THE FIRST SEA FIGHT OF THE REVOLUTION
The Burning of the "Gaspee" in Narragansett Bay
DOES it not seem an odd fact that little Rhode Island, the smallest of all our states, should have two capital cities, while all the others, some of which would make more than a thousand Rhode Islands, have only one apiece? It is like the old story of the dwarf beating the giants.
The tale we have to tell has to do with these two cities, Providence and Newport, whose story goes back far into the days when Rhode Island and all the others were British colonies. They were capitals then and they are capitals still. That is, they were places where the legislature met and the laws were made.
I need not tell you anything about the British Stamp Act, the Boston Tea-party, the fight at Lexington, and the other things that led to the American Revolution and brought freedom to the colonies. All this you have learned at school. But I am sure you will be interested in what we may call the "salt-water Lexington," the first fight between the British and the bold sons of the colonies.
There was at that time a heavy tax on all goods brought into the country, and even on goods taken from one American town to another. It was what we now call a revenue duty, or tariff. This tax the Americans did not like to pay. They were so angry at the way they had been treated by England that they did not want that country to have a penny of their money. Nor did they intend to pay any tax.
Do you ask how they could help paying the tax? They had one way of doing so. Vessels laden with goods were brought to the coast at night, or to places where there was no officer of the revenue. Then in all haste they unloaded their cargoes and were away again like flitting birds. The British did not see half the goods that came ashore, and lost much in the way of taxes.
We call this kind of secret trade "smuggling." Providence and Newport were great smuggling places. Over the green waters of Narragansett Bay small craft sped to and fro, coming to shore by night or in secret places and landing their goods. It was against the law, but the bold mariners cared little for laws made in England. They said that they were quite able to govern themselves, and that no people across the seas should make laws for them.
The British did their best to stop this kind of trade. They sent armed vessels to the Bay, whose business it was to chase and search every craft that might have smuggled goods in its hold, and to punish in some way every smuggler they found.
Some of these vessels made themselves very busy, and sailors and shoremen alike were bitter against them. They would bring in prizes to Newport, and their sailors would swagger about the streets, bragging of what they had done, and making sport of the Yankees. They would kidnap sailors and carry them off to serve in the King's ships. One vessel came ashore at Newport, whose crew had been months at sea, trading on the African coast. Before a man of them could set foot on land, or see any of the loved ones at home, from whom they had been parted so long, a press-gang from a British ship-of-war seized and carried off the whole crew, leaving the captain alone on his deck.
We may be sure that all this made the people very indignant. While the rest of the country was quiet, the Newporters were at the point of war. More than once they were ready to take arms against the British.
In July, 1769, a British armed sloop, the Liberty, brought in two prizes as smugglers. They had no smuggled goods on board, but the officers of the Liberty did not care for that. And their captains and crews were treated as if they were prisoners of war.
That night something new took place. The lookout on the Liberty saw two boats, crowded with men, gliding swiftly toward the sloop.
"Boat ahoy!" he shouted.
Not a word came in reply.
"Boat ahoy! Answer, or I'll fire!"
No answer still. The lookout fired. The watch came rushing up on deck. But at the same time the men in the boats climbed over the bulwarks and the sailors of the Liberty found themselves looking into the muzzles of guns. They were taken by surprise and had to yield. The Americans had captured their first prize.
Proud of their victory, the Newporters cut the cables of the sloop and let her drift ashore. Her captives were set free, her mast was cut down, and her boats were dragged through the streets to the common, where they were set on fire. A jolly bonfire they made, too, and as the flames went up the people cheered lustily.
That was not all. With the high tide the sloop floated off. But it went ashore again on Goat Island, and the next night some of the people set it on fire and it was burned to the water's edge. That was the first American reply to British tyranny. The story of it spread far and wide. The King's officers did all they could to find and punish the men who had captured the sloop, but not a man of them could be discovered. Everybody in the town knew, but no one would tell.
This was only the beginning. The great event was that of the Gaspee. This was a British schooner carrying six cannon, which cruised about the Bay between Providence and Newport, and made itself so active and so offensive that the people hated it more than all those that had gone before. Captain Duddingstone treated every vessel as if it had been a pirate, and the people were eager to give it the same dose they had given the Liberty.
Their time came in June, 1772. The Hannah, a vessel trading between New York and Providence, came in sight of the Gaspee and was ordered to stop. But Captain Linzee had a fine breeze and did not care to lose it. He kept on at full speed, and the Gaspee set out in chase.
It was a very pretty race that was seen that day over the ruffled waters of the Bay. For twenty-five miles it kept up and the Hannah was still ahead. Then the two vessels came near to Providence bar.
The Yankee captain now played the British sailors a cute trick. He slipped on over the bar as if there had been a mile of water under his keel. The Gaspee, not knowing that the Hannah had almost touched bottom, followed, and in a minute more came bump upon the ground. The proud war-vessel stuck fast in the mud, while the light-footed Yankee slid swiftly on to Providence, where the story of the chase and escape was told to eager ears.
Here was a splendid chance. The Gaspee was aground. Now was the time to repay Captain Duddingstone for his pride and insolence. That night, while the people after their day's work were standing and talking about the news, a man passed down the streets, beating a drum and calling out:
"The Gaspee is aground. Who will join in to put an end to her?"
There was no lack of volunteers. Eight large boats had been collected from the ships in the harbor, and there were soon enough to crowd them all. Sixty-four men were selected, and Abraham Whipple, who was afterward one of the first captains in the American navy, took command. Some of the men had guns, but their principal weapons were paving stones and clubs.
It was about two o'clock in the morning when this small fleet came within hail of the Gaspee. She was fast enough yet, though she was beginning to lift with the rising tide. An hour or two more might have set her afloat.
A sentinel who was pacing the deck hailed the boats when they came near.
"Who comes there?" he cried.
A shower of paving stones that rattled on the deck of the Gaspee was the only answer. Up came the captain and crew, like bees from a hive that has been disturbed.
"I want to come on board," said Captain Whipple.
"Stand off. You can't come aboard," answered Captain Duddingstone.
He fired a pistol. A shot from one of the guns on the boats replied. The British captain fell with a bullet in his side.
"I am sheriff of the County of Kent," cried one of the leaders in the boats. "I am come for the captain of this vessel. Have him I will, dead or alive. Men, to your oars!"
On came the boats, up the sides of the vessel clambered the men, over the rails they passed. The sailors showed fight, but they were soon knocked down and secured. The proud Gaspee was in the hands of the despised Yankees.
As the captors were tying the crew, a surgeon who was in the boats was called on deck.
"What do you want, Mr. Brown?" he asked.
"Don't call names, man," cried Brown. "Go into the cabin. There is a wounded man there who may bleed to death."
The surgeon was needed, for Captain Duddingstone was bleeding freely. The surgeon, finding no cloth for bandages, tore his own shirt into strips for this purpose, and soon had the bleeding stopped. The captain was gently lowered into one of the boats and rowed up to Providence.
The wounded man away, the captors began their work. Rushing through the vessel, they made havoc of furniture and trappings. There were some bottles of liquor in the captain's cabin, and some of the men made a rush for these; but the surgeon smashed them with the heels of his boots. That was not the time or place for drunken men.
This done, the Gaspee was set on fire, and was soon wrapped in flames. The men rowed their boats some distance out, and there rested on their oars, watching the flames as they shot up masts and rigging. Not until the loaded guns went off, one after another, and in the end the magazine was reached and the ship blew up, did they turn their prows towards home. Never again would the Gaspee trouble American ships.
When word of what had been done reached England, there was fury from the King down. Great rewards were offered for any one who would betray any of the party, but not a name was told. For six long months a court of inquiry sat, but it could not get evidence enough to convict a single man. The Americans were staunch and firm and stood for each other like brothers tried and true.
Not until the colonies threw off the royal yoke and were battling for freedom was the secret told. Then the men of the long-boats did not hesitate to boast of what they had done. It was the first stroke of America in the cause of liberty, and the work of the men of Providence gave new heart to the patriots from Maine to Georgia.
A BRITISH SCHOONER CAPTURED BY FARMERS IN 1775
Captain Jerry O'Brien Leads the Patriots of 1775
HOW would any of you like to go back to the days when people had only tallow candles to light their houses, and the moon to light their streets, when they traveled on horseback or by stage, and got their news only when it happened to come? In these days of the electric light, the railroad train, and the telegraph that old way of living would not seem living at all.
Yet that was the way people lived in 1775 when the Revolution began. It took weeks for news to travel then, where it takes seconds now. Thus the fight at Lexington, which began the Revolution, took place on April 19th, but it was May 9th, more than half a month later, before the news of it reached the little town of Machias, on the coast of Maine. We should hardly call that fast time. It must have taken several naps on the way.
But when the news came, it found the people ready for it. A coasting schooner put into the port and brought the story of how the patriots had fought and bled at Lexington and Concord, and of how the British were shut up in Boston town, and the country was at war. The news was received with ringing cheers.
If any of my readers had been at Machias that day I know they would have felt like striking a blow for liberty. At any rate, that is how the people of Machias felt, and it did not take them long to show it.
They had some reason not to like the King and his men. All the tall, straight trees in their woods were kept to make masts for the King's ships, and no woodman dared set axe to one of these pine trees except at risk of going to prison. Just then there were two sloops in their harbor loading with ship-timber, and an armored schooner, the Margaretta, was there as a good looker-on.
When the men on the wharf heard the story of Lexington, their eyes fell on the Margaretta. Here was a chance to let King George know what they thought about his robbing their woods.
"Keep this a secret," they said to the sailors. "Not a word of it to Captain Moore or his men. Wait till to-morrow and you will see some sport."
That night sixty of the countrymen and townsmen met at a farmhouse nearby and laid their plans. It was Saturday. On Sunday Captain Moore and his officers would go to church. Then they could gather at the wharf and might take the schooner by surprise.
But it is often easier to make a plot than to keep it a secret, and that lesson they were to learn. The captain and his officers went to the little village church at sound of the morning bell; the Margaretta lay lazily floating near the shore; and the plotters began to gather, two or three at a time strolling down towards the shore, each of them carrying some weapon.
But in some way Captain Moore discovered their purpose. What bird in the air whispered to him the secret we do not know, but he suddenly sprang to his feet, called to his officers to follow him, and leaped like a cat through the church window, without waiting to go round by the door. We may be sure the old-fashioned preacher and the pious people in the pews looked on with wide-open eyes.
Down the street like a deer sped the captain. After him came his officers. In their rear rushed the patriots, some carrying old muskets, some with scythes and reaping-hooks.
It was a hot flight and a hot chase. Luckily for Captain Moore the guard on the schooner was wide-awake. He saw the countrymen chasing his captain, and at once loaded and fired a gun, whose ball went whistling over the head of the men of Maine. This was more than they looked for; they held back in doubt; some of them sought hiding places; before they could gain fresh courage, a boat put off from the schooner and took the captain and his officers on board.
Captain Moore did not know what was wrong, but he thought he would frighten the people, at any rate. So his cannon thundered and balls came hurtling over the town. Then he drew up his anchor and sailed several miles down the bay, letting the anchor fall again near a high bank. Some of the townsmen followed, and a man named Foster called from the bank, bidding him surrender. But the captain laughed at him, raised his anchor once more, and ran farther out into the bay.
It looked as if the whole affair was at an end and the Margaretta safe. But the men of Machias were not yet at the end of their rope. There lay the lumber sloops, and where a schooner could go a sloop could follow.
Early Monday morning four young men climbed to the deck of one of the sloops and cheered in a way that soon brought a crowd to the wharf. One of these was a bold, gallant fellow named Jeremiah O'Brien.
"What is in the wind?" he asked.
"We are going for the King's ship," said Wheaton, one of the men. "We can outsail her, and all we want is guns enough and men enough to take her."
"My boys, we can do it," cried O'Brien in lusty tones, after hearing the plan.
Everybody ran off for arms, but all they could find in the town were twenty guns, with enough powder and balls to make three shots for each. Their other weapons were thirteen pitchforks and twelve axes. Jerry O'Brien was chosen captain, thirty-five of the most athletic men were selected, and the sloop put off before a fresh breeze for the first naval battle of the Revolution.
It is likely that there were a few sailors among them, and no doubt their captain knew how to handle a sloop. But the most of them were landsmen, chiefly haymakers, for Machias lay amid grassy meadows and the making of hay was its chief business. And there were some woodsmen, who knew well how to swing an axe. They were all bold men and true, who cared more for their country than for the King.
When Captain Moore saw the sloop coming with its deck crowded with men he must have wondered what all this meant. What ailed these countrymen? Anyhow, he would not fight without knowing what he was fighting for, so he raised his anchor, set his sails, and made for the open sea. But he had hardly started when, in going about in the strong wind, the main boom swung across so sharply that it struck the backstays and broke short off.
I fancy if any of us had been close by then we would have heard ringing cheers from the Yankee crew. They felt sure now of their prize, though we cannot see why, for the Margaretta had twenty-four cannon, four throwing six-pound balls and the rest one-pound balls. Muskets and pitchforks did not seem of much use against these. It had also more men than the sloop.
We cannot see why Captain Moore showed his heels instead of his fists, for he soon proved that he was no coward. But he still seemed to want to get away, so he drew up beside a schooner that lay at anchor, robbed it of its boom, lashed it to his own mast and once more took to flight. But the sloop was now not far behind, and soon showed that it was the better sailer of the two. In the end it came so close that Captain Moore was forced to fight or yield.
One of the swivel guns was fired, and then came a whole broadside, sending its balls hurtling over the crowded deck of the sloop. One man fell dead, but no other harm was done.
Only a single shot was fired back, but this came from a heavy gun and was aimed by an old hunter. It struck the man at the helm of the schooner. He fell dead, letting the rudder swing loose.
The Margaretta, with no hand at her helm, broached to, and in a minute more the sloop came crashing against her. At once there began a fierce battle between the British tars and the haymakers of Maine, who sprang wildly and with ringing cheers for the schooner's deck. Weapons of all sorts now came into play. Cutlasses, hand-grenades, pistols and boarding pikes were used by the schooner's men; muskets, pitchforks, and axes were skilfully handled by the crew of the sloop. Men fast fell dead and wounded; the decks grew red with blood; both sides fought fiercely, the men of Machias striving like tigers to gain a footing on the schooner's deck, the British tars meeting and driving them back.
Captain Moore showed that it was not fear that made him run away. He now fought bravely at the head of his men, cheering them on and hurling hand-grenades at the foe.
But in a few minutes the end came. A bullet struck the gallant captain and he fell dead on his deck. When they saw him fall the crew lost heart and drew back. The Yankees swarmed over the bulwarks. In a minute more the Margaretta was theirs.
The battle, though short, had been desperate, for twenty men lay killed and wounded, more than a fourth of the whole number engaged.
As Bunker Hill showed British soldiers that the Yankees could fight on land, so the capture of the Margaretta, the first naval victory of the Americans, showed that they could fight at sea. The Margaretta was very much the stronger, in men, in guns, and in her trained officers and skilled crew. Yet she had been taken by a party of landsmen, with muskets against cannon and pitchforks against pistols. It was a victory of which the colonists could well be proud.
But Captain O'Brien was not yet satisfied. He had now a good sloop under his feet, a good crew at his back, and the arms and ammunition of his prize. He determined to go a-privateering on his own account.
Taking the Margaretta to the town, he handed over his prisoners and put the cannon and swivels of the schooner on his swifter sloop, together with the muskets, pistols, powder, and shot which he found on board. Then away he went, with a bold and daring crew, in search for prizes and glory.
He soon found both. When the news of what he had done reached Halifax, the British there sent out two schooners, with orders to capture the insolent Yankee and bring him to port and to prison. But Captain O'Brien showed that he knew how to handle a sloop as well as a pitchfork. He met the schooners sent to capture him, and by skilful sailing managed to separate them. Then he made a bold dash on each of them and in a little time captured them both.
BENEDICT ARNOLD, THE SOLDIER-SAILOR
A Novel Fight on Lake Champlain
WAS it not a dreadful pity that Benedict Arnold should disgrace himself forever by becoming a traitor to his country? To think of his making himself the most despised of all Americans, when, if he had been true to his flag, he might have been ranked among our greatest heroes. For Arnold was one of the best and bravest fighters in Washington's army. And he could fight as hard and well on water as on land, as you will learn when you read of what he did on Lake Champlain.
I am sure all my readers must know where this lake is, and how it stretches down in a long line from Canada far into New York State. Below Lake Champlain extends Lake George, and not very far from that is the Hudson River, which flows down to the City of New York.
If the British could only have held that line of water they would have cut the colonies in two, and in that way they might soon have brought the war to an end. This was what they tried to do in the fall of 1776, but they did not count on Arnold and his men.
Let us tell what brought this about. General Arnold and General Montgomery had marched through the wilderness to Quebec in the winter before. But there they met with bitter weather and deadly disease and death from cold and cannon. The brave Montgomery was killed, the daring Arnold fought in vain, and in the end the invading army was forced to march back—all that was left of it.
As the Americans went back, Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander, followed, and made his camp at St. John's, at the north end of Lake Champlain. The nearest American post was at Crown Point, far down towards the foot of the lake. Not far south of this, near the head of Lake George, was the famous old French fort Ticonderoga, which Arnold and Ethan Allen had captured from the British the year before. I tell you all this that you may know how the land lay. A glance at a good map will help.
I think it very likely that some of you may have visited those beautiful lakes, and seen the towns and villages on their shores, the handsome dwelling on their islands, and the broad roads along their banks; everything gay and smiling.
If you had been there in 1776 you would have seen a very different sight. Look right or left, east or west, nothing but a wilderness of trees would have met your eyes. As for roads, I fancy an Indian trail would have been the best to be found. And no man that wished to keep his scalp on his head would have thought of living on island or shore.
The only good road southward was the liquid one made by nature, and this road Carleton decided to take. He would build a strong fleet and carry his army down the lake, while the Indians that came with him could paddle downward in their canoes.
At this time there was not a vessel on the lakes, but Carleton worked hard, and soon had such a fleet as these waters had never seen. Three of his ships were built in England in such a way that they could be taken to pieces, carried through the wilderness to St. John's, and there put together again. The smaller vessels were built on the spot, soldiers, sailors, and farmers all working on them.
It was well on in October before his task was finished. Then he had a fleet of twenty-five vessels in all, twenty of them being gunboats, but some of them quite large. Their crews numbered a thousand men, and they carried eighty-nine cannon.
You may well suppose that the Americans knew what was going on, and that they did not fold their hands and wait. That is not, and never was, the American way. If the British could build, so could the Yankees, and Benedict Arnold was ordered to build a fleet, and to have it ready for fighting the British when it would be needed.
Arnold had been at sea in his time and knew something of what he was about. His men were farmers who had taken up arms for their country, but he sent for a few shipbuilders from the coast and went to work with all his might.
When October came he had fifteen vessels afloat. There were two schooners and one sloop, the others being called galleys and gondolas—no better than large rowboats, with three to six guns each.
Arnold had about as many guns as Carleton, but they were smaller, and he had not nearly so many men to handle them. And his men were farmers instead of sailors, and knew no more about a cannon than about a king's crown. But the British ships were manned by picked seamen from the warships in the St. Lawrence River, and had trained naval officers.
I fear if any of us had been in Arnold's place we would have wanted to go home. It looked like folly for him and his men to fight the British fleet with its skilled officers and sailors and its heavy guns. It was like meeting a raft of logs with one of chips.
But Arnold was not a man who stopped to count the cost when fighting was to be had. As soon as he was ready he set sail boldly up the lake, and on the morning of October 11, 1776, he drew up his little fleet across a narrow channel between Valcour Island and the west shore of the lake. He knew the British would soon be down.
It was a fine, clear, cool morning, with a strong wind from the north, just the kind of day Carleton had been waiting for. So, soon after sunrise, his fleet came sweeping on past Valcour Island. But all the sailors saw was a thicket of green trees, and they had got well south of the island before they looked back and saw the American fleet.
Here was an ugly situation. It would never do to leave the Americans in their rear. Down went the helms, round swept the sails, out came the oars, and soon the British fleet was making a struggle against the wind which had seemed so fair a few minutes before. So strong was the breeze that ten o'clock had passed before they reached the channel in which the Americans lay. Arnold came eagerly to meet them, with the Royal Savage, his largest vessel, and three of his gondolas. One of these, the Congress, he had made his flagship. Soon the waters of that quiet bay rang with the roar of cannon and the shouts of fighting men, and Arnold, having drawn the fire of the whole British fleet, was obliged to hurry back.
In doing so he met with a serious loss. The Royal Savage, pierced by a dozen balls, ran ashore on the island. As she could not be got off, the crew set her on fire and escaped to the woods. They might better have leaped into the lake, for the woods were full of Indians whom Carleton had sent ashore; and to be a prisoner to Indians in those days was a terrible fate.
When he got back to his fleet, Arnold formed his line to meet the British, who came steadily on until within musket shot. Then a furious battle began, broadside meeting broadside, grape-shot and round-shot hurtling through the air, the thick smoke of the conflict drifting into the woodland, while from the forest came back flame and bullets as the Indians fought for their British friends.
Arnold, on the deck of the Congress, led in the thickest of the fight, handling his fleet as if he had been an admiral born, cheering the men at the guns, aiming and firing a gun at intervals himself, and not yielding a foot to the foe. Now and then a gun was fired at the Indians, forcing them to skip nimbly behind the trees.
For six long hours the battle kept up at close quarters. This is what Arnold says about it in few words: "At half-past twelve the engagement became general and very warm. Some of the enemy's ships and all their gondolas beat and rowed up within musket shot of us. They continued a very hot fire with round and grape-shot until five o'clock, when they thought proper to retire to about six or seven hundred yards distance, and continued the fire till dark."
Hot as their fire was, they must have found that of the Americans hotter, for they went back out of range of the Yankee guns, but kept within range of their own.
Arnold's vessels were in a bad plight. Several of them were as full of holes as a pepper bottle, and one sank soon after the fight ended. But two of the British gunboats had been sunk and one blown up. The worst for the Americans was that nearly all their powder was gone. They could not fight an hour more.
Perilous as was the situation, Admiral Arnold was equal to it. The night came on dark and stormy, with a hard gale from the north. This was just what he wanted. Up came the anchors and away went the boats, one after the other in a long line, each showing a light to the vessel that followed, but hiding it from British eyes. In this way they slipped unseen through the British line, Arnold in the Congress taking the post of danger in the rear.
When morning dawned the British lookouts gazed for the American fleet, it was nowhere to be seen. It had vanished in the night and now was ten miles down the lake, where it was drawn up near shore for repairs.
Two of the gondolas proved to be past mending, and were sunk. The others were patched up until they could be kept afloat without too much pumping, and the fleet started on, hoping to gain the shelter of Crown Point or Ticonderoga. The wind had changed to the south, and they had to take to their oars. This kept them back, but it gave the British quite as much trouble. That day passed away and the next day, Friday, dawned before the pursuers came in sight. And now a chase began with oar and sail, and continued till noon, when Crown Point was still some leagues away. By this time the British cannon balls began to reach the American boats, and the tired rowers were forced to turn to their guns and fight.
Never did sea-hero fight more gallantly than did the soldier Arnold that day. The first British broadside ruined the gondola Washington and forced it to surrender. But Arnold in the little Congress drew up beside the Inflexible, a 300-ton ship with eighteen 12-pounder cannon, and fought the ship with his little gunboat as if they had been of equal strength. Inspired by his example, the other boats fought as bravely.
Not until a third of his men were dead and his boat a mere wreck did he give up the fight. But not to surrender—no such thought came into his mind. By his order the galleys were run ashore in a creek nearby and there set on fire. With the three guns of the shattered Congress he covered their retreat until their crews were safe on shore.
Then, reckless of the British shot, he ran the Congress ashore also and stood guard at her stern while the crew set her on fire. The men by his orders sought the shore, but Arnold stood by his flag to the last, not leaving until the flames had such hold that he was sure no Briton's hand could strike his flag. It would float until it went up in flames.
Then he sprang into the water, waded ashore, and joined his men, who greeted him with cheers.
The savages were swarming in the woods, eager for scalps, but Arnold was not troubled by fear of them. Forming his men into order, he marched them through the woods, and before night reached safety at Crown Point.
Thus ended one of the noblest fights the inland waters of America ever saw. The British were victors, though at a heavy cost. Arnold had fought until his fleet was annihilated; and not in vain. Carleton sailed back to St. John's and made his way to Canada. He had seen enough of Yankee pluck. Thus Arnold, though defeated, gained by his valor the fruit of victory, for the British gave up their plan of holding the lake.
CAPTAIN PAUL JONES
The Greatest of America's Naval Heroes
ONCE upon a time there lived in Scotland a poor gardener named John Paul, who had a little son to whom he gave the same name. The rich man's garden that the father took care of was close by the sea, and little John Paul came to love blue water so much that he spent most of his time near it, and longed to be a sailor.
He lived in his father's cottage near the sea until he was twelve years old. Then he was put to work in a big town on the other side of the Solway Firth. This town was called Whitehaven. It was a very busy place, and ships and sailors were there in such numbers that the little fellow, who had been put in a store, greatly liked to go down to the docks and talk with the seamen who had been in so many different lands and seas and who could tell him all about the wonderful and curious places they had seen, and about their adventures on the great oceans they had sailed over.
In the end the boy made up his mind to go to sea. He studied all about ships and how to sail them. He read all the books he could get, and often, when other boys were asleep or in mischief, he was learning from the books he read many things that helped him when he grew older. At last he had his wish. When he was only thirteen years old, he was put as a sailor boy on a ship called the Friendship.
The vessel was bound to Virginia, in America, for a cargo of tobacco, and the young sailor greatly enjoyed the voyage and was especially delighted with the new country across the sea. He wished he could live in America, and hoped some day to go there again.
When this first voyage was over, he returned to Whitehaven and went back to the store. But soon after, the merchant who owned the store failed in business, and the boy was out of a place and had to look out for himself. This time he became a real seaman. For many years he served as a common sailor. He proved such a good one that before he was twenty years old he was a captain. This was how he became one: While the ship in which he was sailing was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a terrible fever broke out. The captain died. The mate, who comes next to the captain, died; all of the sailors were sick, and some of them died. There was no one who knew about sailing such a big vessel, except young John Paul. So he took command and sailed the ship into port without an accident, and the owners were so glad that they made the young sailor captain of the ship which he had saved for them.
John Paul was not the only one of his family who loved America. He had a brother who had crossed the ocean and was living in Virginia, on the banks of the Rappahannock River. This was the same river beside which George Washington lived when a boy. The young captain visited his brother several times while he was sailing on his voyages, and he liked the country so much that, when his brother died, he gave up being a sailor for a while, and went to live on his brother's farm.
When he became a farmer, he changed his name to Jones. Why he did so nobody knows. But he ever after bore the name of John Paul Jones. He made this one of the best known names in the history of the seas.
I doubt if he was a very good farmer. He was too much of a sailor for that. So, when the American Revolution began, he was eager to fight the British on the seas. There was no nation at that time so powerful on the sea as England. The King had a splendid fleet of ships of war—almost a thousand. The United States had none. But soon the Americans got together five little ships, and sent them out as the beginning of the American navy, to fight the ships of England.
John Paul Jones was made first lieutenant of a ship called the Alfred. He had the good fortune to hoist for the first time on any ship, the earliest American flag. This was a great yellow silk flag which had on it the picture of a pine tree with a rattlesnake coiled around it, and underneath were the words: "Don't tread on me!"
Then the grand union flag of the colonies was set. This had thirteen red and white stripes, like our present flag, but, instead of the stars, in the corner it had the British "union jack." Thus there was a link on the flag between the colonies and England. They had not quite cut apart.
Jones had first been offered the command of the Providence, a brig that bore twelve guns and had a crew of one hundred men. But he showed the kind of man he was by saying that he did not know enough to be a captain, and was hardly fit to be a first lieutenant. That was how he came to be made first lieutenant of the Alfred. Congress took him at his own price.
But Commodore Hopkins, who commanded the fleet, was wise enough to see that Jones knew more about his work than most of the captains in the service. So he ordered him to take command of the Providence, the snug little brig that had first been offered to him.
The new captain was set at work to carrying troops and guarding merchant vessels along the shore, and he did this with wonderful skill. There were British men-of-war nearly everywhere, but Jones managed to keep clear of them. He darted up and down Long Island Sound, carrying soldiers and guns and food to General Washington. So well did he do his work that Congress made him a captain. This was on August 8, 1776, a month and more after the "Declaration of Independence." He had a free country now to fight for, instead of rebel colonies.
The Providence was a little vessel, but it was a fast sailer, and was wonderfully quick to answer the helm. That is, it turned very quickly when the rudder was moved. And it had a captain who knew how to sail a ship. All this brought the little brig out of more than one tight place.
I must tell you about one of these escapes, in which Captain Jones showed himself a very sharp sea-fox. He came across a fleet of vessels which he thought were merchant ships, and had a fancy he might capture the largest. But when he got close up he found that this was a big British frigate, the Solebay.
Away went the Providence at full speed, and hot-foot after her came the Solebay. For four hours the chase was kept up, the frigate steadily gaining. At last she was only a hundred yards away. Now was the time to surrender. Nearly any one but Paul Jones would have done so. A broadside from the great frigate would have torn his little brig to pieces. But he was one of the "never surrender" kind.
What else could he do? you ask. Well, I will tell you what he did. He quietly made ready to set all his extra sails, and put a man with a lighted match at each cannon, and had another ready to hoist the union flag.
Then, with a quick turn of the helm, the little brig swung round like a top across the frigate's bows. As she did so all the guns on that side sent their iron hail sweeping across the deck of the Solebay. In a minute more the studding sails were set on both sides, like broad white wings, and away went the Providence as swift as a racer, straight before the wind and with the American flag proudly flying. The officers and men of the frigate were so upset by the sudden dash and attack that they did not know what to do. Before they came to their senses the brig was out of reach of their shot. Off like a bird she went, now quite outsailing her pursuer. The Solebay, fired more than a hundred iron balls after her, but they only scared the fishes.
It was not long before Captain Jones found another big British ship on his track. He was now off the coast of Nova Scotia, and as there was nothing else to do, he let his men have a day's sport in fishing for codfish. Fish are plenty in those waters, and they were pulling them up in a lively fashion when a strange sail rose in sight.
When it came well up Captain Jones saw it was a British frigate, and judged it time to pull in his fishing lines and set sail on his little craft. Away like a deer went the brig, and after her like a hound came the ship. But it soon proved that the deer was faster than the hound, and so Captain Jones began to play with the big frigate. He took in some of his sails and kept just out of reach.
The Milford, which was the name of the British ship, kept firing at the Providence, but all her shot plunged into the waves. It was like the hound barking at the deer. And every time the Milford sent a broadside, Paul Jones replied with a musket. After he had all the fun he wanted out of the lumbering frigate, he spread all sail again and soon left her out of sight.
We cannot tell the whole story of the cruise of the Providence. In less than two months it captured sixteen vessels and burned some others. Soon after that Jones was made captain of the Alfred, the ship on which he had raised the first flag. With this he took a splendid prize, the brig Mellish, on which were ten thousand uniforms for the British soldiers. Many a ragged soldier in Washington's army thanked him that winter for a fine suit of warm clothing.
Let us tell one more fine thing that Captain Jones did in American waters before he crossed the ocean to the British seas. Sailing along the coast of Canada he came upon a fleet of coal vessels, with a British frigate to take care of them. But it was foggy and the coalers were scattered; so that Jones picked up three of them while the frigate went on with her eyes shut, not knowing that anything was wrong.
