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Copy of a Letter from Captain Hull to the Secretary of

the Navy. Sir, United States' Frigate Constitution, August 28, 1812.

The enclosed account of the affair between the President, commodore Rodgers, and the British frigate Belvidera, fell into my hands by accident. It clearly proves that she only escaped the commodore by superior sailing, after having lightened her, and the President being very deep.

As much has been said on this subject; and commodore Rodgers has not arrived to give you his statement of the affair, if it meet your approbation I should be pleased to have this account published, to prevent people from making up their minds hastily, as I find them willing to do.

I am confident could the commodore have got alongside the Belvidera, she would have been his, in less than one hour. I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir, your obedient servant,

ISAAC HULL. The Honourable Paul Hamilton, &c.

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An Account of the Proceedings of his Majesty's ship Belvidera;

Richard Byron, Esq. Captain, 23d day of June, 1812. A. M., 4, 40, N intucket Shoal bearing S. W. saw several sail, made sail towards them ; at 6, 30, they bore S. W. S. made them out to be three frigates, one sloop, and one brig of war, standing to the S. E. under a press of sail

. Observed them to make signals, and haul up in chase of us, hauling down their steering sails, in a confused and irregular manner. Tacked ship, and made the private signal, which was not answered; made all sail possible. N. E. by E. at eight, moderate and fine weather, the headmost ship of the chase S. S. W. ; W. apparently gaining ground on us at times, and leaving her consorts. At 11, 30, hoisted our colours and pendant, the chase hoisted American colours, two of them hoisted commodores' broad pendants, at noon the commodore and the second headmost ship of the chase S. W. * W. about 2) of a mile, Nantucket Shoal N. 400 E. 48 miles, moderate and fine weather, cleared ship for action, commodore of chase gaining, the other ships dropping, observed the chase pointing her guns at us; at 3, 30, the commodore fired three shots, one of which struck the rudder coat, and came into the after gun-room, the other two came into the upper, or captain's cabin, one of which struck the muzzle of the larboard chase gun, the other went through the beam under the skylight, killed William Gould, seaman;

FF

VOL. II.

wounded John Hill, armourer, mortally; Joseph Lee, seaman, severely; George Marlon, ship's corporal, badly; Lieutenant Bruce, James Kelly, and James Larmont, seamen, slightly. At 3, 45, commenced firing with our stern guns, shot away her larboard lower steering-sail, keeping our ship a steady course N. E. by E. At four the chase bore

up

and fired her larboard broadside, which cut our rigging and sails much, the long bolts, breeching hooks, and breechings of the guns and carronades frequently breaking (by one of which captain Byron was severely wounded in the left thigh), all of which was instantly replaced. Kept up a constant fire, which was returned by our opponent with bow chase guns, and at times by broadsides, which, by her superiority of sailing, she was enabled to do till 6, 45, when we cut away our spare sheet, and small bower anchors, barge, yawl, and jolly-boats, and started fourteen tons of water; we then gained on him, when he bore up and fired three broadsides, part of which fell short of us; at seven our opponent ceased firing, and the second frigate commenced, but finding her shot fall short, ceased again. Employed fishing our cross-jack yard, and main top-mast (both badly wounded), knotting and splicing our rigging, which was much cut and damaged. At eleven altered our course to E. by S. 1 S. and lost sight of our opponents.

ESCAPE OF THE CONSTITUTION.

United States' Frigate Constitution, at Sea, Sir,

July, 21, 1812. In pursuance of your orders of the 3d instant, I left Annapolis on the 5th instant, and the capes on the 12th, of which I advised you by the pilot who brought the ship to

sea.

For several days after we got out, the wind was light and a-head, which with a strong southerly current prevented our making much way to the northward. On the 17th, at two, P. M., being in 22 fathoms water off Egg Harbour, four sail of ships were discovered from the mast head, to the northward and in shore of us, apparently ships of war. The wind being very light all sail was made in chase of them, to ascertain whether they were the enemy's ships or our squadron having got out of New York, waiting the arrival of the Constitution, the latter of which I had reason to believe was the

case.

At four in the afternoon, a ship was seen from the mast head, bearing about N. E., standing for us under all sail, which she continued to do until sun-down, at which time she was too far off to distinguish signals, and the ships in shore only to be seen from the tops ; they were standing off to the southward and eastward. As we could not ascertain before dark what the ship in the offing was, I determined to stand for her, and get near enough to make the night signal.

At ten in the evening, being within six or eight miles of the strange sail, the private signal was made, and kept up nearly one hour, but finding she could not answer it I concluded she and the ships in shore were 'enemy.

I immediately hauled off to the southward and eastward, and made all sail, having determined to lie off till day-light to see what they were. The ship that we had been chasing hauled off after us, showing a light and occasionally making signals, supposed to be for the ships in shore.

