven weeks, remind one of the fearful
stories of the Middle Passage in the old slave-trading days. It was by
comparison a happiness to be transferred even to the Mill Prison, after
those wretched hours on board the "Yarmouth;" and the prisoners when
they came ashore, weak from suffering and disease and want of food, were
a most piteous spectacle.

How Barney, after three month's confinement, made his escape from
prison; how he lived six weeks unrecognized in London, though all the
time a price was set upon his head; how he sailed for Ostend in a
mail-packet, and after various wanderings upon the Continent at last
returned to America,--we have not time to tell. The spring of 1782 found
him once more in Philadelphia, still ready for any service for which his
country might call.

Although the war on land had at this time pretty nearly come to an end,
the Delaware River and the bay below were still infested by Tory
privateers and stray cruisers from the British fleets on the lookout for
prizes. To clear its waters of these marauders, the State of
Pennsylvania bought a merchant-vessel named the "Hyder Ali," which had
already started on her voyage with a cargo. She was brought back, her
merchandise removed, a battery of sixteen guns was mounted, and she was
fitted for a cruise under the command of Barney.

On the 8th of April she left Philadelphia with a large merchant fleet in
company, which had been waiting patiently until the new cruiser should
be ready to convoy them past the capes of the Delaware. All went
smoothly on the way down the bay; but at Cape May, as the wind was
southerly, the fleet anchored, waiting for a favorable breeze. They were
in this position when suddenly a force of the enemy, composed of a
frigate and a sloop-of-war, was seen rounding the cape on its way to
attack them. Barney ordered the convoy to retire up the bay out of
harm's reach, and the vessels tripped their anchors and made sail before
the southerly wind, the "Hyder Ali" staying behind to cover their

Now it happened that there was--and still is, for that matter--in the
lower part of the bay, a widely-spreading shoal called the Overfalls,
which divided the water into two channels. The convoy on its way up took
the eastern channel, and thither it was followed by the "Hyder Ali." The
frigate went up on the western side, hoping by this means to overtake
and cut off some of the merchantmen without hindrance at the upper end
of the shoal. But the sloop, her captain being more ambitious or more
reckless, followed in the wake of the convoy; and thus it came to pass
that in a short time she had caught up with the "Hyder Ali," which,
seeing that the enemy's force was divided, was taking no great pains to
get away from her. The sloop was the "General Monk," which under the
name of the "Washington" had once been an American privateer, but had
been captured by the enemy.

Although the "Monk" alone was considerably heavier in force, as she
carried twenty 9-pounders to his sixteen 6's, Barney waited for her to
join battle. His object was to get her so to place herself that he would
be able to rake her; that is, by lying across her bow or stern, to make
his broadside sweep her decks from one end to the other. This he
accomplished by a stratagem. As the "Monk" approached his quarter, he
sang out to his helmsman to "port the helm," so loud, that the enemy
could hear him. If the quartermaster had obeyed his order, it would have
given the "Monk" an advantage by enabling her to rake his stern; but
Barney had arranged beforehand that the helmsman should do just the
opposite of what he said. The result was that the "Hyder Ali" was thrown
squarely across the bow of the sloop, so that a moment later her
jib-boom was entangled in the American's rigging, where she was held
fast, and Barney had her at his mercy. He poured his broadside the whole
length of her decks, and she could barely answer now and then with a
single gun. After half an hour's contest she surrendered.


Meantime the frigate, seeing what was going on, endeavored to help her
consort; but the shoal lay between, and it took her a long time to round
its lower end. Barney, knowing that he could not sustain a fight with
her, decided to make off, and did not stand upon the order of his going.
Hastily throwing a prize crew on board the "Monk," he held his course up
the river; while the frigate, which had turned back, was seen in the
distance doubling the southern end of the shoal. But she was too late,
and the "Hyder Ali" arrived with her convoy at Philadelphia, bringing
with her as a trophy the sloop which had been captured with so much
skill and gallantry.

The engagement between the "Hyder Ali" and the "General Monk" was the
last of any importance during the war. Indeed, since the beginning of
the French alliance in 1778, hostilities on the American coast had been
chiefly carried on by the great English and French fleets of
line-of-battle ships, which cast into the shade the small operations of
the Continental Navy. In this very month Sir George Rodney won his great
victory over the Count de Grasse in the West Indies,--a battle between
two opposing fleets larger than had ever before been brought into
action. Early in the next year the Treaty of Paris was concluded, which
recognized the independence of the United States; and the navy and the
army were disbanded, the ships that remained were sold, and the officers
and men returned again to private life.



Just at the close of the Revolution the country found itself
independent, but laboring under a heavy burden of debt, and with a
government that had hardly enough authority to be called a government at
all. In fact, at this period the nation was little more than a
collection of separate States, with a kind of league or confederation to
hold them together. Each of these States had its own government, which
paid little attention to the wants of the others. After a few years,
however, it became clear that the jealousies and rivalries of the States
would break up the league unless they were held together by some
stronger bond; and as they could attain strength and greatness only by
union, they wisely laid aside all their little differences, and acting
through their delegates at Philadelphia, formed that wonderful plan of a
united nation called the Constitution, which went into force in 1789,
and under which we still live; for so skilfully was it framed, that it
has stood every shock and trial, and the time will soon arrive to
celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its adoption.

It is clear that a country under such conditions could not possibly keep
up a navy; and so it was that after the Revolutionary War the whole
establishment gradually passed out of existence. Even when the
Constitution was adopted, and Washington became the first President of
the United States, there were other matters that required attention
first, and the new Government rightly gave its thoughts to these.
Besides, it was so short a time since the people of the Colonies had
suffered from the oppressions of the Royal Army and Navy, that they had
a dread and almost a hatred of any kind of standing military force.
Therefore, though one of the officers of the new Government was a
secretary of war, he had not much of an army to look after, and no navy
at all. But soon the Government found it necessary to make a change in
its naval policy, and the change came about in a very unexpected way.

There were at this time four small States on the southern shores of the
Mediterranean Sea called the Barbary Powers, which had for many years
derived much profit from the detestable practice of sending out
piratical ships to plunder the merchant-vessels of all nations. The
European States from time to time made an attempt to put the pirates
down, and sometimes a great nation had even paid them money on condition
that they should not molest its commerce. There is some ground for
thinking that England, of whom the Barbary Powers were most afraid,
rather encouraged their depredations than sought to check them, because
it was for her advantage, as a trading State, that foreign
merchant-fleets should suffer, in order that the field might be left
clear to her. However this may be, the English had never put forth their
naval strength against the corsairs; yet English merchantmen were
mostly spared by them. Before the Revolution the vessels of the
Colonies, bearing as they did the English flag, had all the privileges
of other English ships; but when the war was over, and the merchantmen
of the young American State began to reappear in the Mediterranean with
a new and hitherto unknown American flag, the Barbary cruisers pounced
upon them as their lawful prey.

The first piratical capture was made in 1785, and was a Boston ship, the
schooner "Maria." Soon afterward the "Dolphin," of Philadelphia, was
seized. These were carried into Algiers, where the ships and their
cargoes were confiscated by the Dey, and the crews were held in slavery.
It seems strange that there should not have been enough of public spirit
in the country to fit out ships at once and send them over to set free
the Americans who were enslaved by these Turkish outlaws, or at least to
protect from their barbarities other Americans navigating the seas. But
no such measures were taken, and the prisoners were left to languish in
captivity until their buccaneering captors received a heavy ransom.
Agents were indeed sent out, who did much chaffering with the Algerines,
mostly through foreign officials; but for a long time this brought about
no result, and several of the captives meanwhile died.

During the next few years the Portuguese were at war with Algiers, and
her ships were in consequence unable to venture far from port; but in
1793 a peace was concluded, and thereupon an Algerine squadron, suddenly
appearing outside the Strait of Gibraltar, fell upon and captured ten
unsuspecting American merchantmen. This was too much for any State to
bear, however long-suffering or impoverished it might be; and Congress
resolved at once to begin the building of a new fleet. Accordingly plans
were made for the construction of six frigates of a much larger size
than any which the navy had possessed during the Revolution. In fact,
some of them were of about the largest size that were then afloat, and
led our enemies in later wars to declare that we had misled them by
building ships-of-the-line under the name of frigates; which, even if it
had been true, would not have been a reproach to us, as it was their
business to find out what our ships were like. It was a most wise
measure to build these large frigates, as the country afterward
realized; and great credit is due to Joshua Humphreys, a Pennsylvania
ship-builder, upon whose suggestion the plan was adopted.

Even this small provision was made only after much debate and
opposition, because there were many men who thought that a navy would
make the central Government too powerful, and would be used to destroy
the liberties of the people: and although the building of the ships was
begun, negotiations with Algiers were continued, and large sums of money
were expended in presents,--or, to speak plain English, in bribes,--to
influence the Dey to make a treaty. These were so far successful that in
the next year the treaty was concluded, and all the prisoners were
ransomed. Such violent objections were now made to keeping up the naval
force, that it was decided to finish only two out of the six frigates,
and the work on the others was stopped. One member of Congress even went
so far as to say that he hoped "the ships would rot upon the stocks as
an instructive monument of national folly." Yet it was certainly much
greater folly to spend a million dollars--which was what the treaty
cost--in presents and bribes to Turkish officers, and in the ransom of
American citizens, rather than in building ships and fitting out a navy
to punish the marauders, and to deter them from a repetition of their
outrages. For, as we shall hereafter see, the money that was paid was
not enough to satisfy the Barbary Powers, who, however much they got,
were always wanting more; while the navy, so far from overturning
liberty, has ever since been one of its greatest bulwarks, by the glory
and honor which, through all its history, it has brought upon the

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1793, some time before the Algerine trouble was settled, a war had
broken out between France and Great Britain. It was only ten years after
the close of the Revolution, in which the French had been our trusted
friends and the British our bitter enemies; and the French, like
ourselves, and partly influenced by our example, had cast off their
monarchy and had established a republic. There seemed at first sight to
be every reason why we should side with them against the old enemy, and
in the beginning most of our people were ready to give them the warmest
sympathy and support. But the French Revolution, with its Reign of
Terror, soon took such a turn that men shrank with horror from its
blood-stained course; and meantime France, presuming too far upon the
services which she had rendered in our own struggle for independence,
demanded of us favors in return which we could not give without going
again to war with Britain. It was Washington's desire then, and it has
been our wise policy ever since, that we should avoid entangling
ourselves in European broils, so that we found it necessary to give
France a refusal, though it was very hard to do it. Thereupon the
French, knowing our weakness, especially at sea, took advantage of it to
inflict upon us every kind of injury and insult. They used our ports to
fit out privateers, and captured vessels of the enemy in our own waters,
which, as we were neutral in the war, they ought to have held sacred;
they seized our merchantmen upon frivolous pretexts, to the great damage
of our commerce; and when we made respectful protests and complaints
about it, our ministers were treated with such indignity as the world
has rarely seen in the dealings of Christian States.

The British too were guilty of aggressions on their side, but not at
this time to the same extent. So the people of America were
divided,--some siding with the French, partly for old friendship's sake,
and some with the British, because from them had come the lesser evil.
Between these two factions party spirit raged with bitterness and
rancor; so that it sometimes almost seemed as if men thought themselves
the citizens of one or the other of the opposing States, and forgot that
they were all Americans. Finally, matters came to such a pass that
something must be done to protect our commerce, and as a war with both
States at once seemed to be too great an undertaking, and France was at
this time the worse offender, the new President, John Adams, whose party
leanings were all upon that side, urged that a navy should be fitted out
to make reprisals upon the French cruisers and privateers.


In this way the summer of 1798 came to be a time of preparation for war.
The larger frigates were completed, and several small ones were begun.
The merchants in the different cities raised large sums of money to
build ships by subscription, to be repaid later by the Government, and
everywhere the ship-yards were busy getting ready the new fleet.
Congress declared that the treaties with France were at an end, and
authorized the President to instruct our ships-of-war to seize all
French armed vessels that might be found at sea. Officers were
selected, crews were recruited, and the Marine Corps, which has always
since that day done most efficient service, was first created. A new
Department of the Navy was established as one of the great divisions of
the Government; which showed that all this preparation was not the mere
whim and fancy of the moment, but that the country was at last resolved
to have a naval force which should continue for all time.

The new Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert, proposed that a small
force should remain to defend the coast, and that all the other ships
should go to the West Indies, which swarmed with French cruisers and
privateers, and attack the enemy on his own cruising-ground. Thither
they all went in the summer or fall of the year, until we had assembled
there what was for us a powerful force, composed of four squadrons, and
numbering all together more than twenty vessels. The largest of the
squadrons, with the new frigate "United States," of forty-four guns, as
flagship, was placed under the command of John Barry, the story of whose
Revolutionary fights was told in the last chapter, and who had been
chosen by Washington to be the first captain of the new navy to hold the
President's commission. Besides some smaller vessels, Barry had with him
another frigate, the "Constitution," a forty-four like the "United
States," which was destined to become our most famous ship, by winning
in the War of 1812 a succession of splendid victories. The second
squadron, with the 38-gun frigate "Constellation" as flagship, was given
to Captain Truxtun, who had also seen much service in the Revolution
while in command of privateers. The third and fourth were lighter
squadrons. By means of these four detached groups of vessels the ports
and harbors of the West India Islands were closely watched, every nook
and corner was visited, and in the passages between the larger islands,
which form the great highways of commerce, our merchant-ships had convoy
and protection. It was a different kind of service from that of the
earlier war; for our ships now were equal to any frigates in the world,
and the enemy's great fleets of line-of-battle ships were fully occupied
by the war in Europe; while our older officers were veterans who had
passed with credit through their first trial, and the younger could have
no better masters from whom to learn their early lessons.

The first prize of the war was the French privateer "Croyable." The
sloop-of-war "Delaware," under Capt. Stephen Decatur,--not the one who
afterward became so famous, who was then only a midshipman in Barry's
flagship, but his father,--went to sea in June, 1798, and had been out
but a few days when she captured the "Croyable," which had been seizing
several of our vessels on our own coast. She was taken into the navy and
named the "Retaliation," and the command of her was given to Lieut.
William Bainbridge. Bainbridge was a young man who had only been a
merchant captain, but he was a daring fellow,--almost too daring for
prudence, as the result showed; for soon after he had reached the West
Indies with his new command he one day unguardedly approached two French
frigates, the "Insurgente" and the "Volontier," supposing for no good
reason that they were English, and his little ship was quickly captured.

The "Insurgente" was the smartest ship on the West Indian station, and
indeed one of the finest and fastest frigates in the French navy, and
the Government expected great things of Captain Barreault, who was in
command of her. But the captain was destined to disappoint them. Early
in February of the next year, as the "Constellation" was cruising to the
eastward of the island of Nevis, she discovered a large ship to the
southward, and immediately bore down for her. In the old war, when our
officers sighted a large ship, the best thing they could do was to take
to their heels, for the enemy was sure to overmatch them. But the
"Constellation" was a frigate of a different sort from those which we
had sent to sea in the Revolution; and Truxtun, though he believed the
stranger was an enemy, boldly advanced to meet her. She proved to be the
"Insurgente," and soon she hoisted the French flag and fired a challenge
gun to windward.

Though the "Insurgente" hailed him several times, Truxtun made no reply,
but continued to bear down upon her until he was sure that every shot
would tell; then he delivered his whole broadside, and the "Insurgente"
answered him. The fight continued for an hour, the "Constellation"
always gaining the advantage; for Truxtun was a better seaman than
Barreault, and again and again he placed himself where he could rake the
enemy, while she could not reply, her broadside being turned away. The
Americans, too, were better gunners, for they killed and wounded the
"Insurgente's" men, while the Frenchmen, pointing their guns too high,
only damaged the "Constellation's" spars and rigging. At last, after
seventy of the "Insurgente's" crew had fallen, and Truxtun had taken a
position squarely athwart her stern, so that the next broadside would
sweep her decks, she struck her flag and so surrendered.

The "Constellation" had only two men killed in the battle, and one of
these was shot by his own lieutenant, Sterrett, because he saw him
flinching at his gun. One of the midshipmen, a gallant fellow named
David Porter, of whom we shall hear again later, at this time only
eighteen years of age, was stationed in the "Constellation's" fore-top
during the engagement. A cannon-ball struck the topmast above him, and
it was in danger of falling under the weight of yards and sails. The
midshipman hailed the deck, and reported to the officers what had
happened; but they were too busy to send men up to repair the damage. So
Porter, without waiting longer, climbed the mast himself amid a shower
of bullets, and cut away the stoppers, which let the yard go down, and
by this means the mast was saved.

[Illustration: DAVID PORTER.]

After the battle the first lieutenant of the "Constellation," John
Rodgers, was sent on board the prize, with Porter and eleven men, to see
to the removal of the prisoners. A fresh breeze blowing at the time
delayed the work, and soon the night closed in, the wind increased to a
gale, and the ships were separated. There were still one hundred and
seventy of the Frenchmen on board the "Insurgente," with no one but
Lieutenant Rodgers and his handful of men to guard them. Rodgers was a
young man of muscular frame, which is a good thing at such times as
these; and both he and Porter were cool and determined, which is a
better thing. But they had no easy task. The gratings covering the
hatchways had been thrown overboard. There were no means of securing the
prisoners. The spars and rigging and sails of the prize had been cut and
torn, and her decks and sides still bore the marks of battle: and here
was Rodgers separated from the "Constellation," in a gale of wind, with
only his faithful midshipman and eleven seamen, and with nearly two
hundred prisoners who knew the weakness of their guards, and who were
ready for any effort that would help them to retake the ship.

Difficult as his position was, Rodgers proved himself equal to it. He
stationed a sentry at each hatchway with musket and pistols, ordering
them to shoot the first man that attempted to come on deck, and with the
other men he took care of the ship. For three sleepless days and
nights--for neither he nor Porter could snatch a moment's rest--he
sailed this way and that, almost at the mercy of the storm, and finally
brought the vessel into St. Kitt's, whither the "Constellation" had gone
before him.

During the next six months the war--for such we may call it, though in
truth it was only a series of reprisals for injuries received--continued
with unabated vigor. Nothing could show more clearly the importance of a
navy than these same reprisals of 1798 and 1799. During the twelve
months ending in July of the latter year many privateers of greater or
less force had been taken, and France was now more ready to treat on
equal terms. The frigate "United States," still under Barry, was
selected to take out the new envoys sent by our Government to Paris, and
her place on the windward station was taken by the "Constellation,"
Commodore Talbot in the "Constitution" relieving Truxtun at St. Domingo.
New ships were sent out to both squadrons, which were instructed to go
on with their captures in order that the French might see that we were
in earnest and would put up with no more trifling.

Our merchant-ships still needed protection, for the privateers continued
their aggressions, and besides the privateers there were in the West
Indies many small armed vessels belonging to no State in particular,
whose business was to seize and plunder anything they could. These last
were little better than pirates, who made this or that island or bay a
place of refuge for the moment, and were ready to change their character
according to the ships that they fell in with. To serve against these
picaroons, as they were called, two small but swift schooners were
built,--the "Enterprise" and the "Experiment." They carried twelve guns
each, and were exactly what was needed for the purpose. The "Enterprise"
alone during her short cruise captured nine vessels carrying all
together more than seventy guns and five hundred men; and besides this
she recaptured eleven American merchantmen, and beat off a Spanish brig
which sought to attack her. This was more than any of the frigates had

The severest action of the war was yet to come, and this fell also to
the lot of the "Constellation." In February, 1800, just a year after
his fight with the "Insurgente," Commodore Truxtun was cruising to the
west of Guadeloupe, when he came in sight of the "Vengeance," a heavy
French frigate of the largest size, carrying fifty guns. Although she
was much more than a match for Truxtun, she avoided an engagement and
made sail to leave him. Truxtun without hesitation followed in pursuit;
but the chase lasting several hours, it was twilight before he came up
with her. Then he hoisted his ensign, lighted his battle lanterns, and
gave his orders not to throw away a single charge of powder, but to take
good aim, firing directly into the enemy's hull, loading with two round
shot, and now and then a round shot and a stand of grape; and he told
his officers "to encourage the men at their quarters, and to cause or
suffer no noise or confusion, but to load and fire as fast as possible,
when it could be done with certain effect."

As the commodore approached, his guns loaded and his gunners ready and
waiting, he stood in the lee gangway to speak the "Vengeance," and
demand her surrender to the United States of America. But at that
instant she opened a fire from her stern and quarter guns directed at
his spars and rigging. Truxtun gained a position on her weather quarter,
and returned the enemy's salute; and now for five long hours of the
tropical night the battle raged, a running fight, the two vessels
keeping side by side within pistol-shot. The "Constellation's" gunners,
bearing in mind their orders, planted one hundred and eighty shot in the
enemy's hull; but their guns were light, and they could not inflict a
fatal wound upon the great frigate's heavy side. But the slaughter on
the Frenchman's decks was fearful, for fully one third of his crew lay
killed or wounded. Three times his flag was struck during the battle,
but in the darkness of the night it was not seen, and there was no
cessation of the combat.


At last, about an hour after midnight, the enemy was silenced, and no
answer came from his fifty guns. Both ships were still under way, the
"Vengeance" sheering off; and Truxtun, knowing that the fight was over,
was about to follow her as well as his torn and ragged sails would
enable him, when he learned that all the rigging of the mainmast had
been shot away, and that the mast was tottering. The men were called to
repair the rigging and secure the mast; but it was too late, they could
not save it. The officer of the maintop was James Jarvis, the youngest
midshipman on board the ship. With him was an old blue-jacket, who told
him of the danger they were in because the mast must surely go. But
little Jarvis had been stationed by his captain in the top, and he only
answered: "I cannot leave my station; if the mast goes, we must go with

So the mast fell: and Jarvis, the midshipman who would not leave his
post, fell with it and was killed,--the only officer who perished in the

The "Constellation's" loss, all told, was forty killed and wounded. The
"Vengeance," which she had so nearly captured, arrived a few days later
at Curaçao in great distress, and almost a wreck.

In memory of this great battle, one of the most obstinate that our navy
ever fought, Congress passed a resolution which should be read by all
who care that gallant deeds should be remembered. This was the

     "_Resolved_, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
     United States of America in Congress assembled, That the
     President of the United States be requested to present to
     Captain Thomas Truxtun a golden medal, emblematical of the late
     action between the United States frigate 'Constellation,' of
     thirty-eight guns, and the French ship-of-war 'La Vengeance,'
     of fifty-four, in testimony of the high sense entertained by
     Congress of his gallantry and good conduct in the above
     engagement, wherein an example was exhibited by the captain,
     officers, sailors, and marines, honorable to the American name,
     and instructive to its rising navy.

     "_And it is further Resolved_, That the conduct of James
     Jarvis, a midshipman in said frigate, who gloriously preferred
     certain death to an abandonment of his post, is deserving of
     the highest praise, and that the loss of so promising an
     officer is a subject of national regret."


The active occupations of the navy in the West Indies continued for the
next eight months, its last important capture being the fine corvette
"Berceau," which yielded after a two hours' fight to Captain Little, in
the "Boston." Already, a month before, the treaty with France had been
concluded, and after it was ratified, a vessel was sent to the station
with orders of recall for the whole squadron. During its service there
it had taken or destroyed over ninety French vessels, mounting in all
more than seven hundred guns, and had recaptured numbers of Americans.
Among its trophies there were the frigate "Insurgente" and the corvette
"Berceau," and not the least splendid chapter in its record was the long
battle between the "Constellation" and the "Vengeance;" while in the two
years but one ship had been lost,--the little schooner "Retaliation,"
and that was only a recapture.

It was this work of the navy which gained us the respect of France, from
which State we had hitherto received only threats and insolence: and it
teaches us the lesson that it is to our navy that we must always look in
times like these to secure for us a proper treatment and consideration
from domineering foreign powers. It would be well for us Americans,
especially those who are ready to cry down the navy, to take to heart
these words of the President, which he said in November, 1800, but which
are just as true to-day, and which will be true to the end of time:--

     "Seasonable and systematic arrangements, so far as our
     resources will justify, for a navy adapted to defensive war,
     which may, in case of necessity, be QUICKLY BROUGHT INTO USE,
     seem to be as much recommended by a wise and true economy as by
     a just regard for our future tranquillity, for the safety of
     our shores, and for the protection of our property committed to
     the ocean."



The truth of President Adams's words was shown the very next year after
they were uttered, when new difficulties arose with the Barbary Powers.
We have seen how the old difficulties with Algiers had been settled, at
least for a time, by a treaty which cost the Government a million. Under
this treaty we agreed to send every year to the Dey of Algiers a present
of naval stores of the value of twelve thousand sequins, or about twenty
thousand dollars. In the autumn of 1800 this present--or tribute, as it
was well called, for it was little else than a tribute--was carried to
Algiers by the ship "George Washington," commanded by Captain
Bainbridge. While his ship was lying in the port, the Dey commanded
Bainbridge to go to Constantinople with an Algerine ambassador and
presents for the Sultan of Turkey; for Algiers was then a vassal of the
Ottoman Porte, although the Porte allowed the Dey to do much as he
pleased in most things. It was a grievous outrage that a ship of the
United States should be compelled to do such a service for a barbarian
prince; but there is no doubt that Bainbridge chose the better part in
complying with the demand. Though sometimes rash in war, he was wise
and prudent in diplomacy; and as our Government, by yielding to the
clamor of the Algerines for tribute, instead of chastising them for
their outrageous conduct, had pointed out the line of action that it
meant to follow, Bainbridge was right in conforming to the same rule. If
he refused, unnumbered evils might happen: our unprotected commerce
would be swept away; more of our countrymen would be captured and
enslaved, or kept for years confined in dungeons; and fresh payments
must be made for ransom. So he went to Constantinople.

It was then the rule--and it still is, for that matter--that foreign
ships-of-war wishing to enter the Turkish straits of the Dardanelles and
Bosphorus must first ask and receive permission from the Sultan.
Bainbridge, who felt that he had had enough humiliation on the voyage,
did not stop for this, but passing by the forts at night, anchored
unannounced in the harbor of Constantinople; and here he lay, flying a
strange flag which no one in the place had ever seen borne by a ship of

A Turkish officer was sent off to find out to whom this new craft
belonged, and Bainbridge in reply told him, "the United States." When
this was translated by the interpreter, and reported to the Turkish
officials on shore, they shook their heads,--thinking the national
appellation somewhat vague, as perhaps it is,--and sent a second time to
gain more definite information. Bainbridge now answered that he came
from "the New World." This statement seemed greatly to impress the
Turks, and the ship was piloted into the inner port, and Captain
Bainbridge and his officers were treated thereafter with deep respect,
as was becoming toward any one who came from so remarkable a region.

When the "George Washington" had fulfilled her mission and had returned
to Algiers, the captain found that the Dey had suddenly declared war
against France, and had ordered all the French in his dominions to be
put in prison. The foreign consuls, seconded by Bainbridge, implored the
Dey to revoke his cruel order; and they were so far successful that he
consented to put off its execution for forty-eight hours. But the Dey
swore by his beard that if every soul--man, woman, and child--that
belonged to France had not departed by that time from his territories,
he would put in irons those that remained. The "George Washington" was
at the moment the only ship in the harbor, and she was shifting ballast
in the mole. But Bainbridge would not leave the Frenchmen to their fate;
and by working night and day with all his officers and men he got the
ship ready, took the fugitives on board, and sailed away, glad to get
out of the clutches of this Oriental despot. He had no time to spare;
for in less than an hour after his departure the limit had expired.
Sixty Frenchmen were thus rescued by the captain's efforts, and after a
short passage they were safely landed at Alicant, and the "George
Washington" returned home.

About this time a new and very serious trouble began with another of the
Barbary powers. This was Tripoli. When the Pasha of Tripoli had made his
treaty with the United States some years before, he had received a large
amount of money, but no agreement had been made for tribute. As soon,
however, as the Pasha found that the Americans were sending every year a
shipload of presents to Algiers, of whose power he was always jealous,
he became enraged beyond all bounds; and he wrote to the President
insolent letters demanding money and arms and naval stores. In one of
these he said:--

     "We could wish that these your expressions were followed by
     deeds, and not by empty words. You will therefore endeavor to
     satisfy us by a good manner of proceeding. We on our part will
     correspond with you with equal friendship, as well in words as
     deeds. But if only flattering words are meant, without
     performance, every one will act as he finds convenient."

As no attention was paid to these demands, the Pasha announced to the
American consul that he would declare war; "For paid I will be," he
said, "in one way or another." The consul tried to smooth over the
difficulty, but without success; and on the 14th of May, 1801, just a
week after Bainbridge had landed the French refugees at Alicant, the
Pasha cut down the flagstaff of the American consulate at Tripoli, by
which act he declared war against the United States.

It had been known at home for some time that trouble was brewing at
Tripoli, and as the French war was now entirely over, a squadron was at
this very time fitting out to go to the Mediterranean. It was commanded
by Com. Richard Dale, that gallant veteran of the Revolution who had
been the first lieutenant of the "Bon Homme Richard" in her fight with
the "Serapis." But in this cruise Commodore Dale, though he had a good
squadron, was not allowed to show what he could accomplish; because,
although Tripoli had declared war, Congress had not yet recognized the
fact, and the President was of the opinion that until Congress had
passed an act making a declaration, the navy could not carry on war
against a foreign State. The commodore was therefore prevented by his
orders from capturing any prizes or prisoners; and from this singular
arrangement it resulted, as might be expected, that nothing of any great
importance was accomplished.

One event, however, took place in August of this year which at least
showed the Tripolitans that war with the Americans was no child's play.
That fine little schooner the "Enterprise," which had done such good
service in the West Indies, was one of the ships of Commodore Dale's
squadron, under the command of Lieutenant Sterrett. While cruising about
in the Mediterranean, on the lookout for pirates, she chanced upon a
Tripolitan polacca called the "Tripoli," of about the same force and
size. The Rais or captain who commanded the polacca, Mahomet Sous,
thought he would try the mettle of the American schooner, and made a
furious attack upon her. The Tripolitans fight desperately; for they are
little better than cut-throats, and, as their Pasha says, war is their
trade. But they have not the skill of the Americans. Sterrett placed his
schooner where he pleased. When the battle had fairly begun, he took the
offensive himself; he attacked the enemy on her quarter, on her bow; he
raked her fore and aft. After a bloody fight the "Tripoli" had received
several shot in her side, and was badly cut up in her rigging. Then she
hauled down her flag. The crew of the "Enterprise" left their guns, and
gave three cheers, thinking that the victory was won. But the
Tripolitans, though brave, were treacherous villains, and no sooner was
their enemy off his guard than they hoisted their flag again and opened
fire on the "Enterprise." So the battle began anew. This time the Turks
attempted to board, crowding on the rail with their scimitars. But they
were driven back, and again they made a pretence of surrendering,
only to renew the fight at the first favorable moment.


The American blue-jackets were now in no humor for trifling. Their blood
was up, for they were indignant at such unheard-of treachery, and it
looked as if there would be no question to settle about prisoners, for
the reason that none of the Tripolitans would be left alive. But the
polacca was by this time in a sinking condition, her mizzen-mast was
shot away, her deck was slippery with blood, and the dead and wounded
were lying about in heaps; and the Rais, Mahomet, himself wounded and
disheartened, convinced that the time had come when neither ferocity nor
fraud could help him, threw his flag into the sea and prostrated himself
upon the rail, begging for quarter. Then Lieutenant Sterrett, who was as
generous as he was gallant, ordered the firing to cease and took
possession of the enemy.

As the polacca could not be made a prize, the Americans cut away her
masts, threw overboard her guns, and left her with the surviving
fragment of her crew to make the best of her way back to Tripoli. Upon
her arrival, the Pasha was so incensed at the news of her defeat that he
had the Rais, wounded as he was, mounted on a jackass and paraded up and
down the streets of the city, after which he was given five hundred
blows of the bastinado. Such was the result of the first fight between
the Americans and their piratical enemy, and it was a long time before
the latter forgot the lesson.

By the autumn of 1801 the terms of enlistment of Dale's crews having
nearly expired, his ships were ordered home, and in the next spring a
new squadron was sent out under Commodore Richard Morris, Congress
having meantime passed an act that was to all intents a declaration of
war. But the new commodore was not an energetic man, nor did he seem to
concern himself much about what was to be done; and a whole year was
passed by the squadron in fruitless cruises among the Mediterranean
ports, sometimes convoying merchantmen, sometimes merely lying in
harbor, but doing little or nothing against the enemy. At the end of
this time the President found it necessary to replace Commodore Morris
by a more active man; and in the summer of 1803 he was ordered home, and
upon his arrival was dismissed the service.

Already the Government had determined to fit out a new squadron, and to
take more vigorous measures against Tripoli; for the people were rightly
impatient at the dallying which had prolonged through two years this war
with a little barbarian State, and it was against the navy that this
impatience was mainly directed. Strange as it may seem, party feeling
had run so high that the gallant exploits of the French war were thought
by many Americans to be the bad results of a mistaken policy, rather
than a source of pride and satisfaction to the country; and the officers
and seamen of the navy, who were then and who have always been the
single-minded and devoted servants of the people, were looked upon
simply as the instruments of an odious party that meanly cringed to
England and sought to embroil us in a war with France. In the last
general election this party had been defeated and broken up, and the
navy came in for a large share of the popular condemnation; which, as we
at this day can clearly see, was exceedingly unjust to the brave men who
composed the service.

Whatever men may have thought and said about the navy, it was evident
that nothing but a naval war would bring Tripoli to terms, and the
Government set about the work in earnest. Four new ships were built,
which, though they were small, were well suited to their purpose,--the
brigs "Argus" and "Siren," and the schooners "Nautilus" and "Vixen." Two
of the larger frigates were sent out,--the "Constitution" forty-four,
and the "Philadelphia" thirty-eight, the latter commanded by Captain
Bainbridge; and last, but not least, one vessel of the old squadron
remained, the schooner "Enterprise," which had already made herself
famous under Sterrett, but which was to acquire still greater fame under
Lieut. Stephen Decatur, who now commanded her.

The new squadron was strong in its ships, but its efficiency was mainly
due to the officer who was ordered to take the chief command, Com.
Edward Preble. Although not an old man, he was one of the few veterans
of the Revolution that were still in the service; and though he had been
a mere lad when he first sailed as a midshipman in the Revolutionary
cruisers of Massachusetts, he had served throughout the war, and had
learned well the lessons of naval discipline. What Paul Jones was in
that war, and what Truxtun was in the West Indies, Preble became in the
campaign against Tripoli,--the central figure of the war. He had around
him the best and bravest of the young officers of the new navy,--as good
as any navy the world has ever seen, but up to this time untried and
unknown,--and it was Preble who in great measure made them what they
afterward became.