Two days afterward he came upon a British privateer, which was on the hunt for American vessels. But when the Alfred came up, before more than a few shots had been fired, down came its flag.
Captain Jones now thought it time to get home. His ship was crowded with prisoners, he was short of food and water, and he had four prizes to look after, which were manned with some of his crew.
But he was not to get home without another adventure; for, late one afternoon, there came in sight the frigate Milford, the one which he had saluted with musket balls. He could not play with her now, for he had his prizes to look after, and while he could outsail her, the prizes could not.
So he told the captains of the prizes to keep on as they were, no matter what signals he made. Night soon came, and the Alfred sailed on, with two lanterns swinging in her tops. Soon she changed her course and the Milford followed. No doubt her captain thought that the Yankee had lost his wits, to sail on with lanterns blazing and make it easy to keep in his track.
But when morning dawned the British captain found he had been tricked. The Alfred was in sight, but all the prizes were gone except the privateer, whose stupid captain had not obeyed orders. The result was that the privateer was recaptured. But the Alfred easily kept ahead. That afternoon a squall of snow came upon the sea, and the Yankee craft, "amid clouds and darkness and foaming surges, made her escape."
In a few days more the Alfred sailed into Boston. There his ship was given another captain, and for six months he had nothing to do. Congress was full of politicians who were looking out for their friends, and the best seaman in the American navy was left sitting at home biting his thumb nails and whistling for a ship.
I have not told you here the whole story of our greatest naval hero. I have not told you even the best part of his story, that part which has made him famous in all history, and put him on a level with the most celebrated sea fighters of all time.
The exploits of Paul Jones cover two seas, those of America and those of England, and in both he proved himself a brilliant sailor and a daring fighter. I think you will say this from what you have already read. His deeds of skill and bravery on our own coast were wonderful, and if they had stood alone would have given him great fame. But it was in the waters and on the shores of England that he showed the whole world what a man he was; and now, when men talk of the great heroes of the sea, the name of John Paul Jones always stands first. This is the story we have next to tell, how Captain Jones crossed the ocean and bearded the British lion in his den.
HOW PAUL JONES WON RENOWN
The First Great Fight of the American Navy
YOU have been told how Captain Paul Jones lost his ship. He was given another in June, 1777. This was the Ranger, a frigate carrying twenty-six guns, but it was such a slow old tub that our captain was not well pleased with his new craft. He did not want to run away from the British; he wanted a ship that was fit to chase an enemy.
We have one thing very interesting to tell. On the very day that Jones got his new ship Congress adopted a new flag, the American standard with its thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. As soon as he heard of the new flag, Captain Jones had one made in all haste, and with his own hands he ran it up to the mast-head of the Ranger. So she was the first ship that ever carried the "Stars and Stripes." Is it not interesting that the man who first raised the pine-tree flag of the colonies was the first to fling out to the breeze the star-spangled flag of the American Union?
Captain Jones was ordered to sail for France, but it took so long to get the Ranger ready for sea that it was winter before he reached there. Benjamin Franklin and other Americans were there in France and were having a fine new frigate built for Paul Jones. But when England heard of it such a protest was made that the French government stopped the work on the ship, and our brave captain had to go to sea again in the slow-footed Ranger.
He had one satisfaction. He sailed through the French fleet at Bay and saluted the French flag. The French admiral could not well help returning his salute. That was the first time the Stars and Stripes were saluted by a foreign power.
What Captain Jones proposed to do was the boldest thing any American captain could do. England was invading America. He proposed to invade England. That is, he would cruise along the British coast, burning ships and towns, and thus do there what the British had done along the American coast. He wanted to let them find how they liked it themselves.
It was a daring plan. The British channel was full of war-vessels. If they got on the track of his slow ship he could not run away. He would never think of running from one ship, but there might be a fleet. However, Paul Jones was the last man in the world to think of danger; so he put boldly out to sea, and took his chances.
It was not long before he had all England in a state of alarm. News came that this daring American warship was taking prize after prize, burning some and sending their crews ashore. He would hide along the English coast from the men-of-war that went out in search, and then suddenly dart out and seize some merchant ship.
The English called Captain Jones a pirate and all sorts of hard names. But they were very much afraid of him and his stout ship. And this voyage of his, along the shores of England, taught them to respect and fear the American sailors more than they had ever done before.
After he had captured many British vessels, almost in sight of their homes, he boldly sailed to the north and into the very port of Whitehaven, where he had "tended store," as a boy, and from which he had first gone to sea. He knew all about the place. He knew how many vessels were there, and what a splendid victory he could win for the American navy, if he could sail into Whitehaven harbor and capture or destroy the two hundred vessels that were anchored within sight of the town he remembered so well.
With two rowboats and thirty men he landed at Whitehaven, locked up the soldiers in the forts, fixed the cannon so that they could not be fired, set fire to one of the vessels that were in the harbor, and so frightened all the people that, though the gardener's son stood alone on the wharf, waiting for a boat to take him off, not a man dared to lay a hand on him. With a single pistol he kept back a thousand men.
Then he sailed across the bay to the house of the great lord for whom his father had worked as a gardener. He meant to run away with this nobleman, and keep him prisoner until the British promised to treat better the Americans whom they had taken prisoners. But the lord whom he went for was "not at home," so all that Captain Jones's men could do was to carry off from the big house the silverware of the earl. Captain Jones did not like this; so he took the things from his men and returned them to Earl Selkirk, with a letter asking him to excuse his sailors.
Not long afterward one of the British men-of-war which were in the hunt for Captain Jones, found him. This was the Drake, a larger ship than the Ranger and carrying more men. But that did not trouble Paul Jones, and soon there was a terrible fight. The sails of the Drake were cut to pieces, her decks were red with blood, and at last her captain fell dead. In an hour after the fight began, just as the sun was going down behind the Irish hills, there came a cry for quarter from the Drake, and the battle was at an end. Off went Captain Jones, with his ship and his prize, for the friendly shores of France, where he was received with great praise.
Soon after this the French decided to help the Americans in their war for independence. After some time Captain Jones was put in command of five ships, and back he sailed to England to fight the British ships again.
The vessel in which he sailed was the biggest of the five ships. It had forty guns and a crew of three hundred sailors. Captain Jones thought so much of the great Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who had written a book of good advice, under the name of "Poor Richard," that he named his big ship for Dr. Franklin. He called it the Bon Homme Richard, which is French for "good man Richard." But the Bon Homme Richard was not a good boat, if it was a big one. It was old and rotten and leaky, and not fit for a warship, but its new commander made the best he could of it.
The little fleet sailed up and down the English coasts, capturing a few prizes, and greatly frightening the people by saying that they had come to burn some of the big English sea towns. Then, just as they were about sailing back to France, they came—near an English cape, called Flamborough Head—upon an English fleet of forty merchant vessels and two war ships.
One of the war ships was a great English frigate, called the Serapis, finer and stronger in every way than the Bon Homme Richard. But Captain Jones would not run away.
"What ship is that?" called out the Englishman. "Come a little nearer, and we'll tell you," answered plucky Captain Jones.
The British ships did come a little nearer. The forty merchant vessels sailed as fast as they could to the nearest harbor, and then the warships had a terrible battle.
At seven o'clock in the evening the British frigate and the Bon Homme Richard began to fight. They banged and hammered away for hours, and then, when the British captain thought he must have beaten the Americans, and it was so dark and smoky that they could only see each other by the fire flashes, he called out to the American captain: "Are you beaten? Have you hauled down your flag?"
And back came the answer of Captain John Paul Jones: "I haven't begun to fight yet!"
So they went at it again. The two ships were now lashed together, and they tore each other like savage dogs in a fight.
The rotten old Richard suffered terribly. Two of her great guns had burst at the first fire, and she was shot through and through by the Serapis until most of her timbers above the water-line were shot away. The British rushed on board with pistols and cutlasses, and the Americans drove them back. But the Richard was on fire; water was pouring in through a dozen shot holes; it looked as if she must surrender, brave as were her captain and crew. There were on board the old ship nearly two hundred prisoners who had been taken from captured vessels, and so pitiful were their cries that one of the officers set them free, thinking that the ship was going to sink and that they ought to have a chance for their lives. These men were running up on deck, adding greatly to the trouble of Captain Jones; for he had now a crowd of enemies on his own ship. But the prisoners were so scared that they did not know what to do. They saw the ship burning around them and heard the water pouring into the hold, and thought they would be carried to the bottom. So to keep them from mischief they were set to work, some at the pumps, others at putting out the fire. And to keep the ship from blowing up, if the fire should reach the magazine, Captain Jones set men at bringing up the kegs of powder and throwing them into the sea. Never was there a ship in so desperate a strait, and there was hardly a man on board, except Captain Jones, who did not want to surrender.
But the British were not having it all their own way. The American tars had climbed the masts and were firing down with muskets and flinging down hand grenades, until all the British had to run from the upper deck. A hand grenade is a small, hollow iron ball filled with powder, which explodes when thrown down and sends the bits of iron flying all around, like so many bullets.
One sailor took a bucketful of these and crept far out on the yard-arm of the ship, and began to fling them down on the gun-deck of the Serapis, where they did much damage. At last one of them went through the open hatchway to the main deck, where a crowd of men were busy working the great guns, and cartridges were lying all about and loose powder was scattered on the floor.
The grenade set fire to this powder, and in a second there was a terrible explosion. A great sheet of flame burst up through the hatchway, and frightful cries came from below. In that dreadful moment more than twenty men were killed and many more were wounded. All the guns on that deck had to be abandoned. There were no men left to work them.
Where was Captain Jones all the time, and what was he doing? You may be sure he was busy. He had taken a gun and loaded it with double-headed shot, and kept firing at the mainmast of the Serapis. Every shot cut a piece out of the mast, and after a while it came tumbling upon the deck, with all its spars and rigging. The tarred ropes quickly caught fire, and the ship was in flames.
At this moment up came the Alliance, one of Captain Jones's fleet. He now thought that the battle was at an end, but to his horror the Alliance, instead of firing at the British ship, began to pour its broadsides into his own. He called to them for God's sake to quit firing, but they kept on, killing some of his best men and making several holes under water, through which new floods poured into the ship. The Alliance had a French captain who hated Paul Jones and wanted to sink his ship.
Both ships were now in flames, and water rushed into the Richard faster than the pumps could keep it out. Some of the officers begged Captain Jones to pull down his flag and surrender, but he would not give up. He thought there was always a chance while he had a deck under his feet.
Soon the cowardly French traitor quit firing and sailed off, and Paul Jones began his old work again, firing at the Serapis as if the battle had just begun. This was more than the British captain could bear. His ship was a mere wreck and was blazing around him, so he ran on deck and pulled down his flag with his own hands. The terrible battle was at an end. The British ship had given up the fight.
Lieutenant Dale sprang on board the Serapis, went up to Captain Pearson, the British commander, and asked him if he surrendered. The Englishman replied that he had, and then he and his chief officer went aboard the battered Richard, which was sinking even in its hour of victory.
But Captain Jones stood on the deck of his sinking vessel, proud and triumphant. He had shown what an American captain and American sailors could do, even when everything was against them. The English captain gave up his sword to the American, which is the way all sailors and soldiers do when they surrender their ships or their armies.
The fight had been a brave one, and the English King knew that his captain had made a bold and desperate resistance, even if he had been whipped. So he rewarded Captain Pearson, when he at last returned to England, by making him a Knight, thus giving him the title of "Sir." When Captain Jones heard of this he laughed, and said: "Well, if I can meet Captain Pearson again in a sea fight, I'll make him a lord."
The poor Bon Homme Richard was such an utter wreck that she soon sank beneath the waves. But, even as she went down, the stars and stripes floated proudly from the mast-head, in token of victory.
Captain Jones, after the surrender, put all his men aboard the captured Serapis, and then off he sailed to the nearest friendly port, with his great prize and all his prisoners. This victory made him the greatest sailor in the whole American war, and the most famous of all American seamen.
Captain Jones took his prize into the Dutch port of Texel, closely followed by a British squadron. The country of Holland was not friendly to the Americans, and though they let him come in, he was told that he could not stay there. So he sailed again, in a howling gale, straight through the British squadron, with the American flag flying at his peak. Down through the narrow Straits of Dover he passed, coming so near the English shore that he could count the warships at anchor in the Downs. That was his way of showing how little he feared them. The English were so angry at Holland because it would not give up the Americans and their prizes that they declared war against that country.
When Captain Jones reached Paris he was received with the greatest honor, and greeted as one of the ablest and bravest of sea-fighters.
Everybody wished to see such a hero. He went to the King's court, and the King and Queen and French lords and ladies made much of him and gave him receptions, and said so many fine things about him that, if he had been at all vain, it might have "turned his head," as people say. But John Paul Jones was not vain.
He was a brave sailor, and he was in France to get help and not compliments. He wished a new ship to take the place of the old Richard, which had gone to the bottom after its great victory.
So, though the King of France honored him and received him splendidly and made him presents, he kept on working to get another ship. At last he was made captain of a new ship, called the Ariel, and sailed from France. He had a fierce battle with an English ship called the Triumph, and defeated her. But she escaped before surrendering, and Captain Jones sailed across the sea to America.
He was received at home with great honor and applause. Congress gave him a vote of thanks, "for the zeal, prudence and intrepidity with which he had supported the honor of the American flag"—that is what the vote said.
People everywhere crowded to see him, and called him hero and conqueror. Lafayette, the brave young Frenchman who came over to fight for America, called him "my dear Paul Jones," and Washington and the other leaders in America said, "Well done, Captain Jones!"
The King of France sent him a splendid reward of merit called the "Cross of Honor," and Congress set about building a fine ship for him to command. But before it was finished, the war was over; and he was sent back to France on some important business for the United States.
Here he was received with new honor, for the French knew how to meet and treat a brave man; and above all they loved a man who had humbled the English, their ancient foes. Captain Jones had sailed from a French port and in a French ship, and they looked on him almost as one of their own. But all this did not make him proud or boastful, for he was not that kind of man.
In later years Paul Jones served in Russia in the wars with the Turks. But the British officers who were in the Russian service refused to fight under him, saying that he was a rebel, a pirate, and a traitor. This was because he had fought for America after being born in Scotland. So, after some hard fighting, he left Russia and went back to France, where he died in 1792.
In all the history of sea fighting we hear of no braver man, and the United States, so long as it is a nation, will be proud of and honor the memory of the gallant sailor, John Paul Jones.
CAPTAIN BUSHNELL SCARES THE BRITISH
The Pioneer Torpedo Boat and the Battle of the Kegs
MANY of us, all our lives, have seen vessels of every size and shape darting to and fro over the water; some with sails spread to the wind, others with puffing pipes and whirling wheels.
And that is not all. Men have tried to go under water as well as on top. Some of you may have read Jules Verne's famous story, "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea." That, of course, is all fiction; but now-a-days there are vessels which can go miles under the water without once coming to the top.
We call these submarine boats, and look upon them as something very new. You may be surprised to learn that there was a submarine boat as long ago as the War of the Revolution. It was not a very good one, and did not do the work it was built for, but it was the first of its kind, and that is something worth knowing.
Those of you who have studied history will know that after the British were driven out of Boston they came to New York with a large army, and took possession of that city. Washington and his men could not keep them out, and had to leave. There the British lay, with their army in the city and their fleet in the bay and river, and there they stayed for years.
There was an American who did not like to see British vessels floating in American waters. He knew he could not drive them away, but he thought he might give them some trouble. This was a Connecticut man named David Bushnell, a chap as sharp as a steeltrap, and one of the first American inventors.
What Bushnell did was to invent a boat that would move under water and might be made to blow up an enemy's ship. As it was the first of this kind ever made, I am sure you will wish to know what it was like and how it was worked.
He called it The American Turtle, for it looked much like a great swimming turtle, big enough to hold a man and also to carry a torpedo loaded with 150 pounds of gunpowder. This was to be fastened to the wooden bottom of a ship and then fired off. It was expected to blow a great hole in the bottom and sink the vessel.
Of course, the boat was air-tight and water-tight, but it had a supply of fresh air that would last half an hour for one man. There was an oar for rowing and a rudder for steering. A valve in the bottom let in the water when the one-man crew wanted to sink his turtle-like boat, and there were two pumps to force the water out again when he wanted to rise.
There were windows in the top shell of the turtle, air pipes to let out the foul air and take in fresh air, small doors that could be opened when at the surface, and heavy lead ballast to keep the turtle level. In fact, the affair was, for the time, very ingenious and complete.
A very important part of it was the torpedo, with its 150 pounds of powder. This was carried outside, above the rudder. It was so made that when the boat came under a vessel the man inside could fasten it with a screw to the vessel's bottom, and row away and leave it there. Inside it was a clock, which could be set to run a certain time and then loosen a sort of gunlock. This struck a spark and set fire to the powder, and up—or down—went the vessel.
You can see that Dave Bushnell's invention was a very neat one; but, for all that, luck went against it. He first tried his machine with only two pounds of powder on a hogshead loaded with stones. The powder was set on fire, and up went the stones and the boards of the hogshead and a body of water, many feet into the air. If two pounds of powder would do all this, what would one hundred and fifty pounds do?
In 1776 the Turtle was sent out against a big British ship named the Eagle, anchored in New York Bay. The man inside rowed his boat very well under water, and after some time found himself beneath the King's ship. He now tried to fasten the torpedo to the bottom, but the screw struck an iron bar and would not go in. Then he moved to another place, but now he lost the ship altogether. He could not find her again, and he had to row away, for he could not stay much longer under water.
There is a funny story told about the man in the Turtle. He was a queer fellow named Abijah Shipman, but called by his companions "Long Bige."
As he entered the craft and was about to screw down its cover, he opened it again and asked for a chew of tobacco. All those present felt in their pockets, but none of the weed was on hand.
"You will have to go without it, old chap," said General Putnam, who was present. "We Continental officers can't afford even a plug of tobacco. To-morrow, after you have sent the Eagle on her last flight, we will try and raise you a whole keg of the weed."
"That's too bad," growled Bige. "Tell you what, Gineral, if the old Turtle don't do her duty, it's all along of me goin' out without tobacco."
After he had gone Putnam and his officers watched anxiously for results. Time passed. Morning was at hand. The Eagle rode unharmed. Evidently something had gone wrong. Had the torpedo failed, and was "Long Bige" resting in his wrecked machine on the bottom of the bay? Putnam swept the waters near the Eagle with his glass. Suddenly he exclaimed. "There he is." The top of the Turtle had just emerged, some distance from the ship.
Abijah, fearing that he might be seen, had cast off the torpedo that he might go the faster. The clock had been set to run an hour, and at the end of that time there was a thundering explosion near the fleet, hurling up great volumes of water into the air.
Soon there were signs of fright in the ships. The anchors were raised, sails were set, and off they went to safer quarters down the bay. They did not care to be too near such dangerous affairs as that.
Boats were sent out to the aid of the Turtle and it was brought ashore at a safe place. On landing Abijah gave, in his queer way, the reasons for his failure.
"It's just as I said, Gineral; it went to pot for want o' that cud of tobacco. You see, I'm mighty narvous without my tobacco. When I got under the ship's bottom, somehow the screw struck the iron bar that passes from the rudder pintle, and wouldn't hold on anyhow I could fix it. Just then I let go the oar to feel for a cud, to steady my narves, and I hadn't any. The tide swept me under her counter, and away I slipped top o' water. I couldn't manage to get back, so I pulled the lock and let the thunder-box slide. That's what comes of sailing short of supplies. Say, can you raise a cud among you now?"
Later on, after the British had taken the city of New York, two more attempts were made to blow up vessels in the river above the city. But they both failed, and in the end the British fired upon and sunk the Turtle. Bushnell's work was lost. The best he had been able to do was to give them a good scare.
But he was not yet at the end of his schemes. He next tried to blow up the Cerberus, a British frigate that lay at anchor in Long Island Sound. This time a schooner saved the frigate. A powder magazine was set afloat, but it struck the schooner, which lay at anchor near the frigate. The schooner went to pieces, but the Cerberus was saved.
The most famous of Bushnell's exploits took place at Philadelphia, after the British had taken possession and brought their ships up into the Delaware River.
One fine morning a number of kegs were seen floating down among the shipping. What they meant nobody knew. The sailors grew curious, and a boat set out from a vessel and picked one of them up. In a minute it went off, with the noise of a cannon, sinking the boat and badly hurting the man.
This filled the British with a panic. Those terrible kegs might do frightful damage. They must be some dreadful invention of the rebels. The sailors ran out their guns, great and small, and began to batter every keg they saw with cannon balls, until there was a rattle and roar as if a mighty battle was going on. Such was the famous "Battle of the Kegs."
This was more of Dave Bushnell's work. He had made and set adrift those powder kegs, fixing them so that they would explode on touching anything. But he did not understand the river and its tides. He intended to have them get among the ships at night, but it was broad day when they came down, and by that time the eddying waters had scattered them far and wide. So the powder kegs were of no more account than the torpedoes. All they did was to give the British a scare.
Philadelphia had a poet named Francis Hopkinson, who wrote a poem making fun of the British, called "The Battle of the Kegs." We give a few verses of this humorous poem:
'Twas early day, as poets say,
Just as the sun was rising;
A soldier stood on a log of wood
And saw the sun a-rising.
As in amaze he stood to gaze
(The truth can't be denied, sir),
He spied a score of kegs, or more,
Come floating down the tide, sir.
A sailor, too, in jerkin blue,
The strange appearance viewing,
First "dashed" his eyes in great surprise,
Then said: "Some mischief's brewing.
"These kegs, I'm told, the rebels hold,
Packed up like pickled herring;
And they've come down to attack the town
In this new way of ferrying."
* * * * * * * *
The cannons roar from shore to shore,
The small arms make a rattle;
Since wars began, I'm sure no man
E'er saw so strange a battle.
The fish below swam to and fro,
Attacked from every quarter.
"Why sure," thought they, "the devil's to pay
'Mong folks above the water."
From morn to night these men of might
Displayed amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge.
Such feats did they perform that day,
Against those wicked kegs, sir,
That years to come, if they get home,
They'll make their boasts and brags, sir.
And so it went on, verse after verse, with not much poetry in it, but a good deal of fun. The British did not enjoy it, for people did not like to be laughed at then any more than now.
CAPTAIN BARRY AND HIS ROWBOATS WIN A VICTORY OVER THE BRITISH
A Gallant Naval Hero of Irish Blood
THE heroes of our navy were not all Americans born. More than one of them came from British soil, but a footprint on the green fields of America soon turned them into true-blue Yankees. There was John Paul Jones, the gallant Scotchman. And there was John Barry, a bold son of green Erin.
I have told you the story of Jones, the Scotchman, and now I must tell you that of Barry, the Irishman.
John Barry was a merchant captain who was made commander of the Lexington in 1776. The next year he was appointed to the Effingham, a new frigate building at Philadelphia. The British captured that city before the ship was ready for sea, and the Effingham, the Washington, and some other vessels were caught in a trap. They were taken up the river to Whitehill, above the city, and there they had to stay. Captain Barry, you may be sure, was not much pleased at this, for he was one of the men who love to be where fighting is going on.
Soon orders came from the Navy Board to sink the Effingham. This made Barry's Irish blood very hot. I fancy he said some hard things about the members of the board, and swore he would do nothing of the kind. If the British wanted the American ships let them come and take them. He had guns enough to give them some sport and was disposed to try it.
When the members of the Navy Board heard of what he said, they were very angry, and in the end he had to sink the ship and had to apologize for his strong language. But time proved that he was right and the Navy Board was wrong.
By this time Captain Barry was tired enough of being penned up, and he made up his mind by hook or crook to get out of his cage. He was burning for a fight, and thought that if he could get down the river he might give the British a taste of his mettle.
So, one dark night he set out with four boats and twenty-seven men. He rowed down the river past the ships in the stream and the soldiers on shore. Some of the soldiers saw his boats, and a few shots were fired, but they got safely past, and by daybreak were far down the broad Delaware.
Barry kept on until he reached Port Penn, down near the bay, where the Americans had a small fort. Here there was a chance for the work he wanted, for across the river he saw a large schooner flying the British flag. It was the Alert, carrying ten guns, and with it were four transports laden with food for the army at Philadelphia.
This was a fine opportunity for the bold Irish captain. It took courage to attack a strong English vessel with a few rowboats, but of courage Barry had a full supply.
The sun was up, and it was broad day when the American tars set out on their daring enterprise. The Alert had a wide-awake name, but it must have had a sleepy crew; for before the British knew there was anything wrong, Barry and his men had rowed across the stream and were clambering over the rail, cutlass and pistol in hand.
The British sailors, when they saw this "wild Irishman" and his daring tars, cutting and slashing and yelling like madmen, dropped everything and ran below in fright. All that keep them there.
In this easy fashion, twenty-eight Americans captured a British ten-gun vessel with a hundred and sixteen men on board. There had been nothing like that in all the war.
The transports had to surrender, for they were under the guns of the Alert, and Barry carried his five prizes triumphantly to Port Penn, where he handed his captives over to the garrison.
And now the daring captain made things lively for the foe. He sailed up and down the river and bay, and cut off supplies until the British army at Philadelphia began to suffer for food.
What was to be done? Should this Yankee wasp go on stinging the British lion? General Howe decided that this would never do, and sent a frigate and a sloop-of-war down the river to put an end to the trouble.
Captain Barry, finding these water-hounds sharp on his track, ran for Christiana Creek, hoping to get into shallow water where the heavy British ships could not follow. But the frigate was too fast, and chased him so closely that the best he could do was to run the schooner ashore and escape in his boats.
But he was determined that they should not have the Alert if he could help it. Turning two of the guns downward, he fired through the ship's bottom, and in a minute the water was pouring into her hold.
The frigate swung round and fired a broadside at the fleeing boats; but all it brought back was a cheer of defiance from the sailors, as they struck the land and sprang ashore. Here they had the satisfaction of seeing the schooner sink before a British foot could be set on her deck.
The war vessels now went for the transports at Port Penn. Here a battery had been built on shore, made of bales of hay. This was attacked by the sloop-of-war, but the American sharpshooters made things lively for her. They might have beaten her off had not their captain fallen with a mortal wound. The men now lost heart and fled to the woods, first setting fire to the vessels.
Thus ended Barry's brave exploit. He had lost his vessels, but the British had not got them. The Americans were proud of his daring deed, and the British tried to win so brave a man to their side. Sir William Howe offered him twenty thousand pounds in money and the command of a British frigate if he would desert his flag. But he was not dealing now with a Benedict Arnold.
"Not if you pay me the price and give me the command of the whole British fleet can you draw me away from the cause of my country," wrote the patriotic sailor.
Barry was soon rewarded for his patriotism by being made captain of an American frigate, the Raleigh. But ill-luck now followed him. He sailed from Boston on September 25, 1778, and three days afterward he had lost his ship and was a wanderer with his crew in the vast forests of Maine.
Let us see how this ill-fortune came about. The Raleigh had not got far from port before two sails came in sight. Barry ran down to look at them, and found they were two English frigates. Two to one was too great odds, and the Raleigh turned her head homewards again. But when night shut out the frigates she wore round and started once more on her former course.
The next day opened up foggy, and till noon nothing was to be seen. Then the fog lifted, and to Barry's surprise there were the British ships, just south of his own. Now for three hours it was a hot chase, and then down came another fog and the game was once more at an end.
But the Raleigh could not shake off the British bull-dogs. At about nine o'clock the next morning they came in sight again and the chase was renewed. It was kept up till late in the day. At first the Raleigh went so fast that her pursuers dropped out of sight. Then the wind failed her, and the British ships came up with a strong breeze.
At five o'clock the fastest British frigate was close at hand, and Barry thought he would try what she was good for before the other came up.
In a few minutes more the two ships were hurling iron balls into each other's sides, while the smoke of the conflict filled the skies. Then the fore-topmast and mizzen-topgallantmast of the Raleigh were shot away, leaving her in a crippled state.
The British ship had now much the best of it. Barry tried his best to reach and board her, but she sailed too fast. And up from the south came the other ship, at swift speed. To fight them both with a crippled craft would have been madness, and, as he could not get away, Barry decided to run his ship ashore on the coast of Maine, which was close at hand.
Night soon fell, and with it fell the wind. Till midnight the two ships drifted along, with red fire spurting from their sides and the thunder of cannon echoing from the hills.
In the end the Raleigh ran ashore on an island near the coast. Here Barry fought for some time longer, and then set his ship on fire and went ashore with his men. But the British were quickly on board, put out the fire, and carried off their prize. Barry and his men made their way through the Maine woods till the settlements were reached.
In 1781 Captain Barry was sent across the ocean in the Alliance, a vessel which had taken part in the famous battle of the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis. Here the gallant fellow fought one of his best battles, this time also against two British ships.
When he came upon them there was not a breath of wind. All sail was set, but the canvas flapped against the yards, and the vessel lay
"As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean."
The British vessels were a brig and a sloop-of-war. They wanted to fight as badly as did Captain Barry, and, as they could not sail, they got out sweeps and rowed up to the American frigate. It was weary work, and it took them six hours to do it.
Then came the hails of the captains and the roar of cannon, and soon there was a very pretty fight, with the Alliance in a dangerous situation. She was too heavy to be moved with sweeps, like the light British vessels, so they got on her quarters and poured in broadsides, while she could reply only with a few guns.
Barry raged like a wild bull, bidding his men fight, and begging for a wind. As he did so, a grape-shot struck him in the shoulder and felled him to the deck. As he was carried below, a shot carried away the American flag. A lusty cheer came from the British ships; they thought the flag down and the victory theirs. They soon saw it flying again.
But the Alliance was in sore straits. She was getting far more than she could give, and had done little harm to her foes. At length a lieutenant came down to the wounded captain.
"We cannot handle the ship and are being cut to pieces," he said. "The rigging is in tatters and the fore-topmast in danger, and the carpenter reports two serious leaks. Eight or ten of our people are killed and more wounded. The case seems hopeless, sir; shall we strike the colors?"
"No!" roared Barry, sitting bolt upright. "Not on your life! If the ship can't be fought without me, then carry me on deck."
The lieutenant went up and reported, and the story soon got to the men.
"Good for Captain Barry," they shouted. "We'll stand by the old man."
A minute later a change came. A ripple of water was seen. Soon a breeze rose, the sails filled out, and the Alliance slipped forward and yielded to her helm.
This was what the brave Barry had been waiting for. It was not a case of whistling for a wind, as sailors often do, but of hoping and praying for a wind. It came just in time to save the Alliance from lowering her proud flag, or from going to the bottom with it still flying, as would have suited her bold captain the better.
Now she was able to give her foes broadside for broadside, and you may be sure that her gunners, who had been like dogs wild to get at the game, now poured in shot so fast and furious that they soon drove the foe in terror from his guns. In a short time, just as Captain Barry was brought on deck with his wound dressed, their flags came down.
The prizes proved to be the Atlanta and the Trepassy. That fight was near the last in the war. At a later date Captain Barry had the honor of carrying General Lafayette home to France in his ship.
CAPTAIN TUCKER HONORED BY GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Daring Adventures of the Hero of Marblehead
CAPTAIN SAMUEL TUCKER was a Yankee boy who began his career by running away from home and shipping as a cabin-boy on the British sloop-of-war Royal George. It was a good school for a seaman, and when his time was up he knew his business well.
There was no war then, and he shipped as second-mate on a merchant vessel sailing from Salem. Here he soon had a taste of warlike life and showed what kind of stuff was in him. The Mediterranean Sea in those days was infested by pirates sailing from the Moorish ports. It was the work of these to capture merchant ships, take them into port, and sell their crews as slaves.
