The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Second War with England, Vol. 2 of 2, by Joel Tyler Headley This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org/license Title: The Second War with England, Vol. 2 of 2 Author: Joel Tyler Headley Release Date: April 4, 2012 [EBook #39369] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE SECOND WAR WITH ENGLAND *** Produced by Chris Curnow, Lindy Walsh, Christine P. Travers and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
THE SECOND WAR WITH ENGLAND.
COM. PORTER IN THE BAY OF NOVAHEEVAH.
THE SECOND WAR
BY J. T. HEADLEY,
AUTHOR OF "NAPOLEON AND HIS MARSHALS," "WASHINGTON AND HIS GENERALS," "THE OLD GUARD," "SCOTT AND JACKSON," ETC. ETC.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
CHARLES SCRIBNER, 145 NASSAU STREET.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
C. W. BENEDICT,
Stereotyper and Printer,
12 Spruce Street, N. Y.
THE CREEK WAR.
Jackson's first service — Is appointed commander-in-chief of the Tennessee forces — Co-operation of other states — Jackson enters the Creek nation — Difficulties of his position — General Coffee's expedition — Relieves Fort Talladega — Battle of — Stormy condition of his army — Quells a mutiny — Abandoned by his troops — Quells a second mutiny — His boldness — A third mutiny suppressed — Left with but a hundred followers — Clairborne's movements — Arrival of reinforcements — Makes a diversion in favor of General Floyd — Battle of Nutessee — Battle of Emuckfaw — Ambuscade of the Indians — Gallantry of General Coffee — Battle of the "Horse Shoe" — The war ended — Jackson's character, 11
Cruise of Commodore Porter in the Essex — Arrival at Valparaiso — Capture of British whalers and letters of marque — Essex Junior — Marquesas Islands — Description of the natives — Madison Island — War with the Happahs — Invades the Typee territory — Tedious march — Beautiful prospect — Fights the natives and burns down their towns — Sails for Valparaiso — Blockaded by two English ships — Attempts to escape — Is attacked by both vessels — His gallant defence — His surrender — Returns home on parole — Insolence of an English Officer — Porter escapes in an open boat and lands on Long Island — Enthusiastic reception in New York, 45
Plan of the third Campaign — Attack on Sackett's Harbor — Attack on Oswego — Woolsey transports guns to Sackett's Harbor — Capture of the detachment sent against him — Expedition against Mackinaw — Death of Captain Holmes — Complete failure of the expedition, 67
Brown takes command of the army at Niagara — Crosses the river into Canada — Battle of Chippewa — Brilliant charge of the Americans — Desperate battle of Niagara — Conduct of Ripley — The army ordered to Fort Erie — General Gaines takes command, 74
Siege of Fort Erie — Assault and repulse of the British — Brown takes command — Resolves to destroy the enemy's works by a sortie — Opposed by his officers — The sortie — Anecdote of General Porter — Retreat of Drummond — Conduct of Izard, 101
British plan of invading our sea ports — Arrival of reinforcements — Barney's flotilla — Landing of the enemy under Ross — Doubt and alarm of the inhabitants — Advance of the British — Destruction of the Navy Yard — Battle of Bladensburg — Flight of the President and his Cabinet — Burning and sacking of Washington — Mrs. Madison's conduct during the day and night — Cockburn's brutality — Sudden explosion — A hurricane — Flight of the British — State of the army — Character of this outrage — Rejoicings in England — Mortification of our ambassadors at Ghent — Mistake of the English — Parker's expedition — Colonel Reed's defence — The English army advance on Baltimore — Death of Ross — Bombardment of Fort McHenry — "The star spangled banner" — Retreat of the British, and joy of the citizens of Baltimore, 114
Macomb at Plattsburg — American and English fleets on Lake Champlain — Advance of Prevost — Indifference of Governor Chittenden — Rev. Mr. Wooster — Macdonough — The two battles — Funeral of the officers — British invasion of Maine — McArthur's expedition, 147
The Navy in 1814 — Cruise of Captain Morris in the Adams — Narrow escapes — The Wasp and Reindeer — Cruise of the Wasp — Sinks the Avon — Mysterious fate of the Wasp — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Lieutenant Nicholson, 165
Third Session of the XIIIth Congress — State of the Treasury — The President's Message — Dallas appointed Secretary of the Treasury — His scheme and that of Eppes for the relief of the country — Our Commissioners at Ghent — Progress of the negotiations — English protocol — Its effect on Congress and the nation — Effect of its publication on the English Parliament, 174
Attitude of New England — Governor Strong — Views and purposes of the Federalists — Anxiety of Madison — Prudence of Colonel Jesup — Result of the Convention — Fears of the People — Fate of the Federalists, 191
General Jackson appointed Major-General — Hostility of Spain — Gallant defence of Fort Bowyer — Seizure of Pensacola — Jackson at New Orleans — Approach and landing of the British — Jackson proclaims martial law — Night attack on the British — Jackson entrenches himself — First attack of the British — Second attack — Final assault — The battle and the victory — Jackson fined by Judge Hall — Arrival of the Treaty of Peace — Great rejoicings — Delegates of the Hartford Convention — Remarks on the treaty, 199
Cruise of the Constitution — Action with the Cyane and Levant — Chased by a British fleet — England's views of neutral rights and the law of nations — Her honor and integrity at a discount — Singular escape of the Constitution — Recapture of the Levant under the guns of a neutral port — Lampoons on the English squadron for its contemptible conduct — Decatur — Capture of the President — The Hornet captures the Penguin — Chased by a ship of the line — Narrow escape — Cruise of the Peacock — Review of the American Navy — Its future destiny, 236
Character and daring of our privateers — Skill of American seamen — Acts of Congress relative to privateering — Names of ships — Gallant action of the Nonsuch — Success of the Dolphin — Cruise of the Comet — Narrow escape of the Governor Tompkins — Desperate action of the Globe with two brigs — The Decatur takes a British sloop of war — Action of the Neufchatel with the crew of the Endymion — Desperate defence of Captain Reed against the crews of British squadron — The Chasseur captures a British schooner of war — Character of the commanders of privateers — Anecdote, 258
Impressed Americans made prisoners of war — Treatment of prisoners — Prison Ships — Dartmoor prison — Neglect of American prisoners — Their sufferings — Fourth of July in Dartmoor — Brutal attack of the French prisoners — Fresh arrivals — Joy at the news of our naval victories — Sufferings of the prisoners in winter — American Government allows them three cents per diem — Moral effect of this notice of Government — Napoleon's downfall — Increased allowance of Government — Industry of prisoners — Attempts to escape — Extraordinary adventure of a lieutenant of a privateer — Number of prisoners increased — A riot to obtain bread — Dartmoor massacre — Messrs. King and L'Arpent appointed commissioners to investigate it — Decision — The end, 279
Jackson's first service — Is appointed commander in-chief of the Tennessee forces — Co-operation of other states — Jackson enters the Creek nation — Difficulties of his position — General Coffee's expedition — Relieves Fort Talladega — Battle of — Stormy condition of his army — Quells a mutiny — Abandoned by his troops — Quells a second mutiny — His boldness — A third mutiny suppressed — Left with but a hundred followers — Clairborne's movements — Arrival of reinforcements — Makes a diversion in favor of General Floyd — Battle of Nutessee — Battle of Emuckfaw — Ambuscade of the Indians — Gallantry of General Coffee — Battle of the "Horse Shoe" — The war ended — Jackson's character.
Allusion has been made to Jackson's campaign against the Creeks, but I purposely omitted an account of its progress, preferring to go back and make a continuous narrative. Although embracing a portion of two years, it composed a single expedition, and forms a whole which loses much of its interest by being contemplated in parts. After the cowardly surrender of General Hull, at Detroit, in the commencement of the war, Jackson offered his (p. 12) services to the government, and solicited the post which was assigned to Winchester. Disappointed in this, he repaired, at the order of the Secretary of War, to Natchez, to assist Wilkinson, then stationed there, to repel the attacks of the enemy should they advance up the Mississippi. But no danger from an attack in that quarter appearing, he was directed to disband his troops. Refusing to do this, on account of the number of sick in camp, many of them sons of his neighbors and friends, he became involved in a quarrel both with Wilkinson and his own officers. He, however, carried out his measures and led his men back in safety to their homes.1813.
Here he remained idle till the massacre at Fort Mimms, the news of which, together with the rising of the Indians all along our southern frontier, burst like a sudden thunder-clap on the neighboring States. Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, flew at once to arms. On the 17th of September a mass meeting assembled at Nashville, which with one voice nominated Jackson commander-in-chief of the troops of the State. Ten days after, the nomination was confirmed by the Legislature, and 200,000 dollars voted to carry on the war. Jackson immediately issued a stirring appeal to the people, in which, after describing the state of things, he urged them to assemble to his standard with all speed, saying, "Already are large bodies (p. 13) of the hostile Creeks marching to your borders, with their scalping-knives unsheathed to butcher your women and children: time is not to be lost. We must hasten to the frontier, or we shall find it drenched in the blood of our citizens." At this time he was suffering from a disabled arm which had been mutilated in an encounter with Benton, and was unable to be present at Fayetteville, the rendezvous, on the 4th of October; but he sent an address to be read to the troops, and rules regulating the police of the camp. Although too feeble to take the field, he, three days after, with his arm in a sling, put himself at the head of the army. The next evening, a dispatch arrived from Colonel Coffee, who had been previously sent forward with a large detachment to Huntsville, thirty-two miles distant, stating that a body of nearly a thousand Indians were on their way to ravage the frontiers of Georgia, and another party approaching Tennessee. The day after came a second express confirming the report. By nine o'clock the following morning, Jackson put his army of twenty-five hundred men in motion, and at eight in the evening reached Huntsville, making the thirty-two miles in eleven hours. Finding that the rumor was without foundation, he proceeded leisurely to Ditto's Landing, where Col. Coffee with his regiment was encamped. Here he paused to wait for supplies, and survey his position.
(p. 14) With promptness on the part of those co-operating with him, he saw that the hostile Creeks could be crushed with one blow; for on the west of their settlements were six hundred Mississippi volunteers and the 3d regiment of regular infantry, six hundred strong, under Colonel Russel; on the east were twenty-five hundred Georgia militia, commanded by General Floyd; while from the north, five thousand volunteers and militia—twenty-five hundred from East Tennessee, under Generals Cocke and White, and the same number from the western section of the State—were moving down on the devoted tribes. This army of five thousand Tennesseans was under his own command, the western half of which he led in person. There were, besides this formidable array, a few posts held by small detachments, and a few hundred friendly Indians, most of them Cherokees. When these separate armies should close around the hostile settlements, encircling them in a girdle of fire, it was universally believed that the war would be over.
While Jackson remained at Ditto's Landing, waiting anxiously for the supplies which Generals Cocke and White had promised to forward, he dispatched General Coffee, with six hundred picked men, to destroy Blackwarrior town, a hundred miles south.
At length, being urged by the earnest appeals of friendly Indians, who were in daily danger of being (p. 15) cut off by the Creeks, he, on the 19th, started for Thompson's Creek, where he had ordered the provisions, which he supposed were near at hand, to be stopped. Cutting his way through the heavy forests, and dragging his artillery over steep mountains, he at length, after a painful march of two days, reached the place of depôt but no provisions had arrived. Instead of supplies, came a letter from General White, who was at Lookout Mountain in the Cherokee country, stating that no flour could be spared from that post. His position was now becoming painful and critical. Standing in the centre of the wilderness, on the borders of the enemy's country, with his little band around him, he saw no alternative but to retreat, unless he ran the risk of starving in the forest. But to abandon his design, would leave the friendly Indians at the mercy of their enemies, an act not only cruel in the extreme, and utterly repugnant to his nature, but which would furnish a fatal example to the other friendly tribes, whose alliance it was of the highest importance to secure. Prudence would have dictated a retreat, but Jackson had never yet turned his back voluntarily on a foe, and he resolved, at all hazards, to proceed. Sending off expresses to Generals Cocke and White, and to the Governors of Tennessee and Georgia, and the American agents in the Choctaw and Cherokee nations, he issued a stirring address to (p. 16) his troops, in which he promised them that the "order to charge would be the signal for victory." In urging on them the importance of coolness, and presence of mind, in every emergency, even in "retreat," he adds,
"Your general laments that he has been compelled, even incidentally, to hint at a retreat, when speaking to freemen and to soldiers. Never, until you forget all that is due to yourselves and your country, will you have any practical understanding of that word. Shall an enemy, wholly unacquainted with military evolutions, and who rely more for victory on their grim visages, and hideous yells, than upon their bravery or their weapons—shall such an enemy ever drive before them, the well-trained youths of our country, whose bosoms pant for glory, and a desire to avenge the wrongs they have received? Your general will not live to behold such a spectacle; rather would he rush into the thickest of the enemy, and submit himself to their scalping-knives; but he has no fear of such a result. He knows the valor of the men he commands, and how certainly that valor, regulated as it will be, will lead to victory."
Cut off from supplies, locked up in the wilderness, through which swarmed thousands of savages eagerly watching his advance, with only six days' rations of meat and two of flour, he issued this bold and confident (p. 17) address, and then gave orders for the army to march. Arriving at Ten Islands, he erected Fort Strother, to serve as a depôt, and to cover his retreat. In a letter to Governor Blount, from this place, he says,—
"Indeed, sir, we have been wretchedly supplied,—scarcely two rations in succession have been regularly drawn, yet we are not despondent. While we can procure an ear of corn apiece, or anything that will answer as a substitute for it, we shall continue our exertions to accomplish the object for which we were sent."
Here, being informed that General White was only twenty-five miles distant up the river, he sent him a despatch to hasten, at once, to the fort. In the mean time, General Coffee, who had returned successful from his southern expedition, was sent to attack a large body of Indians at Tallushatchee, some thirty miles distant. With nine hundred men, this gallant officer advanced, and succeeded in completely surrounding them; and though the savages fought desperately to the last, but few escaped. A hundred and eighty warriors lay stretched around the ashes of their dwellings. Among the slain, was a mother, on whose bosom her infant boy was found, struggling in vain to draw nourishment from the lifeless breast. When he was brought to camp, Jackson endeavored to persuade some of the female captives to take care of him, but they all refused, saying, "His relations (p. 18) are all dead, kill him too." He then ordered some sugar to be given him, and sent him to Huntsville, where he could be properly cared for. He afterwards adopted him, gave him a good education, and placed him at a saddler's to learn a trade. The latter was accustomed to spend every Sunday at the Hermitage, with his adopted father, who was strongly attached to him. But he always pined for the free, wild life of his race. The close air of the shop and the drudgery of an apprentice did not agree with him, and he soon after sickened. He was then taken home to the Hermitage, where he lingered some time, and died.
At length, on the 7th of November, an Indian runner arrived in camp, stating that Fort Talladega, about thirty miles distant, was surrounded by the hostile Red-sticks, and if he did not hurry to its relief, the friendly Indians, who had taken refuge in it must be massacred. The runner had scarcely finished his message when the order to march was issued, and in a few minutes the columns were in motion. It was midnight, and through the dim cathedrals of nature, lighted only by the stars of heaven, Jackson led his two thousand men towards the Talladega. Eight hundred of these were mounted riflemen, who presented a picturesque appearance, as they wound slowly along the rough forest path underneath the autumnal woods, each with (p. 19) unceasing watchfulness, piercing the surrounding gloom, and every hand grasping a trusty rifle. Their heavy tramp frightened the wild beasts from their lairs, and awoke strange echoes in the solitude. Now straining up steep ascents, and now swimming deep rivers, the fearless and gallant band pressed forward. In three columns, so as to prevent the confusion that might arise from a sudden surprise, it forced its difficult way through the forest, and at night arrived within six miles of the besieged fort. Here Jackson halted, and sent forward two friendly Indians and a white man, to reconnoitre. About eleven o'clock they returned, and reported the enemy in great force, and within a quarter of a mile of the fort. No time was to be lost, and though the troops had been without sleep, and constantly on the strain for twenty-four hours, another night, and a battle, lay between them and repose.
It was four o'clock of a cool November morning, when the three columns again moved forward. Advancing with the utmost caution and quietness to within a mile of the Indian encampment, they halted, and formed in order of battle. Two hundred and fifty of the cavalry, under Lieut.-Col. Dyer, were left in the rear of the centre to act as a reserve, while the remaining four hundred and fifty were ordered to push forward to the right and left on either side, until the heads of their columns met beyond (p. 20) the hostile encampment, and thus completely encircle it. The two brigades of Hall and Roberts, occupying the right and left, were directed to advance, while the ring of cavalry was steadily to contract, so as to shut in every savage and prevent escape. At eight o'clock, Colonel Carroll boldly charged the position in front of him, and carried it; he then retreated, in order to draw the Indians in pursuit. They charged after him with such terrific whoops and screams, that a portion of General Roberts' brigade, on whom they were rushing with uplifted tomahawks, broke and fled. This made a chasm in the line, which Jackson immediately ordered Colonel Bradley to fill with his regiment, that for some reason, known only to the latter, had lagged behind, to the great detriment of the order of battle. But not only had he proved a laggard in the approach, but he refused to fill the chasm, as ordered by his commander, and the latter was compelled to dismount his reserve and hurry them forward. As these steadily and firmly advanced, and poured in their volleys, the panic-stricken militia recovered their courage and resumed their places in the line. In the mean time, the encircling cavalry came galloping, with loud hurrahs, towards the centre. The next moment the forest rang with the sharp reports of their rifles. In fifteen minutes the battle was over, and the terrified savages were wildly skirting (p. 21) the inner edge of this circle of fire, seeking, in vain, an avenue to the open forest beyond. Turned back at every step, they fell like the autumn leaves which the wind shook around them. At length they discovered a gap, made by the neglect of Colonel Bradley and the delay of a portion of the cavalry, which had taken too wide a circuit, and poured like a torrent that has suddenly found vent, through it. The mounted riflemen wheeled and streamed after; and the quick, sharp reports of their pieces, and the receding yells rising from the forest, told how fiercely they pressed on the flying traces of the foe. The savages made straight for the mountains, three miles distant, fighting as they went. The moment they bounded up the steep acclivity they were safe, and the wearied horsemen turned again to the camp. Their way back was easily tracked by the swarthy forms that lay stretched on the leaves, showing where the flight and pursuit had swept. Of the thousand and more who had composed the force of the enemy, more than half were killed or wounded. Three hundred were left dead on the spot where they had first fought. The loss of the Americans in killed and wounded, was ninety-five.
The friendly Indians, who had been so long shut up without a drop of water, in momentary expectation of being massacred, listened to the uproar without, with beating hearts; but when the battle was (p. 22) over, they rushed forth with the most frantic cries of joy, and leaped and shouted around their deliverers in all the wildness of savage delight. They crowded around Jackson as if he had been their deity, toward whom they could not show too much reverence.
The refusal of General White to march to Fort Strother, left the feeble garrison of the latter in a perilous state. If it should fall, Jackson's whole line of retreat would be cut off; and he, therefore, with deep pain, was compelled to stop in his victorious progress, and return to the fort. On his arrival, he found that no supplies had reached it, and that the soldiers, half-starved, were bordering on mutiny. General Cocke, from the first, seemed resolved to withhold all aid from Jackson, lest he himself should be eclipsed in the campaign. Nov. 11. This officer directed his movements against the Hillabee towns. General White, with the mounted men, succeeded in destroying the place, killing and capturing three hundred and sixteen warriors.Nov. 18.
Jackson, however, endeavored to keep alive the spirits and courage of his troops, and distributed all his private stores to the feeble and wounded. Having nothing left for himself and staff, he repaired to the bullock-pen, and from the offals cut tripe, on which he and they lived for days, in the vain hope of receiving the long-promised (p. 23) supplies. One day, as he sat at the foot of a tree, thinking of the hard condition of his men, and planning how he might find some relief from the increasing difficulties that pressed so hard upon him, one of the soldiers, observing that he was eating something, approached, and asked for a portion. Jackson looked up with a pleasant smile, and said, "I will, most cheerfully, divide with you what I have;" and taking some acorns from his pocket, he handed them to the astonished and mortified soldier. His solicitude for the army did not expend itself in words, for he shared with the meanest soldier his privations and his wants, while many of his subordinate officers possessed abundance. He let the latter enjoy the rations to which they were legally entitled, but himself scorned to sit down to a well-supplied table, while the army was perishing with want.
This state of things, of course, could not last long. The soldiers believed themselves neglected by the State for whose safety they were fighting; else why this protracted refusal to send them provisions? The incipient discontent was fed and aggravated by several of the officers, who were getting tired of the campaign, and wished to return home, till at last it broke out into open revolt. The militia regiments, en masse, had resolved to leave. Jackson received the communication with grief and indignation. He felt for his poor, half-starved men, but all his passionate (p. 24) nature was roused at this deliberate defiance of his authority. The militia, however, did not regard his expostulations or threats, and they fixed on a morning to commence their march. But as they drew out to take their departure, they found, to their astonishment, the volunteers paraded across the path, with Jackson at their head. He ordered them to return to their position, or they should answer for their disobedience with their lives. They obeyed; but the volunteers, indignant that they had been made the instrument of quelling the revolt, and anxious as the others were to get away, resolved next morning to depart themselves. To their surprise, however, they saw the militia drawn up in the same position they had occupied the day before, to arrest the first forward movement that was made. This was a dangerous game to play with armed men, and would not bear a second trial.
The cavalry, on the ground that the country yielded no forage for their horses, were permitted to retire to the neighborhood of Huntsville, where they promised to wait the orders of their commander.
In the mean time, Jackson hearing that provisions were on the way, made an effort to allay the excited, angry feelings that existed in the army, and so, on the 14th of November, invited all the field and platoon officers to his quarters, and after informing them that abundant supplies were close at hand, (p. 25) addressed them in a kind and sympathizing manner, told them how deeply he felt for their sufferings, and concluded by promising, if provisions did not arrive within two days, to lead them back himself to Tennessee. But this kind and conciliatory speech produced no effect on a portion of the army, and the first regiment of volunteers insisted on abandoning the fort. Permission to leave was granted, and Jackson, with chagrin and anguish, saw the men whom he refused to abandon at Natchez, forsake him in the heart of the forest, surrounded by hostile savages.
The two days expiring without the arrival of provisions, he was compelled to fulfill his promise to the army, and preparations were made for departure. In the midst of the breaking up of the camp, he sat down and wrote a letter to Colonel Pope, the contractor, which exhibits how deeply he felt, not merely this abandonment of him, but the failure of the expedition. He says in conclusion:
"I cannot express the torture of my feelings, when I reflect that a campaign so auspiciously begun, and which might be so soon and so gloriously terminated, is likely to be rendered abortive for the want of supplies. For God's sake, prevent so great an evil."
As the baggage-wagons were loaded up, and the men fell into marching order, the palpable evidence (p. 26) of the failure of the project on which he had so deeply set his heart, and the disgrace that awaited his army, became so painful, that he could not endure the sight, and he exclaimed in mingled grief and shame,
"If only two men will remain with me, I will never abandon the post."
"You have one, General!" exclaimed Captain Gordon, of the spies, who stood beside him.
The gallant captain immediately began to beat up for volunteers, and it was not long before a hundred and nine brave fellows surrounded their general, swearing to stand by him to the last.
The latter then put himself at the head of the militia, telling them he should order them back, if they met provisions near by. They had gone but ten or twelve miles, when they met a hundred and fifty beeves on their way to the fort. The men fell to, and in a short time were gorging themselves with half roasted meat. Invigorated by their gluttonous repast, most of them consented to return. One company, however, quietly resumed its journey homeward. When Jackson was informed of it, he sprang into his saddle, and galloping a quarter of a mile ahead, where General Coffee with his staff and a few soldiers had halted, ordered them to form across the road, and fire on the first man that attempted to pass. As the mutineers came up and saw that living (p. 27) barrier before them, and in front of it the stern and decided face of their commander, they wheeled about, and retraced their steps. Jackson then dismounted and began to mingle among the men, to allay their excitement, and conciliate their feelings. While he was thus endeavoring to reduce to cheerful obedience this refractory company, he was told, to his utter amazement, that the other portion of the army had changed their mind, and the whole brigade was drawn up in column, and on the point of marching homeward. He immediately walked up in front of it, snatched a musket from the hands of a soldier, and resting it across the neck of his horse, swore he would shoot the first man who attempted to move. The soldiers stood and looked in sullen silence at that resolute face, undecided whether to advance or not, when General Coffee and his staff galloped up. These, together with the faithful companies, Jackson ordered to form behind him, and fire when he did. Not a word was uttered for some time, as the two parties thus stood face to face, and gazed on each other. At length a murmur rang along the column—rebellion was crushed, and the mutineers consented to return. Discontent, however, prevailed, and the volunteers looked anxiously forward to the 10th of December, the time when they supposed the term of their enlistment expired. They had originally enlisted for twelve months, and counting in the time they had been disbanded, (p. 28) after their return from Natchez, the year would be completed on that date. But Jackson refused to allow the time they were not in actual service. Letters passed between the officers and himself, and every effort was made on his part to allay the excitement, and convince the troops of the justice of his demands. He appealed to their patriotism, their courage, and honor, and finally told them if the General Government gave permission for their discharge, he would discharge them, otherwise they should walk over his dead body before they stirred a foot, until the twelve months' actual service was accomplished. Dec. Anticipating trouble, he wrote home for reinforcements, and sent off officers for recruits.
In the mean time, the 10th of December drew near, and every heart was filled with anxiety for the result. A portion of the army was resolved to take their discharge, whether granted or not. It was not a sudden impulse, created by want and suffering, but a well-considered and settled determination, grounded on what they considered their rights. The thing had been long discussed, and many of the officers had given their decided opinion that the time of the men actually expired on the 10th. Jackson knew that his troops were brave, and when backed by the consciousness of right, would be resolute and firm. But he had made up his mind to prevent mutiny, (p. 29) though he was compelled to sacrifice a whole regiment in doing it.
At length, on the evening of the 9th, Gen. Hall entered the tent of Jackson, and informed him that his whole brigade was in a state of revolt. The latter immediately issued an order stating the fact, and calling on all the officers to aid in quelling it. He then directed the two guns he had with him, to be placed, one in front and the other in the rear, and the militia on the rising ground in advance, to check any movement in that direction, and waited the result. The brigade assembled, and were soon in marching order. Jackson then rode slowly along the line, and addressed the soldiers. He reminded them of their former good conduct, spoke of the love and esteem he had always borne them, of the reinforcements on the way, saying, also, that he expected every day, the decision of the government, on the question of their discharge, and wound up by telling them emphatically, that he had done with entreaty,—go they should not, and if they persisted, he would settle the matter in a very few minutes. He demanded an immediate and explicit answer. They persisted. He repeated his demand, and still receiving no answer, he ordered the artillerists to prepare their matches, and at the word "Fire!" to pour their volleys of grape-shot into the closely crowded ranks. There he sat, gazing sternly down (p. 30) the line, while the few moments of grace allowed them, were passing rapidly away. The men knew it was no idle threat. He had never been known to break his word, and that sooner than swerve one hair from his purpose, he would drench that field in blood. Alarmed, they began to whisper one to another, "Let us go back." The contagion of fear spread, and soon the officers advanced, and promised, on behalf of the men, that they would return to their quarters.
As if to try this resolute man to the utmost, and drive him to despair, no sooner was one evil averted than another overtook him. He had, by his boldness, quelled the mutiny; but he now began again to feel the horrors of famine. Supplies did not arrive; or in such scanty proportion, that he was compelled, at last, to discharge the troops, and, notwithstanding all the distressing scenes through which he had passed to retain them, see them take up their line of march for home, leaving him, with only a hundred devoted followers, shut up in the forest.Dec. 23.
While these things were passing, General Clairborne, with his volunteers, passed up the east side of the Alabama, and piercing to the towns above the Cahawba, gave battle to the Indians under their great leader, Weathersford, and defeated them, with the loss of but one man killed and seven wounded. Destroying their (p. 31) villages, he returned to Fort Clairborne. 1814. Jackson remained idle till the middle of January, when he was gladdened by the arrival of eight hundred recruits. Not deeming these, however, sufficient to penetrate into the heart of the Creek country, he resolved to make a diversion in favor of General Floyd, who was advancing from the east. Dec. 29. This officer, leaving his encampment on the Chattahouche, and advancing into the Indian territory along the southern bank of the Talapoosa River, came on the morning of the 29th upon the town of Autossee, where a large number of Indians were assembled. Having marched since one o'clock in the morning, he took the savages by surprise. They however rallied and fought desperately, retreating only before the fire of the artillery. Two towns, within sight of each other, were soon in flames. Several hundred of the enemy were killed and wounded, while the loss of the Americans was but sixty-five. Among the wounded was General Floyd, who was struck by a shot while gallantly leading on his command. Hearing that a large number of Indians were encamped on the Emuckfaw Creek, where it empties into the Tallapoosa River, Jackson marched thither, and on the evening of the 21st of January, arrived within a short distance of their encampment. The Indians were aware of his approach, and resolved to anticipate his (p. 32) attack. To prevent a surprise, however, Jackson had ordered a circle of watch-fires to be built around his little band. The men stood to their arms all night; and just before daylight a wild yell, which always precedes an attack, went up from the forest, and the next moment the savages charged down on the camp. But, the instant the light of the watch-fires fell on their tawny bodies they were swept with such a destructive volley, that they again took shelter in the darkness. At length, daylight appeared, when General Coffee ordered a charge, which cleared the field. He was then directed to advance on the encampment with four hundred men, and carry it by storm. On his approach, however, he found it too strong for his force, and retired. Jackson, attacked in return, was compelled to charge repeatedly, before the savages finally took to flight. Many of their bravest warriors fell in this short conflict; while, on the American side, several valuable officers were badly wounded, among them General Coffee, who, from the commencement to the close, was in the thickest of the fight.
Notwithstanding his victory, Jackson prudently determined to retreat. He had gained his object; for in drawing the attention of the Indians to his own force, he had diverted it from that under Gen. Floyd. Besides, his horses had been without forage for two days, and would soon break down. He, therefore, (p. 33) buried the dead on the field where they had fallen; and, on the 23d, began to retrace his footsteps. Judging from the quietness of the Indians since the battle, he suspected they were lurking in ambush ahead. Remembering also what an excellent place there was for a surprise at the ford of Enotochopeo, he sent men in advance to reconnoitre, who discovered another ford some six hundred yards farther down the stream. Reaching this just at evening, he encamped there all night, and the next morning commenced crossing. He expected an attack while in the middle of the stream, and, therefore, had his rear formed in order of battle. His anticipations proved correct; for no sooner had a part of the army reached the opposite bank, than an alarm-gun was heard in the rear. In an instant, all was in commotion. The next moment, the forest resounded with the war-whoop and yells of the savages, as they came rushing on in great numbers. As they crowded on the militia, the latter, with their officers, gave way in affright, and poured pell-mell down the bank. Jackson was standing on the shore superintending the crossing of his two pieces of artillery, when his broken ranks came tumbling about him. Foremost among the fugitives was Captain Stump; and, Jackson, enraged at the shameful disorder, aimed a desperate blow at him with his sword, fully intending to cut him down. One glance of his eye revealed (p. 34) the whole extent of the danger. But for Gen. Carroll, who, with Capt. Quarles and twenty-five men, stood nobly at bay, beating back with their deliberate volleys the hordes of savages, the entire rear of the army would have been massacred. But, over the din and tumult, Jackson's voice rang clear and steady as a bugle-note, as he rapidly issued his orders. The gallant and intrepid Coffee, roused by the tumult, raised himself from the litter on which he lay wounded, and casting one glance on the panic, and another upon the little band that stood like a rock embedded in the farther bank, leaped to the ground, and with one bound landed in his saddle. The next moment, his shout of encouragement broke on the ears of his companions as he dashed forward to the conflict. Jackson looked up in surprise as that pale face galloped up the bank, and then his rage at the cowardice of the men gave way to the joy of the true hero when another hero moves to his side, and he shouted, "We shall whip them yet, my men! the dead have risen, and come to aid us." The company of artillery followed, leaving Lieutenant Armstrong and a few men to drag up the cannon. When one of the guns, at length, reached the top of the bank, the rammer and picker were nowhere to be found. A man instantly wrenched the bayonet from his musket, and rammed home the cartridge with the stock, and picked it with his ramrod. Lieutenant (p. 35) Armstrong fell beside his piece; but as he lay upon the ground, he cried out, "My brave fellows, some of you must fall; but save the cannon." Such heroism is always contagious; and the men soon rallied, and charging home on the savages, turned them in flight on every side.
After burying his dead and caring for the wounded, Jackson resumed his march; and, four days after, reached Fort Strother in safety. Nearly one-eighth of his little army had been killed or wounded since he left the post, and he now dismissed the remainder, who claimed that the time of their enlistment was expired; and quietly waited till sufficient reinforcements should arrive for him to undertake a thorough campaign into the Creek country.Jan. 27.
Four days after this, General Floyd again advancing into the Creek country, was attacked just before daylight by a large body of Indians, who rushed on him with terrible impetuosity. Determined on victory, they advanced within thirty steps of the artillery, and would have taken it but for the uncommon coolness and bravery of the subordinate officers. At length a charge of bayonet sent them flying in all directions. The cavalry then charged, and the horses rushing furiously forward, to the sound of bugles, completed the terror of the savages, who disappeared like frightened deer in the surrounding forests, leaving thirty-seven dead on the field.
(p. 36) Reinforcements soon began to come in to Jackson; for his bravery and success awakened confidence, and stimulated the ambition of thousands, who were sure to win distinction under such a leader; and, by March, he found himself at the head of four thousand militia and volunteers, and a regiment of regular troops, together with several hundred friendly Indians. While preparing to advance, mutiny again broke out in the camp. He determined this time to make an example which should deter others in future; and a private, being tried and convicted, was shot. The spectacle was not lost on the soldiers, and nothing more was heard of a revolt.
Having completed all his arrangements, Jackson, with four thousand men, advanced, on the 16th of March, into the Creek country. At the junction of the Cedar Creek with the Coosa River, he established Fort Williams, and left a garrison. He then continued his march, with some two thousand five hundred men, towards his previous battle-ground at Emuckfaw. About five miles below it, in the bend of the Tallapoosa, the Indians, a thousand strong, had entrenched themselves, determined to give battle. They were on sacred ground; for all that tract between the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, known as the "hickory ground," their prophets had told them the white man could never conquer. This bend contained about a hundred acres, around which the (p. 37) river wrapped itself in the form of a horse-shoe, from whence it derived its name. Across the neck leading to this open plain, the Indians had erected a breastwork of logs, seven or eight feet high, and pierced it with a double row of port-holes. Behind it, the ground rose into an elevation; while still farther back, along the shore, lay the village, in which were the women and children. Early in the morning of the 25th, Jackson ordered General Coffee to take the mounted riflemen together with the friendly Indians and cross the river at a ford below, and stretch around the bend, on the opposite bank from the village, so as to prevent the fugitives from escaping. He then advanced in front, and took up his position, and opened on the breastwork with his light artillery. The cannonade was kept up for two hours without producing any effect. In the mean time, the friendly Indians attached to General Coffee's command had swam the river and loosened a large number of canoes, which they brought back. Captain Russell's company of spies immediately leaped into them, and, with the friendly Indians, crossed over and set the village on fire, and with loud shouts pressed towards the rear of the encampment. The Indians returned the shout of defiance, and, with a courage and steadiness they seldom exhibited, repelled every effort to advance.
The troops under Jackson heard the din of the (p. 38) conflict within, and clamored loudly to be led to the assault. He, however, held them back, and stood and listened. Discovering, at length, by the incessant firing in a single place, that the Americans were making no progress, he ordered the drums to beat the charge. A loud and thrilling shout rolled along the American line, and, with levelled bayonets, the excited ranks precipitated themselves on the breastwork. A withering fire received them, the rifle-balls sweeping like a sudden gust of sleet, in their very faces. Not an Indian flinched, and many were pierced through the port-holes; while, in several instances, the enemy's bullets were welded to the American bayonets. The swarthy warriors looked grimly through the openings, as though impervious to death. This, however, was of short duration, and soon the breastwork was black with men, as they streamed up the sides. Major Montgomery was the first who planted his foot on the top, but he had scarcely waved his sword in triumph above his head, when he fell back upon his companions, dead. A cry of vengeance swelled up from his followers, and the next moment the troops rolled like a sudden inundation over the barrier. It then became a hand-to-hand fight. The Indians refused to yield, and with gleaming knives and tomahawks, and clubbed rifles and muskets, closed in a death grapple with their foes. Civilization gave the bold frontiersmen (p. 39) no advantage here—it was a personal struggle with his swarthy rival for the mastery, where they both claimed the right of possession. The wild yell of the savage blended in with the stem curse of the Anglo-Saxon, while high and shrill over the clangor and clash of arms, arose the shouts of the prophets, as dancing frantically around their blazing dwellings, they continued their strange incantations, still crying victory.
At length one was shot in the mouth, as if to give the lie to his declarations. Pressed in front and rear, many at last turned and fled. But the unerring rifle dropped them along the shore; while those who endeavored to save themselves by swimming, sunk in mid-stream under the deadly fire of Coffee's mounted men. The greater part, however, fought and fell, face to face, with their foes. It was a long and desperate struggle; not a soul asked for quarter, but turned, with a last look of hate and defiance, on his conqueror. As the ranks grew thin, it ceased to be a fight, and became a butchery. Driven at last from the breastwork, the few surviving warriors took refuge in the brush and timber on the hill. Wishing to spare their lives, Jackson sent an interpreter to them, offering them pardon; but they proudly refused it, and fired on the messenger. He then turned his cannon on the spot, but failing to dislodge them, ordered the grass and brush to be (p. 40) fired. Driven out by the flames, they ran for the river, but most of them fell before they reached the water. On every side the crack of the rifle told how many eyes were on the fugitives. Darkness at last closed the scene, and still night, broken only by the cries of the wounded, fell on the forest and river. Nearly eight hundred of the Indians had fallen, five hundred and fifty-seven of whom lay stark and stiff around and in that encampment. The loss of the Americans, in killed and wounded, was about two hundred.
The tired soldier slept on the field of slaughter, around the smouldering fires of the Indian dwellings. The next morning they sunk the dead bodies of their companions in the river, to save them from the scalping-knives of the savages, and then took up their backward march to Fort William.
(p. 41) The original design of having the three armies from Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi, meet in the centre of the Creek nation, and thus crush it with one united effort, had never been carried out, and Jackson now resolved alone to overrun and subdue the country. Issuing a noble address to his troops, he, on the 7th of April, set out for the Indian village of Hoithlowalle. But he met with no opposition; the battle of Tohopeka had completely prostrated the tribe, and the war was virtually at an end. He, however, scoured the country, the Indians everywhere fleeing before the terror of his name. On his march, he sent orders to Colonel Milton, who, with a strong force, was also advancing into the Creek country, to send him provisions. The latter returned a cavalier refusal. Jackson then sent a peremptory order, not only to forward provisions, but to join him at once with his troops. Colonel Milton, after reading the order, asked the bearer what sort of a man Jackson was. "One," he replied, "who intends, when he gives an order, to have it obeyed." The colonel concluded to obey, and soon effected a junction with his troops. Jackson then resumed his march along the banks of the Tallapoosa; but he had hardly set the leading column in motion, when word was brought him that Colonel Milton's brigade was unable to follow, as the wagon-horses had strayed away during the night, (p. 42) and could not be found. Jackson immediately sent him word to detail twenty men to each wagon. The astonished colonel soon found horses sufficient to draw the wagons.
The enemy, however, did not make a stand, and either fled, or came in voluntarily to tender their submission. The latter part of April, General Pinckney arrived at Fort Jackson, and assumed the command, and General Jackson returned to Tennessee, greeted with acclamations, and covered with honors. In a few months peace was restored with all the Southern tribes, and the machinations of England in that quarter completely frustrated.
There is nothing in the history of our country more remarkable than this campaign, and nothing illustrates the genius of this nation more than it and the man who carried it triumphantly through. Rising from a sick couch, he called the young men of every profession to rally to the defence of their country. Placing himself at the head of the brave but undisciplined bands that gathered at his bidding, he boldly plunged into the untrodden wilderness. Unskilled in the art of war, never having witnessed a battle since he was a boy, he did not hesitate to assume the command of an army without discipline, and without knowledge of the toils and difficulties before it. Yet with it he crossed broad rivers, climbed pathless mountains, and penetrated (p. 43) almost impassable swamps filled with crafty savages. More subtle and more tireless than his foes, he thwarted all their schemes. With famine on one side and an army in open mutiny on the other, he scorned to yield to discouragement, and would not be forced by the apparently insurmountable obstacles that opposed his progress, from his purpose. By his constancy and more than Roman fortitude, compelling adversity at length to relent, and quelling his rebellious troops by the terror of his presence and his indomitable will, he at last, with a smile of triumph, saw his columns winding over the consecrated grounds of the savages. Soon his battle-shout was heard rising over the crackling of burning villages. Kings, prophets, and chieftains fell before him; and crushing towns, villages, and fortresses under his feet, he at last, with one terrible blow, paralyzed the nation for ever.
Indian warfare, though exhibiting none of the grand movements of a well-appointed battle, often calls out equally striking qualities, and requires more promptness and self-possession, and greater mental resources in a commander. Especially with such an army as Jackson had under him, the task he accomplished was Herculean, and reveals a character of vast strength and executiveness. That single man, standing up alone in the heart of the wilderness, and boldly facing his famine-struck and rebellious army, (p. 44) presents a scene partaking far more of the moral sublime than Cromwell seizing a rebel from the very midst of his murmuring band.
His gloomy isolation for a whole winter, with only a few devoted followers, reveals a fixedness of purpose and grandeur of character that no circumstances can affect. Inferior to the contagion of fear, unaffected by general discouragement, equal in himself to every emergency, he moves before us in this campaign the embodiment of the noblest qualities that distinguish the American race.
Jackson, with his undisciplined, mutinous, and starving army in the southern wilderness, does not seem to belong to the same race as Hull, Dearborn, Wilkinson and Izard on the northern frontier. Contrast the difficulties that surrounded him with those that embarrassed them, and how pitiful do their apologies and excuses sound. Had he been in Dearborn's place, the first campaign would have placed Canada in our possession.
Cruise of Commodore Porter in the Essex — Arrival at Valparaiso — Capture of British whalers and letters of marque — Essex Junior — Marquesas Islands — Description of the natives — Madison Island — War with the Happahs — Invades the Typee territory — Tedious march — Beautiful prospect — Fights the natives and burns down their towns — Sails for Valparaiso — Blockaded by two English ships — Attempts to escape — Is attacked by both vessels — His gallant defence — His surrender — Returns home on parole — Insolence of an English Officer — Porter escapes in an open boat and lands on Long Island — Enthusiastic reception in New York.
An expedition similar in its unity to that of Jackson's, and hence requiring a connected narrative, was carried forward by Captain Porter during the year 1813 in the Pacific Ocean. When Commodore Bainbridge sailed from Boston with the Constitution and Hornet, Porter, then lying in the Delaware with the Essex, was ordered to join him at Port Praya in St. Jago, or at Fernando Noronha. Oct. 26, 1812. The capture of the Java by the Constitution, and of the Peacock by the Hornet, caused a change in the plans of Bainbridge, and Captain Porter, not finding him or the Hornet at either of the two places mentioned, or off Frio, a rendezvous (p. 46) afterwards designated by the Commodore, he was left to cruise where he thought best. Dec. 12. While searching for these vessels, he captured an English government packet with $55,000 in specie on board, and sent her home.Jan. 1813.
At length, after revolving various schemes in his mind, he took the bold resolution to go alone into the Pacific, where we had not a depôt of any kind, or a place in which a disabled vessel could be refitted, while all the neutral ports were under the influence of our enemy, and make a dash at the British fishermen. The vessels employed in these fisheries he knew were invariably supplied with naval stores, etc., and he resolved to live on them. This original and daring cruise was no sooner decided upon than he turned his prow southward, and was soon wrapt in the storms that sweep Cape Horn. Jan. 28. Again and again beaten back, as if to deter him from his hazardous course, he still held on, and at length, after a most tempestuous and toilsome passage, took the breezes of the Pacific and stretched northward. March 5. His provisions getting short, and being in want of some new rigging, he determined to run into Valparaiso. On his arrival at that port he found, to his astonishment and delight, that Chili had declared herself free of Spain, and his reception was kind and courteous. Here he learned, also, that (p. 47) Peru had sent out cruisers against American shipping, which, together with British letters of marque, threatened to make destructive work with our whalers. He therefore remained only a week in port, and then steered northward. On the 25th he captured one of the Peruvian cruisers, which, with an English vessel, had seized two American whalers a few days before. Four days after, he recaptured the Barclay, one of the American vessels taken by the Peruvians, and the British letter of marque. Looking into Callao to see if any thing had arrived from Valparaiso since he left, he cruised from island to island till the latter part of April without making any prizes. At length, on the morning of the 29th, three sail were discerned and chase was immediately made for the nearest, which soon struck. She was a British whaler with fourteen hundred barrels of oil on board. It having fallen calm when the Essex was yet eight miles distant from the other vessels, he was compelled to resort to his boats to effect their capture. One of these, the Georgiana, Captain Porter equipped as a cruiser, with sixteen guns, and put her under the command of Lieutenant Downes, who soon started on a cruise of his own.(p. 48) June 24.