Among the first of the new vessels to come out was the "Philadelphia."
She had no sooner arrived in the Mediterranean than she made a most
unexpected discovery. She had left Gibraltar to search for some
Tripolitans that were reported to be cruising somewhere off the coast of
Spain. One evening after dark, off Cape de Gatt, she fell in with two
vessels,--a ship and a brig. Captain Bainbridge hailed the ship, which
proved to be the "Mirboka," a cruiser of Morocco; and allowing her to
suppose that he was English, Bainbridge ordered her to send him her
passports. The Moorish officer who came on board the "Philadelphia" fell
into the snare, and told Bainbridge that the brig which he had with him
was an American. This was an extraordinary piece of news, for Morocco
was then at peace with the United States; yet here was one of her
ships-of-war preying on American commerce. The Moors must have thought
that a State which could not protect its vessels from the attacks of
Tripoli need not be much respected, and that the time was ripe for them
to take a hand in the plundering which their neighbors were carrying on
with such success and profit; so they had sent out their cruisers, and
this was the first that had made a prize. The captured ship was the brig
"Celia," of Boston, whose crew and captain were at that moment confined
in the "Mirboka's" hold, to be carried to Morocco and sold as slaves or
held for ransom. Fortunately Captain Bainbridge had arrived just in time
to rescue the prisoners; and seizing the "Mirboka," he took her with him
to Gibraltar.


This was the state of affairs when a few weeks later Commodore Preble,
with the "Constitution," came out to take command of the squadron. He
saw the situation at a glance, and he was not a man to hesitate long
about taking action. If the Moors, who had seaports on the Atlantic,
were not put down and the strait opened, it would be of no great use to
clear the inland sea of pirates. The commodore immediately assembled all
his ships, gave them orders to capture every Moorish vessel they could
find, and himself proceeded in the "Constitution" directly to Tangier,
in Morocco. The Emperor was expected to arrive here shortly with his
army. He sent to know whether Preble would fire a salute in his honor.
The commodore sent back his answer by the consul.

"As you think," said he, "it will gratify his imperial Majesty, I shall
salute him and dress ship; and if he is not disposed to be pacific, I
will salute him again!"

The resolute tone which Preble took in this and other communications had
the desired effect. In three days after the Emperor arrived he had
consented to renew the treaty his father had made with the United
States, and had ordered the release of all the Americans that had been
seized, together with their property. At the same time the orders which
had been given to capture American vessels were revoked; whereupon
Preble restored the "Mirboka," and withdrew his own order to seize the
vessels of Morocco. This done, he sailed for Tripoli.

Already the "Philadelphia," with the schooner "Vixen" in company, had
taken her station before the enemy's port, and preparations were made to
maintain a strict blockade. It needed two vessels at least for this
service; for if any accident happened to one alone, she would certainly
be lost, being so far from help and close to the watchful guards of the
enemy's harbor. Nevertheless, immediately after his arrival Captain
Bainbridge heard from a Neapolitan merchantman that one of the enemy's
corsairs had sailed the day before, and he sent the "Vixen" off to find

Next day, it being the 31st of October, a Tripolitan vessel was descried
to the eastward of the city, attempting to work into the harbor. Captain
Bainbridge at once gave chase. The wily Tripolitan kept on his course,
not far from the shore, where he knew the water was full of reefs and
sunken rocks which he could easily avoid, but which he hoped might prove
a trap for his unsuspecting enemy. And so it came about; for the
captain, whose zeal, as we have already seen, was sometimes greater than
his prudence, forgetting the dangers of the treacherous coast, followed
the Tripolitan, with a fair breeze and a good eight-knot speed, until
suddenly the water began to shoal. Then realizing for the first time his
peril, he turned his vessel's head off shore. But it was now too late;
and an instant later the "Philadelphia" had shot up on a sunken reef,
where she hung hard and fast, her great stem and bowsprit pointing
upward in the air.


Even now the captain did not lose his confidence, and setting all sail
he tried to force the vessel over; but this only had the effect of
thrusting her higher on the rocks, and making escape more hopeless than
ever. It was clear that this plan would not work. The boats were then
sent out with leadsmen, who found deep water astern of the ship, and the
yards were braced aback, and every one watched anxiously to see if she
would not back off; but she did not move an inch. Then Bainbridge tried
to lighten her. He cut away the anchors and threw overboard the forward
guns, but still the ship hung fast.

Meantime the enemy discovered that their stratagem had proved
successful, and word having been sent to the city, the Tripolitan
galleys could now be seen in motion, evidently preparing to make an
attack upon the helpless frigate. Soon they came out in a long line,
their white lateen sails glistening in the afternoon sunlight, and their
decks crowded with men eager for the splendid prize that chance and
craft, combined with their opponent's over-confidence, had thrown within
their reach. But they were wary, and they remembered the lesson which
Sterrett had given them, that the Americans were stubborn fighters, and
this time they meant to run no risks. Taking up their positions on the
stern and quarter of the "Philadelphia," at a little distance, where no
guns could be brought to bear on them, they opened fire with their heavy
cannon; for each of these gunboats carried a long eighteen or
twenty-four pounder in her bow, and the whole flotilla was a hostile
force not to be despised even by a ship that could manoeuvre.

As it was, the "Philadelphia" had heeled over, and the few guns that
remained on board were useless, even after great holes had been cut
with axes in her side to enable the crews to point them. The enemy fired
high and only cut the spars and rigging; but all the same their ultimate
success was sure if the ship could not get off the reef. In spite of the
shot that rained upon them, the officers did not relax their efforts.
The tanks of water in the hold were pumped out, and finally the foremast
was cut away, carrying with it the main top-gallant mast. But it was all
of no use, for the ship obstinately refused to budge; and as the sun was
sinking in the horizon, Captain Bainbridge, to prevent what seemed
likely to be a useless sacrifice of men, hauled down his colors.

No sooner was the flag lowered than the Tripolitans, setting up a shout,
rowed quickly to the frigate and swarmed on board, over the rail and
through every port-hole. Then there was a scene which has never before
or since been witnessed upon an American ship-of-war. The pirates,
intent first of all on plunder, looted every chest and locker in the
ship. Nor did they stop here. The officers were forced to give them all
that they demanded, and like so many highway robbers they took watches,
epaulets, money; and when all the valuables were given up, coats,
waistcoats, and cravats, until all the prisoners were stripped to their
shirts and trousers. In this condition they were thrust into the boats
and carried to the city. Here they were taken before the Pasha, who was
so much elated by his capture that he received them in high good-humor,
and as he counted over the number,--three hundred and seven officers and
men,--he stroked his beard, and his avaricious eyes glistened as he
thought of the heavy ransom that the United States would have to pay him
before it could get them back. So he ordered them to be well cared for,
and sent the officers to be quartered in the building which before the
war had been the American consulate, where they were to remain during
many months of captivity.

It was bad enough that so many officers and men should have been taken;
but the mischief did not end here. For the next two days the Tripolitans
worked away at the grounded frigate with their gunboats and lighters,
and anchors carried out with hawsers from the stern; and by these means,
with the help of favoring wind and tide, they at last succeeded in
getting the "Philadelphia" off into deep water. Bainbridge, before he
abandoned her, had ordered the carpenters to bore holes in her bottom;
and if this had been well done, she would never have got afloat again.
But the carpenters in their excitement and flurry had only half
performed their task, and the ship was now in the enemy's hands in as
good condition, barring a little needed repair, as she was before the
accident. Even the anchors and guns which had been thrown overboard were
discovered lying on the reef, where the water was only twelve feet deep,
and the Tripolitans got them up without much trouble.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime Commodore Preble, having despatched his business at Morocco to
the great satisfaction of his Government, was now on his way to Tripoli
in the "Constitution." Falling in one day with the British frigate
"Minerva," he received the first news of the disaster; and going
directly to Malta, he found there a letter from Captain Bainbridge
confirming the report. It was a staggering blow to all his hopes at the
very outset of his command. The Tripolitans, who had already become
tired of the war and of the annoyances of the blockade, and whom he had
hoped by resolute attacks speedily to overawe into submission, were
encouraged by this their first great success to renewed efforts. Not
only would they stand more firmly to their previous demands for tribute,
but they would clamor for an enormous ransom for the three hundred
prisoners; and unless they could be utterly crushed, they would get it,
for they had the prisoners in their power, and in some way or other
those three hundred Americans must be set free. The squadron, none too
powerful at the beginning, had now lost one of its two principal
vessels, and the force of the enemy was correspondingly increased. No
wonder that Commodore Preble, writing to the Department of the loss of
the frigate, should say in the bitterness of his heart, "It distresses
me beyond description." But however great his distress, he never yielded
to despondency, and the loss only urged him on to greater efforts to
harass and reduce the enemy.

For the next two months the commodore and all the ships of his squadron
were busy making preparations for the coming campaign. The first blow to
be struck was against the captured frigate, and Preble resolved upon her
destruction from the very moment when he heard of her loss. But he bided
his time, patiently waiting until a good opportunity should arrive.
Meanwhile a rendezvous for the squadron was established at Syracuse. The
"Argus" was stationed at Gibraltar, to watch the Moors and guard the
strait. The other ships were cruising about from point to point, giving
protection and convoy to American vessels, and seizing any Tripolitan
vessels they could find, though there were few of them that dared to
venture out. About Christmas-time the "Enterprise" fell in with one of
these craft, a ketch named the "Mastico," which was on her way to
Constantinople with slaves on board,--a present from the Pasha to his
master the Sultan. The slaves were not a capture of much benefit to the
commodore, but the ketch was; for she had once been a French gunboat,
and he saw how she might be of service in carrying out his most
cherished scheme. So he made a tender of her and called her the

All this time the prisoners at Tripoli were not forgotten. The Danish
consul in the city, a kind-hearted and generous man, Nissen by name, was
pleased to do all that he could to help the Americans. Through him
Preble and Bainbridge were enabled to get letters to and from each
other, and supplies were sent from Malta through an agency established
there by the commodore. The secret parts of the letters were written in
sympathetic ink, so that one only saw the writing when the letter was
held before a fire. In this way the commander of the squadron was kept
informed of all that went on in Tripoli, as far as Bainbridge knew it;
and Bainbridge in his turn was much cheered by getting word from time to
time that his friends outside had not forgotten him. He needed it badly,
for what with the loss of his ship, and the gloomy prospect of a long
captivity, he was at this time in great despondency; so that it did him
good to hear from Preble the words the latter wrote in January from
Malta: "Keep up your spirits, and despair not; recollect 'there's a
sweet little cherub that sits up aloft'!"

When Preble returned to Syracuse after this visit to Malta, he had
completed his plan for the destruction of the "Philadelphia."
Lieutenant Decatur, of the "Enterprise," had volunteered to command the
expedition; and although he was very young, and had been only five years
at sea, no better man could have been chosen than this gallant and
true-hearted officer. He was to take the "Intrepid," whose Tripolitan
rig would make a good disguise, and whose small size would enable her
safely to navigate those dangerous waters, and with seventy-five
officers and men to attack the frigate. The "Siren" was to go with him
to support and cover his retreat. It was a perilous enterprise; almost
rash, one would think, for the "Philadelphia" was lying fully armed and
manned in the inner harbor, under the guns of the Pasha's castle and all
the neighboring forts, and around her lay the galleys of the enemy's
flotilla. Decatur took three other lieutenants, Lawrence, Joseph
Bainbridge, whose brother was in prison in Tripoli, and Thorn; and six
midshipmen were told off to go with them. Among these last were Thomas
McDonough, who afterward won the great battle of Lake Champlain in the
war with Great Britain, and Charles Morris, who in the same war was
first lieutenant of the "Constitution" in her fight with the
"Guerrière." Morris was at this time a boy of nineteen; and I shall tell
the story of the attack as nearly as may be in his words.

A Maltese pilot, Catalano, who knew the harbor of Tripoli, and who could
speak the language, had been engaged to go with the expedition. When the
two vessels arrived off Tripoli, the wind was fresh and the sky
lowering, and all seemed to threaten a storm. The "Siren" and "Intrepid"
anchored under cover of the night, and Morris and the pilot were sent in
with a boat to see if the passage to the harbor was safe, of which the
pilot was doubtful. They found the surf breaking in a long line of
foaming waves across the entrance, and Morris coming back reported that
it would be dangerous to make the attempt. "It was a severe trial," said
the poor boy, "to make such a report. I had heard many of the officers
treat the doubts of the pilot as the offspring of apprehension, and the
weather was not yet so decidedly boisterous as to render it certain that
an attempt might not be made, notwithstanding our report; should such be
the case, and should it succeed, the imputations upon the pilot might be
repeated upon me, and, unknown as I was, might be the cause of my ruin
in the estimation of my brother officers." Still, in spite of their
murmurs of dissatisfaction, Morris, being a brave and independent lad,
stood firm in his opinion, and the attempt was given up.

It was well that this was done; for before morning a furious gale had
come up, and the ships, with difficulty getting away from the shore,
were driven far to the eastward. For six days the storm continued, the
officers and men being all this time cooped up in the little ketch with
hardly room to breathe, and overrun with vermin which the slaves had
left behind them. The midshipmen slept on the top of the water-casks on
the lower deck, while the sailors were berthed in the same way in the

At last the wind abated, and on the 16th of February the ships were once
more in sight of Tripoli. The breeze was light and the sea smooth, and
the "Intrepid" stood in slowly toward the town. The "Siren" stayed
outside to lull suspicion; but in spite of all precautions she was seen
and noticed from the harbor. The plan was for the "Siren's" boats to
come in after dark and join in the attack. All through the afternoon
the "Intrepid" kept on sailing slowly in, her drags in the water astern
checking her headway so that she might not reach the town too early. Her
crew remained below, that no suspicion might be roused by the unusual
numbers, and only six or eight, dressed as Maltese, were allowed to come
on deck. As the sun went down, the breeze grew fainter; and Decatur,
fearing that if he delayed longer he might not be able with the light
wind to reach the frigate, decided that he would not wait for the
"Siren's" boats, saying to his officers, like Henry V. at Agincourt,
"The fewer the number, the greater will be the honor."

It was now dark, and the lights could be seen glittering in the houses
of the town and on the boats in the harbor, throwing bright reflections
over the water. The last preparations were made on board the "Intrepid,"
and the officers, speaking in low tones, told each man once more his
allotted duties, and cautioned all to steadiness and silence. The
watchword for the night was "Philadelphia," by which they were to
recognize one another in the confusion of the attack. There was no need
to enjoin silence, for each man was busy with his own thoughts. "My
own," said Morris, "were now reverting to friends at home, now to the
perils we were about to meet. Should I be able to justify the
expectations of the former by meeting properly the dangers of the
latter?" These thoughts, mixed with calculations to get a good place in
boarding, were passing through the minds of all as they waited in
breathless expectation.

Gradually the "Intrepid" was borne along by the gentle breeze toward the
inner basin. Her boat was towed astern. The young moon gave light enough
to show her movements, but nothing could be seen upon her deck except
Decatur and the pilot standing at the wheel, and here and there a man
whose Maltese cap and jersey gave no indication of his hostile
character. From end to end of the little ship the rest of the crew,
crouching under the shadow of the bulwarks, were lying concealed from
view, each man with his eye fixed on Decatur, waiting for him to give
the order. Before them could be seen the white walls of the city and the


The first battery is now passed in silence, every man holding his
breath. Right in the path of the "Intrepid" towers the "Philadelphia,"
with her great black hull and lofty spars, and around her lies the
circle of batteries. The little craft speeds on noiselessly, steering
directly for the frigate. Suddenly the anxious silence is broken by a
hail from the enemy demanding the name and purpose of the ketch, and
ordering her to keep away. Among the officers and men stretched on the
deck can be seen the eager movements of heads bending forward to hear
the colloquy. The pilot, speaking the language of the country, answers
for Decatur, who prompts him in low tones. He says that he has lost his
anchors in the gale,--which, as it happened, was the truth,--and asks to
be allowed to run a hawser to the frigate and to ride by her during the
night. To this the captain of the "Philadelphia" consents, and the ketch
is approaching, when suddenly the wind shifts, blowing lightly from the
ship, and leaves the "Intrepid" at rest not twenty yards away,
motionless under the enemy's guns.

It is a moment of terrible suspense. The least mistake, the least
disturbance or excitement, must mean detection, and detection now will
seal the fate of all. But Decatur has that perfect calmness and
clearness of judgment which is the highest bravery. There is no flurry.
In his low quiet voice he orders the boat manned. His calmness calms the
men, and with an air of lazy indolence they get in and take the oars,
carrying a rope to another boat which meets them from the frigate. The
work is done in silence; the ends are fastened, and the boat returns.
The hawser is passed along the deck; the crew lying on it pull
noiselessly, and the ketch slowly, slowly but surely, nears her place
and lies fast alongside the enemy.

Suddenly a piercing cry breaks the stillness. "_Americanos!_ The
Americans are upon us!" The enemy has now discovered the disguise. But
at the same moment Decatur's voice is heard ringing out, "Board!" and he
and Morris, who has been watching him, leap to the enemy's deck.
Springing to their feet as one man, the crew follow them, each with his
cutlass and pistol. The Tripolitans are panic-struck; for a moment they
huddle in a frightened crowd on the forecastle. One instant Decatur
pauses to form his men, and then at their head he dashes at the enemy.
The few who stay to offer resistance are cut down; one is made prisoner;
the rest, driven to the bow, leap from the rail into the water.

The ship is now captured, and the victorious crew hurry to their
appointed stations. Two parties are told off to the berth-deck, one to
the forward store-rooms, and one under Morris to the cockpit. Each
prepares its supply of combustibles, and when all is reported ready, the
order is given to set fire. This done, each party leaves the ship, but
Morris and his men barely escape through the smoke and flame with which
the lower deck is already filled. Decatur, standing on the
Philadelphia's rail, while the smoke rises around him and the flames
are bursting from her ports, waits till the last man has returned, and
as the "Intrepid's" head swings off, he leaps into her rigging.


By this time all the Tripolitans have caught the alarm, and from
batteries and gunboats in quick succession, all around the wide sweep of
the harbor, are seen the sudden jets of flame followed by clouds of
smoke, and the shores resound with the roar of cannon. One hundred guns
are firing upon the little ketch, whose white sails are lighted up by
the flames of the burning frigate. The harbor is a circle of fire, and
the gallant band seem doomed to pay the penalty of rashness. The frigate
is herself a source of danger, for her magazine must soon explode. But
the crew of the "Intrepid," after giving three rousing cheers for their
success, man the long sweeps and head their vessel seawards. The
"Philadelphia," which reveals them to the enemy, lights them on their
way. Her appearance is magnificent. The flames illuminate her ports, and
mounting up the rigging and masts form columns of fire, which, meeting
the tops, branch out in beautiful capitals. Behind her, thrown out into
strong light by the burning ship, are the city walls and roofs, with
dome and minaret rising above them,--bright points against the sky.

The guns of the "Philadelphia" commanding the harbor have been loaded
and double-shotted. As the fire reaches them they are discharged, but
their missiles do more injury among the Tripolitans than among their
foes. The "Intrepid" seems to bear a charmed life under the converging
fire of the enemy. The cannon-balls fall thickly in the water, ahead,
astern, alongside, throwing up columns of spray; but only one shot
touches her, and all the harm that does is to make a hole in her
top-gallant-sail. A favoring breeze now springs up, and aided by the
strong arms of the rowers at their sweeps, the ketch is carried out of
range, and in a short time she has reached the open sea and joined her

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime in the squadron lying at Syracuse the officers and men, and
above all the commodore, had undergone profound anxiety. It had been
thought that a week, or ten days at most, would be sufficient time for
the two vessels to accomplish their work and return to the station. But
as the time wore on and day after day passed by, the hopes of all began
to turn to apprehension; for no one knew that for a week after they
reached the enemy's coast the "Siren" and "Intrepid" had been driving
about before the gale, their efforts for the moment directed only
against the elements. Each day the horizon was scanned by the lookouts
aloft, and as the second week came to an end with no sign of the
expedition, the most hopeful shook their heads, and all were filled with
a sense of dull foreboding. But on the morning of the fifteenth day the
fleet was startled by the cry of "Sail ho!" from the mast-head, and
every face peered anxiously toward the southern horizon. First one ship
was seen, then two; and as they came nearer, and little by little their
spars and rig could be distinguished, the hope that they might prove to
be the missing vessels grew slowly into certainty.

Now a signal could be descried from the "Siren's" mast-head. What did it
mean? Was it success, or failure? At length there was no doubt; and when
from alternations of despair and hope the news was spread that Decatur
had successfully achieved his purpose, and that the "Philadelphia" was
indeed destroyed, the men's excitement knew no bounds, and cheer upon
cheer of welcome and of exultation went up from all the vessels.

[Illustration: STEPHEN DECATUR.]

One thing is certain: that no exploit of our navy since that time has
surpassed in bravery and finished excellence this of Decatur,--"the most
bold and daring act of the age," as it was called by Nelson, then
commanding the fleet off Toulon. The commodore wrote his despatch to the
Department, asking that Decatur might immediately be raised to the same
grade as himself; and when the Government heard the news, it lost no
time in granting Preble's generous request. In this way it came about
that young Decatur, though barely five-and-twenty, became a post-captain
in the navy, which he had entered less than six years before; and among
all the officers of Preble's squadron, who were in all things like a
band of brothers, there was not one that grudged him his promotion.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the destruction of the "Philadelphia" the commodore desisted for
the time from further enterprises; for it was now midwinter, and at this
stormy season the dangers of the rocky coast made it imprudent to
attempt active operations against the enemy. But there was no slackening
in preparations for the campaign of the next summer, and meantime the
blockade was maintained with strictness. By this means was captured a
brig of sixteen guns which belonged to the Tripolitan consul at Malta,
and which was seeking to smuggle powder and other contraband into the
enemy's port. The prize was re-named the "Scourge" and taken into the
service, making a useful addition to the squadron.

All this time the commodore was on the alert,--at Syracuse, Messina,
Malta, Naples, as occasion called him, but never long in one place. At
one time he appeared off Tripoli and gave the Pasha an opportunity to
reduce his terms; but the Pasha, sulking after the loss of the
"Philadelphia," would not yield one jot in his demands. The commodore
next took three of his ships to Tunis, to quiet threatening
demonstrations in that quarter, and to let the Bey know that the
Americans, though occupied with Tripoli, still had time to keep an eye
fixed upon him. Some of the vessels needed repairs, and these were in
turn attended to. The weakness of the squadron in small gunboats,
wherein lay so much of the enemy's strength, was a source of great
concern; and Preble in his letters to the Department entreated that
permission might be given him to buy or build them in the Mediterranean
ports. But to this the Government would not consent; and Preble, as a
last resort, went to Naples and obtained from the King of the two
Sicilies, who was an enemy of the Tripolitans, a loan of six gunboats
and two bomb-vessels, or mortar-boats, as we should call them now. They
were not very seaworthy or efficient, and "required careful nursing," as
the commodore said. "However," he added in his report to the Department,
"as they were the best I could obtain, I have thought it for the good of
our service to employ them, particularly as the weather in July and
August is generally pleasant, and without them my force is too small to
make any impression upon Tripoli."

       *       *       *       *       *

At last all the preparations were completed, and the commodore toward
the end of July set out to begin operations against the city. His whole
force consisted of one frigate, three brigs, three schooners, and the
eight small gunboats and mortar-boats which he had borrowed at Naples.
Taking these last, the "Constitution," "Nautilus," and "Enterprise" set
out from Syracuse, and arriving before Tripoli were joined by the
blockading squadron, composed of the "Argus," the "Siren," the "Vixen,"
and the "Scourge." The ships made a brave display as they all appeared
before the enemy's city; but in reality they were an insufficient force
to bring to the attack of such a place, with its hundred guns protected
behind massive walls, its fleet of nineteen gunboats, and its army on
shore of twenty-four thousand soldiers. For they were desperate
fighters, these Turkish bandits, when it came to a hand-to-hand
conflict, as we have already seen from their fight with Sterrett; and in
all the American fleet there were not above one thousand men. But the
assailants were strong in one thing, and that was in their officers.
Young as the officers were, they counted among their numbers the flower
of the navy. There were Somers and the two Decaturs,--Stephen and James;
Lawrence, the brave captain of the "Chesapeake" in the War of 1812;
Hull, who captured the "Guerrière;" Stewart, who took the "Cyane" and
the "Levant;" Charles Morris, Macdonough, Warrington, Blakely, Spence,
Henley,--all of them preparing now for the greater war that was to come,
in which they were to win new renown for the navy and the country. They
believed in their commander-in-chief, who they knew would lead them to
victory if any man could. They believed too in each other, and they
fought side by side like true and generous comrades.

For several days the wind blew violently on shore and prevented any
active operations. The ships hastened to gain an offing; but the gale
increased, and on the last day, when it was at its height, the gunboats
pitching and tossing in the heavy sea seemed on the point of foundering.
The foresail and main-topsail of the frigate, though close-reefed, were
blown out into ribbons from the bolt-ropes. Fortunately before any worse
accident happened the gale subsided, and the squadron was once more able
to approach the town.

At last came the 3d of August,--a day ever memorable in the annals of
our naval history. There was a light breeze blowing from the southeast
as the squadron stood in slowly for the town, whose white walls,
surmounted by glistening mosques and minarets, and surrounded by gardens
and groves of palms, seemed to the Americans like some fabled city of
old myths, which they were always approaching and which never could be
reached. There is no fable about it on this day, however. Within these
walls are three hundred of their companions confined in prison by a
barbarian despot who calls himself a Pasha, but who is little better
than the leader of a gang of pirates. His hundred cannon are frowning
from the walls, his batteries are manned, and his fleet of galleys is
drawn up in battle order outside the bristling line of rocks that covers
the entrance of the harbor. They are there to have a fight, and the
commodore is not a man to balk them in their purpose.

The fleet is now advancing, the bombs and gunboats still in tow.
Presently the ships wear, with their heads off shore. The Pasha, on the
battlements of his castle, surrounded by his courtiers, is watching the
movements of the Americans, and says to his officers, "They will mark
their distance for tacking; they are a sort of Jews, who have no notion
of fighting." But he is going to find out before night. The ships are
now passing within hail of the commodore, and each captain is receiving
his final orders for the attack. Officers and men are transferred from
the larger vessels to the gunboats. The latter are arranged in two
divisions,--the first under Somers, the second under Decatur. There are
only six of them in all, and they are to attack nineteen of the enemy,
while the mortar-boats shell the town, and the "Constitution" and her
attendant brigs and schooners deliver their broadsides at the

At half-past one in the afternoon, the ships, wearing in succession, are
headed for the batteries. As they approach silently and steadily, the
bombs and gunboats are cast off. The batteries give no sign of life,
there is no sound to break the stillness of the clear midsummer
afternoon; and looking at the picture as the sun shines peacefully from
the bright blue sky upon the white city walls, and the ships under their
clouds of canvas, and the sparkling waters, one can hardly fancy that in
a few moments it will be transformed into a scene of mortal combat.

At length the bombs have taken their position and come to anchor, and
the signal for battle is displayed at the mast-head of the
"Constitution." Each of the mortars flings out a little curling puff of
smoke. An instant later, with a deafening din and uproar, all the guns
in the squadron and in the batteries on shore, as if directed by one
man, have opened fire with their heavy round shot. The gunboats, led by
Decatur and Somers, dash out against the enemy, and soon they are lost
to view beneath the smoke of battle.

The cannonade continues. Meantime Somers, though his boat is a dull
sailer, by dint of hard work with the sweeps has reached the enemy's
rear division, and single-handed as he is drives them in confusion
behind the rocks. Decatur, followed by his brother James, by Trippe, and
by the younger Bainbridge, attacks the van. The bowsprits have been
unshipped so that there will be nothing to impede the boarders, for it
is by boarding that Decatur means to gain his prizes. Bainbridge in his
advance loses his lateen yard by a shot, and can only support the
attacking column from a distance. Trippe dashes up alongside one of the
enemy's boats crying out, "Board!" and leaps over the rail, followed by
Henley, his midshipman, and nine of his crew. The others are about to
jump, when the boats fall apart. It is hot work for the little handful
of Americans. The enemy is more than three times their number. But there
is no time for thought, and without a second's hesitation the boarders
make a rush upon the crew of the galley with pike and cutlass. For a few
minutes the struggle is desperate. Trippe singles out the leader, a tall
and well-built Turk, as his own antagonist. As he comes up, the Turk
makes a swift cut at him with his scimitar; but Trippe parries the blow
skilfully with his sword, receiving only a slight wound. Stroke after
stroke descends, as the enemy, swinging his curved blade with the
rapidity of lightning, cuts savagely at his opponent. But Trippe is a
cool and expert fencer, and though he is gashed and cut again and again,
he holds his ground until he has passed his weapon through the body of
the Turk. His companions, in the fury of their attack, have killed
thirteen of the enemy; and though there are still more than twenty left,
the rest seeing their leader fall are panic-struck and fall on their
faces begging for mercy. Trippe carries off with him eleven honorable
scars, and three of his men are wounded; but none have fallen, and the
Tripolitan gunboat is a prize.

Meanwhile the two Decaturs, in the other gunboats, are not idle. The
elder, Stephen, runs on board the largest of the enemy's boats, taking
with him his whole crew of Americans, twenty-three in number, and
leaving the Neapolitan gunners to guard his boat. For ten minutes they
are fighting pellmell on the enemy's decks,--another bloody hand-to-hand
encounter with the same result. Despite their numbers, the Turks cannot
resist the impetuous charge of the Americans. Many of them are killed,
some jump into the sea, a few rush in terror to the hold, the rest
surrender. The flag is lowered, and Decatur takes his prize in tow, to
draw her out of the battle.

At this moment Lieut. James Decatur's gunboat comes up under his stern
and he learns that his brother, after receiving the surrender of one of
the galleys, has been shot through the head by her commander. Decatur
has left most of his crew on board the prize, but he does not stop to
think of that; his brother has been murdered by a treacherous enemy, and
he must meet the Turk and exact from him the penalty. The boat is
pointed out; she has taken refuge within the enemy's line. But this is
nought to Decatur. Plunging into their midst, he finds himself beside
the object of his search, and in a moment he has leaped upon the
galley's deck. He does not look to see whether he is followed; but young
Macdonough has joined his leader with a handful of men, and at his side
they charge the enemy. As Decatur rushes upon the Turkish captain, the
latter makes a thrust at him with a boarding pike. Decatur parries with
his cutlass, but the blade breaks at the hilt. The Turk makes another
lunge, and this time wounds Decatur in the breast. The American wrenches
the weapon from his antagonist, and they grapple and fall to the deck,
Decatur uppermost. At this moment another Tripolitan makes a cut with
his scimitar at Decatur's head; but as the weapon is raised in the air a
young blue-jacket, Reuben James, whose name will ever be remembered for
this act of self-devotion, since he cannot stop the blow with his
wounded arms, stoops down and intercepts it with his head.

The fight now goes on around the two prostrate captains. The active and
sinewy Turk, making one last effort, turns and gets Decatur under him.
Drawing a knife from its sheath, he is about to bury it in the captain's
throat. But Decatur is as cool as he is valiant. Seizing the Turk's
uplifted arm with a grip like iron, he feels with his right hand for the
pistol in his pocket. Quickly it is cocked, and without drawing it,
Decatur aims and fires. The dagger drops from the Turk's hand, and his
body, limp and lifeless, rolls over on the deck. Another prize has been
captured, and Decatur has avenged his brother's death.

While the gunboats are thus actively engaged, the ships keep up a steady
cannonade. Twice the reserve division of the enemy, stationed behind the
rocks, endeavors to come out, and by rallying and supporting the
defeated rear, to renew the contest; but each time it is covered and
checked by the guns of the "Constitution," and after losing three more
galleys which are sunk by the frigate's fire, it gives up the attempt.

Presently the wind comes out from the northward, freshening, and the
gunboats are signalled to retire from action. The "Constitution," now
only two cables' length from the batteries, tacks, and firing two
broadsides in stays, drives the Tripolitans from the castle and sends a
minaret in the town crashing down about the people's heads. The
gunboats, bringing with them their three prizes, rejoin the squadron.
The commodore sends his barge to bring Lieut. James Decatur on board the
flag-ship, and he is tenderly lifted in and rowed swiftly to the
frigate. He lies in the stern-sheets, his head in Morris's lap, and with
him is his brother. But his strength is going fast, and he dies before
they reach the ship.

The squadron now takes the gunboats and bombs in tow, and all the ships
stand out to sea. The last gun has been fired, the batteries are silent,
and the first attack on Tripoli is ended.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after the battle of the 3d of August Commodore Preble received a
letter from the French consul intimating that the Pasha would be ready
to lower his terms and treat for peace. But the commodore refused to
make the first advances, and on the 7th he was ready for another attack.
The enemy's gunboats wisely kept their stations within the rocks, where
it would have been folly to engage them, and the attack was directed
only against the town and batteries.

The bombs were ordered to take their position in a bay to the westward
and throw shells into the city, while the gunboats, now increased to
nine by the addition of the three prizes, were to silence a heavy
battery that commanded the entrance to the bay. At nine in the morning
the "Constitution" lay at anchor six miles from the city. The smaller
vessels lay three miles within her. It was nearly calm, but with a
strong current setting in to the eastward. The gunboats and bombs
advanced slowly to the attack with sails and oars. The "Constitution"
had her top-sails set ready for the first breeze; and at half-past one,
when a light wind sprang up from the northeast, she weighed and stood
in. As the wind was on shore, it was imprudent for any of the larger
vessels to join in the movement; for if a mast were shot away, it would
be almost impossible to save the ship.

At half-past two, signal was made to begin the attack, and the bombs and
gunboats opened a heavy fire upon the town, to which the batteries
replied. In a short time the walls of the seven-gun battery were nearly
demolished. The small vessels kept their stations steadily under an
annoying fire. Suddenly on board one of the prize gunboats was seen a
burst of flame followed by a terrific crash; a hot shot had passed
through the magazine and exploded it. The young commander of the
gunboat, Lieutenant Caldwell, and Dorsey, one of the midshipmen who
stood with him on the quarter-deck, with all the seamen near them, were
killed, and the stern of the boat was blown to atoms. In the bow was the
gun's crew under Midshipman Robert Spence. The crew had just loaded the
gun, and for a moment stood paralyzed, as the boat was sinking fast.

"All right, boys!" sung out Spence as he coolly pointed the gun. "We'll
give them one more, any way. Fire!"

_Crack!_ went the gun.

"Now, then, three rousing cheers for the flag! Hip, hip, hurrah!" The
gallant tars gave three cheers, and the boat sank from under them.
Spence, who could not swim, seized an oar as he plunged into the water,
and so kept himself up until help came to him from one of the boats near
by. In this way were rescued all whom the explosion had left alive.

The eight remaining gunboats, which though here and there cut up were
not disabled, continued the action until late in the afternoon, when the
freshening wind warned the squadron to retire. During the engagement a
strange sail had been seen to the northward, and the "Argus" was sent in
chase. It proved to be the frigate "John Adams," Captain Chauncey,--the
first ship of the new squadron that was coming out from the United
States. Unfortunately she had left her gun-carriages to be brought out
by the other ships, so that she could not be used for active operations.
Still more unfortunately it turned out that the authorities at
Washington, who were somewhat given to red-tape, had thought it
necessary to send an officer in command of the squadron of reinforcement
who was higher in rank than Preble, and who would therefore upon his
arrival replace the latter in the command. It was a cruel blow to the
commodore to be cast aside after having done so much where others had
accomplished little; and in his private journal, written with his own
hand in the solitude of his cabin, and meant only for his own eye, we
find these words:--

     "How much my feelings are lacerated by this supersedure at the
     moment of victory cannot be described, and can be felt only by
     an officer placed in my mortifying situation."