On Tucker's first voyage from Salem two of these piratical craft, swift corsairs from Algiers, came in sight and began a chase of the merchantman.
What could be done? There was no hope to run away from those fleet-footed sea-hounds. There was no hope to beat them off in a fight. The men were in a panic and the captain sought courage in rum, and was soon too drunk to handle his ship.
Tucker came to the rescue. Taking the helm, he put it hard down and headed straight for the pirates. It looked as if he was sailing straight for destruction, but he knew what he was about. The Yankee schooner, if it could not sail as fast, could be handled more easily than the Algerines, with their lateen sails; and by skilful steering he got her into such a position that the pirates could not fire into him without hurting one another.
Try as they would, Mate Tucker kept his vessel in this position, and held her there until the shades of night fell. Then he slipped away, and by daylight was safe in port. You may see from this that Samuel Tucker was a bold and a smart man and an able seaman.
After that he was at one time an officer in the British navy and at another a merchant captain. He was in London when the Revolution began. His courage and skill were so well known that he was offered a commission in either the army or the navy, if he was willing to serve "his gracious Majesty."
Tucker forgot where he was, and rudely replied, "Hang his gracious Majesty! Do you think I am the sort of man to fight against my country?"
Those were rash words to be spoken in London. A charge of treason was brought against him and he had to seek safety in flight. For a time he hid in the house of a country inn-keeper who was his friend. Then a chance came to get on shipboard and escape from the country. In this way he got back to his native land.
It was not only the English who knew Captain Tucker's ability. He was known in America as well. No doubt there were many who had heard how he had served the pirate Moors. He had not long been home when General Washington sent him a commission as captain of the ship Franklin, and ordered him to get to sea at once.
The messenger with the commission made his way to the straggling old town of Marblehead, where Tucker lived. Inquiring for him in the town, he was directed to a certain house.
Reaching this, the messenger saw a roughly-dressed and weather-beaten person working in the yard, with an old tarpaulin hat on his head and a red bandanna handkerchief tied loosely round his neck.
The man, thinking him an ordinary laborer, called out from his horse:
"Say, good fellow, can you tell if the Honorable Samuel Tucker lives here or hereabouts?"
The workman looked up with a quizzical glance from under the brim of his tarpaulin and replied:
"Honorable, honorable! There's none of that name in Marblehead. He must be one of the Salem Tuckers. I'm the only Samuel Tucker in this town."
"Anyhow, this is where I was told to stop. A house standing alone, with its gable-end to the sea. This is the only place I've seen that looks like that."
"Then I must be the Tucker you want, honorable or not. What is it you have got to say to him?"
He soon learned, and was glad to receive the news. Early the next morning he had left home for the port where the Franklin lay, and not many days passed before he was out at sea.
The Franklin, under his command proved one of the most active ships afloat. She sent in prizes in numbers. More than thirty were taken in 1776—ships, brigs, and smaller vessels, including "a brigantine from Scotland worth fifteen thousand pounds."
These were not all captured without fighting. Two British brigs were taken so near Marblehead that the captain's wife and sister, hearing the sound of cannon, went up on a high hill close by and saw the fight through a spy-glass.
The next year Captain Tucker was put in command of the frigate Boston, and in 1778 he took John Adams to France as envoy from the United States.
It was a voyage full of incidents. They passed through days of storm, which nearly wrecked the ship. Many vessels were seen, and the Boston was chased by three men-of-war.
She ran away from these, and soon after came across a large armed vessel, which Captain Tucker decided to fight. When the drum called the men to quarters, Mr. Adams seized a musket and joined the marines.
The captain requested him to go below. Finding that he was not going to obey, Tucker laid a hand on his shoulder and said firmly:
"Mr. Adams, I am commanded by the Continental Congress to deliver you safe in France. You must go below."
Mr. Adams smiled and complied. The next minute there came a broadside from the stranger. There was no response from the Boston. Other shots came, and still no reply. At length the blue-jackets began to grumble. Looking them in the eyes, Tucker said, in quizzical tones:
"Hold on, lads. I want to get that egg without breaking the shell."
In a few minutes more, having got into the position he wished, he raked the enemy from stem to stern with a broadside. That one sample was enough. She struck her flag without waiting for a second. Soon after the envoy was safely landed in France.
Numbers of anecdotes are told of Captain Tucker, who was a man much given to saying odd and amusing things.
Once he fell in with a British frigate which had been sent in search of him. He had made himself a thorn in the British lion's side and was badly wanted. Up came Tucker boldly, with the English flag at his peak.
He was hailed, and replied that he was Captain Gordon, of the English navy, and that he was out in search of the Boston, commanded by the rebel Tucker.
"If I can sight the ship I'll carry him to New York, dead or alive," he said.
"Have you ever seen him?"
"Well, I've heard of him; they say he is a tough customer."
While talking, he had been manœuvering to gain a raking position. Just as he did so, a sailor in the British tops cried,—
"Look out below! That is Tucker himself."
The Englishman was in a trap. The Boston had him at a great disadvantage. There was nothing to do but to strike his flag, and this he did without firing a gun.
When Charleston was taken by the British, the Boston was one of the vessels cooped up there and lost. Captain Tucker was taken prisoner. After his exchange, as he had no ship, he took the sloop-of-war Thorn, one of his former prizes, and went out cruising as a privateer.
After a three weeks' cruise, the Thorn met an English ship of twenty-three guns.
"She means to fight us," said the captain to his men, after watching her movements. "If we go alongside her like men she will be ours in thirty minutes; if we can't go as men we have no business there at all. Every man who is willing to fight go down the starboard gangway; all others can go down the larboard." Every soul of them took the starboard.
He manœuvered so that in a few minutes the vessels lay side by side. The Englishman opened with a broadside that did little damage. The Thorn replied with a destructive fire, and kept it up so hotly that within thirty minutes a loud cry came from the English ship:
"Quarters, for God's sake! Our ship is sinking. Our men are dying of their wounds."
"How can you expect quarters while your flag is flying?" demanded Captain Tucker.
"Our halliards are shot away."
"Then cut away your ensign staff, or you'll all be dead men."
It was done and the firing ceased. A dreadful execution had taken place on the Englishman's deck, more than a third of her crew being dead and wounded, while blood was everywhere.
And so we take our leave of Captain Tucker. He was one of the kind of sailors that everyone likes to read about.
THE LAST NAVAL BATTLE OF THE REVOLUTION
The Heroic Captain Barney in the "Hyder Ali" Captures the "General Monk"
YOU must think by this time that we had many bold and brave sailors in the Revolution. So we had. You have not been told all their exploits, but only a few among the most gallant ones. There is one more story that is worth telling, before we leave the Revolutionary times.
If you are familiar with American history you will remember that Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington in October, 1781. That is generally looked on as the end of the war. There was no more fighting on land. But there was one bold affair on the water in April, 1782, six months after the work of the armies was done.
This was in Delaware Bay, where Captain Barry had taken a war vessel with a few rowboats. The hero of this later exploit was Captain Joshua Barney, and he was as brave a man as John Barry.
Captain Barney had seen service through the whole war. Like John Paul Jones, an accident had made him a captain of a ship when he was a mere boy. He was only seventeen, yet he handled his ship with the skill of an old mariner. War broke out soon afterward and he became an officer on the Hornet, though still only a boy. Soon after he had some lively service in the Wasp, and captured a British privateer with the little sloop Sachem.
Then he had some bad fortune, for he was taken prisoner while bringing in a prize vessel, and was put on the terrible prison-ship Jersey. Few of the poor fellows on that vessel lived to tell the story of the frightful way in which they were treated. But young Barney managed to escape, and went to sea again as captain of a merchant vessel. In this he was chased by a British war-vessel, the Rosebud. Shall I tell you the way that Captain Barney plucked the petals of the Rosebud? He fired a crowbar at her out of one of his cannon. This new kind of cannon-ball went whirling through the air and came ripping and tearing through the sails of the British ship. After making rags of her sails, it hit her foremast and cut out a big slice. The Americans now sailed quietly away. They could laugh at John Bull's Rosebud.
On the 8th of April, 1782, Captain Barney took command of the Hyder Ali. This was a merchant ship which had been bought by the State of Pennsylvania. It was not fit for a warship, but the State was in a hurry, so eight gun-ports were cut on each side, and the ship was mounted with sixteen six-pounder cannon. Then she set sail from Philadelphia in charge of a fleet of merchant vessels.
On they went, down the Delaware river and bay, until Cape May was reached. Here Captain Barney saw that there was trouble ahead. Three British vessels came in sight. One of these was the frigate Quebec. The others were a brig, the Fair American, and a sloop-of-war, the General Monk.
Before such a fleet the Hyder Ali was like a sparrow before a hawk. Captain Barney at once signaled his merchant ships to make all haste up the bay. Away they flew like a flock of frightened birds, except one, whose captain thought he would slip round the cape and get to sea. But the British soon swallowed up him and his ship, so he paid well for his smartness.
On up the bay went the other merchantmen, with the Hyder Ali in the rear, and the British squadron hot on their track. The frigate sailed into a side channel, thinking it would find a short-cut and so head them off. Captain Barney watched this movement with keen eyes. The big ship had put herself out of reach for a time. He knew well that she could not get through that way, and laid his plans to have some sport with the small fish while the big fish was away.
The brig Fair American was a privateer and a fast one. It came up with a fair breeze, soon reaching the Hyder Ali, which expected a fight. But the privateer wanted prizes more than cannon balls, and went straight on, firing a broadside that did no harm. Captain Barney let her go. The sloop-of-war was coming fast behind, and this was enough for him to attend to. It had more guns than his ship and they were double the weight—twelve-pounders to his six-pounders. As the war sloop came near, Barney turned to his helmsman, and said:
"I want you to go opposite to my orders. If I tell you to port your helm, you are to put it hard-a-starboard. Do you understand?"
"Aye, aye!" answered the tar.
Up came the General Monk, its captain thinking to make an easy prize, as the Fair American had been let go past without a shot. When about a dozen yards away the British captain hailed:
"Strike your colors, or I will fire!"
"Hard-a-port your helm," roared Barney to the man at the wheel. "Do you want her to run aboard us?"
The order was heard on board the enemy, and the captain gave orders to meet the expected movement. But hard-a-starboard went the helm, and the Hyder Ali swung round in front of the enemy, whose bowsprit caught and became entangled in her fore-rigging.
This gave the American ship a raking position, and in a moment the grim tars were hard at work with their guns. Broadsides were poured in as fast as they could load and fire, and every shot swept from bow to stern. The Englishman, though he had double the weight of metal, could not get out of the awkward position in which Barney had caught him, and his guns did little harm. In less than half an hour down went his flag.
It was none too soon. The frigate had seen the fight from a distance, and was making all haste to get out of its awkward position and take a hand in the game. Barney did not even wait to ask the name of his prize, but put a crew on board and bade them make all haste to Philadelphia.
He followed, steering now for the Fair American. But the privateer captain had seen the fate of the General Monk and concluded that he had business elsewhere. So he ran away instead of fighting, and soon ran ashore. The Hyder Ali left him there and made all haste up stream. The frigate had by this time got out of her side channel, and was coming up under full sail. So Captain Barney crowded on all sail also and fled away after his prize.
If the frigate had got within gunshot it would soon have settled the question, for it could have sunk the Hyder Ali with a broadside. But it was not fast enough, and after a speedy run the victor and her prize drew up beside a Philadelphia wharf.
Never had the good people of the Quaker City gazed on such a sight as now met their eyes. Nothing had been done to remove the marks of battle. The ships came in as they had left the fight. Shattered bulwarks, ragged rents in the hulls, sails in tatters and drooping cordage told the story of the desperate battle.
And the decks presented a terrible picture. Blood was everywhere. On the General Monk were stretched the dead bodies of twenty men, while twenty-six wounded lay groaning below. The Hyder Ali had suffered much less, having but four killed and eleven wounded.
In all the Revolutionary War there have been few more brilliant actions; and his victory gave Joshua Barney a high standing among the naval commanders of the young Republic.
Shall we take up the story of the gallant Barney at a later date? Thirty years after his victory over the General Monk, there was war again between Americans and Britons, and Commodore Barney, now an old man, took an active part.
He started out in the early days of the war with no better vessel than the schooner Rossie, of fourteen guns and 120 men. He soon had lively times. The Rossie was a clipper, and he could run away from an enemy too strong to fight, though running away was not much to his taste.
In his first cruise he was out forty-five days, and in that time he captured fourteen vessels and 166 prisoners.
In a month's time he was at sea again. Now he got among British frigates and had to trust to the heels of his little craft. But in spite of the great ships that haunted the seas, new prizes fell into his hands, one being taken after an hour's fight. In all, the vessels and cargoes taken by him were worth nearly $3,000,000, though most of this wealth went to the bottom of the sea.
The next year (1813) he was made commodore of a fleet of gunboats in Chesapeake Bay. Here for a year he had very little to do. Then the British sailed up the Chesapeake, intending to capture Washington and Baltimore, Barney did not hesitate to attack them, and did considerable damage, though they were much too strong for his small fleet.
At length there came from the frightened people at Washington the order to burn his fleet, and, much against his will, he was forced to consign his gunboats to the flames. With his men, about four hundred in all, he joined the army assembled to defend the capital.
These sailor-soldiers made the best fight of any of the troops that sought to save Washington from capture; but during the fight Commodore Barney received a wound that brought his fighting days to an end. Fortunately there was little more fighting to do, and peace reigned over his few remaining years of life.
THE MOORISH PIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
Our Navy Teaches Them a Lesson in Honor
I SUPPOSE all the readers of this book know what a pirate is. For those who may not know, I would say that a pirate is a sea-robber. They are terrible fellows, these pirates, who live by murder and plunder. In old times there were many ship-loads of them upon the seas, who captured every merchant vessel they met with and often killed all on board.
There have been whole nations of pirates, and that as late as a hundred years ago. By looking at an atlas you will see at the north of Africa the nations of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. The people of these nations are called Moors, and they used to be great sea-robbers. They sent out fast vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and no merchant ship there was safe. Hundreds of such ships were taken and robbed. Their crews were not killed, but they were sold as slaves, which was nearly as terrible.
Would you not think that the powerful nations of Europe would have soon put a stop to this? They could have sent fleets and armies there and conquered the Moors. But instead of that, they paid them to let their ships alone.
Not long after the Revolution these sea-robbers began to make trouble for the United States. The new nation, you should know, had no navy. After it was done fighting with the British, it was so poor that it sold all its ships. But it soon had many merchant ships, sailing to all seas, which were left to take care of themselves the best way they could.
What did the pirates of Algiers care for this young nation across the Atlantic, that had rich merchant ships and not a war vessel to protect them? Very little, I fancy. It is certain that they soon began to capture American ships and sell their sailors for slaves. In a short time nearly two hundred American sailors were working as slaves in the Moorish states.
The United States did not act very bravely. Instead of sending out a fleet of warships, it made a treaty with Algiers and agreed to pay a certain sum of money every year to have its vessels let alone. While the treaty lasted, more than a million dollars were paid to the Dey of Algiers. If that much had been spent for strong frigates, the United States would not have had the disgrace of paying tribute to the Moors. But the natives of Europe were doing the same, so the disgrace belonged to them also.
The trouble with the Moors got worse and worse, and the Dey of Algiers became very insolent to Americans.
"You are my slaves, for you pay me tribute," he said to the captain of an American frigate. "I have a right to order you as I please."
When the other pirate nations, Tunis and Tripoli, found that Algiers was being paid, they asked for tribute, too. And they began to capture American ships and sell their crews into slavery. And their monarchs were as insolent as the Dey.
The United States at that time was young and poor. It had not been twenty years free from British armies. But it was proud, if it was poor, and did not like to have its captains and consuls ordered about like servants. So the President and Congress thought it was time to teach the Moors a lesson.
This was in 1801. By that time a fleet of war vessels had been built, and a squadron of these was sent to the Mediterranean under Commodore Richard Dale. This was the man who had been in Paul Jones's great fight and had received the surrender of the captain of the Serapis. He was a bold, brave officer, but Congress had ordered him not to fight if he could help it, and therefore very little was done.
But there was one battle, the story of which we must tell. Commodore Dale had three frigates and one little schooner, the Enterprise. All the honor of the cruise came to this little craft.
She was on her way to Malta when she came in sight of a low, long vessel, at whose mast-head floated the flag of Tripoli. When this came near, it was seen to be a corsair which had long waged war on American merchantmen.
Before Captain Sterrett, of the Enterprise, had time to hail, the Moors began to fire at his ship. He was told not to fight if he could help it, but Sterrett decided that he could not help it. He brought his schooner within pistol shot of the Moor, and poured broadsides into the pirate ship as fast as the men could load and fire. The Moors replied. For two hours the battle continued, with roar of cannon and rattle of muskets and dense clouds of smoke.
The vessels were small and their guns were light, so that the battle was long drawn out.
At last the fire of the corsair ceased, and a whiff of air carried away the smoke. Looking across the waves, the sailors saw that the flag of Tripoli no longer waved, and three hearty American cheers rang out. The tars left their guns and were getting ready to board their prize, when up again went the flag of Tripoli and another broadside was fired into their vessel.
Their cheers of triumph turned to cries of rage. Back to their guns they rushed, and fought more fiercely than before. They did not care now to take the prize; they wished to send her, with her crew of villains, to the bottom of the sea.
The Moors fought as fiercely as the Americans. Running their vessel against the Enterprise, they tried again and again to leap on board and finish the battle with pistol and cutlass; but each time they were driven back.
The men at the guns meanwhile poured in two more broadsides, and once more down came the flag of Tripoli.
Captain Sterrett did not trust the traitors this time. He bade his men keep to their guns, and ordered the Tripolitans to bring their vessel under the quarter of the Enterprise. They had no sooner done so than a throng of the Moorish pirates tried to board the schooner.
"No quarter for the treacherous dogs!" was the cry of the furious sailors. "Pour it into them; send the thieves to the bottom!"
The Enterprise now drew off to a good position and raked the foe with repeated broadsides. The Moors were bitterly punished for their treachery. Their deck ran red with blood; men and officers lay bleeding in throngs; the cries of the wounded rose above the noise of the cannon. The flag was down again, but no heed was paid to that. The infuriated sailors were bent on sending the pirate craft to the bottom.
At length the corsair captain, an old man with a flowing white beard, appeared at the side of his ship, sorely wounded, and, with a low bow, cast his flag into the sea. Then Captain Sterrett, though he still felt like sinking the corsair, ordered the firing to stop.
The prize proved to be named the Tripoli. What was to be done with it? Captain Sterrett had no authority to take prizes. At length he concluded that he would teach the Bashaw of Tripoli a lesson.
He sent Lieutenant David Porter, a daring young officer who was yet to make his mark, on the prize, telling him to make a wreck of her.
Porter was glad to obey those orders. He made the captive Tripolitans cut down their masts, throw all their cannon and small arms into the sea, cut their sails to pieces, and fling all their powder overboard. He left them only a jury-mast and a small sail.
"See here," said Porter to the Moorish captain, "we have not lost a man, while fifty of your men are killed or wounded. You may go home now and tell this to your Bashaw, and say to him that in the time to come the only tribute he will get from the United States will be a tribute of powder and balls."
Away drifted the wrecked hulk, followed by the jeers of the American sailors, who were only sorry that the treacherous pirate had not been scuttled and sent to the bottom of the sea.
When it reached Tripoli the Bashaw was mad with rage. Instead of the plunder and the white slaves he had looked for, he had only a dismantled hulk.
The old captain showed him his wounds and told him how hard he had fought. But his fury was not to be appeased. He had the white-bearded commander led through the streets tied to a jackass—the greatest disgrace he could have inflicted on any Moor. This was followed by five hundred blows with a stick.
The Moorish sailors declared that the Americans had fired enchanted shot. This, and the severe punishment of the captain of the Tripoli, so scared the sailors of the city that for a year after the fierce Bashaw found it next to impossible to muster a ship's crew. They did not care to be treated as the men on the Tripoli had been.
Such was the first lesson which the sailors of the new nation gave to the pirates of the Mediterranean. It was the beginning of a policy which was to put an end to the piracy which had prevailed for centuries on those waters.
THE YOUNG DECATUR AND HIS BRILLIANT DEEDS AT TRIPOLI
How Our Navy Began and Ended a Foreign War
IN the ship Essex, one of the fleet that was sent to the Mediterranean to deal with the Moorish pirates, there was a brave young officer named Stephen Decatur. He was little more than a boy, for he was just past twenty-one years of age; but he had been in the fight between the Enterprise and the Tripoli, and was so bold and daring that he was sure to make his mark.
I must tell you how he first showed himself a true American. It was when the Essex was lying in the harbor at Barcelona, a seaport of Spain. The Essex was a handsome little vessel, and there was much praise of her in the town, people of fashion came to see her and invited her officers to their houses and treated them with great respect.
Now there was a Spanish warship lying in the port, of the kind called a xebec, a sort of three-masted vessel common in the Mediterranean Sea.
The officers of this ship did not like to see so much respect given to the Americans and so little to themselves. They grew jealous and angry, and did all they could to annoy and insult the officers of the Essex. Every time one of her boats rowed past the xebec it would be challenged and ugly things said.
The Americans bore all this quietly for a while. One day Captain Bainbridge, of the Essex, was talked to in an abusive way, and said little back. Another time a boat, under command of Lieutenant Decatur, came under the guns of the xebec, and the Spaniards on the deck hailed him with insulting words. This was more than young blood could stand, and he called to the officer of the deck and asked him what that meant, but the haughty Spaniard would give him no satisfaction.
"Very well," said Decatur. "I will call to see you in the morning. Pull off, lads."
The next morning Decatur had himself rowed over to the xebec, and went on board. He asked for the officer who was in charge the night before.
"He has gone ashore," was the reply.
"Well, then," said Decatur, in tones that every one on board could hear, "tell him that Lieutenant Decatur, of the frigate Essex, calls him a cowardly scoundrel, and when he meets him on shore he will cut his ears off."
There were no more insults after that. Decatur spoke as if he meant what he said, and the officers of the xebec did not want to lose their ears. But the United States Minister to Spain took up the matter and did not rest until he got a full apology for the insults to the Americans.
I have told this little story to let you see what kind of a man Stephen Decatur was. But this was only a minor affair. He was soon to make himself famous by one of the most brilliant deeds in the history of the American navy.
In October, 1802, a serious disaster came to the American fleet. The frigate Philadelphia was chasing a runaway vessel into the harbor of Tripoli, when she got in shoal water and suddenly ran fast aground on a shelf of rock.
Here was an awkward position. Captain Bainbridge threw overboard most of his cannon and his anchors, and everything that would lighten the ship, even cutting down his foremasts; but all to no purpose. She still clung fast to the rock.
Soon a flock of gunboats came down the harbor and saw the bad fix the Americans were in. Bainbridge was quite unable to fight them, for they could have kept out of the way of his guns and made kindling wood of his vessel. There was nothing to do but to surrender. So he flooded the powder magazine, threw all the small arms overboard, and knocked holes in the bottom of the ship. Then he hauled down his flag.
The gunboats now came up like a flock of hawks, and soon the Moors were clambering over the rails. In a minute more they were in every part of the ship, breaking open chests and storerooms and plundering officers and men. Two of them would hold an officer and a third rob him of his watch and purse, his sword, and everything of value he possessed. The plundering did not stop till the captain knocked down one of the Moors for trying to rob him of an ivory miniature of his wife.
Then the Americans were made to get into the gunboats and were taken ashore. They were marched in triumph through the streets, and the men were thrown into prison. The officers were invited to supper by the Bashaw, and treated as if they were guests. But as soon as the supper was over, they, too, were taken to the prison rooms in which they were to stay till the end of the war.
The Tripolitans afterwards got the Philadelphia off the rocks during a high tide, plugged up the holes in her bottom, fished up her guns and anchors, and fitted her up for war. The Bashaw was proud enough of his fine prize, which had not cost him a man or a shot, and was a better ship than he had ever seen before.
When the American commodore learned of the loss of the Philadelphia he was in a bad state of mind. To lose one of his best ships in this way was not at all to his liking, for he was a man who did not enjoy losing a ship; and to know that the Moors had it and were making a warship of it was a hard thing to bear.
From his prison Captain Bainbridge wrote letters to Commodore Preble, which the Moors read and then sent out to the fleet. They did not know that the letters had postscripts written in lemon-juice which only came out when the sheet of paper was held to the heat of a fire. In these the captain asked the commodore to try and destroy the captured ship.
Commodore Preble was a daring officer, and was ready enough for this, if he only knew how it could be done. Lieutenant Decatur was then in command of the Enterprise, the schooner which had fought with the Tripoli. He asked the commodore to let him take the Enterprise into the harbor and try to destroy the captured ship. He knew he could do it, he said, if he only had a chance. At any rate, he wanted to try.
Commodore Preble shook his head. It could not be done that way. He would only lose his own vessel and his men. But there was a way it might be done. The Moors might be taken by surprise and their prize burned in their sight. It was a desperate enterprise. Every man who took part in it would be in great danger of death. But that danger did not give much trouble to bold young Decatur, who was as ready to fight as he was to eat.
What was the commodore's plan, do you ask? Well, it was this. Some time earlier the Enterprise had captured the Mastico, a vessel from Tripoli. Preble gave this craft the new name of the Intrepid and proposed to send it into the harbor. The Moors did not know of its capture and would not suspect it, and thus it might get up close to the Philadelphia.
Decatur was made commander and called for volunteers. Every man and boy on the Enterprise wanted to go; and he picked out over seventy of them. As he was about to leave the deck, a boy came up and asked if he couldn't go, too.
"Why do you want to go, Jack?"
"Well, Captain, you see, I'd kind o' like to see the country."
This was such a queer reason that Decatur laughed and told him he might go.
One dark night, on February 3, 1804, the Intrepid left the rest of the fleet and set sail for the harbor of Tripoli. The little Siren went with her for company. But the weather proved stormy, and it was not until the 15th that they were able to carry out their plan.
About noon they came in sight of the spires of the city of Tripoli. Decatur did not wish to reach the Philadelphia until nightfall, but he was afraid to take in sail, for fear of being suspected; so he dragged a cable and a number of buckets behind to lessen his speed.
After a time the Philadelphia came in sight. She was anchored well in the harbor, under the guns of two heavy batteries. Two cruisers and a number of gunboats lay near by. It was a desperate and dangerous business which Decatur and his tars had taken in hand, but they did not let that trouble them.
At about ten o'clock at night the Intrepid came into the harbor's mouth. The wind had fallen and she crept slowly along over the smooth sea. The Siren stayed behind. Her work was that of rescue in case of trouble. Straight for the frigate went the devoted crew. A new moon sent its soft lustre over the waves. All was still in city and fleet.
Soon the Intrepid came near the frigate. Only twelve men were visible on her deck. The others were lying flat in the shadow on the bulwarks, each with cutlass tightly clutched in hand.
"What vessel is that?" was asked in Moorish words from the frigate.
"The Mastico, from Malta," answered the pilot in the same tongue. "We lost our anchors in the gale and were nearly wrecked. Can we ride by your ship for the night?"
The permission asked was granted, and a boat from the Intrepid made a line fast to the frigate, while the men on the latter threw a line aboard. The ropes were passed to the hidden men on the deck, who pulled on them lustily.
As the little craft came up, the men on the frigate saw her anchors hanging in place.
"You have lied to us!" came a sharp hail. "Keep off! Cut those lines!"
Others had seen the concealed men, and the cry of "Americanos!" was raised.
The alarm came too late. The little craft was now close up and a hearty pull brought her against the hull of the large ship.
"Boarders away!" came the stirring order.
"Follow me, lads," cried Decatur, springing for the chain-plates of the frigate. Men and officers were after him hot-foot. Midshipman Charles Morris was the first to reach the deck, with Decatur close behind.
The surprise was complete. There was no resistance. Few of the Moors had weapons, and they fled from the Americans like frightened sheep. On all sides the splashing of water could be heard as they leaped overboard. In a few minutes they were all gone and Decatur and his men were masters of the ship.
They would have given much to be able to take the noble frigate out of the harbor. But that could not be done, and every minute made their danger greater. All they could do was to set her on fire and retreat with all speed.
Not a moment was lost. Quick-burning material was brought from the Intrepid, put in good places, and set on fire. So rapidly did the flames spread that the men who were lighting fires on the lower decks had scarcely time to escape from the fast-spreading conflagration.
Flames poured from the port-holes, and sparks fell on the deck of the smaller vessel. If it should touch the powder that was stored amidships, death would come to them all. With nervous haste they cut the ropes, and the Intrepid was pushed off. Then the sweeps were thrust out and the little craft rowed away.
"Now, lads, give them three good cheers," cried Decatur.
Up sprang the jack-tars, and three ringing cheers were given, sounding above the roar of the flames and of the cannon that were now playing on the little vessel from the batteries and gunboats. Then to their sweeps went the tars again, and drove their vessel every minute farther away.
As they went they saw the flames catch the rigging and run up the masts of the doomed frigate. Then great bursts of flame shot out from the open hatchways. The loaded guns went off one after another, some of them firing into the town. It was a lurid and striking spectacle, such as is seldom seen.
Bainbridge and his fellow-officers saw the flames from their prison window and hailed them with lusty cheers. The officers of the Siren saw them also, and sent their boats into the harbor to aid the fugitives, if necessary. But it was not necessary. Not a man had been hurt. In an hour after the flames were seen, Decatur and his daring crew came in triumph out of the bay of Tripoli.
Never had been known a more perfect and successful naval exploit. All Europe talked of it with admiration when the news was received. Lord Nelson, the greatest of England's sailors, said, "It was the boldest and most daring act of the ages." When the tidings reached the United States, Decatur, young as he was, was rewarded by Congress with the title of captain.
We are not yet done with the Intrepid, in which Decatur played so brilliant a part. She was tried again in work of the same kind, but with a more tragic end.
A room was built in her and filled with powder, shot, and shells. Combustibles of various kinds were piled around it, so that it could not fail to go off, if set on fire. Then, one dark night, the fire-ship was sent into the harbor of Tripoli, with a picked crew under another gallant young officer, Lieutenant Richard Somers.
They were told to take it into the midst of the Moorish squadron, set it fire and escape in their boats. It was expected to blow up and rend to atoms the war vessels of Tripoli.
But the forts and ships began to fire on it, and before it reached its goal a frightful disaster occurred. Suddenly a great jet of fire was seen to shoot up into the sky. Then came a roar like that of a volcano. The distant spectators saw the mast of the Intrepid, with blazing sail, flung like a rocket into the air. Bombs flew in all directions. Then all grew dark and still.
In some way the magazine had been exploded, perhaps by a shot from the enemy. Nothing was ever seen again of Somers and his men. It was the great tragedy of the war. They had all perished in that fearful explosion.
Now let us turn back to the story of Decatur, of whom we have some more famous work to tell.
In August, 1804, the American fleet entered the harbor of Tripoli and made a daring attack on the fleet, the batteries, and the city of the Bashaw. In addition to the war vessels of the fleet, there were six gunboats and two bomb vessels, all pouring shot and shell into the city which had so long defied them.
The batteries on shore returned the fire, and the gunboats of the Bashaw advanced to the attack. On these the fleet now turned its fire, sweeping their decks with grape and canister shot. Decatur, with three gunboats, advanced on the eastern division of the Moorish gunboats, nine in all.
Decatur, you will see, was outnumbered three to one, but he did not stop for odds like that. He dashed boldly in, laid his vessel alongside the nearest gunboat of the enemy, poured in a volley, and gave the order to board. In an instant the Americans were over the bulwarks and on the foe.
