Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ing up, to bring his vessel gallantly into close action. Capt. Elliot alledges that at the time the commodore relinquished the Lawrence and came on board the Niagara, he went to the head of the line, unauthorised and on his own responsibility. He apprehended that the commodore was dead, and was preparing to change the line of battle when that officer came on board the Niagara. Capt. Elliot discovering an important part of the fleet improperly placed, volunteered his services to pass the whole of the enemy's line, bring up these vessels and place them in a position more capable of annoying the enemy. To this proposition the commodore cordially assented. Accordingly Capt. Elliot passed in a small boat down the whole line, during which time the fire of the enemy was so incessant, that his clothes were wet from the water thrown all around him by the balls. The guo-boats were at that time throwing random and ineffectual shot at a distance, when Capt. Elliot commanded them to cease their firing, and to make sail and follow him. This was accordingly done, and he placed them un. der the stern of the two heaviest ships of the enemy. In this manner were the gun-boats all brought up and disposed by Capt. Elliot, when, after some considerable fire, the enemy's fleet struck their colours. The guns not having been fired from the Somers as he wished, he repaired on board that vessel and fired the thirty two pounder three times himself, while Commodore Perry gallantly broke the line of the enemy, and bringing both sides of the Niagara into action at once, the fire from the gun-boats raking them in another direction from their sterns, soon decided the fate of the day. It is singular in such contests to observe the accordance that sometimes bappen in the chances of war. Com. Perry, by breaking the enemy's line, passed ahead of his two heaviest ships, and, as before stated, poured in a raking fire from his starboard guns, while the gun-boats so disposed by Capt. Elliot, saluted them in the same manner from their sterns. The larboard guns at the same time gave a raking fire to a large schooner and sloop that he passed at half pistol shot distance.

We know not whether another instance can be produced in the annals of naval history, of bringing all the guns of a single ship to bear, and so effectually upon the enemy as was done by his bold project of breaking their line. It is no less astonishing that Capt. Elliot, without knowing how the senior officer proposed to manage the Niagara, should on his own responsibility, at such a time have placed the gun boats under the sterns of the enemy's largest ships, We

e see two great and gallant minds, maintaining an immoveable serenety in the midst of danger, and occupied solely by one great object, the destruction of the enemy's fleet, and acting strictly in concert, although unconscious of it themselves. It proves how nearly this etherial spirit is the same on whatever portion of humanity it acts, and that it is always consistent in the display of its proper character.

We all can admire the courage and skill of a successful warrior. Wherever victory impresses her dazzling stamp, we dare not call in question the act that passes her consecrated seal. And yet if we soberly investigate the matter, how nearly is even this wonder of the million allied to glorious rashoess. We will suppose that the light breeze which favoured Perry when he went on board the Niagara, and enabled him to pass triumphantly through the enemy's line, had settled to a dead calm when he had reached the head of the hostile ships. They would have wore round, and he, exposed to two full broadsides, and incapable of extricating himself, must have surrendered. But his raking fire threw every thing into confusion, and while he was rounding to, to pass the d-file again, the thunders of the gun-boats were breaking on their sterns. On such nice and delicate points rests the reputation of a hero. That successful breath of wind consecrated to fame the character of the American navy.

We hope it may not be deemed altogether unappropriate, since we have traced the character of this great spirit when surrounded by the lustre of victory, to observe its complexion under the shade of misfortune. Commodore Barclay, the British commander had participated in Nelson's lustre. Wounded and faict from the loss of blood, he was carried below; he beheld his fleet dispersed and captured with all that mortification felt by a generous and ardent mind, compelled to submit, but not conquered or enslaved by misfortune. He is sent home a prisoner on parole, and a festival is given by his countrymen to his honour. At that time and at that place, the toast of that gallant and heroic officer is, Commodore Perry, the brave and generous enemy. Nothing in all that has been said to Perry's honour equals this, and it may be generously retorted by every high minded American, that the gallant soul who could indulge in such a sentiment, has achieved a victory over misfortune more glorious than even the triumph of Erie. To Capt. Elliot belongs, beyond all dispute, an important share in the lustre of this memorable day. The moment he perceives the commodore's flag shitted on board his own ship, he con. siders what service he can now render, what new dangers he can encounter with a prospect of advantage. He assumes the command of the gun-boats with the same promptitude that he relinquished his own vessel, intent only on serving his country, and giving lustre to her name. Let the highest authority known to our laws speak for themselves on this occasion. Congress passed the following resolution :

“ Resolved, that the president of the United States be requested to cause gold medals to be struck, emblematic of the action between the two squadrons, and to be presented to Capt. Perry and to Capt. Jesse Elliot, in such manner as will be most agreeable to them, and that the president be further requested to present a silver medal, with suitable emblems and devices, to each of the commissioned officers either of the pavy or army, and a sword to each of the midshipmen and sailing masters who so nobly distinguished themselves on that day.”

Capt. Elliot, after the action on Erie, was entrusted with the arrangement of Gen. Harrison's boats in the embarkation and de. barkation of his troops, when he assumed the command of the fleet, and went up the lake. When Gen. Harrison's army advanced, he selected some of his best men to man three gun boats, for the purpose of boarding a force of gun boats the enemy were said to have collected in the Thames. These vessels unfortunately fell into the hands of the British, who destroyed them by fire before they were ready for action.

