Skip to main content

Full text of "Lives of distinguished American naval officers"

See other formats










VOL. I. 







Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1845, by 

In the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 



THESE brief biographies have been entitled 
" Sketches of Naval Men" in preference to adopting 
a more ambitious term, for the two following reasons : 
In the first place, the narratives are confined princi 
pally to public events ; while, in the second, it may 
be questioned if any naval man of this country has, 
as yet, become so far identified with history as to 
render his personal qualities and private life of suffi 
cient national interest to be properly laid before the 
world. There may, possibly, be one or two ex 
ceptions to this rule, but, as a whole, the country 
has little to do with the careers of this class of its 
servants beyond their public services. Whenever 
it has been in our power, we have included in 
these sketches, notwithstanding, such leading per 
sonal facts and traits as may answer the purpose of 



giving to our labours the general characters of 

These sketches originally appeared in Graham s 
Magazine, a periodical for which they were ex 
pressly written. The present opportunity for en 
larging, correcting, and, it is hoped, for improving 
them, has not been neglected. Many errors of the 
press, and some mistakes in facts, have been at 
tended to, while new matter is occasionally intro 
duced, as authentic materials have been obtained, 
through the attention that has been drawn to the 
subject by means of the former publication. In 
the cases of Paul Jones and Oliver Hazard Perry, 
in particular, the first appearance of the respective 
sketches brought into our hands a considerable 
amount of additional documents that have thrown 
new light on the several careers of those two offi 
cers. In the case of Paul Jones, it is true that our 
testimony is derived from relatives, and to a certain 
point is to be received with caution ; all experience 
proving that the opinions of near friends are not to 
be accepted, in such cases, as guides for the world. 
Proof is proof, nevertheless, when all its condition, 
are fulfilled, let it come from what quarter it may. 

The appearance of the original sketch on Perry 
was the cause of very ample documents and proofs 


having been sent to us by a perfectly impartial 
witness. These prpofs go to show that we had 
fallen into some errors. The errors alluded to are 
of no great moment, however, as they relate to 
public events ; our account of the battle of Lake 
Erie, being, in all essentials, fully sustained by the 
evidence of this new witness. 

These sketches will be continued, certainly so 
far as to include all that may have been previously 
published in Graham, and possibly still farther. 

Every writer has his own scale of greatness and 
his own degrees of eulogium. It has been our aim 
to do justice%) the different subjects as they have 
been presented to us, while we have endeavoured 
to avoid the exaggeration that, in some measure, 
may be said to have corrupted the public taste, 
rendering it insatiate of the impossible rather than 
of the true. The degree of knowledge that has 
been brought to the execution of this task must be 
judged of by the sketches themselves. But on one 
point w r e feel ourselves strong; and that is, the 
certainty we have written equally without undue 
prejudices or partialities. Mistakes we have doubt 
less made ; they are inseparable from history in 
every shape ; but the errors into which we may 
have fallen are such as belong to the difficulty of 



obtaining unadulterated truth rather than to design 
or negligence. We feel great confidence in saying, 
that no publicly controverted point has been neg 
lected by us, and that we feel the honest conviction 
of having treated every one of them fairly, if not 



S O M E R S 73 

SHAW 123 


PREBLE . 171 



DR. HARRIS, in his "Life and Services" of this dis 
tinguished officer, says that "The ancestor of Commo 
dore Bainbridge, who, in the year 1600, settled in the 
province of New Jersey, was the son of Sir Arthur 
Bainbridge, of Durham county, England." As no 
portion of the old United States was settled as early as 
1600, and the province of New Jersey, in particular, 
was organized only about the middle of the seventeenth 
century, the date, in this instance, is an oversight, or a 
misprint ; though the account of the ancestor is probably 
accurate. The family of the late Commodore Bain 
bridge was of respectable standing, beyond a question, 
both in the colony and state of New Jersey, and its con 
nections were principally among persons o the higher 
classes of society. His father was a physician of local 
eminence, in the early part of his life, who removed to 
New York about the commencement of the Revolution, 
where he left a fair professional and personal reputation. 

The fourth son of Dr. Bainbridge was William, the 
subject of our memoir. He was born at Princeton, 
New Jersey, then the residence of his father, May 7th, 



1774. His birth must have occurred but a short time 
before the removal of the family to New York. The 
maiden name of Mrs. Bainbridge, the mother of Wil 
liam, was Taylor ; a lady of Monmouth county, in the 
same colony ; and her father, a man of considerable 
estate, undertook to superintend the education of the 

Young Bainbridge was of an athletic, manly frame, 
and eafly showed a bold spirit, and a love of enterprise. 
This temperament was likely to interfere with studies 
directed toward a liberal education, and, at the early 
age of fifteen, his importunities prevailed on his friends 
to allow him to go to sea. This must have been about 
the time when the present form of government went 
first into operation, and the trade and navigation of the 
country began to revive. In that day the republic had 
no marine ; the old Alliance frigate, the favourite ship 
of the Revolution, then sailing out of the port at which 
young Bainbridge first embarked, as an Indiaman. 