At first the commodore thought it only right that he should now wait for
his successor to arrive. But in a day or two the Pasha sent him a
message through the French consul, offering to treat for peace if the
United States would pay one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the
ransom of the captives. The last proposal before this had been for a
ransom of half a million; all which showed that the two attacks had
lowered the Tripolitan demands to less than one third of what they had
been, and that in time they would come down still further.

Preble therefore renewed his operations, making the same zealous and
eager efforts that he would have done had the Department not superseded
him. Decatur, whose new commission as captain had come out in the "John
Adams," and Chauncey rowed into the harbor one dark night in two small
boats to find out how the enemy's flotilla was arranged at night. When
this was ascertained, a night attack was planned, and the gunboats and
bombs were sent into the harbor, where they bombarded the town from two
o'clock till daylight. It was a beautiful sight to one who could watch
it from a distance; but it filled the people of the city with terror,
and if the Pasha had had any concern for the feelings of his subjects,
he would have made peace then on any terms. But as long as his castle
stood, and taxes could be wrung from his people, and he had plenty of
food and slaves, it mattered little to him that the town should suffer
from the horrors of a night bombardment.

A few nights later the attack was repeated, and it was shortly followed
by a warm engagement with the forts and gunboats in the harbor, in which
the enemy was repulsed and great damage was done in the town. This last
attack, the fifth which the squadron had made, exhausted nearly all its
ammunition; and as the bad season was coming on, the commodore
determined to use up what was left in carrying out a plan which he had
some time before projected, and which was to inflict a final blow on the
enemy. The plan was to load the "Intrepid" with gunpowder and shells,
making a kind of infernal machine of her, and send her in to explode
among the Tripolitan shipping. One hundred barrels of powder were stowed
in her magazine, and one hundred and fifty fixed shells were placed in
different parts of the vessel. The whole was to be fired by a fuse
calculated to burn a quarter of an hour.

The direction of this hazardous undertaking was intrusted to Lieut.
Richard Somers, a gallant and devoted officer who had shared with
Decatur the command of the gunboats in all the attacks upon Tripoli.
Lieut. Henry Wadsworth went with him; and at the last moment young
Israel, another of the "Constitution's" lieutenants, begged so hard to
be allowed to go that the commodore consented. They took with them the
two fastest boats in the squadron, one of them from the "Nautilus" with
four men, the other from the "Constitution" with six men.

On the evening of the 4th of September everything was ready, and the
"Intrepid" got under way and stood for the entrance of the harbor. The
"Argus," "Siren," and "Nautilus" went with her as far as the rocks, and
remained there to pick up the boats on their return. The night was
thick, and there was a faint starlight, and the "Intrepid" was gradually
lost to sight in the gathering gloom as she passed between the rocks at
the entrance. But the Tripolitan sentries on the mole were on the watch,
and presently the batteries opened fire upon her. Still she held
silently on her course, steering straight for the mole, where the
enemy's flotilla lay at anchor. Suddenly, before the allotted time had
passed, the explosion came. There was a quick flash, a sheet of flame, a
deafening report, then the sound of bursting shells and cries of alarm
as for an instant the city walls, the harbor, and the vessels were
lighted up by the blaze, and then--darkness and silence.

The three ships remained for hours off the entrance watching anxiously
for some signs of the returning boats or men. Every ear was strained to
catch the plash of the oar in the water or its dull rattle in the
rowlock, and every eye strove to pierce the shroud of mist that hung
over the waters; but in vain. None of that devoted band were destined
ever to return. They had given up their lives as a sacrifice for their
country; and whether their destruction was caused by one of the enemy's
shot, or whether, finding himself attacked by boarders, Somers had
lighted the fuse, as he had resolved to do in such an event, and had
blown up himself and his assailants together, no man knows to this day.
Thirteen bodies drifted ashore the next morning, and Captain Bainbridge
was taken from his prison to see them; but they were scarred and burned
beyond recognition.

With this melancholy tragedy Commodore Preble's operations before
Tripoli came to a close. The bad season was upon him, when attacks were
impossible, and the Pasha on his stormy coast was secure behind his
barriers of rocks and shoals. A week later the new squadron came out and
the commodore gave up his command.

In the following spring, when the season again opened, Commodore
Rodgers, who was now at the head of the squadron, appeared before
Tripoli with an overwhelming force. There were six frigates, two brigs,
three schooners, and twelve bombs and gunboats. At the same time an
adventurous expedition had been led from Egypt by General Eaton, and had
captured the city of Derne, an outlying dependency of Tripoli. Against
such a force the Pasha, after what he had been taught by Preble in the
summer before, knew that he could not long hold out; and the
negotiations for peace, which were conducted on board the flagship,
lasted only a week. On the 3d of June, 1805, the treaty was signed.
Bainbridge and his companions were set at liberty, and the war with
Tripoli was over.



Europe, at the period which we have now reached, was engaged in a
general war. This had begun with the French Revolution, when France bade
defiance to the rest of the world; and, kept alive by the aggressive
policy and military ambition of Napoleon, it continued, with occasional
interruptions, until the power of the French Emperor was overthrown at
Waterloo. During all this time England was the most persistent and
successful enemy of the French,--fighting them sometimes alone,
sometimes in coalition with the great States of the Continent, but
always fighting. It was on the sea that the English were most
successful. Here the French and the Spaniards, brave as they were,
seemed to be no match for the islanders; and the splendid victories of
Lord Howe off Ushant, of Sir John Jervis at Cape St. Vincent, and last
and greatest of all, of Nelson at the Nile and at Trafalgar, won for the
English Navy an imperishable renown, and destroyed the naval power of
France and Spain.

The wonderful battles between the French and English navies were fought
with great fleets, numbering sometimes thirty or forty
ships-of-the-line, carrying each from sixty to one hundred and twenty
guns, and the largest of them as many as one thousand men. To keep these
fleets manned with sailors was no easy task. After all who would
volunteer were gathered in, there still remained a great dearth of men;
for it was a hard life that the sailors led on board the ships-of-war,
especially if, as often happened, the captain, or the second in command,
was a harsh and tyrannical officer. How bitterly the men hated the
service was shown by the mutinies at Spithead and the Nore. So it became
necessary to resort to compulsion to recruit the crews.

If the Government had established a draft or conscription to obtain its
seamen, enrolling all the population, or all the seafaring part of it,
and drawing names by lot, as sometimes must be done even in free
countries, things would not have been so bad. Instead of that it got
them by a method which was called "impressment." A press-gang composed
of a party of armed sailors under a lieutenant or a warrant officer was
sent ashore to seize any stray men it could find, and run them in for
His Majesty's service. In all the seaport towns were crimps and runners,
rascally fellows who knew the town and the inhabitants, and who
frequented all the sailors' lodging-houses; and these were employed to
put the press-gangs on the track of likely men who could be forced into
the service. In such towns, after dark, when these prowlers scoured the
streets, it was hardly safe for any one to go out alone; for if he were
caught and made remonstrance, a gag and a pair of handcuffs were ready
to stay both voice and arm. Even when a sailor had shipped for his
voyage in a merchantman and had got out to sea, he was not safe from
capture. For the merchantman falling in with a ship-of-war was obliged
to heave to, when a lieutenant came on board and took such men as suited
his fancy.

But with all this the English fleet was still short of men. So the
officers or the Government, or both together, hit upon a new device. In
time of war the naval ships of either party have the right to stop and
search all merchant-vessels on the high seas, to see if they are enemies
or neutrals, and whether they are pursuing any illegal trade; and the
foreigners must submit, because if their own country were at war its
naval ships would do the same. As England was all this time at war, it
came about that any American merchantman falling in with English
cruisers must undergo a search. If the merchant-ship had any
natural-born Englishmen in her crew, although they might have emigrated
long before, and have become citizens of the American Republic, the
English Government held that they were still subjects, and that they
might be taken out if they were needed for the service of the King. This
was an outrage, because no such right of taking persons out of neutral
ships exists. But this was not the worst. As the two nations were of the
same blood and spoke the same language, their sailors could not easily
be told apart; and thus Americans were sometimes taken on the pretence
that they had formerly been English. The cruiser's officer when he
mustered the crew was never very particular about the selection if he
wanted the men, as he was always sure to do. Often, indeed, he did not
care much whether they were Americans or not, and having a force behind
him, he could not be gainsaid or resisted.

The Government of the United States protested against this practice, but
as it did not believe much in naval armaments, and never followed up its
protests by making a show of force, little heed was paid to them; while
England, being in such great necessity, and not over-scrupulous as to
the means of relieving it, continued the practice. The American
Government then granted to its sailor-citizens passports or certificates
of nationality, which were called "protections," but which nevertheless
did not always protect. At any rate a man who had not taken out the
"protection"--and sailors, as everybody knows, are careless in such
matters--was sure to be impressed, whatever evidence he might give of
birth or nationality. So the men were seized, and where they could they
made complaint, though it often happened that they did not have the
chance; and when the complaints reached home, the State Department kept
on filing them, and entering its futile protests and arguments and
counter-arguments. But still, as might be expected from such a course,
the practice of impressment never ceased, until finally there were
several thousand native-born Americans serving under constraint in the
Royal Navy.

On one or two occasions the English had even gone so far as to take
seamen out of our ships-of-war, which is perhaps as gross an affront as
one nation can offer to another. This was done by Commodore Loring, who
commanded a powerful squadron off Havana in 1798, and who removed five
men from the sloop-of-war "Baltimore," of twenty guns. As the English
force was composed of the "Queen," of ninety-eight guns, and several
frigates, they could have sunk the "Baltimore" with a single broadside.
So the American ship made no resistance. Gross as it was, this injury
did not bring on a war or even reprisals; although reprisals might have
been used with good effect, as they were about the same time against

Again in 1807, when the "Chesapeake" was starting from Hampton Roads for
a cruise in the Mediterranean, she was followed out to sea by the
British frigate "Leopard," which sent an officer on board to demand that
some of the "Chesapeake's" men, who were supposed to be deserters from
the English navy, should be given up; and when the demand was very
properly refused, she attacked the "Chesapeake," in sight of our own
coast, and in time of peace,--discharging broadside after broadside at
the vessel of a friendly State. The "Chesapeake," which had gone to sea
unprepared to fight, through hurry in preparation, and also it must be
said through negligence on the part of certain of her officers, could
not fire a shot in reply, the powder-horns and matches for priming and
setting off the guns not being ready, and the men not having been called
to quarters at the proper time. So she made a very poor showing, even
allowing, as was the case, that her assailant was superior in force;
only one gun being fired in reply, which was touched off by a live coal
which Allen, one of the younger lieutenants, carried in his hand from
the galley, to save the honor of the flag. After the "Chesapeake"
surrendered, four men were taken from her to the "Leopard" and she
returned to port. This galling insult, which makes one blush to hear of
even after so great a lapse of time, was only atoned for four years
after it was given. And yet the country forbore to go to war, or even to
make such preparations that if war came the navy might be ready for it.

One would think that the Government must have grown very tired of making
complaints, for during all these years its foreign correspondence was
chiefly made up of protests and requests for redress. To all these
evasive answers were given, or hopes held out which never were
fulfilled. Besides the outrage of impressment, there were many grievous
wrongs inflicted on American commerce through the Orders in Council
which the British issued; and France, too, through Napoleon's Berlin and
Milan decrees, did us serious injury. The French decrees were finally
revoked, as were also at the last moment the Orders in Council; but
England never would give up the right she claimed to take out of
American vessels seamen that were supposed to be English.

At last matters reached such a point that the nation refused to submit
longer to these repeated insults. The British frigate "Guerrière,"
cruising off New York, had impressed a seaman from an American coaster
almost in sight of Sandy Hook. Commodore Rodgers, in the frigate
"President," was now employed in patrolling the coast, and he was
resolved, if he should meet the "Guerrière," to demand the man's
surrender. One evening he fell in with a British cruiser, the
sloop-of-war "Little Belt," which in the dark he mistook for a frigate.
His ship was cleared for action, the crew were at their quarters, and
the guns were loaded and double-shotted; for the "President" was not
going to be caught unprepared, as the "Chesapeake" had been four years
before. Ranging up to her, Rodgers hailed the "Little Belt," but in
reply his hail was only repeated; and as he hailed the second time, the
sloop fired a shot at him. The "President" returned the fire before
Rodgers could give an order, for the crew were only waiting for the
chance; and no wonder, considering what American seamen had suffered
from English ships-of-war. The firing continued on both sides, until at
last the "Little Belt" was silenced. In the morning the commodore sent
his boat to her with offers of assistance; but these were refused, and
the "Little Belt" proceeded on her way to Halifax, where she arrived
almost a wreck.

This incident, though not important in itself, added fresh fuel to the
fire that was already kindled. There was now a strong party of younger
men in Congress, who were resolved that the United States should no
longer submit tamely to foreign aggression. These at last succeeded in
making themselves heard, and they carried Congress with them. Unhappily
but little had been done in all these years of encroachment to prepare
the navy, the nation's principal arm of defence, to resist an enemy; and
although the dominant party was now active and alert about rousing a war
spirit, they seemed to be exceedingly dull of comprehension about the
necessity of preparations for defence. Therefore, except for the few
noble frigates which Washington's foresight had provided, and the fine
corps of naval officers whom Jefferson had selected and Preble had
trained, we were as ill-prepared for war as it was possible to be.
Nevertheless, the war party, rightly conceiving that the country could
not endure forever the alternate bullying and subterfuge of foreign
States, were determined to make an armed resistance; and on the 18th of
June, 1812, war was declared against Great Britain.



Difficulties which finally led to the outbreak of war had been growing
for several years; and the Government, as I have said, had all this time
done little or nothing in the way of preparation for defence either on
land or at sea. The navy was opposed as bitterly as ever, and the money
that was needed for its support was given grudgingly. After the war with
Tripoli, in which gunboats had been found of so much use, the
Administration had begun to build great numbers of vessels of this
class. This was a great mistake. Gunboats were useful and even necessary
for operations in bays and rivers and shoal waters, but they could not
take the place of frigates in making war. But it seemed to be a pet
scheme with the President to transform the navy into an immense gunboat
flotilla, and one hundred and seventy-six of these little craft were
built, which turned out to be of no more service in war than so many
mud-scows. The money which was wasted by this mistaken policy would have
built eight frigates of the largest class, and would have added
immeasurably to our power upon the sea.

When the war broke out, there were in the navy, besides the gunboats,
only eighteen vessels, of which three--the "Chesapeake,"
"Constellation," and "Adams"--were repairing, and one was on Lake
Ontario. Of the other fourteen there were those three fine frigates of
forty-four guns,--the "Constitution," the "United States," and the
"President;" and three smaller frigates,--the "Congress," of
thirty-eight guns, the "Essex," of thirty-two, and the "John Adams," of
twenty-eight. The rest were sloops, brigs, and schooners carrying from
ten to twenty guns apiece. To make war on this puny force, the British
Navy possessed two hundred and thirty line-of-battle ships, of from
sixty to one hundred and twenty guns each, and over six hundred frigates
and smaller vessels.

What could the United States now do with its eighteen ships against nine
hundred of the enemy? It seemed a hopeless situation,--so hopeless, that
there were some statesmen in the country who thought it would be best to
lay up and dismantle our little fleet as the only way to enable it to
escape capture. It happened that when this plan was broached, Captain
Bainbridge and Captain Stewart were in Washington, and hearing of it
they went to the Secretary and implored him not to do so suicidal a
thing. "What are our ships for," said they, "if not to fight and attack
the enemy when their country goes to war? If when a war comes they are
all to be laid up, it would be better to give up altogether this
pretence of a navy, which seems to be only used in peace-time, when
there is no real work for it to do. No doubt if one of our frigates
falls in with the enemy's squadron it will be captured; but English
frigates do not always sail in squadrons any more than our own; and if
one of us meets one of them alone at sea, we shall be able to give a
good account of ourselves. Let the frigates go to sea to show what they
can do: at the worst, they can only be captured, and the country will be
no worse off than if they were laid up to rot in idleness."

Persuaded by these arguments the Government consented, though with many
forebodings of disaster, to send the ships to sea; and fortunate it was
that this wise decision was reached. For never in the history of the
world was a naval war conducted with greater skill and gallantry, and
success in proportion to its means, than this which the little navy of
America waged in 1812 against Great Britain. Despite the comparative
force of the two navies, it often happened, as Bainbridge and Stewart
had predicted, that single ships met single ships in naval duels, as it
were; and as through the wisdom of our first constructors our frigates
and sloops were the best of their class afloat, they were often more
than a match in strength of resistance and in power of attack for their
antagonists. Besides, under the thorough training of their captains, who
had learned what naval warfare meant in the school of Preble at Tripoli,
the crews were more careful and more skilful gunners than the enemy, and
far exceeded them in their ability to make their firing tell. The
English, on the other hand, whose conquests over the French and
Spaniards had led them to belittle and despise the navies of other
States, thought that they had an easy victory before them,--or, as we
might say now, a "walk-over,"--and they ridiculed the American frigates,
calling the "Constitution" a "bundle of pine boards under a bit of
striped bunting," until they found out to their cost that they had in
their enormous list of ships hardly a single frigate that compared with
her in all those qualities which a frigate ought to have.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 21st of June, 1812, three days after the declaration of war, a
squadron sailed out of New York, under the command of Commodore Rodgers,
composed of the "President," as flagship; the "United States," under
Commodore Decatur; the "Congress," Captain Smith; the "Hornet," Capt.
James Lawrence; and the "Argus," Captain Sinclair. The object of the
cruise was the capture of a fleet of one hundred merchantmen known to
have sailed from Jamaica sometime before for England, under convoy of
some ships-of-war. When two days out, the squadron fell in with and
chased the British frigate "Belvidera." When the chase began, the
frigate was some six miles off; but in the course of the afternoon the
"President," which was the fastest ship of the squadron, gradually
neared her, until she was within half a mile. Then the "President"
opened with her bow-guns; but, most unfortunately, one of these guns
after being fired a few times exploded, killing and wounding several
officers and men, the commodore himself being among the wounded. The
"Belvidera" held on her course, returning the fire from four guns which
she had shifted to her stern-ports. The "President," delayed by her
accident, lost ground; and though a running fight was kept up for
several hours, the "Belvidera," by cutting away her anchors and
throwing overboard her boats, lightened herself so much that she soon
left the squadron far behind. At midnight the pursuit was abandoned.


The squadron now resumed its course in chase of the Jamaica fleet, from
which it had been turned aside in attempting to capture the "Belvidera."
But the delay proved fatal to its enterprise. Intelligence was gained
off the Banks of Newfoundland that the Jamaica-men were ahead, and soon
the ships knew from the quantities of orange-peel and cocoanut-shells
floating in the water that they were on the enemy's track; but they
never sighted him. At last, upon reaching the British Channel, the
pursuit was given up, and Commodore Rodgers, after a ten-weeks' cruise,
returned with six prizes to Boston.

The cruise of Commodore Rodgers had one good effect, in compelling the
ships-of-war of the enemy then on our coast to keep together for their
own safety. Among these was one sixty-four, the "Africa," two large
frigates, the "Shannon" and the "Guerrière," and the small frigate
"Æolus," all under the command of Com. Philip Broke, of the "Shannon."
These were presently joined by the "Belvidera," and all were cruising
together near New York, and off the Jersey coast. About the middle of
July the little schooner "Nautilus," of twelve guns, left New York on a
cruise, and running into the midst of the squadron was made a prize
after a six-hours' chase.

On the 12th of July, four days before the capture of the "Nautilus," the
"Constitution" had sailed from Chesapeake Bay, under Captain Hull, bound
for New York. Late on the afternoon of the 16th, the day on which the
"Nautilus" was taken, she too fell in with the British squadron. For
three long and weary days and nights the enemy pursued her, and during
all that time the zeal and courage of her officers never flagged, and no
means were left untried that might assist in her escape. The untiring
efforts of Captain Hull were seconded by his first lieutenant, Charles
Morris, the same who had been with Decatur when he burned the
"Philadelphia" in the harbor of Tripoli, and certainly one of the best
officers that ever fought under the American flag. He shall tell in his
own words the story of


     We had proceeded beyond the Delaware, but out of sight of the
     land, when on the afternoon of the 16th we discovered four
     vessels at a great distance to the northwest and a single ship
     to the northeast, from which quarter a light wind was then
     blowing. The wind changed to the southward about sunset, which
     brought us to windward, and we stood for the ship, the wind
     being very light. The chase was evidently a frigate, and the
     first impression was that she might be a part of Commodore
     Rodgers's squadron. By eleven P.M. we were within signal
     distance, and it was soon apparent she was not an American
     vessel of war. There being no apprehension that a British
     frigate would make any attempt to avoid an engagement, Captain
     Hull felt justified in delaying any nearer approach till
     daylight, when our newly-collected and imperfectly-disciplined
     men would be less likely to be thrown into confusion. The ship
     was accordingly brought to the wind with her head to the
     southward and westward under easy sail, with a light wind from
     the northwest. The other ship did the same at about two miles'
     distance. The watch not on duty were allowed to sleep at their
     quarters, and the officers slept in the same manner.

     As the following morning opened upon us it disclosed our
     companion of the night to be a large frigate just without
     gunshot, on the lee quarter, and a ship-of-the-line and three
     other frigates, a brig, and a schooner, about two miles nearly
     astern, with all sails set standing for us, with English colors

     All our sails were soon set, and the nearest frigate,
     fortunately for us, but without any apparent reason, tacked and
     immediately wore round again in chase,--a manoeuvre that
     occupied some ten minutes, and allowed us to gain a distance,
     which though short, proved to be of the utmost importance to
     our safety. By sunrise our ship was entirely becalmed and
     unmanageable, while the ships astern retained a light breeze
     till it brought three of the frigates so near that their shot
     passed beyond us. The distance was, however, too great for
     accuracy, and their shot did not strike our ship.

     Our boats were soon hoisted out, and the ship's head kept from
     the enemy, and exertions were made to increase our distance
     from them by towing. This and occasional cat's-paws, or slight
     puffs of wind, enabled us to gain nothing. A few guns were
     fired from our stern-ports; but so much rake had been given to
     the stern that the guns could not be used with safety, and
     their further use was relinquished. All means were adopted
     which seemed to promise any increase of speed. The hammocks
     were removed from the nettings, and the cloths rolled up to
     prevent their unfavorable action; several thousand gallons of
     water were started and pumped overboard, and all the sails kept
     thoroughly wet to close the texture of the canvas.

     While making all these exertions, our chances for escape were
     considered hopeless. For many years the ship had proved a very
     dull sailer, especially during the late cruise, and it was
     supposed that the first steady breeze would bring up such a
     force as would render resistance of no avail; and our situation
     seemed hopeless.

     At about eight A.M. one of the frigates called all the boats of
     the squadron to her, and having arranged them for towing,
     furled all sails. This brought her toward us steadily and
     seemed to decide our fate. Fortunately for us, a light breeze
     filled our sails and sent us forward a few hundred yards before
     her sails could be set to profit by it.

     With our minds excited to the utmost to devise means of escape,
     I happened to recollect that when obliged by the timidity of my
     old commander, Cox, to warp the "President" in and out of
     harbors where others depended on sails, our practice had
     enabled us to give her a speed of nearly three miles an hour.
     We had been on soundings the day before, and on trying we now
     found twenty-six fathoms. This depth was unfavorably great, but
     it gave me confidence to suggest to Captain Hull the expediency
     of attempting to warp the ship ahead. He acceded at once; and
     in a short time the launch and first cutter were sent ahead
     with a kedge, and with all the hawsers and rigging, from five
     inches and upward, that could be found, making nearly a mile of
     length. When the kedge was thrown, the men hauled on the
     connecting hawser, slowly and carefully at first, till the ship
     was in motion, and gradually increasing until a sufficient
     velocity was given to continue until the anchor could be taken
     ahead, when the same process was repeated. In this way the ship
     was soon placed out of the range of our enemy's guns, and by
     continued exertions when the wind failed, and giving every
     possible advantage to the sails when we had air enough to fill
     them, we prevented them from again closing very near us. The
     ship which we had first chased gained a position abeam of us
     about nine A.M., and fired several broadsides; but the shot
     fell just short of us and only served to enliven our men and
     excite their jocular comments.

     The exertions of neither party were relaxed during this day or
     the following night. There was frequent alternation of calms
     and very light winds from the southeast, which we received with
     our heads to the southwestward. When the wind would give us
     more speed than with warping and towing, the boats were run up
     to their places or suspended to the spars in the chains by
     temporary tackles, with their crews in them, ready to act at a
     moment's notice.

     At daylight of the second day, on the 18th, it was found that
     one frigate had gained a position on our lee bow, two nearly
     abeam, one on the lee quarter about two miles from us, and the
     ship-of-the-line, brig, and schooner, three miles from us in
     the same direction. The wind had now become tolerable steady,
     though still light. The frigate on the lee bow tacked about
     four A.M. and would evidently reach within gunshot if we
     continued our course. This we were anxious to avoid, as a
     single shot might cripple some spar and impede our progress. If
     we tacked, we might be exposed to the fire of the other frigate
     on the lee quarter; but as she was a smaller vessel, the risk
     appeared to be less, and we also tacked soon. In passing the
     lee frigate at five, we expected a broadside or more, as we
     should evidently pass within gunshot; but from some unexplained
     cause Lord James Townshend, in the "Æolus," of thirty-two guns,
     suffered us to pass quietly and tacked in our wake, while the
     others soon took the same direction.


     We had now all our pursuers astern and on the lee quarter; and
     as the wind was gradually increasing, our escape must depend on
     our superiority of sailing, which we had no reason to hope or
     expect. Exertions, however, were not relaxed. The launch and
     first cutter, which we dared not lose, were hoisted on board at
     six A.M. under the direction of Captain Hull, with so little
     loss of time or change of sails that our watching enemies could
     not conceive what disposition had been made of them. This we
     afterward learned from Lieutenant Crane, who was a prisoner in
     their squadron. The sails were kept saturated with water, a set
     of sky-sails was made and set, and all other sails set and
     trimmed to the greatest advantage, close by the wind. The ship
     directly astern gained slowly but gradually till noon; though,
     as the wind increased, our good ship was going at that time at
     the unexpected rate of ten knots an hour. At noon we had the
     wind abeam, and as it gradually freshened, we began to leave
     our fleet pursuer. Our ship had reached a speed of twelve and a
     half knots by two P.M. Our hopes began to overcome
     apprehension, and cheerfulness was more apparent among us.

     Though encouraged we were by no means assured, as all the ships
     were still near and ready to avail themselves of any advantage
     that might offer. About six P.M. a squall of wind and rain
     passed over us, which induced us to take in our light sails
     before the rain covered us from the view of the enemy; but most
     of them were soon replaced, as the wind moderated. When the
     rain had passed, we had evidently gained a mile or more during
     its continuance. Still the pursuit was continued, and our own
     ship pressed forward to her utmost speed. The officers and men
     again passed the night at quarters. At daylight on the morning
     of the 19th our enemies had been left so far astern that danger
     from them was considered at an end, and at eight A.M. they at
     last relinquished the chase and hauled their wind. Our officers
     and crew could now indulge in some rest, of which the former
     had taken little for more than sixty hours.... The result may
     be remembered as an evidence of the advantages to be expected
     from perseverance under the most discouraging circumstances so
     long as _any_ chance for success may remain.

After the prolonged labor and anxiety of the three days' chase, the
people of the "Constitution" needed some relaxation of the strain, and
Captain Hull put into Boston, where he remained a week. From there he
sailed to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he took and burned some
prizes; but hearing that the squadron from which he had just escaped was
in the neighborhood, he steered for the southward. All the time the
sailors were kept exercised at the guns, under the careful oversight of
the officers; for the captain knew that the result, in any battle he
might be called upon to fight, depended mostly upon skill in firing,
which practice alone could give.

On the 19th of August, at two o'clock in the afternoon, while cruising
about in the ocean somewhere in the latitude of New York, the
"Constitution" made a strange sail to the southward and eastward.
Captain Hull had just before received information that an English
frigate was cruising alone to the southward of him, and suspecting that
this stranger was the object of his search, he bore down for her under
all sail, she meanwhile making no attempt to get away. At three o'clock
the ships were near enough to make each other out, and Hull's conjecture
proved to be right. The stranger was the frigate "Guerrière," under
Captain Dacres, which had now left the squadron of Commodore Broke, and
was on her way to Halifax.

By four o'clock the "Constitution" was gaining rapidly on her opponent,
and three quarters of an hour later, being then about three miles off,
the "Guerrière" backed her main-topsails and waited for the Americans to
come up. Upon this the "Constitution" took in her top-gallant sails,
staysails, and flying jib, took a second reef in the topsails, hauled
the courses up, sent down the royal yards, cleared ship for action, and
beat to quarters. At the same time she bore up, and steered for the
"Guerrière's" quarter.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN ISAAC HULL.]

At five o'clock the "Guerrière" hoisted her colors and opened fire, but
her shot fell short. Then for nearly an hour the two ships manoeuvred,
Hull doing his best to get into a good position to rake, and the English
frigate each time deftly evading him by "wearing ship," as it is
called,--that is, by turning quickly on her heel, with the wind astern.
But all this drew the ships apart, when both really wished to close and
fight; and presently by a common impulse Hull and Dacres concluded to
give up manoeuvring, and both ran off to the eastward, with the wind
free, the "Guerrière" a little ahead, but the "Constitution" quickly
crawling up on her.

Now began the real battle, for before this it had been little more than
the play of fencers, each feeling his way to discover his opponent's
skill and strength. But the ships were now side by side, and the
"Constitution's" practised gunners were firing terrible broadsides in
quick succession, her guns double-shotted with round shot and grape. The
"Guerrière" answered, but her guns were not so heavy as the Americans,
nor was her gunnery so skilful. In just ten minutes after the real fight
began, her mizzen-mast toppled and fell over the side, the shrouds
holding the wreck of mast and spars and sails, which dragged behind in
the water.

The "Guerrière's" speed was now slackened, and Captain Hull ranged
ahead; and putting his helm hard aport, he lay across her bows and raked
her with his broadside twice from stem to stern. But as he swung round
again, the "Guerrière's" jib-boom and bowsprit crossed his quarter-deck
and got entangled in his rigging. It was a critical moment, for the
bow-guns of the enemy were so close that their wads, entering the
"Constitution's" cabin, set it on fire. By dint of great exertions the
fire was put out, and Lieutenant Morris, standing on the taffrail,
attempted to pass some turns of the main brace over the "Guerrière's"
bowsprit, to keep her fast and give his men a chance to board. But
Morris in his exposed position had not yet finished his task, when a
marine on the "Guerrière," taking deliberate aim, put a bullet through
his body. The brave lieutenant fell, though happily not killed but only
badly wounded, and the two ships were separated.


All thoughts of boarding were now given up, but there was no need of it.
Hull kept up his heavy fire, and in ten minutes more the "Guerrière's"
foremast and mainmast had also gone, and she lay a helpless wreck in the
trough of the sea, rolling her main-deck guns under water. The
"Constitution," knowing that the enemy was at her mercy, now hauled off
for half an hour to repair the slight injuries she had received; and
after completing this task in a leisurely way, and making everything
shipshape, she came back to receive the enemy's surrender. It was a
bitter task for Captain Dacres to acknowledge himself beaten in the
first frigate fight between the veteran navy of England and the derided
vessels of the young Republic; but it was all that he could do, for he
had fought his ship until she was little better than a dismantled hulk,
and it was vain to think of trying to prolong resistance. So the captain
came on board the "Constitution" and delivered up himself and all his
men as prisoners; and the next day the "Guerrière," being so shattered
that it was of no use to take her into port, was burned where she lay,
and left to sink in the ocean.

Great were the rejoicings when the "Constitution" arrived at Boston with
her trophies and prisoners. Men, women, and children vied with each
other in demonstrations of delight. We can hardly realize to-day what
the people felt at the news of the destruction of a British frigate. To
understand the feeling, we must look back at the twenty years during
which American ships and American seamen had suffered repeated outrage
at the hands of British ships-of-war,--outrage which had been borne only
because the young country felt too weak to cope with those forces which
had conquered all the navies of the Continent. At the outset, war with
such foes offered a dismal prospect. And to think that in the first real
encounter on the seas, a veritable pitched battle, these redoubtable
champions of the ocean had been so utterly crushed and annihilated that
not one fragment remained of their good ship the "Guerrière," which had
harried with impunity our very coasters, was something more than men's
minds could at once grasp.

For Hull and his companions no reward seemed too great. Feasted in
Boston at a great civic banquet, received with an ovation at every town
through which he passed, he was for the moment the country's hero.
Congress struck a medal in his honor, and votes of thanks were passed by
the legislatures of New York and Massachusetts, and by many municipal
bodies. The Society of the Cincinnati elected him an honorary member.
The citizens of Philadelphia presented to him a great silver vase, and a
golden sword whose engraved hilt bore a picture of the battle; the vase
and sword may be seen to-day in the hall of the State Department at
Washington. Morris was promoted to the rank of captain; and finally
Congress passed an act appropriating fifty thousand dollars as a bounty
for the officers and seamen of the "Constitution."



What American ships could do in battle, Captain Hull had now shown; and
the hopes of the country were aroused, and it began with reason to look
for fresh successes. Nor was it destined to be disappointed; for during
that memorable autumn of 1812 and the early months of winter there came
such a rapid and unbroken succession of naval victories as has fallen to
the lot of hardly any nation before or since. And that these victories
should have been won by a service that for fifteen years had been
treated with derision and contempt even by those in the highest station
in the country, who should have given it both honor and support, and
that they were won too over the mistress of the seas, made them in
people's eyes tenfold more marvellous. It mattered little that the force
engaged was small, that in comparison with the great fleet actions of
European navies these encounters seemed the battles of pygmies; for
their significance as victories was not thereby diminished; whether the
force engaged was one ship or fifty ships, the same qualities in
officers and men were needed to achieve a victory. The English had been
beaten,--beaten in part no doubt by the better quality of American
ships, but beaten too by the superior skill and training of American

The second victory of the naval war[1] was won by the sloop-of-war
"Wasp," which left the Delaware on the 13th of October under the command
of Capt. Jacob Jones. She had been out only five days, when one Sunday
morning she fell in with the British brig "Frolic," convoying a small
fleet of merchantmen, somewhere to the eastward of Albemarle Sound. At
the first sign of battle the convoy made off under a press of sail. It
was blowing fresh at the time, with a heavy sea, so that the ships came
into action under short canvas.

[Footnote 1: This was really the third victory, counting the unimportant
action between the "Essex" and the "Alert" as the first.]