The contest was short and sharp. The captain of the Tripolitans fell dead. Most of his officers were wounded. The men, overcome by the fierce attack, soon threw down their arms and begged for quarter. Decatur secured them below decks and started for the next gunboat.
On his way he was hailed from one of his own boats, which had been commanded by his brother James. The men told him that his brother had captured one of the gunboats of the enemy, but, on going on board after her flag had fallen, he had been shot dead by the treacherous commander. The murderer had then driven the Americans back and carried his boat out of the fight.
On hearing this sad news, Decatur was filled with grief and rage. Bent on revenge, he turned his boat's prow and swiftly sped towards the craft of the assassin. The instant the two boats came together the furious Decatur sprang upon the deck of the enemy. At his back came Lieutenant McDonough and nine sturdy sailors. Nearly forty of the Moors faced them, at their head a man of gigantic size, his face half covered with a thick black beard, a scarlet cap on his head, the true type of a pirate captain.
Sure that this was his brother's murderer, Decatur rushed fiercely at the giant Moor. The latter thrust at him with a heavy boarding pike. Decatur parried the blow, and made a fierce stroke at the weapon, hoping to cut off its point.
He failed in this and his cutlass broke off at the hilt, leaving him with empty hands. With a lusty yell the Moor thrust again. Decatur bent aside, so that he received only a slight wound. Then he seized the weapon, wrested it from the hands of the Moor, and thrust fiercely at him.
In an instant more the two enemies had clinched in a wrestle for life and death, and fell struggling to the deck. While they lay there, one of the Tripolitan officers raised his and aimed a deadly blow at the head of Decatur.
It seemed now as if nothing could save the struggling American. Only one of his men was near by. This was a sailor named Reuben James, who had been wounded in both arms. But he was a man of noble heart. He could not lift a hand to save his captain, but his head was free, and with a sublime devotion he thrust it in the way of the descending weapon.
Down it came with a terrible blow on his head, and he fell bleeding to the deck, but before the Tripolitan could lift his weapon again to strike Decatur, a pistol shot laid him low.
Decatur was left to fight it out with the giant Moor. With one hand the huge wrestler held him tightly and with the other he drew a dagger from his belt. The fatal moment had arrived. Decatur caught the Moor's wrist just as the blow was about to fall, and at the same instant pressed against his side a small pistol he had drawn from his pocket.
A touch of the trigger, a sharp report, and the body of the giant relaxed. The bullet had pierced him through and he fell back dead. Flinging off the heavy weight, Decatur rose to his feet.
Meanwhile his few men had been fiercely fighting the Tripolitan crew. Greatly as they outnumbered the Americans, the Moors had been driven back. They lost heart on seeing their leader fall and threw down their arms.
Another gunboat was captured and then the battle ended. The attack on Tripoli had proved a failure and the fleet drew off.
I know you will ask what became of brave Reuben James, who offered his life for his captain. Was he killed? No, I am glad to say he was not. He had an ugly cut, but he was soon well again.
One day Decatur asked him what reward he should give him for saving his life. The worthy sailor did not know what to say. He scratched his head and looked puzzled.
"Ask him for double pay, Rube," suggested one of his shipmates.
"A pocket full of dollars and shore leave," whispered another.
"No," said the modest tar. "Just let somebody else hand out the hammocks to the men when they are piped down. That's something I don't like."
Decatur consented; and afterwards, when the crew was piped down to stow hammocks, Reuben walked among them as free and independent as a millionaire.
That is all we have here to say about the Tripolitan war. The next year a treaty of peace was signed, and Captain Bainbridge and the men of the Philadelphia were set free from their prison cells.
In 1812, when war broke out with England, the gallant Decatur was given the command of the frigate United States, and with it he captured the British frigate Macedonian, after a hard fight.
Poor Decatur was shot dead in a duel in 1820 by a hot-headed officer whom he had offended. It was a sad end to a brilliant career, for the American Navy never had a more gallant commander.
THE GALLANT "OLD IRONSIDES" AND HOW SHE CAPTURED THE "GUERRIERE"
A Famous Incident of the War of 1812
WHEN did our country win its greatest fame upon the sea? I think, when you have read the story of the War of 1812, you will say it was in that war. It is true, we did not do very well on land in that war, but the glory we lost on the shore we made up on the sea.
You should know that in 1812 England was the greatest sea-power in the world. For years she had been fighting with Napoleon, and every fleet he set afloat was badly whipped by British ships. Is it any wonder that the people of that little island were proud of their fleets? Is it any wonder they proudly sang—
"Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep;
Her march is o'er the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep."
They grew so vain of their lordship of the sea that they needed a lesson, and they were to get one from the Yankee tars. As soon as war began between England and the United States in 1812, a flock of British war-hawks came flying bravely across the seas, thinking they would soon gobble up the Yankee sparrows. But long before the war was over, they quit singing their proud song of "Britannia rules the waves," and found that what they thought was a Yankee sparrow was the American eagle.
There were too many great things done on the ocean in this war for me to name them all, so I will have to tell only the most famous. And first of all I must give you the story of the noble old Constitution, or, as she came to be called, Old Ironsides.
The Constitution was a noble ship of the old kind. That royal old craft is still afloat, after more than a hundred years of service, and after all her companions have long since sunk in the waves or rotted away. She was built to fight the French in 1798. She was Commodore Preble's flagship in the war with the Moorish pirates. And she won undying fame in the War of 1812. So the story of the Constitution comes first in our list of the naval conquerors of that war.
I fancy, if any of you had been living at that time, you would have wanted to fight the British as badly as the Americans then did. For the British had for years been taking sailors from American ships and making them serve in their own men-of-war. Then, too, they had often insulted our officers upon the seas, and acted in a very insolent and overbearing way whenever they had the opportunity. This made the Americans very angry and was the main cause of the war.
I must tell you some things that took place before the war. In 1811 a British frigate named the Guerriere was busy at this kind of work, sailing up and down our coast and carrying off American sailors on pretence that they were British. Just remember the name of the "Guerriere." You will soon learn how the Constitution paid her for this shabby work.
I have also a story to tell about the Constitution in 1811. She had to cross the Atlantic in that year, and stopped on some business in the harbor of Portsmouth, an English seaport.
One night a British officer came on board and said there was an American deserter on his ship, the Havana, and that the Americans could have him if they sent for him.
Captain Hull, of the Constitution, was then in London, so Lieutenant Morris, who had charge of the ship, sent for the man; but when his messenger came, he was told that the man said he was a British subject, and therefore he should not be given up. They were very sorry, and all that, but they had to take the man's word for it. Morris thought this very shabby treatment but he soon had his revenge. For that very night a British sailor came on board the Constitution, who said he was a deserter from the Havana.
"Of what nation are you?" he was asked.
"I'm an American, sor," said the man, with a strong Irish accent.
Lieutenant Morris sent word to the Havana that a deserter from his ship was on the Constitution. But when an officer from the Havana came to get the deserter, Morris politely told him that the man said he was an American, and therefore he could not give him up. He was very sorry, he said, but really the man ought to know to what country he belonged. You may be interested to learn that Lieutenant Morris was the man who had been first to board the Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli.
This was paying John Bull in his own coin. The officers in the harbor were very angry when they received this answer. Next, they tried to play a trick on the Americans. Two of their warships came up and anchored in the way of the Constitution. But Lieutenant Morris got up anchor and slipped away to a new berth. Then the two frigates sailed up and anchored in his way again. That was the way matters stood when Captain Hull came on board in the evening.
When the captain was told what had taken place, he saw that the British were trying to make trouble about the Irish deserter. But he was not the man to be caught by any trick. He loaded his guns and cleared the ship for action. Then he pulled up his anchor, slipped round the British frigates, and put to sea.
He had not gone far before the two frigates started after him. They came on under full sail, but one of them was slow and fell far behind, so that the other came up alone.
"If that fellow wants to fight he can have his chance," said Captain Hull, and he bade his men to make ready.
Up came the Englishman, but when he saw the ports open, the guns ready to bark at him across the waves, and everything in shape for a good fight, he had a sudden change of mind. Round he turned like a scared dog, and ran back as fast as he had come. That was a clear case of tit for tat, and tat had it. No doubt, the Englishman knew that he was in the wrong, for English seamen are not afraid to fight.
Home from Plymouth came the Constitution and got herself put in shape for the war that was soon to come. It had not long begun before she was off to sea; and now she had a remarkable adventure with the Guerriere and some other British ships. In fact, she made a wonderful escape from a whole squadron of war vessels. She left the Chesapeake on July 12, 1812, and for five days sailed up the coast. The winds were light and progress was very slow. Then, on the 17th, the lookout aloft saw four warships sailing along close in to the Jersey coast.
Two hours afterward another was seen. This proved to be the frigate Guerriere, and it was soon found that the others were British ships also. One of them was a great ship-of-the-line. It would have been madness to think of fighting such a force as this, more than six times as strong as the Constitution, and there was nothing to do but to run away.
Then began the most famous race in American naval history. There was hardly a of wind, the sails hung flapping to the masts; so Captain Hull got out his boats and sent them ahead with a line to tow the ship. When the British saw this they did the same, and by putting all their boats to two ships they got ahead faster.
I cannot tell the whole story of this race, but it lasted for nearly three days, from Friday afternoon till Monday morning. Now there was a light breeze and now a dead calm. Now they pulled the ships by boats and now by kedging. That is, an anchor was carried out a long way ahead and let sink, and then the men pulled on the line until the ship was brought up over it. Then the anchor would be drawn up and carried and dropped ahead again.
For two long days and nights the chase kept up, during which the Constitution was kept, by weary labor, just out of gunshot ahead. At four o'clock Sunday morning the British ships had got on both sides of the Constitution, and it looked as if she was in a tight corner. But Captain Hull now turned and steered out to sea, across the bows of the Eolus, and soon had them astern again.
The same old game went on until four o'clock in the afternoon, when they saw signs of a coming squall. Captain Hull knew how to deal with an American squall, but the Englishmen did not. He kept his men towing until he saw the sea ruffled by the wind about a mile away. Then he called the boats in and in a moment let fall all his sails.
Looking at the British, he saw them hard at work furling their sails. They had let all their boats go adrift. But Captain Hull had not furled a sail, and the minute a vapor hid his ship from the enemy all his sails were spread to the winds and away went the Yankee ship in rapid flight. He had taught his foes a lesson in American seamanship.
When the squall cleared away the British ships were far astern. But the wind fell again and all that night the chase kept up. Captain Hull threw water on his sails and made every rag of canvas draw. When daylight came only the top sails of the enemy could be seen. At eight o'clock they gave up the chase and turned on their heels. Thus ended that wonderful three days chase, one of the most remarkable in naval history.
And now we come to the greatest story in the history of the "Old Ironsides." In less than a month after the Guerriere had helped to chase her off the Jersey coast, she gave that proud ship a lesson which the British nation did not soon forget. Here is the story of that famous fight, by which Captain Hull won high fame:
In the early morning of August 19, while the old ship was bowling along easily off the New England coast, a cheery cry of "Sail-ho!" came from the lookout at the mast-head.
Soon a large vessel was seen from the deck. On went the Yankee ship with flying flag and bellying sails. The strange ship waited as if ready for a fight. When the Constitution drew near, the stranger hoisted the British flag and began to fire her great guns.
It was the Guerriere. When he saw the Stars and Stripes, Captain Dacres said to his men:
"That is a Yankee frigate. She will be ours in forty-five minutes. If you take her in fifteen, I promise you four months pay."
It is never best to be too sure, as Captain Dacres was to find.
The Guerriere kept on firing at a distance, but Captain Hull continued to take in sail and get his ship in fighting trim, without firing a gun. After a time Lieutenant Morris came up and said to him:
"The British have killed two of our men. Shall we return their fire?"
"Not yet," said Captain Hull. "Wait a while."
He waited until the ships were almost touching, and then he roared out:
"Now, boys; pour it into them!"
Then came a roaring broadside that went splintering through the British hull, doing more damage than all the Guerriere's fire.
Now the battle was on in earnest. The two ships lay side by side, and for fifteen minutes the roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry filled the air, while cannon balls tore their way through solid timber and human flesh.
Down came the mizzen-mast of the Guerriere, cut through by a big iron shot.
"Hurrah, boys!" cried Hull, swinging his hat like a schoolboy; "we've made a brig of her."
The mast dragged by its ropes and brought the ship round, so that the next broadside from the Constitution raked her from stem to stern.
The bowsprit of the Guerriere caught fast in the rigging of the Constitution, and the sailors on both ships tried to board. But soon the winds pulled the Constitution clear, and as she forged ahead, down with a crash came the other masts of the British ship. They had been cut into splinters by the Yankee guns. A few minutes before she had been a stately three-masted frigate; now she was a helpless hulk. Not half an hour had passed since the Constitution fired her first shot, and already the Guerriere was a wreck, while the Yankee ship rode the waters as proudly as ever.
Off in triumph went the "Old Ironsides," and hasty repairs to her rigging were made. Then she came up with loaded guns. The Guerriere lay rolling like a log in the water, without a flag in sight. Not only her masts were gone, but her hull was like a sieve. It had more than thirty cannon-ball holes below the water-line.
There was no need to fire again. Lieutenant Read went off in a boat.
"Have you surrendered?" he asked Captain Dacres, who was looking, with a very long face, over the rail.
"It would not be prudent to continue the engagement any longer," said Dacres, in gloomy tones.
"Do you mean that you have struck your flag?"
"Not precisely. But I do not know that it will be worth while to fight any more."
"If you cannot make up your mind I will go back and we will do something to help you."
"I don't see that I can keep up the fight," said the dejected British captain. "I have hardly any men left and my ship is ready to sink."
"What I want to know is," cried Lieutenant Read, "whether you are a prisoner of war or an enemy. And I must know without further parley."
"If I could fight longer I would," said Captain Dacres. Then with faltering words he continued, "but-I-must-surrender."
"Then accept from me Captain Hull's compliments. He wishes to know if you need the aid of a surgeon or surgeon's mate."
"Have you not business enough on your own ship for all your doctors?" asked Dacres.
"Oh, no!" said Read. "We have only seven men wounded, and their wounds are all dressed."
Captain Dacres was obliged to enter Read's boat and be rowed to the Constitution. He had been wounded, and could not climb very well, so Captain Hull helped him to the deck.
"Give me your hand, Dacres," he said, "I know you are hurt."
Captain Dacres offered his sword, but the American captain would not take it.
"No, no," he said, "I will not take a sword from one who knows so well how to use it. But I'll trouble you for that hat."
What did he mean by that, you ask? Well, the two captains had met some time before the war, and Dacres had offered to bet a hat that the Guerriere would whip the Constitution. Hull accepted the bet, and he had won.
All day and night the boats were kept busy in carrying the prisoners, well and hurt, to the Constitution. When daylight came again it was reported that the Guerriere was filling with water and ready to sink.
She could not be saved, so she was set on fire. Rapidly the flames spread until they reached her magazine. Then came a fearful explosion, and a black cloud of smoke hung over the place where the ship had floated. When it moved away only some floating planks were to be seen. The proud Guerriere would never trouble Yankee sailors again.
A FAMOUS VESSEL SAVED BY A POEM
"Old Ironsides" Wins New Glory
"OLD IRONSIDES was a noble old ship, and a noble old ship was she." Come, I know you have not heard enough about this grand old ship, so let us go on with her story. And the first thing to tell is how she served another British ship as she had served the Guerriere.
Four months after Captain Hull's great victory, the Constitution was in another sea and had another captain. She had sailed south and was now off the coast of Brazil. And William Bainbridge had succeeded Isaac Hull in command.
It was almost the last day of the year. Chilly weather, no doubt, in Boston from which she had sailed; but mid-summer warmth in those southern waters. It certainly felt warm enough to the men on deck, who were "spoiling for a fight," when the lookout aloft announced two sails.
The sailors who had been lounging about the deck sprang up and looked eagerly across the waves, as the cheerful "Sail-ho!" reached their ears. Soon they saw that one of the vessels was coming their way as fast as her sails could carry her. The other had sailed away on the other tack.
The vessel that was coming was the Java, a fine British frigate. As she drew near she showed signals. That is, she spread out a number of small flags, each of which had some meaning, and by which British ships could talk with each other. Captain Bainbridge could not answer these, for he did not know what they meant. So he showed American signals, which the captain of the Java could not understand any better.
Then, as they came nearer, they hoisted their national flags, and both sides saw that they were enemies and that a fight was on hand.
Captain Bainbridge was not like Captain Hull. He did not wait till the ships were side by side, but began firing when the Java was half a mile away. That was only wasting powder and balls, but they kept on firing until they were close at hand, and then the shots began to tell.
A brave old fellow was the captain of the Constitution. A musket ball struck him in the thigh as he was pacing the deck. He stopped his pacing, but would not go below. Then a copper bolt went deep into his leg. But he had it cut out and the leg tied up, and he still kept on deck. He wanted to see the fight.
Hot and fierce came the cannon balls, hurtling through sails and rigging, rending through thick timbers, and sending splinters flying right and left. Men fell dead and blood ran in streams, but still came the heralds of death.
We must tell the same story of this fight as of the fight with the Guerriere. The British did not know how to aim their guns and the Americans did. The British had no sights on their cannon and the Americans had. That was why, all through the war, the British lost so heavily and the Americans so little. The British shot went wild and the American balls flew straight to their mark.
You know what must come from that. After while, off went the Java's bowsprit, as if it had been chopped off with a great knife. Five minutes later her foremast was cut in two and came tumbling down. Then the main topmast crashed down from above. Last of all, her mizzen-mast was cut short off by the plunging shot, and fell over the side. The well-aimed American balls had cut through her great spars, as you might cut through a willow stick, and she was dismantled as the Guerriere had been.
The loud "hurrahs" of the Yankee sailors proved enough to call the dead to life. At any rate, a wounded man, whom everyone thought dead, opened his eyes and asked what they were cheering about.
"The enemy has struck," he was told.
The dying tar lifted himself on one arm, and waved the other round his head, and gave three feeble cheers. With the last one he fell back dead.
But the Java's flag was not down for good. As the Constitution came up with all masts standing and sails set, the British flag was raised to the stump of the mizzen-mast. When he saw this, Bainbridge wore his ship to give her another broadside, and then down came her flag for good. She had received all the battering she could stand. In fact, the Constitution had lost only 34 men, killed and wounded, while the Java had lost 150 men. The Constitution was sound and whole; the Java had only her mainmast left and was full of yawning rents. Old Ironsides had a new feather in her cap.
Like the Guerriere, the Java was hurt past help. It was impossible to take her home; so on the last day of 1812, the torch was put to her ragged timbers and the flames took hold. Quickly they made their way through the ruined ship. About three o'clock in the afternoon they reached her magazine, and with a mighty roar the wreck of the British ship was torn into fragments. To the bottom went the hull. Only the broken masts and a few shattered timbers remained afloat.
Such is war: a thing of ruin and desolation. Of that gallant ship, which two days before had been proudly afloat, only some smoke-stained fragments were left to tell that she had ever been on the seas, and death and wounds had come to many of her men.
After her fight with the Java the Constitution had a long, weary rest. You will remember the Bon Homme Richard, a rotten old hulk not fit for fighting, though she made a very good show when the time for fighting came. The Constitution was much like her; so rotten in her timbers that she had to be brought home and rebuilt.
Then she went a-sailing again, under Captain Charles Stewart, as good an officer as Hull and Bainbridge; but it was more than two years after her last battle before she had another chance to show what sort of a fighter she was.
It is a curious fact that some of the hardest fights of this war with England took place after the war was at an end. The treaty of peace was signed on Christmas eve, 1814, but the great battle at New Orleans was fought two weeks afterward. There were no ocean cable then to send word to the armies that all their killing was no longer needed, since there was nothing to fight about.
It was worse still for the ships at sea. Nobody then had ever dreamed of a telegraph without wires to send word out over the waste of waters, or even of a telegraph with wires. Thus it was that the last battle of the old Constitution was fought nearly two months after the war was over.
The good old ship was then on the other side of the ocean, and was sailing along near the island of Madeira, which lies off the coast of Africa. For a year she had done nothing except to take a few small prizes, and her stalwart crew were tired of that sort of work. They wanted a real, big fight, with plenty of glory.
One evening Captain Stewart heard some of the officers talking about their bad luck, and wishing they could only meet with a fellow of their own size. They were tired of fishing for minnows when there were whales to be caught.
"I can tell you this, gentlemen," said the captain, "you will soon get what you want. Before the sun rises and sets again you will have a good old-fashioned fight, and it will not be with a single ship, either."
I do not know what the officers said after the captain turned away. Very likely some of them wondered how he came to be a prophet and could tell what was going to take place. I doubt very much whether they believed what he had said.
At any rate, about one o'clock the next day, February 20, 1815, when the ship was gliding along before a light breeze, a sail was seen far away in front. An hour later a second sail was made out, close by the first. And when the Constitution got nearer it was seen that they were both ships-of-war. It began to look as if Captain Stewart was a good prophet, after all.
It turned out that the first of these was the small British frigate Cyane. The second was the sloop-of-war Levant. Neither was a match by itself for the Constitution, but both together they thought themselves a very good match.
It was five o'clock before the Yankee ship came up within gunshot. The two British ships had closed together so as to help one another, and now they all stripped off their extra sails, as a man takes off his coat and vest for a fight.
Six o'clock passed before the battle began. Then for fifteen minutes the three ships hurled their iron balls as fast as the men could load and fire. By that time the smoke was so thick that they had to stop firing to find out where the two fighting ships were. The Constitution now found herself opposite the Levant and poured a broadside into her hull. Then she sailed backward—a queer thing to do, but Captain Stewart knew how to move his ship stern foremost—and poured her iron hail into the Cyane. Next she pushed ahead again and pounded the Levant till that lively little craft turned and ran. It had enough of the Constitution's iron dumplings to last a while.
This was great sailing and great firing, but Captain Stewart was one of those seamen who know how handle a ship, and his men knew how to handle their guns. There were never better seamen than those of the Old Ironsides.
The Levant was now out of the way, and there was only the Cyane to attend to. Captain Stewart attended to her so well that, just forty minutes after the fight began, her flag came down.
Where, now, was the Levant? She had run out of the fight; but she had a brave captain who did not like to desert his friend, so he turned back and came gallantly up again.
It was a noble act, but a foolish one. This the British captain found out when he came once more under the American guns. They were much too hot for him, and once more he tried to run away. He did not succeed this time. Captain Stewart was too much in love with him to let him go, and sent such warm love-letters after him that his flag came gliding down, as his comrade's had done.
Captain Stewart had shown himself a true prophet. He had met, fought with, and won two ships of the enemy. No doubt after that his officers were sure they had a prophet for a captain.
That evening, when the two British captains were in the cabin of the Constitution, a midshipman came down and asked Captain Stewart if the men could not have their grog.
"Why, didn't they have it?" asked the captain. "It was time for it before the battle began."
"It was mixed for them, sir," said the midshipman, "but our old men said they didn't want any 'Dutch courage,' so they emptied the grog-tub into the lee scuppers."
The Englishmen stared when they heard this. It is very likely their men had not fought without a double dose of grog.
We have not finished our story yet. Like a lady's letter, it has a postscript. On March 10, the three ships were in a harbor of the Cape de Verde Islands, and Captain Stewart was sending his prisoners ashore, when three large British men-of-war were seen sailing into the harbor.
Stewart was nearly caught in a trap. Any one of these large frigates was more than a match for the Constitution, and here were three in a bunch. But, by good luck, there was a heavy fog that hid everything but the highest sails; so there was a chance of escape.
Captain Stewart was not the man to be trapped while a chance was left. He was what we call a "wide-awake." There was a small chance left. He cut his cable, made a signal to the prize vessels to do the same, and in ten minutes after the first British vessel had been seen, the American ship and its prizes were gliding swiftly away.
On came the British ships against a stiff breeze, up the west side of the bay. Out slipped the Yankee ships along the east side. Captain Stewart set no sails higher than his top sails, and these were hidden by the fog, so the British lookouts saw nothing. They did not dream of the fine birds that were flying away.
Only when Stewart got his ship past the outer point of the harbor did he spread his upper sails to the breeze, and the British lookouts saw with surprise a cloud of canvas suddenly bursting out upon the air.
Now began a close chase. The Constitution and her prizes had only about a mile the start. As quick as the British ships could turn they were on their track. But those were not the days of the great guns that can send huge balls six or seven miles through the air. A mile then was a long shot for the largest guns, and the Yankee cruisers had made a fair start.
But before they had gone far Captain Stewart saw that the Cyane was in danger of being taken, and signaled for her to tack and take another course. She did so and sailed safely away. For three hours the three big frigates hotly chased the Constitution and Levant, but let the Cyane go.
Captain Stewart now saw that the Levant was in the same danger, and he sent her a signal to tack as the Cyane had done. The Levant tacked and sailed out of the line of the chase.
What was the surprise of the Yankee captain and his men when they saw all three of the big British ships turn on their heels and set sail after the little sloop-of-war, letting the Constitution sail away. It was like three great dogs turning to chase a rabbit and letting a deer run free.
The three huge monsters chased the little Levant back into the island port, and there for fifteen minutes they fired broadsides at her. The prisoners whom Captain Stewart had landed did the same from a battery on shore. And yet not a shot struck her hull; they were all wasted in the air.
At length Lieutenant Bullard, who was master of the prize, hauled down his flag. He thought he had seen enough fun, and they might hurt somebody afterwhile if they kept on firing. But what was the chagrin of the British captains to find that all they had done was to take back one of their own vessels, while the American frigate had gone free.
The Constitution and the Cyane got safely to the American shores, where their officers learned that the war had ceased more than three months before. But the country was proud of their good service, and Congress gave medals of honor to Stewart and his officers.
That was the last warlike service of the gallant Old Ironsides, the most famous ship of the American Navy. Years passed by and her timbers rotted away, as they had done once before. Some of the wise heads in the Navy Department, men without a grain of sentiment, decided that she was no longer of any use and should be broken up for old timber.
But if they had no love for the good old ship, there were those who had; and a poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, came to the rescue. This is the poem by which he saved the ship:
THE OLD IRONSIDES.
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more!
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread
Or know the conquered knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
O! better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale.
There was no talk of destroying the Old Ironsides after that. The man that did it would have won eternal disgrace. She still floats, and no doubt she will float, as long as two of her glorious old timbers hang together.
THE FIGHT OF CAPTAIN JACOB JONES
The Lively Little "Wasp" and How She Stung the "Frolic"
NO doubt most of my readers know very well what a wasp is and how nicely it can take care of itself. When I was a boy I found out more than once how long and sharp a sting it has, and I do not think many boys grow up without at some time waking up a wasp and wishing they had left it asleep.
The United States has had three Wasps and one Hornet in its navy, and the British boys who came fooling in their way found that all of them could sting. I will tell you about the time one of our Wasps met the British Frolic and fought it in a great gale, when the ships were tossing about like chips on the ocean billows.
Not long after the Constitution had her great fight with the Guerriere, a little sloop-of-war named the Wasp set sail from Philadelphia to see what she could find on the broad seas. This vessel, you should know, had three masts and square sails like a ship. But she was not much larger than one of the sloops we see on our rivers to-day, so it was right to call her a sloop. For captain she had a bold sailor named Jacob Jones.
The first thing the Wasp found at sea was a mighty gale of wind, that blew "great guns" for two days. The waves were so big and fierce that one of them carried away her bowsprit with two men on it. The next night, after the wind had gone down a little, lights shone out across the waves, and when daylight came Captain Jones saw over the heaving billows six large merchant ships. With them was a watch-dog in the shape of a fighting brig.
This brig was named the Frolic. It had been sent in charge of a fleet of fourteen merchantmen, but these had been scattered by the gale until only six were left. The Frolic was a good match for the Wasp, and seemed to want a fight quite as badly, for it sailed for the American ship as fast as the howling wind would let it. And you may be sure the Wasp did not fly away.
Captain Jones hoisted his country's flag like a man. He was not afraid to show his true colors. But the Frolic came up under the Spanish flag. When they got close together Captain Jones hailed,—
"What ship is that?"
The only answer of the British captain was to pull down the Spanish flag and run up his own standard, stamped with the red cross of St. George. And as the one flag went down and the other went up, the Frolic fired a broadside at the Wasp. But just then the British ship rolled over on the side of a wave, and its balls went whistling upward through the air. The Yankee gunners were more wide-awake than that. They waited until their vessel rolled down on the side of a great billow, and then they fired, their solid shot going low, and tearing into the Frolic's sides.
The fighting went that way all through the battle. The British gunners did not know their business and fired wild. The Yankees knew what they were about, and made every shot tell. They had sights on their guns and took aim; the British had no sights and took no aim. That is why the Americans were victors in so many fights.
But I think there was not often a sea-fight like this. The battle took place off Cape Hatteras, which is famous for its storms. The wind whistled and howled; the waves rose into foaming crests and sank into dark hollows; the fighting craft rolled and pitched. As they rolled upward the guns pointed at the clouds. As they rolled downward the muzzles of the guns often dipped into the foam. Great masses of spray came flying over the bulwarks, sweeping the decks. The weather and the sailors both had their blood up, and both were fighting for all they were worth. It was a question which would win, the wind or the men.
As fast as the smoke rose the wind swept it away, so that the gunners had a clear view of the ships. The roar of the gale was half drowned by the thunder of the guns, and the whistle of the wind mingled with the scream of the balls, while the sailors shouted as they ran out their guns and cheered as the iron hail swept across the waves.
In such frantic haste did the British handle their guns, that they fired three shots to the Yankees' two. The latter did not fire till they saw something to fire at. As a result, most of British balls went whistling overhead, and pitching over the Wasp into the sea, while most of the Yankee balls swept the decks or bored into the timbers of the Frolic.
But you must not think that the shots of the Frolic were all wasted, if they did go high. One of them hit the maintopmast of the Wasp and cut it square off. Another hit the mizzen-topgallantmast and toppled it into the waves. In twenty minutes from the start "every brace and most of the rigging of the Wasp were shot away." The Wasp had done little harm above, but a great deal below.
The Frolic could have run away now if she had wanted to. But her captain was not of the runaway kind. The fire of the Wasp had covered his deck with blood, but he fought boldly on.
As they fought the two ships drifted together and soon their sides met with a crash. Then, as they were swept apart by the waves, two of the Wasp's guns were fired into the bow-ports of the Frolic and swept her gun-deck from end to end. Terrible was the slaughter done by that raking fire.
The next minute the bowsprit of the Frolic caught in the rigging of the Wasp, and another torrent of balls was poured into the British ship. Then the Yankee sailors left their guns and sprang for the enemy's deck. The captain wanted them to keep firing, but he could not hold them back.
First of them all was a brawny Jerseyman named Jack Lang, who took his cutlass between his teeth and clambered like a cat along the bowsprit to the deck. Others followed, and when they reached the deck of the Frolic they found Jack Lang standing alone and looking along the blood-stained deck with staring eyes.
Only four living men were to be seen, and three of these were wounded. One was the quartermaster at the wheel and the others were officers. Not another man stood on his feet, but the deck was strewn with the dead, whose bodies rolled about at every heave of the waves.
When the men came running aft the three officers flung down their swords to show that they had surrendered, and one of them covered his face with his hands. It hurt him to give up the good ship. Lieutenant Biddle, of the Wasp, had to haul down the British flag.
Never had there been more terrible slaughter. Of the 110 men on the Frolic there were not twenty alive and unhurt, while on the Wasp only five were dead and five wounded. The hull of the Frolic was full of holes and its masts were so cut away that in a few minutes they both fell.