Philadelphia, for many years after the peace of 1783, 
produced the best seamen of America. Other ports, 
doubtless, had as hardy and as adventurous mariners, 
but the nicety of the art was better taught and prac 
tised in the Delaware-river vessels than in any other 
portion of the country. This advantage was thought to 
be owing to the length of the river and bay, which re 
quired more elaborate evolutions to take a ship success 
fully through, than ports that lay contiguous to the sea. 
The same superiority has long been claimed for London, 
and for the same reason, each place having a long and 
intricate navigation, among shoals, and in a tide s way, 
before its wharves can be reached. The comparative 



decline of the navigation of these two towns is to be at 
tributed to the very difficulties which made expert sea 
men, though the vast amount of supplies required by the 
English capital, for its own consumption, causes great 
bodies of shipping still to frequent the Thames. It is 
also probable that the superiority formerly claimed for 
the seamen of these two towns, was in part owing to the 
circumstances that, being the capitals of their respective 
countries, they were then in advance of other ports, both 
as to the arts, generally, and as to the wealth necessary 
to exhibit them. 

Young Bainbridge, consequently, enjoyed the advan 
tage of being trained, as a seaman, in what was then 
the highest American school. Singularly handsome 
and prepossessing in his appearance, of a vigorous, and 
commanding frame, with the foundation of a good edu 
cation, all aided by respectable connections, he was 
made an officer in the third year of his service. When 
eighteen, he sailed as chief mate of a ship in the Dutch 
trade, and on his first voyage, in this capacity, he reco 
vered the vessel from the hands of mutineers, by his 
personal intrepidity and physical activity. In the fol 
lowing year, when barely nineteen, the owners gave 
him command of the same ship. From this time down 
to the period of his joining the navy, Bainbridge con 
tinued in command of different merchant vessels, all of 
which were employed in the European trade, which was 
then carried on, by this country, in the height and ex 
citement of the war that succeeded the French revolu 

Occasions were not wanting, by which Bainbridge 
could prove his dauntless resolution, even in command 


of a peaceful and slightly armed merchantman. In 
1796, whilst in command of the Hope, of Philadelphia, 
he was lying in the Garonne, and was hailed by another 
American to come and aid in quelling a mutiny. This 
he did in person ; though his life had nearly been the 
sacrifice, owing to an explosion of gunpowder. The 
same season, while shaping his course for one of the 
West India islands, the Hope was attacked by a small 
British privateer, of eight guns and thirty men, being 
herself armed with four nines, and having a crew of only 
eleven souls before the mast an equipment then per 
mitted, by the laws, for the purposes of defence only. 
The privateer commenced the engagement without 
showing any colors; but receiving a broadside from 
the Hope, she hoisted English, in the expectation of 
intimidating her antagonist. In this, however, the 
assailant was mistaken ; Bainbridge, who had his colors 
flying from the first, continued his fire until he actually 
compelled the privateer to lower her flag. The latter 
was much cut up, and lost several men. The Hope 
escaped with but little injury. Although he had com 
pelled his assailant to submit, it would not have been 
legal for Bainbridge to take possession of the prize. 
He even declined boarding her, most probably keeping 
in view the feebleness of his own complement ; but, 
hailing the privateer, he told her commander to go to 
his employers and let them know they must send some 
one else to capture the Hope if they had occasion for 
that ship. It was probably owing to this little affair, 
as well as to his general standing as a ship-master, that 
Bainbridge subsequently entered the navy with the rank 
he obtained. 


Not long after the action with the privateer, while 
homeward bound again, a man was impressed from, 
Bainbridge s ship, by an English cruiser. The board 
ing officer commenced by taking the first mate, on 
account of his name, Allen M Kinsey, insisting that 
the man must be a Scotchman ! This singular species 
of logic was often applied on such occasions, even his 
torians of a later day claiming such men as M Donough 
and Conner, on the supposition that they must be Irish, 
from their family appellations. Mr. M Kinsey, who 
was a native Philadelphian, on a hint from Bainbridge, 
armed himself, and refused to quit his own ship ; where 
upon the English lieutenant seized a foremast hand and 
bore him off, in spite of his protestations of being an 
American, and the evidence of his commander. Bain- 
bridge was indignant at this outrage then, however, 
of almost daily occurrence on the high seas and, 
finding his own remonstrances disregarded, he solemnly 
assured the boarding officer that, if he fell in with an 
English vessel, of a force that would allow of such a 
retaliation, he would take a man out of her to supply 
the place of the seaman who was then carried away. 
This threat was treated with contempt, but it was put 
in execution within a week ; Bainbridge actually seizing 
a man on board an English merchant-man, and that, 
too, of a force quite equal to his own, and carrying him 
into an American port. The ship which impressed 
the man belonging to the Hope, was the Indefatigable, 
Sir Edward Pellew. 