These two vessels joined company again at Tumbez, the Essex in the mean time having captured two large British vessels, and the Georgiana three. The Atlantic, one of those taken by Porter, being a much larger and faster ship than the Georgiana, Lieutenant Downes was transferred to her, and she was christened Essex Junior. On the last day of June this little fleet of nine sail put to sea, and on the 4th of July fired a general salute with the enemy's powder. A few days after, the Essex Junior parted company, steering for Valparaiso with all the prizes but two in company. Porter continued his cruise with the Georgiana and Greenwich, and on the 13th captured three more vessels. The Greenwich behaved gallantly in the action, closing courageously with the largest vessel, a cruiser, while the Essex was led away in chase of the first. Porter soon after captured another whaler, when, being joined by the Essex Junior, bringing information that the Chilian government was assuming a more unfriendly attitude towards the Americans, he resolved to proceed to the Marquesas to refit, and return home. Having made the vessels of the enemy answer for a naval depôt, he now sought the bay of an island inhabited by savages, where unseen he could prepare to retrace his voyage of ten thousand miles.
He made the Marquesas Islands on the 23d of (p. 49) October. Winding among them to find a hiding-place secure as possible against English war vessels that he heard had been sent out to capture him, he at length dropped anchor in the sequestered bay of Novaheevah and took possession of it in the name of the United States, naming it Madison Island. In a short time the native women came swimming off naked to the ship in crowds, and as they climbed up the vessel's sides, the sailors, astonished at the novel spectacle, threw them their handkerchiefs to cover their persons. Though swarthy, many of them possessed beautiful forms and handsome features. Apparently wholly unconscious of those feelings of modesty which seem innate in the sex, they received with pride the advances of the men, and in a short time every petty officer had chosen his wife, and the long and tedious confinement on ship-board was exchanged for unbridled license.
A year before, Porter had sailed from the United States alone, with only a few months' provisions on board, and in the mean time had taken thirteen vessels and four hundred prisoners. With but a single imperfect chart to direct him, he had boldly threaded the islands of the Pacific, and swept it of nearly all the enemy's ships. His journal of this long cruise reads more like a romance than a logbook, and seems to belong to that class of literature in which Robinson Crusoe and Captain Kidd figure (p. 50) as heroes. That frigate dropping down the Delaware in October, the autumn previous, and now riding at anchor, with a large fleet about her, in a deserted bay amid the Marquesas Islands, presents a striking contrast, and shows what a single brave, energetic, and skillful officer can accomplish.
In a short time those quiet waters resounded with the hammer of the workmen, and were filled with the stir and activity of a civilized port.
The nations were at first friendly, but those occupying the valley where Porter had landed being at war with another tribe, the Happahs, they insisted that he should make common cause with them against their enemies. This, at last, for the sake of peace, he was compelled to do, and sent a party of sailors, under Lieutenant Downes, to assist them in their invasion of the enemy's territory. The hostile tribe had assembled to the number of three or four thousand, but Downes soon scattered them and returned with five dead bodies, which his allies brought back in triumph, slung on poles.
In the mean time Captain Porter built a small village, consisting of several houses, a bakery, and rope-walk, and erected a fort which he mounted with four guns.
At length the Typees, a warlike tribe, succeeded in exciting the friendly tribes to hostilities, and a plan was rapidly maturing to murder the American (p. 51) crews. Presents and requests to induce them to maintain a peaceful attitude, only increased their arrogance, and Porter at last resolved to make them feel his power. Accompanied by thirty-five sailors he advanced into their country, but the natives avoided a combat and retired into the mountain fastnesses. The next day he took nearly his whole crew and boldly entered the mountains, whose bald tops swarmed with thousands of savages. But to his surprise, he suddenly came to a wall seven feet high flanked with impenetrable thickets. Behind this the Typees made a bold stand, and hurled stones and arrows against their assailants. The volleys of the Americans produced but little effect, and Porter discovering at length that his ammunition was nearly exhausted, sent Lieutenant Gamble to the boats for more, while he, with only nineteen sailors, maintained his position. On the return of Gamble it was thought best to retreat, and the whole took up their backward march. The savages, elated with their victory, pressed forward in pursuit, when Porter gave them a volley which killed two and wounded several more. Coming to a river, the Americans heard the snapping of slings in the thickets on the bank, and immediately after, a shower of stones fell among them, one of which fractured the leg of Lieutenant Downes. Weary and disappointed, they at length reached the boats. Here they rested till night, when they were (p. 52) again ordered forward. The moon shone bright as this little column slowly and painfully climbed the heights, from whose summits arose the yells and songs of the savages. As the party advanced, the sterile region grew more dreary and broken, and the prospect ahead more disheartening. Now wading foaming torrents, and again creeping along dizzy precipices, the astonished sailors, unaccustomed to such labors, became exhausted, and many dropped down amid the rocks unable to proceed further. At length the summit, from which the valley of the Typees could be seen, was reached. But in the mean time the sky had become overcast, the moon was obscured, and the guide declared it would be impossible to descend in the darkness. They therefore laid down, where they were, to wait for morning.
Those American sailors reposing on the top of the Typee mountain, in that remote and almost unknown region, presented a novel spectacle. An impenetrable gloom hung over the valley beneath, the sky spread like a pall above them, while the dull, heavy roar of the Pacific, as its billows broke in the darkness far below them, added to the strangeness and romance of the scene. At length the gathering storm burst, and the rain fell in torrents. It was a tropical shower—one of those deluges of the skies, and in a few moments the little band was flooded with water. Porter, fearing the ammunition would (p. 53) all be spoiled, bade every man protect it with the utmost care. The Typees, assembled in the valley below to the number of four or five thousand, appeared to entertain the same expectations, for they began to shout and beat their drums in exultation.
At length the long wished for day dawned—the storm had ceased, and as the light crept down the sides of the mountain, a scene of surpassing beauty presented itself. A valley nine miles long and three broad, lay spread out before them, inclosed on every side by high mountains. At the farther extremity arose a lofty precipice, over whose brink a torrent rushed in a flying leap, and falling in foam at the base, formed a stream, which, after winding tranquilly through the green and lovely valley, passed, by an opening in the mountains, into the Pacific, that, far away, rolled and glittered in the early dawn. All over this sequestered plain were scattered the breadfruit and cocoa trees, while picturesque villages of bamboo dotted it in every direction. Amid these, immense crowds of swarthy men were moving, and animals grazing, giving life and animation to the strange and beautiful panorama.
Firing a volley, to let the enemy know his powder was not destroyed, Porter began the difficult descent. The tortuous course he was compelled to pursue made the journey long and tedious, and that night he encamped in a village of friendly natives. The next (p. 54) morning he moved on the Typee towns. The natives at first closed bravely with him, but frightened by the musketry they soon retreated, followed by the sailors. Retiring from village to village, they at last took refuge in a strong fortress, against which small arms could have no effect. Porter then began the work of destruction, and soon nine villages were wrapt in fire. As the flames and smoke rolled up from the plain, he began his backward march to the ships. At sunset he stood again on the mountain where he had reposed the night before, and looked down on the valley, but it was now a scene of desolation. The smoke curling slowly up from the ruins revealed where the Typee towns had stood, while around the smouldering ashes the inhabitants were gathered in consternation and despair.
Porter reached his boats in safety, having marched sixty miles in all. The sailors, unaccustomed to such land duty, were completely broken down with the fatigue and exposure.
This novel expedition succeeded in humbling the hostile tribes, and Porter had no further trouble with them while he remained.
The burning of these villages furnished the English papers a subject for the exercise of their philanthropy. An act of self-preservation by which a few empty wigwams were destroyed, aroused the humanity of those who could see no cause of complaint (p. 55) in the conflagration that lighted up the Niagara river from Buffalo to the falls, and kept the Chesapeake in a glow from burning farm-houses and villages.Dec. 12, 1813.
Leaving behind him three prizes under the protection of the fort he had erected, Porter set sail for Valparaiso, where he arrived the 12th of January. Although it was evident that the sympathies of the Chilian government had changed, and were now entirely with the English, he determined to wait at that port for the Phœbe, an English ship, which he understood had been sent out on purpose to capture him. She at length arrived, but not alone—the Cherub, a sloop of war bearing her company. These vessels bore flags with the mottoes on them "God and our country—British sailors' best rights—traitors offend them." Porter immediately hoisted at his mizen, "God, our country and liberty; tyrants offend them." The Essex could doubtless have made good her voyage home, but Porter in capturing merchantmen and whalers had done nothing in his own view to distinguish himself, and he longed to grapple with this English ship of war. But the vast superiority of these two vessels to his own and the Essex Junior, forbade a combat unless he was forced into it.
When the Phœbe, commanded by Captain Hillyar, came into port she passed close to the Essex (p. 56) with her men at quarters. Porter hailed her, saying the vessels would get foul, and requesting the officers in command to keep off. The English captain declared he had no intention of provoking an action, but his conduct arousing the suspicion of Porter he summoned the boarders. In the mean time the English vessel being taken aback, passed her bows directly over the decks of the Essex, and she lay exposed to a raking broadside from the latter, and was for the time completely at her mercy. There is scarcely a doubt that Captain Hillyar had orders to attack the Essex wherever he found her, even if in a neutral port, and if the positions of the two vessels had been reversed he would not have hesitated to demolish the American frigate. The whole proceeding justified Porter in such a construction, and his broadsides should have anticipated those of the enemy, which soon after left him a wreck.
The English ships having taken in supplies, cruised outside for six weeks, completely blockading the Essex. Porter saw that his vessel could outsail the enemy, but he was not anxious to escape. He wished if possible, notwithstanding his inferiority in men and weight of metal, to engage the Phœbe alone. In this Captain Hillyar would not gratify him. Once Porter got within range and opened his fire on the Phœbe, but her gallant commander, though his vessel was a thirty-six, while the Essex was a thirty-two, (p. 57) and his crew mustered one hundred more men, refused the challenge and dropped nearly three miles astern to close with her consort, the Cherub. This enraged Porter, for Hillyar had hove to off port, and fired a gun to windward, which could be interpreted in no other way than as a challenge.
The former so understood it, and immediately got under way, when his adversary retired. Hillyar afterwards declared that the gun to windward was a signal to the Cherub. It was doubtless a ruse practiced to decoy the Essex into a chase till she could be assailed by both vessels at once. There can be only one of two explanations to Hillyar's conduct in this affair; he either was afraid to meet the American frigate, though the latter was inferior in force, or his instructions were not to hazard a single engagement.
Finding that his adversary was determined to avoid him, unless he could close with both his vessels at the same time, and hearing that other British cruisers were on the way, Porter resolved to put to sea, and by tempting Captain Hillyar in pursuit, give the Essex Junior, a slow sailer, an opportunity to follow. So on the 28th of March the wind blowing fresh, he stood out of port. For awhile every thing promised a safe exit, and an open sea, where he would have defied the enemy. But in doubling the Point of Angels to clear the harbor, a squall struck (p. 58) the vessel, carrying away her main-top-mast, and with it several men, who were drowned. Unable to go to sea in this crippled condition, and unable also to beat back to his former anchorage, he passed to the north-eastern side of the harbor and dropped his anchor within three miles of the town, a mile and a half from the Castello Viego, and close in shore. He was on neutral ground, as much so by the law of nations, as if under the guns of the castle, and where, in the same circumstances, at the present day, no nation on the globe would dare fire into an American frigate; and yet Captain Hillyar moved down on her with both his vessels, chose his position, and opened his broadsides. Only one of two measures was therefore left to the American commander—strike his flag at once, or fight his ship to the last. To conquer he knew was impossible, still he could not give up his vessel without an effort, and he sternly ordered the decks cleared for action.
The two English vessels, although they had chosen their own position, were in a short time so cut up by the deadly aim of the gunners of the Essex that they hauled off for repairs.
The state of affairs having got wind, thousands of spectators assembled on the surrounding heights to witness the combat. Porter's situation was well nigh hopeless, but he was one of those few men whom desperate circumstances only stimulate to greater (p. 59) exertions. Fortune, as if envious of his long success, seemed determined to crush him. Yet he resolved that what adverse fate got out of him, should be on terms that would cover him with more glory than ordinary success could possibly do.
Captain Hillyar having completed his repairs, again took his position where the Essex could not bring a gun to bear. Porter finding himself a mere target on the water, determined if possible to board the Phœbe. But his sheets and halyards had been so shot away that not a sail could be set, except the flying jib. Giving this to wind and cutting his cable, he drove slowly down on his foes, and when he got them within range of his carronades, opened a terrible fire. The cannonade on both sides was incessant and awful. The Essex on fire, almost a wreck, and swept by the broadsides of two vessels, still bore steadily down to close, but the Cherub hauled off, while the Phœbe, seeing the advantage she possessed with her long guns, when out of the reach of carronades, kept edging away. It was a painful spectacle to behold, that crippled, dismantled ship, bravely limping up to grapple with her powerful adversary, and that adversary as slowly moving off and pouring in the while a ceaseless, murderous fire. Hulled at almost every shot, her decks ripped up and strewed with the dead, her guns torn from their carriages and rendered useless, it was evident (p. 60) that noble frigate could not be fought much longer. Still Porter would not strike his flag, and he resolved to run his vessel ashore and blow her up. Her head was turned towards the beach, and he had got within musket-shot of it, when the wind suddenly veered and blew him back on the Phœbe and under her raking broadsides. Foiled in his first effort, he now for a moment hoped to get foul and board the enemy, but she kept away, raking the Essex as she retired. The scene on board the frigate at this time was horrible. The cock-pit was crowded with the wounded—men by the dozens were mowed down at every discharge—fifteen had successively fallen at one gun, and scarcely a quarter deck officer was left standing. Amid this scene of carnage and desolation, Porter moved with a knit brow and gloomy heart. As he looked at his crippled condition and slaughtered crew, he felt that he must submit, but when he turned his eye to the flag of his country, still fluttering at the mizen, he could not give the order to strike it. The sympathies of the thousands of spectators that covered the hill-top were with him—as they ever are with the brave. The American consul hastened to the governor of the city and claimed the protection of the batteries for the Essex, but in vain. It had, no doubt, been all arranged beforehand between the authorities and the British commander. Every thing, even the elements of nature, seemed (p. 61) combined against this single ship. As a last resort, Porter let go his sheet anchor, which brought the head of his vessel round so that his broadsides again bore. A gleam of hope lighted up for a moment the gloom that hung over his prospects, and walking amid his bleeding crew, he encouraged the few survivors to hold on. The broadsides of the two vessels again thundered over the bay, telling with frightful effect on both vessels. But this last forlorn hope was snatched from the fated frigate—the hawser parted in the strain, and she drifted an unmanageable wreck on the water—while, to complete the horror of the scene, the flames burst from the hatchways and rolled away towards the magazine. Finding that his doom was now inevitably sealed, for his boats had all been shot away, Porter ordered those of his crew who could swim to jump overboard and make for the shore, three-quarters of a mile distant. Some reached it, while the remainder who made the attempt were either drowned or picked up by the enemy's boats. He then, with the few who preferred to share his fate, extinguished the fire, and again worked the guns that could be brought to bear. It was, however, the last feeble effort of a dying giant. The enemy could now fire more leisurely, and the water being smooth, he soon made a perfect riddle of the Essex. The crew at last entreated their commander to surrender—the contest was hopeless—the (p. 62) cock-pit, ward-room, steerage, and berth-deck could contain no more wounded, who were constantly killed while under the surgeon's hand. Of the carpenter's crew not one remained to stop the shot-holes, through which the water was pouring in streams, and the entire vessel was a wreck. Porter would have sunk with his flag flying, but for the number of wounded who would thus perish with him. For their sakes he finally consented to surrender, and ordered the officers of the different divisions to be sent for, but to his amazement only one was left to answer his call, while out of two hundred and fifty-five men only seventy-five were left fit for duty. This unexampled and murderous combat had lasted nearly two hours and a half, and he gave the melancholy order to lower the flag. The enemy not at first observing it, kept up his fire. Porter, thinking it was his intention to give no quarter, was about to hoist his flag again, and go down with it flying, when the firing ceased.
A ship was never fought more bravely or skilfully, and Porter, though compelled to surrender, earned imperishable renown, and set an example to our navy, which if followed, will ensure its success, and cover it with glory.
(p. 63) Captain Hillyar's conduct after the victory, was distinguished by a courtesy and delicacy rarely witnessed in English commanders at that time. But he was blameworthy in attacking a ship in a neutral port, and it would not take many such victories to ruin his reputation. The whole transaction shows what little respect England paid to the laws of neutrality. The national heart was exceedingly shocked at the violation of those laws by Napoleon when he seized the Duke D'Enghien, but she could give orders, the execution of which did not cause the death of merely one man, but more than one hundred brave spirits, on neutral territory. The authorities of Valparaiso were also guilty of a base act in not defending the rights of their own port, and extending the protection required by the laws of nations to the American vessel.1814.
The Essex Junior was transformed into a cartel, and the prisoners sent in her to the United States, on parole. She arrived off Sandy Hook the 5th of July, and though provided with passports from Captain Hillyar, to prevent a recapture, she was overhauled and detained by the British ship Saturn. Captain Nash, the commander, at first treated Porter very civilly, endorsed his passports, and allowed the vessel to proceed. Standing on the same tack with the Essex, he kept her company for two hours, when he ordered the former to heave to (p. 64) again, and her papers brought on board for re-examination. Porter was indignant at this proceeding, but he was told that his passport must not only go on board the Saturn, but the vessel itself be detained. He remonstrated, declaring that it was in direct violation of the contract entered into with Captain Hillyar, and he should consider himself a prisoner of Captain Nash's, and no longer on parole, and at the same time offered to deliver up his sword. On being told that the vessel must remain under the lee of the Saturn all night, he said, "then I am your prisoner, and do not feel myself bound any longer by my agreement with Captain Hillyar." He withdrew his parole at once, declaring he should act as he saw fit. The English captain evidently suspected some Yankee trick was at the bottom of the whole proceeding, and as it usually happened during the war, suspicion was aroused at precisely the wrong times. English vessels had been so often duped by Yankee shrewdness that they were constantly on the alert, and hence to be safe, often committed blunders of a grave character. Porter, whether treading the quarter-deck of his own vessel or a prisoner of war, was not a man to be trifled with, and as a British officer had treated him basely, he determined to be free of the obligations that galled him, at all hazards, and the next morning finding that he was off Long Island, and that (p. 65) Captain Nash had no idea of releasing him, he ordered a boat lowered, into which he jumped with an armed crew, and pushed off. As he went down the vessel's side, he told Lieutenant Downs to say to Captain Nash, "that he was now satisfied that most British naval officers were not only destitute of honor, but regardless of the honor of each other; that he was armed and should fight any force sent against him, to the last, and if he met him again, it would be as an enemy." Keeping the Essex Junior between him and the British vessel, he got nearly out of gun-shot before he was discovered. The Saturn immediately gave chase, but a fog suddenly rising, concealed the boat, when Porter changed his course and eluded his pursuers. Lieutenant Downs, taking advantage of the same fog endeavored to escape with his vessel, but the Saturn suspecting his movements, opened her guns, which brought him to. Porter heard the firing, and kept off in an opposite direction, and by rowing and sailing, alternately, for nearly sixty miles, in an open boat, at length reached Babylon, on Long Island. The people there discredited his story. Suspecting he was an English officer in disguise, they began to question him, and he was compelled to show his commission before they would let him go. When their doubts were at length removed, every attention was lavished upon him, and he started for New (p. 66) York. His arrival was soon spread abroad, and as the carriage that contained him entered the city the horses were snatched away, and the people seizing it, dragged him through the streets with huzzas and shouts of welcome.
Porter had lost his ship, but not his place in the heart of the nation, nay he was deeply and forever fixed there. His cruise had been a great triumph, notwithstanding its disastrous close. The boldness and originality of its conception—the daring and gallant manner in which he had carried it out—the spirit and desperation with which he had fought his ship against a superior force, were themes of universal eulogy, and endeared him to the American people.
Plan of the third Campaign — Attack on Sackett's Harbor — Attack on Oswego — Woolsey transports guns to Sackett's Harbor — Capture of the detachment sent against him — Expedition against Mackinaw — Death of Captain Holmes — Complete failure of the expedition.
While Porter was slowly approaching our coast, on his return from the Pacific, events on our northern frontier were assuming an entirely different aspect from that which they had worn for the last two years. In the spring, just before and after Congress adjourned, small expeditions on both sides were set on foot; one, on our part, to Mackinaw, to aid in carrying out Armstrong's plan for the summer campaign. This, like all the previous plans looked to the same result, the details being varied apparently for the sole purpose of appeasing the people, who it was thought, would not allow a repetition of those manœuvres which had ended in such signal disgrace. It was therefore proposed, first to humble the Indians in the north-west, by capturing Mackinaw, and thus hold the key of that whole region, so valuable for (p. 68) its fur trade, and then march an army from the east of Lake Erie to Burlington Heights, and seize and fortify that position till the co-operation of the Ontario fleet and the troops at Sackett's harbor could be secured, when a rapid advance might be made on Kingston, and after its reduction, on Montreal. The Secretary clung to the conquest of Canada with a tenacity that deserved success, but this plan also utterly failed, and the progress of the campaign brought about results widely different from those anticipated. That part of it looking to the seizure of Mackinaw, was placed under the direction of Colonel Croghan and Major Holmes, with whom Captain Sinclair, recently appointed to the command of the upper lakes, was to co-operate with a portion of his fleet—the other portion to aid in the expedition against Burlington Heights. Major Holmes had at first been appointed by the Secretary to command the land forces, but Colonel Croghan, stationed at Detroit, and senior officer during Colonel Butler's absence, denied the right thus directly to appoint him, insisting that the commission should go through his hands. A correspondence followed, which delayed the expedition till the third of July. In the mean time, a British force, under Colonel McDowell, had visited and reinforced all the posts on the northern lakes, penetrating even beyond Mackinaw. While Holmes and Sinclair were detained (p. 69) till Colonel Croghan and the Secretary could settle a question of etiquette, the English, who had again acquired the ascendancy on Lake Ontario, by building more ships, made an attack on Sackett's Harbor. Being repulsed, Sir James Yeo then sailed for Oswego, to destroy materials for ship building, etc., which he supposed to be assembled there. He arrived on the 5th of May, and began to bombard the place. The American garrison at the fort, consisted of three hundred men under Colonel Mitchell, with five guns, three of which were almost useless. The place contained at that time, but five hundred inhabitants. The schooner Growler being in the river, and exposed to certain capture, was sunk, and her cannon transferred to the fort, situated on a high bank east of the town.
Finding that the bombardment produced no effect, a large body of troops, under General Drummond, was sent forward to carry the fort by storm. The fifteen barges that contained them were led on by gun-boats, destined to cover the landing. These no sooner came within range of the artillery on shore, than a spirited fire was opened on them, repulsing them twice, and finally compelling the whole flotilla to seek the shelter of the ships. The next day the fleet approached nearer shore, and commenced a heavy cannonade which lasted three hours. Under cover of it, General De Watteville landed two thousand (p. 70) troops, and advanced in perfect order over the ground that intervened between the water and the fort. The soldiers and marines of the Growler fought bravely, but Colonel Mitchell seeing that resistance was hopeless, retired, scourging the enemy as he withdrew, with well-directed volleys, and strewing the ground with more than two hundred dead and wounded. He fell back to Oswego Falls, where the naval stores had all been removed, destroying the bridges as he retired. Foiled in their attempt to get possession of the stores, the British, after having raised the Growler, retired to Sackett's Harbor, and blockaded it, resolving to intercept the supplies, guns, etc., that were ready to be sent forward. Lighter materials could be transported by land, but the guns, cables, and anchors, &c., destined for two vessels recently built at Sackett's Harbor, could reach there only by water, from Oswego, whither they had been carried by way of the Mohawk river, Woods' creek, Oneida lake, and the Oswego river. Captain Woolsey, a brave, skillful and energetic officer, who had been appointed to take charge of their transportation, caused a rumor to be spread that he designed to effect it through Oneida lake. May 28. But soon as the British fleet left Oswego, he dropped down the river with fifteen boats, loaded with thirty-four cannon and ten cables. Halting at Oswego till dark, he (p. 71) then pulled out into the lake. A detachment of a hundred and thirty riflemen accompanied him, while a body of Oneida Indians marched along the shore. The night was dark and gloomy—the rain fell in torrents, drenching sailors and soldiers to the skin, while the waves dashed over the boats, adding to the discomforts and labors of the voyage. It was a long and tedious pull along the scarcely visible shores, on which swayed and moaned an unbroken forest.
The next day at sunrise the fleet of boats reached Big Salmon river, with the exception of one, which kept on, under the pretence of going direct to Sackett's Harbor, and fell into the hands of the blockading squadron, giving it information of the approach of the others. Woolsey, knowing that he could not run the blockade, had resolved to land his guns at Big Sandy creek and transport them by land eight miles distant, to Sackett's Harbor. Having reached the mouth of the creek in safety, he ascended two miles and landed. In the mean time Sir James Yeo had dispatched two gun-boats, with three cutters and a gig, in search of him. Finding the fleet had ascended Big Sandy creek, Captains Popham and Spilsbury, who commanded the expedition, followed after. The soldiers and marines were landed a mile or more below where Woolsey was unloading, and moved forward, keeping parallel with the gun-boats, which incessantly probed the thickets, as they advanced, (p. 72) with grape shot. Major Appling, who commanded the American riflemen, placed them and his Indian allies in ambush about half a mile below the American barges. Allowing the enemy to approach within close range, he suddenly poured in a destructive volley, which so paralyzed them that they threw down their arms and begged for quarter. All the boats, officers, and men were taken, making a total loss of a hundred and eighty-six men.
The guns were then carried across to Sackett's Harbor, and the new ship Superior armed, which so strengthened Chauncey's force that Sir James Yeo raised the blockade and sailed for the Canada shore.July 3.
At last the expedition against Mackinaw got under way. Two war brigs, the Lawrence and Niagara, together with several smaller vessels, carrying in all nine hundred men, began slowly to traverse the inland seas from Detroit to Mackinaw. Nothing but canoes and batteaux had hitherto floated on those scarcely known waters, with the exception of a single schooner or sloop, which made an annual solitary trip to the extreme north-western posts to carry supplies. More than a thousand miles from the ocean, and lifted nearly six hundred feet above it, those vast seas rolled their waves through unbroken forests. This was the first fleet that ever penetrated those solitudes, through which roamed unscared beasts of prey, and from whose further margin (p. 73) stretched away those immense prairies that go rolling up to the base of the Rocky Mountains. Amid unknown rocks and shoals—feeling its way along narrow channels—at one moment almost grazing the sand-bars with its keels, and the next moment floating over water nearly a thousand feet deep—now traversing groups of beautiful islands, and anon skirting the bases of precipices, on whose summit waved forests that had stood undisturbed since the birth of time—that little fleet crept on towards its destination. Its progress was so slow that Colonel McDowell, commanding at Mackinaw, had ample time to make preparations for defence.
Captain Sinclair, on his arrival, refused to advance against the fort, for its batteries looked down on his decks from a hundred feet in the air. A land attack was therefore resolved upon and carried into execution. Aug. 4. But the dense woods, filled with sharp shooters, through which the troops were compelled to force their way, rendered the movement a complete failure. Captain Holmes, a gallant officer, was shot by an Indian boy. A black servant of Colonel Croghan immediately covered the body with leaves, to prevent mutilation by the Indians, and the next day it was recovered. The troops were re-embarked, and the discomfitted fleet turned homeward. Overtaken by a storm in Lake Huron, all their boats were destroyed, and the vessels themselves narrowly escaped (p. 74) being wrecked. A detachment having destroyed six months' supplies at the mouth of the Natewasaga river destined for Mackinaw, two schooners were left to blockade the place. Sept. 13. Mackinaw, thus cut off from all communication with the provinces, would be starved out and compelled to surrender. But to complete the disaster of this unfortunate enterprise, four batteaux, with a fleet of small boats from Mackinaw, surprised and captured one of the schooners, the Tigress. Lieutenant Woolsey then took command of her, and the next morning, with American colors flying, stood steadily down on the Scorpion until he ranged alongside, when he fired all his guns at once, and running aboard, took the unsuspecting vessel without a struggle.
Thus ended an expedition, romantic from the scenery through which it passed, but comparatively useless in its results, and costing more than it was worth, even if it had been successful.
Brown takes command of the army at Niagara — Crosses the river into Canada — Battle of Chippewa — Brilliant charge of the Americans — Desperate battle of Niagara — Conduct of Ripley — The army ordered to Fort Erie — General Gaines takes command.July 3.
On the same day the expedition to Mackinaw sailed from Detroit, the army which had been concentrated at Buffalo during the winter, crossed the Niagara, in its third campaign against Canada. Brown, who had been made Brigadier-General for his gallant conduct at Sackett's Harbor, was afterward promoted to the rank of Major-General and given the command of the army destined to act on the Niagara frontier. Two regular brigades, commanded by Scott and Ripley, and a brigade of volunteers and militia, with a few Indians, under General Porter, composed his force. He was directed to carry out that portion of the Secretary's plan which looked to the possession and fortification of Burlington Heights, previous to a descent on Kingston and Montreal. First, he was to seize Fort (p. 76) Erie, risk a combat with the enemy at Chippewa, menace Fort George, and then, if Chauncey's fleet could co-operate with him, advance rapidly on Burlington.
The two regular brigades had been subjected for three months to a new and most rigid discipline. The system of tactics hitherto in use, had been handed down from the Revolution, and was not, therefore, adapted to the improved mode of warfare. Scott, here, for the first time, introduced the French system. He drilled the officers, and they, in turn, the men. So severe and constant was this discipline, that, in the short space of three months, these brigades became intelligent, steady, and invincible as veterans.July 3.
The preparations being completed, the army crossed the Niagara river, and took Fort Erie without a struggle. The main British army, under General Riall, lay at Chippewa, towards which Scott pressed, heading the advance, with his brigade, chasing before him for sixteen miles, a detachment commanded by the Marquis of Tweesdale, who said he could not account for the ardor of the pursuit until he remembered it was the 4th of July, our great anniversary. At dark the Marquis crossed the Chippewa, behind which lay the British army. This river enters the Niagara nearly at right angles. Two miles farther up, Street's Creek joins the Niagara (p. 77) also, and behind it Gen. Brown drew up the American forces. Those two miles of interval between the streams was an open plain, skirted on one side by the Niagara river and on the other by a forest.
In the morning Gen. Brown resolved to advance and attack the British in their position. The latter had determined on a similar movement against the Americans, and unbeknown to each other, the one prepared to cross the bridge of Chippewa, and the other that of Street's Creek.
The battle commenced in the woods on the left, and an irregular fight was kept up for a long time between Porter's brigade and the Canadian militia stationed there. The latter were at length driven back to the Chippewa, when General Riall advanced to their support. Before this formidable array, the American militia, notwithstanding the noble efforts of General Porter to steady their courage, broke and fled. General Brown immediately hastened to the scene, merely saying to Scott as he passed on, "The enemy is advancing, you will have a fight." The latter, ignorant of the forward movement of Riall, had just put his brigade in marching order to cross the creek for a drill on the level plain beyond. But as the head of the column reached the bank, he saw the British army drawn up in beautiful array in the open field, on the farther side, while a battery of nine pieces stood in point blank range of the (p. 78) bridge over which he was to cross. Swiftly yet beautifully the corps of Scott swept over the bridge and deployed under the steady fire of the battery. The first and second battalions under Majors Leavenworth and McNeil, took position in front of the left and centre of the enemy, while the third, under Jessup, obliqued to the left to attack their right, stationed in the woods, and which threatened to outflank the American line. It was a bright, hot July afternoon, the dusty plain presented no obstacle behind which either party could find shelter, and the march of the steady battalions over its surface led on by bands of music, playing national airs, presented one of those stirring scenes which make man forget the carnage that is to follow. The heavy monotonous thunder of Niagara rolled on over the discharges of artillery, while its clouds of spray rising from the strife of waters, and glittering in the sunbeams, contrasted strangely with the sulphurous clouds that heaved heavenward from the conflict of men beneath.
Both armies halting, firing, and advancing in turn, continued to approach until they stood within eighty yards of each other. Scott who had been manœuvering to get the two battalions of Leavenworth and M'Neil in an oblique position to the British line, at length succeeded, the two farther extremities being nearest the enemy. Thus the American army stood (p. 79) like an obtuse triangle of which the British line formed the base. While in this position, Scott, wishing to pass from one extremity to the other and being in too great a hurry to go back of the lines around the triangle, cut directly across, taking the cross fire of both armies, as he spurred in a fierce gallop through the smoke. A loud cheer rolled along the American line as they saw this daring act of their commander. Riding up to Towson's battery, he cried out, "a little more to the left, captain, the enemy is there." This gallant officer was standing amid his guns, enveloped in smoke, and had not observed that the British had advanced so far that his fire fell behind them. Instantly discovering his mistake, he changed the direction of his two remaining pieces and poured a raking, destructive fire through the enemy's ranks, blowing up an ammunition wagon, which spread destruction on every side. At this critical moment, Scott rode up to M'Neil's battalion, his face blazing with excitement, and shouted, "The enemy say that we are good at long shot but cannot stand the cold iron. I call upon the Eleventh instantly to give the lie to that slander—Charge."
Just as the order "charge," escaped his lips, came that destructive fire from Towson's battery. The thunder of those guns at that critical moment, was to Scott's young and excited heart like the shout of (p. 80) victory, and rising in his stirrups and swinging his sword aloft, he cried, "Charge, charge the rascals." With a high and ringing cheer, that gallant battalion moved with leveled bayonets on the foe. Taking the close and deadly volleys without shrinking—never for a moment losing its firm formation, it struck the British line obliquely, crumbling it to pieces, as it swept on and making awful havoc in its passage.
Leavenworth did the same on the right with like success, while Jessup in the woods, ignorant how the battle was going in the plain, but finding himself outflanked, ordered his troops "to support arms and advance." They cheerfully obeyed and in the face of a most deadly fire charged home on the enemy, and obtaining a better position poured in their volleys with tremendous effect. From the moment these charges commenced, till the enemy fled, the field presented a frightful spectacle. The two armies were in such close proximity, and the volleys were so incessant and destructive, and the uproar so terrific that orders could no longer be heard. But through his two aids Lieutenants Worth and Watts, who galloped to and fro, and by their presence and gestures transmitted his orders in the midst of the hottest fire, Scott caused every movement to be executed with precision, and not an error was committed from first to last.
The sun went down in blood and the loud voice of Niagara which had been drowned in the roar of battle, sounded on as before, chaunting a requiem for the gallant dead, while the moans of the wounded loaded the air of the calm summer evening.
Nearly eight hundred killed and wounded, had been stretched on the earth in that short battle, out of some four thousand, or one-fifth of all engaged. A bloodier battle, considering the numbers, was scarce ever fought. The British having been taught to believe that the American troops would give way in an open fight, and that the resort to the bayonet was always the signal of victory to them, could not be made to yield, until they were literally crushed under the headlong charge of the Americans.
Gen. Brown, when he found that Scott had the whole British army on his hands, hurried back to bring up Ripley's brigade; but Scott's evolutions and advance had been so rapid, and his blow so sudden and deadly, that the field was swept before he could arrive.
M'Neil's battalion had not a recruit in it, and Scott knew when he called on them to give the lie (p. 82) to the slander, that American troops could not stand the cold steel, that they would do it though every man perished in his footsteps.
Maj. Leavenworth's battalion, however, embraced a few volunteers, and among them a company of backwoodsmen, who joined the army at Buffalo a few days before it was to cross the Niagara.
An incident illustrating their character, was told the writer's father by Maj. Gen. Leavenworth himself. Although a battle was expected in a few days, the Major resolved in the mean time to drill these men. Having ordered them out for that purpose, he endeavored to apply the manual; but to his surprise, found that they were ignorant of the most common terms familiar even to untrained militia. While thus puzzled with their awkwardness, Scott rode on the field, and in a sharp voice asked Maj. Leavenworth if he could not manage those soldiers better. The Major lifting his chapeau to the General, replied, that he wished the General would try them himself. The latter rode forward and issued his commands—but the backwoodsmen instead of obeying him, were ignorant even of the military terms he used. After a few moments' trial, he saw it was a hopeless task, and touching his chapeau in return to Leavenworth, said, "Major, I leave you your men," and rode off the field. The latter, finding that all attempts at drill during the short interval that must elapse before (p. 83) a battle occurred, would be useless, ordered them to their quarters. On the day of the battle he placed them at one extremity of the line, where he thought they would interfere the least with the manœuvres of the rest of the battalion. He said that during the engagement, this company occurred to him, and he rode the whole length of his line to see what they were about. They were where he had placed them, captain and all, obeying no orders, except those to advance. Their ranks were open and out of all line; but the soldiers were cool and collected as veterans. They had thrown away their hats and coats, and besmeared with powder and smoke were loading and firing, each for himself. They paid no attention to the order to fire, for the idea of "shooting" till they had good aim was preposterous. The thought of running had evidently never crossed their minds. Fearless of danger, and accustomed to pick off squirrels from the tops of the loftiest trees with their rifle-balls, they were quietly doing what they were put there to perform, viz., kill men, and Maj. Leavenworth said there was the most deadly work in the whole line. Men fell like grass before the scythe. Not a shot was thrown away—ten men were equal to a hundred firing in the ordinary way.
The American army rested but two days after the battle, and then advanced over the Chippewa, Scott's brigade leading. The British retreated to Burlington (p. 84) Heights, near the head of Lake Ontario. Thither Brown resolved to follow them. But on the 25th, while the army was resting, preparatory to the next day's battle, word was brought that a thousand English troops had crossed the river to Lewistown, for the purpose, evidently, of seizing our magazines at Fort Schlosser, and the supplies, on the way to the American camp, from Buffalo. In order to force them to return, Brown resolved immediately to threaten the forts at the mouth of the Niagara river, and in twenty minutes, Scott, with a detachment of twelve hundred men, was on the march. He had proceeded but two miles, when he came in sight of a group of British officers on horseback, evidently reconnoitering. The force to which they belonged lay behind a strip of wood, which prevented him from seeing it. Supposing it, however, to be the fragments of the army he had so terribly shattered at Chippewa, he ordered the march to be resumed. But as he cleared the road he saw before him an army of two thousand men drawn up in order of battle. He paused a moment at this unexpected sight, and his eye had an anxious look as it ran along his little band. To retreat would endanger the reserve marching to his relief, and destroy the confidence of the troops. Besides, Scott never had, and never has since, learned practically, what the word "retreat" meant. He determined, therefore, hazardous (p. 85) as it was, to maintain the unequal contest till the other portion of the army arrived. Despatching officers to General Brown with directions to ride as for life, he gave the orders to advance. The sun, at this time, was but half an hour high, and unobscured by a cloud, was going to his lordly repose behind the forest that stood bathed in his departing splendor. Near by, in full view, rolled the cataract, sending up its incense towards heaven, and filling that summer evening with its voice of thunder. The spray, as it floated inland, hovered over the American army, and as the departing sunbeams struck it, a rainbow was formed, which encircled the head of Scott's column like a halo—a symbol of the wreath of glory that should adorn it forever.
The British, two thousand strong, were posted just below the Falls, on a ridge at the head of Lundy's Lane. Their left was in the highway, and separated from the main body by an interval of two hundred yards, covered with brushwood, etc. General Drummond had landed a short time before with reinforcements, which were rapidly marching up to the aid of Riall. Scott, however, would not turn his back on the enemy, and gallantly led in person his little army into the fire. His bearing and words inspired confidence, and officers and men forgot the odds that were against them. Major Jessup was ordered to fling himself in the interval, between the (p. 86) British centre and left, and turn the latter. In the mean time the enemy discovering that he outflanked the Americans on the left, advanced a battalion to take them in rear. The brave McNeil stopped, with one terrible blow, its progress, though his own battalion was dreadfully shattered by it. Jessup had succeeded in his movement, and having gained the enemy's rear, charged back through his line, captured the commanding general, Riall, with his whole staff. When this was told to Scott, he announced it to the army, and three loud cheers rang over the field. A destructive discharge from the English battery of seven pieces, replied.
It was night now, and a serene moon rose over the scene, but its light struggled in vain to pierce the smoke that curtained in the combatants. The flashes from the battery that crowned the heights, and from the infantry below, alone revealed where they were struggling. Scott's regiments were soon all reduced to skeletons—a fourth of the whole brigade had fallen in the unequal conflict. The English battery of twenty-four-pounders and howitzers, sent destruction through his ranks. He, however, refused to yield a foot of ground, and heading almost every charge in person, moved with such gay spirits and reckless courage through the deadliest fire, that the troops caught the infection. But the British batteries, now augmented to nine guns, made frightful havoc (p. 87) in his uncovered brigade. Towson's few pieces being necessarily placed so much lower, could produce but little effect, while the enemy's twenty-four-pounders, loaded with grape, swept the entire field. The eleventh and twenty-second regiments, deprived of their commanders, and destitute of ammunition were withdrawn, and Leavenworth, with the gallant ninth, was compelled to withstand the whole shock of battle. With such energy and superior numbers did the British press upon this single regiment, that it appeared amid the darkness to be enveloped in fire. Its destruction seemed inevitable, and in a short time one-half of its number lay stretched on the field. Leavenworth sent to Scott, informing him of his desperate condition. The latter soon came up on a gallop, when Leavenworth pointing to the bleeding fragment of his regiment, said, "Your rule for retreating is fulfilled," referring to Scott's maxim that a regiment might retreat when every third man was killed. Scott, however, answered buoyantly, cheered up the men and officers by promising victory, and spurring where the balls fell thickest, animated them by his daring courage and chivalric bearing to still greater efforts. Still he could not but see that his case was getting desperate, and unless aid arrived soon, he must retreat. Only five or six hundred of the twelve hundred he at sunset had led into battle, remained to him.
(p. 88) General Brown, however, was hurrying to the rescue. The incessant cannonading convinced him that Scott had a heavy force on his hands; and without waiting the arrival of a messenger, he directed Ripley to move forward with the second brigade. Meeting Scott's dispatch on the way, he learned how desperate the battle was, and immediately directed Porter with the volunteers to hurry on after Ripley, while he, in advance of all, hastened to the field of action. The constant and heavy explosions of artillery, rising over the roar of the cataract, announced to the excited soldiers the danger of their comrades; and no sooner were they wheeled into marching order than they started on a trot along the road. Lieut. Riddle, who was off on a scouring expedition in the country, paused as he heard the thunder of cannon, and waiting for no dispatch, gave orders to march, and his men moving at the charge de pas, soon came with shouts on the field. At length the head of Ripley's column emerged into view, sending joy through those gallant regiments, and a loud huzza rolled along their line. Brown, seeing that Scott's brigade was exhausted, ordered Ripley to form in advance of it. In the mean time, Drummond had arrived on the field with reinforcements, swelling the English army to four thousand men. At this moment there was a lull in the battle, and both armies prepared for a decisive blow. It was evident the deadly (p. 89) battery on the heights must be carried, or the field be lost, and Brown, turning to Colonel Miller, asked him if he could take it. "I will try, sir," was the brief reply of the fearless soldier, as he coolly scanned the frowning heights. Placing himself at the head of the 21st regiment, he prepared to ascend the hill. Major M'Farland with the 23d was to support him. Not having arrived on the field till after dark, he was ignorant of the formation of the ground or the best point from which to commence the ascent. Scott, who had fought over almost every foot of it since sunset, offered to pilot him. Passing by an old church and grave-yard, that showed dimly in the moonlight, he took the column to the proper place, and then returned to his post. In close order and dead silence the two regiments then moved straight for the battery. It was by their heavy muffled tread that General Drummond first detected their approach. But the moment he caught the dark outlines of the swiftly advancing columns he turned his battery upon them with terrific effect. The twenty-third staggered under the discharge, but soon rallied and pressed forward. Smitten again, it reeled backward down the hill; but the twenty-first never faltered. "Close up, steady, men!" rung from the lips of their leader, and taking the loads of grape-shot unshrinkingly into their bosoms, they marched sternly on, their bayonets gleaming red in the fire (p. 90) that rolled in streams down the slope. Every explosion revealed the whole hill and that dark column winding through flame and smoke up its sides. At length it came within range of musketry, when the carnage became awful; but still on through the sheets of flame, over their dead comrades, this invincible regiment held its stubborn course towards the very vortex of the battle. The English gazed with amazement on its steady advance. No hesitation marked its movement; closing up its ranks after every discharge, it kept on its terrible way, till at last it stood face to face with the murderous battery, and within a few steps of the gunners. A sudden flash, a deafening explosion, and then "Close up, steady, charge," rung out from the sulphurous cloud that rolled over the shattered regiment, and the next instant it swept with a thrilling shout over guns, gunners, and all. The struggle became at once close and fierce,—bayonet crossed bayonet,—weapon clashed against weapon,—but nothing could resist that determined onset. The British were driven down the hill, and the remnants of that gallant regiment, together with M'Farland's, which had again rallied, formed between the guns and the foe. Ripley then moved his brigade to the top of the hill, in order to keep what had been so heroically won.