Thus ended one of the most famous of American sea-fights. It was another lesson that helped to stop the English from singing
"Britannia rules the waves."
But the little Wasp and her gallant crew did not get the good of their famous victory. While they were busy repairing damages a sail appeared above the far horizon. It came on, growing larger and larger, and soon it was seen to be a big man-of-war.
The game was up with the Wasp and her prize, for the new ship was the Poictiers, a great seventy-four ship-of-the-line. She snapped up the Wasp and the Frolic and carried them off to the British isle of Bermuda, where the victors found themselves prisoners.
A few words will finish the story of the Wasp. She was taken into the British navy; but she did not have to fight for her foes, for she went down at sea without doing anything. So she was saved from the disgrace of fighting against her country.
Captain Jones and his men were soon exchanged, and Congress voted them a reward of $25,000 for their gallant fight, while the brave captain was given the command of the frigate Macedonian, which had been captured from the British. It was Captain Stephen Decatur, the hero of Tripoli, that captured her, in the good ship United States.
Would you like to hear about the other Wasps? There were two more of them, you know. They were good ships, but ill luck came to them all. The first Wasp did her work in the Revolution, and had to be burned at Philadelphia to keep her from the British when they took that city. The second one, as I have just told you, was lost at sea, and so was the third. You may see that bad luck came to them all.
The third Wasp was, like the second, a sloop-of-war, but she was a large and heavy one. And though in the end she was lost at sea and followed the other Wasp to the bottom, she did not do so without sending some British messengers there in advance.
I will tell you the story of this Wasp, and how she used her sting, but it must be done in few words.
She was built at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and sailed on May 1, 1814, her captain being Johnston Blakeley; her crew a set of young countrymen who were so unused to the sea that most of them were seasick for a week. Their average age was only twenty-three years, so they were little more than boys. Yet the most of them could hit a deer with a rifle, and they soon showed they could hit a Reindeer with a cannon. For near the end of June they came across a British brig named the Reindeer, and in less than twenty minutes had battered her in so lively a fashion that her flag came down and she was a prize.
The crew of the Reindeer were trained seamen, but they did not know how to shoot. The Americans were Yankee farmer-lads, yet they shot like veteran gunners. I am sure you will think so when I tell you that the British could hardly hit the Wasp at all, though she was less than sixty yards away. But the Yankees hit the Reindeer so often that she was cut to pieces and her masts ready to fall. In fact, after she was captured, she could not be taken into port, but had to be set on fire and blown to pieces.
But I must say a good word for the gallant captain of the Reindeer. First, a musket ball hit him and went through the calves of both legs, but he kept on his feet. Then a grape-shot—an iron ball two inches thick—went through both his thighs. The brave seaman fell, but he rose to his feet again, drew his sword, and called his men to board the Wasp. He was trying to climb on board when a musket ball went through his head. "O God!" he cried, and fell dead.
This fight was in the English Channel, where Blakeley was doing what John Paul Jones had done years before. Two months after the sinking of the Reindeer the Wasp had another fight. This time there were three British vessels, the Avon, the Castilian, and the Tartarus, all of them brig-sloops like the Reindeer. These vessels were scattered, chasing a privateer, and about nine o'clock at night the Wasp came up with the Avon alone. They hailed each other as ships do when they meet at sea. Then, when sure they were enemies, they began firing, as ships do also in time of war. For forty minutes the fight kept up, and then the Avon had enough. She was riddled as the Reindeer had been. But the Wasp did not take possession; for before a boat could be sent on board, the two comrades of the Avon came in sight.
The Wasp, after her battle with the Avon, could not fight two more, so she sailed away and left them to attend to their consort. They could not save her. The Wasp had stung too deeply for that. The water poured in faster than the men of all three ships could pump it out, and at one o'clock in the morning down plunged the Avon's bow in the water, up went her stern in the air, and with a mighty surge she sank to rise no more. But the gallant Wasp had ended her work. She took some more prizes, but the sea, to whose depths she had sent the Reindeer and Avon, took her also. She was seen in October, and that was the last that human eyes ever saw of her.
CAPTAIN LAWRENCE DIES FOR THE FLAG
His Words, "Do Not Give Up the Ship," Become the Famous Motto of the American Navy
THE United States navy had its Hornet as well as its Wasps. And they were well named, for they were all able to sting. The captain of the Hornet was a noble seaman named James Lawrence, who had been a midshipman in the war with Tripoli. In the War of 1812 he was captain in succession of the Vixen, the Wasp, the Argus, and the Hornet.
The Hornet was a sloop-of-war. I have told you what that means. She had three masts, and carried square sails like a ship, but she was called a sloop on account of her size. She had eighteen short guns and two long ones. The short guns threw thirty-two pound and the long ones twelve pound balls.
Of course you have not forgotten the fight of the Constitution with the Java. When the Constitution went south to Brazil at that time the Hornet went with her, but they soon parted.
In one of the harbors of Brazil Captain Lawrence saw a British ship as big as the Hornet. He waited outside for her, but she would not come out. He had found a coward of a captain, and he locked him up in that harbor for two months.
Then he got tired and left. Soon after he came across the Peacock, a British man-of-war brig. The Peacock was as large as the Hornet and its captain was as full of fight as Captain Lawrence. He was the kind of man that our bold Lawrence was hunting for. When two men feel that way, a fight is usually not far off. That was the way now. Soon the guns were booming and the balls were flying.
But the fight was over before the men had time to warm up. The first guns were fired at 5.25 in the afternoon, and at 5.39 the British flag came down; so the battle lasted just fourteen minutes. Not many victories have been won so quickly as that.
But the Hornet acted in a very lively fashion while it lasted. Do you know how a hornet behaves when a mischievous boy throws a stone at its nest? Well, that is the way our Hornet did. Only one ball from the Peacock struck her, and hardly any of her men were hurt. But the Peacock was bored as full of holes as a pepper-box, and the water poured in faster than all hands could pump it out. In a very short time the unlucky Peacock filled and sank. So Captain Lawrence had only the honor of his victory; old ocean had swallowed up his prize.
But if Captain Lawrence got no prize money, he won great fame. He was looked on as another Hull or Decatur, and Congress made him captain of the frigate Chesapeake. That was in one way a bad thing for the gallant Lawrence, for it cost him his life. In another way it was a good thing, for it made him one of the most famous of American seamen.
I have told you the story of several victories of American ships. I must now tell you the story of one defeat. But I think you will say it was a defeat as glorious as a victory. For eight months the little navy of the young Republic had sailed on seas where British ships were nearly as thick as apples in an orchard. In that time it had not lost a ship, and had won more victories than England had done in twenty years. Now it was to meet with its first defeat.
When Captain Lawrence took command of the Chesapeake, that ship lay in the harbor of Boston. Outside this harbor was the British frigate Shannon, blockading the port.
Now you must know that the American people had grown very proud of their success on the sea. They had got to think that any little vessel could whip an English man-of-war. So the Bostonians grew eager for the Chesapeake to meet the Shannon. They were sure it would be brought in as a prize, and they wanted to hurrah over it.
Poor Lawrence was as eager as the people. He was just the man they wanted. The Chesapeake had no crew, but he set himself to work, and in two weeks he filled her up with such men as he could find.
It was a mixed team he got together, the sweepings of the streets. There were some good men among them, but more poor ones. And they were all new men to the ship and to the captain. They had not been trained to work together, and it was madness to fight a first-class British ship with such a crew. Some, in fact, were mutineers and gave him trouble before he got out of the harbor.
But the Shannon was a crack ship with a crack crew. Captain Broke had commanded her for seven years and had a splendidly trained set of men. He had copied from the Americans and put sights on his guns, had taught his men to fire at floating marks in the sea, and had trained his topmen to use their muskets in the same careful way. So when Captain Lawrence sailed on June 1, 1813, he sailed to defeat and death.
Captain Broke sent a challenge to the Chesapeake to come out and fight him ship to ship. But Lawrence did not wait for his challenge. He was too eager for that, and set sail with a crew who did not know their work, and most of whom had never seen their officers before.
What could be expected of such mad courage as that? It is one thing to be a brave man; it is another to be a wise one. Of course you will say that Captain Lawrence was brave; but no one can say he was wise. Poor fellow, he was simply throwing away his ship and his life.
It was in the morning of June 1 that the Chesapeake left the wharves of Boston. It was 5.50 in the afternoon that she met the Shannon and the battle began.
Both ships fired as fast as they could load, but the men of the Shannon were much better hands at their work, and their balls tore the American ship in a terrible manner. A musket-ball struck Lawrence in the leg, but he would not go below. The rigging of the Chesapeake was badly cut, the men at the wheel were shot, and in ten minutes the two ships drifted together.
Men on each side now rushed to board the enemy's ship, and there was a hand-to-hand fight at the bulwarks of the two ships. At this moment Captain Lawrence was shot through the body and fell with a mortal wound. He was carried below.
As he lay in great pain he noticed that the firing had almost ceased. Calling a surgeon's mate to him, he said, "Tell the men to fire faster, and not give up the ship; the colors shall wave while I live."
Unfortunately, these words were spoken in the moment of defeat. Captain Broke, followed by a number of his men, had sprung to the deck of the Chesapeake, and a desperate struggle began. The Americans fought stubbornly, but the fire from the trained men in the Shannon's tops and the rush of British on board soon gave Broke and his men the victory. The daring Broke fell with a cut that laid open his skull, but in a few moments the Americans were driven below.
The Chesapeake was taken in just fifteen minutes, one minute more than the Hornet had taken to capture the Peacock.
The British hauled down the American flag, and then hoisted it again with a white flag to show their victory. But the sailor who did the work, by mistake got the white flag under the Stars and Stripes.
When the gunners in the Shannon saw the Yankee flag flying they fired again, and this time killed and wounded a number of their own men, one of them being an officer.
The gallant Lawrence never that his ship was lost. He lived until the Shannon reached Halifax with her prize, but he became delirious, and kept repeating over and over again his last order—"Don't give up the ship!"
With these words he died. With these words his memory has become immortal. "Don't give up the ship!" is the motto of the American navy, and will not be forgotten while our great Republic survives. So Captain Lawrence gained greater renown in defeat than most men have won in victory.
The capture of the Chesapeake was a piece of wonderful good fortune for the British, to judge by the way they boasted of it. As Captain Pearson had been made a knight for losing the Serapis, so Captain Broke was made a baronet for taking the Chesapeake. A "baronet," you must know, is a higher title than a "knight," though they both use the handle of "Sir" to their names.
The work of the Shannon proved—so the British historians said—that, "if the odds were anything like equal, a British frigate could always whip an American, and in a hand-to-hand conflict such would invariably be the case."
Such things are easy to say, when one does not care about telling the truth. Suppose we give now what a French historian, who believed in telling the truth, said of this fight,—
"Captain Broke had commanded the Shannon for nearly seven years; Captain Lawrence had commanded the Chesapeake for but a few days. The Shannon had cruised for eighteen months on the coast of America; the Chesapeake was newly out of harbor. The Shannon had a crew long accustomed to habits of strict obedience; the Chesapeake was manned by men who had just been engaged in mutiny. The Americans were wrong to accuse fortune on this occasion. Fortune was not fickle, she was merely logical."
That is about the same as to say that the Chesapeake was given away to the enemy. After that there were no more ships sent out of port unfit to fight, merely to please the people. It was a lesson the people needed.
The body of the brave Lawrence was laid on the quarter-deck of the Chesapeake wrapped in an American flag. It was then placed in a coffin and taken ashore, where it was met by a regiment of British troops and a band that played the "Death March in Saul." The sword of the dead hero lay on his coffin. In the end his body was buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church, New York. A monument stands to-day over his grave, and on it are the words:
"Neither the fury of battle, the anguish of a mortal wound, nor the horrors of approaching death could subdue his gallant spirit. His dying words were
'Don't give up the ship!'"
COMMODORE PERRY WHIPS THE BRITISH ON LAKE ERIE
"We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours"
IN the year 1813, when war was going on between England and the United States, the whole northern part of this country was a vast forest. An ocean of trees stretched away from the seaside in Maine for a thousand miles to the west, and ended in the broad prairies of the Mississippi region.
The chief inhabitants of this grand forest were the moose and the deer, the wolf and the panther, the wild turkey and the partridge, the red Indian and the white hunter and trapper. It was a very different country from what we see to-day, for now its trees are replaced by busy towns and fertile fields.
But in one way there has been no change. North of the forest lands spread the Great Lakes, the splendid inland seas of our northern border; and these were then what they are now, vast plains of water where all the ships of all the nations might sail.
Along the shores of these mighty lakes fighting was going on; at Detroit on the west; at Niagara on the east. Soon war-vessels began to be built and set afloat on the waters of the lakes. And these vessels after a time came together in fierce conflict. I have now to tell the story of a famous battle between these lake men-of-war. There was then in our navy a young man named Oliver Hazard Perry. He was full of the spirit of fight, but, while others were winning victories on the high seas, he was given nothing better to do than to command a fleet of gunboats at Newport, Rhode Island.
Perry became very tired of this. He wanted to be where fighting was going on, and he kept worrying the Navy Department for some active work. So at last he was ordered to go to the lakes, with the best men he had, and get ready to fight the British there. Perry received the order on February 17, 1813, and before night he and fifty of his men were on their way west in sleighs; for the ground was covered deep with snow.
The sleighing was good, but the roads were bad and long; and it took him and his men two weeks to reach Sackett's Harbor, at the north end of Lake Ontario. From that place he went to Presque Isle, on Lake Erie, where the fine City of Erie now stands. Then only the seed of a city was planted there, in a small village, and the forest came down to the lake.
Captain Perry did not go to sleep when he got to the water-side. He was not one of the sleepy sort. He wanted vessels and he wanted them quickly. The British had warships on the lake, and Perry did not intend to let them have it all to themselves.
When he got to Erie he found Captain Dobbins, an old shipbuilder, hard at work. In the woods around were splendid trees, white and black oak and chestnut, for planking, and pine for the decks. The axe was busy at these giants of the forest; and so fast did the men work, that a tree which was waving in the forest when the sun rose might be cut down and hewn into ship-timber before the sun set. In that way Perry's fleet grew like magic out of the forest. While the ships were building, cannon and stores were brought from Pittsburgh by way of the Allegheny River and its branches. And Perry went to Niagara River, where he helped capture a fine brig, called the Caledonia, from the British.
Captain Dobbins built two more brigs, one of which Perry named the Niagara. The other he called Lawrence, after Captain Lawrence, the story of whose life and death you have just read.
Have any of you ever heard the story of the man who built a wagon in his barn and then found it too wide to go out through the door? Perry was in the same trouble. His new ships were too big to get out into the lake. There was a bar at the mouth of the river with only four feet of water on it. That was not deep enough to float his new vessels. And he was in a hurry to get these in deep water; for he knew the British fleet would soon be down to try to destroy them.
How would you work to get a six-foot vessel over a four-foot sand bar? Well, that doesn't matter; all we care for is the way Captain Perry did it. He took two big scows and put one on each side of the Lawrence. Then he filled them with water till the waves washed over their decks. When they had sunk so far they were tied fast to the brig and the water was pumped out of them. As the water went out they rose and lifted the Lawrence between them until there were several feet of water below her keel. Now the brig was hauled on the bar until she touched the bottom; then she was lifted again in the same way. This second time took her out to deep water. Next, the Niagara was lifted over the bar in the same manner.
The next day the British, who had been taking things very easily, came sailing down to destroy Perry's ships. But they opened their eyes wide when they saw them afloat on the lake. They had lost their chance by wasting their time.
Perry picked up men for his vessels wherever he could get them. The most of those to be had were landsmen. But he had his fifty good men from Newport and a hundred were sent him from the coast. Some of these had been on the Constitution in her great fight with the Guerriere.
Early in August all was ready, and he set sail. Early in September he was in Put-in Bay, at the west end of Lake Erie, and here the British came looking for him and his ships.
Perry was now the commodore of a fleet of nine vessels,—the brigs Lawrence, Niagara and Caledonia, five schooners, and one sloop. Captain Barclay, the British commander, had only six vessels, but some of them were larger than Perry's. They were the ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte, a large brig, two schooners, and a sloop. Such were the fleets with which the great battle of Lake Erie was fought.
I know you are getting tired of all this description, and want to get on to the fighting. You don't like to be kept sailing in quiet waters when there is a fine storm ahead. Very well, we will go on. But one has to get his bricks ready before he can build his house.
Well, then, on the 10th of September, 1813, it being a fine summer day, with the sun shining brightly, Perry and his men sailed out from Put-in Bay and came in sight of the British fleet over the waters of the lake.
What Captain Perry now did was fine. He hoisted a great blue flag, and when it unrolled in the wind the men saw on it, in white letters, the dying words of Captain Lawrence, "Don't give up the ship!" Was not that a grand signal to give? It must have put great spirit into the men, and made them feel that they would die like the gallant Lawrence before they would give up their ships. The men on both fleets were eager to fight, but the wind kept very light, and they came together slowly. It was near noon before they got near enough for their long guns to work. Then the British began to send balls skipping over the water, and soon after the Americans answered back.
Now came the roar of battle, the flash of guns, the cloud of smoke that settled down and half hid everything. The Americans came on in a long line, head on for the British, who awaited their approach. Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, was near the head of the line. It soon plunged into the very thick of the fight, with only two little schooners to help it. The wind may have been too light for the rest of the fleet to come up. We do not know just what kept them back, but at any rate, they didn't come up, and the Lawrence was left to fight alone.
Never had a vessel been in a worse plight than was the Lawrence for the next two hours. She was half surrounded by the three large British vessels, the Detroit, the Queen Charlotte, and the brig Hunter, all pouring in their fire at once, while she had to fight them all. On the Lawrence and the two schooners there were only seven long guns against thirty-six which were pelting Perry's flagship from the British fleet.
This was great odds. But overhead there floated the words, "Don't give up the ship"; so the brave Perry pushed on till he was close to the Detroit, and worked away, for life or death, with all his guns, long and short.
Oh, what a dreadful time there was on Perry's flagship during those sad two hours. The great guns roared, the thick smoke rose, the balls tore through her sides, sending splinters flying like sharp arrows to right and left. Men fell like leaves blown down by a gale. Blood splashed on the living and flowed over the dead. The surgeon's mates were kept busy carrying the wounded below, where the surgeon dressed their wounds.
Captain Perry's little brother, a boy of only thirteen years, was on the ship, and stood beside him as brave as himself. Two bullets went through the boy's hat; then a splinter cut through his clothes; still he did not flinch. Soon after, he was knocked down and the captain grew pale with fear. But up jumped the boy again. It was only a flying hammock that had struck him. That little fellow was a true sailor boy, and had in him plenty of Yankee grit.
I would not, if I could, tell you all the horrors of those two hours. It is not pleasant reading. The cannon balls even came through the vessel's sides among the wounded, and killed some of them where they lay. At the end of the fight the Lawrence was a mere wreck. Her bowsprit and masts were nearly all cut away, and out of more than a hundred men only fourteen were unhurt. There was not a gun left that could be worked.
Most men in such a case would have pulled down their flag. But Oliver Perry had the spirit of Paul Jones, and he did not forget the words on his flag—"Don't give up the ship."
During those dread two hours the Niagara, under Lieutenant Elliott, had kept out of the fight. Now it came sailing up before a freshening breeze.
As soon as Perry saw this fresh ship he made up his mind what to do. He had a boat lowered with four men in it. His little brother leaped in after them. Then he stepped aboard with the flag bearing Lawrence's motto on his shoulder, and was rowed away to the Niagara. As soon as the British saw this little boat on the water, with Perry standing upright, wrapped in the flag he had fought for so bravely, they turned all their guns and fired at it. Cannon and musket balls tore the water round it. It looked as if nothing would save those devoted men from death.
"Sit down!" cried Perry's men. "We will stop rowing if you don't sit down."
So Perry sat down, and when a ball came crashing through the side of the boat he took off his coat and plugged up the hole.
Providence favored him and his men. They reached the Niagara without being hurt. The British had fired in vain. Perry sprang on board and ordered the men to raise the flag.
"How goes the day?" asked Lieutenant Elliott.
"Bad enough," said Perry. "Why are the gunboats so far back?"
"I will bring them up," said Elliott.
"Do so," said Perry.
Elliott jumped into the boat which Perry had just left, and rowed away. Up to the mast-head went the great blue banner with the motto, "Don't give up the ship." Signals were given for all the vessels to close in on the enemy, and the Niagara bore down under full sail.
The Lawrence was out of the fight. Rent and torn, with only a handful of her crew on their feet, and not a gun that could be fired, her day was done. Her flag was pulled down by the few men left to save themselves. The British had no time to take possession, for the Niagara was on them, fresh for the fray, like a new horse in the race.
Right through the British fleet this new ship went. Three of their ships were on one side of her and two on the other, and all only a few yards away. As she went her guns spoke out, sweeping their decks and tearing through their timbers.
The Lawrence had already done her share of work on these vessels, and this new pounding was more than they could stand. The other American vessels also were pouring their shot into the foe. Flesh and blood could not bear this. Men were falling like grass before the scythe. A man sprang up on the rail of the Detroit and waved a white flag to show that they had surrendered. The great fight was over. The British had given up.
Perry announced his victory in words that have become historic: "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
This famous despatch was written with a pencil on the back of an old letter, with his hat for a table. It was sent to General Harrison, who commanded an army nearby. Harrison at once led his cheering soldiers against the enemy, and gave them one of the worst defeats of the war.
When the news of the victory spread over the country the people were wild with joy. Congress thanked Perry and voted gold medals to him and Elliott, and honors or rewards to all the officers and men. But over the whole country it was thought that Elliott had earned disgrace instead of a gold medal by keeping so long out of the fight. He said he had only obeyed orders, but people thought that was a time to break orders.
Perry was made a full captain by Congress. This was then the highest rank in the navy. But he took no more part in the war. Six years later he was sent with a squadron to South America, and there he took the yellow fever and died. Thus passed away one of the most brilliant and most famous officers of the American navy.
COMMODORE PORTER GAINS GLORY IN THE PACIFIC
The Gallant Fight of the "Essex" Against Great Odds
ANY of you who have read much of American history must have often met with the names of Porter and Farragut. There are no greater names in our naval history. There was Captain David Porter and his two gallant sons, all men of fame. And the still more famous Admiral Farragut began his career under the brave old captain of the War of 1812.
I am going now to tell you about David Porter and the little Essex, a ship whose name the British did not like to hear. And I have spoken of Farragut from the fact that he began his naval career under Captain Porter.
Captain Porter was born in 1780, before the Revolution had ended. His father was a sea-captain; and when the boy was sixteen years old, he stood by his father's side on the schooner Eliza and helped to fight off a British press-gang which wanted to rob it of some of its sailors. The press-gang was a company of men who seized men wherever they found them, and dragged them into the British navy, where they were compelled to serve as sailors or marines. It was a cruel and unjust way of getting men, and the Americans resisted it wherever they could. In this particular fight several men were killed and wounded, and the press-gang thought it best to let the Eliza alone.
When the lad was seventeen he was twice seized by press-men and taken to serve in the British navy, but both times he escaped. Then he joined the American navy as a midshipman.
Young Porter soon showed what was in him. In the naval war with France he was put on a French prize that was full of prisoners who wanted to seize the ship. For three days Porter helped to watch them, and in all that time he did not take a minute's sleep.
Afterward, in a pilot-boat, with fifteen men the boy hero attacked a French privateer with forty men and a barge with thirty men. Porter, with his brave fifteen, boarded the privateer and fought like a hero. After more than half its crew were killed and wounded the privateer surrendered. In this hard fight not one of Porter's men was hurt.
That was only one of the things which young Porter did. When the war with the pirates of Tripoli began, he was there, and again did some daring deeds. He was on the Philadelphia when that good ship ran aground and was taken by the Moors, and he was held a prisoner till the end of the war. Here you have an outline of the early history of David Porter.
When the War of 1812 broke out, he was made captain of the Essex. The Essex was a little frigate that had been built in the Revolution. It was not fit to fight with the larger British frigates, but with David Porter on its quarter-deck it was sure to make its mark.
On the Essex with him was a fine little midshipman, only eleven years old, who had been brought up in the Porter family. His name was David G. Farragut. I shall have a good story of him to tell you later on, for he grew up to be one of the bravest and greatest men in the American navy.
On July 2, 1812, only two weeks after war was declared, Porter was off to sea in the Essex, on the hunt for prizes and glory. He got some prizes, but it was more than a month before he had a chance for glory. Then he came in sight of a British man-of-war, a sight that pleased him very much.
Up came the Essex, pretending to be a merchant ship and with the British flag flying. That is one of the tricks which naval officers play. They think it right to cheat an enemy. The stranger came bowling down under full sail and fired a gun as a hint for the supposed merchantman to stop. So the Essex backed her sails and hove to until the stranger had passed her stern.
Porter was now where he had wanted to get. He had the advantage of the wind—what sailors call the "weather-gage." So down came the British flag and up went the Stars and Stripes: and the ports were thrown open, showing the iron mouths of the guns, ready to bark.
When the English sailors saw this they cheered loudly and ran to their guns. They fired in their usual hasty fashion, making much noise but doing no harm. Porter waited till he was ready to do good work, and then fired a broadside that fairly staggered the British ship.
The Englishman had not bargained for such a salute as this, and now tried to run away. But the Essex had the wind, and in eight minutes was alongside. And in those eight minutes her guns were busy as guns could be. Then down came the British flag. That was the shortest fight in the war.
The prize was found to be the corvette Alert. A corvette is a little ship with not many guns. She was not nearly strong enough for the Essex, and gave up when only three of her men were wounded. But she had been shot so full of holes that she already had seven feet of water in her hold and was in danger of sinking. It kept the men of the Essex busy enough to pump her out and stop up the holes, so that she should not go to the bottom. Captain Porter did not want to lose his prize. He came near losing it, and his ship too, in another way, as I have soon to tell.
You must remember that he had taken other prizes and sent them home with some of his men. So he had a large number of prisoners, some of them soldiers taken from one of his prizes. There were many more British on board than there were Americans, and some of them formed a plot to capture the ship. They might have done it, too, but for the little midshipman, David Farragut.
This little chap was lying in his hammock, when he saw an Englishman come along with a pistol in his hand. This was the leader in the plot who was looking around to see if all was ready for his men to break out on the Americans.
He came up to the hammock where the boy lay and looked in at him. The bright young fellow then had his eyes tight shut and seemed to be fast asleep. After looking a minute the man went away. The instant he was out of sight up jumped the lad and ran to the captain's cabin. You may be sure he did not take many words to tell what he had seen.
Captain Porter knew there was no time to be lost. He sprang out of bed in haste and ran to the deck. Here he gave a loud yell of "Fire! Fire!"
In a minute the men came tumbling up from below like so many rats. They had been trained what to do in case of a night-fire and every man ran to his place. Captain Porter had even built fires that sent up volumes of smoke, so as to make them quick to act and to steady their nerves.
While the cry of fire roused the Americans, it scared the conspirators, and before they could get back their wits the sailors were on them. It did not take long to lock them up again. In that way Porter and Farragut saved their ship.
The time was coming in which he would lose his ship, but the way he lost it brought him new fame. I must tell you how this came about. When the Constitution and the Hornet, as I have told you in another story, were in the waters of Brazil, the Essex was sent to join them. You know what was done there, how the Constitution whipped and sunk the Java, and the Hornet did the same for the Peacock.
There was no such luck for the Essex, and after his fellow-ships had gone north Captain Porter went cruising on his own account. In the Pacific Ocean were dozens of British whalers and other ships. Here was a fine field for prizes. So he set sail, went round the stormy Cape Horn in a hurricane, and was soon in the great ocean of the west.
I shall not tell you the whole story of this cruise. The Essex here was like a hawk among a flock of partridges. She took prize after prize, until she had about a dozen valuable ships.
When the news of what Porter was doing reached England, there was a sort of panic. Something must be done with this fellow or he would clear the Pacific of British trade. So a number of frigates were sent in the hunt for him. They were to get him in any way they could.
After a long cruise on the broad Pacific, the Essex reached the port of Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile, in South America. She had with her one of her prizes, the Essex Junior. Here Porter heard that a British frigate, the Phoebe, was looking for him. That pleased him. He wanted to come across a British war-vessel, so he concluded to wait for her. He was anxious for something more lively than chasing whaling ships.
He was not there long before the Phoebe came, and with her a small warship, the Cherub.
When the Phoebe came in sight of the Essex it sailed close up. Its captain had been told that half the American crew were ashore, and very likely full of Spanish wine. But when he got near he saw the Yankee sailors at their guns and ready to fight. When he saw this he changed his mind. He jumped on a gun and said:—
"Captain Hillyar's compliments to Captain Porter, and hopes he is well."
"Very well, I thank you," said Porter. "But I hope you will not come too near for fear some accident might take place which would be disagreeable to you."
"I had no intention of coming on board," said Captain Hillyar, when he saw the look of things on the deck of the Essex. "I am sorry I came so near you."
"Well, you have no business where you are," said Porter. "If you touch a rope yarn of this ship, I shall board instantly."
With that the Phoebe wore round and went off. It was a neutral port and there was a good excuse for not fighting, but it was well for Porter that he was ready.
A few days later he heard that some other British ships were coming from Valparaiso and he concluded to put to sea. He didn't want to fight a whole fleet. But the wind treated him badly. As he sailed out a squall struck the Essex and knocked her maintopmast into the sea. Porter now ran into a small bay near at hand and dropped anchor close to the shore.
Here was the chance for the Phoebe and the Cherub. They could stand off and hammer the Essex where she could not fire back. They had over thirty long guns while the Essex had only six, and only three of these could be used. The rest of her guns were short ones that would not send a ball far enough to reach the British ships.
The Essex was in a trap. The British began to pour solid iron into her at the rate of nearly ten pounds to her one. For two hours this was kept up. There was frightful slaughter on the Essex. Her men were falling like dead leaves, but Porter would not yield.
After this went on for some time there came a change in the wind, and the Essex spread what sail she had and tried to get nearer. But the Phoebe would not wait for her, but sailed away and kept pumping balls into her.
Soon the wind changed again. Now all hope was gone. The American crew was being murdered and could not get near the British. Porter tried to run his ship ashore, intending to fight to the last and then blow her up.
But the treacherous wind shifted again and he could not even reach the shore. Dead and wounded men lay everywhere. Flames were rising in the hold. Water was pouring into shot holes. The good ship had fought her last and it was madness to go on. So at 6.20 o'clock, two and a half hours after the fight began, her flag came down and the battle was over.
The story of the cruise of the Essex and her great struggle against odds was written for us by her young midshipman—David Farragut. President Roosevelt, in his Naval History of the War of 1812, says the following true words about Captain Porter's brave fight:
"As an exhibition of dogged courage it has never been surpassed since the time when the Dutch Captain Keasoon, after fighting two long days, blew up his disabled ship, devoting himself and all his crew to death, rather than surrender to the hereditary foes of his race." Porter was the man to do the same thing, but he felt he had no right to send all his men to death.
COMMODORE MacDONOUGH'S VICTORY ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN
How General Prevost and the British Ran Away
THE United States is a country rich in lakes. They might be named by the thousands. But out of this host of lakes very few are known in history, and of them all much the most famous is Lake Champlain.
Do you wish to know why? Well, because this lake forms a natural waterway from Canada down into the States. If you look on a map you will see that Lake Champlain and Lake George stretch down nearly to the Hudson River and that their waters flow north into the great St. Lawrence River. So these lakes make the easiest way to send trade, and troops as well, down from Canada into New York and New England.