All these little affairs contributed to give Bainbridge 
a merited reputation for spirit ; for, however illegal 
may have been his course in impressing the English- 
VOL i. 


man, the sailor himself was quite content to receive 
higher wages, and there was a natural justice in the 
measure that looked down the policy of nations and 
the provisions of law. Shortly after this incident, the 
aggressions of France induced the establishment of 
the present navy; and the government, after employing 
all the old officers of the Revolution who remained, 
and who were fit for service, was compelled to go into 
the mercantile marine to find men to fill the subordinate 
grades. The merchant service of America has ever 
been relatively much superior to that of most other 
countries. This has been owing, in part, to the greater 
diffusion of education ; in part, to the character of the 
institutions, which throws no discredit around any re 
putable pursuit ; and, in part, to the circumstance that 
the military marine has not been large enough to give 
employment to all of the maritime enterprise and spirit 
of the nation. Owing to these united causes, the go 
vernment of 1798 had much less difficulty in finding 
proper persons to put into its infant navy than might 
have been anticipated ; although it must be allowed 
that some of the selections, as usual, betrayed the in 
fluence of undue recommendations, as well as of too 
partial friendships. 

The navy offering a field exactly suited to the ambi 
tion and character of Bainbridge, he eagerly sought 
service in it, on his return from a voyage to Europe ; 
his arrival occurring a short time after the first appoint 
ments had been made. The third vessel which got to 
sea, under the new armament, was the Delaware 20, 
Capt. Stephen Decatur, the father of the illustrious 
officer of the same name ; and this vessel, a few days 


out, had captured le Croyable 14, a French privateer 
that she found cruising in the American waters. Le 
Croyable was condemned, and purchased by the navy- 
department ; being immediately equipped for a cruiser, 
under the name of the Retaliation. To this vessel 
Bainbridge was appointed, with the commission of 
lieutenant-commandant ; a rank that was subsequently 
and unwisely dropped ; for the greater the number of 
gradations in a military service, while they are kept 
within the limits of practical necessity, the greater is 
the incentive for exertion, the more frequent the pro 
motions, and the higher the discipline. First lieu 
tenants, lieutenants-commandant, exist, and must exist 
in fact, in every marine ; and it is throwing away the 
honourable inducement of promotion, as well as some 
of the influence of a commission, not to have the rank 
while we have the duties. It would be better for the 
navy did the station of first lieutenant, or lieutenant- 
commandant, now exist, those who hold the commis 
sions furnishing officers to command the smallest class 
of vessels, and the executive officers of ships of the 
line and frigates. 

The Retaliation sailed for the West India station, in 
September, 1798. While cruising off Gaudaloupe, the 
following November, the Montezuma sloop of war, 
Capt. Murray, and the brig Norfolk, Capt. Williams, in 
company, three sail were made in the eastern board, 
that were supposed to be English; and two more 
strangers appearing to the westward, Capt. Murray, 
who was the senior officer, made sail for the latter, 
taking the Norfolk with him ; while the Retaliation 
was directed to examine the vessels to the eastward 


This separated the consorts, which parted on nearly 
opposite tacks. Unfortunately two of the vessels to 
the eastward proved to be French frigates, le Volontier 
36, Capt. St. Laurent, and 1 Insurgente 32, Capt. Bar- 
reault. The first of these ships carried 44 guns, 
French eighteens, and the latter 40, French twelves. 
L Insurgente was one of the fastest ships that floated, 
and, getting the Retaliation under her guns, Bainbridge 
was compelled to strike, as resistance would have been 

The prisoner was taken on board 1 Volontier, the two 
frigates immediately making sail in chase of the Monte- 
zuma and Norfolk. L Insurgente again outstripped 
her consort, and was soon a long distance ahead of her. 
Capt. St. Laurent was the senior officer, and, the 
Montezuma being a ship of some size, he felt an un 
easiness at permitting the Insurgente to engage two 
adversaries, of whose force he was ignorant, unsup 
ported. In this uncertainty, he determined to in 
quire the force of the American vessels of his pri 
soner. Bainbridge answered coolly that the ship was 
a vessel of 28 long twelves, and the brig a vessel of 
20 long nines. This was nearly, if not quite, doubling 
the force of the two American cruisers, and it induced 
the French commodore to show a signal of recall to his 
consort. Capt. Barreault, an exceedingly spirited 
officer, joined his commander in a very ill-humor, in 
forming his superior that he was on the point of 
capturing both the chases, when he was so inoppor 
tunely recalled. This induced an explanation, when 
the ruse practised by Bainbridge was exposed. In the 
moment of disappointment, the French officers felt 


much irritated, but, appreciating the conduct of their 
prisoner more justly, they soon recovered their good 
humor, and manifested no further displeasure. 