Stung with rage and mortification at this unexpected defeat, Drummond resolved to retake that height and (p. 91) his guns, cost what it might; and soon the tread of his advancing columns was heard ascending the slope. With their uniforms glittering in the bright moonlight, the excited troops came on at the charge step, until within twenty yards of the American line, when they halted and delivered their fire. "Charge" then ran along the line, but the order had scarcely pealed on the night air before they were shattered and torn into fragments by the sudden and destructive volley of the Americans. Rallying, however, they returned to the attack, and for twenty minutes the conflict around those guns was indescribably awful and murderous. No sounds of music drowned the death-cry; the struggle was too close and fatal. There were only the fierce tramp and the clash of steel,—the stifled cry and wavering to and fro of men in a death-grapple. At length the British broke, and disappeared in the darkness. General Ripley again formed his line, while Scott, who had succeeded in getting a single battalion out of the fragments of his whole brigade, was ordered to the top of the hill.
In about half an hour the sound of the returning enemy was again heard. Smote by the same fierce fire, Drummond with a desperate effort threw his entire strength on the centre of the American line. But there stood the gallant twenty-first, whose resistless charge had first swept the hill; and where (p. 92) they had conquered they could not yield. Scott in the mean time led his column so as to take the enemy in flank and rear, and but for a sudden volley from a concealed body of the enemy, cutting his command in two, would have finished the battle with a blow. As it was, he charged again and again, with resistless energy, and the disordered ranks of the British for the second time rolled back and were lost in the gloom. Here Scott's last horse fell under him, and he moved on foot amid his battalion. Jessup was also severely wounded, yet there he stood amid the darkness and carnage, cheering on his men. The soldiers vied with the officers in heroic daring and patient suffering. Many would call out for muskets as they had none, or for cartridges as theirs were all gone. On every side from pallid lips and prostrate bleeding forms came the reply, "take mine, and mine, my gun is in good order, and my cartridge box is full." There was scarcely an officer at this time unwounded; yet, one and all refused to yield the command while they could keep their feet.
Jessup's flag was riddled with balls, and as a sergeant waved it amid a storm of bullets, the staff was severed in three places in his hand. Turning to his commander he exclaimed as he took up the fragments, "Look, colonel, how they have cut us." The next moment a ball passed through his body. But he still kept his feet, and still waved his mutilated (p. 93) standard, until faint with loss of blood he sunk on the field.
After being driven the second time down the hill, the enemy for a while ceased their efforts, and sudden silence fell on the two armies, broken only by the groans of the wounded and dying. The scene, and the hour, combined to render that hill-top a strange and fearful object in the darkness. On one side lay a wilderness, on the other rolled the cataract, whose solemn anthem could again be heard pealing on through the night. Leaning on their heated guns, that gallant band stood bleeding amid the wreck it had made. It was midnight—the stars looked quietly down from the sky—the summer wind swept softly by, and nature was breathing long and peacefully. But all over that hill lay the brave dead, and adown its sides in every direction the blood of men was rippling. Nothing but skeletons of regiments remained, yet calm and stern were the words spoken there in the darkness. "Close up the ranks," were the heroic orders that still fell on the shattered battalions, and they closed with the same firm presence and dauntless hearts as before.
It was thought that the British would make no further attempts to recover their guns, but reinforcements having arrived from Fort George, they, after an hour's repose and refreshment, prepared for a final assault. Our troops had all this time stood to their (p. 94) arms, and faint with hunger, thirst, and fatigue, seemed unequal to a third conflict against a fresh force. But as they heard the enemy advancing, they forgot their weariness and met the onset firmly as before. But this time the ranks of the enemy did not yield under the fire that smote them—they pressed steadily forward, and delivering their volleys as they advanced, at length stood on the summit of the hill, and breast to breast with the American line. The conflict now became fearful and more like the murderous hand-to-hand fights of old than a modern battle. Battalions on both sides were forced back till the ranks became mingled. Bayonet crossed bayonet and men lay transfixed side by side. Hindman, whose artillery had been from the first served with surpassing skill, found the enemy amid his guns, across which he was compelled to fight them.
The firing gave way to the clash of steel, the blazing hill-top subsided into gloom, out of which the sound of this nocturnal combat arose in strange and wild confusion.
Scott, charging like fire at the head of his exhausted battalion, received another severe wound which prostrated him—but his last words to Leavenworth were, "Charge again!" "Charge again, Leavenworth!" he cried, as they bore him, apparently dying, from that fierce foughten field. General Brown, supported on his horse, and suffering from a severe (p. 95) wound, was slowly led away. Jesup was bleeding from several wounds; every regimental officer in Scott's brigade was killed or wounded. Only one soldier out of every four stood up unhurt. The annals of war rarely reveal such a slaughter in a single brigade, but it is rarer still a brigade has such a leader. The ghosts of regiments alone remained, yet before these the veterans of England were at last compelled to flee, and betake themselves to the darkness for safety. Sullen, mortified, and badly wounded, Drummond was carried from the field, and all farther attempts to take the hill were abandoned. The Americans, however, kept watch and ward, around the cannon that had cost them so great a sacrifice, till near daybreak, when orders were received to retire to camp. No water could be obtained on the heights, and the troops wanted repose. Through the want of drag-ropes and horses, the cannon were left behind. This was a sad drawback to the victory, and Major Ripley should have detailed some men to have taken at least the lightest ones away. Trophies won with the blood of so many brave men were worth more effort than he put forth to secure them.
A bloodier battle, in proportion to the numbers engaged, was never fought than this. Nearly eight hundred Americans, and as many English, had fallen on and around that single hill. It was literally loaded with the slain. Seventy-six officers were (p. 96) either killed or wounded out of our army of some three thousand men, and not a general on either side remained unwounded.
Among the slain was young Captain Hull, son of the General who had so shamefully capitulated at Detroit. This young officer, who had fought one duel in defence of his father's honor, and struggled in vain to shake off the sense of disgrace that clung to him, told a friend at the opening of the battle, that he had resolved to fling away a life which had become insupportable. When the conflict was done, he was found stark and stiff where the dead lay thickest.
It would be impossible to relate all the deeds of daring and gallantry which distinguished this bloody engagement. Almost every man was a hero, and from that hour England felt a respect for our arms she had never before entertained. The navy had established its reputation forever, and now the army challenged the respect of the world. The timorous and the ignorant had been swept away with the old martinets, and the true genius of the country was shining forth in her young men, who, while they did not despise the past, took lessons of the present. Scott at this time, but twenty-eight years of age, had shown to the country what a single youth, fired with patriotism, confident in his resources, and daring in spirit, could accomplish. His brigade, it is (p. 97) true, had been almost annihilated, and nothing apparently been gained; but those err much who graduate the results of a battle by the number taken prisoners or the territory acquired. Moral power is always more valuable than physical, and though we are forever demanding something tangible to show as the reward of such a great effort and sacrifice, yet to gain a national position is more important than to take an army. Thus while many think that the battle of Niagara, though gallantly fought, was a barren one, and furnished no compensation for the great slaughter that characterized it, yet there has been none since that of Bunker Hill, more important to this country, and which, directly and indirectly, has more affected its interests. It probably saved more battles than if, by stratagem or superior force, General Brown had succeeded in capturing Drummond's entire army.
Brown and Scott both being disabled, the command devolved on Major Ripley, who retired behind the Chippewa, and the defences recently erected by the British. Scott's last wound was a severe one. A musket ball had shattered his shoulder dreadfully, and for a long time it was extremely doubtful whether he ever recovered. He suffered excruciating pain from it, and it was September before he ventured to travel, and then slowly and with great care. His progress was a constant ovation. (p. 98) The young and wounded chieftain was hailed on his passage with salvos of artillery, and shouts of freemen. He arrived at Princeton on commencement day of Nassau Hall. The professors immediately sent a delegation requesting his attendance at the church. Leaning on the arm of his gallant aid-de-camp, Worth—his arm in a sling, and his countenance haggard and worn from his long suffering and confinement, the tall young warrior slowly moved up the aisle, and with great difficulty ascended the steps to the stage. At first sight of the invalid, looking so unlike the dashing, fearless commander, a murmur of sympathy ran through the house, the next moment there went up a shout that shook the building to its foundations.
Passing on to Baltimore, then threatened with an attack by the British, he finally so far recovered as to take command in the middle of October of the tenth military district, and established his headquarters at Washington City.
General Brown was indignant with General Ripley for leaving the cannon behind, and peremptorily ordered him to reoccupy the heights of Lundy's Lane at daybreak, and remain there till the dead were buried and the guns removed. He however did not commence his march till after sunrise, and then being told that the enemy were in possession (p. 99) of the heights, he halted, and finally retired to Chippewa.
This officer, on whom the command had devolved since the battle, seemed from the first opposed to all the movements. When the army was about to cross the river against Riall, he not only strongly condemned the proceeding, but even offered his resignation, which was not accepted. By his neglect to remove, or attempt to remove the captured guns, which had cost such a heroic struggle, and his after delay to return and take them, it would seem as if he were offended that such brilliant results had followed a course which had met with his strong disapprobation. He was an able officer and a brave man, yet his heart was not in this movement of Brown's, consequently he did not go into combat with the enthusiasm of Scott, Miller, and Jesup, nor feel so elated by the victory.
Soon after, a rumor was spread that Drummond was marching on the American camp. Although occupying a strong position, Ripley immediately ordered a retreat to the ferry opposite Black Rock, with the intention of recrossing the river into the limits of the United States. This sudden determination, founded on a mere rumor, can hardly be accounted for, except on the supposition that he could not be contented till the army was back to the place it started from, and whence it never would have (p. 100) moved had he been commander-in-chief. He was prevented from carrying out this purpose by the earnest remonstrances of McCrea and Wood, who scorned to flee so ignominiously from the field of their fame. Ripley then left the army and hastened to Buffalo, to obtain Brown's consent to the measure. The wounded hero was enraged that the commanding officer should contemplate such a virtual confession of defeat—rebuked him, and ordered the division to remain at Fort Erie, and fortify and defend it to the last extremity. He also sent a dispatch to General Gaines, commanding at Sackett's Harbor, to repair at once to the army at Fort Erie, and take command of both.
Siege of Fort Erie — Assault and repulse of the British — Brown takes command — Resolves to destroy the enemy's works by a sortie — Opposed by his officers — The sortie — Anecdote of General Porter — Retreat of Drummond — Conduct of Izard.Aug. 3.
Gaines, immediately on his arrival at Fort Erie, set about strengthening the works, so that when Drummond actually invested it, he found it in a good state of defence.
In the mean time, the English commander hearing that Brown's magazine had been removed from Schlosser to Buffalo, dispatched Colonel Tucker to the latter place, with twelve hundred men, to seize them. But Brown anticipating such a movement, had stationed Major Morgan, with a battalion of riflemen, at Black Rock, to meet and repel it. This vigilant and gallant officer thwarted every attempt of the British to advance, and compelled them reluctantly to return.
A night expedition sent to cut out three small American vessels at anchor in the river, succeeded better—two of them being surprised and captured.(p. 102) Aug. 13.
Having completed his trenches and erected his batteries, Drummond, on the 13th, opened his fire. Shot and shells were incessantly hurled all that and the succeeding day against the fort without materially weakening its strength. The British commander then resolved to carry it by assault. The garrison was composed of about 2500 men, while the force under Drummond was estimated at four thousand. As night approached, and the cannonading ceased, General Gaines observed a commotion in the British camp, and suspecting that preparations were making for an assault, ordered one third of the garrison to stand to their arms all night.
Drummond had resolved to assail the works in three separate strong columns, of from twelve to fifteen hundred men each, moving simultaneously against three separate points. One against Towson's battery, occupying the extreme north-east angle of the fortifications; a second against the right, and the third full on the fort itself. The day had been stormy, with torrents of rain deluging the earth, and the night set in dark and dismal. The watch fires of the enemy's camp could scarcely be discerned through the gloom, and dead silence reigned over both encampments. Hour after hour wore slowly away, till midnight came, and yet no sound but the moaning of the wind as it swept over the water and the woods, broke the stillness.
(p. 103) At length about two o'clock in the morning, the muffled tread of the advancing columns was distinctly heard in the darkness. The one directed against Towson's batteries near the water, came first within range, when a tremendous fire opened upon it. In an instant, the whole scenery was lit up by the blaze of the guns, which threw also a red and baleful light over the serried ranks, pressing with fixed bayonets to the assault. Although Towson kept his batteries in fierce play, and sheets of flame went rolling on the doomed column, it kept resolutely on till it approached within ten feet of the infantry. But its strength was exhausted; it could stagger on no farther; and first wavering, it then halted, and finally recoiled. Rallied to a second attack, it advanced with loud shouts, only to be smitten with the same overwhelming fire. Encouraged to a third effort, it swerved from the direct assault, and endeavored to wade around an abattis of loose brushwood, that stretched from the batteries to the shore. Pressing forward, up to their arm-pits in the water, some few reached the enclosure within, but only to perish, and the remainder retreated. The column advancing against the right battery, commanded by Douglas, was allowed to approach within fifty yards, when such a rapid and wasting fire was poured upon it, that it recoiled in confusion. The central column, led on by Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond, (p. 104) pressed firmly and rapidly through the fire of Hindman's guns, applied their ladders to the walls, and began to mount. Repulsed, they made a second and third desperate effort to reach the parapets, but without success. Stubborn and brave, this officer was resolved not to abandon the attempt, and favored by the darkness, led his troops quietly along the ditch to a point where no assault was expected, and applying his ladders, mounted to the top of one of the bastions. Enraged by his successive repulses, and maddened by the slaughter of his troops, this intrepid but brutal leader no sooner gained the parapet than he cried out "give the damned Yankees no quarter." The latter instantly closed on him with a sternness and ferocity that made that single bastion swim in blood. Carrying out his own inhuman orders, Drummond shot Lieutenant Macdonough as he lay prostrate and wounded, bravely beating off the soldiers who refused his cry for quarter. The next instant the barbarous act was avenged by a soldier, who shot him dead in his footsteps. The troops, however, courageously maintained the advantage they had gained, till daylight, when some cartridges in a stone building near by, catching fire by accident, exploded with a tremendous concussion, lifting the platform of the bastion from its bed, and hurling the shattered and affrighted occupants of it (p. 105) to the ground. A disorderly flight followed, and the British troops withdrew to their encampment.
General Drummond, however, did not abandon the siege, but sat down before the fort with a stronger determination than ever to reduce it.
General Gaines being wounded by a shell, now retired to Buffalo, leaving Ripley in command. When the state of affairs was reported to General Brown, he saw at once that another and heavier assault would soon be made, and though his wounds were yet unhealed, repaired to the fort, and assumed the command. Sept. 2. The brave Jessup with his arm in a sling, and still suffering from his wounds, volunteered his services, and every preparation was made for a desperate resistance.
Owing to the sickness of Commodore Chauncey the co-operation expected from the fleet had entirely failed, so that the brilliant victories of the summer, on the Niagara frontier, had not advanced the original plan of the campaign, and the American army instead of marching to Burlington Heights, and thence on Kingston, was compelled to stand on the defensive. Commodore Chauncey was a gallant and skillful commander, and had reduced his crews to a state of discipline rarely equaled. But he lay sick in Sackett's Harbor till the 2d of July, and then was carried on board his ship. His arrival near (p. 106) Aug. 5. Niagara was too late to be of any service to the army shut up in Fort Erie, and he cruised in the lake, blockading Yeo in Kingston, and striving in vain to bring him to an engagement. It was no fault of his that Ontario was not signalized by a victory equal to that on Lake Erie.
General Izard, after sitting on the court-martial of Wilkinson, was appointed to take command of the northern army at Plattsburg. May 4. He was an accomplished officer, but like his predecessors, too much of a martinet to effect any thing with irregular troops. He fell a victim to military rules, which, in the changing, disorderly army under his command, could not be applied. Cut adrift from them he knew not what to do. A thoroughly-educated officer, he became a slave to his knowledge, and without the genius to create resources, or skill to mould and apply the materials that surrounded him, he made matters worse by grumbling. Quarrels, duels among the officers, desertion, the mixture of black and white recruits, misrule, and bad appointments, discouraged and disgusted him with the army he commanded. In the mean time, the arrival of fresh troops from England rendered some movement necessary, and Izard, at the head of seven thousand men, such as they were, was ordered to Sackett's Harbor, to plan an attack on Kingston, if circumstances rendered it prudent, or succor General (p. 107) Brown. Leaving three thousand under Macomb, at Plattsburgh, he with the remainder took up his sulky and discontented march for Sackett's Harbor, where he arrived on the 13th of September. Three days previously, Brown wrote him from Fort Erie, imploring his assistance, saying unless it was rendered speedily, the fate of his army was doubtful. The accounts, however, which he received of the dilatory manner in which Izard marched, and of the feelings he entertained, left him no hope from that quarter, and he said, "We must, if saved, do the business ourselves." He fell back on himself, and his little band resolved to defend the fort to the last, against whatever force might be brought against it. Weak from his wounds, he yet toiled day and night to strengthen his defences. Neither his sickness, nor the torrents of rain that fell almost daily, could deter him from exertion, and by his energy and bearing he diffused an air of cheerfulness and confidence amid and around those entrenchments, which are always the forerunner of great deeds. Having ascertained what formidable preparations were making to press the siege, he resolved not to wait their completion, but with one bold sortie overwhelm the batteries of the enemy and destroy their works. A council of officers was called, to whom he submitted his plans. Their decision was adverse, which chagrined him much; he was also annoyed (p. 108) to find himself opposed by his next in command. He, nevertheless, was determined to carry out his purpose, and said to Jesup, "We must keep our own counsels; the impression must be made that we are done with the affair; but as sure as there is a God in heaven the enemy shall be attacked in his works, and beaten, too, as soon as all the volunteers shall have passed over." These were rapidly coming in at the call and efforts of General Porter, who was worthy to command them, and with whom they knew no disgrace could occur.
General Brown having made himself perfectly acquainted with the position and designs of the enemy, quietly matured his own plans. Drummond's army, four thousand strong, was encamped in an open field surrounded by a forest, two miles distant from his entrenchments in order to be out of reach of the American cannon. One-third of this force protected the artillerists in completing their batteries and the workmen in digging trenches and erecting blockhouses.
Two batteries were at length completed and a third nearly finished—all mounted with heavy cannon, one being a sixty-eight pounder—before the sortie was made. For four days previous Brown tried the effect of his artillery upon these works, and during the whole of the thirteenth and fourteenth a tremendous cannonading was kept up in the midst of a (p. 109) pelting storm. The two succeeding days the firing continued at intervals, interspersed with conflicts between the pickets. Sept. 17. The next day at noon, an hour when such an attempt would be least expected, Brown resolved to make a sortie with nearly the whole of his disposable force, capture the batteries, spike the cannon, and overwhelm the brigade in attendance before the other two brigades, two miles distant, could arrive. The assault was to be made in two columns. The left composed of Porter's volunteers, Gibson's riflemen, a portion of the 1st and 23rd regiments of regulars and some Indians was directed to march along a road which had been cut through the woods, while the gallant Miller with the first brigade was to move swiftly along a deep ravine that run between the first and second batteries of the enemy, and the moment he heard the crack of Porter's rifles, mount the ravine and storm the batteries. It was a dark and sombre day—the clouds flew low, sending down at intervals torrents of rain and giving to the whole scenery a sour and gloomy aspect. But everything being ready, Brown, about ten o'clock, opened with his artillery, and for two hours it was an incessant blaze and roar all along the line of the entrenchments. Its cessation was the signal for the two columns to advance. General Ripley commanded the reserve, while Jesup with a hundred and fifty (p. 110) men held the fort itself. Porter with his column surprised and overthrew the enemy's pickets, and began to pour in rapid volleys on his flank. Miller no sooner heard the welcome sound than he gave the order to charge. In an instant the brigade was on the top of the bank, and without giving the enemy time to recover from their surprise the troops dashed forward on the entrenchments in front of them. Though assailed so unexpectedly and suddenly the enemy fought gallantly to save the works which had cost them so much labor. The contest was fierce but short. Carrying battery after battery at the point of the bayonet, the victorious Americans pressed fiercely on till all the batteries and the labor of nearly fifty days were completely in their possession. Ripley then hastened up with the reserve to form a line for the protection of the troops while the work of destruction went on; while executing the movement he was wounded in the neck and carried back to the fort.
In the mean time, Drummond aroused by the first volleys, had hurried off reinforcements on a run. Pressing forward through the rain, urged to their utmost speed by the officers pointing forward with their swords to the scene of action, they, nevertheless, arrived too late to prevent the disaster. In an hour the conflict was over; yet in that short space of time the work of demolition had been (p. 111) completed. In the midst of incessant volleys and shouts and the rallying beat of the drum, heavy explosions shook the field and magazines and block houses one after another blew up, spreading ruin and desolation around.
In that short combat more than four hundred of the enemy had fallen, and nearly as many more been taken prisoners. The American loss was three hundred killed and wounded; among the slain, however, were the gallant Wood and Gibson. The bayonet and sabre were wielded with terrible effect in the strife.
General Porter in passing with a few men from one detachment to another, during the engagement, suddenly found himself in the presence of sixty or eighty British soldiers drawn up in the woods, and apparently not knowing what to do. Thinking it better to put a bold face on the matter, he ran up to them, exclaiming, "That's right, my good fellows, surrender and we will take care of you!" and taking the musket out of the hands of the first and flinging it on the ground he pushed him towards the fort. In this way he went nearly through the first line, the men advancing unarmed in front. At length a soldier stepped back and presented the point of his bayonet to General Porter's breast, and demanded his surrender. A scuffle ensued, and some officers coming to the rescue of the soldier Porter was flung (p. 112) upon the ground and his hand cut with a sword. On recovering his feet he saw himself surrounded by twenty or thirty men, shouting to him to surrender. He very coolly told them to surrender, and declared if they fired a gun he would have the whole put to the sword. In the mean time a company of American riflemen coming up, fired upon the English. After a short fight the whole were killed or taken prisoners.
Having accomplished his work, Brown retired in good order within the fort. Drummond, weakened by nearly one-fourth of his force, and the labors of so long a time being destroyed, raised the siege and retired behind the Chippewa.
General Izard, who was to fall on his rear, did not reach Lewistown till the 5th of October. Oct. 14. At length, forming a junction with Brown's troops, he moved forward, and sat down before Drummond encamped, behind the Chippewa. His army, six thousand strong, was deemed sufficiently large to capture the enemy, and this event was confidently expected to crown the Canadian campaign. Oct. 21. But after some faint demonstrations, not worth recording, he seven days after retired to Black Rock, preparatory to winter quarters. Although pressed by the Secretary of War to attack the enemy, he declined, and having spent the summer in grumbling, went sullenly into winter quarters, thus (p. 113) closing the list of inefficient commanders, which threatened for awhile never to become complete.
While Izard was thus ending a military career in which he had gathered no laurels, Macomb, whom he had left at Plattsburgh, doomed as he said to destruction, had crowned himself with honor, and shed lustre on the American arms.
British plan of invading our sea ports — Arrival of reinforcements — Barney's flotilla — Landing of the enemy under Ross — Doubt and alarm of the inhabitants — Advance of the British — Destruction of the Navy Yard — Battle of Bladensburg — Flight of the President and his Cabinet — Burning and sacking of Washington — Mrs. Madison's conduct during the day and night — Cockburn's brutality — Sudden explosion — A hurricane — Flight of the British — State of the army — Character of this outrage — Rejoicings in England — Mortification of our ambassadors at Ghent — Mistake of the English — Parker's expedition — Colonel Reed's defence — The English army advance on Baltimore — Death of Ross — Bombardment of Fort McHenry — "The star spangled banner" — Retreat of the British, and joy of the citizens of Baltimore.
But while these events were passing around Niagara—in the interval between the assault on Fort Erie by Drummond and the successful sortie of Brown—a calamity overtook the country, which fortunately resulted in producing more harmony of feeling among the people, and strengthened materially the administration. Washington was taken and sacked by the enemy. The overthrow of Napoleon and his banishment to Elba, enabled England to send over more than 30,000 troops, which were (p. 115) soon on our sea-board or in the British Provinces. New England no longer remained excluded from the blockade, and the whole Atlantic sea-board was locked up by British cruisers. The Constitution, the year previous, after a cruise in which she captured but a single war schooner and a few merchantmen, was chased into Marble Head, from whence she escaped to Boston. The blockading of our other large ships, and the destruction of the Essex about the same time in the Bay of Valparaiso, had left us without a frigate at sea. The Adams, a sloop of twenty-eight guns, was the largest cruiser we had afloat.
Hitherto the enemy had been content with blockading our seaports, and making descents on small towns in their neighborhood, but as the summer advanced, rumors arrived of the preparation of a large force, destined to strike a heavy blow at some of our most important cities. To meet this new danger the President addressed a circular letter to the States, calling on them to hold in readiness 93,500 militia. Fearing that Washington or Baltimore might be the points at which the enemy would first strike, the tenth military district was erected, as mentioned before, and General Winder, recently released by exchange, given the command of it.
The whole sea-board was in a state of alarm—even Massachusetts caught the infection, and preparations (p. 116) were immediately made to defend her seaports and protect her coast. The militia of the different States were called out—Governor Barbour, of Virginia, garrisoned Norfolk, the intrenching tools were busy night and day around Baltimore, Providence voted money for fortifications, Portland shipmasters formed themselves into a company of sea fencibles, and gun-boats were collected in New York and all the great northern ports. The notes of alarm and preparation rang along the coast from Maine to Louisiana, and before the mysterious shadow of the gigantic coming evil, party animosities sunk into insignificance. Released from her Continental struggle, England, with her fleets that had conquered at Aboukir, Trafalgar, and Copenhagen, and her troops fresh from the fields of Spain, had resolved to fall upon us in her power, and crushing city after city, leave us at length without a seaport, from the Merrimack to the Mississippi. Even the brilliant victories of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane could not dispel the terror inspired by this gathering of her energies.
But the first serious demonstration was made in the Chesapeake. To act against the fleet a flotilla was placed there under the charge of Captain Barney, a bold and skillful officer. Constantly on the alert, he would dash suddenly out of the Patuxent River, and roughly handling the light vessels of the (p. 117) enemy that approached the shallow waters, compel them to take refuge under the guns of the frigates. But the river at length became blockaded, and the flotilla was compelled to run up into Leonard's Creek. From the 1st to the 26th of June, frequent skirmishes took place, in which Captain Barney exhibited a daring, skill and prudence combined, which proved him to be an able commander. On the 26th he attacked the British vessels in the river, and after a sharp cannonade of two hours, drove them into the bay, and broke up the blockade.Aug. 14.
At length Admiral Cochrane arrived from Bermuda, in an eighty gun ship, bringing with him three thousand troops, commanded by General Ross. Entering the Chesapeake he joined Rear Admiral Cockburn, who by this timely reinforcement found himself in command of twenty-three vessels of war. This imposing fleet stood slowly up the waters of the Chesapeake, sending consternation among the inhabitants of Washington and Baltimore. Aug. 21. Cockburn, designed by nature for a freebooter, was admirably fitted for the work he had designed to do. Landing four thousand five hundred troops at Benedict, he began to advance up the Potomac. Barney, acting under instructions he had received, immediately took four hundred men and fell back to the Wood Yard, where (p. 118) he joined what was called the army. He had left five or six men in each boat, to blow them up, should the enemy advance. That night, about one o'clock, the President, with the Secretaries of War and Navy, visited Winder's camp, and next morning reviewed the troops. The camp was in confusion. Citizens and soldiers intermingled—each giving his opinion of the course to be pursued—disordered ranks and loud and fierce talking—the utter absence of the quiet demeanor and military precision characteristic of a regular army, gave to the one assembled there the appearance of a motley crowd on a gala day. General Smith and Barney, however, seemed to understand themselves, and were anxious to advance and attack the enemy.
At the first appearance of the fleet Winder had sent off for the militia, but none had yet arrived. Six hundred from Virginia were reported close at hand—fourteen hundred from near Baltimore had reached Bladensburg, whither, also, was marching a picked regiment from the city itself, led by Pinckney, recently our Embassador to England. The whole country was filled with excited men, hurrying on foot or on horseback from one army and place to another—some without arms and others in citizens' dress, with only swords or pistols. The President and Cabinet were also in the saddle, riding by night and day, yet all without definite object. Rumor had swelled the (p. 119) invading force to twelve thousand men, but whether its destination was Washington, Baltimore, or Annapolis, no one could tell.
While affairs were in this excited, disorderly state around Washington, great uncertainty reigned in the British camp. It was a hot day when the troops landed, and the sight of neat farm-houses, rich fields, and green pastures, seemed to increase the lassitude occasioned by their long confinement on ship-board, rather than invigorate them, and it required the exercise of rigid authority and unceasing care to keep them from straggling away to the cool shelter of trees. Weighed down with their knapsacks and three days' provisions, and sixty rounds of ball cartridge—without cavalry, and with only one six-pounder and two three-pounders drawn by a hundred seamen, this army of invasion took up its slow and cautious march inland on Sunday afternoon, and reached Nottingham that night. Aug. 21. They found the village wholly deserted—not a soul was left behind, while the bread remaining in the ovens, the furniture standing just as it had last been used, showed that the flight had been sudden and the panic complete.
At this time the object of the expedition was the destruction of Barney's flotilla, which had so harassed and injured the lighter vessels of the fleet.
Next morning at eight o'clock the army took up (p. 120) its line of March, and soon entered a cool, refreshing forest. But they had traversed scarce half its extent, when Ross was filled with anxiety and alarm by frequent and loud explosions, like the booming of heavy artillery, in the distance. Officers were immediately hurried off to ascertain the cause, who soon returned with the welcome and unexpected intelligence that the Americans were blowing up their own flotilla.
The first and chief object of the invasion being secured, Ross halted his column at Marlborough, only ten miles from Nottingham, and sent for Cockburn, who, with a flotilla, was advancing up the river "pari passu," to advise with him what course to pursue. The admiral proposed to march on Washington. To this Ross at first objected, for to pierce a country of which he was ignorant fifty miles, with no cavalry or heavy artillery, seemed a rash undertaking, especially when, in a military point of view, success would accomplish comparatively nothing. Cockburn, however, who had been on the coast longer, and through informants residing in the city, had become acquainted with its defenceless state, persuaded him that its capture would be easy, and the results glorious. The taking of a nation's capital certainly seemed no mean exploit, while the heavy ransom the government would doubtless pay to save (p. 121) its public buildings, would compensate Cockburn for lack of prize money at sea.
It was not, however, till next noon that the army, preceded by a company of a hundred blacks, composed of fugitive slaves, began to advance. After making a few miles, it halted for the night.
The Secretary of War had insisted from the first that Washington was not the point threatened, and still adhered to that opinion. He could not conceive that an experienced commander would select as the first object of attack a town of some nine hundred houses, scattered over a surface of three miles, and destitute of wealth, while the opulent cities of Baltimore and Annapolis lay so near. This, too, was the opinion of many others, creating great confusion, and preventing the selection of strong positions, where successful stands could have been made.
While the British were thus slowly advancing, General Winder was riding hither and thither, now making a reconnoissance in person, now posting to Washington to rouse the Secretary of War out of his lethargy, or hurrying on foot back again to his army, doing every thing but restoring tranquillity and order. Confusion in the camp—disorder in the ranks—consternation among the inhabitants, and gloom and doubt in the cabinet, combined to render the three days the British were marching on Washington, a (p. 122) scene of extraordinary excitement and misdirected efforts.Aug. 24.
At length, videttes and scouts, coming in quick succession, announced that the British army was approaching Bladensburg, where General Stansbury, with the Baltimore militia, was encamped. There was not a breath of air, and the column staggered on through a cloud of dust, and under a sweltering August sun. The soldiers, exhausted, reeled from the ranks and fell by the road side, while many others could scarcely drag their weary limbs along. The American troops were busy cooking their dinner when the drums beat to arms, announcing the approach of this much dreaded army.
When the news reached Winder, he immediately transmitted an order to Stansbury to give battle where he was, and hastened thither with the main army, arriving just before the action commenced. Barney, who had been stationed with five hundred men at the bridge over the eastern branch of the Potomac, with directions to blow it up should the enemy approach by that route, no sooner heard of his advance on Bladensburg, than he earnestly requested to repair thither with his brave seamen. He chafed under the inaction to which he was doomed, talking in a boisterous manner, half to himself and half to others, lashing the generals with the bluntness and (p. 123) truth of a sailor, saying, loud enough to be heard by the President and his cabinet standing near, it was absurd to leave him there with five hundred men to blow up a bridge which any "d——d corporal could better do with five." At length permission was given him to join the army, when he leaped on a horse, and ordering his seamen to follow, galloped to Bladensburg. The advance was already engaged, and he immediately sent back to his men to hurry up, and soon the brave and panting fellows appeared on a trot and took their stand beside their commander. The President and his cabinet galloped thither also, but retired at the commencement of the action, not before, however, Monroe, Secretary of State, had tried his hand at military evolutions, and altered the order of battle.
Instead of taking advantage of patches of woods, thickets, etc., where inexperienced militia would have fought well, this heterogeneous army of five or six thousand men was arranged in the form of a semi-circle on the slope that makes up westward from the eastern branch of the Potomac, here a shallow stream and crossed by a wooden bridge. The British, supposing of course, that the position was chosen because it commanded a narrow bridge, the passage of which is always so difficult in the face of batteries, never dreamed the river could be forded, and therefore never attempted it. Ross, who from (p. 124) the top of the highest house in the neighborhood surveyed the American army, was disconcerted at the formidable appearance it presented—posted on such a commanding eminence with heavy artillery,—and would doubtless have retreated but for the greater danger of a retrogade movement with his exhausted troops.
The American army was arranged in three lines like regiments on a parade, connected by the guns that could pour no cross fire on the assailing column. The latter advancing steadily, throwing Congreve rockets as they approached, so shook the courage of the militia that it required but the levelled gleaming bayonet to scatter them like sheep over the field. Many of the officers were brave men and strove to arrest the panic, but in vain. Pinckney with a broken arm rode leisurely out of the battle, his heart filled with rage and mortification at the poltroonry of those under his command.
The details of the engagement are useless—there was a show of resistance and some well sustained firing for awhile; but the whole battle, so far as it can be called one, was fought by Barney. He had planted four guns, among them an eighteen pounder, so as to sweep the main road, and quietly sat beside them on his bay horse, allowing the column to come within close range before he gave orders to (p. 125) fire. The first terrible discharge cleared the road. Three times the British endeavored to advance in front, and as often were swept to destruction by that battery. At length they were compelled to abandon the attempt, and taking shelter under a ravine filed off to the right and left and assailed Barney in flank and rear. Driving easily before them the regiments whose duty it was to protect the artillery, they moved swiftly forward. Barney's horse had been shot under him and he himself, prostrated by a wound, lay stretched in the road. Seeing that the battle was lost, he bade his seamen cut their way through the enemy and escape. Reluctant at first to obey him, they at last fled, and their gallant commander was taken prisoner. A few such determined men would have saved Washington from the flames.
The six hundred Virginians who had hastened to the rescue never joined the army at all. Having arrived without arms, they slept in the House of Representatives all night and were not equipped next day till the battle was over.
The retreat became a wild and shameful flight. No other stand was made, and the fugitive army fled unpursued in squads hither and thither. It was a regular stampede. The fields and roads were covered with a broken and flying multitude. President, secretaries of war and navy, attorney-general (p. 126) and all were borne away in the headlong torrent; and though the enemy had no cavalry to pursue, and the infantry were too tired to follow up their success, the panic was so complete and ridiculous that our troops never stopped their flight except when compelled to pause from sheer exhaustion. Fatigue, not the interval they had put between themselves and the enemy, arrested their footsteps. Only fifty or sixty had been killed on our side, while the British had lost several hundred, a large portion of whom fell under the murderous discharges of Barney's battery.
After the shouts and derision of the enemy had subsided with the disappearance of the last fugitive over the hills, the tired army instead of advancing to Washington reposed on the field of battle.
Winder endeavored to rally the troops at the capital for another defence, but not a sufficient number could be found to make a stand, and with curses and oaths the rabble rout streamed along the road to Georgetown, presenting a picture of demoralization and insubordination that formed a fit counterpart to their poltroonry.
The first arrival of the fugitives, officers and citizens, riding pell-mell through the streets, carried consternation into the city, and the inhabitants, some on foot, some in carts or carriages, (p. 127) rushed forth, and streaming on after the frightened militia completed the turbulence of the scene.
Cockburn and Ross leaving the main army to repose itself, took a body-guard and rode into Washington. No resistance was offered—a single shot only was fired, which killed the horse of General Ross. The house from which it issued was formerly occupied by Mr. Gallatin. In a few moments it was in flames. Halting in front of the capitol, they fired a volley at the edifice and took possession of it in the name of the king.
The troops were then marched in, and entering the Hall of Representatives, piled together chairs, desks and whatever was combustible, and applied the torch. The flames passing from room to room, soon wrapped the noble library, and bursting forth from the windows leaped to the roof, enveloping the whole edifice in fire and illuminating the country for miles around. The house of Washington and other buildings were also set on fire. The remaining British force, lighted by the ruddy glow that illumined the landscape and the road along which they were marching, entered the city to assist in the work of destruction. In the mean time, the navy-yard was set on fire by order of the secretary of war, mingling its flames and explosions with the light and roar of the burning capitol. The gallant officer in command of it had offered to defend it, (p. 128) but was refused permission. Whether the refusal was discreet or not, one thing is certain, the enemy could have accomplished no more than the destruction of the materials collected there, and it was not worth while to save them the labor.
The capitol being in flames, Ross and Cockburn led their troops along Pennsylvania Avenue to the President's house, a mile distant, and soon the blazing pile beaconed back to the burning capitol. The Treasury building swelled the conflagration, and by the light of the flames Cockburn and Ross sat down to supper at the house of Mrs. Suter, whom they had compelled to furnish it. Pillage and devastation moved side by side through the streets, while to give still greater terror and sublimity to the scene, a heavy thunder storm burst over the city. From the lurid bosom of the cloud leaped flashes brighter than the flames below, followed by crashes that drowned the roar and tumult which swelled up from the thronged streets, making the night wild and appalling as the last day of time.
To bring the day's work to a fitting close, Cockburn, while the heavens and surrounding country were still ruddy with the flames, entered a brothel and spent in lust and riot a night begun in incendiarism and pillage.
BURNING OF WASHINGTON.
While these things were transpiring in the city, the President and his Cabinet were fleeing into Virginia. (p. 129) During the battle of Bladensburg, Mrs. Madison had sat in the Presidential mansion, listening to the roar of cannon in the distance, and anxiously sweeping the road, with her spy-glass, to catch the first approach of her husband, but saw instead, "groups of military, wandering in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms or of spirit, to fight for their own firesides." A carriage stood waiting at the door, filled with plate and other valuables, ready to leave at a moment's warning. The Mayor of the city waited on her, urging her to depart, but she bravely refused, saying she would not stir till she heard from her husband. At length a note from him, in pencil-marks, arrived, bidding her flee. Still delaying, till she could detach a portrait of Washington, by Stuart, from the wall, her friends remonstrated with her. Finding it would take too long to unscrew the painting from the walls, she seized a carving-knife, and cutting the canvas out, hurried away. At Georgetown she met her husband, who, with his Cabinet, in trepidation and alarm, was en route for Virginia. Just as the flames were kindling in the capitol, the President, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Rush, Mr. Mason, and Carroll, were assembled on the shores of the Potomac, where but one little boat could be found to transport them over. Desponding and sad, they were rowed across in the gloom, a part at a time, and mounting their (p. 130) horses, rode hurriedly and sadly away. Mrs. Madison returned towards Georgetown, accompanied by nine troopers, and stopped ten miles and a half from the town. Trembling from the anxiety and fright of the day—separated from her husband, now a fugitive in the darkness—oppressed with fears and gloomy forebodings, she sat down by an open window, and through the tears that streamed from her eyes, gazed forth on the flames of the burning city, and listened with palpitating heart to the muffled shouts and tumult that rose in the distance.
Before daylight, she, with her lady companions, started for a place of rendezvous appointed by her husband, sixteen miles from Georgetown.
The 25th of August dawned gloomily over the smouldering city, and the red sun, as he rolled into view, looked on a scene of devastation and ruin. From their drunken orgies, negroes and soldiers crawled forth to the light of day, roused by the reveille from the hill of the capitol, and the morning gun that sent its echoes through the sultry air.
Rising from his debauch, Cockburn sallied forth to new deeds of shame. The War office, and other public offices, among them the building of the National Intelligencer, were set on fire, and the pillage and riot of the preceding day again sent terror through the city. The gallant admiral seemed refreshed rather than enervated by the plunder, conflagration (p. 131) and debauch of the night that had passed, and brilliant and witty as the day before, "was merry in his grotesque rambles about Washington, mounted on a white, uncurried, long switch-tail brood mare, followed by a black foal, neighing after its dam, in which caricature of horsemanship that harlequin of havoc, paraded the streets, and laughed at the terrified women imploring him not to destroy their homes. "Never fear," said he, "you shall be much safer under my administration than Madison's." "Be sure," said he to those who were destroying the types of the National Intelligencer, "that all the C's are demolished, so that the rascals can no longer abuse my name as they have done."
In the midst of this wanton destruction and barbarian licentiousness, two events occurred calculated to sober even a more brutal man than he. A detachment had been sent to destroy two rope-walks, at a place called Greenleaf's point, a short distance from the city. After they were burned, an officer threw the torch with which the buildings had been lighted, into a dry well near by. But this well had been made for a long time the repository of useless shells, cartridges and gunpowder. The unextinguished torch ignited this subterranean magazine, which exploded with a violence that shook the earth, and sent dismembered bodies and limbs, (p. 132) mingled with fragments of iron, and dust and smoke, heavenward together. When it cleared away, nearly a hundred officers and men were seen strewed around, some killed, others presenting torn, misshapen masses of human flesh. The sad procession, carrying the mutilated and dead back to the city, had scarcely reached it before the heavens became dark as twilight, and that ominous silence which always betokens some dreadful convulsion of nature fell on the earth. The air was still, and the burning dwellings around shed a baleful light over the faces of men, on which sat terror and perplexity. This portentous silence was broken by the rush and roar of a hurricane, that swept with the voice and strength of the sea, over the devastated city. Flashes of lightning rent the gloom, and the thunder rolled and broke in deafening crashes over head. The flames leaped up into fiercer glow, under the strong breath of the tempest; private dwellings that had escaped the incendiary's torch were stripped of their roofs, and the crash of falling, walls and shrieks of terrified men and women fleeing through the streets, imparted still greater terror to the appalling spectacle. The British army, on the Capitol hill, was rent into fragments before it, and scattered as though a magazine had exploded in its midst. Thirty soldiers, besides many of the inhabitants, were overwhelmed in the ruins.
(p. 133) Fleeing before this same hurricane, Mrs. Madison approached the tavern designated by the President as the place where he would meet her, but was refused admittance by the terrified women within, who had also fled thither, because she was the wife of the man who had involved them in those horrors of war, made still more terrible by the visitation of God. He, in thus turning day into night, had evinced his displeasure, and foretold his judgments; and not until an entrance was forced by the men, would they allow her a shelter from the storm. There her husband, the fugitive President of the republic, drenched with rain, hungry and exhausted, joined her in the evening. Provided with nothing but a cold lunch, he retired to his miserable couch, not knowing what tidings the morning would bring him.