At eleven o'clock in the forenoon the "Frolic" hoisted Spanish colors,
but Captain Jones knew that this was a ruse; and as he came down to
windward of her and hailed, she displayed the English flag and opened
the battle. The ships were very close, so that in spite of their
pitching and tossing the firing told severely on both sides; but the
Americans, following the same wise rule of aiming low that Truxtun had
put in practice in the "Constellation," fired while the engaged side
of their ship was going down with the swell, and the enemy fired while
theirs was rising; so that the "Frolic's" wounds were on her decks or in
her hull, and the "Wasp's" chiefly aloft. In a few minutes the
American's main-topmast fell, followed by his gaff and
mizzen-topgallant-mast. Nevertheless, Captain Jones succeeded in placing
himself on the port bow of the "Frolic," where he raked her with
terrible effect, and man after man fell upon her decks, dead or dying,
until her fire began to slacken. By this time the masts of the "Wasp"
were almost unsupported, so much of the rigging had been cut away; and
the captain, fearful lest the enemy should escape him, prepared to board
notwithstanding the heavy sea.


Presently the ships fell foul, the "Frolic's" bowsprit running over the
quarter-deck of the "Wasp," which was just the position most favorable
for accomplishing the captain's purpose. The men were eager to board,
and could not wait for the order. Jack Lang, a brave American
blue-jacket, who had sometime before been the victim of a British
press-gang, and who thus had old scores to wipe out, leaped first upon
the enemy's bowsprit. Next to him came Biddle, the first lieutenant of
the "Wasp," who climbed upon the bulwarks; but his foot caught in a rope
and he lost his balance. Behind Biddle came a midshipman, who, by way of
helping himself up, in his eagerness seized the lieutenant's coat and so
dragged him back to the deck. Biddle was on his feet in a twinkling, and
getting on board the enemy, he rushed with a handful of men along her
deck. But there was no force to oppose him, only the quartermaster at
the wheel and three officers who threw down their swords in token of
surrender. Biddle hauled down the British flag himself, and in a short
time the shattered remnant of the crew on the gun-deck below were made
prisoners. It had been a most heroic defence of the "Frolic," one that
has few parallels in the whole range of naval history, for more than
three fourths of her people were strewn about the decks; but it only
shows that heroism alone without care and skill cannot always win a
battle, for the Americans, with better knowledge of their art, had
gained the victory, and it had only cost a loss of five men killed and
as many more wounded.

The "Wasp" was not to gather the fruits of victory, however. Soon after
the battle an English line-of-battle ship, the "Poictiers," came in
sight, and her great battery of seventy-four guns, before which both the
little sloops would have fled had they been able to make sail, found
them an easy capture. But all the same the real battle had been fought
and the real victory won; and the loss of the two disabled ships in the
face of such an overwhelming force was as nothing in its real import to
the added proof which Captain Jones had given that American ships could
meet and conquer on the seas an equal foe.



Just before the "Wasp" had set out on her short but eventful cruise,
Commodore Rodgers had put to sea again with his squadron. Soon after
leaving New York, the "United States," still under Capt. Stephen
Decatur, separated from the other ships, and steering to the southeast,
proceeded alone across the Atlantic. The "United States" was now in the
highest condition of efficiency: the captain had taken great pains to
train the crew in all that was needed to make them good fighting men;
and his efforts had been seconded most worthily by his first lieutenant,
William Henry Allen, the same who had proved his gallantry in the affair
of the Chesapeake.

About two weeks after leaving port, on the 25th of October, when in the
neighborhood of Madeira, the "United States" sighted a strange vessel to
the southward, which turned out to be the British frigate "Macedonian."
She was considered at this time to be the finest frigate in His
Majesty's Navy, and was, commanded by Capt. John Carden. It seems that
when Decatur had been cruising off our coast in his frigate before the
war, he had met the "Macedonian," and he and Carden had become good
friends,--at least as far as could be in those troublesome times,--and
had often exchanged good offices and hospitality. Thus they had talked
from time to time about the strength of the two frigates, and of the
probable result in case they should one day meet in battle. In these
friendly conversations Captain Carden would dwell upon the disadvantage,
as he thought it, of the American batteries; seeing that they carried
24-pounders where the English carried eighteens, which last, so he
thought, were handled more easily and quickly, and were as heavy as a
frigate ought to carry.

"Besides, Decatur," he added, "though your ships may be good enough, and
you are a clever set of fellows, what practice have you had in war?
There is the rub. We now meet as friends, and God grant we may never
meet as enemies; but we are subject to the orders of our Governments,
and must obey them. Should we meet as enemies, what do you suppose will
be the result?"

"I heartily reciprocate your sentiment," replied Decatur,--"that you and
I may never meet except as we now do; but if as enemies, and with equal
forces, the conflict will undoubtedly be a severe one, for the flag of
my country will never be struck while there is a hull for it to wave

These two good friends and gallant companions were now to meet in the
trial of arms over whose issue they had talked and speculated. The
"Macedonian" came on before the wind, with studding-sails set, rapidly
approaching the American. The "United States" then wore, to delay the
fight, and perhaps to complete her preparations; but having cleared ship
for action, she wore again so that she might close with the enemy. At
this point, had Captain Carden held on his course, having much the
faster ship, he might have run across the bow of his antagonist and
raked her. But he wished to keep the weather-gage, and so hauled by the
wind; and at nine o'clock the two ships passed each other in opposite
directions, and exchanged their first broadsides at long range.

On board the "United States," everything was now ready for action, and
the men were waiting eagerly until the real battle should begin, for
they were confident of making a good fight. At this point a boy, Jack
Creamer by name, who had been allowed to make the cruise in the ship,
although too young to be regularly enrolled, came to Captain Decatur as
he stood upon the quarter-deck watching the enemy, and touching his
forelock, said,--

"Please, Commodore, will you have my name put on the muster-roll?"

"Why, my lad?" asked the captain, amused and interested at the boy's

"Because, sir," answered Jack, "then I shall be able to draw my prize

So the order, was given, and Jack went back contented to his station.

The firing at long range was doing no good, and the ships having passed
each other, the "Macedonian," after going a little way, wore round, and
followed the "United States," overhauling her rapidly, as her superior
speed enabled her to do with ease. But as she approached nearly bows on,
Captain Decatur was able to oppose the guns on his quarter to those on
the enemy's bow in a running fight, and every now and then, by shifting
his helm a little, to bring his whole broadside to bear, raking her
with his diagonal fire. In a short time her mizzen-topmast was seen to
totter and fall, and as this made the sailing of the two ships equal,
Decatur backed his maintopsail and allowed her to come up.

As soon as the two ships were abreast there began that tremendous
disabling fire which was the secret of the Americans' success. The
"United States" fired two broadsides to the enemy's one, and seemed to
be in sheets of flame; so much so that the English thought her on fire
and gave three cheers in their delight. But they were mistaken, and they
soon found that the American fire was as accurate as it was rapid. It
was now the turn of the Americans to cheer, as the "Macedonian's"
mizzen-mast went by the board.

"Ay, ay, Jack," called out one of the gun-captains, "we have made a brig
of her!"

"Take good aim at the mainmast, my lad," said the captain, overhearing
him, "and she will soon be a sloop;" and in a little while, when her two
remaining topmasts came down with a crash, he added: "Aim now at the
yellow streak; her masts and rigging are going fast enough. She must
have more hulling."

And indeed it was a hulling that the "Macedonian" got that day, for one
hundred shot had entered her sides, her upper battery was disabled, and
all her boats were cut to pieces. Her people still held on with stubborn
courage, though one third of their number were by this time killed or
wounded, and tried to board, but the ship would not answer the helm. At
last, finding the contest hopeless, the gallant Carden struck his colors
and surrendered.

His ship was like a slaughter-house. Out of his crew of three hundred
men more than one hundred were killed or wounded. "Fragments of the
dead," said the lieutenant whom Decatur sent on board, "were distributed
in every direction, the decks covered with blood, one continued
agonizing yell of the unhappy wounded; a scene so horrible, of my
fellow-creatures, I assure you, deprived me very much of the pleasure of
victory." On board the "United States" there were hardly to be seen the
signs of battle. Some little damage had been done aloft, but nothing
that was not easily repaired. Two or three round shot were in her hull;
but her crew were almost unhurt, for out of four hundred and seventy-six
men she had but seven killed and five wounded. The difference in force,
both in guns and men, was greatly in her favor; but the difference in
the injuries that she inflicted and received went far beyond it.

As Captain Carden came on board the "United States," Decatur advanced to
meet him, and the two friends recognized each other. The vanquished
captain, filled with the bitterness and mortification of defeat, offered
his sword in silence.

"Sir," said his young conqueror, with the gentle courtesy that so became
him, "I cannot receive the sword of a man who has defended his ship so

So the sword was returned, and all that lay in Decatur's power was done
to soothe the feelings of his enemy. The captured frigate was fitted out
with jury-masts, and together the two ships made for the United States,
where they arrived in safety early in December. The despatches
containing a report of the victory were carried to Washington by
Midshipman Hamilton, of the "United States," the son of the Secretary
of the Navy; and as he travelled post-haste from New London to New York,
and on through Jersey and Pennsylvania and Maryland, everywhere the news
of "another victory over the British frigates" was borne onward and
spread from lip to lip and from house to house, until the whole country
from New England to Georgia was filled with joyous and triumphant

       *       *       *       *       *

On the very day of the battle between the "United States" and the
"Macedonian," the "Constitution," now commanded by Captain Bainbridge,
was making her final preparations at Boston to set sail on a cruise. On
the next day, the 26th of October, all was ready; and the frigate, whose
name was already endeared to Americans by the victory over the
"Guerrière," started forth to win for herself fresh renown. The sloop
"Hornet," under Capt. James Lawrence, sailed in company with the
"Constitution," and the two ships shaped their course for the coast of
Brazil, where the "Essex," under Captain Porter, was to meet them. From
this point, if no mishap occurred, they were to sail as a flying
squadron for a cruise in the Pacific. As it turned out, the junction was
never made, and the proposed plan was not carried out; but perhaps it
was just as well in the end, for even if they had been together it would
have been hard for them to accomplish more than they did separately, as
we shall see by following the adventures that befell them.


Soon after reaching their first cruising-ground the "Constitution" and
"Hornet" put into San Salvador, where they found the sloop-of-war "Bonne
Citoyenne" lying in the harbor. The English sloop could not be induced
to come out and fight, although Bainbridge promised not to interfere; so
leaving the "Hornet" to blockade her, the "Constitution" sailed away on
a cruise. She had been out only three days, when, on the 29th of
December, being then about ten leagues from the coast of Brazil, at nine
in the morning she sighted two vessels to the northeast. These were the
British 38-gun frigate "Java," under Capt. Henry Lambert, and an
American merchantman, a prize of the "Java." The "Constitution" stood
for the strangers; but at eleven she tacked to the southward and
eastward to draw the "Java" away from the coast, and also to separate
her from the prize, which in the distance Captain Bainbridge mistook for
a ship-of-war. This course was kept up for some time, the "Java," which
had now hoisted English colors, gradually lessening her distance; when
at about half-past one Captain Bainbridge hauled up his courses and took
in his royals, tacked ship, and stood for the enemy. Half an hour later
the battle began with a broadside from the "Constitution."

The ships were now half a mile apart, steering to the eastward on
parallel courses. The "Constitution" had the advantage in guns, and she
carried fifty more men than the "Java;" but they were so nearly a match
that the difference could not have affected the result, whichever way it
turned out. The "Java" was a faster ship, and she had therefore greatly
the advantage in manoeuvring. She was constantly trying to get in
position to rake, and the "Constitution" was constantly on the watch to
baffle her. The wheel of the American frigate was shot away early in the
action; but this injury was quickly remedied, and never was a vessel
handled with greater skill.

Soon after the attack began, Captain Bainbridge was wounded by a
musket-ball in the hip, but he refused to leave his post. A few minutes
later a piece of langrage entered his thigh, causing intense pain; but
still he stayed on deck directing the movement of his ship as calmly as
if his men were at drill instead of in battle. The firing had now lasted
forty minutes, and no great damage had been done, owing to the distance
between the ships; Bainbridge became impatient, and determined to close
with the "Java" in spite of her raking. So he set his foresail and
mainsail, and luffed up close to her, pouring in that furious fire for
which the American frigates were to acquire their greatest fame.

In a few minutes the head of the "Java's" bowsprit was shot away.
Bainbridge now wore ship, and the "Java," as the quickest way to get
about, tacked; but unfortunately for her, her headsails were gone, and
after coming up in the wind she paid off slowly. The American captain,
ever on the watch, saw his opportunity, and luffing up astern of her, as
she was in the midst of her manoeuvre, raked her deck; then wearing
again, he resumed his course and the "Java" was once more alongside. But
she had better be anywhere else; for the American gunners, cool and
steady, were now firing with fatal precision. She seemed to have become
a mere target floating alongside. Captain Lambert bore up toward the
"Constitution," trying to get on board; but at this instant his foremast
fell and his design was frustrated. A few minutes more, and the "Java's"
maintopmast tottered and came down; next the gaff and spanker boom were
shattered; and finally down came the mizzen-mast, leaving her nothing
but the ragged stump of the main-mast above the deck. On all sides the
men were falling at the guns, under the withering fire of grape-shot
from the "Constitution." Captain Lambert was mortally wounded, and the
command fell to Lieutenant Chads, the first lieutenant, who refused to
believe himself beaten. But he could do nothing; his fire ceased, and as
the clouds of smoke rolled away they disclosed on the one hand a
dismasted wreck, and on the other a frigate sound and whole, except for
some slight damage to her spars and rigging. So there was nothing left
for him but surrender.

In this gallant action--gallant on the enemy's side as well as on our
own--the "Constitution" had thirty-four killed and wounded, and the
"Java" one hundred and fifty. Captain Lambert died soon after of his
wounds. Among the prisoners was General Hislop, the Governor of Bombay,
who was on his way to assume his post. The General and all the other
prisoners, whom Captain Bainbridge treated with the utmost courtesy and
kindness, were paroled, and landed at San Salvador. The ship could not
be taken into port, and two days after the action, on New Year's eve,
she was set on fire and blown up. The "Constitution" now gave up her
cruise in the Pacific and returned to the United States.

With this battle ended the year 1812, the most memorable that ever
occurred in the history of our navy. For though gallant things had been
done before this time, during the Revolution and the war with Tripoli,
and though in the later wars, as well as in the later years of this same
war, the record of naval achievements showed no falling off in
brilliancy, there was a splendor so full, so dazzling, and so
unexpected about this uninterrupted succession of triumphs on the ocean,
that it would be hard to describe in words the depths to which it
stirred the nation. That despised and belittled navy,--despised alike at
home and abroad,--which the Government had proposed at the outbreak of
war to lay up, that it might be kept out of harm's way as a plaything
and an ornament fit only for peaceful use, had shown itself a most
terrible engine of offensive war. Those much-abused frigates, of which
we had but half a dozen for the nation's defence, had met the frigates
of Great Britain in battle, and had conquered,--conquered the victors of
Camperdown and Cape St. Vincent, of Aboukir and Trafalgar; beaten them
on their own ground in honest hard fighting, beaten them thrice over,
and beaten them as they had never been beaten before. The bitter strife
of political parties, the truckling to this or that foreign State, which
had vexed the councils of the nation for twenty years, and lowered the
self-respect of Americans, was cast aside in united rejoicings at the
success with which Hull, Decatur, and Bainbridge had asserted and
maintained American independence and the rights of American citizens;
and the country at last began to look upon the navy as its best
protection, and as the stanchest supporter of the national honor.

The frigate actions of 1812 had produced results almost as marked in
England as in America. For twenty years English ships had been
accustomed to victory over every enemy, even in the face of heavy odds.
The nation looked upon them as invincible. About the Americans it knew
so little and cared so little that it had hardly felt any general
interest or concern in the war. The loss of the "Guerrière" came upon it
like a clap of thunder in a clear sky. Of course some reason must be
discovered for so extraordinary an event, and it was said that the
frigate was old and rotten, and her powder, was bad. But as capture
followed capture, as the "Frolic," the "Macedonian," and the "Java" were
surrendered in quick succession, the first murmurs of discontent swelled
to an angry outcry. The naval administration was bitterly assailed, and
called upon to take more energetic measures. It was necessary to devise
something to serve as an excuse for defeat. Then arose that foolish
clamor that the frigates of the Americans were not frigates at all, but
ships-of-the-line in disguise, and that the naval authorities of Great
Britain had been hoodwinked by a Yankee trick into sending frigates to
fight them. As if they had not had scores of opportunities--in the
Mediterranean, on the American coast, and even in their own ports of
Southampton and Gibraltar--to find out what the "Constitution" and her
sister ships were like; and as if anything but their own folly and
arrogance had prevented them from seeing long before that our
constructors had built for us superior frigates!



The two earliest actions of importance in the year 1813, though nearly
six months apart in time, belong together, for they form the two great
events in the career of one of our bravest officers; and unless I am
much mistaken, the second of these events, which ended so tragically in
defeat and death, was in great measure a consequence and outcome of the
first. All our captains who were actively engaged during the first
months of the war had carried out their enterprises gallantly, but still
with discretion and circumspection, as became them in fighting against
the greatest naval power in the world; but Lawrence, borne beyond the
bounds of prudence by one brilliant success, risked most where the
danger was greatest, and so came to an untimely end.

We left the "Hornet" in December, 1812, blockading the "Bonne Citoyenne"
at San Salvador, where Bainbridge and Lawrence had found her. As she was
just equal to the "Hornet" in force,--what little difference there was
being in favor of the Englishman,--Captain Lawrence, according to the
gallant fashion of those days, sent a challenge to Captain Greene, who
commanded the "Bonne Citoyenne," proposing a fight between the two
sloops. He gave his pledge, in which Commodore Bainbridge joined, that
the "Constitution" should not interfere, in order that it might be an
equal match, where skill and pluck alone should decide the battle. Such
a thing is hardly likely to happen now, when war is carried on so much
more with an eye to business; but at that time a battle between two
well-matched ships was looked on as a sort of tournament,--a rough kind
of play perhaps, but still little more than a game where men went in to
win as much for the sake of the sport as for the real earnest. It had
this of good about it, that it made men look upon their enemies in some
sort as friendly rivals, and it took away part of the bitterness which
war engenders.

[Illustration: JAMES LAWRENCE.]

Of this generous and chivalric spirit no man had more than Lawrence, and
it was a deep disappointment to him when Captain Greene refused to
accept his challenge. Here is what the Englishman's letter said:--

     "I am convinced, sir, if such rencontre were to take place, the
     result could not be long dubious, and would terminate favorably
     to the ship which I have the honor to command; but I am equally
     convinced that Commodore Bainbridge could not swerve so much
     from the paramount duty he owes to his country, as to become an
     inactive spectator, and see a ship belonging to the very
     squadron under his orders fall into the hands of an enemy. This
     reason operates powerfully on my mind for not exposing the
     'Bonne Citoyenne' to a risk upon terms so manifestly
     disadvantageous as those proposed by Commodore Bainbridge.
     Indeed, nothing could give me greater pleasure than complying
     with the wishes of Captain Lawrence; and I earnestly hope that
     chance will afford him an opportunity of meeting the 'Bonne
     Citoyenne' under different circumstances, to enable him to
     distinguish himself in the manner he is now so desirous of

How little Captain Greene meant of these bold professions, and how small
was the confidence he really had in his pretension that the result would
be favorable to him, was shown soon after; for on the 6th of January the
"Constitution" sailed for home, leaving the "Hornet" alone before the
port. Here she remained until the 24th, nearly three weeks, waiting for
the "Bonne Citoyenne" to redeem her captain's promise. At length the
"Montague," a seventy-four which had sailed from Rio on purpose to
relieve the English sloop, hove in sight, and chased the "Hornet" into
the harbor, where she was safe for the moment in neutral waters. But
Lawrence placed no great reliance upon such protection, for he knew that
naval officers under strong temptation did not always show a due respect
for neutral territory; and in the night he wore ship and stood out to
the southward, thus eluding the enemy. In this way the "Bonne Citoyenne"
got safely off; but the "Hornet" got off too, although a seventy-four
had come out for the purpose of capturing her.

After leaving San Salvador the "Hornet" cruised off Surinam and the
neighboring coasts. On the 24th of February, at the entrance of the
Demerara River, she discovered an English brig-of-war, the "Espiègle,"
at anchor outside the bar. Lawrence was forced to beat around Carobano
Bank in order to get at her; and while thus manoeuvering, about the
middle of the afternoon he discovered another brig edging down for him.
Soon the stranger hoisted English colors, and Lawrence beat to quarters
and cleared ship for action, keeping close by the wind in order to get
the weather-gage. The new enemy was the brig "Peacock," under Capt.
William Peake. It was nearly half-past five when the two ships passed
each other and exchanged broadsides at half-pistol shot. As the
"Peacock" was endeavoring to get about, Lawrence bore up, and running
close up to her on the starboard quarter, began that furious and
well-aimed cannonade which nothing in this war had thus far been able to
withstand. In fifteen minutes the enemy's ship was riddled,--literally
cut to pieces; her captain, Peake, was killed, and the lieutenant who
took his place, seeing that he could hold out no longer, surrendered.
Immediately after, the ensign was hoisted union down in the fore-rigging
as a signal of distress, and presently the mainmast fell.

Lieutenant Shubrick was sent on board the prize, and reported that she
had six feet of water already in her hold. No time was to be lost, for
she was sinking fast. The two ships came to anchor, and boats were
hurriedly lowered and sent to rescue the prisoners, and first of all the
wounded. Some of the shot-holes were plugged, the guns were thrown
overboard, and everything was done to lighten the ship, by pumping and
bailing her out, so that she might float until the men could be taken
off. But it was too late; the water was rising higher and higher, and in
a few brief moments the brig went down, carrying with her several of the
crew and three of the American blue-jackets who were trying to save
them. The rest of the "Hornet's" people who were still on board only
saved themselves by jumping to a boat that swung at the stern; and four
of the enemy, who succeeded in climbing up to the foretop, clung there
till they were taken off by the Americans.

The "Hornet" had but two of her crew killed, having lost more men in
saving the enemy than in fighting the battle. Three others were wounded.
The ship's rigging and sails were cut here and there, but her hull had
not a single scar.

The "Peacock," on the other hand, was a sinking wreck; her sides showed
numerous shot-holes, and she had forty casualties among her crew. The
English chroniclers in their descriptions of this as well as other naval
actions lay much stress upon the fact that the "Hornet" was armed with
heavier carronades, carrying thirty-two's where the "Peacock" had only
twenty-four's; but as some one has well said, "the weight of shot that
do not hit is of no great moment." It is clear that in this fight, as in
the others, it was skilful gunnery and firing low that settled the
result. The "Peacock" was a smart and well-kept ship, her decks well
cleaned, her bright-work spotless; in fact, so well known was Captain
Peake for his attention to these small details, that his ship was called
the "yacht of the navy." But polished brass-work and well-scrubbed decks
are not the things that win battles, as poor Captain Peake found in
that bitter quarter of an hour when he met his death and his ship was
riddled till she sank.

The "Hornet" was now crowded with prisoners, and she turned her head
toward home, arriving at Holmes's Hole in Martha's Vineyard some four
weeks after the fight. Lawrence, always generous and true-hearted, kept
a watchful eye to the comfort of his prisoners, treating them not as
enemies, but as unfortunates whom the chance of war had thrown into his
hands. So strongly did they feel the captain's courtesy, that upon their
coming to New York the officers of the captured ship wrote him a letter,
in which were these words: "So much was done to alleviate the
distressing and uncomfortable situation in which we were placed when
received on board the sloop you command, that we cannot better express
our feelings than by saying we ceased to consider ourselves prisoners."
If all officers would follow the good example of Lawrence, how much
might be done to lessen the sufferings of war and soften its ferocity
and bitterness!

In the following spring Lawrence was given a larger ship as a
recognition of his services and merits. This ship was the "Chesapeake,"
which from her earliest history had been unlucky upon nearly every
cruise. She was then refitting at Boston, and her former captain, Evans,
having been sent on sick-leave, Lawrence was ordered to take his place,
and arrived in Boston about the middle of May.

Not only was the ship an unlucky ship, which is always a bad thing among
the simple-minded blue-jackets, but she was at this time in bad
condition. The crew had come home from their last cruise dissatisfied;
and having some dispute about their prize-money, many of them had left
the ship. New hands were being shipped from day to day, but it was
difficult to get good men, and several foreign sailors were taken,--some
English and some Portuguese,--who showed a mutinous disposition. Some of
the officers too had lately left the ship, and others less experienced
had been ordered in their place. In time, no doubt, a captain like
Lawrence would have made his ship's company as good as the "Hornet's"
had been when she destroyed the "Peacock" so quickly and so easily; but
he had orders to go to sea as soon as he could get the chance.

Outside the harbor lay one vessel of the enemy, the frigate "Shannon,"
commanded by Capt. Philip Broke. She was of nearly the same force as the
"Chesapeake," though whatever difference there might be was in favor of
the American. But discipline and training are of far greater moment than
a slight difference in the number either of guns or men, as the sequel
proved; and in these things Broke's ship was far superior. She had been
long at sea, and most of her crew were veteran tars, whom Broke, one of
the ablest of the English captains, had trained and drilled and
practised until they worked like a machine.

Now it must be confessed that it was a little rash in Lawrence, who knew
how far his crew was from being shipshape, and ready to meet an enemy,
to go out thus hurriedly and give battle. But there were his orders,
which he must obey. He did not like to say--who would have liked to say
it in his place?--that his ship was not ready; for Captain Broke had
sent away the other ships that had been with him so that he might
give the "Chesapeake" just such a chance as Lawrence himself had given
the English sloop at San Salvador, and by remaining there alone, Broke
offered him a sort of challenge to come out. In fact Broke wrote a
challenge, as fine and manly a letter as was ever written by a gallant
officer, but it happened that Lawrence sailed before it was delivered.
Besides all this, it was to be expected that Lawrence, after what he had
seen of the "Peacock," and after the victories of Hull and Decatur and
Bainbridge, should somewhat underrate his foe; forgetting that this time
his ship, besides being of lesser force than the other American
frigates, was wanting in that very quality which had insured them their
success,--the discipline and training of the crew.


On Tuesday morning, the 1st of June, while the "Chesapeake" was lying at
anchor off Fort Independence, in Boston harbor, the "Shannon" appeared
outside, evidently waiting to join battle. As soon as the enemy was
seen, Lawrence fired a gun and hoisted his flag; then, after making the
last preparations, when everything was ready, the anchor was hove up,
and with all her studding-sails set, and colors flying at each masthead,
the "Chesapeake" left President's Roads and put out to sea. Along the
shore, upon every hill-top and headland, people had gathered to see the
battle; but both the frigates, their great clouds of canvas filled with
the light southwesterly breeze, made off to the eastward and before long
were lost to view.

About the middle of the afternoon the "Shannon" hove to, to await the
coming of the "Chesapeake." The latter, having already cleared for
action, presently took in her top-gallant sails and royals, and hauled
the courses up, and a little before six o'clock shot up alongside of
the enemy. In an instant the battle has begun in all its fury. Lawrence
if he desires can pass under the "Shannon's" stern and rake her, but he
is confident of success, and scorns his advantage. So he turns, and
pressing close along the enemy's side, receives the fire of each gun as
it is brought to bear. Half the "Shannon's" cannon have been loaded with
kegs of musket-balls, and at the short range these make terrible havoc,
and as mischance will have it, above all among the officers. At the
first fire White the sailing-master is killed, and Lawrence is wounded,
but he does not leave the deck. The guns of the "Chesapeake" reply, but
the raw crew are not equal to such work as is required of them in
opposing Broke's well-trained gunners. Presently the helmsman is shot
down, and the ship, coming up in the wind, loses headway and falls off
with her stern and quarter exposed to a raking fire. The enemy makes the
most of this; broadside after broadside comes pouring in, smashing in
the after-ports of the "Chesapeake," and killing the men at the guns or
driving them away. The slaughter among the officers goes on; the third
lieutenant is killed, then the marine officer and the boatswain. A
moment later and the ships are foul, the "Shannon's" anchor hooking in
the quarter-port of her antagonist. The withering fire of the enemy
continues,--the heavy round shot, followed, now that the ships have
closed, by the rain of grape and musket-balls. Ludlow, the first
lieutenant, the captain's main reliance, is twice wounded and falls; and
last of all the gallant Lawrence himself, who until now has kept his
post, though weak from loss of blood, receives his mortal wound and is
carried below, exclaiming as he leaves the deck, "Don't give up the

It was of no use now,--this last injunction,--for there was none to heed
it. The quarter-deck had been stripped of all its officers except the
midshipmen, who after all were only boys, and three of whom have fallen.
Lawrence, before he is carried off, orders the boarders to be summoned,
but the frightened bugler cannot sound the call. The captain's aides
were sent below to pass the word, but the gun's crews on the main-deck,
in the confusion, fail to understand the order. On the upper deck the
men, uncertain, without a leader, are flinching from their guns. Broke,
from his forecastle, sees that the Americans are weakening, and calls
away the men to board. His boatswain, a veteran of Rodney's fleet,
lashes the ships together, and in an instant twenty of the crew, led by
their captain, have leaped the rail and gained the "Chesapeake's"
quarter-deck. The deck is piled with bodies, but there is no one here to
make resistance. On the forecastle are gathered a fragment of the
frightened crew, and against these the enemy now advances. They are in
no condition to resist: a few struggle to reach the hatchway; others
climb over the bow; the rest throw down their arms and call for quarter.

For a moment there is now a pause, but presently some of the men below
make a rush for the deck, and the fight begins anew. It is a scene of
wild confusion. The enemy is now crowding on board,--officers, marines,
blue-jackets; there seems no end to their numbers. The "Chesapeake's"
topmen, who as yet have taken no part in the struggle, now pick the
boarders off with small arms, but they are soon driven from their
stations. The two remaining lieutenants, Budd and Cox, who have meantime
come up from the deck below, are both wounded. The gallant Ludlow,
striving, mortally wounded as he is, to drag himself up the ladder, is
cut down as he reaches the hatchway. The chaplain, Livermore, seizes a
pistol and fires without effect at Broke, who in return makes one
furious cut with his sword, nearly dividing his assailant's arm. The
"Shannon's" first lieutenant hauls down the flag and bends an English
ensign; but in the hurry he hoists it with the old colors still above,
and the guns' crews, whom he has left on board his ship, suppose from
this that the boarders have been defeated. So they open again, and kill
their own lieutenant and several of his men. Captain Broke, urging his
boarders on, is half stunned by a blow from the musket of a marine, who
clubs with his gun since he cannot fire; and a sailor, following the
marine, cuts down the captain, only to be himself cut down by one of the
enemy. A few minutes of desperate hand-to-hand conflict with pike and
pistol and cutlass, and the Americans on deck are overpowered and yield.
The crew below, not daring to come up, are still making a show of
resistance; but a few shots fired down the hatchway put an end to the
struggle, and the "Chesapeake" is in the hands of the enemy.

In this wonderful action, which from beginning to end lasted only
fifteen minutes, the "Chesapeake," out of twenty officers, lost
seventeen in killed and wounded. Even had this worst of all disasters
not befallen her, she might perhaps have still been captured, for as we
know her crew were not prepared to fight, having had no training. But
had not Lawrence and Ludlow both fallen at the critical moment when the
two ships fouled, it is certain that one or the other of them would have
prolonged the contest, and that the enemy's loss, large as it was,
would have been larger yet. The two ships were carried into Halifax
with their wounded captains still on board, but Lawrence died before he
reached the shore. Captain Broke, whose wounds were not so serious,
recovered, and was made a baronet for his victory, which, as neither
friend nor enemy could deny, had been gallantly and bravely won. Of the
officers engaged on one side or the other in that eventful battle, many
were killed or died of their wounds, and nearly all who survived the
fight have long since been gathered to their fathers; but it is a
strange fact that the highest officer in Her Majesty's Navy to-day, the
senior Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Provo Wallis, was the lieutenant who
took the "Shannon" into Halifax after her bloody victory three quarters
of a century ago.



Of the vessels in commission at the opening of the war, a fine frigate
of the third class was the "Essex," very fast, but poorly armed with
carronades. She had been for some months under the command of Captain
Porter, of whom we have heard in the war with France, and whose life had
already been so full of active service, that though only two-and-thirty
years of age, we think of him as a much older man.

The "Essex" had first got to sea for a war-cruise on the 3d of August,
and soon after, on a hazy night, she came up with a fleet of the enemy's
transports sailing under the convoy of a frigate. Stealing up silently
alongside the rearmost transport, Porter ordered her to draw out of the
convoy on pain of being fired into. This order the transport hastened to
obey; and the convoying ship, fearing that by delay she might lose all
her convoy, went on her way without molesting the captor. The transport
had one hundred and fifty troops on board; and Porter, putting all the
prisoners on their parole, ransomed the prize and left her to make her
own way into port.

A few days later the "Essex," being then disguised as a merchantman,
with her ports closed and her upper masts housed, made a strange sail,
which proved to be the enemy's sloop-of-war "Alert." The English sloop
ran down for her, deceived by the disguise. The "Alert" was not a good
ship for her size, and her size was only half that of her antagonist;
but when she found out what the "Essex" was, she made no effort to
escape. No doubt the English, who were accustomed, in fighting Frenchmen
and Spaniards, to engage a ship of almost any force, thought that the
Americans would be so frightened by an Englishman's attack that they
would strike immediately; for this was before the "Guerrière" had
surrendered to the "Constitution." But they received a needed lesson
from this engagement, for in ten minutes after the firing had begun they
found their ship in a sinking condition, with seven feet of water in her
hold; and after a resistance so feeble that the encounter could hardly
be called a battle, they yielded her a prize. She was the first vessel
of the enemy's navy that was captured in the war.

The "Essex" now ran in to the Delaware, where she remained some time,
making preparations for a more extended cruise. This cruise was a
cherished plan of the captain's own devising, and the scene of it was to
be a hitherto untried field,--the Pacific Ocean. At that day the
Pacific, with its vast stretches of sea-coast, and the innumerable
islands studding its broad surface, was almost unknown, except to the
English and American whalers. The United States had no settled territory
bordering on the great ocean, and our ships-of-war had hardly been seen
at all upon its waters. The "Essex," on her first cruise in 1798, under
Captain Preble, had gone as far as Batavia, by way of the Cape of Good
Hope; and she was now to be the first vessel of the navy to go around
Cape Horn.

What, then, was Captain Porter's object in sailing into this remote and
almost unknown sea? It was this: he knew that the enemy would never
expect to find our cruisers there, and therefore would have sent none of
their own. If, then, he could evade the frigates that were patrolling up
and down the Atlantic from Halifax to Bermuda, and from Bermuda to
Jamaica, and all through the Windward Islands, and on the South American
coast as far as Rio de Janeiro, and if he could once double the Cape and
find his way into the Pacific, he would have before him a field of
operations where he might be almost free from interruption. He would
find there numbers of American whaling-ships, which generally went
unarmed, and which he could protect and succor if they found themselves
in any danger; and he would find also numbers of British whalers which
were fitted out as privateers, carrying from five or six to twenty guns,
to whom the Americans that they might meet would fall an easy prey. To
assist the first and to capture and destroy the second was now Porter's
object. Sooner or later, he thought the enemy's Government would no
doubt hear of his depredations, and send out ships-of-war to capture
him. But in those days of slow communication between distant places it
would take a long time to accomplish this, and meanwhile the bold
American would be able to carry everything before him; and even when the
enemy arrived in force, he was prepared to take his chances either in
flight or in battle as circumstances might require.