The Retaliation and her crew were carried into Bas 
seterre. On board the Volontier was Gen. Desfourneaux, 
who was sent out to supersede Victor Hughes in his 
government. This functionary was very diplomatic, and 
he entered into a negotiation with Bainbridge of a some 
what equivocal character, leaving it a matter of doubt 
whether an exchange of prisoners, an arrangement of 
the main difficulties between the two countries, or a se 
cret trade with his own island, and for his own particular 
benefit, was his real object. Ill treatment of the crew 
of the Retaliation followed ; whether by accident or de 
sign is not known, though the latter has been suspected. 
It will be remembered that no war had been declared 
by either country, and that the captures by the Ameri 
cans were purely retaliatory, and made in self-defence. 
Gen. Desfourneaux profited by this circumstance to ac 
complish his purposes, affecting not to consider the offi 
cers and people of the Retaliation as prisoners at all. 
To this Bainbridge answered that he regarded himself 
and his late crew, not only as prisoners of war, but as 
ill-treated prisoners, and that his powers now extended 
no farther than to complete an exchange. After a pro 
tracted negotiation, Bainbridge and his crew were placed 
in possession of the Retaliation again, all the other 
American prisoners in Guadaloupe were put on board 
a cartel, and the two vessels were ordered for America. 
Accompanying the Americans, went a French gentleman, 
ostensibly charged with the exchange; but who was 


believed to have been a secret diplomatic agent of the 
French government. 

The conduct of Bainbridge, throughout this rude 
initiation into the public service, was approved by the 
government, arid he was immediately promoted to the 
rank of master-commandant, and given the Norfolk 18, 
the brig he had saved from capture by his address. In 
this vessel he joined the squadron under Com. Truxtun, 
who was cruising in the vicinity of St. Kitts. While 
on that station, the Norfolk fell in with and chased a 
heavy three-masted schooner, of which she was on the 
point of getting alongside, when both topmasts were lost 
by carrying sail, and the enemy escaped. The brig 
went into St. Kitts to repair damages, and here she col 
lected a convoy of more than a hundred sail, bound 
home. Bainbridge performed a neat and delicate evo 
lution, while in charge of this large trust. The convoy 
fell in with an enemy s frigate, when a signal was thrown 
out for the vessels to disperse. The Norfolk occupied 
the frigate, and induced her to chase, taking care to lead 
her off from the merchantmen. That night the brig 
gave her enemy the slip, and made sail on her course, 
overtaking and collecting the whole fleet the following 
day. It is said not a single vessel, out of one hundred 
and nineteen sail, failed of the rendezvous ! 

It was August, 1799, before the Norfolk returned to 
New York. Here Bainbridge found that no less than 
five lieutenants had been made captains, passing the 
grades of commanders and lieutenants-commandant 
altogether. This irregularity could only have occurred 
in an infant service, though it was of material importance 
to a young officer in after life. Among the gentlemen 

B A I N B R I D G E. 


thus promoted, were Capts. Rodgers, and Barren, two 
names that, for a long time, alone stood between Bain- 
bridge and the head of the service. Still, it is by no 
means certain that injustice was done, such circum 
stances frequently occurring in so young a service, to 
repair an original wrong. At all events, no slight was 
intended to Bainbridge, or any other officer who was 
passed; though the former ever maintained that he 
had not his proper rank in the navy. 

After refitting the Norfolk, Bainbridge returned to the 
West Indies, where he was put under the orders of 
Capt. Christopher R. Perry, the father of the celebrated 
Commodore Oliver H. Perry, who sent him to cruise 
off Cape Francois. The brig changed her cruising 
ground, under different orders, no opportunity occurring 
for meeting an enemy of equal force. Indeed, it was 
highly creditable to the maritime enterprise of the 
French that they appeared at all in those seas, which 
were swarming with English and American cruisers ; 
this country alone seldom employing fewer than thirty 
sail in the West Indies, that year ; toward the close of 
the season indeed, it had near, if not quite forty, including 
those who were passing between the islands and the 
home coast. 

On the 31st October, however, the Norfolk succeeded 
in decoying an armed barge within reach of her guns. 
The enemy discovered the brig s character in time to 
escape to the shore, notwithstanding : though he was 
pursued and the barge was captured. Six dead and 
dying were found in, or near the boat. 

In November, Bainbridge took a small lugger priva 
teer, called le Republicain, with a prize in company. 