In the mean time General Ross, chagrined at the part he had been compelled to play—filled with self-reproaches at the wanton destruction of a public library, was anxious and unquiet at the non-arrival of the boats that had accompanied him to Alexandria. In constant fear of an uprising of the people of the country, he was eager to get back to the ships. As soon therefore as night set in, he resolved to commence his retreat. To prevent pursuit, an order was issued prohibiting the appearance of a single inhabitant in the street after eight o'clock. At nine, in (p. 134) dead silence, and with quick step, as though stealing on a sleeping foe, the advance column took up its march and passed unnoticed out of the city. The camp fires on the hill of the capitol were kept blazing, and piled with fuel sufficient to preserve them bright till near morning, in order to convey the impression that the army was still there, and at a late hour the rear column followed after, and silently and rapidly traversed the road to Bladensburg. Not a word was spoken, not a man allowed to step out of his place. Arriving on the ground which had been occupied by other brigades, they found it deserted, but the fires were still blazing as though the encampment had not been broken up. Approaching the field of Bladensburg, they saw in the white moonbeams the whiter corpses of the unburied dead, who had been stripped of their clothing and now lay scattered around on the green slope and banks of the stream where they had fallen. The hot August rain and sun had already begun to act on the mutilated flesh, and a horrible stench loaded the midnight air. Stopping there for an hour, to enable the soldiers to hunt up their knapsacks thrown aside the day before, Ross again hurried them forward, and kept them at the top of their speed all night. If the column paused for a moment, the road was instantly filled with soldiers fast asleep. Men were constantly straggling away, or falling into slumbers, from which even the sword (p. 135) could with difficulty prick them, and the army threatened to be disorganized. It therefore became necessary to halt, and the order to do so had scarcely passed down the line before every man was sound asleep, and the entire army in five minutes resembled a heap of dead bodies on a field of battle. Resting here under the burning sun until midday, Ross then resumed his march and reached Marlborough at night, and the next day proceeded leisurely back to the ships.
The raid had been successful—Washington was sacked. Two millions of property had been destroyed—the capitol, with its library—the President's house—the Treasury and War, Post offices, and other public edifices, burned to the ground, together with five private dwellings, thirteen more being pillaged. These, with the destruction of the office of the National Intelligencer, two rope-walks, and a bridge over the Potomac, constituted the achievements of this redoubtable army of invasion.
The English press, which had teemed with accounts of Napoleon's barbarity, and the English heart, which had heaved with noble indignation against the man who could rob the galleries of conquered provinces to adorn those of Paris, had no word of condemnation or expression of anger for this wanton outrage, but on the contrary, laudations innumerable. Napoleon had marched into almost every capital of (p. 136) Europe without destroying a library or work of art, or firing a dwelling. With his victorious armies he had entered city after city, and yet no Vandalism marred his conquest. The palaces of kings, who had perjured themselves again and again to secure his downfall, had never been touched, and yet he was denounced as a robber and proclaimed to the world a modern Attila. But an English army, warring against a nation that spoke the same language, and was descended from the same ancestors, could enter a city that had made no defence—had not exasperated the conquerors by forcing them to a long siege or desperate assault, and, without provocation, burn down a public library, the unoffending capitol and presidential mansion, state offices, and even private dwellings. Incredible as this act appears, the greater marvel is how the English nation could exult over it. An American victory tarnished by such barbarity and meanness, would overwhelm the authors of it in eternal disgrace. And yet, a popular so-called historian of England, in narrating this transaction, says it was "one of the most brilliant expeditions ever carried into execution by any nation." An army of some four thousand regulars put to flight five or six thousand raw militia, and, with the loss of a few hundred men, marched into a small unfortified town, occupied as the capital of the United States, and like a band of robbers, set fire to the public Library, (p. 137) Arsenal, Treasury, War office, President's house, two rope-walks and a bridge; and such an affair the historian of Lodi, Marengo, Austerlitz, and Waterloo,—of the terrible conflicts of the peninsular, and the sublime sea-fights of Aboukir and Trafalgar, calls "one of the most brilliant expeditions carried into execution by any nation."
"Ille crucem, scelenis pretium tulit, hic diadema."
The news was received in England with the liveliest demonstrations of joy. The Lord Mayor of London ordered the Park and Tower guns to be fired at noon, in honor of a victory, which he pompously declared was "worth an illumination." The official account was translated into French, German and Italian, and scattered over the continent. Mr. Clay and Mr. Russell were in the theatre at Brussels when the news arrived. The secretary of the legation, Mr. Hughes, had overheard an English officer in the lobby saying—"We have taken and burned the Yankee capital, and thrown those rebels back half a century"—and going to their box told them there were reasons why they should leave the theatre, which he would disclose at their hotel. He had observed some of the British legation present, and the announcement of such tidings would be embarrassing to the American embassy. They were exceedingly annoyed by the news, especially next morning, when the English embassadors sent them a paper (p. 138) giving an account of the act; and they returned, mortified, to Ghent. It was received on the continent, however, with marked disapprobation. Even a Bourbon paper, in Paris, declared that notwithstanding the atrocities charged on Napoleon, he had never committed an act so degrading to civilized warfare as this.
The vessels designed to coŚperate with the movement on Washington, reached Alexandria the same evening the British army left the former place, and after levying a contribution on the inhabitants, seizing twenty-one merchant vessels, sixteen thousand barrels of flour, a thousand hogsheads of tobacco, and whatever else was valuable, departed. In their descent, they were harassed by Porter and Perry from the shore, but the guns of the latter were too light to effect much damage. Commodore Rodgers also hovered with fire ships around their flight, but it was too rapid to allow the concentration of a sufficient force to arrest them.
Armstrong, the Secretary of War, following the example of President, Cabinet, Generals and army, galloped away from the disastrous field of Bladensburg, and took refuge in a farm-house. The fugitive President and the fugitive Secretary at length met, and returned together to Washington. The entrance of the latter to the capital was the signal for the indignant outburst of the entire population. The militia (p. 139) officers of the District refused to obey his orders in the future, and a committee of the citizens waited on the President, demanding his dismissal from the post of Secretary of War. It was suddenly discovered that he was wholly to blame for the conduct of the troops at Bladensburg. Borne away by the popular current, which he was thankful was not directed against himself, Madison requested Armstrong to retire for awhile to Baltimore. Sept. 3. The latter obeyed, but immediately sent in his resignation, in which he paid the President the compliment of having, as he declared, shamefully yielded to the "humors of a village mob." Monroe, Secretary of State, was appointed to discharge his duties, and a proclamation was issued calling an early meeting of Congress.
The British government never committed a greater blunder than when it sanctioned the sack and burning of Washington. Estimating its importance by that which the capitals of Europe held in their respective kingdoms, her misguided statesmen supposed its overthrow would paralyze the nation and humble the government into submission. But there was scarcely a seaport on our coast, whose destruction would not have been a greater public calamity. Besides, the greater its value in the eyes of the people, the more egregious the mistake. Judging us by the effeminate races of India, or the ignorant population (p. 140) of central Europe, who are accustomed to be governed by blows, they imagined the heavier the scourging, the more prostrated by fear, and more eager for peace we should become. But resistance and boldness rise with us in exact proportion to the indignities offered and injuries inflicted. With a country, whose vital part is no where fixed, but consisting in the unity of the people, can shift with changing fortunes from the sea-coast even to the Rocky Mountains, its heart can never be reached by the combined forces of the world. This republic can never die but by its own hand. In a foreign war, our strength can be weakened only by sowing dissensions. Outrages which inflame the national heart, or local sufferings that awaken national sympathy serve only to heal all these, and hence render us impregnable. Thus, when Mr. Alison, in closing up his account of this war and speaking of the probabilities of another, advises the sudden precipitation of vast armies on our shore as the only way to insure success, he exhibits a lamentable ignorance of our character. An outrage or calamity at the outset, sufficiently great to break down party opposition, and drown all personal and political contests in one shout for vengeance, rolling from limit to limit of our vast possessions, would endow us with resistless energy and strength. The attacks on Baltimore and New Orleans teach an instructive lesson on this (p. 141) point. In the latter place, where a veteran army of nine thousand men were repulsed by scarcely one-third of its force, now an army of two hundred thousand would make no impression.
The sack of Washington furnishes a striking illustration of the effect of a great public calamity on this nation. One feeling of wrath and cry for vengeance swept the land. A high national impulse hushed the bickerings and frightened into silence the quarrels of factions, and the President and his Cabinet never gained strength so fast as when the capitol was in flames, and they were fleeing through the storm and darkness, weighed down with sorrow and despondency.
At the same time this expedition against Washington was moving to its termination, Sir Peter Parker ascended the Chesapeake to Rockhall, from whence he sent out detachments in various quarters, burning dwellings, grain, stacks, outhouses, etc. On the 30th, he landed at midnight, to surprise Colonel Reed, encamped in an open plain with a hundred and seventy militia. It was bright moonlight, and as the column advanced it was received with a steady and well-directed fire. At length the ammunition failing, this brave band was compelled to fall back. The enemy at the same time retreated, carrying with them Sir Peter Parker, mortally wounded with buck shot.
(p. 142) On the return of these several expeditions, it was resolved to make a grand and united attack on Baltimore, that nest of privateers. On the 6th of September, the whole fleet, consisting of more than forty sail, moved slowly up the Chesapeake, carrying a mixed, heterogeneous land force of five thousand men. Six days after, it reached the Patapsco, and landed the troops at North Point. The first object of attack was fort M'Henry, situated about two miles from Baltimore. The capture of this, it was thought, would open a passage to the city. Having put their forces in marching order, General Ross and Cochrane moved forward towards the intrenchments erected for the defence of Baltimore, while the vessels of war advanced against the fort.
After marching four miles, the leading column of the army was checked by General Stricker, who with three thousand men had taken post near the head of Bear Creek. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which the two companies of Levering and Howard under Major Heath and Captain Aisquith's rifle company, fought gallantly. General Ross, hearing the firing rode forward, and mingled with the skirmishers, to ascertain the cause of it, when he was pierced by the unerring ball of a rifleman, and fell in the road. His riderless horse went plunging back towards the main army, his "saddle and housings stained with blood, carrying the melancholy news of his master's fate to (p. 143) the astonished troops." Stretched by the road side, the dying general lay writhing in the agonies of death. He had only time to speak of his wife and children, before he expired. He was a gallant, skillful and humane officer, and his part in the burning of Washington, must be laid to his instructions rather than to his character.
The command devolved on Colonel Brooke, who gave the orders to advance. General Stricker defended his position firmly, but at length was compelled to fall back on his reserve, and finally took post within half a mile of the intrenchments of the city. This ended the combat for the day. The next morning Colonel Brooke recommenced his march, and advanced to within two miles of the intrenchments, where he encamped till the following morning, to wait the movements of the fleet.
In the mean time, Cochrane had moved up to within two miles and a half of the fort, and forming his vessels in a semi-circle, began to bombard it. These works, under the command of Major Armstead, had no guns sufficiently heavy to reach the vessels, which all that day threw shells and rockets, making a grand commotion but doing little damage. At night, Cochrane moved his fleet farther up, and opened again. The scene then became grand and terrific. It was dark and rainy, and amid the gloom, rockets and shells, weighing, some of them, two hundred (p. 144) and fifty pounds, rose heavenward, followed by a long train of light, and stooping over the fort burst with detonations that shook the shore. Singly, and in groups, these fiery messengers traversed the sky, lighting up the fort and surrounding scenery in a sudden glow, and then with their sullen thunder, sinking all again in darkness. The deafening explosions broke over the American army and the city of Baltimore like heavy thunder-claps, calling forth soldiers and inhabitants to gaze on the illumined sky. The city was in a state of intense excitement. The streets were thronged with the sleepless inhabitants, and the tearful eyes and pallid cheeks of women, attested the anguish and fear that wild night created. As soon as Armstead discovered that the vessels had come within range, he opened his fire with such precision that they were compelled to withdraw again, content with their distant bombardment. At length a sudden and heavy cannonade was heard above the fort, carrying consternation into the city, for the inhabitants believed that it had fallen. It soon ceased, however. Several barges, loaded with troops, had passed the fort unobserved, and attempted to land and take it in rear. Pulling to the shore with loud shouts, they were met by a well-directed fire from a battery, and compelled to seek shelter under their ships.
During this tremendous bombardment Francis Key (p. 145) lay in a little vessel under the Admiral's frigate. He had visited him for the purpose of obtaining an exchange of some prisoners of war, especially of one who was a personal friend, and was directed to remain till after the action. During the day his eye had rested eagerly on that low fortification, over which the flag of his country was flying, and he watched with the intensest anxiety the progress of each shell in its flight, rejoicing when it fell short of its aim, and filled with fear as he saw it stooping without exploding, within those silent enclosures. At night, when darkness shut out that object of so much and intense interest, around which every hope and desire of his life seemed to cling, he still stood straining his eyes through the gloom, to catch, if he could, by the light of the blazing shells, a glimpse of his country's flag, waving proudly in the storm. The early dawn found him still a watcher, and there, to the music of bursting shells, and the roar of cannon, he composed "The Star-Spangled Banner."
(p. 146) In the morning, Broke not deeming it prudent to assail those intrenchments, manned by brave and determined men, while the heights around bristled with artillery, resolved to retreat. Waiting till night to take advantage of the darkness, he retraced his steps to the shipping.
From the extreme apprehensions that had oppressed it, Baltimore passed to the most extravagant joy. Beaming faces once more filled the streets, and the military bands, as they marched through, playing triumphant strains, were saluted with shouts. The officers were feted and exultation and confidence filled every bosom.
Macomb at Plattsburg — American and English fleets on Lake Champlain — Advance of Prevost — Indifference of Governor Chittenden — Rev. Mr. Wooster — Macdonough — The two battles — Funeral of the officers — British invasion of Maine — McArthur's expedition.
The gallant defence of Baltimore was still the theme of every tongue, when tidings from our northern borders swelled the enthusiasm to the highest pitch, and extinguished for a moment the remembrance of the barbarities committed at Washington.
The day before the British landed at North Point and received their first shock in the death of General Ross, the double battle of Plattsburg was fought.
Izard, when he started on his tortoise-like march, to the relief of Brown, left Colonel Macomb in command of three thousand men, not more than half of whom were fit for service. Their defeat he considered certain, and the result would have justified his (p. 148) prognostications, had Macomb, like him, sat down to brood over his troubles and gaze only on the difficulties that beset the army, till his confidence was gone and his energies paralyzed. But he was made of sterner stuff—difficulties only roused and developed him. Were the well men under his command few? then his defences must be the stronger, and the labor of those able to work, the more constant and exhausting.
Calling on New York and Vermont for militia, he toiled night and day at the works, and soon found himself strongly intrenched.
In the mean time, Prevost, at the head of a disciplined army of twelve thousand men, began to advance on Plattsburg. The ulterior design of this invasion of the States has never been disclosed. It is hardly possible that the British General meditated a movement similar to Burgoyne's, hoping to reach Albany. The object may have been to get entire command of Lake Champlain; and, pushing his land forces as far as Ticonderoga, there wait the development of events on the sea-coast, or by conquests along the northern boundary, create a claim to the lakes, to be enforced in the negotiations for peace.
This town is situated on the Saranac River, a deep and rapid stream, crossed at the time by several bridges. Abandoning that portion of it on the north shore, as untenable, Macomb withdrew his forces to the southern bank. Prevost, after a sharp action with the advance of the American army, was allowed to erect his batteries at his leisure. It took him four days to complete his works, or rather that time elapsed before the arrival of the British fleet.Sept. 1.
In the mean time Macomb had sent an express to Governor Chittenden, of Vermont, telling him that Prevost had commenced his march on Plattsburg, and beseeching him to call out the militia to his aid. But this Federalist Governor, acting on the rebellious doctrine of Massachusetts, coldly replied that he had no authority to send militia out of the State. On the 4th, Macomb sent another express saying the army was approaching, that his force was too small to resist it, and begging for assistance. General Newell, more patriotic than the Governor, offered to take his brigade over to the help of Macomb, but the former would not sanction the movement by his authority, though he advised him to beat up for volunteers. With every feeling of patriotism deadened by the poison of the spirit of faction—every generous sentiment and sympathy apparently extinguished—deaf to the (p. 150) piteous plea rising from a neighboring town, he coldly entrenched himself behind a party dogma, and let the ruin and devastation sweep onward. The cannonading on the 6th, by Majors Appling and Wool, who gallantly attacked the enemy's advance, did not rouse him from his apathy.
One can hardly imagine that the call he issued for volunteers before the battle, and the stirring proclamation he made afterwards under the pressure of popular enthusiasm, emanated from the same person.
The people, however, did not require to be stimulated into patriotism by their executive. As that sullen thunder came booming over the lake, it stirred with fiery ardor the gallant sons of that noble State, who never yet turned a deaf ear to the calls of their country, and before whose stern and valorous onset the enemy's ranks have never stood unbroken. Spurning the indifference of their Governor, and trampling under foot his constitutional scruples, they flew to their homes, and snatching down their muskets and rifles, and giving a short adieu to their families, rushed to the shore, and soon the lake was covered with boats, urged fiercely forward by strong arms and willing hearts towards the spot where the heavy explosions told that their brave countrymen were struggling in unequal combat. The face of young Macomb lighted (p. 151) with joy as his eye fell on those bold men, and a heavy load was taken from his heart.
Among those who had previously volunteered, was the Rev. Benjamin Wooster, of Fairfield, Vermont. Responding to the call of Governor Tompkins, he put himself at the head of his parishioners and repaired to the American camp, where he endured all the privations of a common soldier. The aged members of his church and the women, when they saw him draw up his little flock on the village green, prior to their departure for the scene of conflict, assembled in the church and sent for him, saying, "We shall see you no more—come, go to the house of God and preach us a last sermon, and administer to us the holy sacrament for the last time." But fearing the effect of so touching an interview on his own decisions, he refused. Sending them an affectionate farewell, he embraced his weeping family, kissed his babes, and gently untwining their arms from his neck, turned away. On the day of battle this brave old shepherd led his fearless flock into the fire, with the serenity of a good man doing his duty.
During the summer the English at the northern, and the Americans at the southern portion of the lake, had been busy in building ships to contest the supremacy of this sheet of water, whose head pierces so deep into the bosom of New York. The latter had at length assembled a flotilla consisting (p. 152) of four vessels—the largest carrying twenty-six guns—and ten galleys, the whole under the command of Macdonough. After some skirmishing, this little fleet, which early in the season lay in Otter Creek, was got into the lake and steered for Plattsburg Bay, to assist Macomb in his defence of the town. This bay opens to the southward, and instead of piercing the main land at right angles, runs north, nearly parallel with the lake itself. A narrow tongue of land divides it from the main water, the extreme point of which is called Cumberland Head. Just within its mouth, and nearly opposite where the turbulent Saranac empties into it, Macdonough anchored his vessels. Sept 20. Between him and the main land was a large shoal and an island which effectually blocked the approach of vessels on that side.
The English fleet sent to attack him, consisted, also, of four vessels—the largest mounting 32 guns—and 13 galleys. The American force, all told, was 14 vessels, mounting 86 guns and carrying 850 men, while that of the English was 17 vessels, mounting 96 guns and carrying 1000 men. The largest, the Confiance, "had the gun deck of a frigate," and by her superior size and strength, and her 30 long twenty-fours, was considered a match for any two vessels in Macdonough's squadron. Captain Downie, who commanded the British fleet, joined his gun boats at (p. 153) the Isle au Motte on the 8th of September, where he lay at anchor till the 11th. In the mean time, Prevost, whose batteries were all erected, remained silent behind his works waiting the arrival of the fleet before he should commence his fire.
During those sleepless nights, and days of agitation, young Macdonough lay calmly watching the approach of his superior foe, while Macomb strained every nerve to complete his defences. Fearless, frank and social, the young General moved among his soldiers with such animation and confidence, that they caught his spirit, and like the Green Mountain boys and yeomanry of New York at Saratoga, resolved to defend their homes to the last.Sept. 11.
At length, on Sunday morning, just as the sun rose over the eastern mountains, the American guard boat, on the watch, was seen rowing swiftly into the harbor. It reported the enemy in sight. The drums immediately beat to quarters, and every vessel was cleared for action. The preparations being completed, young Macdonough summoned his officers around him, and there, on the deck of the Saratoga, read the prayers of the ritual before entering into battle, and that voice, which soon after rung like a clarion amid the carnage, sent heavenward, in earnest tones, "Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come and help us, for thou givest not always the battle to the strong, but canst save by many or by (p. 154) few." It was a solemn and thrilling spectacle, and one never before witnessed on a vessel of war cleared for action. A young commander who had the courage thus to brave the derision and sneers which such an act was sure to provoke, would fight his vessel while there was a plank left to stand on. Of the deeds of daring done on that day of great achievements, none evinced so bold and firm a heart as this act of religious worship.
At eight o'clock the crews of the different vessels could see, over the tongue of land that divided the bay from the lake, the topsails of the enemy moving steadily down. These had also been seen from shore, and every eminence around was covered with anxious spectators. The house of God was deserted, and the light of that bright Sabbath morning, with its early stillness, flooded a scene at once picturesque and terrible. On one side was the hostile squadron, coming down to the sound of music—on the other, stood the armies on shore in order of battle, with their banners flying—between, lay Macdonough's silent little fleet at anchor, while the hills around were black with spectators, gazing on the strange and fearful panorama.
As the British approached, Macdonough showed his signal, "Impressed seamen call on every man to do his duty." As vessel after vessel traced the letters, loud cheers rent the air.
As Macdonough lay anchored with his vessels in line north and south—his galleys on their sweeps forming a second line in rear—the English fleet, as it doubled the head, was compelled to approach with bows on. The Eagle was farthest up the bay, the Saratoga second, Ticonderoga third, and Preble fourth. The impressive silence which rested on the American fleet was at last broken by the Eagle, which opened her broadsides. Startled by the sound, a cock on board the Saratoga, which had escaped from the coop, flew upon a gun slide and crowed. A loud laugh and three hearty cheers acknowledged the favorable omen, and spread confidence through the ship. Macdonough, seeing the enemy were at too great distance to be reached by his guns, reserved his fire, and watched the Confiance standing boldly on till she came within range. He then sighted a long twenty-four himself and fired her. The heavy shot passed the entire length of the deck of the Confiance, killing many of her men and shivering her wheel into fragments. This was the signal for every vessel to open its fire, and in a moment that quiet bay was in an uproar. The Confiance, however, though suffering severely, did not return a shot, but kept on till she got within a quarter of a mile, when she let go her anchors and swung broadside (p. 156) to the Saratoga. Sixteen long twenty-fours then opened at once with a terrific crash. The Saratoga shook from kelson to cross trees under the tremendous discharge. Nearly half of her crew were knocked down by it, while fifty men were either killed or wounded, and among them Lieutenant Gamble. He was in the act of sighting a gun, when a shot entered the port and struck him dead. The effect of this first broadside was awful, and the Saratoga was for a moment completely stunned. The next, however, she opened her fire with a precision and accuracy that told fatally on the English ship. But the latter soon commenced pouring in her broadsides so rapidly that she seemed enveloped in flame. The Eagle could not withstand it, and changed her position, falling in nearer shore, leaving the Saratoga to sustain almost alone the whole weight of the unequal contest. She gave broadside for broadside, but the weight of metal was against her, and she was fast becoming a wreck. Her deck soon presented a scene of the most frightful carnage. The living could hardly tumble the wounded down the hatchway as fast as they fell. At length, as a full broadside burst on the staggering ship, a cry of despair rang from stem to stern, "the Commodore is killed!—the Commodore is killed!" and there he lay on the blood-stained deck amid the dead, senseless, and apparently lifeless. A spar, cut in two by a cannon (p. 157) shot, had fallen on his back and stunned him. But after two or three minutes he recovered, and cheering on his men, took his place again beside his favorite gun that he had sighted from the commencement of the action. As the men saw him once more at his post, they took new courage.
But a few minutes after, the cry of "the Commodore is killed," again passed through the ship. Every eye was instantly turned to a group of officers gathered around Macdonough, who lay in the scuppers, between two guns, covered with blood. He had been knocked clean across the ship, with a force sufficient to have killed him. Again he revived, and limping to a gun, was soon coolly hulling his antagonist. Maimed and suffering, he fought on, showing an example that always makes heroes of subordinates.
At length every gun on the side of his vessel towards the enemy was silenced, but one, and this, on firing it again, bounded from its fastenings, and tumbled down the hatchway. Not a gun was left with which to continue the contest, while the ship was on fire. A surrender, therefore, seemed inevitable. Macdonough, however, resolved to wind his ship, so as to get the other broadside to bear. Failing in the first attempt, the sailing-master, Brum, bethought him of an expedient, which proved successful, and the crippled vessel slowly swung her stern around, until the uninjured guns bore. The Confiance, seeing the manœuvre, imitated (p. 158) it, but she could not succeed, and lay with her crippled side exposed to the fire of the Saratoga.
In a short time not a gun could be brought to bear. Further resistance was therefore useless, and she surrendered. She had been hulled a hundred and five times, while half of her men were killed and wounded. Captain Downie had fallen some time before, and hence was spared the mortification of seeing her flag lowered.
The Eagle, commanded by Capt. Henley, behaved gallantly in the engagement, while the Ticonderoga, under Lieutenant Cassin, was handled in a manner that astonished those who beheld her. This fearless officer walked backward and forward over his deck, encouraging his men, and directing the fire, apparently unconscious of the balls that smote and crashed around him. His broadsides were so incessant, that several times the vessel was thought to be on fire.
The surrender of the Confiance virtually terminated the contest, which had lasted two hours and a quarter; and as flag after flag struck the galleys took to their sweeps and escaped.
In the midst of this tremendous cannonade, came, at intervals, the explosions on shore. The first gun in the bay, was the signal for Prevost on land, and as the thunder of his heavy batteries mingled in with the incessant broadsides of the contending squadrons, the very shores trembled, and far over the lake, amid the quiet farm-houses of Vermont, the (p. 159) echoes rolled away, carrying anxiety and fear into hundreds of families. Its shore was lined with men, gazing intently in the direction of Plattsburgh, as though from the smoke that rolled heavenward, some tidings might be got of how the battle was going.
To the spectators on the commanding heights around Plattsburgh, the scene was indescribably fearful and thrilling. It was as if two volcanoes were raging below—turning that quiet Sabbath morning into a scene wild and awful as the strife of fiends. But when the firing in the bay ceased, and the American flag was seen still flying, and the Union Jack down, there went up a shout that shook the hills. From the water to the shore, and back again, the deafening huzzas echoed and re-echoed. The American army took up the shout, and sending it high and clear over the thunder of cannon, spread dismay and astonishment into the heart of the enemy's camp.
The American loss in killed and wounded, was one hundred and ten, of whom all but twenty fell on board the Saratoga and Eagle—that of the English was never fully known, though it was supposed to be nearly double.
The force of Macomb was so inferior, and the most of the volunteers were so recently arrived, that from the first he was advised to retreat, a course that Wilkinson and Dearborn and Izard would doubtless have (p. 160) taken, and defended it by rules laid down in books on military tactics. But Macomb had resolved to fight where he stood. The two forts of Brown and Scott, which he had erected and named, he designed should be symbolical of the defence he would make, and the battle he would fight.
After the British batteries had been in fierce operation for some time, throwing shells, hot shot and rockets in a perfect shower upon the American ranks, three columns of attack were formed—two pressing straight for the bridges, the planks of which had been taken up, and the third for a ford farther up the river. The last was repulsed by the volunteers and militia. The other two steadily approached the bridges, but the artillery rained such a tempest of grape shot on the uncovered ranks of one, and the pickets and rifles so scourged the other, that they were driven back to their intrenchments for shelter. After Macdonough's victory, their fire slackened, not only from discouragement, but from the destructive effect of the American gunnery on their batteries, and at nightfall ceased entirely. As soon as it became dark, Prevost ordered a retreat. So rapidly and silently was it conducted, that the army had advanced eight miles before Macomb knew of it. He immediately ordered a pursuit, but this day of strife had ended in a storm of wind and rain, and it was soon abandoned.
(p. 161) Prevost lost two hundred and fifty in killed and wounded, many of whom were left on the ground, drenched and beat upon by the storm. These he commended to the humanity of Macomb, and continued his rapid flight to the St. Lawrence. That British fleet, shattered and torn, lying at anchor under the guns of Macdonough, in the bay, and the army of twelve thousand men streaming through the gloom and rain, panic stricken, lest the feeble force behind should overtake it, present a striking contrast to their prospects in the morning, and show how changeful is fortune. Downie heard not the shout of victory, for he lay stiff and cold in the vessel he had carried so gallantly into action, and Prevost did not long survive his defeat.
So large a hostile force had never before crossed the Canada line, while no such sudden and terrible reverse of fortune had befallen the feeblest expedition. Two such victories on one day, were enough to intoxicate the nation. The news spread like wildfire, and shouts and salvos of artillery, and bonfires, hailed the messengers, as they sped the glad tidings on. The campaign was closing gloriously. Instead of the defeats and failures of the last year, there were Chippewa and Lundy's Lane and Fort Erie, crowned by the victories of Baltimore and Plattsburgh. The news of the two last, approaching from different directions, set the land in a glow of transport, and (p. 162) lifted it from despondency and gloom to confidence and bright expectations.
The Thursday following the battle of Champlain was devoted to the burial of the officers killed in the naval action. As the procession of boats left the Confiance, minute guns were fired from the vessels in the harbor. The artillery and infantry on shore received the dead and bore them to the place of burial, while the cannon of the forts responded to those from the fleet, blending their mournful echoes over the fallen in their prime and manhood. The clouds hung low and gloomy over lake and land, and the rain fell in a gentle shower, imparting still greater loneliness to the scene. On this very day, while friends and foes were thus paying the last tribute of respect to the fallen, Baltimore was shaking to the huzzas of the inhabitants, at the news that the British fleet was sailing down the bay, baffled and disappointed.Sept 1.
Simultaneous with these two invasions of our territory, a British force was sent against Machias. The misfortune which befel the Adams, sloop-of-war, compelling her to take refuge at Hampden, in the Penobscot river, caused a change in the movements of the expedition, and it did not stop to take Machias, but seized Castine and Belfast, on the Penobscot bay, then pushed on with a sloop of war and small craft carrying in all 700 men, (p. 163) to capture this vessel. Sept 9. Machias was then seized, and all the country east of Penobscot taken possession of. July 14. The islands in Passamaquoddy bay had been seized and occupied two months previous.
Our whole maritime coast was still threatened, and every seaport of any magnitude, was fortifying itself when Congress assembled again.
The only other military movement of note during this fall, was an expedition which set out from Detroit, under the command of General McArthur. It consisted of 700 mounted men, seventy of whom were Indians, and for secresy, daring and skill was not surpassed during the war. Its object was to prevent the enemy from molesting Michigan during the winter, and if successful in its operations, eventually attack Burlington Heights, and form a junction with Generals Brown and Izard. This body of seven hundred bold and well-mounted borderers, left Detroit the 22d of October, and plunged at once into the wilderness. Oct 22. The long and straggling column would now be seen wading along the shallow shores of the lake, and then be lost in the primeval forest, to reappear on the bank of deep rivers, from whose farther shore the wilderness again spread away. The bivouac by night in the autumnal woods, or on the bank of a stream, presented a fine subject for a painter. Their seven hundred horses tied to the (p. 164) trees around, only half relieved by the ruddy fire that strove in vain to pierce the limitless gloom—the lofty trunks of trees receding away like the columns in some old dimly-lighted cathedral—the hardy and rough-looking frontiersmen, stretched with the half-clad savages around the fire—the sentinels scarcely discernible in the distance, all combined to form a picture which has a charm even for the most civilized and refined.
It was, however, no holiday march—expedition was necessary to success, and the horses were kept to the top of their endurance. Straining up acclivities, floundering through swamps, struggling with the rapid currents of rivers, this detachment succeeded in penetrating more than two hundred miles into the enemy's country, and to within twenty-five miles of Burlington Heights. It marched more than four hundred miles, one hundred and eighty of it through an unbroken wilderness, defeated five hundred militia strongly posted, killed and wounded twenty-seven men, and took a hundred and eleven prisoners, and returned with the loss of but one man. Oct 17. In the discipline he maintained, the health of the troops, and their safe return, McArthur showed himself a skillful and able commander, while his subordinates deserve the highest commendation.
The Navy in 1814 — Cruise of Captain Morris in the Adams — Narrow escapes — The Wasp and Reindeer — Cruise of the Wasp — Sinks the Avon — Mysterious fate of the Wasp — The Peacock captures the Epervier — Lieutenant Nicholson.
During the season of almost uninterrupted success on land and on our inland waters, we had but few vessels at sea, the greater part being blockaded, but those few nobly sustained the reputation won by the navy in the two previous years. The Guerriere 44, the Independence 74, and the Java 44, were launched during the summer, but remained in their docks till the close of the war. In the January previous Captain Morris, commanding the Adams, which had been cut down to a sloop of war, got to sea and took a few prizes. In the spring he captured an East Indiaman, but while taking possession of her an English fleet hove in sight, which compelled him to abandon the prize and crowd all sail to escape. Succeeding in throwing off his pursuers he gave chase to the (p. 166) Jamaica fleet which had passed him in the night, but failed in every attempt to cut out a vessel. July 3. Continuing eastward he at length made the Irish coast, but was soon after chased by an English frigate and pressed so closely that he found it necessary to throw overboard his anchors and two guns. This sacrifice, however, did not increase materially the distance between him and his adversary, and after dark, it falling a dead calm, Capt. Morris and his first Lieutenant Wadsworth, both of whom were on board the Constitution when first chased by the English fleet, got out their boats and by towing all night, succeeded in gaining two leagues by daylight. As soon as the commander of the English frigate discovered the trick that had been played him, he crowded all sail and kept in the wake of the Adams till ten at night, when the latter altering her course, escaped.
But the ocean being filled with the enemy's cruisers, this persecuted solitary vessel was soon chased again by two frigates, for twenty-four hours, and only got off at last by the aid of a friendly fog. In August, however, she went ashore off the coast of Maine, while attempting to run the English blockade, as mentioned in the preceding chapter, and was so injured that Morris run her into the Penobscot River, where he was compelled to burn her to prevent her capture by the British.
(p. 167) The Wasp put to sea, from Portsmouth, the first of May, and giving her canvass to the wind steered boldly for the English Channel. Leaving the British fleet blockading our ships at home, her commander, Captain Blakely, sought the English coast, resolved to strike at the enemy's commerce assembling there from every sea. It required constant watchfulness and great prudence to cruise on such dangerous ground as this, and had not all suspicion of an enemy in that quarter been removed, she would doubtless have been captured. The unexampled daring of the act alone saved her.
On the 28th of June Blakely gave chase to a sail, which proved to be the English brig of war Reindeer, commanded by Captain Manners. The latter, though inferior in strength, showed no disinclination to close, and came down in gallant style. As they approached, the Reindeer by using a shifting twelve-pound carronade, was able to fire it five times before Blakely could get a gun to bear. At first within sixty, and afterwards within thirty yards, the crew stood for twelve minutes this galling fire without flinching. But when at length a favorable position was obtained, the broadsides of the American was delivered with such awful effect, that Captain Manners saw at once his vessel would be a wreck unless he run her aboard; and setting his sails he drove full on the Wasp. As the vessels fell foul he (p. 168) called to his men to follow him, and endeavored to leap on the deck of his antagonist. But coolly, as on a parade, the crew of the latter steadily repulsed every attempt to board.
Captain Manners had been wounded early in the action, but still kept his feet, and just before boarding was struck by a shot which carried away the calves of both his legs. In this mangled condition he gave the orders to board, and leaping into the rigging of his own vessel in order to swing himself on that of his adversary, he was struck by two musket balls which entered the top of his head and passed out through his chin. Waving his sword above his head he exclaimed, "Oh, God!" and fell lifeless on the deck.
After the enemy had been repulsed three times, the Wasp boarded in turn, and in one minute the conflict was over. The English vessel was literally a wreck, and had lost in killed and wounded sixty-seven out of one hundred and fifteen, constituting her crew, or more than half of her entire number. The Wasp had but five men killed and twenty-two wounded. July 8. Captain Blakely took his prize into L'Orient, where he burned her to prevent recapture. Up to this time he had taken eight merchantmen. Aug. 27. Remaining here till the latter part of August, he again set sail, and on the 1st of September cut out a vessel loaded with guns and military (p. 169) stores from a fleet of ten sail, convoyed by a seventy-four. Endeavoring to repeat the saucy experiment he was chased away by a man-of-war. The same evening, however, making four sail, he in turn gave chase to one, which immediately threw up rockets and fired signal guns to attract the attention of the other vessels. But Captain Blakely held steadily on, crashing along under a ten knot breeze, and as he approached the stranger fired a gun and hailed. His fire being returned he poured in a destructive broadside. Notwithstanding the swell was heavy and the night dark, his fire was terribly effective. For a night action it was remarkably short, and in forty minutes the enemy struck. But as the boat was about being lowered to take possession of her, Blakely saw beneath the lifting smoke a brig of war within musket-shot, and two more vessels rapidly closing. Ordering the boat to be run up again quickly, and the men to hasten to their posts, he filled away and catching the wind dead astern was soon out of sight. Sept. 1. The enemy gave him one broadside and then turned to the captured vessel, whose guns of distress were echoing loudly over the sea. She soon sunk. This vessel was afterwards ascertained to be the Avon, of eighteen guns.Sept. 22.
This was the last direct tidings ever received from the gallant Wasp. Various rumors were afloat concerning her fate, but nothing certain of her after cruise, or the manner in which she was lost, was ever known. One report stated that an English frigate had put into Cadiz badly cut up by an American corvette, which had sunk in the night time, and so suddenly, that her name could not be ascertained. This was thought at first to be the Wasp, but no confirmation of this report being received, it was discredited. The spirited conduct of this little vessel had made her a great favorite with the nation, and a deep sympathy was universally felt for her mysterious fate. Years passed by, when an incident occurred which awakened a fresh interest in her. Two officers on board the Essex, when she was captured at Valparaiso, had gone to Rio Janeiro, but were never after heard from. Inquiries were made by friends in every direction, but in vain. At last it was ascertained that they had taken passage in a Swedish brig for England, from which they had been transferred to the Wasp. The commander stated that on the 9th of October he was chased by a (p. 171) strange sail, which fired several guns, when he hove to and was boarded. The boarding officer, ascertaining there were two American officers on board, took them with him to his own ship. On their return, they told the Swedish captain that the strange sail was the Wasp, and they had determined to accept a passage in her. They did so, and nothing more was ever heard of them.
This was sixteen days after the prize left her, and, according to the Swedish brig's reckoning, she was at the time nearly a thousand miles farther south, and where she very naturally might be. Added to this was another rumor, which seemed to throw still more light on her fate. Soon after her rencontre with the Swedish vessel, it was said that two English frigates chased off the southern coast an American sloop-of-war, and while in pursuit were struck with a heavy squall. After the squall was over, the sloop was no where to be seen. If the rumor be true, that vessel was no doubt the Wasp, for we had no other sloop-of-war in those seas at that time. Besides, when met by the Swedish brig, she was evidently bound in that direction, and should have arrived off the coast about the time mentioned in the rumor. Nothing is more probable than that she capsized and went down, while carrying a press of sail to escape her pursuers.
At all events, whatever was her fate, the sea never (p. 172) rolled over a more gallant commander and crew. Watchful, full of resources, indefatigable and fearless, Captain Blakely was the model of a naval commander, and had he lived would no doubt have reached the highest rank in his profession.March, 1814.
The Peacock, Captain Harrington, also started on a cruise in the spring, steering southward. On the 29th of April she made three sail, which proved to be merchantmen under convoy of the Epervier, a large brig-of-war. The former took to flight, while the latter bore up to engage. At the first fire the forward sails of the American were so cut up that they became nearly useless. There was, consequently, but little manœuvering; the vessels moved off together, and a steady discharge of broadsides settled the contest. The force and weight of metal in this case were nearly equal, but the superior gunnery of the American was soon manifest, for in forty-two minutes the Epervier was so riddled that she had five feet of water in the hold. In this condition she struck, and with great difficulty was kept from sinking. Twenty-two of her crew were killed and wounded, while not a man in the Peacock was killed, and only two wounded. A hundred and eighteen thousand dollars in specie were found on board of her.
Lieutenant Nicholson was sent home with the prize. He reached the American sea board in (p. 173) safety, but while running along the coast, steering for Savannah, was chased by an English frigate, and escaped capture only by one of those artifices so common among Yankee sailors. The wind being light, he crept close along shore, and kept in shoal water where the frigate dared not approach. The commander of the latter observing this, manned his boats and sent them forward in pursuit. The prize had but seventeen officers and men all told, and hence could make no serious resistance if boarded. As the boats came steadily on under sweeps, the fate of the Epervier appeared to be sealed, but Nicholson, putting the best face on the matter, took down his trumpet and thundered out his orders to yaw and pour in a broadside. The boats hesitated on hearing this dangerous command, and finally withdrew, leaving the prize a safe passage to the Savannah.May 1.
Three days after, the Peacock also came in. The latter, however, remained in port but a short time, and again set sail, sweeping the seas to the bay of Biscay.
Her cruise was conducted with great prudence and sagacity, and she returned in October, having captured fourteen merchantmen.
Third Session of the XIIIth Congress — State of the Treasury — The President's Message — Dallas appointed Secretary of the Treasury — His scheme and that of Eppes for the relief of the country — Our Commissioners at Ghent — Progress of the negotiations — English protocol — Its effect on Congress and the nation — Effect of its publication on the English Parliament.Sept. 19.
During the agitation and excitement preceding the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and the battles of Champlain and Plattsburg, the members of Congress were slowly gathering to the ruined Capital, and two days after Brown's gallant sortie from Fort Erie, assembled in the Patent Office, the only public building left standing by the enemy.
Notwithstanding the glorious victories that had marked the summer campaign, a gloom rested on Congress. The Government, indeed, presented a melancholy spectacle, sitting amid the ashes of the Capital, while the fact could not be disguised that (p. 175) the Commissioners at Ghent gave no hope of peace. The war seemed far as ever from a termination, while England, released from the drains on her troops, navy and treasury, by the Continental war, was evidently making preparations for grander and more terrible exhibitions of her power. Her forces were gathering and her fleets accumulating upon our coast for the avowed purpose of demolishing our seaports, burning up our shipping, destroying our cities, and carrying a wide-spread desolation along our shores. To meet the expenses required to resist these attacks, a vast accession of funds was necessary, and yet the Treasury was worse than empty. The effort to borrow, in August, the paltry sum of six millions, a part of the $25,000,000 voted, had proved unsuccessful, not half the amount being taken and that at less than 80 per cent. In May previous over nine millions and a half had been obtained at from 85 to 88 per cent, and yet while victories were illustrating our arms, not $3,000,000 would now be taken, and the offers for that all below 80 per cent.
As the Treasury accounts stood at the close of the second quarter of the year 1814, Mr. Campbell, the Secretary, estimated that nearly twenty-five millions of dollars would be necessary to meet the expenditures of the remaining two quarters. The public revenue during that time would be nearly five millions, which the two loans and four millions of Treasury (p. 176) notes would swell to a little over thirteen millions, leaving about eleven millions to be obtained by some process or other. A foreign loan of six millions was recommended.
Added to this the currency was thoroughly deranged. New banks had set a vast amount of paper afloat, while the specie was all drained off to pay for British goods, which surreptitiously got into the country. The banks of the District of Columbia suspended payment with the British invasion, and the panic spreading northward, there commenced a run upon the banks which in turn stopped payment, until out of New England, a large bank could scarcely be found that had not suspended.
The expense of maintaining such a vast army of militia as was kept on foot, called for enormous disbursements, and many saw national bankruptcy in the future should the war continue.
The burning of Washington furnished the President, in his message, an excellent occasion for making an appeal to the people. He was not constrained to fall back on the justice of the war, and persuade the nation that the invasion of Canada was both right and politic. The war had become defensive—men must now fight, not for maritime rights, not march to distant and questionable ground, but standing on their own hearth-stones, strike for their firesides and their homes. The Indian barbarities (p. 177) at the west, which inflamed to such a pitch of rage the Kentuckians, had been repeated by a civilized nation, and in speaking of them and the enemy, the President said: "He has avowed his purpose of trampling on the usages of civilized warfare, and given earnest of it in the plunder and wanton destruction of private property. *** His barbarous policy has not even spared those monuments of the arts and models of taste with which our country had enriched and embellished its infant metropolis. From such an adversary, hostility in its greatest force and worst forms may be looked for. The American people will face it with the undaunted spirit, which in our Revolutionary struggle, defeated his unrighteous projects. His threats and barbarities instead of dismay, will kindle in every bosom an indignation not to be extinguished but in the disaster and expulsion of such cruel invaders."
The ardor and indignation of the people were easily roused, but these did not bring what just then was most needed, money.Sept.
Campbell having resigned his place as Secretary of the Treasury, immediately after sending in his report, Alexander Dallas was appointed in his place, who brought forward a scheme for relieving the Government. Eppes, from the Committee of Ways and Means, also offered a project. He proposed to lay new taxes to the amount of eleven and (p. 178) a half millions, and make a new issue of Treasury Notes, redeemable after six months. Dallas agreed with him in the amount of taxes, but recommended also the creation of a National Bank with a capital of fifty millions, five of it in specie and the residue in government stock. This would regulate the currency by furnishing a circulating medium, and constitute a basis on which loans could be obtained.