The original plan, as I have said already, was for the "Essex" to go to
the Pacific with two other vessels,--the "Constitution" under Commodore
Bainbridge, and the "Hornet" under Captain Lawrence. She was to start
alone from the Delaware when the others sailed from Boston, and the
three ships were to rendezvous near the coast of Brazil. The "Essex"
went first to the Cape de Verde Islands. Proceeding thence to the
westward on his way to the appointed place of meeting, Captain Porter
fell in with an enemy's brig-of-war, the "Nocton." The "Nocton" was a
small ship for the "Essex" to fight, and Porter would not order the guns
to be fired at her, supposing that she would surrender. But she began to
manoeuvre to get into a raking position, thinking that perhaps she might
fire one broadside and then escape in the confusion. So Porter concluded
to make short work of her, and coming close alongside he poured a volley
of musketry upon her decks. This was enough, and the "Nocton"
immediately struck. She was a stanch vessel, and therefore Porter sent
her to the United States in charge of one of his lieutenants. It was a
fortunate capture, for the brig had on board more than fifty thousand
dollars in gold and silver; and as the "Essex" was to be gone on a long
cruise, with no prospect of receiving money from the United States, the
captain needed all that he could get.


The "Essex" now continued on her way to the island of Fernando Noronha,
near the Brazilian coast, where Porter expected to meet Commodore
Bainbridge, or at least to hear something of his movements. It had been
arranged that both the ships should be disguised as Englishmen, in order
that the enemy's squadron might not discover their presence in those
seas. So when the "Essex" arrived off the island she lay to outside, and
Lieutenant Downes went in a boat to the town and told the governor that
she was the ship "Fanny" of London. Captain Johnson, bound for Rio. On
his return Downes reported that the governor had told him that two
British ships-of-war, the "Acasta" of forty-four guns, and the
"Morgiana" of twenty, had departed from the island only the week before,
and that Captain Kerr of the "Acasta" had left a letter for Capt. Sir
James Yeo of the "Southampton," which was to be sent to England by the
first conveyance. As soon as Captain Porter got this message, he knew
that the pretended English ships were not the "Acasta" and "Morgiana" at
all, but the "Constitution" and the "Hornet," and that the letter from
Captain Kerr to Sir James Yeo was really from Commodore Bainbridge to
himself. He therefore sent word to the governor that the "captain of the
'Fanny'" knew Sir James Yeo, and would willingly take him the letter if
the governor would send it to him; which the governor immediately
proceeded to do. Here is the letter:--

     MY DEAR MEDITERRANEAN FRIEND,--Probably you may stop here.
     Don't attempt to water; it is attended with too many
     difficulties. I learned before I left _England_ that you were
     bound to Brazil coast. If so, perhaps we shall meet at San
     Salvador or at Rio Janeiro. I should be happy to meet and
     converse on our old affairs of captivity. Recollect our secret
     in these times.

    Your friend of H.M. Ship "Acasta,"

    SIR JAMES YEO, of H.B.M. Ship "Southampton."

This was apparently all the letter, and it would not have given Sir
James much information about the Americans if he had received it, though
its mysterious phrases would have puzzled him not a little. But on
holding the letter before the fire these words could be read between the

     "I am bound off San Salvador, thence off Cape Frio, where I
     intend to cruise until the 1st of January. Go off Cape Frio, to
     the northward of Rio, and keep a lookout for me."

As soon as he read this, Captain Porter made sail at once for Cape Frio.
He remained cruising about here for two or three weeks, waiting for the
"Constitution," and occasionally going in chase of a strange sail. Once
he succeeded in making a capture of an English schooner, which he sent
in as a prize in charge of one of his midshipmen. He could get no
information that was to be relied on, but was all the while disturbed by
vague rumors of something going on among the English and American ships
in the neighborhood. At last, upon putting in at St. Catherine's, he
heard that an American sloop-of-war had been brought into Rio by the
"Montagu" ship-of-the-line, and that an American frigate had sunk an
English frigate. He concluded then that the captured sloop must be the
"Hornet," and the victorious frigate the "Constitution," and that there
was not much reason for his delaying longer in those parts. As it turned
out, the rumor about the frigate was true, for, as we have already seen,
the "Constitution" had captured and sunk the "Java;" but the other story
was false, for instead of being captured, the "Hornet" had gone off to
the coast of Guiana, where she succeeded in sinking the "Peacock," after
which she had followed the "Constitution" home. "At any rate," thought
Porter, "the cruise in the Pacific can be made just as well without the
help of the other ships, and they do not seem to be anywhere hereabout,
so I may as well go on without them."

This determined, the "Essex" laid in a stock of fresh provisions, and
made her final preparations for the passage around the Cape. The
captain expected to be gone for a long time, and in fact it was nearly
two years before he finally returned. During the whole period, he was to
be cruising in those distant seas, with no word of direction or
encouragement from home, and with the whole care and responsibility of
his ship's company resting upon him alone. But he was a man of such iron
nerve and self-reliance and strength of purpose, that there was little
danger that his spirits and his energy would ever flag. It was to him
that all on board the ship were to look for support and guidance, and as
they soon found out, they could have had no better man for their
commander. For Captain Porter was a bold and hardy seaman, who knew his
business well, and who feared neither the elements nor the enemy; and
though he believed in strict obedience, and insisted upon having it, he
believed too in lightening as far as in him lay the burdens of his men.
He despised the cat-o'-nine-tails, which in those rough times was always
used to flog the sailors on board our ships-of-war, and never would
inflict this punishment when he could bring about his object by other
means. Two hours in every afternoon, from four o'clock till six, when
there was no serious work on hand, he allowed the blue-jackets to
skylark as they liked, and at these times they could throw off the
restraints of discipline and frolic to their hearts' content. The
captain was always careful too about the men's health, and their
sleeping-places, and all the little matters about their daily life which
added to their comfort and their strength. So that the men in turn
forgot their hardships, and were his devoted followers in storm and
battle, only waiting for his word to do their duty in any way that it
might please him to ask it of them.

After a stormy passage round Cape Horn the "Essex," about the middle of
March, 1813, appeared off the port of Valparaiso. At this time our
relations with Spain were not over-friendly, and Captain Porter did not
expect a very cordial reception. He learned, however, that Chili had
shaken off the Spanish authority not long before, and being a young and
small American republic, she was only too glad to welcome a ship from
the oldest and most powerful of the free States of the Western
Continent. Instead of indifferent or nearly hostile Spaniards, the
"Essex" found in the Chilian inhabitants only devoted friends. The ship
fired a salute in honor of the town, and the captain visited the Chilian
governor, and received his visit in return. All was hospitality and
cordial good-feeling, and stores and provisions were supplied in

The Government of Chili could thus be relied on as at least a neutral in
the war. It was far otherwise with Peru, which was still a Spanish
province. On the day before Captain Porter left Valparaiso, an American
whaler had come in with the report that several English whaling
privateers were off the Peruvian coast, and that the news of the
declaration of war had just reached them. The "Essex," though she had
only been in port a week, lost no time in putting out to sea, to reach
the enemy's cruising-ground. Soon Porter fell in with another American,
the "Charles," whose captain told him that the Englishmen were not the
only enemies to be found there, for a Spanish privateer out of Callao,
the principal port of Peru, had recently chased the "Charles" and had
captured two of her companions, the "Walker" and the "Barclay." Here was
a fine state of affairs! It was well that the "Essex" was on the spot,
and she had arrived only just in time, for it was evident that between
open enemies and piratical neutrals the unarmed Americans would have
little hope of safety.

The "Essex," keeping the "Charles" in company,--for the whaler was only
too glad to stay under the wing of her new and powerful protector,--now
crowded all sail for the Peruvian coast. After a few hours she sighted a
vessel in the distance which had the appearance of a ship-of-war
disguised as a whaler, and which hoisted the Spanish flag. The American
frigate, as a ruse, showed English colors, and fired a gun to leeward,
which is the signal all the world over that a ship comes on a peaceful
errand. At the same time the "Charles" sent up a union-Jack over her
American flag, which meant that she was an American whom the pretended
Englishman had made a prize. The stratagems were successful, and the
stranger, which was a Peruvian privateer, the "Nereyda," was completely
deceived, thinking that the "Essex" was one of the English whalers, and
she fired a shot across the latter's bow. This was an insult; but
Captain Porter wisely thought he could put up with it, as it was an
insult to the English colors. In a short time a boat came from the
"Nereyda" bringing her lieutenant, who, little thinking to whom he was
talking, told the captain that he was cruising after American vessels,
and had captured the "Walker" and "Barclay," whose crews were then
prisoners on board the "Nereyda;" but that the "Nimrod," an English
privateer, had taken possession of the ships.

"You know," he added, "that the Spaniards are faithful allies of the
British, and that we always respect your flag; and we are now
endeavoring to clear the seas of these Americans."

When the lieutenant had finished his communication, and told Captain
Porter all there was to tell, great was his surprise at seeing the
British ensign lowered, and the stars and stripes going up to the peak
of the "Essex." He was still more astonished when she fired two shots
point blank at the "Nereyda," and the latter immediately hauled down her
flag. He realized, too late, that he had been entrapped, and that he had
revealed his perfidious acts to the very man from whom he most desired
to conceal them.

As there was no war with Spain, the "Nereyda" could not well be made a
prize, for the captain knew that two wrongs do not make a right, and
that, treacherous as had been her conduct, he could not stoop to
retaliate. He released the twenty-three Americans that were confined in
her hold, threw overboard her guns and light sails, and sent her back to
the Viceroy of Peru, with a letter that was courteous and dignified, but
whose language could not be misunderstood. His spirited action had the
desired effect, and taught the Spaniards such a good lesson that the
American whalers were never afterward molested by Peruvian corsairs.

The "Charles" now sailed to Coquimbo, and soon after the "Barclay" was
recaptured. The "Walker," however, and her captor the "Nimrod," which
Porter most desired to find, had by this time disappeared. Taking the
"Barclay" along, the "Essex" made for the Galapagos,--a group of
uninhabited islands much used by the whaling-ships as a refuge and
rendezvous. Good anchorage was to be found here, and whales abounded in
the neighborhood; but the principal product of the islands was the
land-turtle. There were great numbers of these of large size, some of
them as much as five feet across, and they would live for months in the
ship's hold without food or water. They made delicious food, and the
sailors found them an agreeable change from salt pork and hard-tack; so
that every ship calling at the islands took great quantities of them on


Some years before, an Irishman named Patrick Watkins had deserted from a
whale-ship, and had settled on one of the islands at a place which came
to be known as Pat's Landing. Here he had built himself a little cabin
and planted a potato-patch, and he would sell potatoes and pumpkins to
the whaling-crews for rum, to the use of which he was much addicted. He
led a wretched life, becoming like a savage in appearance, his hair and
beard matted, and his clothes in rags. He spent his time in wandering
about the island, doing enough work to keep his garden-patch in order,
but as soon as he had laid in a supply of liquor, keeping himself drunk
until it was exhausted. He was a half-crazy creature, and once he
frightened a negro boat-keeper into leaving the boat and going off with
him as his slave. For this he was severely punished by the captain to
whom the boat belonged, and ever after he sought to wreak vengeance upon
the whalers. At last by some means or other he got a boat and sailed
away to the mainland, where he was locked up by the authorities.

All this happened shortly before the arrival of the "Essex," so that the
islands were now deserted. But on one of them was found a rough sort of
post-office, made of a box nailed to a tree, in which the whalers
touching at the island left letters containing news of their movements.
From these it was learned that six whalers had put in here some time
before with two thousand and five hundred barrels of oil. One of the
letters was from the master of the American ship "Sukey," and read as

     Ship Sukey. John Macy. 7-1/2 Months out, 150 barrels, 75 days
     from Lima. No oil Since Leaving that Port. Spaniards Very
     Savage Lost on the Braziel Bank John Sealin Apprentice to Capt.
     Benjamin Worth fell from the fore topsaill Yard In A Gale of
     wind Left Diana Capt. paddock 14 day since, 250 Barrels I Leave
     this port this Day with 250 Turpen 8 Boat Load Wood Yesterday
     Went Up to Patts Landing East Side to the Starboard hand of the
     Landing 1-1/2 miles Saw 100 Turpen 20 Rods A part Road Very

    Yours Forever
      JOHN MACY.

This was a fair sample of the letters left at the Galapagos post-office.
Captain Porter remained a fortnight among the islands, searching every
hole and corner to find the whalers, and in the intervals exploring the
land, and making sailing directions of the coast, while the men spent
the time when they were not busy with their duties, in catching turtles
and in killing iguanas,--the big lizards that swarmed on the islands,
which though not very pleasant to look at, were excellent to eat. Jack
always likes a frolic on shore when he is not too much hampered by the
restraints of civilization; and the sailors of the "Essex" took great
pleasure in their sports, although the heavy turtles had to be dragged
over the rocky slopes a long distance to bring them to the ship. There
was plenty of fishing, too, for those that stayed on board the ship, and
flocks of penguins and pelicans and other strange birds lined the shore.
Altogether it was a pleasant break, this stay at the Galapagos, and the
ship revisited the spot several times, making it a sort of headquarters
for the next six months.

But all this was not war, and the men began to remember that it was not
prize-money; so when, after a fortnight of it, on the morning of the
29th of April, the cry of "Sail ho!" was heard, every one was glad, and
all the crew rushed eagerly on deck. A large sail was seen to the
westward, and the "Essex" started in pursuit. Soon two more sail were
discovered farther off. They were evidently whalers. If they should only
prove to be enemies! The crew went to work with willing hands, and
bearing down under British colors, by nine o'clock the "Essex" had
overtaken the nearest of the strange ships, the British whaler
"Montezuma." The master came on board and was shown into the cabin,
where he spent an hour in giving his supposed countryman such
information as would help him to capture the Americans. While this
interview was going on, his people were taken on board the frigate as
prisoners, and a prize crew was thrown into the whaler; and when the
master came on deck he was overcome with surprise at finding himself in
the hands of an enemy.


The "Essex" lost no time here, but moved on to reach the other vessels.
Soon the wind fell, and it became a dead calm, while they were still
eight miles away. The boats were then got out, and the men pulled away
for the whalers, under the command of Lieutenant Downes, the first
lieutenant of the "Essex." After a hard row for nearly two hours they
approached the largest of the strangers, which flew the English flag,
and which opened fire upon them. Nothing daunted, Lieutenant Downes kept
steadily on and prepared to board. As he ran up alongside he hailed the
ship and demanded a surrender. "We surrender," was the reply, and down
came the flag.

No sooner had Downes taken possession than the second ship hauled down
her colors without waiting for an attack. The prisoners were quickly
secured, crews were placed on board the whalers, and soon after the
frigate was rejoined by her men, bringing with them the new prizes,--the
"Georgiana" and the "Policy." It was a good day's work, for the three
ships, together with their cargoes of oil, were valued at half a
million. The "Georgiana," a fast, fine vessel, was made a tender, and
the command of her was given to Lieutenant Downes, the other ships being
placed in the charge of the older midshipmen.

The "Essex" now returned to the Galapagos. Here it was found that
vessels had visited the island during her absence, and the "Georgiana"
was sent out under Lieutenant Downes to look for them. The other prizes
were refitted, and after a stay of several days the commodore, as we
may call him now that he had a squadron to command, got under way again
with all his consorts, leaving instructions for Lieutenant Downes in a
bottle, which according to a previous agreement was buried at the foot
of the tree that marked the post-office. After a week's cruising, in
which all the vessels were spread out so as to cover as much ground as
possible, one of them sighted a strange sail, and the "Essex" started in
chase. In a short time it fell calm, and the boats were got out, with
the intention of coming near enough to the stranger to keep her in sight
all night, but not to attack her unless it could be done by surprise.
Soon after the boats got away, however, a breeze sprang up and the
"Essex" again took up the pursuit. The enemy, who carried the British
flag, waited for her to come up, supposing that she was British too; and
he was not undeceived until Porter had got alongside and made him a
prize. The new capture was the whaler "Atlantic," carrying six
18-pounders, and like the others engaged both in privateering and in
whaling. She was very fast, and with her little battery of heavy guns
made a valuable addition to the squadron.

No sooner was the capture of the "Atlantic" completed, than another
whaler was reported in sight, and she too was quickly overhauled and
taken. She was called the "Greenwich," and like the "Atlantic" was a
good sailer. On board the two ships were great quantities of supplies of
all kinds, including water and provisions and naval stores, of which the
"Essex" stood much in need; especially of water, which is so scarce in
the Galapagos that it is sometimes taken from the stomachs of the
turtles,--the only sure place to find it.

The captain now proceeded with his prizes toward the coast of South
America, stopping on the way at the island of La Plata, where he left
instructions for the "Georgiana" in case she should visit it. The letter
was put in a bottle which was hung upon a tree, and the letters "S.X."
were painted on a rock to attract attention. Lieutenant Downes would
know that this meant "Essex," but no one else would suspect it. Soon
afterward a Spanish brig from Panama was spoken, whose captain took the
squadron for an English convoy and gave a full account of the affair
with the "Nereyda;" only he said that the "Nereyda" had attacked the
American frigate and shot away her mainmast, but having suffered much in
the action she thought it best to make her escape by running away, which
she accomplished by throwing overboard her guns,--all which, as we know,
was very different from what had actually happened.

On the 19th the squadron arrived at Tumbez, on the South American coast,
where it remained several days. The Governor of Tumbez, a ragged old
gentleman, who would be of assistance--so Commodore Porter thought--in
selling the prizes, came to the "Essex" by invitation, and was received
with full military honors.

After staying a week at Tumbez the commodore began to be anxious about
the fate of the "Georgiana," which had parted from him at the Galapagos
four weeks before, and of which nothing had since been heard. At last,
on the morning of the 24th of June three vessels were seen coming into
the harbor, one of which was the missing tender. The others were English
whalers--the "Hector" of eleven, and the "Catherine" of eight
guns--which the "Georgiana" had captured. A third prize, the "Rose" of
eight guns, had also been seized by the tender, but she was a dull
sailer, and rather than be impeded by her slow movements Lieutenant
Downes had sent her to England with all the paroled prisoners, after
throwing overboard her guns and cargo.

Commodore Porter now had with him a fleet of nine excellent vessels,
several of which were well armed, and all of which had been supplied by
the enemy. The best of the prizes in every way was the "Atlantic," and
she was fitted out as a new tender in place of the "Georgiana," mounted
with twenty guns, and christened the "Essex Junior." Lieutenant Downes
was transferred to her, and the chaplain was placed in command of the
"Georgiana," which would seem to be a very strange arrangement; but the
chaplains in those days were employed to teach navigation to the younger
officers as well as to administer spiritual advice, so that there was
much that they would know about the management of a ship. Besides, the
supply of regular officers was now almost at an end, even the youngest
midshipmen being placed in charge of prizes.

A plan of action for the remainder of the cruise was now drawn up by the
commodore. The "Essex Junior" was to go to Valparaiso with the
"Montezuma." "Policy," "Hector," and "Catherine," which were to be laid
up or sold or sent to the United States; though there was small chance
that any of them would reach port in safety, while British cruisers
swarmed in the Atlantic Ocean. The "Barclay," the recaptured American
whaler, was to accompany the others to Valparaiso, there to remain and
await further developments. The "Greenwich" was converted into a
store-ship, and all the spare supplies and provisions were put on board
of her. She now carried twenty guns, and with her and the "Georgiana" as
tenders to the "Essex," Commodore Porter proposed to continue his cruise
against the whalers that were still at large in the neighborhood of the
Galapagos Islands. Here the "Essex Junior" was to rejoin him.

This plan was exactly carried out. Early in July the two squadrons
parted company, Lieutenant Downes proceeding to Valparaiso, and the
commodore making his way once more to the Galapagos. The sailors were
rejoiced to return to their rambles on shore and their dinners of
turtle; but they were still more pleased with the prospect of making new
prizes in the neighborhood where they had already been so fortunate.
They did not have long to wait. Hardly had they dropped anchor in the
familiar roadstead, when three sail were reported in sight, and all were
soon under way in pursuit. The "Essex" headed for the ship that seemed
midway between the others, which last made off in opposite directions.
The centre vessel ran off before the wind, and for a while the "Essex"
had a hot chase; but in the end she came up with the stranger, the
English whaler "Charlton," of ten guns. The "Greenwich" made for the
second vessel, which opened fire, but after receiving one or two
well-directed broadsides she hauled down her flag. She was called the
"Seringapatam," and was the finest ship of the Pacific whaling-fleet,
having been built for a ship-of-war. She carried fourteen guns, and did
not trouble herself much about catching whales when it was so much more
profitable to catch the American whalers, one of which she had already
made a prize. The last of the three strangers, the "New Zealander" of
eight guns, was soon after overtaken and captured by the "Essex."

The "Charlton" was now sent to Rio with the prisoners, and the
"Georgiana" was despatched with orders to proceed to the United States;
but she was captured by the enemy on the way home. If the United States
had at this time had a port on the Pacific, all the prizes might have
been easily disposed of. As it was, they were compelled to run the
gantlet of British squadrons in the Atlantic, where they were almost
sure to be retaken.

For two months the "Essex," now accompanied by the "Greenwich," the
"Seringapatam," and the "New Zealander," cruised about among the
islands. There was now only one British whaler left to capture,--the
"Sir Andrew Hammond," commanded by another Captain Porter. At last, one
morning toward the latter part of July she was discovered some distance
off; but the "Essex," unfortunately getting into a dangerous situation
among the rocks and currents, was delayed in following her, and soon she
was lost to view. The next day she was seen again and pursued, but when
the frigate had come within four miles of her it fell calm. The boats of
the "Hammond" were hoisted out, to tow her out of reach. The "Essex"
then called away her boats,--not to tow, but to pull for the whaler and
board her. The commodore was sure that if they could only reach the
enemy they would succeed in taking her. But this time his hopes were
vain. The boats had covered more than half the distance, and were
nearing their object, when suddenly a breeze sprang up, filling the
"Hammond's" sails, and she lost no time in making off. The "Essex" lay
immovable, for she was still becalmed and did not get a breeze until
after sunset. So the Englishman was again lost in the darkness, and next
day no sign of him was to be seen.

Six weeks were now spent at the Islands, during which the "Essex" was
repainted, and her whole appearance so completely changed that her own
officers could hardly recognize her. At the end of this time she started
off alone, hoping to fall in with the "Hammond," which was almost sure
to be somewhere in the neighborhood. The commodore's search was soon
rewarded, for he had been out but a few days, when one morning at
daylight he discovered her some distance to windward, to all appearance
lying to, but really fastened to a whale, which she was in the act of
taking. The disguise of the "Essex" now served her in good stead, for if
she frightened away the enemy there would be little chance of making a
capture. The commodore had learned from the "New Zealander" that a
private signal had been agreed upon between her and the "Hammond;" and
he now came up in a lazy and careless fashion, under British colors, and
showing the private signal. He proceeded on in this way for some hours,
and had got within three or four miles, when suddenly the "Hammond,"
suspecting a stratagem, took alarm, and casting off the whale, made sail
to escape. But she had waited too long. In a few minutes the "Essex" was
within gunshot, and after firing half a dozen rounds the Englishman
struck his colors.

The last of the British whalers in the Pacific had now been captured,
and Commodore Porter could feel that his year's work had accomplished
substantial results. The Americans were safe from attack, for there were
none of the enemy left to attack them. The commodore could now carry
out his plan of retiring for a while with his fleet to some obscure
harbor in the South Seas, where he could refit at leisure, and where his
men could rest from the fatigues of their long voyage. Soon after the
"Essex Junior" came in, with the news that she had taken the prizes
safely to Valparaiso and laid them up, and that the cruise of the
"Essex" had caused so great a commotion in England that three
ships-of-war had been sent out specially to seize her. These had already
arrived at Rio, and before many weeks would make their appearance in the

But the Pacific Ocean is broad, and the Southern Seas are dotted with
innumerable islands, unfrequented at that time by civilized man, with
deep and safe anchorages in their land-locked bays, where ships might
remain for years lost to the world outside. Among all the South Sea
Islands none seemed to offer the needed advantages more than the
beautiful Marquesas, a group inhabited only by native tribes who lived
in primitive simplicity, uncorrupted by the influences of European
civilization. Thither the commodore now shaped his course in the
frigate, taking with him his tenders, the "Essex Junior" and the
"Greenwich," as well as his four latest prizes.

It was about the middle of October when the squadron came to anchor off
the island of Nookaheevah, in the Marquesas group, and here it remained
for two months, during which the "Essex" was thoroughly repaired. The
natives of this part of the island became very friendly, as soon as they
had recovered from their first suspicions. They were like children, and
showed great delight at receiving the simple presents that were given
them,--knives, or fish-hooks, or even pieces of iron hoops or glass
bottles; while a whale's tooth, which the islanders valued above all
other possessions, would purchase, almost anything they had. The king of
the tribe, Gattanewa, an old man of seventy, tattooed from head to foot,
came on board the "Essex" and vowed eternal friendship with the
Americans, ratifying the bond by exchanging names with the
commodore,--"Tavee" or "Opotee," as he was called, which was the nearest
approach that the Nookaheevans could make to David Porter.

The island of Nookaheevah was eighteen miles long and crossed by ranges
of mountains between which lay beautiful and fertile valleys filled with
streams and waterfalls, and little villages, and forests of sandal-wood,
and groves of cocoanut-palm and bread-fruit and banana. In that tropical
climate,--for the place lies near the equator,--where Nature gives with
a liberal hand all that man can ask for, amid the luxuriance of forest
growth, of tree and fruit and grass and flower, with its simple-minded
and childlike people, the sailors of the "Essex" were now to pass two
months of rest and refreshment. It was like the fabled land of the
Lotus-eaters,--a land

    "In which it seemed always afternoon.
    All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
    Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
    Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
    And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
    Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "The charmèd sunset lingered low adown
    In the red west: through mountain clefts the dale
    Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
    Bordered with palm, and many a winding vale
    And meadow."

No sooner had the captain established friendly relations with the
natives, than he saw how great the danger was that his men, intoxicated
by the delights of this enchanted land, would forget their duties, and
like Sir Amyas Leigh's companions sink into the captivating indolence of
the life around them. He wished that they should have relaxation, but he
was not a man who would suffer discipline to grow slack. It was
therefore not without satisfaction that he learned that his sailors
might have some hard work; for the Happahs--the native tribe dwelling in
the next valley--were at war with his friends, and unless he took part
in the conflict he would soon lose their respect and with it their
friendship. So he joined forces with them and landed his men, and after
mounting a six-pounder, which his allies transported for him, on the
intervening range of hills, he drove the Happahs from their fort and
compelled them to ask for peace.

In the valley beyond the Happahs dwelt the Typees, a warlike tribe whom
all the other natives of the island held in great awe because of their
martial prowess. Hearing of "Opotee's" arrival, and of the subjugation
of their neighbors the Happahs, the Typees now declared war against him,
sending him defiant messages and declaring that he dared not fight them.
This challenge the commodore suffered to pass unnoticed, as he did not
wish to run any serious risks where no great object was to be gained.
But he soon discovered that his inaction was having a bad effect upon
the others, who began to think the Americans as much afraid of the
Typees as they were themselves. So he resolved to attack the warlike

After his experience with the Happahs the commodore somewhat underrated
his new enemies, and on his expedition against the Typees he took with
him only Lieutenant Downes and about thirty men. The native allies
appeared in great force, but they were not over-zealous when it came to
fighting, their purpose being to witness the combat and take sides with
the party that might win. The attacking force proceeded in boats and
canoes to the landing at the end of the Typee valley. After he had
disembarked and made a reconnoissance, Porter found that he would have
to march with his handful of men to the enemy's stronghold through an
almost impenetrable jungle, which was filled with hundreds of hostile
savages, armed with clubs and slings which they used with no little
skill. But it was impossible to go back now; and the Americans,
advancing with great difficulty, fought their way slowly through the
forest. Early in the day Lieutenant Downes was wounded, having his leg
broken by a stone. Sometime after this mishap the Americans reached a
river which they forded, the enemy retreating as the sailors charged
gallantly up the opposite bank. Here their progress was checked by a
strong fort, and they could not storm it, for the ammunition was nearly
exhausted. The situation was very serious, or would have been so had the
Typees shown more boldness. But they were afraid of the "bouhis," as the
muskets were called, and did not venture to attack; so that the
Americans were able by great care and coolness to extricate themselves
from their dangerous position and retreat through the woods to the

It was now evident that the Typees must be subdued at any cost. A few
days later Porter, taking with him two hundred men, marched over the
mountains and attacked the natives in their forts. These were captured
one by one, and the men then proceeded up the valley, burning the native
villages. It seemed a pity to do this, but it was the only way in which
the savages could be really reduced; and from that time forward the
Typees and the Americans were fast friends.

At length the time came for the "Essex" to depart from the island. The
sailors were not happy at the prospect of leaving so pleasant a refuge,
and there was some disposition to murmur, as might have been expected.
But the captain sternly checked all insubordination, and on the 9th of
December the "Essex" and the "Essex Junior," repaired, and well supplied
with provisions and stores, sailed away for Valparaiso. The "New
Zealander" sailed soon after on her way to the United States, and the
"Greenwich," with the "Hammond" and "Seringapatam," was left in the
harbor in charge of Lieutenant Gamble of the marines, who was ordered to
start for home in five months unless the "Essex" returned before that
time. The "Essex" did not return, however, and Lieutenant Gamble found
his position full of difficulty. The few men who were left behind became
demoralized, and in May a party of the sailors, among them several who
had deserted from the prizes, mutinied, and seizing the "Seringapatam,"
made their escape from the island. The natives now became hostile, and
Gamble, after losing some more men through treachery, set fire to the
"Greenwich" and left the Marquesas in the "Hammond." He took with him
all that remained of the force,--a midshipman, three marines, and three
seamen. On her way to the Sandwich Islands the "Hammond" was captured by
the enemy's sloop "Cherub;" and Gamble and his midshipman, with their
feeble crew of half a dozen men, were made prisoners.

Meanwhile the "Essex," with her consort the "Essex Junior," made her way
safely to Valparaiso, arriving there early in February. Four days later
the English frigate "Phoebe" appeared off the harbor accompanied by the
sloop-of-war "Cherub," which had been sent out to capture the "Essex."
The two ships were much more than a match for Commodore Porter's force,
for the "Essex Junior" carried such light guns that she was of no use at
all, and the "Phoebe" alone was about as large as the American frigate.
Besides, the "Phoebe" was armed with long guns, while the "Essex" had
mostly carronades; so that if Captain Hillyar, the English commander,
could choose his distance, he would have the "Essex" at his mercy; for,
as we must remember, the long guns carried much farther than the
carronades, and if the ships were far apart would hit their mark at
every shot, while all the projectiles from the small guns would fall


The English ships lay in or about the harbor for several weeks, and
during this time Commodore Porter made repeated efforts to draw the
"Phoebe" into action alone. The sailors in the "Essex," when the enemy
was near them in the harbor, would amuse themselves by singing songs
about the victories over the English frigates, which were set to the
tune of Yankee Doodle; and the English crews retaliated in like manner
by songs whose object was to banter the Americans. Commodore Porter and
Captain Hillyar were old acquaintances, having been together in the
Mediterranean, and they often met on shore and conversed about their
situation as amicably as if they were great friends instead of being
mortal enemies. On one occasion Porter, speaking of his prizes which
were laid up in the port, said,--

"They are in my way, captain, and I mean to take them outside and burn
them at the first opportunity."

"I dare you to do it," rejoined Captain Hillyar, "while I am in sight."

"We shall see," said Porter.

So choosing a day when the "Phoebe" and "Cherub" were at some distance
outside the harbor, the "Essex" towed the "Hector" out and set fire to
her. The English ships tried their best to head the "Essex" off from the
harbor, but without success, and by evening she was lying safe and sound
at her old anchorage.

Commodore Porter now decided on a judicious plan of action. He had found
by trial that the "Essex" outsailed the "Phoebe," and he proposed to put
to sea with both his ships, the two taking different directions; by
which means either the enemy's ships would be separated, or if they both
followed the "Essex," the "Essex Junior" would escape. Besides, as the
"Cherub" was a dull sailer, the "Phoebe" in attempting to overtake the
"Essex" would be drawn away from her consort, and so might be engaged
alone. At any rate, it was necessary to seize the first opportunity to
escape, for other frigates of the enemy were shortly expected on the

An accident, and a most unlucky one for the "Essex," finally brought
about the battle. On the 28th of March the wind was blowing fresh,
and the "Essex" parted her cable, and dragging the other anchor drifted
out. Sail was made, but at the moment when she was rounding the point a
squall struck her and carried away her main-topmast. The "Phoebe" and
"Cherub" were close upon her, and finding that she could not regain the
harbor, she ran over to a bay on the western side, where she anchored
half a mile from the shore. This was in neutral waters, just as much so
as in the harbor, and as Captain Hillyar had given assurances that he
would respect the Chilian neutrality, the American commander felt that
he could repair his injuries in security.

[Illustration: "A squall struck her and carried away her main-topmast."]

It is much to the discredit of Captain Hillyar that he did not keep his
word. When he found the "Essex" thus placed at a disadvantage, he took a
position under her stern, where no guns could be brought to bear on him,
and opened an attack. The "Cherub" joined him, and the two ships
together raked the "Essex" almost unopposed, inflicting heavy losses,
until Porter managed to get three long guns out of his stern-ports.
These he worked as well as he could for half an hour, after which the
enemy's vessels hauled off to make repairs, although their damages were
in no degree serious.

The "Essex" was now in a very bad way. Many of her men had been killed
or wounded, and her rigging was so much cut that she could carry hardly
any of her sails. The enemy had suffered no loss worth speaking of.
Commodore Porter nevertheless determined to take the offensive. It was a
desperate measure, but the only one that seemed to promise any hope.
Setting his flying-jib--the only sail he could use--and cutting his
cable, he stood down for the enemy. He could not manoeuvre much, but
for a little while he was near enough to use his broadside of carronades
with some effect. But it was only for a little while. The English were
fighting a safe battle, and meant to use the safest tactics, which of
course it was perfectly right that they should do; and in a little while
both ships had withdrawn out of range of the carronades, and the
"Phoebe's" long 18-pounders were once more covering the decks of the
"Essex" with the bodies of her unlucky men.

Still the "Essex" would not give up. She had been on fire in several
places, but the flames were extinguished. Her carronades were many of
them disabled,--as always happened with carronades,--and as the guns'
crews fell, others took the places of the killed. The cockpit was filled
with wounded, so that there was no room for more. The slaughter on board
was fearful, for in the smooth water every shot from the enemy told with
deadly effect; and at length the captain resolved to run the ship
ashore, as the wind was blowing that way, and land the remainder of his
men and then destroy the frigate. So he made for the land. But just as
he had nearly reached the point where he must touch, the wind shifted
and drove him out again.