The former was destroyed at sea, and the latter sent in. 
The prize of the lugger was a sloop. She presented a 
horrible spectacle when taken possession of by the 
Americans. Her decks were strewed with mangled 
bodies, the husbands and parents of eleven women and 
children, who were found weeping over them at the 
moment of recapture. The murders had been committed 
by some brigands in a barge, who slew every man in 
the sloop, and were proceeding to further outrages when 
the lugger closed and drove them from their prey. An 
hour or two later, Bainbridge captured both the vessels. 
His treatment of the unfortunate females and children 
was such as ever marked his generous and manly cha 

Shortly after, Capt. Bainbridge received an order, di 
rect from the Navy Department, to go off the neutral 
port of the Havana, to look after the trade in that quar 
ter. Here he was joined by the Warren 18, Capt. 
Newman, and the Pinckney 18, Capt. Heyward. Bain 
bridge was the senior officer, and continued to command 
this force to the great advantage of American commerce, 
by blockading the enemy s privateers, and giving con 
voy, until March, 1800, when, his cruise being up, he 
returned home, anchoring off Philadelphia early in the 
month of April. His services, especially those before 
Havana, were fully appreciated, and May 2d, of the 
same year, he was raised to the rank of captain. Bain 
bridge had served with credit, and had now reached the 
highest grade which existed in the navy, when he 
wanted just five days of being twenty-six years old. 
He had carried with him into the marine the ideas of a 
high-class Philadelphia seaman, as to discipline, and 


these were doubtless the best which then existed in the 
country. In every situation he had conducted himself 
well, and the promise of his early career as a master of 
a merchantman was likely to be redeemed, whenever 
occasion should offer, under the pennant of the republic. 
Among the vessels purchased into the service during 
the war of 1798, was an Indiaman called the George 
Washington. This ship was an example of the irregu 
larity in rating which prevailed at that day ; being set 
down in all the lists and registers of the period as a 24, 
when her tonnage was 624 ; while the Adams, John 
Adams, and Boston, all near one sixth smaller, are rated 
as 32s. The George Washington was, in effect, a large 
28, carrying the complement and armament of a vessel 
of that class. To this ship Bainbridge was now ap 
pointed, receiving his orders the month he was pro 
moted ; or, in May, 1800. The destination of the 
vessel was to carry tribute to the Dey of Algiers ! This 
was a galling service to a man of her commander s 
temperament, as, indeed, it would have proved to nearly 
every other officer in the navy; but it put the ship 
quite as much in the way of meeting with an enemy 
as if she had been employed in the West Indies ; and 
i^vvas sending the pennant into the Mediterranean for 
the first time since the formation of the new navy. 
Thus the United States 44, first carried the pennant of 
the new marine to Europe, in 1799 ; the Essex 32, first 
carried it round the Cape of Good Hope, in 1800, and 
around Cape Horn, in 1813 ; and this ship, the George 
Washington 28, first carried it into the classical seas of 
the old world. 

Bainbridge did not get the tribute collected and reach 


his port of destination, before the month of September. 
Being entirely without suspicion, and imagining that 
he came on an errand which should entitle him, at 
least, to kind treatment, he carried the ship into the 
mole, for the purpose of discharging with convenience. 
This duty, however, was hardly performed, when the 
Dey proposed a service for the George Washington, 
that was as novel in itself as it was astounding to her 

It seems that this barbarian prince had got himself 
into discredit at the Sublime Porte, and he felt the ne 
cessity of purchasing favour, and of making his peace, 
by means of tribute of his part. The Grand Seignor 
was at war with France, and the Dey, his tributary and 
dependent, had been guilty of the singular indiscretion 
of making a separate treaty of peace with that powerful 
republic, for some private object of his own. This was 
an offence to be expiated only by a timely offering of 
certain slaves, various wild beasts, and a round sum in 
gold. The presents to be sent were valued at more 
than half a million of our money, and the passengers to 
be conveyed amounted to between two and three hun 
dred. As the Dey happened to have no vessel fit for 
such a service, and the George Washington lay very 
conveniently within his mole, and had just been en 
gaged in this very duty, he came to the natural conclu 
sion she would answer his purpose. 

The application was first made in the form of a civil 
request, through the consul. Bainbridge procured an 
audience, and respectfully, but distinctly, stated that a 
compliance would be such a departure from his orders 
as to put it out of the question. Hereupon the Dey re- 


minded the American that the ship was in his power, 
and that what he now asked he might take without 
asking, if it suited his royal pleasure. A protracted 
and spirited discussion, in which the consul joined, now 
followed, but all without effect. The Dey offered the 
alternatives of compliance, or slavery and capture, for 
the frigate and her crew, with war on the American 
trade. One of his arguments is worthy of being re 
corded, as it fully exposes the feeble policy of submis 
sion to any national wrong. He told the two American 
functionaries, that their country paid him tribute, al 
ready, which was an admission of their inferiority, as 
well as of their duty to obey him ; and he chose to 
order this particular piece of service, in addition to the 
presents which he had just received. 