Bills were also brought in regulating the army.
In the mean time unfavorable news arrived from our embassy at Ghent. They had been compelled to wait some time for the English Commissioners, spending the interval in a round of amusements and entertainments furnished by the people of Ghent and General Lyons, commanding the British troops in that place. At length, on the 7th of August, the Secretary of the English legation called at the American hotel, to arrange the place and day for commencing negotiations. No one but Mr. Bayard was in at the time, and he seeing no breach of diplomatic etiquette in the proposal of the English Secretary to meet next day at the hotel of the English legation, assented. But the other members when they returned and were told of the arrangements that had been made, were indignant. "What!" said Mr. Adams, "meet the English Ministers who have kept us here so long waiting the condescension of their coming, in the face of all (p. 179) Ghent—meet them at their bidding at their own hotel, to be the laughing stock of the city, of London, and of Europe?" "Never!" added Mr. Gallatin, "never!" Mr. Bayard replied, that the promise had been made, and they stood pledged. "No," said Mr. Adams, "you may be, but we are not."Aug. 8.
Another place was therefore agreed upon, and the negotiations commenced. The city was filled with men, watching their progress, not only statesmen, but speculators eager to take advantage of the change in the price of stocks, which rose and fell with the wavering character of the proceedings.
After expressing the pacific feelings of their government, the English ministers stated the three points which would probably arise, and on which they were instructed:
1. The right of search to obtain seamen, and the claim of his Britannic Majesty to the perpetual allegiance of his subjects, whether naturalized in America or not.
2. The Indian allies were to have a definite boundary fixed for their territory.
3. There must be a revision of the boundary line between the United States and the adjacent British colonies.
The question of the fisheries, it was intimated, would also come up.
(p. 180) The American legation replied, that they had instructions upon the first and third propositions, but not on the second, nor on the subject of the fisheries. They also were instructed to obtain a definition of blockade, and to consider claims for indemnity in certain cases of seizure. After some discussion, the American embassy inquired if the pacification and settlement of a boundary for the Indians was a sine qua non. The reply was, yes. It was then asked if it was intended to preclude the United States from purchasing lands of the Indians, whose possessions clearly lay within the limits of their territory. An affirmative answer was given. The native tribes were to be kept simply as a barrier between the possessions of the two countries. On being told that no instructions had been given on this point, the English embassy expressed great surprise, and declared that they could do nothing until farther advices from their government. A messenger was therefore despatched to England that night, and the two embassies, after meeting next day to arrange a protocol, adjourned till the decision of the English cabinet could be received.
Nine days after, Lord Castlereagh, elated with his success as English minister to the headquarters of the allied armies, on their way to Paris,—exulting over the downfall of Napoleon, and representing in himself the intoxication of the English people at the overthrow (p. 181) of their rival—haughty, unscrupulous, and overbearing, swept into Ghent with a train of twenty carriages, on his way to the great Congress of Vienna, where European diplomacy, in all its monstrous deformity and rottenness, was to be exhibited to the world.
The next day the embassies met, and the reply of the English government was rendered. In the first place, the Indian boundary question was declared a sine qua non. The question then arose, what would become of the hundreds of American citizens residing at that time within the limits thus to be drawn. The reply was, they must shift for themselves.
In the second place, the entire jurisdiction of the northern lakes, extending from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior, where our squadrons were riding victorious, must be surrendered to the British government, the United States not being permitted to erect even a military post on the southern shore, on their own soil, nor keep those already established there. As a backer to this insolent demand, the legation affirmed that the United States ought to consider it moderate, since England might justly have claimed a cession of territory within the States. Beyond Lake Superior, the question of boundary was open to discussion. Another item in this protocol required the surrender of that part of Maine over which a direct route from Halifax to Canada would necessarily pass. When asked what (p. 182) they proposed to do with those islands in the Passamaquoddy Bay, recently captured by the English, they replied, these were not subjects of discussion, belonging, of course, to Great Britain. They farther informed the American Legation that this extraordinary and magnanimous offer, on the part of his majesty, was not to remain open for any length of time—that if delay was demanded till instructions could be received from across the ocean on the one single question of Indian boundary, it would be considered withdrawn, and the English government feel itself at liberty to make other and less generous demands, as circumstances might indicate.
To such arrogant claims but one answer could be given, and Gallatin, in sending them home, wrote that all negotiations might be considered at an end, and that no course was left for the United States but "in union and a vigorous prosecution of the war." Mr. Clay accepted an invitation to visit Paris, and Mr. Adams prepared to return to St. Petersburgh.
While this news was slowly traversing the Atlantic in the cartel John Adams, the victories of Brown, Macomb, and Macdonough, were electrifying the nation.Oct. 10.
On the 10th of October the President transmitted a message to Congress, with the despatches received from Ghent, and the protocol of the English legation. Their reading was listened (p. 183) to with breathless silence, and as the extraordinary claims set forth by England became one after another clearly revealed, the astonishment of the members exceeded all bounds, and they gazed at each other incredulously. The Federalists were paralyzed with disappointment. The party had never received such a blow since the commencement of the war. Their arguments were prostrated. They had always represented England as desirous of peace, fighting only because she was forced to by a reckless, unprincipled administration and party. Towards the nation at large she cherished no hostile feelings, and entertained no ultimate sinister designs. But the mask was now snatched away, and she stood revealed in all her arrogance and injustice. If any thing more than the ravages on our coast was needed to bind the nation together in one determined effort, it was furnished in these despatches. As the news spread on every side, the passions of men were kindled into rage. What, burn up our victorious war-ships on those great mediterraneans, the command of which had been gained by such vast expenditures and such heroic conduct—abandon forts standing on our own soil, around which such valiant blood had been shed? "Never, never," responded from every lip.
Scarcely less excitement was produced by the discussion of the Indian boundary question. Stripped (p. 184) of its false pretences, it looked solely to the prevention of all settlement on our part, of the North-western territory, and designed to bar us forever from acquiring possessions in that quarter. To give some show of fairness to the transaction, it was proposed that both countries should be restricted from purchasing the land of the Indians, but leave the market open to the whole world beside. In short, that vast territory, including a large portion of Ohio, all of Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, must not only be surrendered by us, but placed under the complete control of the British government, whose ships of war were alone to sail the waters that washed its northern limits, and whose fortifications were to awe the inhabitants that occupied it. Never before had the cry of war rung so loudly over the land, and the nation began to prepare for the approaching conflict with an earnestness and determination that promised results worthy of itself and the cause for which it struggled. The Federalist journals came at last to the rescue, declaring that the terms offered were too humiliating and degrading to be entertained for a moment. Only one paper in Boston was besotted enough to assert that they were honorable and ought to be accepted.
Congress, after the reception of this protocol and the accompanying despatches, took a different tone, and when the question of ways and means for the coming year was taken up, a spirit was exhibited, that (p. 185) since the declaration of war, had never been witnessed in its deliberations. The fear and hesitation which were weighing it down, vanished, and it began to assume the character and exhibit the qualities belonging to it, but which the spirit of faction had kept in abeyance. The Legislatures of the different states responded to the sentiments of the commissioners—declaring that the terms proposed were insulting and disgraceful, and called for a vigorous prosecution of the war. New York voted a local force of 12,000 men, and Virginia followed her example.
It was a grand stroke of policy, on the part of the administration, to fling those despatches at once into Congress and thus before the nation. Their sudden publication took the British Ministry by surprise, for it exposed their extraordinary demands to the whole realm, and they remonstrated against such undiplomatic conduct.
Before the Convention of Ghent the English press ridiculed concessions, declaring that punishment must be inflicted on the Americans, and they be chastised into humility and supplication. The war with us was a Lilliputian affair compared to the struggles out of which England had come victorious, and the Convention was not looked upon so much as the meeting of Commissioners to adjust things amicably, as furnishing the opportunity for the American government to make a request to have hostilities cease. (p. 186) But the disasters to Drummond, at Fort Erie, to Prevost at Plattsburgh, and the utter demolition of the British fleet on Champlain, together with the repulse from Baltimore, acted as a condenser on much of this vapor. Nov. 4. The vast expenditures wasted on the Canadian frontier were now all to be renewed, newer and stronger armies were to be transported to our shores, and when the Prince Regent opened Parliament he plainly hinted that it would be well to avoid all this, if possible. The arrival of the despatches which the President had laid before Congress, containing the protocol of the English Embassy, created a deep sensation in both houses of Parliament. The claims set up by the English government were loudly denounced by many of the members, and it was soon apparent that if the war was pressed to make them good, a large opposition party would be formed, not only in Parliament but in the country. Sixty manufacturing towns sent in petitions for peace. Cobbett, who had all along defended the conduct of the United States, was unsparing in his flagellations of the British government, and of those papers that advocated the war.
While the war question was passing through these phases in England, and on the continent, Congress was preparing to call out the whole resources of the country. But a second despatch received from Ghent, stating that negotiations were resumed and (p. 187) that the British government had receded from the Indian boundary question, awakened lively hopes that peace would be secured.
But the energy with which Congress had entered on the question of ways and means, began to expend itself in party strife. Monroe's plan for raising a standing force of 80,000 men to serve for two years; a bill authorizing the enlistment of minors; and Dallas' National Bank scheme, to relieve the finances of the country, after fierce discussions and many modifications, one after another fell to the ground. In the mean time, the treasury was compelled to subsist on the issue of Treasury notes, which as business paper were worth only 78 per cent.Dec. 15.
New tax bills were soon after passed—laying taxes on carriages according to their value; 20 cts. per gallon on distilled spirits; increasing a hundred per cent. the tax on auction duties, and 50 per cent. on postage. Heavy duties were also placed on most goods of domestic manufacture, with the exception of cotton, and a direct tax of six millions was levied on the nation.
As time passed on, and no farther tidings was received from Ghent, Congress again took up and finally passed the bill for the enlistment of minors. The Legislatures of Connecticut and Massachusetts immediately passed acts requiring the judges of these respective states to discharge on habeas corpus all (p. 188) enlistments made under the provisions of the bill, and to punish with fine and imprisonment all who engaged in it, and removed minors out of the state to prevent their discharge.
These acts of Congress, however, did not avail to help the government out of the troubles that were once more gathering thick about it. Everything was at a stand still for lack of funds—even the recruiting service got on slowly. In the mean time, negotiations for peace did not wear a very encouraging aspect, while the gain of the Federalists in some of the states, in the recent elections, and the Hartford Convention, helped to swell the evils under which the administration labored.
The conscription scheme would not work in many of the states, and resort was had to the old system of raising 40,000 volunteers for twelve months, and the acceptance of as many more for local defence.
PAINFUL MARCH OF VOLUNTEERS.
The administration then turned its attention to the navy, the pride and glory of the country, and a bill was passed Congress authorizing the equipment of twenty small cruisers. Under its provisions two small squadrons of five vessels each, one to be commanded by Porter and the other by Perry, had been set on foot, whose object was to inflict on the British West Indies the havoc and destruction with which the enemy had visited our coast. But it was difficult to obtain seamen, as most of those who had enlisted during the last year (p. 189) had been sent to the northern lakes to serve on fresh water—a duty always unpalatable to a sailor. Our vessels of war being blockaded, we had no occasion for seamen on the coast, and could find employment for them on the lakes alone. Crowningshield, who had succeeded Jones as Secretary of the Navy, actually recommended a conscription of seamen.
In the mean time, Great Britain had concentrated in Canada a larger force than she had ever before assembled there, ready to march on the states, while Cockburn, in possession of Cumberland island, threatened the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina with the same ravages that marked his course in the Chesapeake. Added to all this, a heavy force was known to be on its way to New Orleans, which the government had neglected to defend, and hence expected to see fall into the hands of the enemy. The prospect was black as night around the administration—not a ray of light visited it from any quarter of the heavens. Funds and troops and ships had never been so scarce, while overpowering fleets and armies were assembling on our coasts and frontiers. Jan. 17, 1815. In the midst of all this, as if on purpose to drive the government to despair, Dallas came out with a new report on the state of the Treasury, in which he informed it that the year had closed with $19,000,000 of unpaid debts, to meet which there was less than $2,000,000 on hand, and (p. 190) $4,500,000 of taxes not yet collected. The revenue was estimated at $11,000,000, of which only one million was from imports, the rest from taxes. While he thus exhibited the beggared condition of the Treasury, he informed the administration that fifty millions would be needed to meet the expenditures of the coming year, and gravely asked where it all was to come from. The government looked on in dismay, and to what measures it would have been compelled to resort for relief it is impossible to say; but in reviewing that period one shudders to contemplate the probable results of another year of war, and another Hartford Convention. But like the sun suddenly bursting through a dark and ominous thundercloud, just before he sinks beneath the horizon, came at length the news of the great victory at New Orleans, and the conclusion of peace at Ghent. Never before was an administration so loudly called upon to ask that public thanks might be offered for deliverance from great perils.
Attitude of New England — Governor Strong — Views and purposes of the Federalists — Anxiety of Madison — Prudence of Colonel Jesup — Result of the Convention — Fears of the people — Fate of the Federalists.
While Government was thus struggling to avert the perils that every day grew darker around it, and the negotiations at Ghent were drawing to a conclusion, serious events were occurring in the New England States.
Although the ravages of the enemy along our coast during the summer, and our victories at the north in autumn, together with the insulting demands of England, had seriously weakened the Federalist power, and brought it into still greater disrepute with the mass of the people, and passing events admonished delay, still they resolved to carry out a favorite plan of calling a Convention of the disaffected States, to consult on the best mode of defending themselves, and of forcing the administration (p. 192) into the adoption of their measures, and to take steps towards amending the Constitution. New England had all along denied the right of the General Government to call out the militia, except for the defence of the States in which they resided, and demanded the control of her own troops, and consequently of a large portion of her own revenue. Heavy complaints were also made against the direct taxes levied, and many refused to ride in coaches, or use those things taxed, thus placing themselves beside the revolutionary patriots, and making the General Government resemble England in its oppression.
Massachusetts, with Governor Strong as its Executive head, took the lead in all movements designed to carry out these projects. Resolutions had passed the Legislature, raising an army of ten thousand men, and a million of money to support it. This army was to be officered by Governor Strong, and its movements directed by Federalist councils. Such a large force, raised not to aid the administration to carry on the war, but for selfish ends, naturally awakened the gravest fears, and the President saw in it the first step towards armed opposition. All this may be defensible, but the gallant sons of Kentucky, with their gray-haired but chivalrous Governor at their head, streaming through the northern forests, to drive back from the feeble settlements of (p. 193) Ohio the savage hordes that were laying them waste, and Governor Strong, bidding the militia of his State stay at home and take care of themselves, present a contrast so widely different, that no sophistry can make them appear equally patriotic and unselfish.Oct. 18.
In order to bring the whole eastern section into similar measures, and to give union to the opposition, a resolution was passed calling a Convention of the New England States, to meet at Hartford, December 15th, to deliberate on the best method of defence against the enemy, and to take measures for procuring amendments to the Constitution, which the Federalists had ascertained, since the war began, to be a most worthless instrument. The letter accompanying this resolution being laid before the Connecticut Legislature, seven delegates were appointed to the Convention, to meet the twelve sent from Massachusetts; Rhode Island sent four, making in all twenty-three, to which three County delegates from New Hampshire were added. Vermont refused to have any thing to do with the matter. These resolutions did not pass without violent opposition in each of the Legislatures. Holmes, of Massachusetts, openly declared his suspicions that Massachusetts designed to head a combination for the dissolution of the Union. The raising of an army of ten thousand men, not subject to the orders of the General Government, confirmed his fears, and (p. 194) gave a practical character to opinions hostile to the confederacy.
Harrison Gray Otis and John Cabot, were leaders of the Massachusetts delegation.Dec. 15.
No body of men ever assembled under such universal execration and odium as did these delegates. Except the few Federalist journals in New England, the entire press of the nation denounced them, one and all, as traitors.
George Cabot being elected President, and Timothy Dwight, Secretary, the Convention proceeded to deliberate on the momentous questions they had proposed to discuss, with closed doors. Madison was in trepidation and could speak of nothing but the Convention, and sent Colonel Jesup to watch it. To prevent his design from being suspected, he directed this gallant officer to make Hartford a recruiting station.
Jesup had had interviews with Governor Tompkins, to ascertain what aid he could afford in case it became necessary to resort to force. He was satisfied that the treasonable designs of the delegates had been much exaggerated, but he wished to be prepared for any emergency, and having arranged his plans, quietly awaited the result of their deliberations. He was in constant correspondence with Monroe, Secretary of War, and did much towards allaying the fears of the President, and promised if (p. 195) open treason exhibited itself, to crush it and its authors, with one decisive blow. Ingratiating himself with some of the delegates of the Convention and with the authorities of Hartford by his conciliatory and agreeable manner; and winning the respect of all by his prudent conduct, he soon became convinced that a resolution for disunion, if offered, could not be carried.
At length, after three weeks of secret session, this dreaded Convention, on whose mysterious sittings the eyes of the nation had been turned, adjourned, and every one waited with anxiety to hear the decision to which it had come. The shadowy forms of disunion and treason had so long been seen presiding over its labors, that some monstrous birth was expected. But nature moved on in her accustomed courses, and no shock was felt by the republic, and instead of a shell flung into the Union, rending it asunder, there appeared a long and heavy document containing the collective wisdom of these twenty-six men. After going over the transgressions of the administration, from first to last, it passed to the defects of the Constitution. It modestly remarked that the enumeration of all the improvements of which this instrument was susceptible, and the proposal of all the amendments necessary to make it perfect, was a task which the Convention had "not thought proper to assume." After paying this flattering testimony (p. 196) to the grand and glorious intellects who framed the Constitution, it proceeded to mention six amendments on which there should be immediate action. The first related to the apportionment of representation among the slave States. The second to the admission of new States, restricting the powers of Congress in this respect, in order to keep down western influence. The third, to the right to pass restrictive and embargo acts, and carry on offensive war. The fifth, to exclude foreigners from holding places of honor, trust or profit under Government, and the last to limiting the Presidential office to one term.
Resolutions and recommendations in accordance with these sentiments, were sent to the separate states represented in that Convention.
Delegates were also appointed to repair to Washington to remonstrate with the President, some say to threaten him, and insist on his resignation. No treason appeared in all this, but the serious discussion of the question of disunion in the preamble, and the hypothetical cases put, in which such a step would be justifiable, showed that it had been mooted and seriously entertained by some of the members.
The tone of the paper was bad, egotistical, and mutinous. It endeavored to arraign the states of New England against the government—urged them to resist forcible drafts and conscriptions, and raise (p. 197) armies of their own to co-operate each with the other in time of need.
This exposé, however, did not satisfy the Democrats, who insisted that some deep-laid scheme was back of all this—that the secret records of the Convention would disclose blacker transactions than had yet seen the light, and from that time on, those twenty delegates have been stigmatized as traitors. They, on the other hand, have defended themselves from the aspersion, and declared that they were governed by the highest patriotic motives and love to the union.
The truth lies, doubtless, somewhere between these extremes. The error of the accusers consists in making one, or two, or more delegates represent the Convention. There probably were men present whose political animosities had carried them so far beyond the limits of reason, that they would rather dissolve the union than live two years longer under the sway of Madison and his party. These views might have been expressed, but the Convention, in refusing to endorse them, was not responsible for them.
But laying all this aside, there is no doubt that the Convention was called to organize one section of the republic against the other, and it depended on circumstances entirely to what extent that opposition should go, and what form it took. This may not be treason, and yet be nearly akin to it. It depends very much on the simple question whether the evils (p. 198) contemplated, as justifying open opposition, are real or imaginary. A deliberate effort to ruin New England and deprive her of her constitutional rights, would certainly justify secession. All this the Federalists believed the government had done, and that party tyranny and oppression could no farther go. The light evils under which they suffered had become so magnified, in the heat of party strife, that many were prepared to act precisely as others would do under real wrongs.
The obloquy that has fallen upon that Convention was merited. The time it chose for its session, when the country was staggering under the weight of a war which, however unjustifiably begun, it could not then close with honor or justice, and the lordly tone it assumed to Congress—the cold and unpatriotic feelings that characterized its deliberations, merit the deepest condemnation. Under a change of fortunes and a continuance of the war, it might, and probably would, have grown into a shape of evil. As events turned out, it has proved a blessing, for it stands as a beacon, warning all leaders of party factions of their fate, who, in national distress, cripple the government, and, by their hostility, help the enemy to inflict sorer evils and deeper disgrace upon a common country. It also shows how local interests, views, and feelings, however magnified at the time by peculiar circumstances, are derided or forgotten, in a movement that affects the fate of a hemisphere.
General Jackson appointed Major-General — Hostility of Spain — Gallant defence of Fort Bowyer — Seizure of Pensacola — Jackson at New Orleans — Approach and landing of the British — Jackson proclaims martial law — Night attack on the British — Jackson entrenches himself — First attack of the British — Second attack — Final Assault — The battle and the victory — Jackson fined by Judge Hall — Arrival of the Treaty of Peace — Great Rejoicings — Delegates of the Hartford Convention — Remarks on the treaty.
In the mean time, great anxiety was felt for the fate of New Orleans, towards which an imposing armament was hastening, bearing a veteran army fresh from the victorious fields of Spain. England had loaned this army to feudalism in Europe for the overthrow of free principles there, and intoxicated with success, resolved to use it to carry out here the same tyrannical system which has ever since been covering her with infamy and for which the final day of reckoning has not yet arrived.
Jackson had been appointed Major-General in place of Harrison, who resigned, and given the command (p. 200) of the southern army to which was entrusted the protection of the coast near the mouth of the Mississippi. Pensacola, then under Spanish authority, was the resort of British emissaries, who stirred up the surrounding savages to massacre and bloodshed, and he determined as a first step to take active measures against it. August. He sent Captain Gordon to reconnoitre the place, who reported, on his return, that he had seen a number of soldiers and several hundred savages in British uniform under drill by British officers. Jackson immediately despatched this report to government. Under such a palpable violation of treaty stipulations there was only one course to be pursued, and Gen. Armstrong, the Secretary of War, issued an order authorizing Jackson to attack the town. This order was made out; but, by some mysterious process, was so long in getting into the post-office, that it never reached its destination till the 17th of January the next year. Jackson waited patiently for the sanction of his government to move forward, not wishing that his first important step as Major-General in the regular army should meet the disapproval of those who had entrusted him with power. But a proclamation, issued by a British officer named Nicholls, and dated Pensacola, calling on all the negroes and savages, nay, even the Americans themselves, to rally to the British standard, put an end to his indecision.
(p. 201) In the mean time, Nicholls made an attempt on Fort Bowyer, a small redoubt, garrisoned by one hundred and twenty men, and defended by twenty pieces of cannon. This fortress commanded the entrance from the Gulf to Mobile. Sept. 12. To capture it, four British ships, carrying ninety guns, and a land force of over seven hundred men were despatched from Pensacola. On the 15th, the ships took up their position within musket-shot of the fort, and opened their fire. The land force, in the mean time, had gained the rear, and commenced an attack. Major Lawrence, with the brave little garrison under his command, met this double onset with the coolness of a veteran. Scattering the motley collection under Nicholls, with a few discharges of grape-shot, he turned his entire attention to the vessels of war. Being in such close range, the cannonading on both sides was terrific. The incessant and heavy explosions shook that little redoubt to its foundations; but at the end of three hours, the smoke slowly curled away from its battered sides, revealing the flag still flying aloft, and the begrimed cannoniers standing sternly beside their pieces. After the firing of the enemy ceased, the ship Hermes was seen drifting helplessly on a sand-bank, while the other vessels were crowding all sail seaward. The former soon after grounded within six hundred yards of the fort, whose guns opened on her anew (p. 202) with tremendous effect, and she soon blew up. Out of the one hundred and seventy who composed her crew, only twenty escaped. The other ships suffered severely, and the total loss of the enemy was one ship burned, and two hundred and thirty-two men killed and wounded, while only eight of the garrison were killed. Nicholls effected his retreat to Pensacola, where the governor received him as his guest, and threw open the public stores to the soldiers. On the flag-staff of the fort were "entwined the colors of Spain and England," as if on purpose to announce that all neutrality was at an end.
These things coming to Jackson's ear, he resolved to delay no longer but get possession of the town and fort at once, "peaceably if he could, forcibly if he must." Nov. 6. He immediately hastened to Fort Montgomery, where he had assembled four thousand men, and putting himself at their head, in four days encamped within two miles of the place, and despatched a flag to the Spanish governor, disclosing his object and purpose. The messenger was fired upon from the fort, and compelled to return. Jackson's fiery nature was instantly aroused by this insult, yet remembering that he was acting without the sanction of government, he resolved still to negotiate. Having, at length, succeeded in opening a Correspondence with the governor, he told him (p. 203) that he had come to take possession of the town, and hold it for Spain till she was able to preserve her neutrality. The governor refusing entirely to be relieved from his charge, Jackson put his columns in motion and marched straight on the town. At the entrance, a battery of two cannon opened on his central column; but these being speedily carried by storm, together with two fortified houses, the troops, with loud shouts, pressed forward, and in a few minutes were masters of the place. The Spanish governor no sooner saw the American soldiers with loud hurrahs inundating the streets, than he rushed forward imploring mercy, and promising an immediate surrender. Jackson at once ordered the recall to be sounded, and retired without the town. The commandant of the fort, however, refused to surrender it, when Jackson ordered an assault. The former wisely averted the approaching blow by lowering his flag. The British fled, taking with them their allies, four hundred of whom being negroes, were carried to the West Indies, and sold for slaves.
Having thus chastised the Spanish governor, and broken up the plans laid to renew the Indian war, Jackson took up his march for New Orleans, against which he had no doubt the large force that had left the eastern coast was directed. He established his headquarters there, on the first of December; and (p. 204) three days after, the news that a large British fleet was approaching the coast, spread through the city. The report was soon confirmed, and Jackson, whom danger always tranquilized, while it filled him with tenfold energy, began to prepare for the approaching shock.
New Orleans, numbering at that time only thirty thousand inhabitants, was but recently purchased from France, and the population, being composed mostly of those in whose veins flowed Spanish and French blood, did not feel the same patriotic ardor that animated the Eastern cities. Many were known to be hostile, and were suspected of carrying on treasonable correspondence with the enemy. Feeling that he had but a slender hold on the city, and knowing that secret foes watched and reported all his movements, Jackson was compelled to act with extreme caution.
This hostility, as it were, in his own camp, added immensely to the embarrassments that surrounded him. But calm, keen, resolute, tireless, and full of courage, he soon inspired the patriotic citizens with confidence. Resources they had not dreamed of, sprang up at his bidding. But it needed all the renown he had won, and all his personal influence, to impart the faintest promise of success.
He had brought only a portion of his troops with him from Pensacola. But no sooner did he arrive, (p. 205) than he inspected narrowly the inlets, bayous, and channels, marked out the location of works, ordered obstructions raised, and then called on the different States to send him help. A thousand regulars were immediately ordered to New Orleans, while the Tennessee militia, under General Carrol, and the mounted riflemen, under General Coffee, hastened as of old, to his side. Concealing as much as possible the weakness of his force, and the bad appointments of many of the soldiers, he strained every nerve to increase the means of defence. The French inhabitants forgot their hostility to the Americans in greater hate of the English, while many others, who, hitherto, had taken little or no interest in the war, roused by the sudden danger that threatened them, flew to arms. The free negroes and refugees from St. Domingo, formed themselves into a black regiment, and were incorporated into the army. Jackson's energy and courage soon changed the whole current of feeling, and, day and night, the sounds of martial preparation echoed along the streets of the city. The excitement swelled higher and higher, as the hostile fleet gradually closed towards the mouth of the Mississippi. But one thought occupied every bosom—one topic became the theme of all conversation. Consternation and courage moved side by side; for while the most believed Jackson to be invincible, others, carefully weighing the force (p. 206) of the armament approaching, could not but anticipate discomfiture and destruction. Nor was this surprising; for a fleet of more than eighty sail, under the command of Admiral Cochrane, carrying on their decks eleven thousand veteran troops, led by men of renown, was advancing on the city. Besides this formidable land force, there were twelve thousand seamen and marines. The facts alone were sufficient to cause anxiety and alarm; but rumor magnified them fourfold. To resist all this, New Orleans had no vessels of war, no strong fortresses, no army of veteran troops. General Jackson, with his undisciplined and half-armed yeomanry, alone stood between the town and destruction. He was not ignorant of the tremendous force advancing against him; but still he was calm and resolute. To the panic-stricken women, who roamed the streets, filling the air with shrieks and cries of alarm, he said, "The enemy shall never reach the city."
New Orleans, situated on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, was accessible not only through the various mouths of the river, but also with small vessels through lakes Borgne and Ponchartrain, and was therefore a difficult place to defend, for no one could tell by what way, or by how many ways the enemy would approach. Jackson saw that he would be compelled to divide his forces in order to guard every avenue. In the mean time, while he watched (p. 207) the approaching force, he kept his eye on the city. The press did not manfully sustain him, and the legislature, then in session, looked upon his actions with suspicion, if not with hostile feelings. Although a native of another State, and having no personal interest in the fate of the place, whose authorities treated him with coldness, he nevertheless, determined to save it at all hazards, and while apparently bending his vast energies to meet an external foe, boldly assumed the control of the municipal authority, declared martial law, and when Judge Hall liberated a traitor whom he had imprisoned, sternly ordered the Judge himself into confinement.Dec. 9.
At length, the excited inhabitants were told that the British fleet had reached the coast; sixty sail being seen near the mouth of the Mississippi. Commodore Patterson immediately despatched Lieutenant Jones with five gun-boats to watch its motions. This spirited commander, in passing through Lake Borgne, discovered that the enemy, instead of approaching direct by the river, was advancing up the lakes. In hovering around them to ascertain their designs, he unfortunately got becalmed, and in that position was attacked by forty barges, containing twelve hundred men. Notwithstanding he had under him less than two hundred men, he refused to surrender, and gallantly returned the fire of the enemy. For a whole hour he stubbornly (p. 208) maintained the unequal conquest; but, at length, after killing nearly double his entire force, he was compelled to strike his flag.
The British had now complete control of lakes Ponchartrain and Borgne, and advancing up the latter, entered a canal, and finally effected a landing on the levee, about eight miles from the city. This levee acts as a bank to keep the river from the inland, which is lower than the surface of the water. It varies in width from a few hundred yards to two or three miles, and is covered with plantations. Thus, now almost like a causeway, and again like an elevated plateau, it stretches away from the city, with the river on one side, and an impassable swamp on the other.
The forts that commanded the river were, by this manœuvre of the enemy, rendered comparatively useless, and an open road to the city lay before him. Jackson no sooner heard that the British had effected a landing, than he determined at once to attack them before their heavy artillery and the main body of the army could be brought forward. On the 23d, therefore, a few hours after they had reached the banks of the Mississippi, his columns were in motion, and by evening halted within two miles of the hostile force. His plans were immediately laid—the schooner of war, Caroline, commanded by Commodore Patterson, was ordered to drop quietly down the (p. 209) river, soon after dark, and anchor abreast the British encampment. General Coffee, with between six and seven hundred men, was directed to skirt the swamp to the left of the levee, and gain, undiscovered, the enemy's rear; while he himself, with thirteen hundred troops, would march directly down the river along the highway, and assail them in front. The guns of the Caroline were to be the signal for a general attack. She, unmolested, swept noiselessly down with the current, gained her position, dropped her anchors, and opened her fire. The thunder and blaze of her guns, as grape-shot and balls came rattling and crashing into the camp of the British, were the first intimation they received of an attack. At the same time, Generals Coffee and Jackson gave the orders to advance. Night had now arrived, and although there was a moon, the fast-rising mist from the swamps and river mingling with the smoke of the guns, so dimmed her light that objects could be discerned only a short distance, save the watch-fires of the enemy, which burned brightly through the gloom. Guided by these, Coffee continued to advance, when suddenly he was met by a sharp fire. The enemy, retiring before the shot of the Caroline, had left the bank of the river, not dreaming of a foe in their rear. Coffee was taken by surprise; but this brave commander had been in too many perilous (p. 210) scenes to be disconcerted, and ordering the charge to be sounded, swept the field before him.
Again and again the British rallied, only to be driven from their position. At length they made a determined stand in a grove of orange trees, behind a ditch which was lined with a fence. But the excited troops charged boldly over the ditch, fence, and all, and lighting up the orange grove with the fire of their guns, and awakening its echoes with their loud huzzas, pressed fiercely after the astonished enemy, and forced them back to the river. Here the latter turned at bay, and for half an hour, maintained a determined fight. But being swept by such close and destructive volleys, they at length clambered down the levee, and turning it into a breastwork, repelled every attempt to dislodge them.
In the mean time, Jackson had advanced along the river. Guided by the guns of the Caroline, and the rockets of the enemy, that rose hissing from the gloom, he pressed swiftly forward. He had given directions to move by heads of companies, and as soon as they reached the enemy, to deploy into line, which was to be extended till it joined that of Gen. Coffee, thus forcing the British back upon the river, and keeping them under the guns of the Caroline. But, instead of doing this, they formed into line at the outset. The levee being wide where the march (p. 211) commenced, no inconvenience was felt from this order; but, as it grew narrower, the left wing was gradually forced in, and being a little in advance, crowded and drove back the centre, creating confusion and arresting its progress. The whole, however, continued to press forward, and soon came upon the enemy, entrenched behind a deep ditch. Jackson, perceiving the advantage of their position, ordered a charge at once. The troops marched up to the edge of the ditch, poured one destructive volley over, then leaped after. The British retired behind another, and another, only to be again forced to retreat. At length, Jackson halted; the enemy had withdrawn into the darkness, the Caroline had almost ceased her fire, while but random volleys were heard in the direction of Coffee's brigade. He knew not where to renew the conflict, while the rapidly increasing fog shrouded everything in still greater darkness and uncertainty. Finding, too, that his left wing had got into inextricable confusion, and that a part of Coffee's troops were in no better condition, he determined to withdraw.
While these things were passing on the banks of the Mississippi, and gloom and uncertainty hung over New Orleans, our commissioners at Ghent were wrapt in pleasant slumbers, for the next day was to witness the signature of a treaty of peace between (p. 212) the two countries, when the ravages of war should give place to the peaceful pursuits of commerce.
Jackson had laid his plans with skill, and entertained no doubt of success; and but for the fact that the Caroline commenced her fire a little too early, and that the after false movement of his left wing prevented the rapid advance of the centre, he no doubt would have slain or captured nearly the whole three thousand opposed to him. But night attacks are always subject to failure through mistakes caused by the darkness, especially if the movements are at all complicated. A sudden, heavy onset, overturning every thing before it—a single, concentrated blow, like the fall of an avalanche—are best fitted for the night.
Still, Jackson did not despair of success, and determined at daybreak to renew the attack. But it was soon ascertained, from prisoners and deserters, that by morning the enemy would be six thousand strong, making a disparity against him he could not hope to overcome. He therefore fell back to a deep ditch that stretched from the Mississippi, across the entire levee, to the swamp. Behind this he arrayed his troops, resolved, since nothing else could be done, to make there a determined stand. In his unsuccessful assault, he had lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, two hundred and forty men; while the (p. 213) enemy had been weakened by nearly double that number.
Jackson's first plan having failed, all his hopes now rested on a successful defence of his position. The gun-boats had been destroyed, leaving the lakes open to the hostile fleet. All the passes to the city had been guarded in vain. Through an unimportant and almost unknown canal, the enemy had passed unmolested, and landed where nothing but undisciplined troops lay between him and the city. Too strong to be assailed, the British could now complete their arrangements and array their strength at leisure. Undismayed, however, and unshaken in his confidence, Jackson gathered his little band behind this single ditch, and coolly surveyed his chances. He knew the history and character of the troops opposed to him; he knew also how uncertain untrained militia were in a close and hot engagement. Still he resolved to try the issue in a great and desperate battle. No sooner was this determination taken, than he set about increasing the strength of his position with every means in his power. He deepened and widened the ditch; and where it terminated in the swamp, cut down the trees, thus extending the line still further in, to prevent being outflanked. The gallant Coffee was placed here, who, with his noble followers, day after day, and night after night, stood knee-deep in the mud, and slept on the brush they (p. 214) piled together to keep them from the water. Sluices were also opened in the levee, and the waters of the Mississippi turned on the plain, covering it breast-deep. The earth was piled still higher on the edge of the ditch; while cotton bales were brought and covered over to increase the breadth and depth of the breastwork.
With a will unyielding as fate itself, tireless energy, and a frame of iron to match, Jackson no sooner set his heart on a great object, than he toiled towards it with a resolution—nay, almost fierceness—that amazed men.
Night and day the soldiers were kept at work, the sound of the spade and pickaxe never ceased, while the constant rolling of wheels was heard, as wagons and carts sped to and from the city. Jackson, with his whole nature roused to the highest pitch of excitement, moved amid this busy scene, its soul and centre. Impervious to fatigue, he worked on when others sank to rest; and at midday and midnight, was seen reviewing his troops, or traversing the trenches to cheer the laborers; and for four days and nights scarcely took a moment's rest.
In addition to the breastwork he was rearing on the east bank, he ordered General Morgan to take position on the right bank, opposite his line, and fortify it. To prevent the ships from ascending the river to co-operate with the army, he dispatched (p. 215) Major Reynolds to obstruct and defend the pass of Barataria—the channel through which they would in all probability attempt to approach.
In the mean time, the British were not idle. They had deepened the canal through which they had effected a landing, and thus, assisted by the high waters of the Mississippi, been able to bring up larger boats, loaded with the heavy artillery.
On the third day, a battery was observed, erected opposite the Caroline, which, after the good service she did in the night attack, had floated to the opposite shore, where she continued to annoy the enemy. Jackson knew her perilous position, but there had been no wind sufficiently strong to enable her to stem the rapid current; and, on the morning of the 27th, the battery opened on her with shells and red-hot shot. She was soon in a blaze; and the crew, seeing the attempt to save her useless, escaped to the shore. Soon after, she blew up.Dec. 28.
The next day, Sir Edward Packenham ordered an attack on the American works. The columns advanced in beautiful order, and at the distance of half a mile opened their batteries, and, with bombshells and congreve-rockets, endeavored to send confusion among the American militia. But the guns of the latter were admirably served, and told with great effect on the exposed ranks of the enemy. The (p. 216) Louisiana sloop of war, that lay opposite the American line, swung her broadside so as to bear on the advancing columns, and raked them with such a deadly fire that the assault was abandoned, and the army returned to camp, with the loss of over a hundred men, while that of the Americans was but seven killed and eight wounded. But among the slain of the latter was Colonel Henderson of the Tennessee militia, a man deeply lamented.
Events were now evidently approaching a crisis; and the anxiety and interest deepened daily and hourly. To add to the weight which already pressed the heart of Jackson, he was told that the legislature had become frightened, and was discussing the propriety of surrendering the city. He immediately sent a dispatch to Governor Clairborne, ordering him to watch its proceedings, and the moment such a project should be fairly formed, to place a guard at the door of the chamber, and shut the members in. In his zeal and warm-hearted patriotism, or through misconception of the order, the governor, making sure work of it, turned the whole of them out of doors. Just before the execution of this high-handed measure, a committee of the legislature waited on Jackson, to inquire what he designed to do if compelled to abandon his position. "If," he replied, "I thought the hair of my head could divine what I should do, I would cut it off forthwith. Go back (p. 217) with this answer: say to your honorable body that if disaster does overtake me, and the fate of war drives me from my line to the city, that they may expect to have a warm session." To one who asked him afterwards what he would have done in such an emergency, he said, "I would have retreated to the city, fired it, and fought the enemy amid the surrounding flames." A more heroic speech never fell from the lips of a commander. New Orleans in flames and Jackson charging down its blazing streets, would have been one of the most frightful exhibitions furnished in the annals of the war.Jan. 1, 1815.
The British, after the attack of the 28th, occupied their whole time in landing heavier cannon. Having completed their arrangements, they resolved to make another attempt on the American works. The New Year opened with a heavy fog, which shrouded the whole plain and British encampment from sight. But, from its mysterious bosom, ominous, muffled sounds arose, which were distinctly heard in every part of the American line, and the troops stood to arms. At length, as the sun gathered strength, the fog lifted and parted—dimly revealing the whole plain. No sooner did the enemy, who had advanced their batteries within six hundred yards of the American intrenchments, see the long, black line of the latter, stretching through the haze, than a tremendous burst (p. 218) of artillery shook the solid levee on which it stood. A flight of Congreve rockets followed, crossing and recrossing the heavens in every direction, and weaving a fiery net-work over the heads of the astonished but undaunted Americans. The first heavy explosion sent Jackson to the lines; and luckily for him it did; for the British having been shown by a spy the house which he occupied, they directed a battery upon it, and in a few minutes it was riddled with balls. The American artillery replied, and it was a constant roar of cannon till noon, when most of the English batteries being beaten down or damaged, they ceased their fire. One, near the river, continued to play on the American works till three o'clock, when it also became silent, and the enemy, baffled at every point, retired sullenly to his camp.
The two armies, each expecting reinforcements, now rested for a week from decisive hostilities. In the mean time, Jackson continued to strengthen his works and discipline his men. A Frenchman having come to him to complain of damage done to his property, the latter replied that, as he was a man of property, he knew of no one who had a better right to defend it, and placing a musket in his hands, ordered him into the ranks.
During this week of comparative repose, New Orleans and the two hostile camps presented a spectacle of the most thrilling interest. The British army (p. 219) lay in full view of the American lines, their white tents looking, amid the surrounding water, like clouds of sail resting on the bosom of the river. At intervals were heard the sharp and rattling volleys of the pickets of the two armies, as they came in collision, while the morning and evening gun sent their stern challenge over the plain. There was marching and countermarching, strains of martial music, and all the confused sounds of a camp, when preparations are making for a grand and decisive blow. To the farmers, merchants, mechanics, and youths, who lay within the American intrenchments, the scene and the thoughts it awakened were new. Behind them stood their homes; before them, the veterans of Spain, whom, in a few days, they were to meet in final combat.
In the city, the excitement kept increasing; but after the first battle, the patriotism of the population received a new impulse. In the night attack many of the troops had lost all their clothing except that which they wore on their backs, and hence soon began to suffer. No sooner was this known to the ladies than their fair hands were in motion; and in a short time the wants of the soldiers were supplied.
In the mean time the long-expected Kentucky troops, upwards of two thousand strong, arrived. Courier after courier had been sent to hurry their march; and the last day had been one of incredible (p. 220) toil and speed. Only five hundred of them, however, had muskets; the rest were armed with fowling-pieces, and such weapons as they could lay hands on. Nor were there any means of supplying them, so that the accession of strength was comparatively trifling. Gen. Lambert, too, had reinforced the British with several thousand veteran troops.
A canal in the mean time had been widened through the levee, by which boats were transported to the Mississippi for that portion of the army which was destined to act against the fortifications on the west bank, commanded by General Morgan. A long siege was out of the question, and now nothing remained to be done but to advance at once to the assault of the American intrenchments, or abandon the expedition. The latter alternative was not to be contemplated; and, on the night of the 7th, Jackson, surveying the encampment through his glass, discovered unmistakeable evidence that the enemy was meditating an important movement. The camp was in commotion; the boats which had been dragged through the canal, and now lay moored to the levee, were being loaded with artillery and munitions of war, and every thing betokened a hot to-morrow. Coffee still held the swamp on the left; Carroll, with his Tennesseans, the centre; while Jackson, with the regulars under him, commanded in person the right, resting on the river. Behind (p. 221) Carroll were placed the Kentuckians, under General Adair—in all, less than four thousand effective men. Jan. 8. This was the position of affairs as the Sabbath morning of the 8th of January began to dawn. The light had scarcely streaked the east, when the inhabitants of New Orleans were startled from their slumbers by an explosion of cannon that shook the city. The battle had opened. Under cover of the night, heavy batteries had been erected within eight hundred yards of the American intrenchments, and, the moment the fog lifted above them, they opened their fire. Directly after, a rocket, rising through the mist near the swamp, and another answering it from the shore, announced that all was ready. The next moment, two columns, each four or five thousand strong—one moving straight on Carrol's position, the other against the right of the intrenchments—swept steadily and swiftly across the plain. Three thrilling cheers rose over the dark intrenchments at the sight, and then all was still again.
The levee here was contracted to four hundred yards in width, and as the columns, sixty or seventy deep, crowded over this avenue, every cannon on the breastwork was trained upon them by Baratarian, French and American engineers, and the moment they came within range, a murderous fire opened. Frightful gaps were made in the ranks at every discharge, (p. 222) which were closed by living men only the next moment to be re-opened.