18th, at day-light, or a little before it was quite light, saw two sail under our lee, which proved to be frigates of the enemy's. One frigate astern within about five or six miles, and a line of battle ship, a frigate, a brig, and schooner, about ten or twelve miles directly astern, all in chase of us, with a fine breeze, and coming up fast, it being nearly calm where

Soon after sun-rise the wind entirely left us and the ship would not steer, but fell round off with her head towards the two ships under our lee. The boats were instantly hoisted out and sent ahead to tow the ship's head round, and to endeavour to get her farther from the enemy, being then within five miles of three heavy frigates. The boats of the enemy were got out and sent ahead to tow, by which, with the light air that remained with them, they came up very fast. Finding the enemy gaining on us, and but little chance of escaping from them, I ordered two of the guns on the gundeck to be run out at the cabin windows for stern guns on the gun-deck, and hoisted one of the 24 pounders off the gundeck, and run that, with the forecastle gun, an 18 pounder, out at the ports on the quarter-deck, and cleared the ship for action, being determined they should not get her without resistance on our part, notwithstanding their force and the situation we were placed in.

At about seven in the morning, the ship nearest us approaching within gun shot, and directly astern, I ordered one of the stern guns fired to see if we could reach her to endeavour to disable her masts; found the shot fell a little short, would not fire any more.

we were.

At eight, four of the enemy's ships nearly within gun-shot, some of them having six or eight boats ahead towing, with all their oars and sweeps out to row them up with us, which they were fast doing. It now appeared that we must be taken, and that our escape was impossible-four heavy ships nearly within gun-shot, and coming up fast, and not the least hope of a breeze to give us a chance of getting off by outsailing them.

In this situation, finding ourselves in only twenty-four fathoms water, by the suggestion of that valuable officer lieutenant Morris, I determined to try and warp the ship ahead, by carrying out anchors and warping her up to them; three or four hundred fathoms of rope was instantly got up, and two anchors got ready and sent ahead, by which means we began to gain ahead of the enemy: they however soon saw our boats carrying out the anchors, and adopted the same plan, under very advantageous circumstances, as all the boats from the ships furthermost off were sent to tow and warp up those nearest to us, by which means they again came up, so that at nine the ship nearest us began to fire her bow guns, which we instantly returned by our stern guns in the cabin and on the quarter-deck. All the shot from the enemy fell short; but we have reason to believe that some of ours went on board her, as we could not see them strike the water. Soon after nine a second frigate passed under our lee and opened her broadside, but finding her shot fall short, discontinued her fire; but continued, as did all the rest of them, to make every possible exertion to get up with us. Prom nine to twelve all hands were employed in warping the ship ahead, and in starting some of the water in the main hold to lighten her, which with the help of a light air we rather gained of the enemy, or at least held our own. About two in the afternoon, all the boats from the line of battle-ship and some of the frigates were sent to the frigate nearest to us, to endeavour to tow her

up, but a light breeze sprung up, which enabled us to hold way with her, notwithstanding they had eight or ten boats ahead, and all her sails furled to tow her to windward. The wind continued light until eleven at night, and the boats were kept ahead towing and warping to keep out of the reach of the enemy, three of the frigates being very near us; at eleven we got a light breeze from the southward, the boats came alongside and were hoisted up, the ship having too much way to keep them ahead, the enemy still in chase, and very near.

19th, at day-light passed within gun-shot of one of the frigates, but she did not fire on us, perhaps for fear of becalming her, as the wind was light; soon after passing us she tacked and stood after us--at this time six sail were in sight, under all sail after us. At nine in the morning saw a strange sail on our weather beam, supposed to be an American merchant ship; the instant the frigate nearest us saw her she hoisted American colours, as did all the squadron in hopes to decoy her down; I immediately hoisted English colours, that she might not be deceived; she soon hauled her wind, and it is to be hoped made her escape. All this day the wind increased gradually, and we gained on the enemy, in the course of the day, six or eight miles; they however continued chasing us all night under a press of sail.

20th, at day-light in the morning, only three of them could be seen from the mast head, the nearest of which was about twelve miles off, directly ástern. All hands were set at work wetting the sails, from the royals down, with the engine and fire-buckets, and we soon found that we left the enemy very fast. At a quarter past eight the enemy finding that they were fast dropping astern, gave over chase, and hauled their wind to the northward, probably for the station off New-York.-At half past eight saw a sail ahead, gave chase after her under all sail. At nine saw another strange sail under our leebow, we soon spoke the first sail discovered, and found her to be an American brig from St. Domingo, bound to Portland: I directed the captain how to steer to avoid the enemy, and made sail for the vessel to leeward; on coming up with her, she proved to be an American brig from St. Bartholomews, bound to Philadelphia ; but on being informed of war he bore up for Charleston, S. C. Finding the ship so far to the south ward and eastward, and the enemy's squadron stationed off New-York, which would make it impossible for the ship to get in there, I determined to make for Boston, to receive your further orders, and I hope my having done so will meet your approbation. My wish to explain to you as clearly as possible why your orders have not been executed; and the length of time the enemy were in chase of us, with various other circumstances, have caused me to make this communication much longer than I could have wished, vet I cannot, in justice to the brave officers and crew under my command, close it without expressing to you the confidence I have in them, and assuring you that their conduct whilst under the guns of the enemy was such as might have been expected from American officers and seamen. I have the ho

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