Bainbridge finally consented to do as desired. He 
appears to have been influenced in this decision, by the 
reasoning of Mr. O Brien, the consul, who had himself 
been a slave in Algiers, not long before, and probably 
retained a lively impression of the power of the barba 
rian, on his own shores. It is not to be concealed, how 
ever, that temporizing in all such matters had been the 
policy of America, and it would have required men of 
extraordinary moral courage to have opposed the wishes 
of the Dey, by a stern assertion of those principles, 
which alone can render a nation great. " To ask for 
nothing but what is right, and to submit to nothing that 
is wrong," is an axiom more easily maintained on paper 
than in practice, where the chameleon-like policy of 
trade interferes to colour principles ; and O Brien, a 
merchant in effect, and Bainbridge, Avho had so lately 
been in that pursuit himself, were not likely to over- 


look the besetting weakness of the nation. Still, it may 
be questioned if there was a man in the navy who felt 
a stronger desire to vindicate the true maxims of na 
tional independence than the subject of this memoir. 
He appears to have yielded solely to the arguments of 
the consul, and to his apprehensions for a trade that 
certainly had no other protection in that distant sea, 
than his own ship ; and she would be the first sacrifice 
of the Dey s resentment. It ought to be mentioned, 
too, that a base and selfish policy prevailed, in that day, 
on the subject of the Barbary Powers, among the prin 
cipal maritime states of Europe. England, in particular, 
was supposed to wink at their irregularities, in the hope 
that it might have a tendency to throw a monopoly of 
the foreign navigation of the Mediterranean into the 
hands of those countries which, by means of their great 
navies, and their proximity to the African coast, were 
always ready to correct any serious evil that might 
affect themselves. English policy had been detected 
in the hostilities of the Dey, a few years earlier, and it 
is by no means improbable that Mr. O Brien foresaw 
consequences of this nature, that did not lie absolutely 
on the surface. 

Yielding to the various considerations which were 
urged, Bainbridge finally consented to comply with the 
Dey s demand. The presents and passengers were 
received on board, and on the 19th of October, or about 
a month after her arrival at Algiers, the George Wash 
ington was ready to sail for Constantinople. When on 
the very eve of departing a new difficulty arose, and one 
of a nature to show that the Dey was not entirely go 
verned by rapacity, but that he had rude notions of na- 


tional honour, agreeably to opinions of the school in 
which he had been trained. As the George Washing 
ton carried his messenger, or ambassador, and was now 
employed in his service, he insisted that she should 
carry the Algerine flag at the main, while that of the 
republic to which the ship belonged, should fly at the 
fore. An altercation occurred on this point of pure 
etiquette, the Dey insisting that English, French, and 
Spanish commanders, whenever they had performed a 
similar service for him, had not hesitated to give this 
precedency to his ensign. This was probably true, as 
well as the fact that vessels of war of those nations had 
consented to serve him in this manner, in compliance 
with the selfish policy of their respective governments ; 
though it may be doubted whether English or French 
ships had been impressed into such a duty. Dr. Har 
ris, whose biography of Bainbridge is much the most 
full of any written, and to which we are indebted for 
many of our own details, has cited an instance as re 
cently as 1817, when an English vessel of war con 
veyed presents to Constantinople for the Dey ; though 
it was improbable that any other inducement for the 
measure existed, than a desire in the English authorities 
to maintain their influence in the regency. Bainbridge, 
without entering into pledges on the subject, and solely 
with a view to get his ship beyond the reach of the 
formidable batteries of the mole, hoisted the Algerine 
ensign, as desired, striking it as soon as he found him 
self again the commander of his own vessel. 

The George Washington had a boisterous and weary 
passage to the mouth of the Dardanelles, the ship being 
littered with Turks, and the cages of wild beasts. This 

VOL. I. 3 


voyage was always a source of great uneasiness and 
mortification to Bainbridge, but he occasionally amused 
his friends with the relation of anecdotes that occurred 
during its continuance. Among other things he men 
tioned that his passengers were greatly puzzled to keep 
their faces toward Mecca, in their frequent prayers ; the 
ship often tacking during the time thus occupied, more 
especially after they got into the narrow seas. A man 
was finally stationed at the compass to give the faithful 
notice when it was necessary to " go about," in conse 
quence of the evolutions of the frigate. 

Bainbridge had great apprehensions of being detained 
at the Dardanelles, for want of a firman, the United 
States having no diplomatic agent at the Porte, and 
commercial jealousies being known to exist, on the sub 
ject of introducing the American flag into those waters. 
A sinister influence up at Constantinople might detain 
him for weeks, or even prevent his passage altogether; 
and having come so far, on his unpleasant errand, he 
was resolved to gather as many of its benefits as possi 
ble. In the dilemma, therefore, he decided on a ruse 
of great boldness, and one which proved that personal 
considerations had little influence, when he thought the 
interests of his country demanded their sacrifice. 