The Americans stood with their hands clenched around their muskets and rifles, gazing with astonishment on this new, unwonted spectacle. The calm and steady advance under such an incessant and crushing fire, carried with it the prestige of victory. As they approached the ditch, the columns swiftly, yet beautifully deployed, and under the cover of blazing bombs and rockets, that filled the air in every direction, and stooped hissing over the American works, pressed forward with loud cheers, to the assault. Nothing but cannon had spoken till then from that low breastwork; but as those two doomed columns reached the farthest brink of the ditch, the word "Fire!" ran along the American line—the next moment the intrenchments were in a blaze. It was a solid sheet of flame rolling on the foe. Stunned by the tremendous and deadly volleys, the front ranks stopped and sunk in their footsteps, like snow when it meets the stream. But high over the thunder of cannon were heard the words of command, and drums beating the charge; and still bravely breasting the fiery sleet, the ranks pressed forward, but only to melt away on the brink of that fatal ditch. Jackson, with flashing eye and flushed brow, rode slowly along the lines, cheering the men, and issuing his orders, followed by loud huzzas as he passed. (p. 223) From the effect of the American volleys, he knew, if the troops stood firm, the day was his own, and with stirring appeals and confident words he roused them to the same enthusiasm which animated his breast and beamed from his face. The soldiers of Gen. Adair, stationed in the rear of Carrol, loaded for those in front, so that there was no cessation to the fire. It was a constant flash and peal along the whole line. Every man was a marksman, every shot told, and no troops in the world could long withstand such a destructive fire. The front of battle, torn and rent, wavered to and fro on the plain, when Packenham galloped up, and riding bravely through the shaking ranks, for a moment restored order. The next moment he reeled from his saddle mortally wounded. Generals Gibbs and Keane, while nobly struggling to rally the men, were also shot down, and the maddened columns turned and fled. Lambert, hastening up with the reserve, met the fugitives, and endeavored, but in vain, to arrest the flight. They never halted till they reached a ditch four hundred yards distant, into which they flung themselves to escape the scourging fire that pursued them. Here he at last rallied them to another charge. The bleeding column, strengthened by the reserve, again advanced sternly but hopelessly, into the deadly fire, and attempted to deploy. It was a last vain effort—it was like charging down (p. 224) the mouth of a volcano, and the troops again broke and fled, smote at every step by the batteries.
Col. Kennie led the attack against the redoubt on the right, and succeeded in entering, but found there his grave. Driven forth, the troops sought safety in flight; but the fire that pursued them was too fatal, and they threw themselves into a ditch, where they lay sheltered till night, and then stole away under cover of the darkness.
The ground in front of the American intrenchments presented a frightful spectacle. It was red with the blood of men. The space was so narrow along which the enemy had advanced, that the dead literally cumbered the field.
The sun of that Sabbath morning rose in blood, and before he had advanced an hour on his course, a multitude of souls "unhouseled, unanneled," had passed to the stillness of eternity. New Orleans never before witnessed such a Sabbath morning. Anxiety and fear sat on every countenance. The road towards the American encampment was lined with trembling listeners, and tearful eyes were bent on the distance to catch the first sight of the retreating army. But when the thunder and tumult ceased, and word was brought that the Americans still held the intrenchments, and that the British had retreated in confusion, there went up a long, glad shout—the bells of the churches rang out a joyous (p. 225) peal, and hope and confidence revived in every bosom.
The attack on the right bank of the river had been successful, and but for the terrible havoc on the left shore, this stroke of good fortune might have changed the results of the day. The fort, from which Gen. Morgan had fled, commanded the interior of Jackson's entrenchments, and a fire opened from it would soon have shaken the steadiness of his troops. But Col. Thornton, who had captured it, seeing the complete overthrow of the main army, soon after abandoned it.
The Americans, with that noble-hearted generosity which had distinguished them on every battle-field, hurried forth soon as the firing had ceased, to succor the wounded, who they knew had designed to riot amid their own peaceful dwellings. "Beauty and booty," was the watchword in an orderly-book found on the battle-field; and though there is not sufficient reason to believe that the city would have been given over to rapine and lust, yet no doubt great excesses would have been tolerated. The recent conduct of the English troops on the Atlantic coast, where no such resistance had been offered to exasperate them, furnished grounds for the gravest fears.
The British in this attack outnumbered the Americans more than three to one, and yet the loss on the (p. 226) part of the latter was only thirteen killed and wounded—seventy-one, all told, both sides of the river—while that of the former was nearly two thousand, a disparity unparalleled in the annals of war.
The British were allowed to retreat unmolested to their ships, and the sails of that proud fleet, whose approach had sent such consternation through the hearts of the inhabitants, were seen lessening in the horizon with feelings of unspeakable joy and triumph. All danger had now passed away, and Jackson made his triumphal entry into the city. The bells were rung, maidens dressed in white, strewed flowers in his path, the heavens echoed with acclamations, and blessings unnumbered were poured on his head.
But as there had been foes and traitors to the American cause from the first appearance of the British fleet, so there were those now who stirred up strife, and by anonymous articles published in one of the city papers, endeavored to sow dissensions among the troops. It would, no doubt, have been better for Jackson, in the fulness of his triumph, and in the plenitude of his power, to have overlooked this. But these very men he knew had acted as spies while the enemy lay before his entrenchments, causing him innumerable vexations, and endangering the cause of the country, and he determined as martial law had not yet been repealed, to seize the (p. 227) offenders. He demanded of the editor the name of the writer of a certain article, who proved to be a member of the legislature. He then applied to Judge Hall for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted, and the recreant statesman was thrown into prison. Soon after, martial law being removed, Judge Hall issued an attachment against Jackson for contempt of court, and he was brought before him to answer interrogatories. This he refused to do, and asked for the sentence. The judge, still smarting under the remembrance of his former arrest by Jackson, fined him a thousand dollars. A burst of indignation followed this sentence, and as the latter turned to enter his carriage, the crowd around seized it, and dragged it home with shouts. The fine was paid immediately; but in a few hours the outraged citizens refunded the sum to the general. He, however, refused it, requesting it to be appropriated to a charitable institution. Judge Hall by this act secured for himself the fame of the man who, to figure in history, fired the temple of Delphos.
The arbitrary manner in which Jackson disposed of the State legislature and judges of the court, became afterwards the subject of much discussion, and during his political life the ground of heavy accusations. If the question be respecting the manner in which he assumed arbitrary power, it is not worth (p. 228) discussing. But if, on the other hand, the assumption of it at all is condemned, then the whole thing turns on the necessities of the case, and whether that use was made of it which the general good and not personal feelings required. That it was necessary, no one can doubt. He had a right, also, as commander-in-chief of the army in that section, to whom the defence of the southern frontier had been intrusted, to force the civil power into obedience to the orders of the general government. He was to defend and save New Orleans, and if the civil authority proved treacherous or weak, it was his duty to see that it did not act against him while plainly in the path of his duty. New Orleans so considered it; and six years after, the corporation appropriated fifty thousand dollars to the erection of a marble statue of him in the city. Congress thought so, when, thirty years after, it voted the repayment of the fine, with interest, from the date it was inflicted, and notwithstanding the whole matter was made a party question, it will not stand as such in history.
Jackson remained in New Orleans till March, when he was relieved by General Gaines. On taking leave of his troops, who, by their cheerful endurance of hardships and their bravery, had become endeared to him, he issued an address full of encomiums on their conduct, and expressions of love for their character. He concluded by saying, "Farewell, (p. 229) fellow—soldiers! The expression of your General's thanks is feeble; but the gratitude of a country of freemen is yours—yours the applause of an admiring world." What a contrast does this man, covered with the laurels of his two recent campaigns, present to the captive boy in the revolutionary struggle whose hand was brutally gashed by a subordinate British officer, because he refused to black his boots! This world has changes. The lad with his eye to the knot-hole at Camden watching the defeat of the American army with anguish, and the hero gazing proudly on the flying columns of the veteran troops of the British empire, are the same in soul—but how different in position! They say, "Time sets all things even." In Jackson's case, the wrongs done to his family by an oppressive nation, and the outrages he himself had received, were terribly avenged.Feb. 11.
At length the joyful tidings of peace reached our shores. The British sloop of war Favorite, chosen for her name, arrived at New York under a flag of truce, bearing an American and British messenger, with the treaty already ratified on the part of England. The unexpected news acted like an electrical shock on the city. It was late on Saturday night when the announcement was made, but in an incredible short space of time the whole city was in an uproar. That blessed word Peace passed tremulously from lip to lip, and as if borne on the viewless (p. 230) air, was soon repeated in every dwelling. In a few minutes the streets were black with the excited, heaving multitudes, whose frantic shouts rolled like the roar of the sea through the city. In every direction bonfires were kindled, and as flash after flash leaped forth to the clouds, the deafening acclamations that followed, attested the unbounded joy of the people. Expresses were immediately hurried off north and south, and as the swift riders swept meteor-like through village after village, shouting "Peace" as they sped on, the inhabitants sallied forth to hail the glad tidings with shouts. All day Sunday that electrical word "Peace" passed like an angel of mercy over the towns and hamlets between New York and Boston. It swept like a sudden breeze through the congregations gathered for worship in the house of God. It imparted new fervor to the minister at the altar, and swelled the hymn of thanksgiving from tearful worshippers to its loudest, gladdest note. "Peace," like a dove folded its wings on the thresholds of thousands of homes that night, turning the wintry fire-side into a scene of unbounded thankfulness and joy.
Although news had never been carried over the country with such rapidity since the battle of Lexington and Concord, it did not reach Boston till Monday morning. The bells were at once set ringing, but their clamorous tongues were well nigh silenced by (p. 231) the louder rejoicings of the people. Messengers were immediately dispatched in every direction, sending the glad tidings on. Men forgot their employments—politicians their animosities in the general congratulation. The sea ports were suddenly gay with flags and streamers, and the song of the sailor blended with the sound of the hammer and the hum and stir of commerce. Men forgot to ask on what terms peace had been obtained—the joy at its unexpected announcement obliterated for the time all other thoughts and considerations.
At Washington the pleasure was more subdued, for the politicians there knew that after the first enthusiasm had subsided every one would ask what were the terms of the treaty.
But although the administration had provoked Fortune beyond all forbearance, she seemed resolved not to desert it, and brought, nearly at the same time, the news of the victory of New Orleans, to solace the national pride for an indefinite and unsatisfactory treaty.
The delegates from the Hartford Convention arrived in Washington just in time to hear the confirmation of the victory and the peace, and without delivering their message, stole quietly back to New England, lighted by illuminated cities and towns, and stunned by acclamations, on their way. Their enemies were too full of happiness to attack them, (p. 232) still the National Advocate of New York, edited by Mr. Wheaton, could not refrain from indulging in a little pleasantry at their expense, and inserted an advertisement: "Missing—three well-looking, respectable men, who appeared to be travelling towards Washington, and suddenly disappeared from Gadzby's hotel, Baltimore, on Monday evening last, and have not since been heard from. They were observed to be very melancholic on hearing the news of peace, and one of them was heard to say, 'Poor Caleb Strong,' &c. "Whoever will give any information of these unfortunate, tristful gentlemen to the Hartford Convention, will confer a favor on humanity." The National Intelligencer copied it, stating that those gentlemen had been seen in Washington, but their business was not known. One of them, however, was heard to groan, "Othello's occupation's gone."
But after the first excitement passed away, men began to inquire in what way, and on what conditions, the government had delivered the country from the evils of war, and crowned it with the blessings of peace.
We had apparently gained nothing. Our quarrel rested mainly on two points—first, the right of blockade as claimed and exercised under the orders in Council, and the right of impressment, as practiced on the high seas; yet no limits had been prescribed (p. 233) to the former, and no guarantees given against the latter. These great points of dispute were left untouched, and by the treaty the two countries stood precisely as they did at the commencement of the war; all (conquered territory on either side was to be restored) with the exception that for the surrender of a useless right—the navigation of the Mississippi—England deprived us of the valuable privilege heretofore conceded, of catching and curing fish on the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The title to the islands in the Passamaquoddy bay—the exact course of the boundary line running from the Atlantic coast to the river St. Lawrence—the line thence to the Lake of the Woods—were to be referred to three separate commissions, and in case of their disagreement, to some friendly power for final adjustment. The question of fisheries in the seas bordering on the British provinces, and the boundary line west of the Lake of the Woods were left without any provision for their settlement.
One would naturally think that a treaty which in its stipulations thus silently passed over the very questions in dispute, and for which so much valiant blood had been shed and such a loss of life and treasure endured, would have been met with open condemnation, or at least with sullen acquiescence. On the contrary, however, its ratification was signalized by public rejoicings, and the most extravagant manifestations (p. 234) of delight. The astonishing victory at New Orleans required us to be generous, and a nation which had thus vindicated its rights on sea and land, could afford to drop an unpleasant subject just where the discussion had begun. Such seemed to be the general feeling. At first sight, this settlement of the difficulties between the two countries appeared contemptible. Abstractly considered it was, and if we had been a weak nation, sinking into degeneracy, it would have proved so.
But in judging of it we must remember that treaty stipulations in continental diplomacy, like flags of truce in Mexico, depend almost entirely on circumstances whether they are regarded or not, and hence the circumstances are more important than written stipulation. European treaties, like European diplomacy, have in the past, served only to illustrate the duplicity and faithlessness of monarchs. The question is, how events in their progress have settled the difficulties, as fate settles them, and not as commissioners.
Now it was evident, both to the English and American commissioners, that articles on neutral rights and the impressment of seamen, were useless. Our navy and privateers had disposed of those questions, for ever. Our broadsides furnished better guaranties than strips of parchment, adorned with impressions of regal seals.
(p. 235) It was the fact that those two great causes of hostility, violation of neutral rights and impressment of seamen, were practically and permanently disposed of, which reconciled the nation to their omission in the treaty. Our people pay no attention to forms, only so far as they sanction their just claims. In this view, the acquiescence in the treaty, instead of exhibiting humility and fear on our part, indicate quite the reverse. Nothing can be more erroneous than to suppose that because those rights, for the protection of which we had gone to war, were not mentioned in the treaty, we therefore had concluded to waive them. On the contrary, we consented to leave them unnoticed, because we knew we had obtained them forever. No one in England or the United States doubted that these were definitely settled, and those who sneeringly ask "what we gained by the war?" make the letter equivalent to the spirit, a form more important than a fact. The simple truth is, we got what we fought for, and it exhibits a narrow spirit to say, that because it was not engrossed on parchment it amounted virtually to nothing.
Cruise of the Constitution — Action with the Cyane and Levant — Chased by a British fleet — England's views of neutral rights and the law of nations — Her honor and integrity at a discount — Singular escape of the Constitution — Recapture of the Levant under the guns of a neutral port — Lampoons on the English squadron for its contemptible conduct — Decatur — Capture of the President — The Hornet captures the Penguin — Chased by a ship of the line — Narrow escape — Cruise of the Peacock — Review of the American Navy — Its future destiny.
Naval warfare did not cease with the peace, for it was a long time before all our cruisers received notice of it.
The old Constitution, when Bainbridge gave up the command of her in 1813, was put on the stocks to undergo repairs, and did not get to sea again till 1814, when, under the command of Captain Stewart, she cruised southward, without meeting any vessel of her own size. 1814. She took the Nector, a war schooner of fourteen guns, and a few merchantmen, and returned to Boston. On the 17th of December she again put to sea, and cruised off the coast of Portugal.(p. 237) Feb. 20, 1815.
Not meeting with the enemy, Captain Stewart, on the 20th of February, 1815, stood off south-west towards Madeira, and in the afternoon made two strange sail. He immediately started in pursuit of the nearest, hoping to overtake her before she could join her consort. The moment, however, the stranger discovered the Constitution, he stood away under every stitch of canvass he could spread. The Constitution also "set studding sails alow and aloft," and under a perfect cloud of canvass, bowled along at a tremendous rate. At length the main royal mast of the latter gave way in the strain, which gave the stranger so much the advantage that he effected a junction with his consort. The two then hailed each other, "came by the wind, hauled up their courses," and cleared for action. They were the Cyane, carrying thirty-four guns, and the Levant, twenty-one—the crew of the former numbering one hundred and eighty men, the latter one hundred and fifty-six.
They manœuvered for some time to get to the windward, but finding this impossible they awaited the approach of the American, who had now set his colors. It was a bright moonlight night, and the two English vessels presented a beautiful spectacle, as they lay rising and falling on the long swell, gallantly turned at bay. As the Constitution approached, they cheered, and fired their broadsides. (p. 238) No answer was given. In stern and ominous silence the invincible frigate moved on, and ranging up about three hundred yards distant from the Cyane, delivered her broadside. So ready and eager were the men to fire, that when the order was given, the whole broadside was like the report of a single gun. She had taken her position to windward, and so as to form with the two vessels nearly an equilateral triangle, and in this masterly position flung her heavy metal against both alike. From the first gun the action became fierce and the cannonading incessant. After the lapse of fifteen minutes the fire of the enemy slackened, and Captain Stewart, unable to see their whereabouts, from the cloud of smoke that enveloped his ship, ordered the cannonading to cease till it passed off. In three minutes it lifted and rolled away before the wind, and he saw that the vessels had changed their position, the Levant being abeam, while the Cyane was evidently endeavoring to cross his wake and give him a raking fire. Instantly delivering a broadside to the vessel abeam, he by one of those sudden and prompt movements on which the fate of a vessel or an army often turns, threw his mizen and main sails flat aback, "shook all forward," let fly his jib sheet, and backed so swiftly astern that the vessel was compelled to tack or be raked herself. While (p. 239) doing this the other ship attempted to cross his bows for the same purpose. The Constitution was again too quick for her, for as if by magic the yards swung round to the hearty "Yo, heave oh!" of the sailors—the sails filled, and bowing to the breeze, she shot ahead, compelling the vessel to ware under a tremendous and raking broadside, which cut her up so terribly that she had to run out of the action to repair damages. He had scarcely delivered this crushing blow when he was told the largest ship was waring. He instantly gave orders to ware also, and crossing the enemy's stern, raked her as he passed. He then ranged up alongside, when she struck, and Lieutenant Hoffman was put in command of her.
The Levant, in the mean time, having repaired her rigging, hauled up again to seek her consort, when she met the Constitution coming down. She immediately bore away, receiving as she did so, a raking broadside. The Constitution followed in her wake, firing, and following so close that the ripping of the enemy's planks, as the shot tore through them, could be distinctly heard on her decks. This, of course, could not be endured long, and a gun was soon fired to leeward, in token of submission.
The loss of the enemy, in this action, was between sixty and seventy, while that of the Constitution was only fifteen. The latter, however, was hulled thirteen times, showing very accurate firing by moonlight.
(p. 240) The masterly manner in which Captain Stewart handled his vessel, so that, large and unwieldy as she was, he thwarted every manœuvre to rake him, and raked both his enemies successively, proved him to be a thorough seaman and an able commander.1815.
The Constitution proceeded with her two prizes to Port Praya, in St. Jago, where she arrived the 10th of March. The next day while Lieutenant Shubrick was walking the quarter-deck, he heard one of the prisoners, a midshipman, exclaim: "There is a frigate in the offing!" This was followed by a low subdued reprimand from an English captain. Shubrick's suspicions were awakened, and he looked earnestly seaward. A heavy fog lay close on the water, diminishing into a haze as it left the surface, so that the spars of a ship could be seen, while her hull was obscured. Through this he saw the dim outlines of the sails of a large vessel, evidently standing in, and immediately went below and reported the circumstance to Captain Stewart. The latter ordered him to call all hands and make ready to go in chase of her. Shubrick had scarcely given the orders when he saw the sails of two other vessels above the fog. Stewart gave them one glance and saw immediately they were heavy men-of-war. Though in a neutral port, and by the law of nations safe from attack, he was well aware that it would not avail him. So low had the honor of the English nation sunk in the estimation of independent (p. 241) States, that weak neutral powers knew they would not be allowed to afford the protection which it was their right and duty to extend, while our naval commanders had ceased to expect the recognition of those rights, guarantied by the usage of civilized governments. Captain Stewart immediately signalled the Cyane and Levant to put to sea, and cutting his own cables, not waiting even to take in his boats, he ordered the sails sheeted home. In ten minutes the gallant frigate was standing out of the roads, followed by her prizes.
This silent declaration that men could no longer rely on the honor and good faith of his majesty's officers, in respecting the law of nations or the rights of neutral powers, was one of the most cutting rebukes that could have been uttered. It was well that Captain Stewart rated these qualities so low, or he doubtless would have been attacked and overcome, though, under the guns of the battery of the port. No doubt the Constitution would have fought worthy of her old renown, and like the Essex, in the Bay of Valparaiso, gained more honor in her death than in her life.
As Stewart stood out to windward, the three vessels, which he afterwards learned to be the Leander and Newcastle of 50, and the Acasta of 40 guns, crowded all sail in chase. Stewart then cut adrift his cutter and gig, towing astern, and set every sail that would draw. Under the north-east trades that were (p. 242) then blowing, the Constitution was soon rushing along at a tremendous rate, outsailing all her pursuers but the Acasta. But Stewart, perceiving that the Cyane was steadily losing ground, and if she kept her course must evidently be captured, made signal for her to tack, which was instantly obeyed. Not a vessel, however, was detached in pursuit, as he had expected, but the whole three kept on after the Constitution and Levant. In an hour and a half the Newcastle got within gun-shot, and began to fire by divisions, rending the fog with flame, but leaving the Constitution unharmed. A half an hour after, Stewart, who with his glass in his hand had incessantly walked the quarter-deck, watching the movements of the enemy and their progress, saw that the Levant, if she held her course, would soon be captured, made signal for her to tack also.
The foam rolled with a seething sound from the bows of the Constitution as she rushed rapidly through the water, but it was evident that the Acasta, which had fallen in her wake, could outsail her. An engagement with this vessel was apparently inevitable, and unless Stewart could prolong the chase till she was drawn so far from the others as to enable him to close with and carry her before they came up, he must be taken. But to his astonishment the whole three turned in pursuit of the Levant, leaving him to sail away unmolested.(p. 243) April 10.
The Cyane, in the mean time, had disappeared in the fog, and finding that she was shut out of view, changed her course, and escaping the enemy, finally arrived safely in New York. The Levant, however, was not so fortunate. Seeing herself closely pressed, she put back to port, and though receiving the enemy's fire, stood on till she anchored within 150 yards of the shore, and under the very guns of a powerful battery. Disregarding her position which rendered her inviolable, the three vessels continued to approach, firing as they did so, throwing their shot even into the town, doing considerable damage. Lieutenant Shubrick, finding that the battery would not protect him, and that the enemy had no intention of respecting the neutrality of the port, struck his flag. The firing, however, continued for some time after.
The English officer, when he came on board to take possession of her, supposed she was an American vessel, but to his great chagrin found that the whole squadron had succeeded, after a chase of several hours, in recapturing a prize in a neutral port.
"Old Ironsides" swept proudly onward over the ocean, remaining unconquered to the last, the glory of the navy and the boast of the land.
The news of the victory over the Cyane and Levant, and the after chase, reached New York from St. Bartholomews, without giving the results, and it (p. 244) was feared for a time that she had fallen into the hands of the enemy. When her safety was ascertained the exultation was great, for she was a great favorite, and had become deeply fixed in the affections of the people. As she came sweeping up Boston harbor, crowds gathered to the shore, answering with deafening cheers the thunder of her guns, as they broke over the bay.
The abandonment of this frigate by the whole English squadron, to chase a single ship, furnished the occasion of many witticisms, levelled against the English officers. They reported that they lost her in a fog, but if either vessel had kept on alone, Captain Stewart would have been careful not to have been lost, and when a safe distance from the others had been obtained, allowed himself to be easily overtaken.(p. 245) 1815.
The President, that did not get to sea till the middle of January, or just before the news of peace was received, was more unfortunate. Commodore Rodgers, during the summer, had been transferred from that vessel to the Guerriere, and Decatur took the command. The latter, with the United States and Macedonian, had been blockaded, as before stated, all summer at New London, where he had challenged Captain Hardy to meet him ship with ship, or to make a match between the United States and Macedonian, and the Endymion and Statira.
Although he took command in the summer, he did not go to sea till mid-winter, when with the Hornet, which had run the blockade at New London in November, the Peacock, and store ship Tom Bowline, he prepared for a long cruise to the East Indies. Jan. 14. The President dropped down to Sandy Hook on the night of the 14th, but in attempting to cross the bar struck, and lay thumping for an hour and a half before she swung clear. She was evidently damaged by the shock, but Decatur thought it best to keep on, as a heavy storm the day before had driven the blockading squadron southward.
Before daylight, next morning, he discovered a sail ahead, and two hours later two more, and when daylight made more distant objects visible, four vessels were seen, crowding all sail in chase. The (p. 246) President was heavily laden for a long voyage, which with the damage she had received on the bar, impeded very much her sailing. Still, with a stiff breeze, she might have distanced her pursuers, for with the wind light and baffling, the nearest vessel, the Majestic, a razee, was thrown astern. But the Endymion, forty, the next nearest vessel, evidently outsailed her, and was fast closing. Decatur then called all hands to lighten the ship. The anchors were cut away, provisions, cables, spars, boats, and every thing on which hands could be laid were thrown overboard, and the sails kept wet from the royals down, to hold the tantalizing wind. It was impossible in such hasty unloading to keep the vessel trim, and while it was being done she very probably sailed slower than before. The wind, however, was so light, that both frigates made slow headway, and it was not till the middle of the afternoon that the Endymion closed sufficiently to open her fire. The President answered with stern guns, and a running fight was kept up till five o'clock, when the former was within half gun-shot and on the quarter of the latter, which, of course, could not bring a gun to bear. Decatur, in this position, bore the fire of the frigate for half an hour, when he resolved to carry her by boarding, and escape. But the Endymion kept her advantageous position, so that he could not carry his bold and gallant resolution into effect, and (p. 247) as a last resort he determined at dusk to close, and so cripple her before the rest of the vessels arrived, that she must abandon the pursuit. Coming up abeam he poured in his broadsides, and for two hours and a half, running free all the time, the two vessels kept up a close and heavy cannonade. At half-past eight the Endymion was completely dismantled, while the President was under royal studding sails, and able to choose her own position. Twenty minutes more would have finished the English frigate, for she was too much cut up to be manageable; but the other vessels were now close at hand, and the President hauled up to resume her course. In doing this the vessel was exposed to a raking broadside, but not a gun was fired. She then crowded all sail, but at eleven o'clock was overhauled by the Pomone and Tenedos and Majestic, the former of which poured in a broadside within musket shot. Resistance, in the President's crippled state was hopeless, and the flag was struck. Decatur surrendered his sword to the commander of the Majestic, nearly four hours before the Endymion came up, and yet the captain of the latter claimed the victory, and to this day the arrogant assertion finds endorsers in England. One vessel goes out of an action with royal studding sails set and surrenders to a superior force, so far from the spot where it took place that it requires nearly four hours steady (p. 248) sailing for the other to get up, and yet the latter is declared the victor!
This absurd pretence, however, was completely set at rest by a document signed by the officers of the Pomona, and published at Bermuda, whither the fleet sailed. After giving the details of the chase, they say the running fight between the President and Endymion ceased "at half-past eight, the Endymion falling astern—Pomona passing her at half-past eight. At eleven, being within gun-shot of the President," &c. "At three-quarters past twelve the Endymion came up," &c.
Both these vessels were dismasted in a hurricane before reaching Bermuda, six days after. The Peacock, Hornet, and Tom Bowline, put to sea and sailed for the island of Triston d'Acunha, the place of rendezvous appointed by Decatur. The Peacock and Tom Bowline arrived first. The Hornet having parted company in chase of a vessel, did not come in till the 23d of March. 1815. Just as she was about to anchor, the watch aft sung out "Sail ho!" The sails were immediately sheeted home again, and the Hornet bore swiftly down towards the stranger. The latter did not shun the combat, but coming to, set her colors and fired a challenge gun. The vessel was the Penguin, of the size and (p. 249) metal of the Hornet, with some additional equipments, which made her of superior force. There was not the difference of a dozen men in the crews. A more decisive single combat could not have been arranged, if the sole purpose of it had been to test the seamanship and real practical superiority of the American navy, for the Penguin had been fitted up and sent out for the sole purpose of encountering and capturing the Wasp, a heavier and newer vessel than the Hornet.
There was no manœuvring—from the first gun to the last, it was a steady broadside to broadside engagement, the vessels gradually drifting nearer as they fired. The Hornet was wrapped in flame from stem to stern, so incessant were her discharges, and in fifteen minutes the commander of the Penguin, finding that he would soon be a total wreck, put up his helm to board, and surged with a heavy crash full on the Hornet's quarter. The first lieutenant immediately called on his men to board, but they would not follow him. The American crew then wished to board, in turn, but Captain Biddle, seeing that his guns were rending the enemy in pieces, restrained their ardor, and recommenced firing. The sea was heavy, and as the two vessels rose and fell together on the huge swell, the strain was so great that the Penguin carried away the Hornet's mizen rigging and spanker boom, and swung round against her (p. 250) quarter. While in this position, an English officer cried out that he surrendered. Captain Biddle then ordered the firing to cease, and leaping on the taffrail, inquired if the vessel had struck. Two marines on the enemy's forecastle levelled their pieces at him and fired—the ball of one entering his neck, inflicting a painful wound. Enraged at this treacherous act, the crew of the Hornet poured in a sudden volley of musketry, which stretched the two marines dead on the deck. In the same moment the vessels parted, the Hornet forging ahead, carrying the enemy's bowsprit and foremast with her. The latter then wore, and was about to pour in a raking broadside, when twenty men rushed to the side of the ship, lifting up their hands and calling for quarter. It was with the greatest difficulty Captain Biddle could restrain his men, so excited were they at the attempt on their commander's life.
The loss of the Penguin in this short action was forty-two killed and wounded, while the Hornet had but a single man killed and only ten wounded. Among the latter was Lieutenant (since Commodore) Conner, who, though helpless and bleeding, refused to leave the deck till the enemy struck. This disparity shows in a striking manner the superior gunnery of the American navy.
The Penguin was dreadfully cut up, and Captain (p. 251) Biddle, unable to man her, scuttled and sunk her. Converting the Tom Bowline into a cartel to take the prisoners to St. Salvador, he, with Captain Harrington of the Peacock, waited the arrival of the President. But these two commanders soon received information which convinced them that Decatur had, in all probability, fallen into the hands of the enemy. April 13. They, therefore, soon as the time fixed by him had expired, proceeded on the original cruise, steering for the Indian Seas. On the 27th, the Peacock, which was ahead, made signal that a strange vessel was in sight, when all sail was set in chase. At night it fell calm, but a stiff breeze arising with the sun, the chase recommenced and continued till near three o'clock, when the Peacock, about six miles ahead, appeared to be moving cautiously, as if suspicious that all was not right. From the first, the chase was supposed to be a homeward bound East Indiaman, as they were now in the track of those vessels. The sailors of the Hornet were consequently very much elated with the prospect of so rich a prize, declaring that they would carpet the berth deck with India silk, and murmuring that the Peacock sailed so much faster, as she would have the first chance at the plunder.
These pleasant anticipations suffered a sudden (p. 252) collapse when the Peacock, at half-past three, signalled that the stranger was an enemy and a line-of-battle ship. Notwithstanding the danger, there was something inconceivably ludicrous in the blank consternation that fell on the ship, exhibited in rueful countenances, the long-drawn whistle or laconic emphatic expression. The next moment, however, all was bustle and confusion—quick and sharp orders rung over the vessel, she was hauled upon the wind, and made off as fast as wind and sail could bear her. The Peacock, being a very fast sailer, soon left the enemy behind. Not so with the Hornet; although she spread every yard of canvass that would draw, it was evident by eight at night the man-of-war was gaining on her. An hour after all hands were turned to to lighten the ship. An anchor and cable first went over with some heavy spare spars and rigging. The ward-room was then scuttled to get at the kentledge, twelve tons of which were thrown overboard. Still the enemy gained, and his huge proportions loomed threateningly through the gloom, filling the crew of the gallant little Hornet with the keenest anxiety. It was a state of painful suspense to Captain Biddle and his officers, and they watched with sinking hearts the steady approach of their formidable foe. At day dawn he was within gun-shot, and soon after, hoisting to the mizen-top-gallant-mast English (p. 253) colors and a rear-admiral's flag, he opened with his bow guns. Captain Biddle then ordered the remaining anchors cut away, the cables heaved overboard, together with more kentledge, shot, provision, the launch and six guns. The firing was kept up for four hours, most of the shot overreaching the Hornet. Perceiving at length, that his firing deadened the wind, and hence his headway, the enemy ceased it at 11 o'clock, and soon again began to overhaul the chase. Captain Biddle then gave the reluctant order to throw over all the remaining guns but one, with the muskets, cutlasses, etc., in short, every thing above and below that could lighten the ship. Still his formidable antagonist steadily gained upon him, and at noon was within three quarters of a mile, when he opened with round and grape shot and shells, which dashed the spray about the little Hornet, yet most marvellously missed her. The water was smooth and it seemed that every shot would strike, yet only three hit the vessel. At this critical period of the chase the excitement of the crew was intense—the sails were watched with the keenest solicitude, while the sailors were ordered to lie down on the quarter deck to trim the vessel. It was impossible that the Hornet's spars and sails could long escape this close and incessant cannonade; and Captain Biddle, knowing that the first mishap to either must be the signal to strike his (p. 254) flag, called his fatigued crew about him, and after commending their good conduct in the long chase, expressed the hope they would still behave with the propriety which had always marked their character, now that their capture was almost certain. Those gallant tars saw the quivering lip of their noble commander when he spoke of capture, and scarcely a dry eye was seen on deck. He resolved, however, not to cease his efforts so long as a ray of hope remained, and held on his sluggish course amid the raining shot, his eye now turned aloft to see if the rigging and spars were still safe, and now towards the horizon that, to his delight, was getting black and squally.
At length, after enduring this firing for two hours, expecting every moment to be crippled, he saw with irrepressible joy the wind change to a favorable quarter and freshen. His vessel then began to creep away from his pursuer. As the distance increased between them, joy and hope lighted up the countenances of all on board the Hornet, and the gathering squalls and rising sea were hailed as deliverers. At sunset the man-of-war was three miles astern. In the intervals of the squalls his huge proportions could be seen all night long against the sky, still crowding sail in pursuit. But the Hornet was now running nine knots an hour, and (p. 255) by daylight had gained so much that the stranger, a few hours after, abandoned the chase.
Her escape seemed miraculous; for when the man-of-war opened his fire the second time upon her he was as near as the United States ever got to the Macedonian before the latter was a total wreck.
Without guns or shot, stripped of every thing, Captain Biddle retraced his steps and reached New York the last day of July.
The Peacock continued her course and cruised for some time in the straits of Sunda, where she made three captures. On the last of June she encountered the Nautilus, of 14 guns, which after a single broadside surrendered. Learning from the commander of the latter that peace had been declared, Captain Warrington immediately restored the vessel.
This was the last vessel captured during the war, and the combat between the Hornet and the Penguin was the last regular action. Thus our little navy commenced and closed its career with a victory. In fact its history had been reports of victories. So constant and astounding had they become, that for a long time before the war closed England ceased to publish official accounts of her naval defeats. In the first flush of indignation at these reverses on the sea, the English repelled with scorn the implication that they had at last (p. 256) found a successful rival. Excuses and reasons for them were ample, and fairer experiments were demanded before so humiliating a thought should be entertained. Our ships, they said, were falsely rated, and in those first single contests the equality was merely nominal, not real. The ignorant and conceited maintained their arrogant, boastful tone to the end; but as the war advanced the more reflecting felt that the repeated victories gained by us could not be swept away by assertions that the world would not reason as they wished it to, and were compelled to admit that their "moral effect was astounding." Well it might be. We know of nothing in the annals of civilized warfare compared to the boldness and success of our little navy during the war. The battles of the Nile and Trafalgar, which had covered the English fleets with glory, had been for years ringing over our land. Flushed with victory and confident of success, they bore down on our coast. With only a handful of ships to offer against this overwhelming force, our commanders nevertheless stood boldly out to sea, and flung their flags of defiance to the breeze. The world looked with amazement on the rashness that could provoke so unequal a strife; but while it waited to hear that our little navy was blown out of the water, the news came of the loss of the Guerriere. Report after report of victories gained by us, followed with stunning rapidity. "The (p. 257) English were defeated on their own element," was the universal exclamation, and her indisputed claim to the seas was broken forever. The courage that could bear up against such fearful odds and pluck the wreath of victory from the English navy, has covered the commanders of that time with abiding honors. Our rights were restored—our commerce protected—and the haughty bearing of England towards us chastized from her forever. The British flag had been lowered so often to the "stars and stripes," that respect and fear usurped the place of contempt and pride.
The true reasons of our success are to be found in our superior gunnery and the greater aptitude of the Americans for the sea. We are a maritime people, and have since outstripped England in the peaceful paths of commerce as much as we outmanœuvred, outsailed, and beat her in the war. Whether the ships of the two countries dash side by side in fraternal feeling through the heavy floes of the northern seas, or in a spirit of rivalry press together across the Atlantic, or sweep where the monsoons blow, ours still lead those of England. The elements of such a maritime nation as ours is destined to be, have never existed since the creation. Let the rate of progress which her commerce has maintained for the last thirty-five years be as a rule to gauge where she will be thirty-five years hence, and the mind is amazed at the result.
Character and daring of our Privateers — Skill of American seamen — Acts of Congress relative to privateering — Names of ships — Gallant action of the "Nonsuch" — Success of the Dolphin — Cruise of the Comet — Narrow escape of the "Governor Tompkins" — Desperate action of the Globe with two brigs — The Decatur takes a British sloop of war — Action of the Neufchatel with the crew of the Endymion — Desperate defence of Captain Reed against the crews of a British squadron — The Chasseur captures a British schooner of war — Character of the commanders of privateers — Anecdote.
Notwithstanding the navy won such laurels during the war, the chief damage done to British commerce was inflicted by our privateers. A history of that period is therefore incomplete without a record of their acts. Nothing ever brought out the daring seamanship, skill, fertility of resource and stubborn bravery, so characteristic of our sailors, as the management of those private armed vessels. Scarcely was war declared before they began to shoot one (p. 259) after another from out our ports, and disappeared in the distant horizon. Trade being prostrated, merchants fitted up their idle ships with picked crews and skillful commanders, and sent them forth to vex the enemy's commerce. Our vessels at that time, as now, being swifter sailers than the English, these bold rovers asked only an open sea and a gale of wind to outstrip their pursuers, or overtake those in flight. Their sails were seen skirting the horizon in every direction—now saucily looking into the enemy's ports to see what was going on there, and again sweeping boldly through the English channels. They seemed ubiquitous—every pathway of commerce was familiar to them, and they passed from sea to sea, appearing and disappearing with a suddenness and celerity that baffled pursuit. Sometimes one of these light armed vessels would slyly hover about a whole fleet of merchantmen, convoyed by a stately frigate, under whose guns they clustered for protection, until a favorable opportunity occurred, when she would suddenly dash into their midst like a hawk into a brood of chickens, and seizing one, man her and be off before the frigate could sufficiently recover from its astonishment at such audacity to attempt pursuit. It sometimes occurred that she would find herself alongside a frigate which she had mistaken for a large merchantman, when a seamanship and coolness (p. 260) would be exhibited in the effort to get clear, seldom witnessed in the oldest naval commanders. If unable to escape she would gallantly set her colors and fight a hopeless, yet one of the most desperate battles that occur in maritime warfare. The way in which these ships were handled, the daring manner they were carried into action, and the desperation with which they were fought astonished the English, who had never witnessed any thing like it on the sea. Sweeping waters covered with British cruisers, with scarcely a safe neutral port to enter in case of distress—shut out from their own harbors by blockade, they were compelled to exercise the most unceasing watchfulness, and keep in a state of constant preparation.
It was a gallant sight to witness one of these little cruisers, apparently surrounded by an enemy's squadron, and yet dashing through its midst, fly away before the wind, while the water around was driven into foam by the shot that sped after her. Their conduct and success throughout the war, revealed the vast resources at the command of our navy. We have only to build ships, not educate sailors. Our commerce pierces to every clime, and our fisheries extend beyond the Arctic Circle; and, hardened by exposure and taught by experience and perils, our sailors are thoroughly trained in all the duties of their calling. Crews that the commanders (p. 261) of men-of-war might well be proud of, are at this moment afloat in every part of the world. On mere call we could man the navies of Europe with well instructed men. One great difficulty with the French navy is, that during war she has no where to go for recruits. Her sailors require a long training, while ours have been trained from boyhood.
Privateering has been denounced as unworthy of civilized nations, but if the object of maritime warfare be to destroy the enemy's commerce, it is difficult to see why a private armed vessel should not be commissioned to do it as well as a national one. If it be plundering private property on the high seas, so is the capture of merchantmen by men-of-war. The sailors in both are stimulated by the same motives, viz., prize money. If maritime war was to be carried on between national vessels alone, and commerce be left untouched, there would be little use for a navy. Ports are blockaded to injure commerce and weaken the resources of the enemy; so are fleets of merchantmen captured, supplies cut off and nations distressed for the same purpose. And if this is to be done, it seems hardly worth quarrelling about who shall do it.
Our fleet was so small at the commencement of the war, that the balance of injury and loss would have been heavy against us, but for our privateers. Our large vessels were soon blockaded in port, and the (p. 262) contest on the seas was for some time almost wholly carried on by privateers, and of the more than two thousand vessels captured during its progress, the greater part was taken by them. A single privateer would slip through a blockading squadron, stand out to sea, and in a few weeks destroy vessels and seize property to the amount of millions. At one time they cruised so daringly in the English waters, that sixty dollars was paid in England to insure five hundred across the Irish Channel. Some of them fought British national vessels and captured them, while it scarcely ever happened that an American privateer struck to an English vessel, when there was any approximation to an equality of force. Of the twenty-three naval engagements during the war, where either one or both were national vessels, the Americans were victorious in seventeen. A similar success marked the contests of private armed vessels.
In 1800, the act regulating privateers gave to them the entire prize captured, but in March, 1812, another act was passed appropriating two per cent. to collectors, to be used as a fund for the support of the widows and orphans of those who fell in combat. This was afterwards modified so as to allow the disabled the benefit of the fund. On the 19th of July the act Was amended, and two per cent. placed in the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury, and privateersmen put on the pension list with the navy. A (p. 263) few days after a bill passed the House, allowing twenty-five dollars bounty for every prisoner taken. This was increased the next session to one hundred dollars.Aug. 2.
The success attending our privateersmen, and the injury they inflicted on the enemy, gave them such a prominence in the country, that Congress increased as far as possible the inducements to fit out letters of marque, and in 1814 reduced the legal duties on goods captured by privateers thirty-three and a third per cent., and afterwards withdrew all claim of the government to prizes and their cargoes.
Privateersmen had earned all these privileges for themselves by their activity, adroitness, and bravery; they had become the terror of the British commerce, and while England, proud of her naval strength, was blockading our entire coast, they were sweeping down upon her merchantmen in the chops of her own channels.
The names of many of these vessels were very characteristic of the American sailor. "Catch me if you can," "True blooded Yankee," "Right of Search," "Bunker Hill," "Viper," "Rattlesnake," "Scourge," "Spit Fire," and "Teazer," exhibited not only the spirit that animated the commanders, but were well calculated to irritate and enrage the officers of English vessels of war, especially as their (p. 264) conduct corresponded so well with the titles they bore.
In September, about three months after the war was declared, the "Nonsuch" privateer, of Baltimore, carrying only twelve pound carronades and eighty or ninety men, while cruising off Cape Vincent, fell in with an English ship carrying sixteen 18 and 24 pound carronades and two hundred men, and a schooner with six four pounders and 60 men. Notwithstanding this overwhelming disparity of force, the privateer determined to uphold the name she bore, and setting American colors bore gallantly down on the ship. Ranging up within close musket shot, she poured in her broadsides and volleys of musketry for three hours and a half, and maintained the unequal contest till her guns were all disabled and only musketry could be used. The vessels instead of taking advantage of the crippled condition of the ship, to capture her, were so amazed at her audacity and the desperate manner in which she was fought, that they turned and fled. The Nonsuch lost twenty-three killed and wounded in this engagement.
Not long after, in the same waters, the Dolphin, of Baltimore, with only ten guns and sixty men, attacked at the same time a ship of sixteen guns and forty men, and a brig of 10 guns and twenty-five men, and captured them both.
In December of this year the privateer Comet, (p. 265) fourteen guns, started on a cruise southward, and on the 14th of January gave chase to four sail, which were afterwards ascertained to be three English merchantmen, one carrying fourteen and the other two, ten guns, convoyed by a Portuguese brig-of-war mounting twenty thirty-twos, and having a crew of one hundred and sixty-five men. The privateer hailed the Portuguese, when the latter sent a boat aboard with her commander. In the conversation that followed, Captain Boyle, of the privateer, declared he should take those merchantmen if he could. The Portuguese commander replied, he must prevent him, though he should be sorry to have any thing disagreeable happen. The American reciprocated his good wishes, but told him he was afraid something unpleasant might occur if he undertook to interfere with his proceedings.