Now just let us take a look back in history. The very first battle in the north of our country was fought on Lake Champlain. This was in 1609, when Samuel de Champlain and his Indian friends came down this lake in canoes to fight with the Iroquois tribes of New York.
Then in 1756 the French and Indians did the same thing. They came in a fleet of boats and canoes and fought the English on Lake George. Twenty years afterward there was the fierce fight which General Arnold made on this lake, of which I have told you. Later on General Burgoyne came down Lakes Champlain and George with a great army. He never went back again, for he and his army were taken prisoners by the brave Colonials. But the last and greatest of all the battles on the lakes was that of 1814. It is of this I am now about to tell you.
You should know that the British again tried what they had done when they sent Burgoyne down the lakes. This time it was Sir George Prevost who was sent, with an army of more than 11,000 men, to conquer New York. He didn't do it any more than Burgoyne did, for Lieutenant Thomas MacDonough was in the way. I am going to tell you how the gallant MacDonough stopped him.
MacDonough was a young man, as Perry was. He had served, as a boy, in the war with Tripoli. In 1806, when he was only twenty years old, he gave a Yankee lesson to a British captain who wanted to carry off an American sailor.
This was at Gibraltar, where British guns were as thick as blackbirds; but the young lieutenant took the man out of the English boat and then dared the captain to try to take him back again. The captain blustered; but he did not try, in spite of all his guns.
In 1813 MacDonough was sent to take care of affairs on Lake Champlain. No better man could have been sent. He did what Perry had done; he set himself to build ships and get guns and powder and shot and prepare for war. The British were building ships, too, for they wanted to be masters of the lake before they sent their army down. So the sounds of the axe and saw and hammer came before the sound of cannon on the lake.
MacDonough did not let the grass grow under his feet. When he heard that the British were building a big frigate, he set to work to build a brig. The keel was laid on July 29, and she was launched on August 16—only eighteen days! There must have been some lively jumping about in the wildwoods shipyard just then.
The young commander had no time to waste, for the British were coming. The great war in Europe with Napoleon was over and England had plenty of ships and men to spare. A flock of her white-winged frigates came sailing over the ocean and swarmed like bees along our coast. And an army of the men who had fought against Napoleon was sent to Canada to invade New York. It was thought the Yankees could not stand long before veterans like these.
Down marched the British army and down sailed the British fleet. But MacDonough was not caught napping. He was ready for the British ships when they came.
And now, before the battle begins, let us give a few names and figures; for these are things you must know. The Americans had four vessels and ten gunboats. The vessels were the ship Saratoga, the brig Eagle, the schooner Ticonderoga, and the sloop Preble. The British had the frigate Confiance, larger than any of the American ships, the brig Linnet, the sloops Chubb and Finch, and thirteen gunboats. And the British were better off for guns and men, though the difference was not great. Such were the two fleets that came together on a bright Sunday on September 11, 1814, to see which should be master of Lake Champlain.
The American ships were drawn up across Plattsburg Bay, and up this bay came the British fleet to attack them, just as Carleton's vessels had come up to attack Arnold forty years before.
At Plattsburg was the British army, and opposite, across Saranac River, lay a much smaller force of American regulars and militia. They could easily see the ships, but they were too busy for that, for the soldiers were fighting on land while the sailors were fighting on water. Bad work that for a sunny September Sunday, wasn't it?
MacDonough had stretched his ships in a line across the bay, and had anchors down at bow and stern, with ropes tied to the anchor chains so that the ships could be swung round easily. Remember that, for that won him the battle.
It was still early in the day when the British came sailing up, firing as soon as they came near enough. These first shots did no harm, but they did a comical thing. One of them struck a hen-coop on the Saratoga, in which one of the sailors kept a fighting cock. The coop was knocked to pieces, and into the rigging flew the brave cock, flapping his wings at the British vessels and crowing defiance to them, while the sailors laughed and cheered.
But the battle did not fairly begin until the great frigate Confiance came up and dropped anchor a few hundred yards from the Saratoga. Then she blazed away with all the guns on that side of her deck.
This was a terrible broadside, the worst any American ship had felt in the whole war. Every shot hit the Saratoga and tore through her timbers, sending splinters flying like hail. So frightful was the shock that nearly half the crew were thrown to the deck. About forty of them did not get up again; they were either killed or wounded. broadsides like that would have ended the fight, for it would have left the Saratoga without men.
On both sides now the cannon roared and the shots flew, but the British guns were the best and the Americans had the worst of it. The commodore was knocked down twice. The last time he was hit with the head of a man that had been shot off and came whirling through the air.
"The commodore is killed!" cried the men; but in a trice he was up again, and aiming and firing one of his own guns.
This dreadful work went on for two hours. All that time the two biggest British vessels were pelting the Saratoga, and the other American ships were not helping her much. Red-hot were fired, which set her on fire more than once.
At the end MacDonough had not a single gun left to fire back. It looked as if all was up with the Americans, all of whose ships were being battered by the enemy. But Commodore MacDonough was not yet at the end of his plans. He now cut loose his stern anchor and bade his men pull on the rope that led to the bow anchor. In a minute the ship began to swing round. Soon she had a new side turned to the foe. Not a gun had been fired on this side. When the British captain saw what the Americans were doing he tried the same thing. But it did not work as well with him. The Confiance began to swing round, but when she got her stern turned to the Americans she stuck fast. Pull and haul as they might, the sailors could not move her another inch.
Here was a splendid chance for the men on the Saratoga. They poured their broadsides into the stern of the Confiance and raked her from end to end, while her position was a helpless one. The men fled from the guns. The ship was being torn into splinters. No hope for her was left. She could not fire a gun. Her captain was dead, but her lieutenant saw that all was over, and down came her flag.
Then the Saratoga turned on the brig Linnet and served her in the same fashion.
That ended the battle. The two sloops had surrendered before, the gunboats were driven away by the Ticonderoga, and the hard fight was done. Once more the Americans were victors. Perry had won one lake. MacDonough had won another.
And that was not the whole of it. For as soon as the American soldiers saw the British flag down and the Stars and Stripes still afloat, they set up a shout that rang back from the Vermont hills.
Sir George Prevost, though he had an army of veterans twice as strong as the American army of militia, broke camp and sneaked away under cover of a storm.
FOUR NAVAL HEROES IN ONE CHAPTER
Fights With the Pirates of the Gulf and the Corsairs of the Mediterranean
WE have so far been reading the story of legal warfare; now let us turn to that of the wild warfare of the pirate ships. Pirates swarmed during and after the War of 1812, and the United States had its hands full in dealing with them. They haunted the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and they went back to their old bad work in the Mediterranean. They kept our naval leaders busy enough for a number of years.
The first we shall speak of are the Lafittes, the famous sea-rovers of the Gulf of Mexico. Those men had their hiding places in the lowlands of Louisiana, where there are reedy streams and grassy islands by the hundreds, winding in and out in a regular network. From these lurking places the pirate ships would dash out to capture vessels and then hurry back to their haunts.
The Lafittes (Jean and Pierre) had a whole fleet of pirate ships, and were so daring that they walked the streets of New Orleans as if that city belonged to them, and boldly sold their stolen goods in its marts, and nobody meddled with them.
But the time came when they were attacked in their haunts and the whole gang was broken up. This was near the end of the war, when the government had some ships to spare. After that they helped General Jackson in the celebrated battle of New Orleans, and fought so well that they were forgiven and were thanked for their services.
When the War of 1812 was over many of the privateers became pirates. A privateer, you know, is something like a pirate. He robs one nation, while a pirate robs all. So hundreds of those men became sea-robbers.
After 1814 the seas of the West Indies were full of pirates. There was no end of hiding places among the thousand islands of these seas, where the pirates could bring their prizes and enjoy their wild revels. The warm airs, the ripe fruits and wild game of those shores made life easy and pleasant, and prizes were plentiful on the seas.
When the war ended the United States gained a fine trade with the West Indies. But many of the ships that sailed there did not come home again, though there were no hurricanes to sink them. And some that did come home had been chased by ships that spread the rovers' black flag. So it was plain enough that pirates were at work.
For years they had it their own way, with no one to trouble them. The government for years let them alone. But in time they grew so daring that in 1819 a squadron of warships was sent after them, under Commodore Perry, the hero of Lake Erie. Poor Perry caught the yellow fever and died, and his ships came home without doing anything.
After that the pirates were let alone for two years. Now-a-days they would not have been let alone for two weeks, but things went more slowly then. No doubt the merchants who sent cargoes to sea complained of the dreadful doings of the pirates, but the government did not trouble itself much, and the sea-robbers had their own way until 1821.
By that time it was felt that something must be done, and a small fleet of pirate hunters was sent to the West Indies. It included the famous sloop-of-war Hornet, the one which had fought the Peacock, and the brig Enterprise, which Decatur had been captain of in the Moorish war.
The pirates were brave enough when they had only merchant ships to deal with, but they acted like cowards when they found warships on their track. They fled in all directions, and many of their ships and barges were taken. After that they kept quiet for a time, but soon they were at their old work again.
In 1823 Captain David Porter, he who had fought so well in the Essex, was sent against them. The brave young Farragut was with him. He brought a number of barges and small vessels, so that he could follow the sea-robbers into their hiding places.
One of these places was found at Cape Cruz, on Porto Rico. Here the pirate captain and his men fought like tigers, and the captain's wife stood by his side and fought as fiercely as he did. After the fight was over the sailors found a number of caves used by the pirates. In some of them were great bales of goods, and in others heaps of human bones. All this told a dreadful story of robbery and murder.
Another fight took place at a haunt of pirates on the coast of Cuba, where Lieutenant Allen, a navy officer, had been killed the year before in an attack on the sea-robbers.
Here there were over seventy pirates and only thirty-one Americans. But the sailors cried "Remember Allen!" and dashed so fiercely at the pirate vessels, that the cowardly crews jumped overboard and tried to swim ashore. But the hot-blooded sailors rowed in among them and cut fiercely with their cutlasses, so that hardly any of them escaped. Their leader, who was named Diabolito, or "Little Devil," was one of the killed.
In this way the pirate hordes were broken up, after they had robbed and murdered among the beautiful West India islands for many years. After that defeat they gave no more trouble. Among the pirates was Jean Lafitte, one of the Lafitte brothers, of whose doings you have read above. After the battle of New Orleans he went to Texas, and in time became a pirate captain again. As late as 1822 his name was the terror of the Gulf. Then he disappeared and no one knew what had become of him. He may have died in battle or have gone down in storm.
But the pirates of the West Indies and the Gulf were not the only ones the United States had to deal with. You have read the story of the Moorish corsairs and of the fighting at Tripoli. Now I have something more to tell about them; for when they heard that the United States was at war with England, they tried their old tricks again, capturing American sailors and selling them for slaves.
They had their own way until the war was over. Then two squadrons of war vessels were sent to the Mediterranean, one under Commodore Bainbridge, who had commanded the Constitution when she fought the Java, and the other under Commodore Decatur, the gallant sailor who had burned the Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli.
Decatur got there first, and it did not take him long to bring the Moors to their senses. The trouble this time was with Algiers, not with Tripoli. Algiers was one of the strongest of the Moorish states.
On the 15th of June, 1815, Decatur came in sight of the most powerful of the Algerine ships, a forty-six gun frigate, the Mashouda. Its commander was Rais Hammida, a fierce and daring fellow, who was called "the terror of the Mediterranean." He had risen from the lowest to the highest place in the navy, and had often shown his valor in battle. But his time for defeat had now come.
When the Moorish admiral found himself amid a whole squadron of American warships, he set sail with all speed and made a wild dash for Algiers. But he had faster ships in his track and was soon headed off.
The bold fellow had no chance at all, with half-a-dozen great ships around him, but he made a fine fight for his life. He did not save either his ship or his life, for a cannon ball cut him squarely in two; and when his lieutenant tried to run away, he came across the brig Epervier, which soon settled him. But the Mashouda had made a good fight against big odds, and deserved praise.
After that another Algerian ship was taken, and then Decatur sailed for Algiers. When he made signals the captain of the port came out. A black-bearded, high and mighty fellow he was.
"Where is your navy?" asked Decatur.
"It's all right," said the Algerian, "safe in some friendly port."
"Not all of it, I fancy," said Decatur. "I have your frigate Mashouda and your brig Estido, and your admiral Hammida is killed."
"I don't believe it," said the Algerian.
"I can easily prove it," said Decatur, and he sent for the first lieutenant of the Mashouda.
When the captain of the port saw him and heard his story, he changed his tone. His haughty manner passed away, and he begged that fighting should cease until a treaty could be made on shore.
"Fighting will not cease until I have the treaty," said Decatur, sternly; "and a treaty will not be made anywhere but on board my ship."
And so it was. The captain of the port came out next day with authority to make a treaty. But the captain did not want to return the property taken from the American ships, saying that it had been scattered among many hands.
"I can't help that. It must be returned or paid for," said Decatur.
Then the captain did not want to pay $10,000 for a vessel that had been captured, and he wanted tribute from the United States. He told Decatur what a great man his master, "Omar the Terrible," was, and asked for a three hours truce.
"Not a minute," said Decatur. "If your ships appear before the treaty is signed by the Dey, and the American prisoners are on board my ship, I shall capture every one of them."
The only concession Decatur would make was to promise to return the Mashouda. But this was to be taken as a gift from the Americans to the Dey, and as such it must not appear in the treaty. The Algerian, finding that all his eloquence was wasted on the unyielding Yankee, hurried ashore with the treaty, arranging to display a white flag in case of its being signed.
An hour after he left an Algerian man-of-war was seen out to sea, and the American vessels got ready for action. But before anything was done the captain of the port came out with a white flag. He brought the treaty and the prisoners. That ended the trouble with Algiers. When the ten freed captives reached the deck some knelt down and gave thanks to God, while others hastened to kiss the American flag.
Then Decatur sailed to Tunis and Tripoli and made their rulers come to terms. From that day to this no American ship has been troubled by the corsairs of Barbary.
COMMODORE PERRY OPENS JAPAN TO THE WORLD
An Heroic Deed Without Bloodshed
THERE are victories of peace as well as of war. Of course, you do not need to be told that. Everybody knows it. And it often takes as much courage to win these victories as it does those of war. I am going now to tell you of one of the greatest victories ever won by an American naval hero, and without firing a gun.
Not far away from the great empire of China lies the island empire of Japan. Here the map shows us three or four large islands, but there are many hundreds of small ones, and in and out among them flow the smiling blue waters of the great Pacific Ocean.
The people of Japan, like the people of China, for a long time did not like foreigners and did not want anything to do with them. But that was the fault of the foreigners themselves. For at first these people were glad to have strangers come among them, and treated them kindly, and let missionaries land and try to make Christians of them. But the Christian teachers were not wise; for they interfered with the government as well as with the faith of the people.
The Japanese soon grew angry at this. In the end they drove all the strangers away and killed all the Christian converts they could find. Then laws were made to keep all foreigners out of the country. They let a Dutch ship come once a year to bring some foreign goods to the seaport of Nagasaki, but they treated these Dutch traders as if they were of no account. And thus it continued in Japan for nearly three hundred years.
The Japanese did not care much for the Dutch goods, but they liked to hear, now and then, what was going on in the world. Once a year they let some of the Dutch visit the capital, but these had to crawl up to the emperor on their hands and knees and crawl out backward like crabs. They must have wanted the Japanese trade badly to do that.
When a vessel happened to be wrecked on the coast of Japan, the sailors were held as prisoners and there was much trouble to get them off; and when Japanese were wrecked and sent home, no thanks were given. They were looked upon as no longer Japanese.
The Russians had seaports in Siberia, which made them near neighbors to Japan, so they tried to make friends with the Japanese. But the island people would have nothing to do with them. Captain Golownin, of the Russian navy, landed on one of the islands; but he was taken prisoner and kept for a long time and treated cruelly. That was the way things went in Japan till 1850 had come and passed.
It took the Yankees to do what the Dutch and the Russians had failed in doing. After the war with Mexico, thousands of Americans went to California and other parts of the Pacific coast, and trading ships grew numerous on that great ocean. It was felt to be time that Japan should be made to open her ports to the commerce of the nations, and the United States tried to do it.
Captain Matthew Calbraith Perry was selected for this great work. Captain Perry was a brother of Oliver H. Perry, the hero of Lake Erie. He was a lieutenant in that war, but he commanded a ship in the war with the pirates and the Mexican war. In 1852 he was given the command of a commodore and sent out with a fine squadron to Japan. He took with him a letter from the President to the Tycoon, or military ruler, of Japan.
On the 8th of July, 1853, the eyes of many of the Japanese opened wide when they saw four fine vessels sailing grandly up the broad Bay of Yeddo, where such a sight had never been seen before. As late as 1850 the ruler of Japan had sent word to foreign nations that he would have nothing to do with them or their people, and now here came these daring ships.
These ships were the steam frigates Mississippi and Susquehanna, and the sailing ships Saratoga and Plymouth of the United States Navy, under command of Commodore Perry.
Have you ever disturbed an ant-hill, and seen the ants come running out in great haste to learn what was wrong? It was much like that on the Bay of Yeddo. Thousands of Japanese gathered on the shores or rowed out on the bay to gaze at this strange sight. The great steamships, gliding on without sails, were a wonderful spectacle to them.
As the ships came on, boats put out with flags and carrying men who wore two swords. This meant that they were of high station. They wanted to climb into the ships and order the daring commodore to turn around and go back, but none of them were allowed to set foot on board.
"Our commodore is a great dignitary," they were told. "He cannot meet small folk like you. He will only speak with one of your great men, who is his equal."
And so the ropes which were fastened to the ships were cut, and those who tried to climb on board were driven back, and these two-sworded people had to row away as they had come.
This made them think that the American commodore must be a very big man indeed. So a more important man came out; but he was stopped too, and asked his business. He showed an order for the ships to leave the harbor at once, but was told that they had come there on business and would not leave till their business was done.
After some more talk they let this man come on board, but a lieutenant was sent to talk with him as his equal in rank. He said he was the vice-governor of the district, and that the law of Japan forbade foreigners to come to any port but that of Nagasaki, where the Dutch traders came.
The lieutenant replied that such talk was not respectful; that they had come with a letter from the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan; and that they would deliver it where they were and nowhere else. And it would be given only to a prince of the highest rank.
Then he was told that the armed boats that were gathering about the ship must go away. If they did not they would be driven away with cannon. When the vice-governor heard this he ordered the boats away, and soon followed them himself. He was told that if the governor did not receive the letter the ships would go up the bay to Yeddo, the capital, and send it up to the Emperor in his palace.
The next day the governor of the district came. Two captains were sent to talk with him. He did not want to receive the letter either, and tried every way he could to avoid taking it. After some talk he asked if he might have four days to send and get permission of the Tycoon, who was the acting but not the real emperor of Japan.
"No," he was told. "Three days will be plenty of time, for Yeddo is not far off. If the answer does not come then, we will steam up to the city, and our commodore will go to the Emperor's palace for the answer."
The governor was frightened at this, so he agreed upon the three days and went ashore.
During those three days the ships were not idle. They sent parties in boats to survey the bay. All along the shores were villages full of people, and fishing boats and trading vessels were on the waters by hundreds. There were forts on shore, but they were poor affairs, with a few little cannon, and soldiers carrying spears. And canvas was stretched from tree to tree as if it would keep back cannon-balls. The sailors laughed when they saw this.
The governor said that they ought not to survey the waters; it was against the laws of Japan. But they kept at it all the same. The boats went ten miles up the bay, and the Mississippi steamed after them. Government boats came out, and signs were made for them to go back; but they paid no attention to these signs.
When the three days were ended the good news came that the Emperor would receive the letter. He would send one of his high officers for it. An answer would be returned through the Dutch or the Chinese. Commodore Perry said this was an insult, and he would not take an answer from them, but would come back for it himself.
So, on the 14th of July the President's letter was received. It was written in the most beautiful manner, on the finest paper, and was in a golden box of a thousand dollars in value. It asked for a treaty of commerce between the two countries, and for kind treatment of American sailors.
So far none of the Japanese had seen the Commodore, and they thought he must be a very great man. Now he went ashore with much dignity, with several hundred officers and men, and with bands playing and cannon roaring. There were two princes of the empire to receive him, splendidly dressed in embroidered robes of silk.
The Commodore was carried in a fine sedan-chair, beside which walked two gigantic negroes, dressed in gorgeous uniform and armed with swords and pistols. Two other large, handsome negroes carried the golden letter case.
A beautiful scarlet box was brought by the Japanese to receive this. It was put in the box with much ceremony, and a receipt was given. Then the interpreter said:
"Nothing more can be done now. The letter has been received and you must leave."
"I shall come back for the answer," said Commodore Perry.
"With all the ships?"
"Yes, and likely with more."
Not another word was said, and the Commodore rose and returned to the ship. The next day he sailed up the bay until only eight or ten miles from the capital. On the 16th, the Japanese officials were glad to see the foreign ships, with their proud Commodore, sailing away. The visit had caused them great anxiety and trouble of mind.
Commodore Perry did not come back till February of the next year. Then he had a larger fleet; nine ships in all. And he went farther up the bay than before and anchored opposite the village of Yokohama. This village has now grown into a large city.
The Emperor's answer was ready, but there was much ceremony before it was delivered. There were several receptions, and at one of these the presents which Commodore Perry had brought were delivered. These were fine cloths, firearms, plows, and various other articles. The most valuable were a small locomotive and a railroad car. These were run in a circular track that was set up, and the Japanese looked on with wonder. Also a telegraph wire was set up and operated. This interested the Japanese more than anything else, but they took care not to show any surprise.
In the Emperor's reply, he agreed that the American ships should be supplied with provisions and water, and that shipwrecked sailors should be kindly treated. And he also agreed to open to American ships another port besides that of Nagasaki, where the Dutch were received. The Commodore was not satisfied with this, and finally two new ports were opened to American commerce. And the Americans were given much more freedom to go about than was given to the Dutch or the Chinese. They refused to be treated like slaves.
When it was all settled and the treaties were exchanged, Commodore Perry gave an elegant dinner on his flagship to the Japanese princes and officials. They enjoyed the American food greatly, but what they liked most was champagne wine, which they had never tasted before. One little Japanese got so merry with drinking this, that he sprang up and embraced the Commodore like a brother. Perry bore this with great good-humor.
But just think of the importance of all this! For three centuries the empire of Japan had been shut like a locked box against the nations. Now the box was unlocked, and the people of the nations were free to come and go. For treaties were soon made with other countries, and the island empire was thrown open to the commerce of the world.
CAPTAIN INGRAHAM TEACHES AUSTRIA A LESSON
Our Navy Upholds the Rights of an American in a Foreign Land
NOW I have a story to tell you about how this country looks after its citizens abroad. It is not a long story, but it is a good one, and Americans have been proud of Captain Ingraham ever since his gallant act.
In 1848 there was a great rebellion in Hungary against Austria. Some terrible fighting took place and then it was put down with much cruelty and slaughter. The Austrian government tried to seize all the leaders of the Hungarian patriots and put them to death, but several of them escaped to Turkey and took refuge in the City of Smyrna. Among these was the celebrated Louis Kossuth, and another man named Koszta.
Austria asked Turkey to give these men up, but the Sultan of Turkey refused to do so. Soon after that Koszta came to the United States, and there in 1852 he took the first step towards becoming an American citizen. He was sure that the United States would take care of its citizens. And he found out that it would.
The next year he had to go back to Smyrna on some business. That was not a safe place for him. The Austrians hated him as they did all the Hungarian patriots. They did not ask Turkey again to give him up, but there was an Austrian warship, the Huszar, in the harbor, and a plot was made to seize Koszta and take him on board this ship. Then he could easily be carried to Austria and put to death as a rebel.
One day, while Koszta was sitting quietly in the Marina, a public place in Smyrna, he was seized by a number of Greeks, who had been hired to do so by the Austrian consul. They bound him with ropes and carried him on board the Huszar.
It looked bad now for poor Koszta, for he was in the hands of his enemies. It is said that the Archduke John, brother of the Emperor of Austria, was captain of the ship. By his orders iron fetters were riveted on the ankles and wrists of Koszta, and he was locked up in the ship as one who had committed a great crime.
But a piece of great good fortune for the prisoner happened, for the next day the St. Louis, an American sloop-of-war, came sailing into the harbor. Captain Duncan N. Ingraham, who had been a midshipman in the War of 1812, was in command.
He was just the man to be there. He was soon told what had taken place, and that the prisoner claimed to be an American, and he at once sent an officer to the Huszar and asked if he could see Koszta. He was told that he might do so.
Captain Ingraham went to the Austrian ship and had an interview with the prisoner, who told him his story, and said that he had taken the first step to become a citizen of the United States. He begged the captain to protect him.
Captain Ingraham was satisfied that Koszta had a just claim to the protection of the American flag, and asked the Austrians to release him. They refused to do so, and he then wrote to Mr. Brown, the American consul at Constantinople and asked him what he should do.
Before he could get an answer a squadron of Austrian warships, six in number, came gliding into the harbor, and dropped anchor near the Huszar. It looked worse than ever now for poor Koszta, for what could the little St. Louis do against seven big ships? But Captain Ingraham did not let that trouble him. In his mind right was stronger than might, and he was ready to fight ten to one for the honor of his flag.
While he was waiting for an answer from Consul Brown he saw that the Huszar was getting ready to leave the harbor. Her anchor was drawn up and her sails were set. Ingraham made up his mind that if the Huszar left, it would have to be over the wreck of the St. Louis. He spread his sails in a hurry and drove his sloop-of-war right in the track of the Austrian ship. Then he gave orders to his men to make ready for a fight.
When Archduke John saw the gun-ports of the St. Louis open he brought his ship to a standstill and Captain Ingraham went on board.
"What do you intend to do?" he asked.
"To sail for home," said the Austrian. "Our consul orders us to take our prisoner to Austria."
"You must pardon me," said Captain Ingraham, "but if you try to leave this port with that American I shall be compelled to resort to extreme measures."
That was a polite way of saying that Koszta should not be taken away if he could prevent it.
The Austrian looked at the six ships of his nation that lay near him. Then he looked at the one American ship. Then a pleasant smile came on his face.
"I fear I shall have to go on, whether it is to your liking or not," he said, in a very polite tone.
Captain Ingraham made no answer. He bowed to the Archduke and then descended into his boat and returned to the St. Louis.
"Clear the ship for action!" he ordered. The tars sprang to their stations, the ports were opened, and the guns thrust out. There was many a grim face behind them.
The Archduke stared when he saw these black-mouthed guns. He was in the wrong and he knew it. And he saw that the American meant business. He could soon settle the little St. Louis with his seven ships. But the great United States was behind that one ship, and war might be behind all that.
So the Archduke took the wisest course, turned his ship about, and sailed back. Then he sent word to Ingraham that he would wait till Consul Brown's answer came.
The Consul's reply came on July 1. It said that Captain Ingraham had done just right, and advised him to go on and stand for the honor of his country.
The daring American now took a bold step. He sent a note to the Archduke, demanding the release of Koszta. And he said that if the prisoner was not sent on board the St. Louis by four o'clock the next afternoon, he would take him from the Austrians by force of arms.
A refusal came back from the Austrian ship. They would not give up their prisoner, they said. Now it looked like war indeed. Captain Ingraham waited till eight o'clock the next morning, and then he had his decks cleared for action and brought his guns to bear on the Huszar. The seven Austrian ships turned their guns on the St. Louis. The train was laid; a spark might set it off.
At ten o'clock an Austrian officer came on board the St. Louis. He began to talk round the subject. Ingraham would not listen to him. It must be one thing or nothing.
"All I will agree to is to have the man given into the care of the French consul at Smyrna till you can hear from your government," he said. "But he must be delivered there or I will take him. I have stated the time at four o'clock this afternoon."
The Austrian went back. When twelve o'clock came a boat left the Huszar and was rowed in shore. An hour later the French consul sent word to Captain Ingraham that Koszta had been put under his charge. Captain Ingraham had won. Soon after, several of the Austrian ships got under way and left the harbor. They had tried to scare Captain Ingraham by a show of force, but they had tried in vain.
When news of the event reached the United States everybody cheered the spirit of Captain Ingraham. He had given Europe a new idea of what the rights of an American citizen meant. The diplomats now took up the case and long letters passed between Vienna and Washington. But in the end Austria acknowledged that the United States was right, and sent an apology.
As for Koszta, the American flag gave him life and liberty. Since then American citizenship has been respected everywhere.
THE "MONITOR" AND THE "MERRIMAC"
A Fight Which Changed All Naval Warfare.
THE story I am now going to tell you takes us forward to the beginning of the great Civil War, that terrible conflict which went on during four long years between the people of the North and the South. Most of this war was on land, but there were some mighty battles at sea, and my story is of one of the greatest of these.
You should know that up to 1860 all ocean battles were fought by ships with wooden sides, through which a ball from a great gun would often cut as easily as a knife through a piece of cheese. Some vessels had been built with iron overcoats, but none of these had met in war. It was not till March, 1862, that the first battle between ships with iron sides took place.
The Constitution, you may remember, was called the Old Ironsides, but that was only a nickname, for she had wooden sides, and the first real Ironsides were the Monitor and the Merrimac.
Down in Virginia there is a great body of salt water known as Hampton Roads. The James River runs into it, and so does the Elizabeth River, a small stream which flows past the old City of Norfolk.
When the Civil War opened there was at Norfolk a fine United States navy yard, with ships and guns and docks that had cost a great deal of money. But soon after the war began the United States officers in charge there ran away in a fright, having first set on fire everything that would burn. Among the ships there was the old frigate Merrimac, which was being repaired. This was set on fire, and blazed away brightly until it sank to the bottom and the salt water put out the blaze. That was a very bad business, for there was enough left of the old Merrimac to make a great deal of trouble for the United States.
What did the Confederates do but lift the Merrimac out of the mud, and put her in the dry dock, and cut away the burnt part, and build over her a sloping roof of timbers two feet thick, until she looked something like Noah's ark. Then this was covered with iron plates four inches thick. In that way the first Confederate iron-clad ship was made.
The people at Washington knew all about this ship and were very much alarmed. No one could tell what dreadful damage it might do if it got out to sea, and came up Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River to the national capital. It might be much worse than when the British burnt Washington in 1814, for Washington was now a larger and finer city.
Something had to be done, and right away, too. It would not do to wait for a monster like the Merrimac. So Captain John Ericsson, a famous engineer of New York, was ordered to build an iron ship-of-war as fast as he could. And he started to do so after a queer notion of his own.
That is the way it came about that the two iron ships were being built at once, one at Norfolk and one at New York. And there was a race between the builders, for the first one finished would have the best chance. There was a lively rattle of hammers and tongs at both places, and it turned out that they were finished and ready for service only a few days apart.
It was necessary to tell you all this so that you might know how the great fight came to be fought, and how Washington was saved from the iron dragon of the South. Now we are done with our story of ship-building and must go on to the story of battle and ruin.
On the morning of March 8, 1862, the sun came up beautifully over the broad waters of Hampton Roads. The bright sunbeams lit up the sails of a row of stately vessels stretched out for miles over the smiling bay. There were five of these: the steam frigates St. Lawrence, Roanoke, and Minnesota; the sailing frigate Congress; and the sloop-of-war Cumberland. They were all wooden ships, but were some of the best men-of-war in the United States navy.
All was still and quiet that fine morning. There was nothing to show that there was any trouble on board those noble ships. But there was alarm enough, for their captains knew that the Merrimac was finished and might come at any hour. Very likely some of the officers thought that they could soon decide matters for this clumsy iron monster. But I fancy some of them did not sleep well and had bad dreams when they thought of what might happen.