The George Washington approached the castles with 
a strong southerly wind, and she clewed up her light 
sails, as if about to anchor, just as she began to salute. 
The works returned gun for gun, and in the smoke sail 
was again made, and the ship glided out of the range 
of shot before the deception was discovered ; passing on 
toward the sea of Marmora under a cloud of canvas. 
As vessels were stopped at only one point, and the pro- 


gress of the ship was too rapid to admit of detention, 
she anchored unmolested under the walls of Constanti 
nople, on the 9th November, 1800 ; showing the flag 
of the republic, for the first time, before that ancient 

Bainbridge was probably right in his anticipation of 
difficulty in procuring a firman to pass the castles, for 
when his vessel reported her nation, an answer was 
sent off that the government of Turkey knew of no such 
country. An explanation that the ship came from the 
new world, that which Columbus had discovered, luckily 
proved satisfactory, when a bunch of flowers and a lamb 
were sent on board ; the latter as a token of amity, and 
the former as a welcome. 

The George Washington remained several weeks at 
Constantinople, where Bainbridge and his officers were 
well received, though the agents of the Dey fared 
worse. The Capudan Pacha, in particular, formed a 
warm friendship for the commander of the George 
Washington, whose fine personal appearance, frank 
address, and manly bearing were well calculated to 
obtain favor. This functionary was married to a sister 
of the Sultan, and had more influence at court than any 
other subject. He took Bainbridge especially under 
his own protection, and when they parted, he gave the 
frigate a passport, which showed that she and her com 
mander enjoyed this particular and high privilege. In 
fact, the intercourse between this officer and the com 
mander of the George Washington was such as to 
approach nearly to paving the way for a treaty, a step 
that Bainbridge warmly urged on the government at 
home, as both possible and desirable. It has been con- 


jectured even, that Capt. Bainbridge was instructed on 
this subject ; and that, in consenting to go to Constanti 
nople at all, he had the probabilities of opening some 
such negotiation in view. This was not his own 
account of the matter, although, in weighing the motives 
for complying with the Dey s demands, it is not impos 
sible he permitted such a consideration to have some 

The visit of Clarke, the well known traveler, occurred 
while the George Washington was at Constantinople. 
The former accompanied Bainbridge to the Black Sea, 
in the frigate s long-boat, where the American ensign 
was displayed also, for the first time. Jt appears that 
our officer was one of the party in the celebrated visit 
of the traveler to the seraglio, Bainbridge confirming 
Dr. Clarke s account of the affair, with the exception 
that he, himself, looked upon the danger as very trifling. 

During the friendly intercourse which existed be 
tween Capt. Bainbridge and the Capudan Pacha, the 
latter incidentally mentioned that the governor of the 
castles was condemned to die for suffering the George 
Washington to pass without a firman, and that the 
warrant of execution only waited for his signature, in 
order to be enforced. Shocked at discovering the terri 
ble strait to which he had unintentionally reduced a 
perfectly innocent man, Bainbridge frankly admitted 
his own act, and said if any one had erred it was him 
self: begging the life of the governor, and offering to 
meet the consequences in his own person. This 
generous course was not thrown away on the Capudan 
Pacha, who appears to have been a liberal and enlight 
ened man. He heard the explanation with interest, 

B A I N B R I D G E. 29 

extolled Bainbridge s frankness, promised him his entire 
protection, and pardoned the governor ; sending to the 
latter a minute statement of the whole affair. It was 
after this conversation that the high functionary in 
question delivered to Bainbridge his own especial letter 
of protection. 

At length the Algerine ambassador was ready to 
return. On the 30th of December, 1800, the ship 
sailed for Algiers. The messenger of the Dey took 
back with him a menace of punishment, unless his 
master declared war against France, and sent more 
tribute to the Porte ; granting to the Algerine govern 
ment but sixty days to let its course be known. On 
repassing the Dardanelles, Bainbridge was compelled 
to anchor. Here he received presents of fruit and pro 
visions, with hospitalities on shore, as an evidence of 
the governor s gratitude for his generous conduct in 
exposing his own life, in order to save that of an inno 
cent man. It is shown by a passage in Dr. Clarke s 
work, that Bainbridge was honorably received in the 
best circles in Pera, during his stay at Constantinople, 
while the neatness and order of his ship were the 
subject of general conversation. An entertainment that 
was given on board the frigate was much talked of also ; 
the guests and all the viands coming from the four 
quarters of the earth. Thus there was water, bread, 
meats, etc., etc., each from Europe, Asia, Africa and 
America, as well as persons to consume them : certainly 
a thing of rare occurrence at any one feast. 