It was dark when the Portuguese captain withdrew, and the Comet immediately crowded sail for the merchantmen, followed closely by the brig of war. Coming up with them, Captain Boyle began to pour in his broadsides. The vessels keeping heavy head way, firing as their guns bore, he was compelled to fight under a cloud of canvass. Now shooting ahead, he would tack, and come down on the enemy in a blaze of fire. But with every broadside, the Portuguese poured in his own. Captain Boyle, intent on capturing the English vessels, paid (p. 266) no attention to the latter, except occasionally to give him a passing salute. At length he compelled every vessel to strike, and succeeded in taking possession of and manning one. But the moon having gone down, and dark clouds, indicating squalls, rising over the heavens, the vessels got separated, except the privateer and man-of-war, which kept exchanging occasional broadsides till two in the morning. By daylight all succeeded in getting off, though dreadfully cut up, with the exception of the one manned the night before, which was safely brought into port through the squadron blockading the Chesapeake. This bold marauder afterwards engaged a ship of eight hundred tons burthen and carrying twenty-two guns, and maintained the contest for eight hours before he could be beaten off.
The Governor Tompkins was another daring and successful cruiser, inflicting heavy damages on the English commerce. Her log book would read like a romance. Jan. 1, 1813. One morning as the sun rose over the sea, Captain Shaler saw in the distance three vessels and immediately gave chase. The wind was light and he approached slowly, examining the strangers narrowly. One of them appeared to be a large transport, so heavy that he was questioning the propriety of attacking her, especially as the other two were evidently determined to stand by her. Boats were rapidly passing to and fro, filled with men, and (p. 267) though the large vessel lay to, quietly waiting the approach of the privateer, she had studding-sail booms out as if prepared for a running fight. Her conduct looked suspicious, and while the captain of the Tompkins was deliberating whether to engage or haul off, a sudden squall struck his vessel carrying her directly under the guns of the stranger, which to his amazement he discovered to be a frigate. He had English colors flying, but instead of endeavoring with them to deceive the enemy till he could claw off, he hauled them down, and setting three American ensigns, poured a broadside into the man-of-war. The latter returned it with stunning effect, his balls crashing through the timbers, blowing up cartridges, tube boxes, etc., and strewing the quarter-deck with ruin. The Tompkins not daring to tack in the squall, kept on before the wind, passing the frigate and receiving its fire as she flew on. The frigate pursued, and sailing nearly as fast as the privateer, for a time made the water foam about him. But the latter by throwing over shot, lumber, etc., gradually drew ahead, and the wind dying away, Captain Boyle, with the aid of sweeps, got at dark beyond reach of the shot.
About the same time the Globe had a desperate engagement off Madeira with two brigs, one of eighteen and the other of sixteen guns, compelling one to strike, though she afterwards made her escape.
(p. 268) In August of this year, a gallant action was fought between the privateer Decatur, Capt. Diron, and a war schooner of the British navy. The Decatur had six twelve-pound carronades and one eighteen-pounder, and mustered 103 men. The schooner was thoroughly appointed, carrying twelve twelve-pound carronades, two long sixes, a brass four, a thirty-two pound carronade and eighty-eight men. She, therefore, had but fifteen men less than her antagonist, while she threw more than twice the weight of metal. But, notwithstanding this overwhelming superiority of force, and though a packet accompanied the schooner whose conduct in the engagement could not be foretold, Captain Diron hoisted American colors to the peak, and closed at once and fiercely with the enemy. He knew from the outset that in a broadside to broadside engagement the Dominica, from her great superiority in metal, would soon sink him, and he determined to board her. The latter detected his purpose and bore away, pouring in her broadsides. Both commanders exhibited great skill in manœuvering their ships; one to board, the other to foil the attempt. The schooner succeeded in firing three broadsides before the privateer could close. Captain Diron, who had previously got up all the ammunition, etc. which he wanted from below, and fastened down the hatches, the moment he saw from his course that (p. 269) the schooner could not avoid a collision, ordered the drums to beat the charge. Loud cheers followed, and the next moment the two vessels came together with a crash, the jib-boom of the Decatur piercing the main-sail of the enemy. In an instant they were lashed together. The fire from the artillery and musketry at this time was terrible. In the midst of it the crew of the Decatur sprang with shouts on the enemy's decks, when it became a hand-to-hand fight with pistols and cutlasses. The crew of the latter fought desperately, but at length, every officer being killed or wounded, with the exception of one midshipman and the surgeon, and only twenty-eight out of the eighty-eight left standing, the colors were hauled down. The combat, which lasted an hour, was one of the most bloody, in proportion to the number engaged, that occurred during the war.1814.
The privateer Neufchatel was another lucky ship. Once getting becalmed off Gray Head, within sight of the Endymion, she was attacked by the boats and launches of the latter containing over a hundred men. The Neufchatel carried 17 guns, but had at the time of the attack only thirty-three men and officers included. Although it was dark the captain observed the approach of the boats, five in number, and opened his fire upon them. They, however, steadily advanced till they reached the ship, when (p. 270) they attempted to board on bows, sides, and stern simultaneously.
The action lasted twenty minutes, when one boat having sunk, another being emptied of its crew, and the others drifting away, apparently without men, the firing ceased. At its close the privateer found on her deck more prisoners than she had men in the combat. But few of the assailants ever reached the frigate again.Nov. 24.
In November of this year the Kemp privateer sailed out of Wilmington and two days after was attacked by a fleet of six small vessels, carrying in all forty-six guns and a hundred and thirty-four men. Enveloped in the fire of six vessels this gallant privateer maintained the unequal combat for half an hour, and finally succeeded in scattering them, when she fell on them in detail and carried three by boarding. She then ranged alongside the largest brig and poured in her broadsides and volleys of musketry. In fifteen minutes the latter struck. In an hour and a half the whole were taken, but while the prizes were being secured two hoisted sail and got away. The other four were secured and brought into port, the result of a six days' cruise.1814.
But the most desperate engagement probably during the war took place this year, between the privateer brig, General Armstrong, and the crews of an English squadron in the port of (p. 271) Fayal. This brig, carrying only seven guns and ninety men, entered that port to obtain water, and her commander, Captain Reid, seeing no sail on the horizon, dropped his anchor. A few hours after, the British brig Carnation came in and anchored near her. Soon after the Plantaganet, 74, and the Rota frigate arrived. Captain Reid, knowing how little regard English officers paid to the laws of neutrality, became very solicitous about the safety of his ship, and applied to the authorities of the place to know what course he should pursue. They told him he need entertain no fear, as the English officers knew the rights of a neutral port too well to molest him. Captain Reid, however, suspected it would be otherwise, and kept a close watch on the movements of the enemy. About nine o'clock in the evening, it being broad moonlight on the bay and not a breath of air breaking its glittering surface, he saw four boats rowing rapidly and silently towards him. When they came within hail he called out to know their purpose. The latter making no reply and keeping steadily on, he bade them stand off. They paid no heed to his repeated orders, and were about to board when he gave the command to fire. After a short but fierce contest the assailants were driven off and returned to their vessels. The news soon spread, and the inhabitants with the governor gathered on the shore to see the battle. About midnight fourteen launches, (p. 272) filled with four hundred men, were seen to put off and steer straight for the privateer. Captain Reid, who, in the mean time, had cut his cable and moored close in shore, knew he could not save his vessel; but indignant at this violation of the laws of neutrality he determined the enemy should pay dear for the conquest, and the moment the boats came within range opened a tremendous fire upon them. They staggered under it, but returning it with spirit continued to press on. But as they got nearer, the carnage became awful. Every gun on board that privateer seemed aimed with the precision of a rifle, and the discharges were so rapid and incessant that it was with the utmost efforts the boats could be pushed on at all. The dead cumbered the living, and the oars were continually dropping from the hands of the slain, crippling and confusing all the movements. At length, however, they succeeded in reaching the brig, and cheered on by their officers, shouting "no quarter," began to ascend the sides of the ship. In a moment its black hull was a sheet of flame rolling on the foe.
Shrieks and cries, mingled with oaths and execrations, and sharp volleys of musketry rang out on the night air, turning that moonlight bay into a scene of indescribable terror. The bright waters were loaded with black forms, as they floated or struggled around the boats. The Americans fought with the ferocity (p. 273) of tigers and the desperation of mad men. Leaping into the boats they literally massacred all within. Several drifted ashore full of dead bodies—not a soul being left alive of all the crew—others were sunk. Some were left with one or two to row them. Overwhelmed, crushed and discomfitted, the remainder abandoned the attempt and pulled slowly back to the ships, marking their course by the groans and cries of the wounded that floated back over the bay. Only three officers, out of the whole, escaped, while scarce a hundred and fifty of the four hundred returned unwounded to their vessels. A hundred and twenty were killed outright. The loss could scarcely have been greater had the enemy fought a squadron equal to their own.
Our Consul, after this, dropped a note to the Governor, who immediately sent a remonstrance to Van Lloyd, commander of the Plantagenet, saying that the American vessel was under the guns of the castle and entitled to Portuguese protection. To this Van Lloyd replied, that he was resolved on the destruction of the vessel, and if the fort undertook to protect her, he would not leave a house standing on shore.
The next day the Carnation hauled in alongside and opened her broadsides on the privateer. Reid, still grimly clinging to his vessel, returned the fire, and in a short time so cut up his antagonist that he hauled off to repair. That little brig, half a wreck, (p. 274) lying under the walls of the castle fighting that hopeless gallant battle, vindicating her rights against such fearful odds, with none who dare help her, presented a sublime spectacle.
At length his guns being dismounted, Captain Reid ordered his men to cut away the masts of the ship, blow a hole through her bottom, and taking out their arms and clothing, go ashore. Soon after the British advanced and set her on fire. Van Lloyd then made a demand on the Governor for Captain Reid and his crew, threatening in case of refusal to send an armed force and take them. Fearing that the Governor would not be able to prevent their arrest, this gallant band retired to an old convent, knocked away the drawbridge, determined to defend themselves to the last. The English commander had no desire to place his crews again under the deadly aim of those daring men, and abandoned the project.
The American loss in this engagement was only two killed and seven wounded. Thus dearly did England pay for this violation of the laws of a neutral port. That brig, cruising successfully to the close of the war, could not have inflicted so heavy damage on the enemy as she caused in her capture.
The gallant bearing and patriotic feeling that marked these little cruisers are worthy of record, while the hair-breadth escapes—the tricks employed to entice merchantmen within their reach—the wit (p. 275) and humor exhibited in hailing and answering the hails of vessels—the saucy and irritating acts committed on purpose to provoke—the good-natured jokes they cracked on those they had first outwitted, then conquered, would make a most characteristic and amusing chapter in American history.
Captain Boyle, of the Chasseur, took great delight in provoking frigates to chase him, and when they abandoned the pursuit as hopeless, he would affect to chase in turn, teazing and insulting his formidable adversaries, who tried in vain to cut some spar out of the winged thing in order to lessen her fleetness. Cruising along the English coast, this vessel had some very narrow escapes. While here the captain overhauled a cartel, and sent by it a proclamation with orders to have it stuck up in Lloyd's coffee house, declaring the whole British Empire in a state of blockade, and that he considered the force under him sufficient to maintain it.
This was probably one of the finest private armed vessels afloat during the war. Buoyant as a sea-gull, she sat so lightly and gracefully on the water, that it seemed as if she might, at will, rise and fly. Fleet as the wind, she was handled with such ease that the enemy gazed on her movements with admiration.Feb. 26, 1815.
Her last exploit was the capture of his majesty's schooner St. Lawrence, carrying fifteen guns. The latter was on her way to New Orleans, (p. 276) with some soldiers, marines, and gentlemen of the navy as passengers. The Chasseur had only six twelve-pounders and eight short nine pound carronades, having been compelled a short time before, when hard pressed by an English frigate, to throw over nearly all her twelve pound carronades. Captain Boyle had no suspicion of the true character of the vessel when he gave chase, for her ports had been closed on purpose to deceive him. He therefore stood boldly on till he got within pistol-shot, when the schooner suddenly opened ten ports on a side and poured in a destructive fire. At the same time the men who had been concealed under the bulwarks leaped up and delivered a volley of musketry. Captain Boyle, discovering what a trap he had been beguiled into, determined at once to stay in it, and ranging alongside within ten yards, opened a tremendous fire with his batteries and musketry. The vessels were so near each other that the voices of officers and men could be distinctly heard, even amid the crashing cannonade. That little privateer exhibited a skill and practice in gunnery unsurpassed by any frigate, and superior to any vessel in the English navy. The enemy was completely stunned by the rapidity and destructive effect of her fire, and in eleven minutes was a perfect wreck. Captain Boyle then gave the command to board, when the flag was struck. In this short space of time the (p. 277) Chasseur had strewed the deck of that schooner with nearly half of her crew, killed and wounded.
Our privateers had greatly the advantage of the English, not only in artillery but in musketry—our men firing with much surer aim than theirs.
It would be impossible to give the names and details of all the vessels and their engagements; but, independent of the vast number of merchantmen captured by them, they took eight national vessels of the enemy, in single combat. They seemed to vie with each other in daring and the venturous exploits they would undertake. One of these vessels would shoot out of port within sight of a blockading squadron, start alone on a cruise, and scouring thirty or forty thousand miles of the ocean, return with a fleet of prizes. The commanders were almost, invariably humane men, treating their prisoners with vastly more kindness than British admirals and commodores did those Americans who fell in their hands. Many acts of kindness and generosity were performed, and a nobleness of spirit exhibited towards a fallen foe, which has ever been, and it is to be hoped ever will be, a distinguished trait in the American character. On one occasion a privateer captured in the channel a Welch vessel from Cardigan, freighted with corn. As the captain went on board he saw a small box with a hole in the top, in the cabin, marked "Missionary box." "What is this?" said he, touching it (p. 278) with a stick. "Oh," replied the Cambrian, "the truth is, my poor fellows here have been accustomed every Monday morning to drop a penny each into that box, for the purpose of sending out missionaries to preach the gospel to the heathen; but it's all over now." "Indeed," said the captain, and reflecting a moment, he added, "Captain, I'll not hurt a hair of your head nor touch your vessel," and immediately returned to his own ship, leaving him unmolested.
Such conduct appears the more striking when contrasted with that of British officers. The murder of Mr. Sigourney, of the Alp, whose brains were beaten out; though when his vessel was taken possession of not a soul but himself was found on board—the confinement of Capt. Upton and his officers of the privateer Hunter, for three months in a filthy prison, and their after transfer to a prison ship—the cruelty shown to Capt. Nichols, who, after enjoying his parole for two months, was without the least reason thrown into a prison-ship and kept for more than a month in a room four feet by seven, and many other cases of extreme cruelty, were well known, for the facts had been sworn to and placed on record as state papers. Rumor aggravated all these a hundred fold, yet the English government can offset them with no retaliatory acts substantiated before courts of inquiry.
Impressed Americans made prisoners of war — Treatment of prisoners — Prison Ships — Dartmoor prison — Neglect of American prisoners — Their sufferings — Fourth of July in Dartmoor — Brutal attack of the French prisoners — Fresh arrivals — Joy at the news of our naval victories — Sufferings of the prisoners in winter — American Government allows them three cents per diem — Moral effect of this notice of Government — Napoleon's downfall — Increased allowance of Government — Industry of prisoners — Attempts to escape — Extraordinary adventure of a lieutenant of a privateer — Number of prisoners increased — A riot to obtain bread — Dartmoor massacre — Messrs. King and L'Arpent appointed commissioners to investigate it — Decision — The end.
A short chapter is due to those who, though not engaged in battle, suffered equally for their country, and despite the oppression and want which drove them well nigh to despair, refused to be faithless to the land that had nurtured them. The conduct of the land and naval officers to a vanquished enemy, did not present a more striking contrast than that of the two governments towards prisoners who had never taken up arms. Those placed in confinement by us were never allowed to suffer through want of clothing (p. 280) or food, while a barbarity characterized the treatment of American citizens that reflects the deepest disgrace on the British empire.
When the declaration of war was made, the English vessels had a vast number of American seamen on board, most of them impressed, who flatly refused to fight against their country. Many of these, without having received the pay due them, were then sent to England as prisoners of war. Captures at sea swelled the number rapidly, which in the end amounted to nearly six thousand men. Officers of privateersmen and merchantmen on parole, were sent to Devonshire or Berkshire, where on thirty-three and a quarter cents per diem, they were allowed to subsist in comparative comfort; but the common sailors and merchant captains were scattered about in different prisons, the most, however, being collected and placed on board two old line-of-battle-ships in Portsmouth harbor. Hence, after a short imprisonment, characterized by a brutality not often found among half-civilized nations, they were transferred to Dartmoor prison, seventeen miles inland. This dreaded prison was situated high up on the side of a barren mountain, overlooking a bleak and desolate moor. It consisted of seven buildings, surrounded by two walls, the first a mile in extent and sixteen feet high; the second, thirty feet from the first, and surmounted by guards overlooking the spaces within. (p. 281) Each prison had but one apartment on a floor, around which, in tiers, six on a side, the hammocks were slung. Into one of these large cold apartments, nearly five hundred American prisoners were crowded during the year 1813. Their own Government had not then provided any thing towards their expenses, and they were dependent entirely on the allowance of the British officials. The garments they brought with them, at length wearing out, they were reduced to the most miserable shifts to cover their persons. As soon as it was dark, this half-famished multitude was turned into their prison, and left without a light to pass the long and dreary winter nights. Filthy, ragged, covered with vermin, they strolled around the yard in the day time, or lay basking in the sun to obtain a little warmth, and moody and despairing, gradually sank, through degrading companionship and the demoralization of want and suffering, lower and lower in the scale of humanity. A single bucket, only, containing the food, was allowed to a mess, around which they gathered with the avidity of starving men, and each with his wooden spoon struggled to eat fastest and most. To add to their sufferings the small-pox broke out among them, carrying many to their graves. Faint and far echoes from home would now and then rekindle hope in their bosoms, to be succeeded only by blank despair.
(p. 282) The better portion strove manfully to arrest the tendency around them to degradation, and constituted themselves a court to try offenders. When theft was proved on one, a punishment of twenty-seven lashes was inflicted. They also used every inducement to prevent the sailors from enlisting in the British service, to which last resort many were driven, to escape the horrors of that gloomy prison.
When the 4th of July arrived, they determined to celebrate the national anniversary in their own prison, and so having by some means obtained two American standards, they placed them at the two ends of the building, outside the walls, and forming into two columns marched up and down the yard, singing patriotic songs, whistling patriotic tunes, and cheering the flag of their country. The keeper, hearing of it, ordered the turnkeys to take away the flags; but the prisoners sent to him, requesting as a particular favor that they might be allowed to celebrate the anniversary of their country's independence, adding if he insisted on attacking their colors he must take the consequences. The guards were then ordered in, when a scuffle ensued, in which one flag was taken, but the prisoners bore the other off in triumph to their room. At evening, when the guards came as usual to shut them up, a great deal of severe language and opprobrious epithets were used, stigmatizing the pitiful revenge in taking away (p. 283) their flags as mean and contemptible. Retorts followed, blows succeeded, and finally the guard fired on the crowd, wounding two men. Thus ended the 4th of July, 1813, in Dartmoor.
In the apartments above the Americans, were crowded nearly a thousand French prisoners, miserable outcasts, with scarcely any thing left of our common humanity but the form. Many of them were entirely naked, and slept on the stone floor, stretched out like so many swine. The moment clothing was given them they would gamble it away. These wretches formed a conspiracy to murder all the Americans. Arming themselves with whatever weapon they could lay hands on, they contrived one morning to get into the yard before the latter, and as the first group of Americans, a hundred and fifty in number, emerged into the open air, fell upon them with the ferocity of fiends. Passing between them and the prison, they blocked the entrance to prevent the others from coming to the rescue. A wild scene of confusion and tumult followed. The French succeeded in stabbing and knocking down and mangling nearly every American, and would doubtless have beaten the whole to death had not the guard, attracted by the cries for help and shrieks of murder, rushed in, and by a bayonet charge ended the fray. A great number of the Americans (p. 284) were more or less injured and twenty shockingly mangled.
The succeeding months passed drearily away, with nothing occurring to break the weary monotony of life, except at long intervals the arrival of a fresh squad of prisoners. This was an event in their existence, and replaced them once more in communication with the outward world. The new comers were lions for the time. Eager groups gathered around each one, impatiently asking after the news, and how the war got on. The triumphs of our navy made them forget, for awhile, the gloom of their dismal abode. Every action had to be described over and over again, losing nothing by Jack's embellishments—the narration ever and anon interrupted with huzzas and acclamations. They would lie for hours awake in their hammocks, listening to the recital of the marvellous sea-fights in which "free trade and sailors' rights" were gallantly maintained, and cheers would burst out of the darkness, ringing down through the tiers of cots that lined the walls.
During the autumn of 1813, a fresh arrival of prisoners brought the news of Perry's victory on Lake Erie, and the capture of the Boxer by the Enterprise. These were the occasion of great rejoicing, and while the more intelligent and respectable portion of the captives discussed the victories calmly, the hundreds of common seamen shook the (p. 285) prison walls with their uproarious mirth and unbounded exultation.1813.
The sufferings of the prisoners were the greatest during this winter. They were allowed no fire and no light, although the windows were not glazed; and locked within the cold damp stone walls at the close of the short winter days, were compelled to spend the long winter evenings in darkness, whiling away the time in telling stories—keeping warm by huddling together, or creeping to their hammocks with but a single tattered blanket to protect them from the cold. To make their wretchedness complete, the winter set in with a severity not felt before for half a century, and which has had no parallel since. The mountain on which the prison stood was covered with snow to the depth of from two to four feet. The stream running through the prison yard, and the buckets of water in the prisoners' room were frozen solid. Most of the prisoners being protected only by rags, and destitute of shoes, they could not go out into the yard at all, for it was covered with snow, but lay crouched in their hammocks all day and all night. The strong were bowed in gloom and despair, and the weak perished in protracted agonies. To fill up the measure of their sufferings, the commanding officer issued an order compelling them to turn out at nine o'clock in the morning, and stand in the yard till (p. 286) the guard counted them. This took nearly an hour, during which time the poor fellows stood barefoot in the snow, benumbed by the cold and pierced by the bleak December blasts that swept the desolate mountain, and hurled the snow in clouds through the air. Unable to bear this dreadful exposure, the prisoners cut up their bedding and made garments and socks for their feet to protect them from the frost, and slept on the cold floor. Morning after morning, hardy men overcome by the cold, fell lifeless in presence of their keepers, and were carried to the hospital, where they were resuscitated, only to be sent back to shiver and suffer on the icy floor of their prison. The better class remonstrated against this useless cruelty, but without effect.Dec.
At length, in the latter part of the month, the agent was removed, and Captain Shortland took his place, who immediately revoked the order requiring the prisoners to be counted—represented strongly to the board of transport the condition they were in, and used all the means in his power to alleviate their sufferings and ameliorate the horrors of their confinement. Still, no clothing was furnished, and the cold was intense. The camp distemper also broke out, and many were not sorry to take it, in order to get in the more comfortable quarters of the hospital.
Mr. Beasely was agent for American prisoners of (p. 287) war in England, to whom those at Dartmoor constantly appealed for help. Receiving no answers to their repeated appeals, they denounced him as unfeeling and indifferent to their distress. At last, enraged at the neglect of their own Government, as represented in Mr. Beasely, and maddened by suffering, they drew up a paper and sent it to him, in which they declared that unless relief was granted they would offer, en masse, their services to the British Government. To this no answer was received for about a month, when a letter arrived, announcing that the United States would allow them about three cents a day to buy soap and tobacco with. Slight as this relief was, it shed sunshine through that prison. True, it was not sufficient to purchase them clothing; it did more, however; it showed that they were recognized by their Government—they were no longer disowned, forgotten men, but stood once more in communication with the land of their birth, and acknowledged to be American citizens. The moral effect of this consciousness was wonderful, and notwithstanding their nakedness and forlorn appearance, the prisoners felt at once a new dignity. A committee was appointed to suppress gambling, and a petition got up to separate them from the blacks, who were irredeemably given over to thieving. Previous to this ninety-five had entered the British service; now every (p. 288) one spurned the thought. They never would desert the country that owned them as sons.
In the spring the rigorous restrictions laid on them were relaxed, and they were allowed the privilege of the French prisoners. Free access to the other prisoners and to the market were given, and they established a coffee-house in their prison, selling coffee at a penny a pint. From French officers they learned the news of the day. The world was thus again thrown open to them, and though the prospect of exchange grew dimmer and dimmer, they resigned themselves with more tranquillity to their contemplated long confinement. In the mean time money began to arrive from friends at home, on which, as a capital, the recipients set up as tobacconists, butter and potatoe merchants, etc. Imitating the French, they learned to be economical, and invent methods of increasing their revenue. The bones left from their beef were converted into beautifully wrought miniature ships. Others plaited straw for hats, made hair bracelets, list shoes, etc., turning that gloomy receptacle of despairing, reckless men, into a perfect hive of industry. Soon after, another letter from Mr. Beasely arrived, stating that six cents a week, in addition to the former sum, would in future be allowed, per man. This little sum diffused new pleasure around, and filled every heart with animation and hope. They could now purchase clothing and other (p. 289) little articles, necessary to render their appearance becoming American citizens.
Succeeding this came the news of Napoleon's downfall and termination of the continental war. The French prisoners were, of course, released, and the Americans purchased out their stock in trade, utensils, &c.
Among the prisoners were gray-haired men, and boys from thirteen to seventeen years of age. For the latter a school was established, to instruct them in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Soon another welcome letter was received, announcing that the United States would hereafter clothe them. Clad in clean new, though coarse clothing, they now trod the yards of their prison with a manly bearing. The sense of inferiority was gone, and the characteristic boldness and independence of the American seamen again shone forth. They would argue with English officers on the war, repel insult, and denounce every act of cruelty or fraud as freely as if on their own soil.
The English Government having resolved to make Dartmoor the general depôt of the prisoners, fresh arrivals soon swelled the number to fourteen hundred. 1814. Being now in a better condition, they resolved to celebrate the approaching 4th of July with becoming pomp. American colors were obtained, two hogsheads of porter and some rum purchased, (p. 290) and a grand dinner of soup and beef prepared. Early in the morning the flag was run up, and as it flaunted to the wind, "All Canada, or Dartmoor prison for ever!" was seen inscribed upon its folds. At eleven the prisoners assembled, while the walls around were lined with the English soldiers and officers and clerks, curious to hear what kind of an oration a Yankee sailor would make. Mounted on a cask, the orator launched at once into the war, showed how we had been forced into it by the injustice of England, and dwelt with great unction on the separate naval victories the brave tars had gained. Dinner followed, the grog circulated freely, toasts were given, and a song composed expressly for the occasion sung. Mirth and hilarity ruled the hour, and the walls of that old prison shook to the deafening cheers and boisterous mirth of these sons of the ocean.
Soon after a plan of escape was put in execution, and for a long time proceeded without detection. Every prisoner was sworn to secresy, and a court organized to try any informer, who in case of conviction, was to be hung. Shafts were sunk in the ground—the hole at the top being carefully concealed—and broad excavations began and worked towards the walls, beyond which they were to come to the surface. A traitor, however, was found, who for the price of his liberty revealed all.
From time to time some of the prisoners made (p. 291) their escape, but most of them were retaken before they reached the sea-board.
(p. 292) The number of prisoners continued to increase, so that by autumn, over five thousand were congregated in the prison. Before they were released, the number was swelled to five thousand six hundred and ninety-three. Frequent collisions occurred between them and the officers, which embittered the animosity of the latter, and finally brought on a bloody catastrophe.
With the approach of winter great suffering was experienced. The malignant small-pox again broke out, and raged with fatal violence amid this army of men.
The news of the treaty of peace, however, dissipated, for a time, all their gloom, and diffused joy and hope through the prisons. The word "Home," was on every man's lips, and a speedy release from that den of horrors and suffering was expected. But the gloomy winter passed, and spring came, without mitigating their condition or restoring them to freedom. The prisoners became exasperated. The two countries having been so long at peace, they felt themselves entitled to their freedom. They were no longer prisoners of war, but by the very act of the treaty, American freemen. They burnt Mr. Beasely, the American agent, in effigy, railed at their keepers, and swore they would make their escape by violence if not soon released.
On the fourth of April, Captain Shortland having (p. 293) gone to Plymouth, they were not allowed any bread. Bearing the privation patiently, for thirty-six hours, they resolved to break open the store-house and supply themselves. So at dark as the officers entered the yard and cried out, "Turn in! Turn in!" a signal previously agreed on was given, and in an instant the excited thousands moved in one dark mass towards the gates. One after another gave way before the tremendous pressure, and these maddened hungry men rushed around the depôt of provisions, their shouts and cries ringing over the alarm bells and beat of drums, that summoned the garrison to arms. The alarm spread to the neighboring villages, and the militia began to pour in. In a few moments the soldiers advanced with charged bayonets towards the multitude, when they were sternly ordered off by the prisoners, who swore that if they dared fire or charge, they would charge in turn, and level that store-house to the ground, and march out of prison. The officers, fearing the result of such a contest, prudently promised to give them their usual supply if they would retire to their respective prisons. They did so, and quiet was restored. The bold and successful manner in which the Americans had overawed the soldiery and coerced submission to their demands, irritated them highly, and made them wish for a good opportunity to retaliate. April 6. This was soon furnished. Two days after, Captain Shortland, who had returned, observed (p. 294) a hole in that portion of the inner wall which separated two of the prison yards from the barracks, and suspecting, or pretending to suspect it was made by the prisoners for the purpose of escaping, he immediately ordered the alarm bells to be rung and the drums to beat. The prisoners, surprised and excited, rushed towards the gates of the yard to ascertain the cause of the alarm. The thousands behind pushing forward the thousands before, they became packed in an impenetrable mass at the entrance, and the pressure was so great that some were forced out through one of the gates that gave way. In the midst of the confusion, Shortland entered the inner square with the whole garrison. The soldiers advanced close to the throng, when the prisoners retired towards their respective yards. Doubtless amid such a vast and motley collection of men, many taunted the soldiers, provoked them, and dared them to fire. Still they yielded before the bayonet, and entered their own yard. The gates were shut, but a large crowd remained in the passage, provoking the soldiers, from whom they were separated by an iron railing, and threatening them with vengeance. While in this position the order to fire was given. Immediately the massacre commenced. Volley after volley was poured into the terrified crowd, pushing down and trampling on each other in their haste to reach the shelter of the prisons. Men were killed in the act of supplicating mercy, (p. 295) others were shot down while struggling to enter the prison doors. It was cold-blooded murder, and before all the prisoners could get within the walls, over sixty were killed or wounded. When the living had all escaped to a place of shelter, and the carnage was over, the prison yard presented a ghastly spectacle. The man of sixty, the sailor in his prime, and the boy of fifteen, lay scattered around, while the groans of the wounded were borne to the ears of the enraged prisoners within. A sullen silence fell on those gloomy structures, the flags were raised half-mast, in token of mourning, and the prisoners assembled together and appointed a committee to report on the matter.
Although the coroner's jury over the slain gave a verdict of justifiable homicide, our Government took up the matter, and appointed Charles King to meet Mr. Larpent, the English commissioner, and investigate it. In their report no one was declared culpable, though it was freely admitted wrong had been done. Mr. King was severely censured for his conduct, but it was not easy to come to a just conclusion, when the testimony of the two parties were so entirely at variance. Mr. Larpent was bound to believe the assertions of Captain Shortland and his troops, as much as Mr. King those of the prisoners. Capt. Shortland declared he never gave the order to fire, and attempted to arrest it after it had begun. This, of course, the prisoners denied, some of them swearing (p. 296) they heard him give the order. One thing, however, is certain; Mr. King never should have let this massacre of Americans pass, with so slight a condemnation as it received at his hands. In the first place, there is good reason to doubt whether Captain Shortland believed there was any great danger at all. A hole in a wall, only large enough to admit the passage of a single man at a time, could easily be stopped up without ringing alarm bells and beating drums, especially as that hole communicated with only two out of five of the yards, and when in three of these yards the prisoners were walking about in their usual quiet manner. Nor could he believe they meditated an escape, when they had just received word that preparations were nearly completed for their restoration to liberty. Where could they escape to without money or clothing? Besides, if they wished to free themselves by violence, why did they not do it two days before, when they had completely cowed the soldiers and had only to march forth without farther resistance.
In the second place, he deserved disgrace and punishment, for allowing the soldiers to press on the multitude, when he saw them evidently, or the great mass of them, retiring to their prisons. To fire on a mob, unless they are pressing forward to assail authority and force, is brutal. If he gave the order to fire, he should have been hung. If he did not, he (p. 297) should be held responsible for having such undisciplined troops under his command. An act like this cannot be committed and nobody be deserving of reprehension. The commander of a garrison cannot so escape responsibility. The probability is, enraged at the conduct of the prisoners in forcing the soldiers to yield to their demands two days before, he resolved to punish the first attempt at insubordination, and irritated at the insolence and taunts of some of them, he in a fit of passion gave the order to fire. Conscience-smitten afterwards, and fearing disgrace and punishment, he endeavored to cover up the dark transaction.
Mr. King had rather, at any time, smooth over a quarrel, than increase the exasperation by dealing sternly with its causes. With his thousand noble and excellent qualities, he lacked the energy of will and unflinching severity necessary to probe such a difficulty to the bottom, and see that justice was done at whatever cost. A great wrong was committed, though doubtless with good intentions and a patriotic heart.
The following Tax Tables, showing the relative amount of taxation during the last two years of the war, are extracted from voluminous tables found in the revenue department. The whole to be found in Ingersoll's History of the War of 1812.
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|Domestic materials.||Foreign materials.||Domestic materials.||Foreign materials.|
|New Hampshire||3,982 50||213 90||888 69||3,015 90|
|Massachusetts||33,735 64||39,272 28||23,381 83||57,959 11|
|Vermont||31,836 54||14,263 00|
|Rhode Island||6,918 73||9,346 50||4,073 28||8,440 80|
|Connecticut||50,067 34||50,867 66||3,524 65|
|New York||225,979 31||6,201 45||120,522 03||10,299 23|
|New Jersey||54,845 67||25,033 72||4,953 90|
|Pennsylvania||392,536 23||56 70||228,042 13|
|Delaware||4,457 64||209 11|
|Maryland||60,378 10||28,910 87|
|Virginia||264,135 97||3 50||87,702 63|
|North Carolina||87,738 22||13,353 81|
|Ohio||75,596 85||33,819 16|
|Kentucky||141,157 50||57,807 62|
|South Carolina||66,941 37||1,425 00||12,615 84||2,550 77|
|Tennessee||77,091 59||34,244 77|
|Georgia||29,262 34||925 00||14,929 56||864 00|
|Louisiana||7,741 84||6,109 72|
|Illinois Territory||605 35||214 91|
|Indiana||"||2,358 50||923 20|
|Missouri||"||2,033 95||1,631 08|
|Mississippi||"||1,862 41||958 48|
|District of Columbia||279 27|
|Total||1,621,542 86||57,444 33||760,804 22||91,608 36|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1815.|
|Domestic materials.||Foreign materials.|
|At 20 cents per gal.||At 25 cents per gal.||At 20 cents per gal.|
|New Hampshire||861 81||137 05||4,840 81|
|Massachusetts||29,877 84||1,548 14||110,147 27|
|Vermont||18,017 56||816 14|
|Rhode Island||6,097 71||12,185 97|
|Connecticut||52,996 04||3,692 09||5,645 20|
|New York||199,645 92||5,672 31||15,519 65|
|New Jersey||69,081 42||10,329 74||5,477 20|
|Pennsylvania||381,484 71||38,393 24|
|Delaware||600 35||22,295 38|
|Maryland||66,177 25||32,428 34|
|Virginia||179,387 95||201,566 82|
|North Carolina||21,961 11||175,922 07|
|Ohio||56,653 68||15,128 83|
|Kentucky||114,644 40||39,569 10|
|South Carolina||19,640 77||68,107 41||3,391 30|
|Tennessee||55,284 66||56,573 59|
|Georgia||17,563 00||65,162 75||2,021 60|
|Louisiana||12,756 54||177 35|
|Illinois Territory||549 23||701 26|
|Indiana||"||641 50||2,508 17|
|Missouri||"||833 50||622 89|
|Mississippi||"||583 37||1,045 90|
|District of Columbia|
|Total||1,305,340 39||742,398 57||159,229 00|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||3,279||6,895 51||3,337||4,514 09|
|Massachusetts||14,934||33,995 64||14,184||21,748 49|
|Vermont||1,227||2,890 24||1,628||2,443 09|
|Rhode Island||1,232||2,877 50||722||1,123 03|
|Connecticut||5,262||13,419 80||6,319||10,202 46|
|New York||6,499||22,834 15||7,715||18,675 91|
|New Jersey||4,502||16,781 26||7,892||14,790 02|
|Pennsylvania||7,848||26,800 80||8,361||20,076 29|
|Delaware||2,261||5,228 21||2,081||4,018 58|
|Maryland||5,014||17,676 78||4,550||13,283 87|
|Virginia||8,067||30,401 80||7,047||20,147 24|
|North Carolina||5,766||14,147 44||4,859||8,907 95|
|Ohio||160||628 36||219||732 45|
|Kentucky||610||3,025 77||546||3,192 86|
|South Carolina||4,560||15,411 58||4,178||11,345 94|
|Tennessee||209||778 22||154||781 43|
|Georgia||2,667||7,159 75||1,948||6,095 60|
|Louisiana||495||1,435 83||430||1,357 27|
|Illinois Territory||19||66 62||18||36 75|
|Michigan||"||31||76 00||28||60 00|
|Indiana||"||4||6 00||5||17 44|
|Missouri||"||18||79 00||6||47 00|
|Mississippi||"||78||371 00||73||371 98|
|District of Columbia||353||2,171 21||316||1,747 57|
|Total||77,095||225,156 47||76,616||165,717 31|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||18,449 00||24,535 64|
|Massachusetts||86,211 12||113,906 95|
|Vermont||14,417 00||22,337 54|
|Rhode Island||16,058 00||10,093 53|
|Connecticut||32,820 26||42,616 04|
|New York||174,748 76||201,757 84|
|New Jersey||29,701 00||35,607 87|
|Pennsylvania||160,939 21||153,018 84|
|Delaware||10,102 88||8,093 12|
|Maryland||49,256 20||58,747 36|
|Virginia||52,038 68||69,620 64|
|North Carolina||23,985 00||32,967 98|
|Ohio||20,574 00||26,923 23|
|Kentucky||19,255 00||23,789 71|
|South Carolina||26,599 00||28,142 91|
|Tennessee||10,462 00||13,280 54|
|Georgia||13,908 00||24,454 33|
|Louisiana||7,497 00||9,773 09|
|Illinois Territory||1,115 00||1,248 80|
|Michigan||"||1,405 00||1,817 10|
|Indiana||"||2,191 00||3,139 59|
|Missouri||"||1,540 00||1,861 46|
|Mississippi||"||3,692 00||4,837 74|
|District of Columbia||10,140 00||14,872 62|
|786,005 11||927,444 47|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||776 07||2,245 79|
|Massachusetts||35,359 04||87,643 63|
|Vermont||14 25||75 20|
|Rhode Island||6,274 82||452 01|
|Connecticut||283 89||635 55|
|New York||48,480 35||332,841 64|
|New Jersey||3,384 32||949 84|
|Pennsylvania||34,630 74||229,764 45|
|Delaware||116 25||453 82|
|Maryland||9,623 15||102,758 79|
|Virginia||4,079 37||20,003 64|
|North Carolina||1,237 62||3,734 47|
|Ohio||549 31||636 22|
|Kentucky||270 92||1,371 29|
|South Carolina||2,631 39||18,401 94|
|Tennessee||63 31||291 06|
|Georgia||1,346 34||4,133 92|
|Louisiana||4,832 24||13,504 09|
|Michigan||"||80 04||71 05|
|Mississippi||"||210 13||750 47|
|District of Columbia||385 65||4,413 96|
|154,629 20||825,132 83|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|Massachusetts||3,542 36||4,394 17|
|New York||7,468 12||40,279 69|
|Pennsylvania||157 03||6,127 41|
|Virginia||23 40||980 32|
|Louisiana||479 00||408 05|
|District of Columbia||4,413 96|
|11,669 91||75,223 08|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|On paper and Bank Notes.||Banks in lieu of Bank Notes.||On paper and Bank Notes.||By Banks in lieu, &c.|
|New Hampshire||773 02||130 21||646 70||1,020 78|
|Massachusetts||20,741 47||2,880 00||5,520 74||9,339 73|
|Vermont||19 60||35 75|
|Rhode Island||5,825 15||97 29||1,131 82||1,461 01|
|Connecticut||11,152 07||2,445 44||9,126 97||3,015 91|
|New York||87,971 51||8,289 31||57,725 72||18,661 48|
|New Jersey||5,905 82||1,609 04||4,868 90||2,105 66|
|Pennsylvania||80,580 65||2,874 80||74,470 96||15,638 22|
|Delaware||5,570 10||669 48||3,769 01||753 54|
|Maryland||35,364 67||7,716 21||47,590 18||8,166 19|
|Virginia||36,308 41||2,516 96||33,235 88||6,061 96|
|North Carolina||9,132 80||1,865 94||11,909 15||2,852 40|
|Ohio||6,781 47||273 79||8,964 82||1,870 65|
|Kentucky||8,238 69||7,937 97||1,531 18|
|South Carolina||18,916 55||4,055 44||18,156 65||4,093 51|
|Tennessee||1,619 85||2,118 92||347 77|
|Georgia||5,736 75||900 37||6,302 95||1,070 69|
|Louisiana||11,151 21||384 66||10,821 53||1,920 00|
|Illinois Territory||7 85||4 50|
|Michigan||"||26 10||16 35|
|Missouri||"||84 10||1,191 02|
|Mississippi||"||983 03||138 36||93 90|
|District of Columbia||18,053 90||2,713 95||28,569 31||4,507 92|
|Total||370,945 27||39,571 25||334,209 70||84,418 10|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||376 00|
|Rhode Island||782 50|
|New York||10,877 00|
|New Jersey||1,527 50|
|South Carolina||2,854 50|
|District of Columbia||1,174 00|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||3,377 00|
|Rhode Island||2,876 00|
|New York||30,449 50|
|New Jersey||7,784 00|
|South Carolina||5,380 00|
|District of Columbia||1,636 00|
|STATES OR TERRITORIES.||In 1815.|
|New Hampshire||4,540 76|
|Rhode Island||910 00|
|New York||157,176 79|
|New Jersey||28,546 87|
|North Carolina||12,801 23|
|South Carolina||10,156 58|
|Illinois Territory||220 14|
|District of Columbia||10,309 97|
|DUTIES ON||In 1814.||In 1815.|
|Stills, from domestic materials||1,621,152 86||760,804 22|
|" " foreign "||57,444 33||91,608 36|
|Spirits, from domestic materials||2,047,738 96|
|" " foreign "||159,229 00|
|Carriages||225,158 47||165,717 31|
|Retailers||786,005 11||927,444 47|
|Sales at auction||154,629 20||825,132 83|
|Stamps||370,945 27||334,209 70|
|" Bank notes, composition||39,571 25||84,418 10|
|Household furniture||21,625 50|
|Gold and silver watches||75,322 50|
|Refined sugar||11,669 91||75,223 08|
|Articles manufactured in the United States||793,625 06|
|Total||3,266,576 40||6,362,099 09|
|STATES.||Tax of Aug. 3, 1813.||Tax of Jan. 9, 1815.|
|New Hampshire||97,049 21||193,755 99|
|Vermont||98,534 52||196,789 29|
|Massachusetts||318,154 84||632,065 00|
|Rhode Island||34,758 86||69,431 78|
|Connecticut||118,533 63||236,507 38|
|New York||435,028 35||860,283 24|
|New Jersey||108,871 83||218,252 77|
|Pennsylvania||365,479 16||733,941 09|
|Delaware||32,294 76||63,847 32|
|Maryland||152,327 64||306,708 81|
|Virginia||369,018 44||739,738 06|
|North Carolina||220,962 98||440,321 11|
|South Carolina||151,905 48||303,810 96|
|Georgia||94,936 49||189,872 98|
|Kentucky||168,928 76||341,316 24|
|Tennessee||111,039 59||221,567 44|
|Ohio||104,150 14||208,300 28|
|Louisiana||31,621 43||57,519 22|
|District of Columbia||20,605 86|
|Total||3,013,596 11||6,034,634 82|
Adams the Elder, his view of the conduct of England in 1785, i. 24;
of the war, i. 66.