Just at the hour of noon the lookout on the Cumberland saw a long black line of smoke coming from the way of Norfolk. Soon three steamers were seen. One of these did not look like a ship at all, but like a low black box, from which the smoke puffed up in a thick cloud.
But they knew very well what this odd-looking craft was. It was the Merrimac. It had come out for a trial trip. But it was a new kind of trial its men were after: the trial by battle.
Down came the iron-clad ship, with her sloping roof black in the sunlight. Past the Congress she went, both ships firing. But the great guns of the Congress did no more harm than so many pea-shooters; while the shot of the Merrimac went clear through the wooden ships, leaving death in their track.
Then the iron monster headed for the Cumberland. That was a terrible hour for the men on the neat little sloop-of-war. They worked for their lives, loading and firing, and firing as fast as they could, but not a shot went through that grim iron wall.
In a few minutes the Merrimac came gliding up and struck the Cumberland a frightful blow with her iron nose, tearing through the thick oaken timbers and making a great hole in her side. Then she backed off and the water rushed in.
In a minute the good ship began to sink, while the Merrimac poured shot and shell into her wounded ribs.
"Do you surrender?" asked one of the officers of the Merrimac.
"Never!" said Lieutenant Morris, who commanded the Cumberland. "I'll sink alongside before I pull down that flag."
He was a true Yankee seaman; one of the "no surrender" kind.
Down, inch by inch, settled the doomed ship. But her men stuck grimly to their guns, and fired their last shot just as she sank out of sight. Then all who had not saved themselves in the boats leaped overboard and swam ashore, but a great many of the dead and wounded went down with the ship.
She sank like a true Yankee hero, with her flag flying, and when she struck bottom, with only the tops of her masts above water, "Old Glory" still fluttered proudly in the breeze.
That was the way it went when iron first met wood in naval warfare. The victor now turned to the Congress and another fierce battle began. But the wooden ship had no chance. For an hour her men fought bravely, but her great guns were of no use, and a white flag was raised. She had surrendered, but the Confederates could not take possession, for there were batteries on shore that drove them off. So they fired hot shot into the Congress and soon she was in a blaze.
It was now five o'clock in the afternoon, and the Merrimac steamed away with the Confederate flag flying in triumph. She had finished her work for that day. It was a famous trial trip. She would come back the next and sink the vessels still afloat—if nothing hindered.
For hours that night the Congress blazed like a mighty torch, the flames lighting up the water and land for miles around. It was after midnight when the fire reached her magazine and she blew up with a terrific noise, scattering her timbers far and near. The men on the Merrimac looked proudly at the burning ship. It was a great triumph for them. But they saw one thing by her light they did not like so well. Off towards Fortress Monroe there lay in the water a strange-looking thing, which had not been there an hour before. What queer low ship was that? And where had it come from?
The sun rose on the morning of Sunday, March 9, and an hour later the Merrimac was again under way to finish her work. Not far from where the Congress had burnt lay the Minnesota. She had run aground and looked like an easy prey. But close beside her was the floating thing they had observed the night before, the queerest-looking craft that had ever been seen.
Everybody opened their eyes wide and stared as at a show when they saw this strange object. They called it "a cheese box on a raft," and that was a good name for its queer appearance. For the deck was nearly on a level with the water, and over its centre rose something like a round iron box. But it had two great guns sticking out of its tough sides.
It was the Monitor, the new vessel which Captain Ericsson had built and sent down to fight the Merrimac. But none who saw this little low thing thought it could stand long before the great Confederate iron-clad. It looked a little like a slim tiger or leopard before a great rhinoceros or elephant. The men on the Merrimac did not seem to think it worth minding, for they came steaming up and began firing at the Minnesota when they were a mile away.
Then away from the side of the great frigate glided the little Monitor, heading straight for her clumsy antagonist. She looked like no more than a mouthful for the big ship, and men gazed at her with dread. She seemed to be going straight to destruction.
But the brave fellows on the Monitor had no such thoughts as that.
"Let her have it," said Captain Worden, when they came near; and one of the great eleven-inch guns boomed like a volcano. The huge iron ball, weighing about 175 pounds, struck the plates of the Merrimac with a thundering crash, splitting and splintering them before it bounded off. The broadside of the Merrimac boomed back, but the balls glanced away from the thick round sides of the turret and did not harm.
Then the turret was whirled round like a top, and the gun on the other side came round and was fired. Again the Merrimac fired back, and the great battle was on.
For two hours the iron ships fought like two mighty wrestlers of the seas. Smoke filled the turret so that the men of the Monitor did not know how to aim their guns. The Merrimac could fire three times to her one, but not a ball took effect. It was like a battle in a cloud.
"Why are you not firing?" asked Lieutenant Jones of a gun captain.
"Why, powder is getting scarce," he replied, "and I find I can do that whiffet as much harm by snapping my finger and thumb every three minutes."
Then Lieutenant Jones tried to sink the Monitor. Five times the great iron monster came rushing up upon the little Yankee craft, but each time it glided easily away. But when the Merrimac came up the sixth time Captain Worden did not try to escape. The Monitor waited for the blow. Up rushed the Merrimac at full speed and struck her a fierce blow. But the iron armor did not give way, and the great ship rode up on the little one's deck till she was lifted several feet.
The little Monitor sank down under the Merrimac till the water washed across her deck; then she slid lightly out and rose up all right again, while the Merrimac started a leak in its own bow. At the same moment one of the Monitor's great guns was fired and the ball struck the Merrimac, breaking the iron plates and bulging in the thick wood backing.
Thus for hour after hour the fight went on. For six hours the iron ships struggled and fought, but neither ship was much the worse, while nobody was badly hurt.
The end of the fight came in this way: There was a little pilot-house on the deck of the Monitor, with a slot in its side from which Captain Worden watched what was going on, so that he could give orders to his men. Up against this there came a shell that filled the face and eyes of the captain with grains of powder and splinters of iron, and flung him down blind and helpless. Blood poured from every pore of his face.
The same shot knocked an iron plate from the top of the pilot-house and let in the daylight in a flood. When the light came pouring in Captain Worden, with his blinded eyes, thought something very serious had happened, and gave orders for the Monitor to draw off to see what damage was done.
Before she came back the Merrimac was far away. She was leaking badly and her officers thought it about time to steam away for home.
That was the end of the great battle. Neither side had won the victory, but it was a famous fight for all that. For it was the first battle of iron-clad ships in the history of the world. Since then no great warship has been built without iron sides. Only small vessels are now made all of wood.
That was the first and last battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. For a long time they watched each other like two bull-dogs ready for a fight. But neither came to blows. Then, two months after the great battle, the Merrimac was set on fire and blown up. The Union forces were getting near Norfolk and her officers were afraid she would be taken, so they did what the Union officers had done before.
The Monitor had done her work well, but her time also soon came. Ten months after the great battle she was sent out to sea, and there she went to the bottom in a gale. Such was the fate of the pioneer iron-clads. But they had fought a mighty fight, and had taught the nations of the world a lesson they would not soon forget.
In that grim deed between the first two iron-clad ships a revolution took place in naval war. The great frigates, with their long rows of guns, were soon to be of little more use than floating logs. More than forty years have passed since then, and now all the great war-vessels are clad in armor of the hardest steel.
COMMODORE FARRAGUT WINS RENOWN
The Hero of Mobile Bay Lashes Himself to the Mast
AN old friend of ours is David G. Farragut. We met him, you may remember, years ago, on the old Essex, under Captain Porter, when he was a boy of only about ten years of age. Young as he was, he did good work on that fine ship during her cruise in the Pacific and her last great fight.
When the Civil War began Farragut had got to be quite an old boy. He was sixty years of age and a captain in the navy. He had been born in the South and now lived in Virginia, and the Confederates very much wanted him to fight on their side.
"Not after fighting fifty years for the old flag," he said. "And mind what I tell you; you fellows will catch much more than you want before you get through with this business."
And so Farragut reported for duty under the old flag.
Very soon the ships of the government were busy all along the coast, blockading ports and chasing blockade runners, and fighting wherever they saw a chance.
One such chance, a big one, came away down South. For there was the large City of New Orleans, which the British had tried to take nearly fifty years before; and there was the Mississippi River that led straight to it. But strong forts had been built along that river and armed boats were on its waters, and the Yankees of the North might find it as hard to get there as the British did.
Now I have to speak of another brave man and good seaman, David D. Porter. He was a son of the captain of the old Essex, and a life-long friend of David G. Farragut.
Porter was sent down to help blockade the Mississippi in the summer of 1861, and while there he found out all about the forts and the ships on the river. Then he went to Washington and told the Secretary of the Navy all he had learned, and asked him to send down a fleet to try to capture the city.
"Where can I find the right man for a big job like that?" asked the Secretary.
"Captain Farragut is your man," said Porter. "You have him now on committee work, where a man like him is just wasted, for you have not half as good a seaman on any of your ships."
And in that way the gallant Farragut was chosen to command the fleet to be sent to capture the great city of the South. Porter, you see, did not ask for a command for himself, but for his friend.
When the fleet was got ready it numbered nearly twenty vessels, but most of them were gunboats, and none of them were very large. The Mississippi was not the place for very large ships. Farragut chose the sloop-of-war Hartford for his flagship and sailed merrily away for the mighty river. He did not forget his friend Porter. For twenty mortar boats were added to the fleet, and Porter was given command of these.
A mortar, you should know, is a kind of a short cannon made to throw large shells or balls. It is pointed upward so as to throw them high up into the air and then let them fall straight down on a fort. Porter's mortar boats were schooners that carried cannons of this kind.
When Farragut had sailed his fleet into the river, he made ready for the great fight before him. Of course, he had no iron-clads, for the Monitor had just fought its great battle and no other iron-clads had been built. So he stretched iron chains up and down the sides of his ships to stop cannon balls. Then bags of coal and sand were piled round the boilers and engines to keep them safe, and nets were hung to catch flying splinters, which, in a fight at sea, are often worse than bullets.
But the most interesting thing done was to the mortar boats. These were to be anchored down the stream below the forts, and limbs of trees full of green leaves were tied on their masts, so they could not be told from the trees on the river-bank. As they went up the river they looked like a green grove afloat.
Now let us take a look at what the Confederates were doing. They were not asleep, you may be sure. They had built two strong forts, one on each side of the river, just where it made a sharp bend. One of these was named Fort Jackson and the other Fort St. Philip. There were more than a hundred cannon in these forts, but most of them were small ones.
They had also stretched iron cables across the river, with rafts and small vessels to hold them up. These were to stop the fleet from going up the river, and to hold it fast while the forts could pour shot and shell into it. They had also many steamboats with cannon on them. One of these, the Louisiana, was covered with iron. Another was a ram, called the Manassas. This had a sharp iron beak, to ram and sink other vessels. And there were great coal barges, filled with fat pine knots. These were meant for fire-ships. You will learn farther on how these were to be used.
You may see from this that Farragut had some hard work before him. Even if he got past the chains and the forts, all his ships might be set on fire by the fire-ships. But the bold captain was not one of the kind that mind things like that. Now let us go on to the story of the terrible river fight, which has long been one of the most famous battles of the war.
Porter's mortar boats were anchored under the trees on the river-bank, two miles below the forts. With their green-clad masts they looked like trees themselves. At ten o'clock in the morning of April 18, 1862, the first mortar sent its big shell whizzing through the air. And for six days this was kept up, each of the mortars booming out once every ten minutes. That made one shot for every half-minute.
Two days after the mortars began, a bold thing was done. The gunboat Itasca set out in the darkness of the night and managed to get between the shore and the chain. Then it ran up stream above the chain till it got a good headway. It now turned round and came down at full speed before the strong current.
Fort Jackson was firing, and balls were rattling all about the bold Itasca, but she rushed on through them all. Plump against the chain she came, with a thud that lifted her three feet out of the water. Then the chain snapped in two and away went the Itasca down stream. The barrier was broken and the way to New Orleans lay open before the fleet.
On the 23d of April Farragut gave his orders to the captains of the fleet. That night they were to try to pass the forts and fight their way to New Orleans. At two o'clock in the morning came the welcome order, "All hands up anchor!" and at three o'clock all was ready for the start.
The night was dark, but on the banks near Fort Jackson there was a blazing wood fire, that threw its light across the stream. And Porter's bombs were being fired as fast as the men could drop the balls into them, so that there was a great arch of fiery shells between the mortar boats and the forts.
The gunboat Cayuga led the way through the broken barrier. After her came the Pensacola, one of the large vessels. All this time the forts had kept still, but now they blazed out with all their guns, and the air was full of the booming of cannon and the screeching of shells from forts and ships.
Great piles of wood were kindled on the banks, and the fire-ships up stream were sent blazing down the river as the steam vessels came rushing up into the fire of the forts. Never had the Mississippi seen so terrible a night. The blazing wood and flashing guns made it as light as day, and the roar was like ten thunderstorms.
Soon the Hartford came on, with Farragut on her deck. So thick was the smoke that she ran aground, and before she could get off a fire-ship came blazing down against her side, pushed by a tug-boat straight on to her. In a minute the paint on the ship's side was in a blaze and the flames shot up half as high as the masts. The men at the guns drew back from the scorching heat.
"Don't flinch from that blaze, boys," cried Farragut. "Those who don't do their duty here will find a hotter fire than that."
For a brief time the good ship was in great danger. But a shower of shells sent the daring tug-boat to the bottom, and the fire-ship floated away. Then a hose-pipe spurted water on the flames. The fire was put out and the Hartford was saved.
That was only the beginning of the great battle. From that time on, fire and flame, boom and roar, death and destruction, were everywhere. The great shells from the mortars dropped bursting into the forts. The huge wood piles blazed high on the banks. Ships and forts hurled a frightful shower of shells at each other. Blazing fire-ships came drifting down. The foremost boats were fiercely fighting with the Confederate craft. The hindmost boats were fighting with the forts. The uproar seemed enough to drive the very moon from the sky.
But soon victory began to hold out her hand to the Union fleet. For all the ships passed the forts, some of the Confederate vessels were driven ashore and others fled up stream; and in a little while only three of them were left, and these were kept safe under the guns of the fort. The battle had been fought and won, and the triumphant fleet steamed up the river to New Orleans. The forts were still there, but what could they do, with Union forces above and below? Four days after the fight they were surrendered to Porter and his mortar fleet.
There was one final act to the great Mississippi battle. For as Commander Porter, in his flagship, lay near Fort Jackson, down on him came the iron-clad Louisiana, all in a blaze. But just before she reached his vessel she blew up; and that was the end of the Louisiana and the fight. The river was open and New Orleans was captured. Thus ended the greatest naval battle of the Civil War.
Two years and more afterward Farragut fought another great battle. This was in the Bay of Mobile, then a great place for blockade-runners. These were swift vessels that brought goods from Europe to the South. The Union fleet did all it could to stop them, but they could not be stopped at Mobile from outside, so Farragut was told to fight his way inside the bay. And that is what he did.
Mobile Bay is like a great bell, thirty miles long and fifteen miles wide. There are two islands at the mouth, so that the entrance is not more than a mile wide. And on each of these islands was a strong fort, which had been built by the government before the war. The Confederates had taken possession of these forts and had big guns in them.
The first thing to do was to pass the forts. No chain could be put across the channel here, but there was something worse, for nearly two hundred torpedoes were planted in the water near the forts. Some of these were made of beer-kegs and some of tin; and they were planted so thickly that it was not easy to get in without setting them off. Then, when the fort and the torpedoes were passed, there were the ships. Three of these were small gunboats, of not much account. But there was a great iron-clad ship, the Tennessee, which was twice as strong as the Merrimac. It was covered with iron five or six inches thick, and carried a half-dozen big guns.
Franklin Buchanan, who had been captain of the Merrimac, was admiral of the Tennessee.
But Admiral Farragut—he was an admiral now—had his iron-clad vessels, too. Four monitors like the old Monitor of Hampton Roads, had been built and sent him, and these, with his wooden vessels, made nearly twenty ships.
Such was the fleet with which Farragut set out for his second great victory, early in the morning of August 5, 1864. It was six o'clock when the ships crossed the bar and headed in for Fort Morgan.
On they went, bravely, firing at the fort. But not a shot came back till the leading ships were in front of its strong stone walls. Then there began a terrible roar, and a storm of iron balls poured out at the ships. If the guns had been well aimed, dreadful work might have been done, but the balls went screaming through the air and hardly touched a ship. And the fierce fire from the ships drove many of the men in the fort from their guns.
But now there is a terrible tale to tell, a tale of death and destruction, of the sinking of a ship with her captain and nearly all her crew on board.
This was the monitor Tecumseh. It was steered straight out where the torpedoes lay thick. Suddenly there came a dull roar. The bow of the iron-clad was lifted like a feather out of the water. Then it sank till it pointed downward like a boy diving, and the stern was lifted up into the air. In a second more the good ship went down with a mighty plunge.
But with this there is also one fine story, the story of a gallant man. This was Captain Craven, of the Tecumseh. He and the pilot were in the pilot-house and both sprang for the opening. But there was room only for one. The brave captain drew back.
"After you, pilot," he said.
The pilot escaped, but the noble captain, with ninety-two of his men, sank to the depths.
A boat was sent to pick up the swimmers, with a gallant young ensign, H. C. Neilds, in charge. Out they rowed where the waters were being torn and threshed with shot and shell. The ensign was only a boy, but he had the spirit of a Perry. He saw that his flag was not flying, and he coolly raised it in the face of the foe, and then sat down to steer.
Brave men were there by the hundreds, but none were braver than their admiral, their immortal Farragut. The smoke blinded his eyes on deck, so he climbed to the top of the mainmast, and there, lashed to the rigging, he went in through the thick of the fire. Shells screeched past him, great iron balls hustled by his ears, but not a quiver came over his noble face. He had to be where he could see, he said. Danger did not count where duty called.
On past the forts went ships and monitors, heedless of torpedoes or of the fate of the Tecumseh. Only one captain showed the white feather. The Brooklyn held back.
"What is the matter?" screamed Farragut.
"Torpedoes," was the only word that reached his ears.
The gallant admiral then used a strong word. It was not a word to be used in polite society. But we must remember that battle was raging about him and he was in a fury.
"Damn the torpedoes!" he cried. "Follow me!"
Straight on the good ship sailed, right for the nest of torpedoes, with the admiral in the shrouds.
In a minute more the Hartford was among them. They could be heard striking against her bottom. Their percussion caps snapped, but not one went off. Their tin cases had rusted and they were spoiled. Only one of them all went off that dreadful day of battle. That saved many of the ships.
The fort and the torpedoes were passed, but the Confederate ships remained. It did not take long to settle for the gunboats, but the iron-clad Tennessee remained. Putting on all steam, this great ship ran down on the Union fleet. Through the whole line it went and on to the fort. But it was as slow as a tub and the ships were easily kept out of its way.
Then, when the men were at breakfast, back again came the Tennessee. They left their coffee and ran to their guns. It was like the old story of the Merrimac and the wooden ships in Hampton Roads.
But Farragut did not wait to be rammed by the Tennessee. If ramming was to be done he wanted to do it himself. So all the large vessels steamed head on for the iron-clad, butting her right and left. They hit one another, too, and the Hartford came near being sunk. Then came the monitors, as the first Monitor had come against the Merrimac. There were three of these left, but one did the work, the Chickasaw. She clung like a burr to the Tennessee, pouring in her great iron balls, and doing so much damage that soon the great ship was like a floating hulk. It could not be steered nor its guns fired.
For twenty minutes it stood this dreadful hammering, and then its flag came down. The battle was won.
"It was the most desperate battle I ever fought since the days of the old Essex," said Farragut.
The figure of the brave admiral in the rigging, fighting his ship amid a cyclone of shot and shell, made him the hero of the American people. It was like Dewey on the bridge in Manila Bay in a later war. There was no rank high enough in the navy to fit the glory he had won, so one was made for him, the rank of admiral. There was rear-admiral and vice-admiral, but admiral was new and higher still. Only two men have held this rank since his day, his good friend and comrade, David D. Porter, and the brave George Dewey.
A RIVER FLEET IN A HAIL OF FIRE
Admiral Porter Runs by the Forts in a Novel Way
OF course you know what a tremendous task the North had before it in the Civil War. The war between the North and the South was like a battle of giants. And in this vast contest the navy had to do its share, both out at sea and on the rivers of the country. One of its big bits of work was to cut off the left arm of the Confederacy, and leave it only its right arm to fight with.
By the left arm I mean the three states west of the Mississippi River, and by the right arm, the eight states east of that great river. To cut off this left arm the government had to get control of the whole river, from St. Louis to the Gulf, so that no Confederate troops could cross the great stream.
You have read how Farragut and Porter began this work, by capturing New Orleans and all the river below it. And they went far up the river, too. But in the end such great forts were built at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and other points that the Confederate government held the river in a tight grasp.
In this way the Confederacy became master of the Mississippi for a thousand miles. We are to see now how it was taken from their grasp.
James B. Eads, the engineer who built the great railroad bridge over the Mississippi at St. Louis, made the first iron-clads for the West. There were seven of these. They were river steamers, and were covered with iron, but it was not very thick. Two others were afterward built, making nine in all.
Each of these boats had thirteen guns, and they did good work in helping the army to capture two strong Confederate forts in Kentucky. Then they went down the Mississippi to an island that was called Island No. 10. It was covered with forts, stretching one after another all along its shore.
A number of mortar boats were brought down and threw shells into the forts till they were half paved with iron. But all that did no good. Then Admiral Foote was asked to send one of the boats down past the forts.
That was dreadfully dangerous work, for there were guns enough in them to sink twenty such boats. But Captain Walke thought he could take his boat, the Carondelet, down, and the admiral told him he might try.
What was the Carondelet like, do you ask? Well, she was a long, wide boat, with sloping sides and a flat roof, and was covered with iron two and a half inches thick. Four of her guns peeped out from each side, while three looked out from the front door, and two from the back door of the boat.
Captain Walke did not half expect to get through the iron storm from the forts. To make his boat stronger, extra planks were laid on her deck and chain cables were drawn tightly across it. Then lumber was heaped thickly round the boiler and engines, and ropes were wrapped round and round the pilot-house till they were eighteen inches thick.
After that a barge filled with bales of hay was tied fast to the side that would catch the fire of the forts. Something was done also to stop the noise of the steam pipes, for Captain Walke thought he might slip down at night without being seen or heard.
On the night of April 10, 1862, the boat made its dash down stream. It started just as a heavy thunderstorm came on. The wind whistled, the rain poured down in sheets, and the men in the forts hid from the storm. They were not thinking then of runaway gunboats.
But something nobody had thought of now took place. The blazing wood in the furnaces set fire to the soot in the chimneys, and in a minute the boat was like a great flaming torch. As the men in the forts sprang up, the lightning flashed out on the clouds, and lit up "the gallant little ship floating past like a phantom."
The gunners did not mind the rain any more. They ran in great haste to their guns, and soon the batteries were flaming and roaring louder than the thunder itself.
Fort after fort took it up as the Carondelet slid swiftly past. The lightning and the blazing smoke-stack showed her plainly to the gunners. But the bright flashes blinded their eyes so that they could not half aim their guns. And thus it was that the brave little Carondelet went under the fire of fifty guns without being harmed.
Soon after that Island No. 10 was given up to the Union forces. Then the gunboats went farther down the river, and had two hard fights with Confederate boats, one at Fort Pillow and one at Memphis. Both these places were captured, and in that way the river was opened all the way from St. Louis to Vicksburg.
The City of Vicksburg is in the State of Mississippi, about two hundred miles above New Orleans. Here are high river banks; and these were covered thick with forts, so that Vicksburg was the strongest place along the whole stream.
There were also strong forts at Port Hudson, about seventy-five miles below Vicksburg; and these seventy-five miles were all the Confederates now held of the great stream. But they held these with a very strong hand and were not to let go easily.
There were some great events at Vicksburg; and I must tell about a few of these next.
After New Orleans was taken Farragut took his ships up the river, running past the forts. He could easily have taken Vicksburg then, if he had had any soldiers. But he had none, and it took a great army of soldiers, under General Grant, to capture it a year afterward.
David D. Porter, who had helped Farragut so well in his great fight, was put in command of the Mississippi fleet. He had a number of iron-clad boats under him, some of them having iron so thin that they were called tin-clads.
Commodore Porter had plenty to do. Now he sent his boats up through the Yazoo swamps, then they had a fight on the Arkansas River; and in this way he was kept busy.
In February, 1863, he sent two of his boats, the Queen of the West and the Indianola, down past the Vicksburg forts. That was an easy run. There was plenty of firing, but nobody was hurt. But after they got below they found trouble enough.
First, the Queen of the West ran aground and could not be got off. Then the Indianola had a hole rammed in her side by a Confederate boat and went to the bottom. So there wasn't much gained by sending these two boats down stream.
But a curious thing took place. The Confederates got the Queen of the West off themud, and tried to raise the Indianola and stop its leaks.
While they were hard at work at this they heard a frightful roar from the Vicksburg batteries. Looking up stream they saw a big boat coming down upon them at full speed. When they saw this they put the two big guns of the Indianola mouth to mouth, fired them into each other to ruin them, and then ran away. But weren't they vexed afterward when they learned that the boat that scared them was only a dummy which Porter's men had sent down the river in a frolic.
After that, the river batteries did not give the ships much trouble. When the right time came Porter's fleet ran down the river through the fire of all the forts. One boat caught fire and sank, but all the rest passed safely through. This was done to help General Grant, who was marching his army down, to get below Vicksburg.
I suppose all readers of American history know about the great event of the 4th of July, 1863. On that day Vicksburg was given up to the Union forces, with all its forts and all its men. Five days afterward Port Hudson surrendered. Porter and his boats now held the great river through all its length.
But there is something more to tell about Admiral Porter, who was a rear-admiral now.
In the spring of 1864 General Banks was sent with an army up the Red River. He was going to Shreveport, which is about four hundred miles above where the Red River runs into the Mississippi. Porter went along with his river fleet to help.
Now, no more need be said about Banks and his army, except that the whole expedition was only a waste of time, for it did no good; and there would be nothing to say about Porter and his fleet, if they had not gotten into a bad scrape which gave them hard work to get out.
The boats went up the river easily enough, but when they tried to come down they found themselves in a trap. For after they had gone up, the river began to fall and the water came to be very low.
There are two rapids, or small falls, on this part of the Red River, which show only at low water. They showed plainly enough now; and there were twelve of the boats above them, caught fast.
What was to be done? If they tried to run down the falls they would be smashed into kindling wood. It looked very much as if they would have to be left for the Confederates, or set on fire and burned.
By good luck there was one man there who knew what to do. He was a lieutenant-colonel from Wisconsin, named Joseph Baily. He had been a log-driver before the war and knew what was done when logs got jammed in a stream.
When he told his plan he was laughed at by some who thought it very foolish, but Porter told him to go ahead. So, with 2,000 soldiers from Maine, who knew all about logging, he went into the woods, chopped down trees, and built a dam below the falls.
The men worked so hard that it took them only eight days to build the dam; which was wonderfully quick work. A place was left open in the center, and there four barges loaded with brick were sunk.
When the dam was finished it lifted the water six feet higher, and down in safety went three of the steamers, while the army shouted and cheered. But just then two of the sunken barges were carried away, and the water poured through the break in a flood.
The gunboat Lexington was just ready to start. Admiral Porter stood on the bank watching.
"Go ahead!" he shouted.
At once the engines were started and the Lexington shot down the foaming rapid. There were no cheers now; everybody was still.
Down she went, rolling and leaping on the wild waters; but soon she shot safe into the still pool below. All the other vessels were also safely taken down.
THE SINKING OF THE "ALBEMARLE"
Lieutenant Cushing Performs the Most Gallant Deed of the Civil War
NOW I am going to tell you about one of the most gallant deeds done in the navy during the whole Civil War. The man who did it was brave enough to be made admiral of the fleet, yet he did not get even a gold medal for his deed. But he is one of our heroes. It is all about an iron-clad steamer, and how it was sent to rest in the mud of a river-bottom.
The Confederate government had very bad luck with its iron-clads. It was busy enough building them, but they did not pay for their cost. The Merrimac did the most harm, but it soon went up in fire and smoke.
Then there were the Louisiana at New Orleans, and the Tennessee at Mobile. Farragut made short work of them. Two were built at Charleston which were of little use. The last of them all was the Albemarle, whose story I am about to tell.
The Roanoke River, in North Carolina, was a fine stream for blockade-runners. There was a long line of ships and gunboats outside, but in spite of them these swift runaways kept dashing in, loaded with goods for the people. Poor people! they needed them badly enough, for they had little of anything except what they could raise in their fields.
But the gunboats kept pushing farther into the river, and gave the Confederates no end of trouble. So they began to build an iron-clad which they thought could drive these wooden wasps away.
This iron-clad was a queer ship. Its keel was laid in a cornfield; its bolts and bars were hammered out in a blacksmith shop. Iron for its engines was picked up from the scrap heaps of the iron works at Richmond. Some of the Confederates laughed at it themselves; but they deserved great credit for building a ship under such difficulties as these.
It was finished in April, 1864, and nobody laughed at it when they saw it afloat. It was like the Merrimac in shape, and was covered with iron four inches thick. They named it the Albemarle.
Very soon the Albemarle showed that it was no laughing matter. It sunk one gunboat and made another run away in great haste. Then it had a fight with four of them at once and drove one of these lame and limping away. The others did not come too near. After that it went back to the town of Plymouth and was tied up at the wharf.
There was another iron-clad being built, and the Albemarle was kept waiting, so that the two could work together. That was a bad thing for the Albemarle, for she never went out again.
This brings us back to the gallant deed I spoke of, and the gallant fellow who did the deed. His name was William B. Cushing. He was little more than a boy, just twenty-one years old, but he did not know what it meant to be afraid, and he had done so many daring things already that he had been made a lieutenant.
He wanted to try to destroy the Albemarle, and his captain, who knew how bold a fellow he was, told him to go ahead and do his best.
So on a dark night in October, 1864, brave young Cushing started up the river in a steam launch, with men and guns. At the bow of this launch was a long spar, and at the end of this spar was a torpedo holding a hundred pounds of dynamite. There was a trigger and a cap to set this off, a string to lower the spar and another to pull the trigger. But it was a poor affair to send on such an expedition as that.
And this was not the worst. Some of the newspapers had found out what Cushing was going to do, and printed the whole story. And some of these newspapers got down South and let out the secret. That is what is called "newspaper enterprise." It is very good in its right place, but it was a sort of enterprise that nearly spoiled Cushing's plans.
For the Confederates put lines of sentries along the river, and stationed a lookout down the stream, and placed a whole regiment of soldiers near the wharf. And logs were chained fast around the vessel so that no torpedo spar could reach her. And the men on board were sharply on the watch. That is what the newspapers did for Lieutenant Cushing.
Of course, the young lieutenant did not know all this, and he felt full of hope as his boat went up stream without being seen or heard. The night was very dark and there were no lights on board, and the engines were new and made no noise.
So he passed the lookout in the river and the sentries on the banks without an eye seeing him or his boat.
But when he came up to the iron-clad his hopes went down. For there was the boom of logs so far out that his spar could not reach her.
What was he to do? Should he land at the wharf and take his men on board, and try to capture her where she lay?
Before he had time to think it was too late for that. A sentry on board saw the launch and called out:
"Boat ahoy!" There was no answer.
"What boat is that?" Still no answer.
Then came a musket shot, and then a rattle of musketry from the river bank. A minute after lights flashed out and men came running down the wharf. The ship's crew tumbled up from below. All was haste and confusion.