At this juncture the "Phoebe," being somewhat injured aloft, began to
drift to leeward, and Porter, in the hope that she might drift out of
range, bent a hawser to the sheet-anchor to hold on where he was. This
would have enabled him to gain a little time; but the hawser parted, and
with it went the last chance for the "Essex." The boats had been
destroyed, but Porter told the men that such as wished might swim for
the shore. Most of the crew preferred to remain by the ship, although
they knew her hours were numbered. The flames were now coming up from
all the hatchways, the hull was riddled, the enemy was still keeping up
a raking fire, and the men were falling at every shot. At last, finding
all the chances against him, the commodore yielded to fate and gave the
order to haul down the flag. Never had the honor of that flag been more
gallantly sustained.

Out of two hundred and twenty-five men on board the "Essex," one hundred
and fifty-five were killed, wounded, or missing. Captain Hillyar, upon
receiving Porter's surrender, entered into an agreement by which the
"Essex Junior" was to be converted into a cartel-ship, and so be exempt
from capture. In her the captain and the remnant of his crew took
passage for the United States, where they at length arrived after nearly
two years of absence. Thus ended the eventful cruise of the "Essex."



Returning now, we take up the story of a young officer who, although he
had passed fifteen years in the service, had never been so fortunate as
to take part in any of its more striking operations, but who was now to
leap at one bound to a height of glory and renown unsurpassed by any of
his comrades in the navy. This was Oliver Hazard Perry. He had entered
the service in 1798, during the hostilities with France, when he joined
his father's ship as a midshipman at the age of thirteen. He had served
in the Tripolitan war in the squadron of Commodore Morris, and later
with Commodore Rodgers; but during Preble's command, when all the great
achievements of the war had been performed, it was his ill luck to be at
home, and he was thus almost the only one of the victorious commanders
of the War of 1812 that had not received his training in the squadron of
the great commodore.

Perry was now twenty-seven years old, and a master-commandant,--that is,
he was higher than a lieutenant, but lower than a captain. When the war
was expected, he went to Washington and begged that he might be ordered
into active service against the enemy and given a post suitable to his
rank. His request could not at once be granted, and meantime he was
placed in command of a gunboat flotilla at Newport. For nine months he
carried on his duties here with energy and zeal, but all the time
chafing and fretting that he should be concerned with such trivialities
while others were winning distinction in great enterprises and fighting
battles with the enemy's ships-of-war.


During this year the northern lakes, and especially Erie and Ontario,
were the scene of great preparations for combat, as might be expected
upon waters which washed the frontier of two hostile countries. Upon
their shores on either side were opposing armies, and the movements of
the troops depended upon which side gained control upon the lakes.
During the winter of 1812-13 the work of building and equipping ships
was going briskly forward on Lake Ontario, where Commodore Isaac
Chauncey was in command. But little had as yet been done upon Lake Erie,
where the enemy had a considerable force of vessels, which gave him
almost undisputed mastery on the water.

At this stage of affairs it occurred to Perry to write to Commodore
Chauncey and offer him his services, at the same time renewing his
entreaties to the Department by letters and through friends. The
commodore was just now looking for an officer who could take charge of
matters on the western lake, of which he still desired to retain
command, and knowing Perry well, and knowing too his worth, he gladly
consented to his coming for this service. Accordingly on the 18th of
February, 1813, Perry received his orders to proceed to Sackett's Harbor
with the best men of his flotilla. So eager was he to be off, and so
quick to carry out the order, that on that very day, before nightfall,
he had started his first detachment of fifty seamen under one of his
lieutenants. Five days later one hundred more had been despatched, and
Perry had set out for his new command.

It was a severe journey at that inclement season, bitterly cold, and the
way from Albany over the frozen roads led through a thinly settled
country still covered by its virgin forests. Perry had with him his
little brother Alexander,--a boy twelve years old, whom he was taking to
be a midshipman on board his ship. After eleven days of travelling the
two brothers reached their destination, and reported on board the
flagship "Madison," which was lying at Sackett's Harbor. Here they were
delayed a week; but at last they set out for Lake Erie, where they
arrived about the middle of March.

For the next six months Perry was busily occupied in preparing his
squadron,--indeed, one might say in building it, for the principal
vessels were only just begun. These were two good-sized brigs, each
designed to carry twenty guns, but at this time their keels only had
been laid. The station of the proposed squadron was at the town of Erie,
where there were also building three schooners, now about half finished.
So far the work had gone on but slowly; but the young commander by his
zeal infused new zeal into those around him, and by his energy and
wisdom overcame all obstacles and difficulties.

It was a strange and difficult position in which Perry now found
himself. The enemy with his squadron of five vessels controlled the
lake. The building-yard at Erie was without protection. There were no
guns, not even muskets or cartridges, and if there had been, there were
no men to use them. Of the ship-carpenters who were sent on with their
tools from Philadelphia only a few had come. All the supplies,--guns,
sail-cloth, cordage, ammunition,--everything, in short, but timber, was
to be brought a distance of five hundred miles over bad roads, through a
country that was almost a wilderness. Finally, the little brig
"Caledonia" and the four gunboats which together made up the whole of
the squadron afloat were at Black Rock in the Niagara River, and were
unable to make their way past the enemy's river batteries into the lake.

Perry began his work at once. He sent to Buffalo for seamen, and at his
request some companies of militia were posted at Erie. He went himself
to Pittsburg, where he procured small cannon and muskets to assist in
the defence. Iron was bought at Buffalo, and when this supply was
exhausted, every scrap that could be got in the neighborhood was worked
up for use in the construction of the fleet. Blacksmiths were found
among the militia. To obtain the timber for the vessels, trees were
felled and sawn up, and all was so quickly done that it often happened
that wood which at daybreak had been growing in the forest was before
nightfall nailed in place upon the ship. With such extraordinary
despatch did the young commodore push forward his work, that by the
third week in May all the vessels had been launched from the ways and
were afloat in the harbor of Erie.

About this time Perry learned that Commodore Chauncey was preparing to
attack Fort George, and he resolved to join him, for he knew that his
services would be needed. The message was brought to him one day at
sunset, and though the night was stormy, in an hour he had started in
his four-oared boat for the Niagara River. It took him twenty-four hours
to reach Buffalo, where he rested; then starting again he entered the
river, and landing just before he reached the rapids, he resumed his
journey alone and on foot, the rain pouring in torrents, directing his
course to the camp at the mouth of the river, off which the squadron
lay. Here he found the officers assembled, and as he walked into the
cabin of the flagship, wet, bedraggled, and spattered from head to foot
with mud, the commodore grasped him by the hand and told him that "no
person on earth could be more welcome." And it was fortunate that he
came, for the fleet was sadly in want of just such a man as he; and the
attack on the next day, in which he served in some sort as the
commodore's chief of staff, was successful largely through his coolness
and skill, his ready and unerring eye, and his untiring energy. For on
this day he was everywhere,--pulling in his boat under a shower of
musketry from one vessel to another, encouraging the men here,
re-forming the line and altering a boat's position there, sometimes even
going on board and pointing the guns himself so that their fire might
tell with more effect, and finally landing to join in the assault on
shore, which ended in the capture of the fort.

After the fall of Fort George, the English abandoned the whole Niagara
frontier, and there was therefore at last some slight chance that the
vessels at Black Rock might be enabled to make their way into Lake Erie.
Leaving the Ontario fleet, Perry repaired to Black Rock, and with the
help of oxen and two hundred soldiers the five boats were tracked up
against the rapid current of the Niagara. A fortnight was consumed
before they reached the head of the river, after laborious exertions,
and "a fatigue," said Perry, "almost incredible." At last they were out
upon Lake Erie, but before them there was still the difficult task of
eluding the British squadron, whose flagship, the "Queen Charlotte," was
alone a match for all of them, and which had besides four smaller
vessels. The enemy was in the neighborhood, and the winds were contrary;
but Perry with great skill managed to pass them unopposed, and at last
brought his vessels into the harbor of Erie, thus joining in one
squadron all his forces.

It was now the end of June, and for a month Perry was engaged in fitting
out the vessels that had been launched in May, and in preparing their
crews. One of the brigs was named the "Lawrence," in honor of the
captain of the "Chesapeake," who had just before died of his wounds in
the action with the "Shannon;" the other was called the "Niagara." The
seamen, who were mostly drawn from the Lake Ontario squadron, came in
slowly. As soon as one detachment arrived, the men were placed on board
and stationed, and every day when it was possible to do it they were
exercised at the guns. But the hardest task was yet to come. Upon the
bar at the mouth of the harbor the water was only six feet deep, and
outside lay the British squadron on the watch. To get the two brigs over
the bar under the enemy's fire seemed hopeless, and Commodore Barclay,
the British commander, well knew his advantage. But one day early in
August, either because he thought the ships were not ready, or because
he fancied that he could overcome the Americans in any case, he left his
post of observation and took his squadron over to the Canadian shore.

The American commodore, as he was now called, saw his opportunity and
made the most of it. Five of the small vessels were sent across the bar,
where they were cleared for action. The "Niagara," anchoring close
inside, pointed her guns down the channel; and the "Lawrence" was towed
down to be taken across. Every means was used to lighten her; her guns
were hoisted out, and when all was ready, two great scows were fitted
alongside, and filled with water so that they sunk to the edge. Huge
cross-timbers were then run through the ports of the brig, their ends
resting upon blocks of wood placed in the sunken scows. The scows were
now pumped out, and as they came up they lifted the brig with them. It
was anxious work, for the enemy might return at any moment, and finding
the "Lawrence" defenceless and immovable, might riddle her until she
could not float. The first trial failed, for there was little water on
the bar and the brig could not be lifted high enough to get her over.
But the men worked with might and main, the militia helping the
blue-jackets; and the scows were readjusted, so that at last the ship
had forced her way over the sands and passed into the deep water beyond.
Here she was joined by the "Niagara."

The fleet of Commodore Barclay now came in sight, and although it was a
little late, a smart attack might yet have saved it the supremacy which
it had held thus far. The guns were still to be put on board the
"Lawrence;" and to gain time Perry ordered two schooners, the "Ariel"
and "Scorpion," to stand out toward Barclay's vessels and annoy them
with their guns. The schooners advanced so boldly that the enemy were
fully occupied. In a short time the "Lawrence" had received her battery
and placed it in position, and she was ready for action. The enemy's
opportunity was lost, and Barclay sailed away to the northern shore.
From this moment Perry had the advantage on Lake Erie.

The American fleet was now only waiting to complete its crews before
seeking its adversary. Soon a final detachment of one hundred men came
from Lake Ontario, brought by Lieutenant Elliott, who was placed in
command of the "Niagara." The "Lawrence" was selected by Commodore Perry
as his flagship. He had now through his energetic efforts a force
superior to the enemy both in guns and men, and the next few days were
spent in training the mixed crews, and in reconnoitring and manoeuvering
on the lake.

At sunrise on the morning of the 10th of September, as the American
ships were lying at anchor at Put-in Bay, the British squadron was
sighted from the mast-head of the "Lawrence," standing in for the bay.
Lieutenant Forrest, the officer of the deck, reported the news to
Commodore Perry, and immediately the signal was hoisted on the flagship.
"Under way to get!" For a few moments all was hurry and bustle, and in a
little while the American squadron was under sail, beating out of the

The breeze was light, and as the enemy had the weather-gage, several
hours were now passed in manoeuvering. But in the course of the forenoon
the wind shifted, bringing the English fleet to leeward, upon which
Perry determined to advance without further preliminaries. The enemy
were now in line of battle, hove to, the schooner "Chippeway" leading.
Next came the "Detroit," Commodore Barclay's flagship, with the brig
"Hunter" astern. Next to the "Hunter" lay the "Queen Charlotte," the
second of the enemy's large ships; and the schooners "Lady Prevost" and
"Little Belt" brought up the rear.

The American squadron was so arranged as to bring its largest vessels
opposite to the largest of the enemy. The commodore led in his flagship
the "Lawrence," supported by the "Ariel" and "Scorpion" upon his
weather-bow. He chose Barclay's flagship as his own antagonist.
Following him was the brig "Caledonia," which was to engage the
"Hunter." Next came the "Niagara," Elliott's vessel, to oppose the
"Queen Charlotte;" and the line was completed by the schooners "Somers,"
"Porcupine," and "Tigress," and the sloop "Trippe," which would take
care of the enemy's rear.

The English lay in compact order, broadside on, their red ensigns
opening to the light breeze. No picture could be drawn more peaceful or
more beautiful than that upon which the sun shone on this September
morning as it lit up with sparkling brilliancy the rippling waters of
the lake. The long column of the Americans came slowly down with all
sails set, led by the "Lawrence," at whose mast-head was unfolded the
lettered flag bearing the words, "Don't give up the ship,"--the last
order of the ill-fated commander of the "Chesapeake." It was Perry's
battle-flag; and as it was displayed and the words were read by the
different crews, cheer upon cheer rang out, caught up from ship to ship
down the long line of the advancing column. The last preparations had
now been made; the shot were in the racks, the pistols and cutlasses
arranged at hand, and the decks sanded to give a foothold, when in a few
moments they would become slippery with blood. All was in readiness, and
the men only waited to join battle.


For more than an hour the squadron advanced slowly and in silence under
the light wind. At length the notes of a bugle sounding on the "Detroit"
broke the still air, followed by cheers from the enemy's ships, and soon
a single gun boomed from Barclay's ship as the signal for opening
battle. His second shot passed through both bulwarks of the "Lawrence,"
and Perry made reply. But his battery of carronades was useless at this
distance, and for fifteen minutes more he continued to advance,
receiving a terrific fire without being able to answer it. At length,
arriving within three hundred and fifty yards, he hauled up and began
the action.

The other American vessels, delayed by the lightness of the wind, had
been slow in getting into position for battle. The "Ariel" and
"Scorpion" supported the "Lawrence" efficiently. The "Caledonia" too,
the next astern, closed with the "Hunter." But the "Niagara," upon which
Perry mainly relied as one of his largest vessels, engaging only at long
range, failed to close, and finally, moving ahead, passed to windward of
the "Caledonia" and "Lawrence," thus placing them between herself and
the enemy and throwing herself out of the battle. It was represented
afterward that this was due to the lightness of the wind; but however
this may be,--and there is no event in naval history which has been the
subject of more wrangling and disputation,--certain it is that never was
a ship made to do so little to help her consorts as the "Niagara"
during the time when Elliott was directing her movements. The "Queen
Charlotte," finding that her opponent had thus placed himself out of
harm's way, filled her main-topsail and passed ahead of the "Hunter,"
thereby doubling the odds against the already injured "Lawrence."

For two long hours the "Lawrence" now sustains an unequal contest,
receiving the concentrated fire of nearly the whole of the enemy's
squadron. The rigging is cut, the sails are torn to shreds, one by one
the spars are shattered or fall upon the deck. Gun after gun is
dismounted, and fearful is the slaughter of officers and men. The
wounded are taken below so fast that the surgeon can barely serve them,
hurriedly amputating a leg or an arm, one after another, and binding up
as best he may the bleeding wounds. Cannon-shot enter the quarters for
the wounded, striking men whose limbs have just been taken off by the
surgeon's knife. The first lieutenant, Yarnall, wounded in the forehead
and the neck, his face streaming with blood, continues to fight his guns
until his men are killed, and sending to the commodore for more, is
answered that there are no more to give him. The second lieutenant,
Dulany Forrest, standing beside Perry, receives a spent grape-shot in
the breast which throws him to the deck. A gun captain whom Perry has
addressed to give a word of caution is just about to fire, when a
cannon-ball passes through his body and he falls without a groan at the
commodore's feet. Brooks the marine officer, a dashing young lieutenant,
is making a smiling response to Perry's cheerful words, when a heavy
shot crushes his thigh and throws him across the deck. In an agony of
pain he implores the commodore to shoot him dead and put him out of

All the guns but one are now dismounted, but this one still keeps up its
fire; for the commodore, with the brave purser Hambleton, and Chaplain
Breese, aided by two or three men, are working it themselves. At last
the purser falls, his shoulder shattered by a grape-shot. Presently this
gun, too,--the last one,--is disabled, and the "Lawrence" cannot fire a
shot. There are less than a score of sound men left on board.

At this terrible moment, when, though untouched himself, nearly all his
companions had fallen, when his ship was beaten, and himself exhausted
with the stress of two hours of battle, there came to Perry one of those
resolutions which can only be called inspiration. He saw that if the
flagship surrendered, the whole fleet would follow. He saw that the two
leading ships of the enemy had suffered much in his attack, though their
force was not so nearly spent as his own. He saw too that the "Niagara"
and the schooners in the rear were almost fresh, if they could only be
brought into action. Upon this he formed his resolution. Calling away
his boat, and taking with him his little brother, who like himself had
passed through the fearful ordeal unscathed, except for the bullets in
his cap, he rowed under the enemy's fire to the "Niagara." It was a
daring act, for the enemy's shot broke the oars, and the spray was
dashed in the faces of the rowers. But it was more wonderful in the
coolness and bravery which enabled the young commander at such a time
and after such a trial to carry out with promptness and judgment the
only plan to retrieve disaster.

Arriving on board the "Niagara" Perry at once assumed command, hoisting
his flag, and a moment later he sent Lieutenant Elliott, who volunteered
for the duty, to bring up the tardy schooners. Then, setting the
signal for close action, he formed his ships in line abreast and dashed
at the enemy. The "Lawrence" had now struck, but the enemy had no chance
to take possession. The onset of the fresh fleet was irresistible. The
"Detroit" and the "Queen Charlotte," seeing the blow coming, attempted
to wear, so that fresh broadsides might be brought to bear. In doing
this they fell foul, and as they lay entangled, the breeze freshening,
the "Niagara" plunged through their line, firing both broadsides as she
passed through the narrow gap. At the same moment the "Caledonia" with
the "Scorpion" and "Trippe" broke through the line at other points, and
turning with the "Niagara" brought the enemy between two deadly fires.
The shrieks of the wounded mingled with the roar of the American cannon;
the British commodore could not resist this new attack, and in seven
minutes from the "Niagara's" passage of the line, four of the enemy had
surrendered in their places in the column. The two remaining vessels
sought to escape under cover of the smoke, but they were pursued and
brought back by the "Trippe" and "Scorpion."


As soon as the prisoners had been secured, the prizes manned, and orders
given for the necessary repairs, Perry sat down in his cabin and wrote
to General Harrison, commanding the Army of the West, who had been
waiting anxiously for the issue of the battle. Here is his letter:--

     DEAR GENERAL,--We have met the enemy and they are ours,--two
     ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.

    Yours with very great respect and esteem,
    O.H. PERRY.

Well might the general be elated when he got the news. The victory had
saved the whole Northwest, which until then had been desolated by the
most savage and barbarous of enemies. No time was lost in following it
up, and in carrying the war into the enemy's country. The army was
quickly embarked on board the ships and landed in Canada.

After marching inland it attacked the enemy, and in the great victory of
Moravian Town the English troops were annihilated, and Tecumseh, the
relentless enemy of the United States, was killed. From that time forth
until the close of the war the British were compelled to abandon all
operations on Lake Erie.



So far most of the engagements which had taken place on the ocean were
fought by frigates. Only two of them,--the first between the "Wasp" and
"Frolic," and the second between the "Hornet" and "Peacock"--were sloop
actions. But the sloops formed at this time a very important part of our
navy, and no less than six sloop actions were fought later in the war,
all but one of them resulting in victory for the Americans. The
sloops-of-war of this period were generally small three-masted vessels,
though in the brig-sloops, like the "Argus" and "Pelican," there were
but two masts. They were armed with carronades, of which the American
sloops carried either eighteen or twenty, and the British sixteen; and
each of them carried also two long guns. The batteries varied slightly
in the different vessels; but whatever the variations, it seemed that we
had always a little the advantage in armament.

Two of the sloop actions took place in the summer of 1813,--the same
summer which opened so badly with the loss of the "Chesapeake." The
first was that of the "Argus" and the "Pelican," and like the frigate
action it proved a disastrous battle for the Americans. The "Argus" had
sailed from New York in May, having on board as passenger Crawford, the
Minister to France, who was on his way to his new post. She was under
the command of Lieut. William Henry Allen. This was the same Lieutenant
Allen who, it will be remembered, fired the gun with a live coal in his
fingers on board the "Chesapeake" when she was assailed by the "Leopard"
in 1807. He was the same, too, who had been for five years Decatur's
first lieutenant in the United States, ending his cruise with the
capture of the "Macedonian."

After landing his passenger at Lorient, Captain Allen was ordered to
make a cruise in English waters. It was almost impossible for him to
send to America any prizes he might make, even if he could weaken his
ship to man them; and his instructions, therefore, were to sink, burn,
and destroy all he captured. It was a daring enterprise, like the
cruises of Paul Jones and Wickes and Conyngham in the older war, though
with the increased numbers of the enemy's navy it was presumably
attended with greater danger. But strangely enough, with the lesson of
the earlier war before them, so little had the British provided for the
defence of their own seas against commerce-destroyers, that the "Argus"
was able to cruise for two months, often within four leagues of their
coast, without being disturbed in her operations. During this time she
captured twenty-three prizes, most of which were burned. The value of
the ships and cargoes destroyed amounted to near two millions of
dollars; and as happened in the Revolution, the rate of marine insurance
in England was raised far in advance of its usual figure. The naval
administration, which at this period of defeat was roundly abused by
English writers, must have been more than usually sluggish, to have
allowed a 20-gun brig to continue for two months such depredations.


At length the British sloop "Pelican," which had just come in from the
West Indies, was sent out from Cork expressly to fight the "Argus." She
was a little superior in force, but the difference, as in most of these
actions, was not great enough to be of any consequence. The "Argus" was
now destroying prizes right and left, and the "Pelican" was guided to
her by the smoke of the burning merchantmen. When the English sloop
first sighted her in the evening, she was busy with a prize; and though
the "Pelican" lost her in the night, another fire disclosed her position
in the morning.

As the "Pelican" bore down to engage, Captain Allen shortened sail to
give the enemy a chance to close. At six o'clock in the morning the
"Pelican" had come within grape-shot distance, and Allen fired his first
broadside. It was his last too, poor fellow! for the enemy returning the
fire with spirit, a round shot carried off his leg; and though he would
not leave the deck, he was soon unconscious from loss of blood, and his
career was ended. The rigging of the "Argus" was at the same time badly
cut; but when the enemy tried to get under her stern and rake her,
Lieutenant Watson, who was now in command, cleverly threw all aback and
thwarted the attempt. But alas! the gun's-crews on this day were not up
to their work; for whether, as some have said, the hard work of the
night before had worn them out, or whether they had got hold of the
spirit-cask in their last prize, certain it is that their firing was
weak and wild, and far below the example which had been set by American
blue-jackets in other battles. The enemy remained almost unhurt, and by
no means got as good as they sent. Lieutenant Watson was disabled by a
grape-shot in the head; two round shot passed through the
warrant-officers' cabins; the running rigging and wheel-ropes were shot
away, so that the brig became unmanageable; and finally, three quarters
of an hour after the action had begun, as the enemy was about to board,
the "Argus" struck her colors.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next engagement was happily more creditable to the Americans. Early
in September the "Enterprise," commanded by Lieut. William Burrows, a
brave and skilful officer who was much respected and beloved in the
service, put out from Portland, and the day after, being the 5th of the
month, fell in with the enemy's brig "Boxer," Captain Blyth. The two
ships were about a match in guns, but the American, as usual, had a
larger crew. As Burrows approached he manoeuvred to try his powers of
sailing; and finding that his ship had greater speed, he bore up for
close action, setting three ensigns and firing a gun of defiance.

Blyth had nailed his flag to the mast, telling his men that it should
never be struck while he had life in his body. And he kept his word. As
the "Enterprise" ranged up, her crew gave three cheers, and opened on
the enemy at half-pistol shot. At the first fire a round shot passed
through the body of the gallant English captain. The "Boxer" returned
the fire. A moment later Captain Burrows, encouraging his men, seized a
tackle to help the crew in running out their carronade; and as his leg
was raised to brace it against the bulwark, a canister-shot struck it,
and glancing upwards to his body, gave him a frightful wound. In an
agony of pain he lay on the deck, crying out that the colors must never
be struck, and refusing to be taken below.

The two ships were now fought by their lieutenants. McCall, the
lieutenant of the "Enterprise," finding that he ranged ahead, sheered
across the "Boxer's" bow, pouring in a raking broadside. Presently the
"Boxer" lost her main-topmast, and McCall, hanging on her bow, kept up
his raking fire. There could now be but one result, and soon the "Boxer"
hailed to say that she had surrendered. The flag which had been nailed
to the mast was now lowered, but Blyth had already breathed his last.
Burrows kept his place on the deck until he had received the sword of
his adversary. Then he exclaimed, "I am satisfied; I die contented," and
with that word breathed his last.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next of the sloop actions was in the spring of the following year.
The "Peacock," one of the new sloops, named after the British vessel
which the "Hornet" had sunk in the Demerara River, was cruising in April
under the command of Capt. Lewis Warrington, when she met the enemy's
brig-sloop "Epervier" off the coast of Florida. Though the "Peacock" had
the larger crew, the ships were not far from a match in guns. But the
"Epervier's" battery was not in fighting condition, and she had
practised so little with her carronades that her officers did not know
of their defects; or if they did, they had not done anything to remedy
the difficulty. Indeed, the whole service of the "Epervier," both at the
guns and in other ways, was most slovenly, and far behind what one would
expect in a British sloop-of-war. The vessels as they neared opened on
each other, but at the first broadsides the "Epervier's" carronades were
dismounted, the bolts giving way. For three quarters of an hour the
fight continued, the guns of the brig getting worse and worse, until she
could hardly fire a shot. At length the English captain gave the order
to board, but his men showed no zeal or courage, and even refused to
follow him; so he gave up and struck his colors.


There was hardly any other action in the war in which the enemy did so
poorly as in this. The "Epervier" had twenty-two men killed or wounded
in the battle; the "Peacock" had none killed and only two wounded. The
enemy was almost a wreck. Her hull was riddled, her main-topmast and
boom were shot away, her foremast was nearly cut in two, her sails
tattered, her bowsprit badly wounded, her battery disabled, and there
were four feet of water in her hold; while the "Peacock," except for the
loss of the foreyard, was as fresh as ever, and not a shot had struck
her hull. It was a profitable hour's work for her crew; for a large
amount of specie was found on board the enemy, and the Government bought
the captured sloop for more than fifty thousand dollars. The two vessels
made for Savannah, where, though several times chased by the enemy, they
arrived safely a few days after the battle.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the day that the "Epervier" entered the Savannah River, the new
sloop-of-war "Wasp"--named for that other "Wasp" which had captured the
"Frolic"--sailed from Portsmouth on a cruise. She was commanded by Capt.
Johnston Blakely, a most resolute officer, and had as fine a crew of
stanch New Englanders as ever trod the deck of a Salem clipper. Running
the blockade off the coast, the "Wasp" stood over toward the English
channel, and soon she was burning and sinking merchantmen as actively as
the "Argus" had done before her. But when it came her turn to meet the
enemy in battle, her crew showed themselves to be made of different
stuff from the sailors of that unlucky brig.

The "Wasp" had been nearly two months out, when she fell in with one of
the enemy's sloops. This was the "Reindeer," commanded by Capt. William
Manners, a young officer whose gallantry was unsurpassed by that of any
of his comrades in the English service. His ship was less in force than
the "Wasp," for she carried twenty-four-pound carronades instead of
thirty-twos; but nevertheless he no sooner sighted the American than he
made sail to attack her. Blakely too was ready for the combat, and
shaped his course to meet the enemy.

So the vessels approached under a light breeze during the whole
forenoon, and it was not till after one o'clock that they beat to
quarters and cleared ship for action. For two hours both were now
manoeuvring for an advantage as deftly as two skilful fencers, but the
two captains were equally good at this, and neither could score a point
against his adversary. At length, soon after three o'clock, the
"Reindeer," being then at a distance of sixty yards on the "Wasp's"
weather-quarter, opened on her with careful aim from the shifting
carronade on her top-gallant forecastle, to which the "Wasp" could not
reply. Five times this was repeated, at intervals sometimes of two,
sometimes of three minutes, the fire of round and grape shot making
destructive work on board the unresisting American.

The "Wasp's" crew were well trained, and nothing showed it more than the
quiet steadiness and nerve with which they bore this trial. But Captain
Blakely, finding that the enemy did not advance beyond his quarter,
luffed, and so brought his broadside to bear. Then began a furious and
deadly conflict, for the ships were close abreast, and in the smooth
water there was no motion to disturb the pointing of the guns. But it
was on board the "Reindeer" that the carnage was most dreadful. In
fifteen minutes her upper works became a wreck, and more than half her
crew were killed or wounded. The topmen of the "Wasp" picked them off
with their muskets one by one. The gallant Manners was badly wounded
early in the action, but remained on deck. A grape-shot passed through
both his thighs. He fell, but raised himself; and staggering to his
feet, the blood streaming from his wounds, he fought on, encouraging his
men. At last the two ships fouled, and Manners, true hero that he was,
climbed up by the rigging, calling out, "Follow me, my boys, we must
board!" But at that instant two bullets pierced his head, and he fell
lifeless to the deck. A moment later the crew of the "Wasp" had rushed
on board his ship, and she surrendered.

After this battle, so glorious for both sides, Blakely put into Lorient.
His prize was so disabled that he burned her the day after the fight,
and the wounded prisoners were sent to England in a Portuguese brig.
Refitting at the French port, Blakely set sail again toward the end of
August. On the 1st of September he was on the edge of the Bay of Biscay.
He had already made two prizes since leaving port, and on this day he
was hanging about a fleet of English merchantmen bound for Gibraltar,
under convoy of the line-of-battle ship "Armada." The clumsy
seventy-four twice tried to catch him, but the sloop was too nimble for
her, and ended by cutting out one of the convoy under her very eyes.

Blakely was now on the spot most frequented by British cruisers; for all
that went to and fro between England and the Mediterranean must pass
that way, and it behooved him to be upon his guard. At dusk that same
evening he discovered four sail whose character he could not make out.
But he stood boldly down for one of them, and after a two hours'
pursuit, in which the chase had made repeated night-signals that he
could not answer, he discovered that she was a large man-of-war brig. An
hour later, and the ships were near enough to hail.

"What ship is that?" asked the stranger through the darkness.

"What brig is that?" asked Blakely in return.

"What ship is that?"

"Heave to, and I'll let you know what ship it is."

But the stranger did not heave to, and presently the "Wasp" opened on

Soon she got alongside, and both ships began to fire in dead earnest.
Dark as it was, the "Wasp" made splendid practice with her guns, yet was
herself but little hurt. The enemy's gaff and rigging were cut and
broken, the round shot penetrated her hull, and, half an hour after the
first gun, her mainmast went by the board. Captain Blakely now hailed to
know if she would yield, for her fire had ceased. Soon it began again,
and to Blakely's second demand the answer came that the brig

A boat was now lowered, but at the same moment a second brig appeared,
just visible a short distance off in the darkness. The boat was hoisted
in, the men were called again to quarters, and as Blakely made off
before the wind to reeve new braces, the new-comer followed him, firing,
but without effect. Two more sail were now discovered, and it seemed
that the American might have hard work to escape.

Meantime guns of distress were firing from the "Avon," Blakely's first
opponent, and the second brig hauled off hastily to go to her
assistance. But she was none too soon, for the "Avon" sank before all
her people could get on board the rescuer. The two other ships--one of
which, the "Castilian," had joined in the battle, and the other, the
"Tartarus," had only just come upon the scene--did not attempt pursuit,
while Blakely, seeing that it was idle to remain in a neighborhood
surrounded thus by enemies, quickly made sail to leave it, and proceeded
on his cruise.

Three weeks later the "Wasp" captured the merchant brig "Atalanta," and
by her sent home despatches. This was the last that was ever seen or
heard of the gallant sloop. Whether she foundered in a gale, or caught
fire, or ran upon a rock, no one can say; and to this time the fate of
her brave Yankee crew is one of the buried secrets of the deep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last of the sloop actions of the war was between the "Hornet" and
the "Penguin." The "Hornet," the same vessel which Lawrence had
commanded two years before, left New York near the end of January,
1815, and proceeded to the remote island of Tristan d'Acunha, where she
had a rendezvous with the "Peacock." She was commanded by Lieutenant
James Biddle. The voyage out lasted two months. On the day that she
reached the island, the 23d of March, she met the "Penguin," a British
sloop of force almost exactly equal. The "Penguin" was to windward and
bore down upon her, while Biddle hove his ship to and awaited her
coming. As she came up alongside, the fight began broadside to
broadside. It did not take long to show which was the better crew. The
"Hornet's" fire was steady and precise, the "Penguin's" wild and
ineffective. At the end of fifteen minutes the English sloop had lost
her captain and many of her men in killed or wounded, and her sides had
been battered by the American fire. One round shot entered her aftermost
port, and in its passage killed the powder-boy, took off six legs of
seamen at the gun, dismounted a carronade, and fell into the water
beyond. Just before the captain had received his mortal wound he had put
his helm over to throw the ships afoul, so that his men might board the
"Hornet." But when the first lieutenant would have led them over, they
fell back. The American crew were eager to board the other ship, but
Biddle wisely restrained them; for he knew that the loss of life might
be great, and that the victory was his without it. A moment later the
enemy cried out that they surrendered,--or at least so Biddle
understood, and leaping on the taffrail, he gave the order to cease
firing. But it seems that there was some mistake, for an English marine
now took aim at him and shot him in the neck, fortunately wounding him
but slightly. The crew were indignant at what seemed like treachery;
but the captain checked their ardor, and wearing so that he might bring
a fresh broadside to bear, he again called upon the enemy to surrender.
Her foremast and bowsprit had now gone, and her mainmast was ready to
go, so the colors were hauled down, just twenty-two minutes after the
action had begun. The "Penguin's" loss in killed and wounded was
forty-two, and she was such a wreck that Biddle had to destroy her,
while the "Hornet's" loss was only eleven, and she was ready for action
again a few minutes after the fight was over.




Once more our story goes back to the northern waters, this time to Lake
Champlain. Little had been done here by either side during the first two
years of the war. There was hardly a naval force on the lake worthy of
being mentioned, and the only operations that took place were mere raids
or forays. In June, 1813, Lieutenant Smith had been despatched with the
two sloops "Growler" and "Eagle," which were the only vessels then
possessed by the Americans, to annoy the British gunboats at the
northern end of the lake; and rashly pursuing them into the Sorel River,
from which he was unable to make his way out, he had been attacked by
the boats, and by the troops that lined the banks, and his whole force
had been captured.

This gave the enemy control of the lake, and they were not slow to use
their advantage. Four weeks later a body of troops were sent up from the
Canadian territory to Plattsburg, along with the captured sloops, which
had now been named the "Chubb" and the "Finch;" and the troops, landing,
wrought great havoc at the post by destroying the buildings, and the
supplies which had been stored there.