Adams, John Q., resigns his seat in Massachusetts Legislature, i. 31;
appointed commissioner to negotiate a peace, i. 328.
Adams, sloop of war, cruise of, ii. 165;
burnt, ii. 106.
Adair, General, commands the Kentuckians at New Orleans, ii. 221
Allen, Col., i. 179.
Allen, Captain of the Argus, his death, i. 285.
Allen, Lieutenant H., i. 258.
Appling, Major, captures the British detachment sent against Lieutenant Woolsey, ii. 72.
Angus, Lieutenant, at Niagara, i. 113.
Argus chased by an English squadron, i. 155;
cruises in the English channel, i. 252;
captured by the Pelican, i. 254.
Armstrong, Secretary of War, i. 205;
plan of his campaign against Canada, i. 291;
his disgrace after the battle of Bladensburg, ii. 139.
Armstrong, General, Privateer, Capt. Reid, her desperate engagement in Fayal Bay, ii. 270.
Armstrong, Lieutenant, heroism of, at the ford of Enotochopeo, ii. 34.
Armistead, Major, his gallant defence of fort McHenry, ii. 143.
Backwoodsmen at Chippewa, ii,
Berlin and Milan decrees, i. 20;
revoked, i. 41.
Beaver Dams, battle of, i. 221.
Blockade, rules of the Coast, i. 259, ii. 115.
Barlow, Joel, Minister to France, i. 41.
Barney, Captain, commands flotilla in the Chesapeake, ii. 116;
at Bladensburg, ii. 125.
Bœstler, Col., i. 112;
defeated at Beaver Dams, i. 221.
Brock, General, i. 83;
his death, i. 102.
Broke, Commodore, chases the Constitution, i. 137;
captures the Chesapeake, i. 246.
Brown, General, at Ogdensburg, i. 116;
defends Sackett's Harbor, i. 215;
commands on Niagara frontier, ii. 75;
at Chippewa, ii. 77;
threatens English forts on the Niagara, ii. 88;
his victory at Lundy's Lane, ii. 91;
takes command of Fort Erie, ii. 107;
his successful sortie, ii. 109.
Brooks, Lieutenant, killed on Lake Erie, i. 279.
Brooke, Colonel, succeeds General Ross, ii. 143.
Bainbridge, Captain, remonstrates with the President against laying up the navy, i. 128;
takes command of the Constitution, i. 151;
captures the Java, i. 162;
his character, i. 167;
singular dream of, i. 167.
Battle of Queenstown, i. 101;
of Lake Erie, i. 279;
of the Thames, i. 289;
of Chrystler's field, i. 298;
of La Cole Mill, i. 313;
of Talladega, ii. 20;
of the Horse Shoe, ii. 27;
of Chippewa, ii. 77;
of Lundy's Lane, ii. 88;
of Bladenburg, ii. 124;
of Plattsburgh, ii. 155;
of New Orleans, ii. 215, 217, 221.
Bills in Congress, respecting minors, i. 225, ii. 187;
the navy, ii. 188.
Blakely, Captain, of the Wasp, ii. 167.
Boxer taken by the Enterprise, i. 250.
Boyd, General, i. 297.
Burrows, Lieutenant, commands the Enterprise, i. 248;
captures the Boxer, his death, i. 250.
Buffalo burned, i. 300.
Bowyer Fort, defence of, ii. 201.
Beasely, agent for American prisoners in England, ii. 286.
Biddle, Captain, of the Hornet, ii. 249;
narrow escape of, from a British man of war, ii. 253, 254.
Cambria, British frigate, boards an American merchantman in New York Bay, i. 19.
Canning, Prime Minister of Great Britain, i. 28.
Chesapeake and Leopard, i. 32;
Chesapeake captured, i. 236;
exultation in England, i. 247.
Campaign of 1813, plan of, i. 205;
Third into Canada, ii. 67.
Cabot, John, delegate to the Hartford Convention;
George elected President of, ii. 194.
Congress revokes the restrictive system, i. 40;
the Twelfth, state of parties, i. 42, 43;
debates in, i. 45, 50, 52;
second session, i. 224;
Debates on bonds of Merchants, &c., i. 225;
on army bill, i. 226;
acts passed, i. 243;
Thirteenth, i. 319;
leaders of, i. 320;
first session and acts of, i. 325;
second session, i. 327;
acts of, i. 345;
third session, ii. 174;
embarrassments of, ii. 188.
Campbell, Secretary of Treasury, report, ii. 175;
resigned, ii. 177.
Campbell, General, destroys Indian villages, i. 178.
Cass, Col., i. 74, 82, 85.
Calhoun, sketch of, i. 238;
speech on repeal of embargo, i. 342.
Castlereagh, i. 53, 54;
arrival at Ghent, ii. 180.
Chauncey, Commodore, commands on Lake Ontario, i. 207;
forces Sir James Yeo into Burlington, i. 293.
Chippewa, battle of, ii. 77.
Clay, elected speaker of Congress, i. 43;
speech in reply to Randolph, i. 46;
on embargo, i. 51;
against Quincy, and on impressment in the war, i. 231;
sketch of, i. 240;
asks for investigation of British outrages, i. 262;
appointed commissioner to negotiate a peace, i. 328.
Clay, Col., relieves Harrison, i. 198;
his command destroyed, i. 199;
commands Fort Meigs, i. 199.
Coffee, General, defeats Black Warrior, ii. 14;
victory of Tallushatchee, ii. 17;
helps Jackson quell a mutiny, ii. 27;
gallantry at Emuckfaw, ii. 32;
at Enotochopeo, ii. 34;
at the Horse Shoe, ii. 39;
at New Orleans, ii. 205, 209, 220.
Chrystie Col., at Queenstown, i. 101.
Chrystler's Field, battle of, i. 298.
Creek Indians, i. 194;
war with, ii. 13- 44.
Craney Island, defence of, ii. 262.
Constitution frigate sails from Annapolis, i. 136;
chased by an English squadron, i. 137;
captures the Guerriere, i. 146;
captures the Java, i. 162;
cruise of, in 1814-15, ii. 237;
captures the Cyane and Levant, ii. 238;
takes her prizes into St. Jago, ii. 240;
chased by an English fleet, ii. 242;
affection of the nation for her, ii. 243.
Commissioners appointed to negotiate a peace, i. 328;
their mortification at the arrival of the news of the burning of Washington, ii. 117;
unfavorable news from, and their meeting at Ghent, ii. 178;
terms of the English ministers, &c., ii. 178- 190.
Cochrane, Admiral, arrives in the Chesapeake, ii. 117;
bombards Fort McHenry, ii. 143.
Chandler, General, reinforces Winder in Canada, i. 218;
taken prisoner, i. 219.
Chittenden, Governor of Vermont, recalls a brigade, i. 321;
his apathy under the repeated calls of Macomb for aid, ii. 149.
Cockburn, i. 259;
plunders Hampton, i. 203;
his character, ii. 197;
conduct in the sack of Washington, ii. 128, 130.
Comet, privateer, Capt. Boyd, her engagement with three English merchantmen and a Portuguese brig of war, ii. 265.
Covington General, killed at Chrystler's field, i. 298.
Cheves, Langdon, appointed Speaker of the Thirteenth Congress, i. 329.
Carroll, Colonel, bravery at Talladega, ii. 20;
at New Orleans, ii. 220.
Chasseur, privateer, Capt. Boyle, description of;
her engagement with the English war schooner St. Lawrence, ii. 275.
Cruelty of British naval officers, ii. 278.
Croghan, Major, bravery at Sandusky, i. 201.
Connecticut, action of her Legislature against the bill for the enlistment of minors, ii. 187.
Clairborne, General, defeats the Indians under Weathersby, ii. 30.
Clairborne, Governor of Louisiana;
his support of Jackson, ii. 216.
Currency, deranged state of, in 1814, ii. 176.
Crowningshield, Secretary of navy, recommends a conscription of seamen, ii. 189.
Dearborn appointed Major General, i. 70;
enters into an armistice with Prevost, i. 99;
enters Canada, i. 117;
retires to winter quarters, i. 118;
review of his first campaign, i. 120;
second campaign, i. 205;
attacks Fort George, i. 213;
his inaction, i. 221;
his removal, i. 222.
Dartmoor prison, description of, ii. 280;
fourth of July in, ii. 282;
in 1814, ii. 289;
daring escape from, by a lieutenant, ii. 291.
Dacres, Captain, i. 148.
Dallas, Alexander, Secretary of the Treasury, ii. 177;
his scheme to relieve the government, ii. 178;
second report on state of Treasury, ii. 189.
Decatur commands the United States, captures the Macedonian, i. 152;
blockaded in New London, and challenges two English frigates, i. 311;
commands the President, ii. 245;
chased by an English fleet, ii. 246;
his capture, ii. 247.
Decatur privateer, Capt. Diron, captures a British war schooner, ii. 268.
Dolphin, privateer, captures two English vessels, ii. 264.
Downes, Lieutenant, commands Essex Junior, ii. 48;
assists the Marquesas tribes, ii. 50;
wounded by the Typees, ii. 51.
Drummond, General, at Lundy's Lane, ii. 89;
assaults Fort Erie, ii. 100.
Drummond, Lieut.-Col, killed at Fort Erie, ii. 104.
Dudley, Colonel, killed at Fort Meigs, i. 199.
Downie, Captain, commands the British fleet in Lake Champlain, ii. 152.
Dwight, Timothy, Secretary of Hartford Convention, ii. 194.
Embargo, its effect on the country, i. 26-29;
repealed, i. 32;
re-enacted, i. 50;
laid by Thirteenth Congress, i. 327;
repealed, i. 342.
Epervier, ii. 170.
Erie, Fort, assault of, by Gen. Drummond, ii. 103.
Erskine, English Minister, i. 36;
disavowal of his treaty, i. 38.
England, her conduct towards France and the world, i. 37;
astonishment at our naval victories;
her exultation over the capture of the Chesapeake;
her vast preparations for war in 1813, i. 259;
her rejoicing over the destruction of Washington compared with her condemnation of the acts of Napoleon, ii. 136, 137.
Enterprise, brig, i. 248;
captures the Boxer, i. 250;
takes the Privateer Mars;
chased by a frigate, i. 251.
Eppes succeeds Randolph in Congress, i. 319;
his report on state of finances, i. 322;
his currency scheme, ii. 127.
Essex captures the Alert, i. 143;
her cruise in the Pacific, ii. 65, 66;
is captured at Valparaiso, ii. 66.
Federalists, triumph of, in New England, i, 265;
leaders of in Massachusetts, their exultation over the failure of Wilkinson's campaign, i. 301;
hostility of, i. 326.
Federalists and Democrats, i. 59-65.
Floyd, General, defeats the Indians at Autossee, ii. 31;
victorious over the Creeks, ii. 35.
Frederickton destroyed, i. 260.
Forsyth, Colonel, i. 116;
at York, i. 208.
Forsyth, John, speech of, in Thirteenth Congress, i. 337.
Fort George captured by the Americans, i. 213.
Gamble, Lieutenant, ii.
Gallatin opposes the employment of the navy, i. 130;
appointed commissioner to negotiate a treaty, i. 328;
letter to government advising war, ii. 181.
Gaines, General, takes command of the army stationed at Fort Erie, ii. 100;
repels Drummond, ii. 103;
succeeds Jackson at New Orleans, ii. 228.
Generosity of Americans, i. 203.
Georgetown destroyed, i. 260.
Globe privateer, her action with two brigs, ii. 267.
Gordon, Captain, gallant adherence to Jackson, ii. 26.
Guerriere captured by the Constitution, i. 148;
blown up, i. 149.
Gunnery, superiority of American, i. 175.
Harmar, General, i. 17.
Hammond, British minister in 1791, i. 25.
Harrington, Captain, ii. 172.
Harrison, General, supersedes Hull, i. 95;
at Fort Deposit and Fort Defiance, i. 96;
plans a winter campaign, i. 177;
at Fort Meigs, i. 196;
pursues Proctor, i. 286;
defeats him, i. 289.
Hartford Convention, History of, ii. 191- 200;
delegates to Washington, ii. 231.
Hall, Judge, fines General Jackson, ii. 227.
Henry, John, his character and career, i. 49.
Hindman, Major, his gallantry at Lundy's Lane, ii. 94.
Hull, General, his campaign, i. 71;
tried by court-martial, i. 87;
character, i. 88.
Hull, Captain, commands the Constitution: his instructions, i. 136;
chased by an English squadron, i. 138;
captures the Guerriere, i. 139;
effect of the victory, i. 151.
Hopkins, General, i. 95.
Hardy, Commodore, remonstrates against the use of torpedos, i. 265.
Hamilton, Secretary of the navy, i. 68.
Hamilton, Lieutenant, is sent with the colors of the Macedonian to Washington.
Hampton plundered, i. 263.
Hampton, General, commands at Plattsburgh, i. 292;
advances into Canada, i. 294;
retreats, i. 295;
refuses to join Wilkinson, i. 299;
goes into winter quarters at Plattsburgh, i. 300;
strictures on, i. 302.
Hornet captures the Peacock, i. 170;
takes the Penguin, ii. 249;
chased by an English man of war, ii. 252.
Holmes, Captain, his expedition into Canada, i. 315;
killed at Mackinaw, ii. 73.
Hillyar, Captain, captures the Essex, ii. 61.
Henderson, Colonel, killed at New Orleans, ii. 216.
Impressment in 1796, i. 18;
cause of war, i. 19.
Indians, number in the Western States in 1812, and the hostility, i. 190;
number of Choctaws, Chickesaws and Creeks, i. 193.
Izard, General, defeated under General Hampton, i. 295;
succeeds Wilkinson, ii. 106.
Jay, treaty of, in 1796, i. 26.
Jefferson, proclamation against English vessels, i. 33.
Jackson, English Minister in place of Erskine, i. 39;
recalled, i. 40.
Jackson, General, ordered to Natchez, ii. 12;
made Major-General of the Tennessee Militia, ii. 12;
marches to Huntsville, ii. 15;
dispatches General Coffee against Black Warrior's town, ii. 17;
his conduct of the Creek war, ii. 12- 44;
appointed Major-General, ii. 199;
seizes Pensacola, ii. 202;
marches to New Orleans, ii. 203;
his preparations for the defence of the place, ii. 204;
attacks the British, ii. 209, 210;
his final victory, ii. 221;
fined by Judge Hall, ii. 227;
review of his conduct, ii. 228.
Jessup, Colonel at Chippewa, ii. 80;
his heroism at Lundy's Lane, ii. 86- 92;
watches the Hartford Convention, ii. 194.
Johnson, Colonel and Lieut.-Colonel, at battle of Thames, i. 288.
Jones, Captain of the Wasp, i. 155;
captures the Frolic, i. 156.
Jones, Lieutenant, his action with the British gun-boats on Lake Borgne, ii. 207.
King, Captain, at Niagara, i. 112.
Key, Francis, composes "The Star spangled Banner," while witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry, ii. 145.
Kemp privateer captures a fleet of six vessels, ii. 270.
King, Charles appointed commissioner to investigate the massacre of prisoners in Dartmoor, ii. 297.
Lawrence, Captain, sails under Rodgers, i. 133;
challenges the Bonne Citoyenne, i. 160;
captures the Peacock, i. 170;
takes command of the Chesapeake, i. 244;
engages the Shannon, i. 245;
his death, i 246.
Lawrence, Major, his defence of Fort Bowyer, ii. 201
Leavenworth, Major, gallantry at Chippewa, ii. 80;
gallantry at Lundy's Lane, ii. 87.
Lewis, Colonel, defeats the British at Frenchtown, i. 179;
captured, i. 181.
Lewistown burned, i. 306.
Lowndes, sketch of, i. 239.
Madison, President, character of, i. 34, 35;
war messages, i. 55;
his conduct at the invasion of Washington, ii. 118- 123;
his flight, ii. 129;
message to Congress, Sept. 1814, ii. 177;
message to Congress, accompanying English Protocol from Ghent, ii. 182.
Madison, Mrs., her heroism at the burning of Washington, ii. 129;
refused admittance to a tavern, ii. 133.
Madison, Major, his bravery at Frenchtown, i. 182.
Madison Island, ii. 49.
Madison sloop of war, i. 207.
Marquesas Island, rendezvous of Porter, ii. 49.
Mackinaw taken by the English, i. 77;
expedition against, ii. 72.
Macomb, General, at Plattsburgh, ii. 148;
asks Governor Chittenden for aid, ii. 149;
defeats the British, ii. 155.
Massachusetts Legislature, action of, against the war, i. 268;
against the bill for the enlistment of minors, ii. 187;
raises an army to be under its own control, ii. 192.
Massacre at Frenchtown, i. 189;
effect of in Kentucky, i. 185;
at Fort Mimms, i. 196.
McLure, General, at Fort George, i. 303;
burns Newark, i. 304;
his proclamation and neglect to protect Fort Niagara, i. 304, 305.
Meigs, Fort of, i. 197;
invested by Proctor, i. 197.
Manners, Captain, death of, ii. 167.
Mitchell's speech in Congress, i. 52.
Mimm's Fort, i. 196.
Mackinaw Fort surrendered, i. 77.
Miller, Colonel, defeats British at Brownstown;
joins Harrison, i. 199;
heroic answer at Lundy's Lane, ii. 89, 90.
Mitchell, Colonel, gallant defence of Oswego, ii. 70.
McArthur, Colonel, i. 85;
his expedition into Canada, ii. 163.
McNeill, Major, bravery at Chippewa, ii. 78;
at Lundy's Lane, ii. 86.
McHenry, Fort of, ii. 142.
Madonough, Commodore, in Plattsburgh bay, ii. 152;
defeats the British squadron, ii. 155.
Macedonian, ship, taken by the United States, i. 153.
Montgomery, Major, killed at the battle of the Horse Shoe, ii. 38.
Monroe, Secretary of State, his conduct at Bladensburgh, ii. 123.
Morgan, Major, checks the enemy at Black Rock, ii. 101.
Morgan, General, at New Orleans, ii. 220.
Morris, Lieutenant, wounded in taking the Guerriere, i. 147;
commands the Adams sloop of war, ii. 165.
Nash, Captain, base treatment of Commodore Porter, ii.
Non-Intercourse law, i. 32.
Nautilus schooner captured, i. 138.
Napoleon, i. 85, 86, 258.
Navy, strength of, i. 125;
neglect of, i. 126;
saved by Captains Bainbridge and Stewart, i. 128;
increase of, i. 176;
history of, in 1814, ii. 165;
bill for increase of, ii. 188;
review of, ii. 256. 257.
Naval victories, effect of, at home and abroad, i. 171.
Naval force in 1814, i. 346.
Neufchatel privateer beats off the crew of the Endymion, ii. 269.
Nonsuch privateer engages two English vessels, ii. 264.
New England, her hostility to war, i. 58, ii. 191;
exempted from blockade, i. 259.
New Hampshire Legislature abolishes all the courts of the State, i. 325.
New Orleans, description of, ii. 206;
feelings of the inhabitants, ii. 207.
Niagara Fort surprised, i. 304.
Nicholson, Lieutenant, escapes an English frigate, ii. 173.
Orders in Council, British, i. 20;
repealed, i. 342;
effect of, in this country, i. 27-92.
Ogdensburg, attack of, i. 117.
Oneida sloop, i. 206.
Ontario, Lake, description of, i. 206;
naval superiority, i. 207;
cost of vessels in, i. 258.
Oswego attacked by Sir James Yeo, ii. 69.
Packenham, Sir Edward, attacks the lines at New Orleans, ii.
Parker, Sir Peter, killed, ii. 141.
Peacock, Captain Harrington, captures the Epervier, ii. 172;
chased by an English man of war, ii. 252.
Perry on Lake Erie, i. 271, 273, 274;
sets sail, i. 275;
engages the enemy, i. 278;
conduct after the battle, i. 283;
at the battle of the Thames, i. 287.
President frigate, affair with the Little Belt, i. 42;
puts to sea, i. 132;
chases the Belvidere, i. 134;
beats the Endymion, and finally captured by an English fleet, ii. 247.
Pinckney, American Minister to England, i. 41;
commands Baltimore regiment at Bladensburg, ii. 118- 124.
Pike, Colonel, incursion into Canada, i. 117;
captures York, i. 208;
his death, i. 210.
Pickering, Timothy, description of, his speech against loan bill of Thirteenth Congress, i. 335.
Pitkin, i. 335.
Plattsburg, description of, ii. 149;
battle of, ii. 155.
Peace, tidings of, effect on the nation, ii. 229- 230.
Porter, General, i. 114;
at Chippewa, ii. 77;
his gallantry and narrow escape at Fort Erie, ii. 109- 111.
Porter, Captain, commands the Essex;
capture of the Alert, i. 143;
his cruise in the Pacific, ii. 45- 66;
his daring escape and reception in New York, ii. 65, 66.
Proctor, Colonel, advances against Frenchtown, i. 180;
defeats the Americans, i. 181;
leaves the prisoners to be massacred, i. 182;
his character, i. 185;
invests Fort Meigs, i. 197;
abandons the siege, i. 199;
defeated at Sandusky, i. 201;
retreats from Malden, i. 286;
defeated at the Thames, i. 289.
Prescot, Governor-general of Canada, i. 99;
letter to Brooke, i. 121;
attacks Sackett's Harbor, i. 215;
advances against Plattsburgh, ii. 148;
his retreat, ii. 161.
Protocol, English, at Ghent, ii. 181;
transmitted to Congress, ii. 182;
its effect on the nation, ii. 183;
its reception in England, ii.
Privateering, account of, ii. 257;
defence of, ii. 261;
acts of Congress respecting, ii. 262, 263.
Privateers, characteristic names of, ii. 263;
superiority to English, ii. 277;
character of their commanders, ii. 277.
Prisoners, American, treatment of, in England, ii. 280;
sufferings in Dartmoor prison, ii. 281- 285;
assailed by French prisoners, ii. 283;
denounce American agent for prisoners, ii. 287;
neglected by government, ii. 287;
their employments, ii. 288;
number of, ii. 292;
massacre of, ii. 294.
Queenstown, battle of, i. 101.
Quincy, Josiah, i. 225;
speech against army bill, i. 227.
Revolution, French, i. 17.
Rose, English Minister, i. 33.
Rattlesnake, brig, captured, i. 252.
Randolph, speech in Congress, i. 45-51;
sketch of, i. 237;
succeeded by Eppes, i. 319.
Revenue, i. 292.
Retaliation acts, i. 307.
Rodgers, Commodore, his squadron at New York, i. 132;
his first cruise, i. 134;
attacks the Belvidere, i. 137;
second cruise, i. 151.
Riall, British General at Chippewa, ii. 76;
captured by Jessup at Lundy's Lane, ii. 86.
Russell, John, American Chargé to England, i. 50;
despatch from, i. 53.
Ripley, Colonel, at Lundy's Lane, ii. 88;
his strange conduct after the battle, ii. 98;
surrenders his command to General Gaines, ii. 100;
wounded at Fort Erie, ii. 109.
Ross, General, marches on Washington, ii. 119- 127;
fires the capitol, ii. 127;
his hasty retreat, ii. 133;
killed in the advance on Baltimore, ii. 143.
St. Clair, General, cause of his defeat, i. 17.
Smythe, General, commands on the Niagara frontier, i. 71;
proclamation, i. 111;
failure and disgrace, i. 112-114;
review of his campaign, i. 119.
Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, i. 95;
commands Kentucky volunteers under General Harrison, i. 287.
Sandusky, Fort, defence of, i. 201.
Scott, Lieut.-Colonel, at Queenstown, i. 103;
taken prisoner, i. 108-110;
captures Fort George, i. 213;
joins Wilkinson, i. 299;
introduces French system of tactics into camp of instruction at Buffalo;
chases the Marquis of Tweedsdale, ii. 76;
advances on Lundy's Lane, ii. 84;
wounded, ii. 94;
his journey to Baltimore and reception at Princeton, ii. 97- 98.
Sackett's Harbor, naval depôt at, i. 207;
attack of, i. 215.
Shortland, Captain, superintendent of Dartmoor prison, ii. 286;
massacres American prisoners, ii. 293.
Sheaffe, General, at Queenstown, i. 105.
Sinclair, Captain, commands the expedition against Mackinaw, ii. 73.
Stewart, Captain, remonstrates with the President against laying up the navy, i. 128;
commands the Constitution, ii. 235;
captures the Cyane and Levant, i. 240.
Strong elected governor of Massachusetts, i. 265.
Stricker, General, defence at North Point, ii. 142.
Talledega Fort, ii.
Taylor, Captain, defence of Fort Harrison, i. 95.
Tax, direct, of Thirteenth Congress, i. 325;
on carriages, distilled spirits, auction duties, &c., ii. 187.
Towson, Captain of artillery, at Chippewa, ii. 79.
Treaty of 1783, i. 23;
of Pinckney and Monroe rejected by Jefferson, i. 27;
first Treaty of Peace at Ghent, its terms and how received, ii. 232, 233;
review of, ii. 234.
Transportation, cost of, war materials to Sackett's Harbor, i. 257.
Tecumseh, i. 80;
his plan for restoring the Indians to their ancient rights;
his mission south, and character and eloquence, i. 191-193;
joins Proctor, i. 197;
killed, i. 290.
Torpedos, employment of, to destroy ships, i. 266.
Tompkins, Governor, privateer. Captain Boyle, her narrow escape from an English frigate, ii. 266.
Treasury, state of, in May, 1813, i. 320;
state of during the third session of the Thirteenth Congress; notes, reduced value of, ii. 187;
increased embarrassments of, ii. 189.
Tupper, General, defeated at the Rapids, i. 178.
Tuscarora village destroyed by the British, i. 306.
Truce, flag of, arrived in Annapolis, i. 328.
Typees, hostility to Commodore Porter, ii. 50, 51;
description of their country, ii. 52;
their towns destroyed, ii. 54.
Van Rensselaer, General, i. 71-100;
resigns his command, i. 101.
Van Rensselaer, Colonel, invades Canada, and wounded, i. 100;
character of, i. 118.
Van Horne, Major, defeat of, i. 79.
Vincent, General, i. 214;
captures Generals Chandler and Hinder, i. 219.
Vermont, her patriotism when Plattsburg was attacked, ii. 150.
Volunteers, hardships of, i. 188.
Wayne, General, i. 17.
Washington's opinion of British aggressions, i. 48;
city of, threatened by the British, ii. 117;
burned, ii. 128;
bad policy of, ii. 140.
War, declaration of, i. 56;
how received, i. 58;
unprepared state of the country for, ii. 67- 69.
Ward, Artemus, speech of, against bill for military establishments passed in Thirteenth Congress, i. 339.
Wadsworth, General, at Queenstown, i. 102.
Winchester, General, his march to the Rapids, i. 178;
marches to Frenchtown, i. 179;
taken prisoner, i. 181.
Winder, Colonel, i. 114;
General, pursues Vincent, i. 219;
surprised and captured by him, i. 219;
commands the troops around Washington, ii. 118.
Williams' speech in Congress, i. 225, 226.
Wasp, takes the Frolic, i. 155;
captured by the Poictiers, i. 159;
captures the Reindeer, ii. 167;
sinks the Avon, ii. 169;
her mysterious fate, ii. 170.
White, General, destroys the Hillabee towns, ii. 22.
West Point Academy, i. 124.
Webster, Daniel, elected to Congress, i. 320;
first speech, i. 323;
speech against the army bill, i. 330;
sketch of, i. 333;
speech on repeal of embargo act i. 345;
contest between him and Calhoun, i. 344.
Woodward, Judge, of Michigan, his letter to Proctor on the massacre at River Raisin, i. 184.
Wilkinson, General, seizes Fort Condé, i. 199;
takes charge of northern army, i. 292;
his progress down the St. Lawrence, i. 296-299;
goes into winter quarters at French Mills, i. 300;
review of his campaign, i. 302;
plans a winter campaign, i. 311;
attacks La Cole Mill, i. 312.
Woolsey, Lieutenant, i. 206;
transports war and ship materials from Oswego to Sackett's Harbor, ii. 70- 72.
Wooster, Rev., volunteers with his flock to aid General Macomb, ii. 151.
Yarnell, Lieutenant, bravery in battle of Lake Erie, i. 279.
York captured by Americans, i. 208.
Yeo, Sir James, attacks Sackett's Harbor, i. 215;
attacks Oswego, ii. 69;
sends a detachment against Woolsey, ii. 71;
raises the blockade of Sackett's Harbor, ii. 72.
Youngstown burned, i. 301.
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We counsel especially the young women of our country to lay aside their novels, at least until they shall have read "The Women of the Revolution." Those of them who have souls will find it replete with interest and instruction.—N. Y. Tribune.
The narratives are brief, spirited, and profoundly interesting; especially as showing how the toils, the privations and dangers of the war, made themselves felt, perhaps even more keenly, in the homes than on the battle-fields of the Revolutionary champions.—N. Y. Commercial.
The authoress has succeeded in collecting a large amount of new and important facts, illustrative of the heroism evinced in action and suffering, by the women who bore their part in the Revolution, which have no place in the political histories of the time, and have been derived almost entirely from private sources.—N. Y. Journal of Commerce.
The rich store of information contained in these volumes, has been procured at the cost of much and laborious research, from the surviving relatives of the heroines, scattered through various parts of the Union. Personal recollections have been recorded, family papers and letters examined, and the work thus made a faithful and vivid exhibition of the domestic scenes of the war.—Charleston Inquirer.
The conception of the book is at once beautiful and patriotic, and its execution is worthy of its subject, and worthy of the reputation of its gifted authoress—Albany Atlas.
These sketches are of thrilling interest, as we gather from a hasty glance at their pages. The narrative is clear, concise, and very agreeably written.—N. B. Mercury.
BRACE'S HUNGARY IN 1851: With an Experience of the Austrian Police. By Charles Loring Brace. (Beautifully illustrated, with a map of Hungary).
"Upon the particular field of Hungary, this is by far the most complete and reliable work in the language; a work that all should read who would understand the institutions, the character, and the spirit of a people who just now have so urgent a claim on our sympathy."—N. Y. Independent.
"There is probably not a work within the reach of the English scholar that can afford him such a satisfactory view of Hungary as it now is, as this work of Mr. Brace."—Christian Intelligencer.
"It will not disappoint public expectation. It bears the strongest evidence of being most reliable in its descriptions and facts."—Boston Journal.
"We have seldom taken in hand a book which bears the reader along with an interest so intense and sustained."—Watchman and Reflector.
"It is a graphic picture of the people and institutions of Hungary at the present moment by one who writes what he saw and heard, and who was well qualified co judge."—Troy Daily Post.
"He mingled much in the social life of every class of the Hungarian people, and there can be no question that he has presented a faithful picture of the condition, manners, customs, and feelings of the Magyars."—Portland Transcript.
"The best and most reliable work that we possess, in regard to Hungary as it now is, and the only one written from personal observation."—Phil. Evening Bulletin.
"It tells us precisely what the mass of readers wish to know in regard to the condition of Hungary since the Revolution. Having travelled over large portions of the country on foot, and mingling freely with the inhabitants in their houses, the author relates his various experiences, many of which are sufficiently strange to figure in a romance."—N. Y. Tribune.
"This book is exceedingly entertaining. These are clear, unambitious narratives, sound views, and abundant information. We get a perspicuous view of the people, life, and character of the country, and learn more of the real condition of things than we could elsewhere obtain."—N. Y. Evangelist.
"Its narrative is fluent and graceful, and gives the most vivid and complete, and the most faithful picture of Hungary ever presented to American readers."—Courier and Inquirer.
"For graphic delineation, and extent of knowledge of the subject described, Mr. Brace has no equal, at least in print."—The Columbian and Far West.
"We have read it carefully, and have no hesitation in saying that it presents a complete idea of Hungary and her people as they were and are. Mr. Brace has the happy and rare faculty of making the reader see what he saw, and feel what he felt."—The Eclectic.
"He has succeeded in gathering the fullest and most satisfactory amount of information in regard to Hungary that we have seen. His description of the Hungarian Church and the religious character of the people are especially interesting, and the whole volume is a valuable addition to our knowledge of the interior of Europe."—Watchman and Observer.
"This excellent work is not one of proesy details and dry statistics, but is composed of the most familiar and intimate glimpses of Hungarian life, written in the most graceful style."—Worcester Spy.
RURAL HOMES; Or, SKETCHES OF HOUSES suited to American Country Life. With over 70 Original Plans, Designs, &c. By Gervase Wheeler. 1 vol. 12mo., Price, $1.25.
It commences with the first foot-tread upon the spot chosen for the house; details the considerations that should weigh in selecting the site; gives models of buildings differing in character, extent, and cost; shows how to harmonize the building with the surrounding scenery; teaches now healthfully to warm and ventilate; assists in selecting furniture and the innumerable articles of utility and ornament used in constructing and finishing, and concludes with final practical directions, giving useful limits as to drawing up written descriptions, specifications and contracts.
"In this neat and tasteful volume, Mr. Wheeler has condensed the results of an accomplished training in his art, and the liberal professional practice of it.
"We can confidently recommend this elaborate production to the attention of gentlemen who are about building or renovating their country houses, to professional architects, and to all readers of discrimination, who wish to know what is truly eloquent in this beautiful art, and to cultivate a taste worthy to cope with "judgment of wisest censure."
"The cost of such establishments is carefully considered, no less than the comforts they should afford, the display they can (honestly) pretend to, and all the adjuncts that go to complete the ideal of a convenient and elegant mansion."—N. Y. Mirror.
"It is extremely practical, containing such simple and comprehensive directions for all wishing at any time to build, being in fact the sum of the author's study and experience as an architect for many years."—Albany Spectator.
"Mr. Wheeler's remarks convey much practical and useful information, evince good taste and a proper appreciation of the beautiful, and no one should build a rural house without first hearing what he has to recommend."—Philadelphia Presbyterian.
"Important in its subject, careful and ample in its details, and charmingly attractive in its style. It gives all the information that would be desired as to the selection of sites—the choice of appropriate styles, the particulars of plans, materials, fences, gateways, furniture, warming, ventilation, specifications, contracts, &c., concluding with a chapter on the intellectual and moral effect of rural architecture."—Hartford Religious Herald.
"A book very much needed, for it teaches people how to build comfortable, sensible, beautiful country houses. Its conformity to common sense, as well as to the sense of beauty, cannot be too much commended."—N. Y. Courier & Enquirer.
"No person can read this book without gaining much useful knowledge, and it will be a great aid to those who intend to build houses for their own use. It is scientific without being so interlarded with technical terms as to confuse the reader, and contains all the information necessary to build a house from the cellar to the ridge pole. It is a parlor book, or a book for the workshop, and will be valuable in either place."—Buffalo Commercial.
"This work should be in the hands of every one who contemplates building for himself a home. It is filled with beautifully executed elevations and plans of country houses from the most unpretending cottage to the villa. Its contents are simple and comprehensive, embracing every variety of house usually needed."—Lowell Courier.
"To all who desire a delightful rural retreat of "lively cottagely" of getting a fair equivalent of comfort and tastefulness, for a moderate outlay, we commend the Rural Homes of Mr. Wheeler."—N. Y. Evening Post.
N. P. WILLIS'S SELECT WORKS, IN UNIFORM 12MO., VOLS.
RURAL LETTERS, AND OTHER RECORDS OF THOUGHTS AT LEISURE, embracing Letters from under a Bridge, Open Air Musings in the City, "Invalid Ramble in Germany," "Letters from Watering Places," &c., &c. 1 vol. Fourth Edition.
"There is scarcely a page in it in which the reader will not remember, and turn to again with a fresh sense of delight. It bears the imprint of nature in her purest and most joyous forms, and under her most cheering and inspiring influences."—N. Y. Tribune.
"If we would show how a modern could write with the ease of Cowley, most gentle lover of nature's gardens, and their fitting accessories from life, we would offer this volume as the best proof that the secret has not yet died out."—Literary World.
PEOPLE I HAVE MET, or Pictures of Society and People of Mark—drawn under a thin veil of fiction. By N. P. Willis. 1 vol., 12mo., Third Edition.
"It is a collection of twenty or more of the stories which have blossomed out from the summer soil of the author's thoughts within the last few years. Each word in some of them the author seems to have picked as daintily, for its richness or grace, or its fine fitness to his purpose, as if a humming-bird were picking upon his quivering wing the flower whose sweets he would lovingly rifle, or a belle were culling the stones for her bridal necklace."—N. Y. Independent.
"The book embraces a great variety of personal and social sketches in the Old World, and concludes with some thrilling reminiscences of distinguished ladies, including the Belles of New York, etc."—The Republic.
LIFE HERE AND THERE, or Sketches of Society and Adventure at far-apart times and places. By N. P. Willis. 1 vol., 12mo.
"This very agreeable volume consists of sketches of life and adventure, all of them, the author assures us, having a foundation strictly historical, and to a great extent autobiographical. Such of these sketches as we have read, are in Mr. Willis's happiest vein—a vein, by the way, in which he is unsurpassed."—Sartain's Magazine.
"Few readers who take up this pleasant volume will lay it aside until they have perused every line of its contents."—Jersey Journal.
HURRYGRAPHS, or Sketches of Scenery, Celebrities, and Society, taken from Life By N. P. Willis. 1 vol., 12mo., Third Edition.
"Some of the best specimens of Mr. Willis's prose, we think, are herein contained."—N. Y. Evangelist.
"In the present volume, which is filled with all sorts of enticements, we prefer the descriptions of nature to the sketches of character, and the dusty road-side grows delightful under the touches of Willis's blossoming-dropping pen; and when we come to the mountain and lake, it is like revelling in all the fragrant odors of Paradise."—Boston Atlas.
LECTURES ON ART—AND POEMS. By Washington Allston. Edited by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Contents—Lectures on Art, pages 3-167—Aphorisms, sentences written by Mr. Allston on the walls of his Studio, pages 167-179—The Hypochondriac, pages 179-199—Poems, pages 199-317. 1 vol. 12mo., Price, $1.25.
"There is a store of intellectual wealth in this handsome volume. It is a book of thought. Its contents are the rich and tasteful productions of the scholar and artist, who had mind to perceive and skill to portray much that is unseen by ordinary minds, as well as intelligence and power to exhibit whatever is grand and beautiful both in the physical and moral world."—Christian Observer.
"These are the records of one of the purest spirits and most exalted geniuses of which this country can boast. The intense love of the beautiful, the purity, grace and gentleness which made him incomparably the finest artist of the age, lend their charm and their power to these productions of his pen. *** There are in his poems feeling, delicacy, taste, and the keenest sense of harmony which render them faultless."—N. Y. Evangelist.
"As a writer we know of no one who in his writings has exhibited such an appreciation of what constitutes beauty in art, correctness in form, or the true principles of composition."—Providence Journal.
"We commend them to the intellectual and the thoughtful, for we know that no one can read them without being wiser, and we believe the better."—Albany State Register.
"The production of a most ethereal spirit instinctively awake to all the harmonies of creation."—Albany Argus.
"The exquisitely pure and lofty character of the author of these lectures and poetic fragments is well expressed in them. It gave their structure a freshness and calmness, and their tone a purity that remain to charm us, and that are equally admirable and delightful."—The Independent.
"His lectures possess great attractions for every one aiming at cultivation of mind and refinement of taste, while his poems, which elicited so high praise when published singly, are sure to receive it when as now embodied in a more classic form."—Natchez Courier.
"The lovers of American literature and art will rejoice in the possession of these matured fruits of the genius which seemed alike skilled in the use of the pen and pencil."—Newark Daily Advertiser.
POEMS AND PROSE WRITINGS. By Richard Henry Dana. 2 vols. 12mo., Price, $2.50.
"Mr. Dana's writings are addressed to readers of thought, sensibility and experience. By tenderness, by force, in purity, the poet paints the world, treading in safety the dizziest verge of passion, through all things, honorable to all men; the just style resolving all perplexities, a rich instruction and solace in these volumes to the young and old who are to come hereafter."—Literary World.
"Mr. Dana is evidently a close observer of nature, and therefore his thoughts are original and fresh."—True Democrat.
"In addition to the Poems and Prose Writings included in the former edition of his works, they contain some short, practical pieces, and a number of reviews and essays contributed to different periodicals, some of them as much as thirty years since, and now republished for the first time—as the expression of the inmost soul, these writings bear a strong stamp of originality."—N. Y. Tribune.
1: An incident occurred after the battle, which presented in striking contrast the two opposite natures of Jackson. An Indian warrior, severely wounded, was brought to him, whom he placed at once in the hands of the surgeon. While under the operation, the bold, athletic warrior looked up, and asked Jackson in broken English, "Cure 'im, kill 'im again?" The latter replied, "No; on the contrary, he should be well taken care of." He recovered, and Jackson pleased with his noble bearing, sent him to his own house in Tennessee, and afterwards had him taught a trade in Nashville, where he eventually married and settled down in business. When that terrible ferocity, which took entire possession of this strange, indomitable man in battle, subsided away, the most gentle and tender emotions usurped its place. The tiger and the lamb united in his single person.
2: The Peruvian Government supposed that Spain, as the ally of England, would make common cause with her on this continent, and so to be beforehand, fitted out cruisers against our commerce in the Pacific.
3: This was Stephen Decatur M'Knight. Lieut. Wilmer, after fighting gallantly, was knocked overboard and drowned. The other officers were badly wounded, and one, Lieut. Cowell, died soon after.
4: The British were 2100 strong. American troops actually engaged, 1900.
British killed 138. Wounded and missing 365. Americans killed 68. Wounded and missing 267.
5: Vide Ingersoll, vol. II, page 189.
6: The scene and the occasion which called forth this beautiful ode, have helped to make it a national one. It requires but little imagination to conceive the intense and thrilling anxiety with which a true patriot would look for the first gray streak of morning, to see if the flag of his country was still flying, while the heart involuntarily asks the question—
"O, say, can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming—
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On that shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses;
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines in the stream?
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
7: Senator Smith, who had been appointed general, commanded the 10,000 militia who manned the works.
8: She had been built to take the place of the vessel captured by the Poictiers, after she had taken the Frolic. She did not disgrace the name and character she bore.
9: Vide Cooper.
10: One "Squib" represented King George as walking his lawn one morning, anxiously waiting to hear the success of this squadron, which he had sent out expressly to capture the Ironsides, when the three captains of the vessels that chased her presented themselves. King George, in his peculiar manner, asks:—
"with sparkling eyes,
'Hey! hey! what news? what news? hey! hey! he cries—
His Majesty to hear, was all agog;
When Stuart—Collins—Kerr—with crimsoned face
Thus spake—'We gave the Constitution chase,
And, oh! great sire, we lost her in a fog!'
"'Fog! fog! what fog? hey! Stuart, what fog? say!
So then the foe escaped you, Stuart? hey!'
'Yes, please your Majesty, and hard our fate'—
'But why not, Stuart, different courses steer?'
Stuart replied, (impute it not to fear,)
'We thought it prudent not to separate.'"
11: Mr. Alison asserts that the President was completely beaten before the arrival of the other vessels.
12: A most daring and successful attempt was made by one of the lieutenants of the privateer Rattlesnake. Having bribed one of the sentinels with six guineas, to give him the countersign, he let himself down with a rope, eighty feet, to the ground, and was just about to pass the gate, when the villain who had received the six guineas, informed against him. Enraged at the act, the lieutenant sprung on him with his dagger, but was seized and bound before he could plunge it in his heart. Arraigned before Capt. Shortland, he was asked how he obtained the countersign. Lieutenant G—— replied, that if the sentinel had behaved honorably to him, death itself could not have wrested his name from him, for it was the character of Americans always to keep their engagements; but, as he had deceived him, he should suffer for it. The culprit's name was then given, and he received three hundred lashes. Shortland then told the lieutenant he was a brave man, and pledged his honor, if he would not again attempt to escape, he would procure his exchange. The latter replied, that he had seen too much of the honor of British officers, ever to take their word, and he should escape that very night. The keeper assured him the attempt would be fatal, as he should double the sentinels, and if he made it he would most certainly be shot. Lieutenant G—— said he did not care—death was preferable to that detestable prison. Having obtained the countersign again, for three guineas, he that very night lowered himself down, and though challenged seventeen times, passed safely out. Keeping the fields he made his way to the sea-coast, where he found a boat eighteen feet long, with one oar in it. In this frail vessel, without provision or water, he determined to put to sea, and cross the channel, one hundred miles, to France. Sculling it till he got off shore, he converted his umbrella and clothes into a sail, and stood boldly away. When about half way over, he discovered a brig-of-war. The sea was running high at the time, but he immediately took down the sail, and laid himself flat in the boat, to avoid being seen. After the brig had passed him, he again hoisted sail, and after a passage of thirty-six hours, landed safely in France.
Obvious printer's errors have been corrected. Hyphenation and accentuation have been standardised, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.
Some dates printed in the original book are most probably wrong, but have been left as it is (e.g. July 14, page 163).
Some entries in the index do not have any page number.
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