Capt. Elliot afterwards received orders to take the command of the fleet on lake Erie, and make preparations for the reduction of fort Mackinac in the spring. He received the thanks of the committee of Pennsylvania, the state from which he was introduced into the navy, accompanied by a gold medal.

Capt. Elliot is now attached to the squadron commanded by Com. Chauncey on lake Ontario, and has signalized himself in such a manner, as to have received the most marked acknowl. edgements from that gallant and intrepid officer.

The private life of Capt. Elliot affords a delightful and reposing contrast to that character in which we have all along seen bim invested. The warm and generous friend, the kind and hospitable companion, and the affectionate husband, are, at such seasons, all that remain of him who in the chase of fame is so prodigal of existence. He then cultivates assiduously all the tender charities of life, and veils from sight the poble stock round which they twine for support, by the intervening blossoms. The heart that no dar. ger could move, yields to the slightest touch of compassion.

Thus th: proud oak, when tompests race on high,
Shakes bis greu hrad against ine rowning, shy;
But when his lori ath the gentle ziphyr hearts,
Tule trembling dew-drops uickle from bislaves.

CHAPTER VII.

Naval operations on the ocean.....Com. Rodgers' cruise.....Chase

of the Constitution.....Capture of the Guerriere.... Comparison of American and British frigates.....Biography of Capt. Hull.

Com. Rodgers' cruize.....Com. Rodgers, on the 21st of June, having received instructions from the navy department, and offi. cial information of the declaration of war, sailed from New York, on board the President, having under his command, also, the United States, Congress, Argus, and Hornet. Previous to leav. ing New-York, he had learned that the homeward bound Jamai. ca fleet had sailed under convoy, on the 20th of the preceding month. He shaped his course eastwardly, in expectation of falling in with vessels which had seen the convoy ; and the follow. ing evening fell in with an American brig, which gave him such information as he desired. He now crowded all sail in pursuit ; but the next morning was taken out of bis course, by chasing the British frigate Belvidere,

The Belvidere was discovered on the 23d, at 6 A. M. when the squadron gave chase. The superiority of the President's sailing, while the breeze continued fresh, enabled her to get within gun shot between 4 and 5 P. M. when it had moderated so much as to give very faint hopes of getting along side.

At this time, perceiving she was training her guns to bear upon the President, the latter commenced a fire at her spars and rigging, with a view to cripple and get abreast of her. A fire was kept up about two hours. The President gave her two or three broad-sides, and kept up a well directed fire from the chase guns, which cut her sails and rigging very much, but did not succeed in destroying any of her spars, although some of them were much wounded. The President all this time was exposed to a running fire from her 4 stern chasers ; and once the British frigate commenced a fire from her main deck, with an intention of raking the President with a broadside, but at that moment receiving one from the President, continued her course under a press of sail, and used only her stern guns. All sail was crowded in pursuit, but in vain. The chase was now throwing overboard, every thing that could be spared, to increase her sailing, and escaped by the lightness of the wind. Four of her boats were seen floating by the President completely knocked to pieces, together with a great number of casks, spars, &c.

The President received considerable number of shot in her sails and rigging, but was not materially injured The chase was continued till about midnight, when it was relinquished as hopeless, and the President hove too for the squadron to come up.....

The convoy

Early in the chase, one of the President's chase guns, on the gun deck, burst, and injured the upper deck so much, as to prevent the use of the chase guns on that side for a considerable time. The President had three killed and nineteen wounded, most of the latter slightly; of the wounded 16 were by the bursting of a guy. By the same gun Com. Rodgers had bis leg fractured.

On board the Belvidere two were killed and seven wounded ; among the latter, her captain and one lieutenant.

The squadron then resumed its course in pursuit of the Jamai. ca fleet, but received no further intelligence of it until the 29th of June ; when on the western banks of Newfoundland, an American schooner was spoken, the master of which gave information that he had passed the feet two days before. On the 1st of July, a little to the eastward of Newfoundland bank, the squadron felt in with quantities of cocoa-nut shells, orange peals, &c. which indicated that the fleet was not far distant. The pursuit was now continued with great spirit, though frequent interruptions were occasioned by vessels it was necessary to pursue. No more intelligence was obtained until the 9th of July, when a British private armed brig was captured. She had seen the fleet the preceding evening, and had counted eighty-five sail. consisted of a two decker, a frigate, a sloop of war, and a brig.

This was the last intelligence the commodore received of the. fleet. He continued the pursuit until the 13th of July. He was then within eighteen or twenty hours' sail of the British channel. The Commodore now directed the squadron to steer for Madeira. It passed close by that island on the 21st of July ; thence near the Azores ; returned by the banks of Newfoundland, and entered the port of Boston, after a cruize of upwards of two months.

During the cruize seven merchant vessels were captured, and one American re-captured.

Though this cruize was not attended with any success of a brilliant nature, yet it was productive of considerable advantage, by the American squadron being thus united, and cruizing for such a length of time, the attention of the British vessels was drawn from the harbours of the United States, while they went in quest of it. Thus an almost incalculable amount of American property, that would otherwise have been captured, was brought safe into port.

Chase of the Constitutions.....On the 12th of July, the United States' frigate Constitution, Capt. Hull, sailed from Chesapeake bay. On the 16th Capt. Hull saw and gave chase to a frigate, but was unable, the wind being light, to come up with her before night. It continued calm during the night.

In the morning, Captain Hull found himself near an enemy's squadron, con

N

« ForrigeFortsett »