The American commander at this time on Lake Champlain was Capt. Thomas
Macdonough, of whom it may be truly said that no one in the old navy has
left behind him a more spotless reputation, either as an officer or as a
man. Brave and energetic, but prudent beyond his age,--for at this time
he was but twenty-eight years old,--he was also earnest and sincere,
grave but gentle, full of ardor, but of an even and kindly temper. He
had been one of Preble's gallant band of officers, and he had sailed
with Decatur in the "Intrepid" when the "Philadelphia" was burned; and
again he was at his brave leader's side when with nine men they boarded
and carried the Tripolitan gunboat in the first battle before Tripoli.
Formed in that school of chivalrous devotion, his own lofty spirit had
gathered in these later years added strength and judgment; and as events
were now to show, no better man could have been chosen to defend the
frontier at this its most vulnerable point.

During the second year of the war, Macdonough was engaged, as Perry had
been on Lake Erie, in building the vessels that were to form his fleet,
but under difficulties even greater, in the want of workmen and
materials. The British, too, were busily employed, and by the midsummer
of 1814 the work of building was so far advanced that they began to
think of taking the offensive, and to make the needful preparations for
a great combined movement by land and water. An army of invasion
numbering ten thousand men, many of them veterans, and commanded by Sir
George Prevost, was massed at Montreal to march up the shores of the
lake as soon as the fleet should be ready to support them in their
advance. Their commander, fortunately for us, was a most unfit officer,
else he would have made short work of the handful of troops under
General Macomb at Plattsburg, which was the only army to oppose him. The
naval force, under Com. George Downie, as yet consisted only of the brig
"Linnet" and the two captured sloops; but there was also on the stocks,
and nearly finished, the fine frigate "Confiance," which carried thirty
long 24-pounders,--a very heavy battery for this lake warfare. To oppose
this force Macdonough had one ship, the "Saratoga," mounting eight long
24's, and eighteen carronades of heavy calibre; but being carronades
they were by no means equal to long guns, and the "Saratoga" was
therefore far from a match for the "Confiance." He had also the schooner
"Ticonderoga" and the sloop "Preble;" and the "Eagle," a brig of fair
size and metal, was still under construction. In the latter part of
August both the "Confiance" and the "Eagle" were launched, so that by
September both sides had made up their complete numbers. The two fleets
had in addition a little flotilla of gunboats, numbering ten or perhaps
more upon each side.

The opposing squadrons, in the number of men and in the weight of
broadside, were as nearly matched as two naval squadrons well could be,
and what difference there was between them was in favor of the enemy.
But it amounted to so little that it is hardly worth while to consider
it at all. In all kinds of naval equipment the ships were poorly fitted
and supplied, but both sides shared equally in these deficiencies.

Macdonough had been informed of the enemy's intentions, and made his
plan to await their attack at Plattsburg, where the fleet and the army
might stand or fall together. The formation of the bay at Plattsburg
gave him a strong position. It lies on the western side of Lake
Champlain, and is enclosed in part by a long neck of land which juts
out into the lake, and curving like a hook or a bent finger, makes some
distance to the southward. The enemy in advancing up the lake from the
northern end must pass along this promontory on the outside, and then
double its extreme point in order to enter the bay, passing to the
northward again along its inner side. If they came up the lake with a
leading wind, as they would doubtless do, they must beat up against the
wind after they doubled the point; and thus during their slow advance,
while manoeuvring in a confined space, they would be exposed to the
broadsides of the ships that lay at anchor within.


With this in view Macdonough decided on his order of battle. His line
was formed heading directly north and well inside the bay, the leading
vessel, the brig "Eagle," being so near the inner curve of the bight
that the enemy would not be able to turn the line by passing between her
and the shore. Next came the flagship "Saratoga," and astern of her the
schooner "Ticonderoga." The sloop "Preble" brought up the rear. In the
intervals of the line the gunboats had their stations; and these were to
check any attempt of the enemy to turn the rear by passing through the
narrow opening between the "Preble" and Crab Island shoal, which closed
the bay on the southern side. A small battery on Crab Island aided still
more in giving this protection. In these arrangements Commodore
Macdonough showed great foresight and judgment; but he was not satisfied
with this, and it was by the additional precautions that he took, which
few commanders would have thought of, that he evinced his greatest
skill, and indeed in the end saved the battle. Knowing that with his
battery of carronades his engaged broadside would in time become
disabled, he made the most careful preparations to wind his ship,--that
is, to turn her round,--so that she might bring a fresh broadside to
bear. This would be no easy matter for a ship at anchor in a narrow
space in a crowded bay, and under the enemy's fire; but he resolved that
it should be done. So besides the usual anchors, he planted kedges broad
off on his ship's bows, with hawsers hanging in bights under the water,
and leading to her quarters. The stream anchor was suspended astern. We
shall see presently how important these precautions became.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after daybreak, on the 11th of September, 1814, just a year and a
day after the battle of Lake Erie, the picket boat of the American
squadron, lying outside the bay, descried the advancing enemy, and
falling back, announced to Commodore Macdonough their approach. The
ships were at once cleared for action. At eight o'clock the masts of the
enemy's vessels could be seen across the neck of Cumberland Head, and
soon they had rounded the point and were standing in, formed in line
ahead, the "Chubb" leading, toward the van of the American squadron. The
"Chubb" and "Linnet" were to engage the "Eagle." Next came the
"Confiance," with her powerful battery, marked out to engage the
"Saratoga," and the "Finch," with the greater part of the gunboats, to
attack the rear, and endeavor to turn the line.

The water in the bay was smooth, and the English squadron filled, and
came down on the starboard tack, without a sound to break the stillness.
On board the American ships the men awaited in silence and expectation
the order to fire. The "Eagle" was the first to open, discharging in
succession her 18-pounders, but the shot fell short. On board the
"Saratoga" a rooster which had been set free in clearing away the
hen-coops, startled by the report of the guns, flew upon a gun-slide,
and flapping his wings, crowed cheerily. This little incident relieved
the strain of waiting, and the blue-jackets, taking it as a good omen,
broke out in cheers and laughter. Commodore Macdonough stood on his
quarter-deck unmoved, watching the play of the "Eagle's" shot. As soon
as he saw them reach the mark, he walked to one of the 24-pounders, and
pointing it carefully himself at the bow of the "Confiance," touched the
match and fired. The shot entered near the hawse-hole of the enemy's
ship and passed the whole length of the deck, killing and wounding
several men in its passage, and ended its course by carrying away the
wheel. All the long guns of the "Saratoga" now began to play upon the
enemy's frigate, every shot telling with deadly effect. Still the
"Confiance" continued to advance without replying, with a stubborn
bravery that moved to admiration all who witnessed it. At last she swung
into position and came to anchor, not so near as Captain Downie could
have wished, but as near as he could venture under the galling fire. The
"Chubb" and "Linnet" took their places ahead of him, engaging the
"Eagle;" but not a gun was fired from the frigate until the anchoring
was complete and everything had been secured in true seamanlike manner.

Suddenly a sheet of flame seemed to burst from the side of the
"Confiance," as her whole broadside was fired. The guns, double-shotted
and aimed at point-blank range, in smooth water, sent flying their
volley of huge 24-pound shot; and under the shock the "Saratoga"
shivered as though a ram had struck her. Half the crew were thrown down
to the deck, and forty were killed or wounded by the cannon-balls or
flying splinters. The first lieutenant, Gamble, struck in the breast by
a split quoin or gun-wedge, fell dead without so much as a break in the
skin. For an instant the "Saratoga" ceased her fire, but the next moment
it was resumed with redoubled energy. Macdonough, pointing one of the
guns himself, was knocked senseless by a blow from a shattered spar, but
regaining consciousness he sprang to his feet and went back to his work
at the gun. A moment later a shot struck the gun-captain, taking his
head clean off, and the head struck Macdonough with such force that it
threw him across the deck into the scuppers. On board the other ship,
Downie, standing in the rear of the gun at a moment when a shot from the
"Saratoga" struck its muzzle, received a blow in the groin as the gun
was driven from its carriage, and fell to the deck; he never spoke
again.[2] After this the broadsides from both ships gradually became
less and less deadly. The British sailors, inexperienced in handling the
guns, loaded hurriedly, sometimes putting in the ball or wad before the
cartridge, and as the quoins were loosened, the breech of the gun fell
lower and lower, raising the muzzle, until the shot passed harmlessly
through the air. The "Saratoga's" carronades, too, were overloaded, and
what with that and with the enemy's fire, those on the engaged or
starboard side were disabled one by one, until at last only a single
carronade remained; and as the crew were taking a final shot with this,
the recoil broke the weakened bolt, and the gun jumped down the

[Footnote 2: This gun with its cracked muzzle is still preserved at the
Naval Academy.]

Ahead of the two flagships the battle had all this time been raging, but
with no more certain result. The little "Chubb," it is true, manoeuvring
at the head of the line, lost her bowsprit and main boom under the
"Eagle's" fire; and drifting down on the American line, a shot from the
"Saratoga" made her a prize, and a midshipman in the "Saratoga's" boat
towed her in shore. The fight at this end was now between the "Eagle"
and the "Linnet," and the enemy was getting the best of it. Indeed, the
"Eagle," having lost her springs, could not return the "Linnet's" fire
with advantage, so sheeting home her topsails, she cut her cable and ran
down the line, taking a new berth astern of the "Saratoga," and bringing
a fresh broadside to bear.

Meantime a separate battle was going on at the rear of the line. Here
the British had their strongest gunboats, and the Americans their
weakest. It was upon the "Preble" that the attack was first directed,
and after a time the gunboats succeeded in making her berth too warm,
and cutting her cable she drifted in to leeward. After this repulse she
was not again engaged. In a short time the "Finch," attempting to carry
the "Ticonderoga," was disabled by two well-aimed broadsides, and she
also drifted out of the fight, at last going ashore on Crab Island,
where she struck to the neighboring battery. The "Ticonderoga" was now
pressed hard by the English gunboats, which attacked her with great dash
and energy; but Lieutenant Cassin, who commanded her, defended her
valiantly, standing on the taffrail amid a shower of grape and canister,
and beating back the assailants as they crowded around his little sloop.
It was thus due to Cassin's vigorous efforts that the rear was held so
firmly on that trying day.

The fight had now been going on for an hour or more, and the critical
point in the battle had been reached, when the forces of both sides were
nearly exhausted, and the next move meant victory or defeat. The
"Ticonderoga" might still hold the rear, and the "Eagle" could make some
reply to the "Confiance;" but the "Saratoga" had not a gun left on her
starboard side, which was toward the enemy, and the "Linnet," unopposed,
had stationed herself off the American flagship's bow, and was raking
her without resistance. To remain where she was meant destruction to the
"Saratoga." Now, then, was the time to use the appliances which
MacDonough's careful forethought had provided. He resolved to wind the
ship, so that his port broadside could be brought to bear. It was a
difficult and dangerous process in the face of the enemy's fire, for if
once his men should be thrown into confusion all would be lost. But with
the captain standing on the quarter-deck, calm and collected, there was
no danger that any one would lose his head. The stream anchor was let go
astern, and the hawser, bent to the kedge on the starboard bow, which
had been carried to the starboard quarter, was hauled in until the ship
was half-way round. Then the men clapped on a line bent to the stream
anchor, and pulled and tugged, but with all their efforts they could
only swing her far enough to make one gun bear on the "Confiance."
Instantly this was manned and opened fire. But this was not enough. The
ship now hung with her stern exposed to the raking fire of the "Linnet."
Something must be done, and quickly. What should it be? There still
remained the other kedge, planted broad off the port bow. That alone
could accomplish the result. Its hawser, leading to the port quarter,
was carried forward, passed under the bow and then aft on the other
side, where the crew roused on it with a will. It seemed not much, but
it was enough, and in a few minutes more the "Saratoga" was heading
south, and firing at the "Confiance" from a clean, fresh, broadside

This ended the battle. The "Confiance" herself, attempting to wind, was
caught when half-way round, and after enduring a few moments of the
"Saratoga's" fresh fire, struck her colors and surrendered. The "Linnet"
held out a little longer, but it was a useless struggle, and she too
hauled down her flag.

It was a complete victory. The enemy were more than defeated,--they were
annihilated, their squadron wiped out of existence. Lake Champlain,
which till this point in the war had been almost a British lake, was now
delivered up without a possibility of recovery. Sir George Prevost,
seeing the issue of the battle in the bay, made only a feeble
demonstration against Plattsburg, and soon he was in full retreat to
Canada, and New York was saved from the threatened invasion.



During the latter part of the war, as might have been foreseen, there
was little opportunity for American frigates to show that they could
keep up the fame they had so gloriously won. The British were determined
that none of them that ventured out to sea should escape; and by
stationing a squadron, which their great resources enabled them to do,
before each port where a frigate lay, they succeeded in keeping it
cooped up and inactive. No longer were offers made by British captains,
like that of the chivalrous Broke before Boston, to send away part of
their vessels, leaving one to fight a duel with the frigate that was in
the harbor. A steady watch was kept up before each port by the whole
blockading squadron. The "Constellation," which had won such high renown
under Truxtun in the French war, sailed from Washington down the
Chesapeake Bay; but falling in with the heavy squadron of the enemy near
Hampton Roads, composed of ships-of-the-line and frigates, she took
refuge at Norfolk, and here or in the river below she remained blockaded
till the end of the war. The "President" was lying at New York, and off
the port were the "Majestic" (razee) and three frigates,--the
"Endymion," "Pomone," and "Tenedos." The "United States" and
"Macedonian," after getting out from New York though Hell Gate,
encountered the British squadron of a line-of-battle ship and two
frigates at the eastern entrance of the Sound, and put in to New London,
where they lay in the mud for eighteen months unable to get out. The
"Constitution," under Captain Stewart at Boston, found herself checked
in the same way by a squadron of heavy frigates.

The "Adams," which had been a 28-gun frigate, but which was now a
corvette, managed to slip out from Washington in January, 1814, under
the command of Charles Morris, who had been promoted to a captain for
his service in the battle with the "Guerrière" seventeen months before.
Six months were passed in cruising, part of the time off the Irish
coast, but with no great success; for Morris was not fortunate in
meeting prizes of any value, and once or twice he narrowly escaped the
enemy's larger frigates. At length the scurvy showed itself among the
crew, and the ship was turned toward home. But it was almost as
difficult for American ships to get in as to get out. About the middle
of August Morris arrived off the coast of Maine, where unluckily for him
he sighted the English sloop "Rifleman," which he chased, but which
escaped in the fog. Soon after the "Adams" went ashore at the mouth of
the Penobscot River, and when she got off, Morris found her so much
injured that he resolved to go several miles up the river to Hampden,
where he could refit, as there were ship-yards all along the bank.

A short time before Morris's arrival a large force made up of
seventy-fours and frigates had left Halifax to make a descent on the
Maine coast, and near Castine it received news from the "Rifleman" of
the presence of the "Adams." This was exactly what the enemy wanted.
Some light vessels and boats, with about six hundred troops, were at
once detached and sent up the river to capture her. Morris had
dismantled the ship and landed her guns and stores preparatory to making
the needed repairs. By dint of hard work nine of the guns were mounted
in battery on a neighboring hill-top, but without protection, and the
remainder were placed in position on the wharf where the ship was lying.
Farther up the river was a creek crossed by a bridge; but the bridge was
not strong enough to allow the guns to be carried over, and the
Americans were thus prevented from taking up their position in rear of
the creek. There was a sufficient force of men to defend the position,
supposing that it had been well taken, with proper preparations, and
that the men were good men. But more than half of them were militia,
whose officers knew nothing of war, and whose men had no steadiness
under fire.

The enemy landed at sunset on the 2d of September, and early the next
morning made a sharp attack. The day was chill and rainy, and a heavy
fog hid the hill, which the militia were to defend, from the view of
Morris and his command on the wharf. Soon the enemy's bugles were heard
on the road below the hill-battery, followed by three discharges from
one of the guns. A few moments later word was passed by the marines, who
had been posted at intervals between the hill-battery and the wharf,
that the militia had broken and were fleeing in disorder. There was no
time to be lost; for if the enemy should gain the bridge in the rear,
the retreat of the sailors would be cut off. The ship was set on fire,
the guns were spiked, and Morris and his men retired to the creek. Here
they found the panic-stricken militia crowding over the bridge, and the
seamen, being without firearms, could make no real resistance. So they
forded the creek, and being now safe from pursuit, they marched through
the woods to the Kennebec. Here they separated into detachments, taking
different routes, as in this way it was easier to obtain provision on
the journey, and finally all arrived safely at Portsmouth.

       *       *       *       *       *

At this time the "Constitution" was, as I have said, lying at Boston,
watched by a squadron of the enemy. She had proved a lucky ship, just as
the "Chesapeake" and "Adams" had proved unlucky; and her present
captain, Charles Stewart, who had been one of Preble's lieutenants at
Tripoli, was certainly a man well fitted to make the most of any chance
he had. The frigate had been in port since April, at first repairing,
and later unable to get out owing to the presence of the enemy's
squadron. In December, 1814, this squadron was composed of the
"Newcastle" of fifty guns, under Lord George Stuart, and the "Acasta" of
forty guns, under Captain Kerr. About the 12th of the month the
"Newcastle," for some unexplained reason, ran down into Cape Cod Bay,
where she grounded for a short time on a shoal. Here she was joined by
the "Acasta." Captain Stewart was on the watch, and when he found out
the situation, he did not wait long. All was quickly in readiness, and
having quietly weighed her anchor, the "Constitution," setting all her
sail with a fair wind, was soon dashing at full speed down the harbor
and out to sea; and before the enemy could learn of her flight, she was
ploughing the waves of the broad Atlantic. With what delight her
officers and men, after their long confinement and inaction in port,
felt once more the salt breezes speeding the good ship on her course,
the spray dashing from her bow as it cut the surging billows! Now at
last there was a hope that with such a ship and such a captain they
might win for the navy new victories, and add to the laurels which their
companions had already gathered.


The "Constitution" stood across the Atlantic to the coast of Spain and
Portugal, and thence stretched over to the Azores and down to Madeira.
On the 20th of February, being then about sixty leagues distant from
Madeira, at one o'clock in the afternoon she sighted two vessels
sailing apparently in company, but at the moment some ten miles apart.
These were discovered after a time to be two British ships-of-war,--the
corvette "Cyane" of twenty-two guns, Captain Falcon, and the sloop
"Levant" of twenty guns, Captain Douglas. The "Constitution" made all
sail in chase, hoping to be able to engage the vessels separately. The
"Levant" was the nearer of the two, and soon she was seen straining
every nerve to join her consort, and making signals that the stranger
was an enemy. Captain Stewart had crowded on everything the ship would
carry, even to topmast, top-gallant, and royal studding-sails; indeed it
was a little more than she could carry, as the main royal mast presently
snapped off, and another had to be prepared.

The enemy's ships were thus enabled to effect a junction, and after
manoeuvring to delay the action until dark, which they thought would
give them an advantage, they hauled by the wind on the starboard tack,
and formed in column, the "Levant" leading. Their united force was not
so strong as that of the "Constitution," but as there were two of them,
the American frigate was required above all things to be alert in her
movements, so that she might not be taken at a disadvantage. For this
special purpose she could have no better commander than Stewart, who
excelled in skilful seamanship. Soon after six she ranged up on the
starboard or weather quarter of the "Cyane," the rearmost ship, and
fired her broadside at a distance of two hundred yards. The "Cyane"
replied with spirit; and as the "Constitution" forged ahead, the
"Levant" in turn opened on her, receiving her fire at the same time. The
ships were now in a triangular fight, but as the "Constitution" moved
on, she became engaged with the "Levant" alone. Presently the smoke
lifted, and Stewart saw the "Cyane" luffing up for his port quarter.
Without an instant's hesitation, without stopping to wear or tack, which
would have exposed his bow or stern to a raking fire, he simply braced
aback his topsails, at the same time giving the "Levant" a parting
broadside, and backed astern till he had the "Cyane" abeam, so that she
was compelled to bear up again to avoid a rake. A furious cannonade now
silenced her, and the "Levant" wore, to come to her assistance. But
Stewart was on the alert again, and seeing this manoeuvre he filled and
shot ahead, and catching the sloop in the midst of the operation he gave
her two terrific stern-rakes. Then, wearing himself in the smoke, his
movements as quick and as nimble as those of a trained gymnast, he bore
down again on the "Cyane," who, thinking him gone, was herself beginning
to wear, and arriving in the nick of time, he raked her stern as he had
just raked her consort's. Ranging up immediately after on her quarter,
Stewart had the satisfaction of receiving her surrender.

Lieutenant Hoffman and a few men were now thrown hastily on board the
prize, and the "Constitution" went in search of the "Levant," which had
made sail after her last encounter. But she had only hauled off to
repair damages, and coming back she passed the "Constitution" on the
opposite tack, the two ships exchanging broadsides. This last was
enough, and the sloop now sought to escape in good earnest. But it was
of no avail; the frigate was on her heels, and after receiving a few
shot from the bow guns of the "Constitution," the "Levant" struck her

Captain Stewart had now completed a good day's work, and putting
Lieutenant Ballard on board the "Levant," he proceeded to Port Praya, in
the Cape de Verde Islands, where he came to anchor. Here we must leave
him for a moment, to return to the blockading squadron which he had left
before Boston. The "Newcastle" and "Acasta" returned to their station,
and discovered to their dismay that the "Constitution" had given them
the slip, and had got off in their absence. This was a serious mishap.
Of all the American ships, the "Constitution"--"Old Ironsides," as she
was called--was the worst offender. She had captured two frigates, the
"Guerrière" and the "Java," and there was no telling what mischief she
might be up to now. At this juncture the squadron was reinforced by
another 50-gun ship, the "Leander," under Sir George Collier, K.C.B.;
and Sir George, being the senior officer, decided that there was but one
thing to be done, and that was to go in pursuit. It seemed like a
wild-goose chase, to search for a ship that might be anywhere on the
Atlantic Ocean. But fortune favored the pursuers in a most wonderful
manner; for it so happened that on one foggy morning at Port Praya, as
the "Constitution" was lying snugly at anchor, with a large part of her
crew at work on board the prizes, Lieutenant Shubrick, the officer of
the deck, as he was looking idly seaward, gazing at vacancy, was
startled at catching sight, through a rift in the fog, of the sails of a
great ship-of-war looming up distinctly, though her hull was hidden from
view. He rubbed his eyes, thinking that some illusion must have deceived
him; but there was the great spread of white canvas, and the ship that
bore it was making for the anchorage. He rushed below to tell the

"Well," said Stewart, calmly, as he repaired to the deck, "she is either
an English frigate or an Indiaman. Call all hands at once, and get the
ship ready to go out and attack her."

But when they came on deck it was a different story, for the fog had
lifted a little, and two more sail were seen following the first. Sure
enough; these were Stewart's old friends, the blockaders,--the
"Newcastle" and "Acasta,"--and with them was another and equally
formidable ship, the "Leander." They had started from the American coast
a week behind the "Constitution," and after cruising about vainly in
search of her for over two months, they had chanced upon the very spot
which she had chosen as the best place in which to refit.

Port Praya was in neutral territory, and by the established laws of war
the "Constitution" and her prizes, as long as they lay there, should
have been safe from molestation. But so little respect had been paid by
the British to these rules, that Captain Stewart decided in an instant
that he would place no reliance upon neutral protection. That settled,
there was not a moment to be lost, for the enemy would soon be at the
entrance of the harbor. Loosing his topsails, the captain signalled to
the prizes to follow him, and cutting his cable, in seven minutes from
the time when the first frigate was sighted the three ships were
standing out of the harbor. That was rare discipline and organization,
for not one crew in twenty could have accomplished the task.

It was blowing fresh as the "Constitution," followed by the prizes,
passed close under the point of land at the entrance, within gunshot of
the enemy's squadron, and being to windward of them, she crossed her
top-gallant yards, and set the foresail, mainsail, spanker, flying-jib,
and top-gallant sails. The enemy immediately tacked, and made sail in
chase. The six ships were now all upon the port tack, the "Constitution"
racing along at the head of the line. Next came the prizes. Of the
enemy, the "Newcastle" was leading, the "Leander" two miles astern of
her, and the "Acasta" on her weather quarter. At half-past twelve the
"Constitution" cut adrift the boats that she had been towing astern.
Half an hour later Captain Stewart perceived that the "Acasta" was
luffing up, and thereby gaining his wake. At the same time the "Cyane,"
the rearmost of the prizes, was dropping astern and to leeward. "If she
keeps on in this way," he reasoned, "it will be impossible to save her
without bringing the 'Constitution' into action, which will certainly
result in her capture. If the 'Cyane' tacks, the 'Acasta' may go off in
pursuit, but the prize will gain the anchorage at Port Praya before the
enemy can catch her; that is probably her only chance. On the other
hand, if the enemy fail to pursue her, she can escape." The signal was
therefore made to the "Cyane" to tack, which she accordingly did, and
finding that the English squadron took no notice of her, she went off in
good style, and laying her course for the United States, she arrived
there safely just a month later.

At three o'clock the "Levant" found herself losing ground, exactly as
the "Cyane" had been doing two hours before. She also was therefore
signalled to tack, which was immediately done. Now came the singular
part of this day's proceedings. Seeing the "Levant" making off, Sir
George Collier, instead of keeping on and attempting to come up with
the "Constitution," which, if he could have overtaken her, would surely
have become his prize, abandoned the pursuit, and tacking with all his
vessels, went off after the "Levant." The latter immediately made for
the harbor; but Stewart's surmises about British respect for the
neutrality of the port turned out to be correct. The prize anchored
close under the batteries of the port, and the "Leander" and "Acasta"
immediately opened fire with a broadside, most of which, however, passed
above her, and did more damage in the town than on board the vessel.
After this illegal attack the squadron completed its work by an
inglorious capture.

The British officers who were prisoners on board the "Constitution" had
all the while been eagerly watching the manoeuvres of the squadron,
which they expected presently to set them free. Great was their chagrin
and disappointment when they saw this overwhelming force diverting its
course in pursuit of the little prize sloop whose capture was of no
earthly moment to the British Navy, and leaving "Old Ironsides," the
frigate which more than any other under the American flag that navy
longed to take, to go on her way rejoicing. Yet so it happened; and the
"Constitution," now freed from all anxiety, shaped her course
comfortably for home, where she arrived in May without any further

The only other frigate that left port in the last year of the war was
less fortunate than the "Constitution." This was the "President," now
under Commodore Decatur. She was at New York, and for some time had lain
at anchor off Staten Island watching for an opportunity to pass the
blockading squadron. On the 13th of January, 1815, a heavy snow-storm
drove the enemy off the coast; and next day, as the wind was favorable,
Decatur determined to make the attempt in the night. Unfortunately the
"President" in going out grounded on the bar, and by this accident lost
an hour or two of darkness. Unfortunately also the shrewdness of the
British commander, Captain Hayes, had led him to stand away to the
northward and eastward, in what would probably be the course of an
American ship if any such came out, in preference to closing the land to
the southward. Hence at daybreak, being then about fifty miles from
Sandy Hook, and steering southeast, the "President" found herself close
upon the very ships she was trying to avoid, and within two miles of the
largest of them, the "Majestic," a razee of sixty guns. The others were
the frigate "Endymion" of fifty guns, and the "Pomone" and the
"Tenedos," of forty-four each. Seeing such an overwhelming force
directly in his path, Decatur changed his course to the northeast, and
crowded sail to pass the enemy. The whole squadron immediately gave
chase, and when the pursuit was fairly begun, the "Majestic" was some
five miles astern, the "Endymion" following, and the "Pomone" a little
farther off on the "President's" port quarter.

For six hours the chase continued, with no change in the position of the
ships. The "President," laden with all the stores for her cruise, was
deep and sluggish in the water, and it was only by vigorous efforts that
she kept her distance from her pursuers. At length, about noon, the wind
became light and baffling. The "Majestic" was now falling astern, but
the "Endymion" began to gain rapidly. All hands on board the "President"
were busy lightening the ship, starting the water, cutting away the
anchors, and throwing overboard provisions, cables, spare spars,
boats,--everything, in short, that could be got at,--while the sails
were kept wet from the royals down. The uncertain wind now blew only for
the enemy; the "Endymion" had a good breeze, while it fell light upon
the sails of the "President." At five o'clock the English frigate got a
good position on the "President's" quarter, where none of Decatur's guns
could be brought to bear on her. Still she did not close, preferring to
yaw from time to time so that her broadside would bear, and then resume
the chase, rather than risk anything by a close action.

The pursuit had lasted all through the short winter's day, and it was
now dusk. Seeing that the "Endymion's" tactics must end in his being
crippled, Decatur suddenly altered his course to the southward, which
compelled the enemy to do the same, and so brought her abeam, and a
battle began between the two ships, broadside to broadside, Decatur
encouraging and cheering his men, and fighting as steadily as if there
were no other enemies in sight. His guns were aimed rather at the
"Endymion's" spars than at her hull, seeing that his object was to
destroy her power of sailing, and thus his loss in men was far greater
than that of the enemy. Nevertheless, after two hours of a running fight
the "Endymion" drew out of the battle, and dropped astern to repair her

Decatur now continued on his course, hoping against hope that in the
darkness of the night he might yet escape. But his pursuers were close
at his heels and never lost sight of him for a moment. So well did he
hold his own, that for more than two hours after the fight with the
"Endymion" the enemy only gained on him inch by inch. At last, at eleven
o'clock, the "Pomone" ranged up alongside, and planting herself within
musket-shot on his port bow, she opened fire. At the same moment the
"Tenedos" had taken a raking position on his quarter. If this had been
the beginning of the action, it would have been right for the commodore
to resist the attack, even though his resistance had lasted but a few
moments and had accomplished no result. But in his two hours' action
with the "Endymion" he had upheld with gallantry the honor of the flag,
and with sixty men already killed or wounded it was probable that an
attempt to fight the new assailants would only cause a useless
slaughter. So he surrendered, and the "President" became from that day
forth what she still remains,--a British frigate. It was a defeat
indeed, but one which left the vanquished as much credit as the victors.

       *       *       *       *       *

The actions of the "President" with the British squadron, and of the
"Constitution" with the "Cyane" and the "Levant," were the last frigate
engagements of the war. Indeed, the treaty of peace had already been
signed, and it only awaited ratification. What had been the results of
the naval war? The British Navy, numbering more than forty times our
own, had met in the battles on the ocean with more defeats than
victories, and on the lakes its squadrons had been twice annihilated.
Its naval prowess, of which the wars with Dutch and Danes and French and
Spaniards gave it so much cause to boast, was now matched by the naval
prowess of a new rival in the Western Continent. The people who for
twenty years had submitted to aggression, learned that those to whom
their defence upon the ocean was intrusted were worthy of the trust, and
would prove brave and efficient champions against a foreign foe, however
great his power or prestige; and from that time forward no political
party in the United States dared to rely for popular support upon a
platform of tame submission to foreign encroachment.



When the war with Great Britain broke out in 1812, it was no longer
possible to keep ships cruising in the Mediterranean to overawe the
States of Barbary. It was true that the severe lesson which Tripoli had
received from Commodore Preble in 1804 was well remembered, and the
Pasha had no desire to have it repeated. But Algiers, the most powerful
State upon the northern coast of Africa, had always cherished a
contemptuous feeling for the United States, which was still weakly
paying tribute; and no sooner did the Dey learn that England, the
mistress of the seas, was at war with the American Government, than he
resolved to take advantage of the stress thus put upon the American Navy
to break his treaty obligations. In order that he might have some
pretext, he made complaint that the naval stores sent to him were not so
good as the treaty called for, and after extorting by savage threats a
heavy payment from the Consul of the United States, he finally expelled
him, with all the other Americans, from his dominions. He even went
beyond this, and took up again his old trade of pirate, capturing the
brig "Edwin," of Salem, and imprisoning her officers and crew, whom he
refused to release even on payment of the heaviest ransom.

So matters continued during the war, it being impossible, as we have
seen, to send out ships-of-war to the Mediterranean. But the moment that
peace was declared, all this was changed. The navy, which had for nearly
three years successfully defied the power of Great Britain on the sea,
was not likely to shrink from an encounter with the corsairs of Algiers;
and the American people, who had learned their strength, were no longer
willing to submit to the encroachments of a petty barbarian prince.
Besides, the navy, so far from having been destroyed in the war, was
stronger than at the beginning. Of the larger frigates there still
remained the "Constitution," the "United States," the "Constellation,"
and the "Congress;" and during the last year of the war others had been
built, too late, indeed, to be of service against Great Britain, but
ready now for conquests over a new enemy. There was the "Independence,"
the first American line-of-battle ship, of seventy-four guns, and there
were the splendid frigates "Guerrière" and "Java," named after the
prizes of 1812.

It was with joyful prospects that the new squadron, composed of eleven
sail, under the command of Commodore Decatur, who hoisted his broad
pennant in the flagship "Guerrière," set out from New York on the 20th
of May, 1815, bound for the Mediterranean. The squadron stood directly
across the Atlantic, making a quick passage, and heading cautiously for
the Strait of Gibraltar, arrived before any news of its departure had
reached that quarter of the globe. It was Decatur's hope to take the
Algerines by surprise while they were cruising, and his precautions were
rewarded by success.

Touching at Tangier for information, and learning that the Algerine
vessels had been heard from but a short time before, the commodore
proceeded up the Mediterranean, and off Cape de Gatt he fell in with the
enemy's flagship, the "Mezourah," commanded by the Rais Hammida, the
bravest and most skilful officer in the Algerine navy. The "Mezourah"
was a beautiful frigate, originally a Portuguese, and sailed uncommonly
fast. Hammida at first supposed that the ships were English, as no one
could dream that an American squadron of such force was in that
neighborhood; but one of the vessels having hoisted American colors by
mistake, he was undeceived, and speedily took to his heels. The
"Constellation," being nearest to him, opened fire; but Decatur could
not resist the temptation, and signalling to her to sheer off, he dashed
up in the "Guerrière" until he was alongside the enemy. Then he gave her
one of those thundering broadsides which had so many times carried
dismay and destruction to English frigates. The Rais was killed, his
body cut in two by a shot; his ship was shattered, and his people fell
on all sides about the decks. The survivors were demoralized, and hardly
returned the fire. A second broadside was discharged, and the "Mezourah"
turned to flee; but the little "Epervier," herself a trophy of the last
war, was in her path, and the Algerine surrendered.

Two days later the squadron fell in with another of the enemy's ships,
the brig "Estedio." She took to flight, and being near the Spanish
coast, ran into shallow water, where the large ships could not follow
her. The brigs and schooners were sent in after her, and attacking her
hotly, she was run ashore, and presently surrendered. She was floated
off without much delay, and was sent with the other prize to Carthagena.