Almost any man would have given it up for lost and run for safety. But Cushing was not of that kind. It did not take him a second to decide. He ran the launch out into the stream, turned her round, and dashed at full speed straight for the boom.
A storm of bullets came from the deck of the Albemarle, but he heeded them no more than if they had been snowflakes. In a minute the bow of the launch struck the logs.
They were slippery with river slime and the light boat climbed up on them, driving them down under the water. Over she went, and slid into the water inside the boom.
Cushing stood in the bow, with the trigger-string in his hand. He lowered the torpedo under the hull of the iron-clad, lifted it till he felt it touch her bottom, and then pulled the string.
There came two loud reports. A hundred-pounder gun was being fired from the ship's side right over his head. Along with it came a dull roar from under the water. The dynamite torpedo had gone off, tearing a great hole in the wooden bottom. In a minute the ill-fated Albemarle began to sink.
The launch was fast inside the boom, and the wave from her torpedo was rushing over her, carrying her down.
"Surrender," came a voice from above.
"Never! Swim for your lives, men," cried Cushing, and he sprang into the flowing stream.
Two or three bullets had gone through his clothing, but he was unhurt, and swam swiftly away, his men after him.
Only Cushing and one of the men got away. The others were captured, except one who was drowned. Boats were quickly out, a fire of logs was made on the wharf, which threw its light far out over the stream, but he reached the shore unseen, chilled to the bone and completely worn out.
A sentry was pacing on the wall of a fort over his head, men passed looking for him, but he managed to creep to the swamp nearby and hide in the mud and reeds.
There he lay till the break of day. Then he crawled on till he got into a cornfield nearby. Now for the first time he could stand up and walk. But just as he got to the other side of the field he came face to face with a man.
Cushing was not afraid. It was a black face. In those days no Union soldier was afraid of a black face. The slaves would do anything for "Massa Linkums' sojers." The young lieutenant was almost as black as the slave after his long crawl through the mud.
Cushing told him who he was, and sent him into the town for news, waiting in the cornfield for his return. After an hour the messenger came back. His face was smiling with delight.
"Good news, Massa," he said. "De big iron ship's gone to de bottom suah. Folks dar say she'll neber git up agin."
"Mighty good," said Cushing. "Now, old man, tell me how I can get back to the ships."
The negro told him all he could, and with a warm "Good-bye" the fugitive took to the swamp again. On he went, hour by hour, forcing his way through the thick bushes and wading in the deep mud. Thus he went on, mile after mile, until at length, at two o'clock in the afternoon, he found himself on the banks of a narrow creek.
Here he heard voices and drew back. Looking through the bushes he saw a party of seven soldiers just landing from a boat. They tied the boat to the root of a tree and went up a path that led back from the river. Soon they stopped, sat down, and began to eat their dinner. They could see their boat from where they sat, but they were too busy eating to think of that.
Here was Cushing's chance. It was a desperate one, but he was ready to try anything. He lowered himself quietly into the stream, swam across, and untied the boat. Then he noiselessly pushed it out and swam with it down stream. As soon as he was out of sight of the soldiers he climbed in and rowed away as fast as he could. What the soldiers thought and said when they missed their boat nobody knows. He did not see them again.
It was a long journey. The creek was crooked and winding. Night came on before he reached the river. Then he paddled on till midnight. Ten hours of hard toil had passed when he saw the dark hull of a gunboat nearby.
"Ship ahoy!" he cried.
"Who goes there?" called the lookout.
"A friend. Take me up."
A boat was lowered and rowed towards him. The officer in it looked with surprise when he saw a mud-covered man, with scratched and bleeding face.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Lieutenant Cushing, or what is left of him."
"Cushing!—and how about the Albemarle?"
"She will never trouble Uncle Sam's ships again. She lies in her muddy grave on the bottom of the Roanoke."
Cheers followed this welcome news, and when the gallant lieutenant was safe on board the Valley City the cheers grew tenfold.
For Lieutenant Cushing had done a deed which was matched for daring only once in the history of our navy, and that was when Decatur burned the Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli.
HOW THE "GLOUCESTER" REVENGED THE SINKING OF THE "MAINE"
Deadly and Heroic Deeds in the War With Spain
IF you look at a map of the country we dwell in, you will see that it has a finger pointing south. That finger is called Florida, and it points to the beautiful island of Cuba, which spreads out there to right and left across the sea of the South.
The Spaniards in Cuba were very angry when they found the United States trying to stop the war which they had carried on so mercilessly. They thought this country had nothing to do with their affairs. And in Havana, the capital city of the island, riots broke out and Americans were insulted.
Never before in the history of the United States navy had there been so terrible a disaster as the sinking of the Maine by a frightful and deadly explosion in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on February 15, 1898, and never was there greater grief and indignation in the United States than when the story was told.
Do you know what followed this dreadful disaster? But of course you do, for it seems almost yesterday that the Maine went down with her slaughtered crew. Everybody said that the Spaniards had done this terrible deed and Spain should pay for it. We all said so and thought so, you and I and all true Americans.
Before the loss of the Maine many people thought we ought to go to war with Spain, and put an end to the cruelty with which the Cubans were treated. After her loss there were not many who thought we ought not to. Our people were in a fury. They wanted war, and were eager to have it.
The heads of the government at Washington felt the same way. Many millions of dollars were voted by Congress, and much of this was spent in buying ships and hiring and repairing ships, and much more of it in getting the army ready for war.
For Congress was as full of war-feeling as the people. President McKinley would have liked to have peace, but he could no more hold back the people and Congress than a man with an ox-chain could hold back a locomotive. So it was that, two months after the Maine sank in the mud of Havana harbor, like a great coffin filled with the dead, war was declared against Spain.
Now, I wish to tell you how the loss of the Maine was avenged. I am not going to tell you here all about what our navy did in the war. There are some good stories to tell about that. But just here we have to think about the Maine and her murdered men, and have to tell about how one of her officers paid Spain back for the dreadful deed.
As soon as the telegraph brought word to the fleet at Key West that "War is declared," the great ships lifted their anchors and sped away, bound for Cuba, not many miles to the south. And about a month afterward this great fleet of battleships, and monitors, and cruisers, and gunboats were in front of the harbor of Santiago, holding fast there Admiral Cervera and his men, who were in Santiago harbor with the finest warships owned by Spain.
There were in the American fleet big ships and little ships, strong ships and weak ships; and one of the smallest of them all was the little Gloucester. This had once been a pleasure yacht, used only for sport. It was now a gunboat ready for war. It had only a few small guns, but these were of the "rapid-fire" kind, which could pour out iron balls almost as fast as hailstones come from the sky in a storm.
And in command of the Gloucester was Lieutenant Wainwright, who had been night officer of the Maine when that ill-fated ship was blown up by a Spanish mine. The gallant lieutenant was there to avenge his lost ship.
I shall tell you later about how the Spanish ships dashed out of the harbor of Santiago on the 3d of July and what happened to them. Just now you wish to know what Lieutenant Wainwright and the little Gloucester did on that great day, and how Spain was made to pay for the loss of the Maine.
As soon as the Spanish ships came out, the Gloucester dashed at them, like a wasp trying to sting an ox. She steamed right across the mouth of the harbor until she almost touched one of the great Spanish ships, all the time firing away like mad at its iron sides.
The brave Wainwright saw two little boats coming out behind these big ones. These were what are called torpedo-boats.
Do you know what this means? A torpedo-boat is little, but it can dart through the water with the speed of the wind. And it carries torpedoes—iron cases filled with dynamite—which it can shoot out against the great warships. One of these could tear a gaping hole in the side of a battleship and send it, with all on board, to the bottom. A torpedo-boat is the rattlesnake of the sea. It is little, but it is deadly.
But Lieutenant Wainwright and the men of the Gloucester were not afraid of the Furor and the Pluton, the Spanish torpedo-boats. As soon as they saw these boats they drove their little vessel toward them at full speed. The Gloucester came under the fire of one of the Spanish forts, but she did not mind that any more than if boys were throwing oyster-shells at her.
Out from her guns came a torrent of balls like water from a pump. But the water drops were made of iron, and hit hard. The Furor and Pluton tried to fire back, but their men could not stand that iron rain. For twenty minutes it kept on, and then all was over with the torpedo-boats. They tried to run ashore, but down to the bottom they both went. Of all their men only about two dozen were picked up alive. The rest sank to the bottom of the bay.
Thus Wainwright and his little yacht avenged the Maine, and the dreadful tragedy in Havana harbor was paid for in Santiago Bay.
THE GREAT VICTORY OF MANILA BAY
Dewey Destroys a Fleet Without Losing a Man
GEORGE DEWEY was a Green Mountain boy, a son of the Vermont hills. Many good stories are told of his schoolboy days, and when he grew up to be a man everybody that knew him said that he was a fine fellow, who would make his mark. And they were right about him, though he had to wait a long time for the chance to show what he would do.
Dewey was sent to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and when the Civil War began he was a lieutenant in the navy. He was with Farragut on the Mississippi, and did some gallant deeds on that great river.
When the war with Spain began Dewey was on the Chinese coast with a squadron of American ships. He had been raised in rank and was Commodore Dewey then. A commodore, you should know, was next above a captain and next below an admiral.
Commodore Dewey had four fine ships, the cruisers Olympia, Baltimore, Raleigh, and Boston. He had also two gunboats and a despatch-boat, making seven in all.
These vessels were at Hong Kong, a British seaport in China. They could not stay there after war with Spain was declared, for Hong Kong was a neutral port, and after war begins fighting ships must leave neutral ports. But Dewey knew where to go, for under the ocean and over the land there had come to him a telegram from Washington, more than ten thousand miles away, which said, "Seek the Spanish fleet and capture or destroy it." Dewey did not waste any time in obeying orders.
He knew where to seek the Spanish fleet. A few hundred miles away to the east of China lay the fine group of islands called the Philippines, which then belonged to Spain. In Luzon, the biggest of these islands, was the fine large City of Manila, the centre of the Spanish power in the East. So straight across the China Sea Dewey went at all speed towards this seaport of Spain.
On the morning of Saturday, April 30, 1898, the men on the leading ship saw land rising in the distance, green and beautiful, and farther away they beheld the faint blue lines of the mountains of Luzon. Down this green tropical coast they sped, and when night was near at hand they came close to the entrance of Manila Bay.
Here there were forts to pass; and the ships were slowed up. Dewey was ready to fight with ships, but he did not want to fight with forts, so he waited for darkness to come before going in. He thought that he might then pass these forts without being seen by the men in them.
They waited until near midnight, steaming slowly along until they came to the entrance to the bay. The moon was in the sky, but gray clouds hid its light. They could see the two dark headlands of the harbor's mouth rising and, between them, a small, low island. On this island were the forts which they had to pass.
As they came near, all the lights on the ships were put out or hidden, except a small electric light at the stern of each ship, for the next one to see and follow.
Steam was put on, and the ships glided swiftly and silently in, like shadows in the darkness. All was silent in the Spanish forts. The sentinels seemed fast asleep.
Some of the ships had passed before the Spaniards waked up. Then a rocket shot up into the air, and there came a deep boom and a flash of flame. A shell went whizzing through the darkness over the ships and plunged into the water beyond.
Some shots were fired back, but in a few minutes it was all over and Dewey's squadron was safe in Manila Bay. The gallant American sailors had made their way into the lion's den.
The Bay of Manila is a splendid body of water, running many miles into the land. The City of Manila is about twenty miles from the harbor's mouth, and the ships had to go far in before its distant lights were seen, gleaming like faint stars near the earth.
But it was not the city Dewey was after. He was seeking the Spanish fleet. When the dawn came, and the sun rose behind the city, he saw sails gleaming in its light. But these were merchant vessels, not the warships he had come so far to find.
The keen eyes of the commodore soon saw the ships he was after. There they lay, across the mouth of the little bay of Cavite, south of the city, a group of ships-of-war, nine or ten in number.
This brings us to the beginning of the great naval battle of the war. Let us stop now and take a look around. If you had been there I know what you would have said. You would have said that the Americans were sure to win, for they had the biggest ships and the best guns. Yes, but you must remember that the Spaniards were at home, while the Americans were not; and that makes a great difference. If they had met out on the open sea Dewey would have had the best of the game. But here were the Spanish ships drawn up in a line across a narrow passage, with a fort on the right and a fort on the left, and with dynamite mines under the water. And they knew all about the distances and soundings and should have known just how to aim their guns so as to hit a mark at any distance. All this the Americans knew nothing about.
When we think of this it looks as if Dewey had the worst of the game. But some of you may say that the battle will tell best which side had the best and which the worst. Yes, that's true; but we must always study our players before we begin our game.
George Dewey did not stop long to think and study. He was there to take his chances. The minute he saw the Spanish ships he went for them as a football player goes for the line of his opponents.
Forward went the American squadron, with the Stars and Stripes floating proudly at every mast-head. First of all was the flagship Olympia, with Dewey standing on its bridge. Behind came the other ships in a long line.
As they swept down in front of the city the great guns of the forts sent out their balls. Then the batteries on shore began to fire. Then the Spanish ships joined in. There was a terrible roar. Just in front of the Olympia two mines exploded, sending tons of water into the air. But they had been set off too soon, and no harm was done.
All this time the American ships swept grandly on, not firing a gun; and Dewey stood still on the bridge while shot and shell from the Spanish guns went hurling past. He was there to see, and danger did not count just then.
As they drove on an old sea-dog raised the cry, "Remember the Maine!" and in a minute the shout ran through the ship. Still on went the Olympia, like a great mastiff at which curs are barking. At length Dewey spoke,—
"You may fire when you are ready, Captain Gridley," he said. Captain Gridley was ready and waiting. In an instant a great eight-inch shell from the Olympia went screaming through the air.
This was the signal. The Baltimore and the Boston followed, and before five minutes had passed every ship was pouring shot and shell on the Spanish squadron and forts. Great guns and small guns, slow-fire guns and rapid-fire guns, hand guns and machine guns, all boomed and barked together, and their shot whistled and screamed, until it sounded like a mighty carnival of death.
Down the Spanish line swept the American ships. Then they turned and swept back, firing from the other side of the ships. Six times, this way, they passed the Spanish ships, while the air was full of great iron balls and dense clouds of smoke floated over all.
You will not ask which side had the best of the battle after I tell you one thing. The Americans had been trained to aim and fire, and the Spaniards had not. Here overhead flew a Spanish shell. There another plunged into the water without reaching a ship. Hardly one of them reached its mark. Not an American was killed or wounded. A box of powder went off and hurt a few men, and that was all.
But the Spanish ships were rent and torn like deer when lions get among them, and their men fell by dozens at a time. It was one of the most one-sided fights ever seen.
Admiral Montojo, of the Spanish fleet, could not stand this. He started out with his flagship, named the Reina Cristina, straight for the Olympia, which he hoped to cut in two. But as soon as his ship appeared all the American ships turned their guns on it, and riddled it with a frightful storm of iron.
The brave Spaniard saw that his ship would be sunk if he went on. He turned to run back, but as he did so a great eight-inch shell struck his ship in the stern and went clear through to the bow, scattering death and destruction on every side. It exploded one of the boilers. It blew open the deck. It set the ship on fire. White smoke came curling up. The ship fought on as the fire burned, but she was past hope.
Two torpedo-boats came out, but they could not stand the storm any better than the Reina Cristina. In a few minutes one of them was cut through and went like a stone to the bottom. The other ran in faster than she had come out and went ashore.
For two hours this dreadful work went on. Then Dewey thought it was time to give his men a rest and let them have some breakfast, so he steamed away. Three of the Spanish ships were burning like so much tinder, and it was plain that the battle was as good as won.
A little after eleven o'clock the American ships came back fresh as ever, all of them with the Stars and Stripes afloat. The Spanish flag was flying too, but nearly every ship was in flames. But the Spaniards were not whipped yet. They began to fire again, and so for another hour the fight went on. At the end of that time the guns were silenced, the flags had gone down, and the battle was won.
That was the end of the most one-sided victory in the history of the American navy. All the Spanish ships were on fire and had sunk in the shallow bay. Hundreds of their men were dead or wounded. The American ships were nearly as good as ever, for hardly a shot had struck them, and only eight men were slightly hurt. The Spaniards had fired fast enough, but they had wasted nearly all their shot.
When the people of the United States heard of this great victory they were wild with delight. Before that very few had heard of George Dewey; now he was looked on as one of our greatest naval heroes. "Dewey on the bridge," with shot and shell screaming about him, was as fine a figure as "Farragut in the shrouds" had once been.
Congress made him a rear-admiral at once, and soon after they made him an admiral. This is the highest rank in the American navy. Only Farragut and Porter had borne it before.
HOBSON AND THE SINKING OF THE "MERRIMAC"
An Heroic Deed Worthy of the American Navy
SOME of us know what a dark night is and some of us don't. Those who live in cities, under the glare of the electric light, hardly ever see real darkness. One must go far into the country, and be out on a cloudy night, to know what it means to be really in the dark. Or to be out at sea, with not a light above or below.
It was on such a night that a great black hulk moved like a sable monster through the waters off the coast of Cuba. This was the night of June 3, 1898. There was a moon somewhere in the sky, but thick clouds lay over it and snuffed out its light. And on the vessel not a light was to be seen and not a sound could be heard. It was like a mighty beast gliding on its prey.
This vessel was the Merrimac, which had carried a load of coal to the American fleet that lay outside of Santiago de Cuba. Inside the harbor there were four fine Spanish ships-of-war. But these were like foxes run into their hole, with the hunters waiting for them outside.
The harbor of Santiago is something like a great, mis-shipen water-bottle, and the passage into the harbor is like the neck of the bottle. Now, if you want to keep anything from getting out of a bottle you drive a cork into its neck. And that is just what the Americans were trying to do. The Merrimac was the cork with which they wanted to fasten up the Spanish ships in the water-bottle of Santiago.
The captain of the Merrimac was a young officer named Richard P. Hobson, who was ready to give his life, if he must, for his country. Admiral Sampson did not like to send anyone into such terrible danger, but the daring young man insisted on going, and he had no trouble in getting seven men to go with him.
Most of the coal had been taken out of the Merrimac, but there was enough left to sink her to the bottom like a stone. And along both sides there had been placed a row of torpedoes, filled with gunpowder and with electric wires to set them off when the right time came.
Hobson was to try to take the ship to the right spot, and then to blow holes in her sides with the torpedoes and sink her across the channel. Would not he and his men sink with her? Oh, well, they took the chances on that.
Lieutenant Hobson had a fine plan laid out; but the trouble with fine plans is that they do not always work in a fine way. He was to go in to where the channel was very narrow. Then he was to let the anchor fall and swing the ship round crossways with the rudder. Then he would touch the button to fire the torpedoes. When that was done they would all jump overboard and swim to the little boat that was towed astern. They expected the Merrimac would sink across the channel and thus cork it up.
That was the plan. Don't you think it was a very good one? I am sure Lieutenant Hobson and Admiral Sampson thought so, and felt sure they were going to give the Spaniards a great deal of trouble.
It was about three o'clock when the Merrimac came into the mouth of the channel. Here it was pitch dark and as still as death. But the Spaniards were not asleep. They had a small picket-boat in the harbor's mouth, on the lookout for trouble, and its men saw a deeper darkness moving through the darkness.
They thought it must be one of the American warships and rowed out and fired several shots at it. One of these hit the chains of the rudder and carried them off. That spoiled Hobson's plan of steering across the channel. You see, as I have just told you, it does not take much to spoil a good plan.
The alarm was given and the Spaniards in the forts roused up. They looked out and saw this dark shadow gliding swiftly on through the gloom. They, too, thought it must be an American battleship, and that the whole fleet might be coming close behind to attack the ships in the harbor.
The guns of Morro Castle and of the shore batteries began to rain their balls on the Merrimac. Then the Spanish ships joined in and fired down the channel until there was a terrible roar. And as the Merrimac drove on, a dynamite mine under the water went off behind her, flinging the water into the air, but not doing her any harm.
The cannonade was fierce and fast, but the darkness and the smoke of the guns hid the Merrimac, and she went on unhurt. Soon the narrow part of the channel was reached. Then the anchor was dropped to the bottom and the engines were made to go backward. The helm was set, but the ship did not turn. Hobson now first learned that the rudder chains were gone and the ship could not be steered. The little picket-boat had spoiled his fine plan.
There was only one thing left to do. He touched the electric button. In a second a dull roar came up from below and the ship pitched and rolled. A thousand pounds of powder had exploded and blown great jagged holes in the ship's sides.
Hobson and his men leaped over the side into the water. Those who were slow about it were flung over by the shock. Down plunged the Merrimac beneath the waves, while loud cheers came from the forts. The Spanish gunners were glad, for they thought they had sunk a great American battleship.
But it does not matter to us what the Spaniards thought. All we want to know is what became of Lieutenant Hobson and his daring men. Their little boat had been carried away by a Spanish shot, and they were swimming in the deep waters without knowing what would be their fate. On one side was the sea; on the other were the Spaniards: they did not know which would be the worst.
"I swam away from the ship as soon as I struck the water," said Hobson, "but I could feel the eddies drawing me backward in spite of all I could do. That did not last long, however, and as soon as I felt the tugging cease I turned and struck out for the float, which I could see dimly bobbing up and down over the sunken hull."
The float he spoke of was a sort of raft which lay on the ship's deck, with a rope tied to it so as to let it float. The rope pulled one side of it a little under the water, so that the other side was a little above the water.
This was a good thing for Hobson and his men, for Spanish boats were soon rowing out to where the ship had gone down. The eight men got under the high side of the raft, and held on to it by putting their fingers through the crevices.
"All night long we stayed there with our noses and mouths barely out of the water," says Hobson.
They were afraid to speak or move, for fear they would be shot by the men in the boats. It was that way all night long. Boats kept rowing about, some of them very close, but nobody thought of looking under the raft. The water felt warm at first, but after a while it felt cold, and their fingers ached and their teeth chattered.
One of the men, who thought he could not stand this any longer, left the raft and started to swim ashore. Hobson had to call him back. He came at once, but the call was heard on the boats and they rowed swiftly up. But they did not find the hiding place of the men and rowed away again.
After daylight came Hobson saw a steam-launch approaching from the ships. There were officers in it, and when it came near he gave it a hail. His voice seemed to scare the men on board, for they backed off in great haste.
They were still more surprised when they saw a number of men clamber out from under the float. The marines in the launch were about to fire, but the officers would not let them.
Then Hobson swam towards the launch and called out in Spanish:
"Is there an officer on board?"
"Yes," came the reply.
"I have seven men to surrender," said Hobson.
He now swam up and was seized and lifted out of the water. One of the men who had hold of him was Admiral Cervera, the commander of the Spanish fleet.
The admiral gave an odd look at the queer kind of fish he had caught. Hobson had been in the engine-room of the Merrimac and was covered with oil, coal-dust, and soot. But he wore his officer's belt, and when he pointed to that the admiral smiled and bade him welcome.
Then the men were taken on board the launch, where they were well treated. They had come very near death and had escaped.
Of course, you want to read the rest of this story. Well, they were locked up in Morro Castle. This was a fine old fort on the cliff at the harbor's mouth, where they could see the great shells come in from the ships and explode, and see the Spanish gunners fire back.
Admiral Cervera was very kind to them and sent word to Admiral Sampson that they were safe, and that he would exchange them for Spanish prisoners.
They were not exchanged until July 7, and by that time Admiral Cervera's ships had all been destroyed and he was a prisoner himself.
SAMPSON AND SCHLEY WIN RENOWN
The Greatest Sea Fight of the Century
I HAVE told you what Hobson did and what Wainwright did at Santiago. Now it is time to tell all about what the ships did there; the story of the great Spanish dash for liberty and its woeful ending.
Santiago is the second city of Cuba. It lies as far to the east as Havana does to the west, and is on the south of the island, while Havana is on the north. Like Havana, it has a fine harbor, which is visited by many ships.
Well, soon after the war with Spain began, our naval captains were in trouble. They had a riddle given them for which they could not find the answer. There was a squadron of Spanish warships at sea, and nobody knew where to look for them. They might fire into the cities along the coast and do no end of damage. Maybe there was not much danger of this; but there is nothing sure in war, and it does not take much to scare some people.
The navy wanted to be on the safe side, so one part of the fleet was put on the lookout along our coast; and another part, under Commodore Schley, went around the west end of the island of Cuba; and a third part, under Admiral Sampson, went to the east. They were all on the hunt for the Spanish ships, but for days and days nothing of them was to be seen.
After they had looked into this hole and into that hole along the coast, like sea-dogs hunting a sea-coon, word came that the Spanish ships had been seen going into Santiago harbor. Then straight for Santiago went all the fleet, with its captains very glad to have the answer to the riddle.
Never before had the United States so splendid a fleet to fight with. There were five fine battleships, the Iowa, the Indiana, the Massachusetts, the Oregon, and the Texas. Then there was the New York, Admiral Sampson's flagship, and the Brooklyn, Commodore Schley's flagship. These were steel-clad cruisers, not so heavy, but much faster than the battleships. Besides these there were monitors, and cruisers, and gunboats, and vessels of other kinds, all spread like a net around the mouth of the harbor, ready to catch any big fish that might swim out. Do you not think that was a pretty big crowd of ships to deal with the Spanish squadron, which had only four cruisers and two torpedo-boats?
But then, you know, the insider sometimes has a better chance than the outsider. It is not easy to keep such a crowd of vessels together out at sea. They run out of coal, or get out of order, or something else happens. If the insider keeps his eyes wide open and waits long enough his chance will come.
Admiral Cervera, the Spanish commander, was in a very tight place. Outside lay the American ships, and inside was the American army, which kept pushing ahead and was likely to take Santiago in a few days. If he waited he might be caught like a rat in a trap. And if he came outside he might be caught like a fish in a net. He thought it all over and he made up his mind that it was better to be a fish than a rat, so he decided to come out of the harbor.
He waited till the 3d of July. On that day there were only five of the big ships outside—four of the battleships and the cruiser Brooklyn. And two of the battleships were a little out of order and were being made right. Admiral Sampson had gone up the coast with the New York for a talk with the army general, so he was out of the way.
No doubt the Spanish lookouts saw all this and told their admiral what they had seen. So, on that Sunday morning, with every vessel under full steam, the Spaniards raised their anchors and started on their last cruise.
Now let us take a look at the big ships outside. On these everybody was keeping Sunday. The officers had put on their best Sunday clothes, and the men were lying or lounging idly about the deck. Of course, there were lookouts aloft. Great ships like these always have their lookouts. A war-vessel never quite goes to sleep. It always keeps one eye open. This Sunday morning the lookouts saw smoke coming up the harbor, but likely enough they thought that the Spaniards were frying fish for their Sunday breakfast.
And so the hours went on until it was about half-past nine. Then an officer on the Brooklyn called to the lookout aloft:
"Isn't that smoke moving?"
The answer came back with a yell that made everybody jump:
"There's a big ship coming out of the harbor!"
In a second the groups of officers and men were on their feet and wide-awake. The Spaniards were coming! Nobody now wanted to be at home or to go a-fishing. There were bigger fish coming into their net.
"Clear the ship for action!" cried Commodore Schley.
From every part of the ship the men rushed to their quarters. Far down below the stokers began to shovel coal like mad into the furnaces. In the turrets the gun-crews hurried to get their guns ready. The news spread like lightning, and the men made ready like magic for the terrible work before them.
It was the same on all the ships as on the Brooklyn, for all of them saw the Spaniards coming. Down past the wreck of the Merrimac sped Cervera's ships, and headed for the open sea. First came the Maria Teresa, the admiral's flagship. Then came the Vizcaya, the Oquendo, and the Cristobal Colon, and after them the two torpedo-boats.
"Full speed ahead! Open fire!" roared the commodore from the bridge of the Brooklyn, and in a second there came a great roar and a huge iron globe went screaming towards the Spanish ships.
It was the same on the other ships. Five minutes before they had been swinging lazily on the long rolling waves, everybody at rest. Now clouds of black smoke came pouring from their funnels, every man was at his post, every gun ready for action, and the great ships were beginning to move through the water at the full power of the engines. And from every one of them came flashes as of lightning, and roars as of thunder, and huge shells went whirling through the air toward the Spanish ships.
Out of the channel they dashed, four noble ships, and turned to the west along the coast. Only the Brooklyn was on that side of the harbor, and for ten minutes three of the Spanish ships poured at her a terrible fire.
But soon the Oregon, the Indiana, the Iowa, and the Texas came rapidly up, and the Spanish gunners had new game to fire at.
You might suppose that the huge iron shells, whirling through the air, and bursting with a frightful roar, would tear and rend the ships as though they were made of paper.
But just think how it was at Manila, where the Spaniards fired at the sea and the sky, and the Americans fired at the Spanish ships. It was the same here at Santiago. The Spaniards went wild with their guns and wasted their balls, while the Americans made nearly every shot tell.
It was a dreadful tragedy for Spain that day on the Cuban coast. The splendid ships which came out of the harbor so stately and trim, soon looked like ragged wrecks. In less than half an hour two of them were ashore and in a fierce blaze, and the two others were flying for life. The first to yield was the Maria Teresa, the flagship of the admiral. One shell from the Brooklyn burst in her cabin and in a second it was in flames. One from the Texas burst in the engine-room and broke the steam-pipe. Some burst on the deck; some riddled the hull; death and terror were everywhere.
The men were driven from the guns, the flames rose higher, the water poured in through the shot holes, and there was nobody to work the pumps. All was lost, and the ship was run ashore and her flag pulled down.
In very few minutes the Oquendo followed the flagship ashore, both of them looking like great blazing torches. The shells from the great guns had torn her terribly, many of her crew had been killed, and those who were left had to run her ashore to keep her from going to the bottom of the sea.
In half an hour, as you may see, two of the Spanish ships had been half torn to pieces and driven ashore, and only two were still afloat. These were the Vizcaya and the Cristobal Colon. When the Maine was sent to Havana, before the beginning of the war, a Spanish warship was sent to New York. This was the Vizcaya. She was a trim and handsome ship and her officers had a hearty welcome.
It was a different sort of welcome she now got. The Brooklyn and the Oregon were after her and her last day had come. So hot was the fire that her men were driven from their guns and flames began to appear.
Then she, too, was run ashore and her flag was hauled down. It was just an hour after the chase began and she had gone twenty miles down the coast. Now she lay blazing redly on the shallow shore and in the night she blew up. It was a terrible business, the ruin of those three fine vessels.
There was one more Spanish ship, the Cristobal Colon. (This is the Spanish for Christopher Columbus.) She was the fastest of them all, and for a time it looked as if Spain might save one of her ships.
But there were bloodhounds on her track, the Brooklyn, six miles behind, and the Oregon, more than seven miles away.
Swiftly onward fled the deer, and swiftly onward followed the war-hounds. Mile by mile they gained on the chase. About one o'clock, when she was four miles away, the Oregon sent a huge shell whizzing from one of her great 13-inch guns. It struck the water just behind the Colon; but another that followed struck the water ahead.
Then the Brooklyn tried her eight-inch guns, and sent a shell through the Colon's side, above her belt of steel. For twenty minutes this was kept up. The Colon was being served like her consorts. At the end of that time her flag was pulled down and the last of the Spanish ships ran ashore. She had made a flight for life of nearly fifty miles.
This, you see, is not the story of a sea-fight; it is the story of a sea-chase. Much has been said about who won the honor at Santiago, but I think any of you could tell that in a few words. It was the men who ran the engines and who aimed the guns that won the game. The commanders did nothing but run after the runaway Spaniards, and there is no great honor in that. What else was there for them to do? They could not run the other way.