Further concealment was useless; and the commodore, having now nearly
five hundred Algerine prisoners, decided to proceed to Algiers, and on
the 28th of June he entered the bay. The Dey was amazed at the sight of
the squadron, and, fearful for the safety of his cruisers, all of which
were now out, he sent the captain of the port with the Swedish
consul-general to ascertain the purposes of the American commodore.
Decatur received them with due ceremony, dressed in his full uniform and
surrounded by his officers. After exchanging courtesies, he asked the
captain of the port what had become of the Algerine squadron.

"By this time," answered the wily Turk, "it is safe in some neutral

"Not the whole of it," rejoined the commodore; and then he told the
story of Hammida's death, and the capture of the "Mezourah" and the

This did not satisfy the official, who shook his head and smiled, as
much as to say, "That is all very well, but you don't expect _me_ to
believe your story."

"Wait a moment," said Decatur; and he sent for the "Mezourah's"
lieutenant, who, coming on deck enfeebled by his wounds, briefly recited
the circumstances of the two captures.

The captain of the port was no longer incredulous, but began to realize
the seriousness of the situation. Alarmed and anxious, he asked the
commodore what terms he offered. Decatur's reply was brief: "No tribute;
no ransom; liberation of all American captives; immunity of all American
ships and crews in future."

Hearing this answer, the captain of the port hesitated and proposed a
truce, during which the commissioners should negotiate on shore. But the
commodore declared that all the discussion should be on board his
flagship, and that he would not cease from hostilities a moment until
the treaty had been signed. With this answer the captain of the port
returned to his master.

The Dey's wrath was great when he learned the news, but his alarm was
even greater. On the next day the captain of the port returned, and the
commodore gave him a copy of the proposed treaty. Still he demurred,
seeking to gain time. He asked again for a truce, and again it was
refused. He begged for three hours to consider the terms, but the
commodore answered, "Not a minute;" and he added to the messenger, "If
your squadron or one of your ships appears in sight off the port before
the treaty is signed, I will capture it." All that he would promise was
that if the boat, returning with the treaty signed, should hoist a white
flag, hostilities should then cease. The captain of the port then took
the treaty and pulled for the landing five miles away.

Not long after his departure an Algerine corvette hove in sight at the
entrance of the bay. The flagship made signal for a general chase, and
Decatur himself bore down upon her in the "Guerrière." All this the Dey
saw from his palace, and bitterly as he felt the humiliation, he did not
long hesitate in affixing his signature and sending the treaty back.
Soon the returning boat made its appearance, with the white flag hoisted
which had been agreed upon as the signal that the treaty had been
signed; and the commodore, who had prepared to board the Algerine and
have a battle like the old contests before Tripoli, hauled off shore and
returned to his moorings.

The boat approached rapidly, her progress quickened by the anxiety with
which the captain of the port had watched the squadron's movements.

"Is the treaty signed?" asked the commodore in his peremptory way when
the Swedish consul came on deck.

"It is here," replied the consul, as he delivered the document.

"And the prisoners?" continued Decatur.

"They are in the boat."

As they were speaking, the Americans, who after three years of
confinement and suffering were now to be set free, reached the
quarter-deck, where they were warmly greeted by their deliverer.

This prompt action of Decatur at Algiers, and the treaty which resulted
from it, put an end forever to the piratical depredations of the Barbary
States upon American commerce, and the example set by the United States
was soon after followed by England, so that Mediterranean piracy in a
short time thereafter ceased to exist. On the 8th of July the squadron
weighed anchor and proceeded to Tunis. During the late war the
neutrality of this port as well as that of Tripoli had been violated by
British cruisers, which had seized within the two harbors the prizes of
an American privateer, without opposition from the authorities.
Commodore Decatur now proposed to obtain satisfaction for the outrage.


The consul of the United States at Tunis, Major Noah, was waiting for
Decatur's arrival. He says:--

     "On the 30th of July, about noon, we observed signals for a
     fleet from the tower at Cape Carthage, and shortly after the
     American squadron, under full sail, came into the bay and
     anchored. Nothing can be more welcome to a consul in Barbary
     than the sight of a fleet bearing the flag of his nation; he
     feels that, surrounded by assassins and mercenaries, he is
     still safe and protected, and an involuntary tribute of
     admiration is paid by the Mussulmen to that nation which has
     the power and the disposition to command respect. The flags of
     all the consulates were hoisted, and I lost no time in riding
     to Goletta, for the purpose of communicating with the squadron.
     On my way, a Mameluke on horseback presented me a letter from
     Commodore Decatur, announcing peace with Algiers, and desiring
     to know the nature of our differences with Tunis. I had already
     prepared the documents and arranged the plan of procedure which
     I intended to suggest to the commodore. On my arrival at
     Goletta the Minister of Marine ordered the Bey's barge of
     twelve oars to be prepared for me, and arranged the silk
     cushions in the stern, and, accompanied by Abdallah the
     dragoman, I left the canal.

     "The squadron lay off Cape Carthage, arranged in handsome
     order; the 'Guerrière,' bearing the broad pennant of the
     commodore, was in the centre, and the whole presented a very
     agreeable and commanding sight. In less than an hour I was
     alongside the flagship, and ascended on the quarter-deck. The
     marines were under arms, and the Consul of the United States
     was received with the usual honors. Commodore Decatur and
     Captain Downes, both in uniform, were at the gangway, and most
     of the officers and crew pressed forward to view their

After an interview with the consul, Commodore Decatur wrote a letter to
the Bey demanding an indemnity for the captured prizes. This was duly
delivered, and the consul, going ashore, had several interviews with the
Tunisian minister. Next day Captain Gordon and Captain Elliott were
presented to the Bey, who consented, much against his will, to pay the

Three days later the squadron sailed for Tripoli, where a similar demand
was made. The Pasha hesitated; but on learning what had happened at
Tunis and Algiers, and remembering what this same Captain Decatur had
done ten years before in his own harbor, he concluded that it would be
wiser for him to yield. So he paid the money, and in addition released
ten Neapolitan captives, whom Decatur desired to restore to their native
country, as a return for the favors which the King of the Two Sicilies
had shown the squadron in the earlier war.

Thus was accomplished the whole object of Decatur's mission in fifty
days after his arrival in the Mediterranean. Since that day there has
been no trouble with the States of Barbary. The effect of Decatur's acts
was rendered tenfold greater by the appearance of another squadron a
month later, under Commodore Bainbridge, with his broad pennant on the
new line-of-battle ship "Independence," and having with him besides the
frigate "Congress" and three other vessels. The three ports of Barbary
were visited in succession; and great was the astonishment of the Turks
at this second display of naval strength. "You told us," said the
Algerine Prime Minister to the British Consul, "that the Americans would
be swept from the seas in six months by your navy; and now they make war
upon us with some of your own vessels!"

Late in September the frigate "United States" with four sloops in
company arrived at Gibraltar, and here all the squadrons assembled in
one great fleet under Commodore Bainbridge,--the grandest fleet which
had ever been gathered under the flag of the United States. There was
the great seventy-four the "Independence;" five frigates,--the captured
"Macedonian," the "United States" which had captured her, the new
"Guerrière," the "Congress," and the "Constellation;" the sloops "Erie"
and "Ontario;" the brigs "Firefly," "Flambeau," "Saranac," "Boxer,"
"Enterprise," "Spark," and "Chippewa;" and the schooners "Torch,"
"Lynx," and "Spitfire,"--in all eighteen sail. And it was no slight
satisfaction to the officers of the American squadron, when in this
British port, that its two commodores were Bainbridge and Decatur, each
of whom had taken a British frigate, and that the "Macedonian" and the
"Boxer" were in the squadron, and flying the stars and stripes of the
country that had captured them.[3]

[Footnote 3: It is an interesting fact, and one which, as far as I know,
has never before been published, that when the practice squadron under
Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Luce, sailed in 1865 to Europe, having on
board the midshipmen from the Naval Academy, a singular rencontre took
place in the English Channel. Meeting an English frigate, Captain Luce
hailed from the quarter-deck,--

     "Ship ahoy! What ship is that?"

     "Her Majesty's ship 'President,'" came the answer. "What ship
     is that?"

     "The United States ship 'Macedonian,'" replied Captain Luce;
     for, strangely enough, the two vessels which half a century
     before had changed sides as prizes in the War of 1812 were now
     exchanging peaceful greetings under the flags of their
     respective conquerors.]



We now come to a long break of thirty years, during which the United
States were at peace with all the nations of the earth. But in this
period the navy was by no means idle. There was first a long and arduous
campaign against the pirates of the West Indies, which ended at last in
sweeping from the seas the gangs of cut-throats that had so long
infested the Spanish Main. When this important work had been
successfully accomplished, the navy was actively occupied in putting
down the slave trade on the coast of Africa, and in protecting American
commerce from the depredations of savage tribes in distant countries,
above all on the coasts and islands of the Pacific and the Indian
Oceans. The navy too was busy with its peaceful occupations; for as the
co-adjutor of the nation's commerce it is a part of its duty to survey
and explore the waters upon coasts hitherto unknown, to map out the
channels, and to warn against the rocks and shoals and other dangers to
the ships that will some day have to navigate these remote seas. It was
in this period that the great exploring expedition was sent out to the
Pacific under Lieutenant Wilkes, whose researches gave us our first
accurate knowledge of the waters of this region, and form a lasting
monument to the memory of the commander, and to the zeal and energy and
skill of the navy which planned and carried out the enterprise.

But the long period of peace was now to be rudely interrupted, and the
complications that followed the annexation of Texas at last brought on
hostilities with Mexico. The possibility of this war had been long
foreseen by the Government, and the navy was found prepared for it. For
several years a squadron had been maintained on the western coast of
America, from Valparaiso to the Columbia River; and at the declaration
of war, May 12, 1846, a considerable force was assembled in the northern
cruising-ground. A still stronger force, composing the Home Squadron,
was concentrated in the Gulf. The two coasts continued during the war to
be two distinct bases of operation; but as the Mexicans had no naval
force, the operations consisted mainly in blockade, and in attacks upon
the cities along the coast.

Of the officers who held successively the chief command on the western
coast, Commodore Stockton had the largest share of the work. Commodore
Sloat, who was in command of the station when the war broke out, was
there only long enough to make a beginning. This he did promptly and
well. He had with him the frigate "Savannah" as flagship; the sloops
"Portsmouth," "Warren," "Levant," and "Cyane;" the schooner "Shark;" and
the storeship "Erie." These were all sailing-ships. At this time the
coast south of the forty-second parallel of latitude, including the
whole of California, belonged to Mexico, that parallel having been the
boundary of the United States as fixed by the treaty of cession of
Louisiana in 1803. North of this point was the unsettled and
hardly-organized territory of Oregon. The squadron was therefore without
a base of supplies in the Pacific, and as it took months to communicate
with Washington, its commander was obliged to act largely on his own
responsibility. The enemy's coast, including the peninsula of lower
California, extended over four thousand miles. To cover such a range of
coast even with steamers would require uncommon activity; and with a
force of half a dozen sailing-vessels the task was much more difficult.

Commodore Sloat's instructions of the 24th of June, 1845, which were
written a year before the war broke out, contained these words:--

     "It is the earnest desire of the President to pursue the policy
     of peace; and he is anxious that you and every part of your
     squadron should be assiduously careful to avoid any act of
     aggression. Should Mexico, however, be resolutely bent on
     hostilities, you will be mindful to protect the persons and
     interests of citizens of the United States near your station;
     and should you ascertain beyond a doubt that the Mexican
     Government has declared war against us, you will at once employ
     the forces under your command to the best advantage."

On the 7th of June, 1846, while at Mazatlan, Commodore Sloat received
satisfactory information that the Mexican troops had crossed the Rio
Grande and had attacked the army of General Taylor in Texas. At the same
time he learned that our squadron in the Gulf had put some of the
Mexican ports under blockade. Of course he had not yet heard of the
declaration of war passed on the 12th of May; but he knew that
according to the policy of the administration this meant war, and that
under his instructions he was to begin offensive operations. Leaving the
"Warren" at Mazatlan, he sailed at once in the "Savannah" for Monterey.

The commodore showed great foresight in striking his first blow in
California. The country was mostly unexplored, and only sparsely
inhabited, many of the settlers having come from the United States. Its
resources were not fully known, but they were supposed to be
considerable, though nothing was looked for like the Eldorado that was
afterward discovered. It embraced an immense territory, comprising,
besides the State of California as its boundaries are fixed to-day,
Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and part of Colorado. Its position
pointed it out as the part of Mexico which could most advantageously be
transferred in case of an annexation of territory at the end of the war.
Annexation would be made much easier by an early conquest, and indeed a
conquest was in some degree necessary to make the ground of cession. It
was a vulnerable point, because it was garrisoned only by a small force
of Mexican troops, and it lay too far from the scene of active
hostilities to be recovered from the Americans if they once got full

The "Savannah" arrived at Monterey on the 2d of July, and found there
the "Cyane" and the "Levant." Commodore Sloat hastened to demand a
surrender from the Mexicans, and upon their refusal, two hundred and
fifty seamen and marines were landed, who took possession of the town
without resistance. Soon after a proclamation was published declaring
that California had become a part of the United States. A company of
volunteer dragoons was organized among the Americans on shore, and
preparations were made to seize the neighboring towns.

While this was going on at Monterey, Commander Montgomery in the
"Portsmouth," which was at Yerba Buena, or San Francisco, as it is now
called, having received an order from the commodore, took like measures
to assert the authority of the United States. He also organized his
military companies, and assumed control of all the posts in the
neighborhood,--Sonoma, Sutter's Fort, and the Presidio. Not far off, in
the interior, Frémont, a young captain of topographical engineers, who
was at work upon his duties of surveying, had raised the American flag,
and at various points he too had taken a nominal possession. On the 19th
of July he joined Commodore Sloat at Monterey.

With these vigorous preliminary measures the commodore's command came to
an end. He had been for some time past in bad health, and when, late in
July, the "Congress" arrived, under Commodore Stockton, a younger man
and a most brilliant officer, Commodore Sloat turned over the command to
him. The campaign had been opened, and it remained for the new
commander-in-chief to follow up the blows that had been struck.

At this time the Californian Legislature was in session at Los Angeles,
the capital of the province, which was defended by a body of Mexican
troops under General Castro. Commodore Stockton at once determined to
strike a decisive blow at the city. As Los Angeles was not on the
sea-coast, and as it was defended by a trained army, it required an
extraordinary degree of boldness and enterprise on the part of the naval
commander to resolve to attack it without the aid of regular soldiers.
But the result only shows how much may be done in case of necessity by
blue-jackets on shore under a capable commander. The commodore organized
the volunteer dragoons as a battalion of mounted riflemen, and appointed
Captain Frémont major and Lieutenant Gillespie captain. On the day after
he took command the battalion embarked on board the "Cyane," and next
day it sailed for San Diego, from which place it was to march toward the
capital. A few days later Commodore Stockton sailed in the "Congress" to
San Pedro, a point some distance to the northward of San Diego, and only
thirty miles from Los Angeles. On his way down he landed a garrison at
Santa Barbara, an intermediate port. Arriving at San Pedro he organized
a little army--a naval brigade, as we should call it now--of three
hundred and fifty seamen and marines, drilling them daily on shore by a
rough manual which he devised hastily for the purpose. For artillery he
had some 6-pounders and a 32-pounder carronade.

After a few days' delay, to exercise his men and to give Major Frémont
time to begin his advance, the commodore set out for Los Angeles. His
force was only one third of that of the enemy, who were strongly
intrenched in a fortified camp in the valley of the river Mesa. The road
from San Pedro contained many narrow defiles, which the Mexicans might
easily have defended; but, strange to say, they neglected this
advantage. On his way Stockton was twice called upon to surrender by
envoys from General Castro; but he talked to them so boldly that he
succeeded in deceiving them about the actual size of his force. Soon
they became alarmed at the invasion, and when the Americans arrived at
Castro's camp, it was found that the general had fled, and that his
followers were scattered in all directions. On the 13th of August the
commodore entered Los Angeles and took possession of the capital of

Commodore Stockton now set about to organize his conquest, and first of
all he issued a proclamation declaring California a territory of the
United States. A tariff of duties was established and collectors were
appointed to receive them at the different seaports. A constitution was
drawn up and put in operation, in which the powers and duties of the
various branches of the government were laid down. Major Frémont was
appointed governor of the territory, and directions were given for
elections to be held for civil magistrates, the conquered country
meanwhile remaining under martial law.

It had been the commodore's purpose to enlist a force of volunteers, and
taking them to Mexico, to land at Acapulco or some other convenient
point, and create a diversion of the Mexican army by an invasion from
the west coast, and for this reason he had installed Frémont as
governor; but circumstances soon after compelled him to change his plan,
which after all was perhaps somewhat visionary. In the month of
September, while he was busily occupied in northern California, a rising
took place at Los Angeles, under General Flores, and Pico the governor,
whom the Americans had released on their parole at the capture of the
city. The garrison left by the commodore was driven out and took refuge
in San Pedro. Thither Captain Mervine was ordered at once in the
"Savannah," and thither the "Congress" shortly followed him. Arriving at
San Pedro late in October, the commodore found that Captain Mervine had
just been defeated by the enemy, who were then besieging the little
town. The naval brigade was again landed, and presently the besieging
forces were driven off. From this time till the 1st of January the fleet
was occupied with preparations for a second and more serious attack upon
Los Angeles. The great advantage of the enemy was in his cavalry. Every
Californian was an expert horseman, and the Mexican ponies are trained
to the severest work. On the other hand the naval brigade, as might be
expected, was badly off in this essential arm of service. Commodore
Stockton was a man of bold and original mind, but even his mind did not
go to the length of forming a corps of marine cavalry; and besides,
there were no horses, for the Mexicans had taken care to strip the
country of ponies in the neighborhood of the southern ports. Parties
were sent out in all directions to obtain them, but with no success.
Finally Major Frémont was conveyed to Monterey with his battalion, with
the understanding that he should march south by land as soon as he had
completed his preparations; but as he was delayed from one cause or
another, and as Monterey was three hundred miles north of Los Angeles,
he did not arrive in time to take a part in the attack.

Early in December the force at San Diego was joined by Gen. S.W.
Kearney, of the army, a brave and devoted officer, who, after having
seized several points in New Mexico, had crossed the mountains from the
eastward with a few squadrons of dragoons. The Californians met him at
San Pasqual, not far from San Diego, where they gave him battle and
nearly cut to pieces his command. The remnant of the force, after their
gallant struggle, was only saved by the arrival of reinforcements from
Commodore Stockton, which escorted the general into San Diego. The
commodore now generously offered to give up the command to General
Kearney and to act as his aide. Kearney with equal magnanimity declined
the offer, and he was placed in charge of the land troops for the
proposed expedition, the commodore retaining the chief command.
Preparations were completed on the 29th of December, and the little army
set out. It was indeed a mongrel force, but it was none the less a good
army for the work in hand. It consisted of sixty dismounted dragoons who
had come with General Kearney; sixty mounted riflemen of the California
battalion; five hundred seamen and marines from the "Congress,"
"Savannah," "Portsmouth," and "Cyane;" and six pieces of artillery. The
force was poorly armed, many of the sailors having only boarding-pikes
and pistols, and the cavalry were badly mounted.

After a march of one hundred and forty miles, lasting ten days, the
Americans, on the 8th of January, came upon the enemy strongly posted on
the heights of San Gabriel, with six hundred mounted men and four pieces
of artillery, commanding the ford of the river. In a position where an
officer with a soldier's training would perhaps have hesitated,
Commodore Stockton's confidence and resolution influenced him to
advance. He forded the river under the enemy's guns without firing a
shot, dragged his guns through the water, and formed his men in squares
on the opposite bank. Here he repelled an attack of the enemy, and after
a stubborn conflict carried the heights by a charge. Next day, on the
march across the plains of the Mesa, the Mexicans made another desperate
effort to save the capital. They had a strong position, being concealed
with their artillery in a ravine till the commodore came within
gunshot; then they opened a brisk fire on his flank, at the same time
charging him both in front and rear. The squares of blue-jackets coolly
and steadily withstood the cavalry charge, and the enemy, after being
twice repulsed, were finally driven off the field and dispersed.
Immediately after the battle Commodore Stockton entered the city of Los
Angeles, and for the second and last time California was conquered.

The object of the Government was now accomplished. When the time came to
settle the conditions of peace, the territory of the United States was
increased by this immense district, comprising over 650,000 square
miles, and by far the largest part of the work had been done by Stockton
and his naval brigade.

Soon after these events Commodore Shubrick came out in the
"Independence" to take command of the station. He was followed by the
"Lexington" with a detachment of troops belonging to the regular
artillery. These were landed at the important points in California and
left to garrison them, and the fleet could now turn its attention to the
coast of Mexico, where vigorous demonstrations were soon after made.
Mazatlan, the principal seaport of Mexico in the Pacific, was captured
by a landing force of six hundred men from the fleet. Its garrison
retreated, and the victorious Americans held the town until the end of
the war, collecting duties at the custom-house, which went far to defray
the cost of maintaining the squadron.

Other towns were taken, some of them several times over. At Guaymas and
Mulejè attacks were made by the "Dale," under Commander Selfridge.
After defeating the Mexican chief Pineda, whose band of guerillas
infested the country about Mulejè, Captain Selfridge obtained a
schooner, and stationed her there under Lieutenant Craven to blockade
the port. At Guaymas a force was landed, and a severe fight took place
with the Mexicans, in which Selfridge was wounded. Though the force of
the "Dale" was too small to leave a garrison on shore, she remained off
the town and made it untenable for the enemy.

At San José, at the extremity of Lower California, a post was
established on shore in an old mission-house, which was garrisoned by
fifty-seven men,--seamen, marines, and volunteers,--under Lieutenant
Heywood. It was attacked in November, 1847, but the Mexicans failed in
their attempt to carry the place by assault. The town had been deserted,
and fifty or more women and children had taken refuge in the
mission-house. In February the attack was renewed by a large force of
Mexicans. Not wishing to risk an assault, they occupied the houses about
the mission and laid siege to the post. Twice Lieutenant Heywood made a
sortie with his gallant little force and drove them from their position;
but they recovered their ground as soon as he returned. The situation
was now becoming critical, for the supplies of the garrison began to
fall short, and the fugitives under their protection shared their
rations. At last they could not even get water; for with the close watch
maintained by the enemy, any man who ventured out was shot down. The
siege had lasted ten days, and the garrison would presently have been
starved into surrender, when by a fortunate chance the "Cyane" came into
the harbor. Commander Dupont, who was in command, immediately landed a
force from his ship and raised the siege, bringing off the heroic
garrison in safety. This was the last affair of importance on the west

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Gulf the outbreak of the war had found a large squadron already
assembled. There were three fifty-gun frigates and half a dozen sloops
and brigs. There were also two steamers, the first that the United
States had used in war,--the large paddle-wheel vessel "Mississippi,"
and the "Princeton," which had gained a melancholy notoriety from the
bursting of one of her guns while on an experimental trip in the
Potomac, by which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Navy, and
other high officers of the Government had lost their lives. The vessels,
however, were all too large for the service. The Mexican coast is a long
stretch of sand exposed to the sudden and tempestuous "northers," as
they are called,--furious northerly gales which blow frequently in the
Gulf. The important sea-coast towns lie mostly in deep bights or
recesses at the mouths of rivers, sometimes two or three miles up, with
a bar having but ten feet of water, and currents that render difficult
the pilotage of sailing-vessels. Vera Cruz, a large town with strong
fortifications, was an exception, for its harbor was deep and
accessible. The other points of importance--Tuspan, Tampico, Alvarado,
and Tabasco, the last of which lay some distance up the Tabasco
River--were partially protected by earthworks, but their principal
safeguard lay in the difficulties of a shallow and frequently shifting

The headquarters of the squadron were fixed at Anton Lizardo, a harbor
formed by a group of small barren islands a few miles south of Vera
Cruz. A blockade was declared and maintained by vessels stationed off
the ports or cruising up and down the coast. In the course of the first
summer the squadron was reinforced by four sloops and brigs; and, what
was of much more importance, by two steam gunboats, the "Vixen" and
"Spitfire," each of which carried an 8-inch gun and two lighter guns.
These were the ideal vessels for service on the Mexican coast, with
their heavy gun and their light draught,--only seven feet; and it is a
curious fact that one of them, the "Vixen," was actually designed and
under construction for the Mexican Government in New York when she was
purchased by our own. Other steamers were added later, one of them a
revenue cutter: and a number of gunboat schooners were also sent down to
the station. The peculiar dangers and difficulties of the coast were
seen in two catastrophes that befell the squadron during the summer. The
brig "Truxtun," attempting to move against Tuspan, grounded on the bar
in the river, where it was necessary to abandon her, and where the
Mexicans left her after carrying off her guns; while another brig, the
"Somers," was sunk with half her crew in a "norther" which came down on
her without warning. Among the saved was her captain, Raphael Semmes,
the future commander of the "Alabama."

The first eight months of the war on the east coast, while the squadron
was under the command of Commodore Conner, were not marked by any great
success. In August an attempt was made to capture Alvarado, thirty
miles southeast of Vera Cruz. The large ships anchored off the bar, with
the gunboats close in, engaging the batteries during the afternoon and
evening, and a boat expedition was organized to attack in the morning;
but when the morning came, the fleet was called off on account of
threatening weather. In October the attempt was renewed, but with no
better success. This time the gunboats were arranged in two divisions,
each in tow of a steamer. After the first division had worked safely in,
the towing steamer of the second grounded on the bar, and the schooners
in tow got foul, and the van was left unsupported. This check was enough
to decide the commodore against prosecuting the attack; the van was
recalled, the grounded steamer got afloat, and the squadron sailed away
a second time from Alvarado.

In November the fleet made an important capture,--the seaport of
Tampico. Great preparations were made for the expedition, the force
despatched consisting of the two principal frigates,--the steamers
"Mississippi" and "Princeton,"--the sloop "St. Mary's," and a large
fleet of gunboats. The gunboats, with the boats from the large ships,
were safely towed over the bar and appeared before the city. The
authorities thereupon surrendered without any resistance. The city was
occupied, and a military government was established, which continued to
the end of the war.

Meanwhile another commodore had joined the squadron,--Matthew Calbraith
Perry, an officer whose reputation was second to that of no one of his
time in the service. At first Commodore Perry was chiefly employed in
detached enterprises. His first important success was an expedition in
October against Tabasco, a town lying seventy miles up the Tabasco
River. Leaving the "Mississippi" outside, he entered the river in the
"Vixen," and after having seized the shipping at Frontera, near the
mouth of the river, the expedition proceeded up to Tabasco. At its
approach the enemy abandoned the fort, but the Mexican commander,
occupying the town with his troops, refused to surrender. Fire was
opened on the town, but the commodore presently desisted from his
bombardment, at the entreaties of the foreign merchants who owned most
of the property. Nothing could be gained by laying the town in ruins;
and after a scattering fight on shore the troops were re-embarked, and
the flotilla returned, leaving two vessels at the entrance to continue
the blockade. The expedition had taken nine prizes and destroyed four
more, and had broken up the contraband trade in the river.

In December Commodore Perry commanded an expedition against Laguna, in
Yucatan. Yucatan was an uncertain friend, with a disposition to become
an annoying enemy by supplying the Mexicans with arms and munitions of
war from British Honduras and other points. Perry therefore occupied
Laguna, and installed Commander Sands in charge of the post as a
temporary governor.

The Government had now decided that it would be wise to change the plan
of campaign which had so far been followed in the war. General Taylor's
army, which had invaded Mexico from the Rio Grande, though it was
victorious at Monterey, and later at Buena Vista, could hardly hope to
penetrate into the heart of the country without great loss of time,
troops, and money. It was resolved to take a shorter route to the
interior and so decide the war. General Scott was to command the army
of invasion, and Vera Cruz was the point selected for the beginning of
its march. By the middle of February the transports containing General
Scott's army began to rendezvous at the island of Lobos, and storeships
to arrive at Anton Lizardo with materials for the expedition, including
sixty-seven surf-boats in which the troops were to be landed. The
preparation for the landing was made by the squadron, still under
Commodore Conner's command, with such despatch and thoroughness that
though General Scott and his staff only arrived on the 6th of March, on
the 9th the army was disembarked. Early on the morning of this day the
men-of-war, with the troops on board, sailed from their anchorage to
Sacrificios, an island just south of Vera Cruz, and by ten o'clock that
night the whole body of twelve thousand men had been landed without
mishap or loss.

No opposition was made to the landing, though the position offered great
advantages for defence. A line of investment five miles in length was
drawn about the city, and the erection of batteries was begun at once,
the naval forces being still employed in landing munitions of war. By
the 22d some of the batteries were ready, and the city having refused to
surrender, General Scott opened the bombardment.

On the day before the attack began, Commodore Conner, who had long been
in bad health, and who would have done more wisely to give up the
command before, was relieved by Commodore Perry. As the heavy guns
provided by the army for the siege--the battering train--had not
arrived, the army had only its mortars and a few light guns. These had
no effect upon the walls and bastions of the city, and General Scott
suggested to Commodore Perry that he should land some of the heavy
cannon from the ships. Perry answered that he would land the guns, and
moreover that he would fight them. Six heavy guns, each weighing three
tons, were landed, and, drawn by two hundred seamen and volunteers, they
were moved during the night of the 23d three miles from the
landing-place to their position in battery, seven hundred yards from the
city wall. On the morning of the 24th they opened, and immediately
drawing upon themselves the concentrated fire of the fortifications,
they did more real execution than all the batteries which had been
hitherto engaged.

The Mosquito fleet, as it was called, seconded the shore batteries in
the bombardment. This was a detachment of vessels composed of the
steamers "Spitfire" and "Vixen," and the five sailing gunboats, and
commanded by Commodore Tattnall, a very gallant officer, in the
"Spitfire." On the first day the flotilla lay off Point Hornos, and at
three in the afternoon, when the bombardment began, it opened upon the
city, continuing the fire till night. The next day, leaving one of his
schooners at the anchorage as a blind, Commander Tattnall took out the
six other vessels, the steamers having the gunboats in tow, as if to
rejoin the squadron. As soon as he had cleared the point he turned and
steamed up to within eight hundred yards of Fort San Juan d'Ulloa, and
directly between it and Fort St. Jago. From this position Tattnall
discharged a heavy fire into the city. As soon as the forts recovered
from their surprise they opened a concentrated fire upon the audacious
flotilla, which nevertheless kept at its post until Perry, fearing that
all the vessels would be lost, recalled them by signal. It was a
splendid sight to see Tattnall with his little vessels, without
protection,--for there were no ironclads in those days,--holding his
perilous position under the fire of the great forts, with his crews
loading and firing as coolly as if their work were but pastime. As the
surgeon stood for a moment on the deck of the "Spitfire," Tattnall
paused in his work to say, "Ah, doctor, this may not make life longer,
but it makes it a great deal broader!"

The bombardment by the batteries on shore lasted four days, during which
the unprotected inhabitants of the city were the chief sufferers; for
the strong castle of San Juan d'Ulloa, in its secure position on a reef
to the northward, was hardly injured at all. But perhaps there is no
more effective method of reducing a town than by the sufferings of its
inhabitants, cruel as the method is; and on the 26th of March
negotiations were opened by the besieged, which were concluded the next
day by the signing of a capitulation including both the town and the

On the day after the surrender of Vera Cruz an expedition was planned
for the third time against Alvarado. Extensive preparations had been
made, and a brigade from the army under General Quitman was detailed to
co-operate by land. The enterprise had a truly singular ending.
Commodore Perry had sent the sloop-of-war "Albany" and the small steamer
"Scourge" as an advance force to lie off the bar of the river and
reconnoitre. The "Scourge," commanded by Lieutenant Hunter, arriving
before the "Albany," stood close in to the land, abreast of the outer
fort, and seeing indications of flinching, fired a few shot into it. The
fort, having no intention of resistance after the fall of Vera Cruz,
and understanding the fire as a summons to yield, sent a boat to the
"Scourge" with an officer, who tendered a surrender. Upon this,
Lieutenant Hunter threw a midshipman and five men into the fort, and
pushing on to the town took possession of it, as well as of another town
near by, and after capturing all the shipping, held his course up the
river. When Commodore Perry arrived with his fleet and General Quitman
with his brigade, they found the capture, for which they had made such
large preparations, already effected, and the place was turned over to
them by the midshipman in charge. Lieutenant Hunter was still up the
river, where he could be heard firing this way and that in his career of
conquest. It was stated that one of the secondary objects of the
expedition, the capture of supplies, was partly defeated by this
premature action. The commander-in-chief commented with extreme severity
upon Lieutenant Hunter in his report, and caused him to be
court-martialled, which seemed rather hard, as he had only erred through
excess of zeal.

Commodore Perry next resolved to attack Tuspan, a town about one hundred
miles northwest of Vera Cruz. It was the only point of importance on the
coast remaining in the enemy's hands. The squadron, which was now well
equipped for service, rendezvoused at Lobos, off the mouth of the Tuspan
River. Two days were spent here in organizing landing-parties and
practising field exercises with a battery of light artillery which the
commodore had organized. With the thoroughness that marked all his
preparations, Perry spent another day in sounding on the bar and buoying
the channel. At length all was ready, and on the 18th of April the
attack was made. The flotilla was in three lines, each in tow of a
steamer, the commodore leading in the "Spitfire." Besides the gunboats
and steamers there were thirty barges, each containing a detachment from
the ships. The river, about three hundred yards wide, was defended by
three forts, enfilading the reaches of the stream and mounting seven
guns, most of which had been taken from the "Truxtun" when she was lost
on the bar of Tuspan the year before. The enemy were stationed as
sharpshooters in the thick chapparal on the banks. As soon as the boats
came within range, a hot fire of grape was opened on them from the
forts. The detachment from the "Germantown," under Commander
Buchanan,--an officer of whom we shall hear more in the later war,--was
first in the advance, and was ordered to storm the nearest fort. This
was gallantly done, and the enemy were driven out. The second and third
forts were carried in the same way by storming-parties, the river-banks
were cleared of their concealed sharpshooters, and before evening the
town was in possession of the Americans.

In June a similar expedition was sent against Tabasco, which Commodore
Perry had attacked successfully the year before, but which was again a
centre of detached operations by Mexican guerillas. As at Tuspan, the
details of the enterprise were prepared beforehand with the utmost care
and skill; every contingency was provided for, and the machinery ran as
smoothly as clock-work. The enemy were driven off, their forts
destroyed, their stores removed, and to provide against a recurrence of
operations, a force was left to occupy the place.

This was the last enterprise of importance in the naval war. The army
was now fighting its way to the city of Mexico, but the coast was
entirely reduced. At all the important ports the blockade had been
converted into an occupation, and a military government under officers
of the squadron had been established. The custom-houses were placed in
charge of naval officers, a tariff was laid, and duties were collected
in the name of the Government. So matters remained until the end of the


University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.

Transcriber's notes:
    Punctuation normalized.
    On page 9 "SCIMETARS" replaced with "SCIMITARS."
    On page 53 "afternooon" replaced with "afternoon."
    On page 104 "dfficulties" replaced with "difficulties."
    On page 142 "inpetuous" replaced with "impetuous."

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