-The George Washington arrived at Algiers on the 
20th January, 1801, and anchored off the town, beyond 
the reach of shot. The Dey expressed his apprehen- 


sions that the position of the ship would prove incon 
venient to her officers, and desired that she might be 
brought within the mole, or to the place where she had 
lain during her first visit. This offer was respectfully 
declined. A day or two later the object of this hospi 
tality became apparent. Bainbridge was asked to 
return to Constantinople with the Algerine ambassador; 
a request with which he positively refused to comply. 
This was the commencement of a new series of cajole 
ries, arguments, and menaces. But, having his ship 
where nothing but the barbarian s corsairs could assail 
her, Bainbridge continued firm. He begged the consul 
to send him off some old iron for ballast, in order that he 
might return certain guns he had borrowed for that 
purpose, previously to sailing for Constantinople, the 
whole having been rendered necessary in consequence 
of his ship s having been lightened of the tribute sent 
in her from America. The Dey commanded the light 
ermen not to take employment, and, at the same time, 
he threatened war if his guns were not returned: After 
a good deal of discussion, Bainbridge exacted a pledge 
that no further service would be asked of the ship ; then 
he agreed to run into the mole and deliver the cannon, 
as the only mode that remained of returning property 
which had been lent to him. 

As soon as the frigate was secured in her new birth, 
Capt. Bainbridge and the consul were admitted to an 
audience with the Dey. The reception was any thing 
but friendly, and the despot, a man of furious passions, 
soon broke out into expressions of anger, that bade fair 
to lead to personal violence. The attendants were ready, 
and it was known that a nod or a word might, at a mo- 


merit s notice, cost the Americans their lives. At this 
fearful instant, Bainbridge, who was determined at 
every hazard to resist the Dey s new demand, fortu 
nately bethought him of the Capudan Pacha s letter of 
protection, which he carried about him. The letter 
was produced, and its effect was magical. Bainbridge 
often spoke of it as even ludicrous, and of^)eing so 
sudden and marked as to produce glances of surprise 
among the common soldiers. From a furious tyrant, the 
sovereign of Algiers was immediately converted into an 
obedient vassal; his tongue all honey, his face all 
smiles. He was aware that a disregard of the recom 
mendation of the Capudan Pacha would be punished, 
as he would visit a similar disregard of one of his own 
orders ; and that there was no choice between respect 
and despotism. No more was said about the return of 
the frigate to Constantinople, and every offer of service 
and every profession of amity were heaped upon the 
subject of our memoir, who owed his timely deliverance 
altogether to the friendship of the Turkish dignitary ; 
a friendship obtained through his own frank and gene 
rous deportment. 

The reader will readily understand that dread of 
the Grand Seignior s power had produced this sudden 
change in the deportment of the Dey. The same 
feeling induced him to order the flag-staff of the French 
consulate to be cut down the next day ; a declaration of 
war against the country to which the functionary 
belonged. Exasperated at these humiliations, which 
were embitfered by heavy pecuniary exactions on the 
part of the Porte, the Dey turned upon the few unfor 
tunate French who happened to be in his power. 


These, fifty-six in number, consisting of men, women, 
and children, he ordered to be seized and to be deemed 
slaves. Capt. Bainbridge felt himself sufficiently 
strong, by means of the Capudan Pacha s letter, to 
mediate ; and he actually succeeded, after a long dis 
cussion, in obtaining a decree by which all the French 
who cou^ get out of the regency, within the next eight- 
and-forty hours, might depart. For those who could 
not, remained the doom of slavery, or of ransom at a 
thousand dollars a head. It was thought that this con 
cession was made under the impression that no means 
of quitting Algiers could be found by the unfortunate 
French. No one believed that the George Washington 
would be devoted to their service, France and America 
being thefl at war; a circumstance which probably 
increased Bainbridge s influence at Constantinople, as 
well as at Algiers. 

But our officer was not disposed to do things by 
halves. Finding that no other means remained for 
extricating the unfortunate French, he determined to 
carry them off in the George Washington. The ship 
had not yet discharged the guns of the Dey, but every 
body working with good will, this property was deli 
vered to its right owner, sand ballast was obtained from 
the country and hoisted in, other necessary preparations 
were made, and the ship hauled out of the mole and 
got to sea just in time to escape the barbarian s fangs, 
with .every Frenchman in Algiers on board. It is said 
that in another hour the time of grace would have 
expired. The ship landed her passengers at Alicant, a 
neutral country, and then made the best of her way to 
America, where she arrived in due season. 


This act of Bairibridge s was quite in conformity with 
the generous tendencies of his -nature. He was a man 
of quick and impetuous feelings, and easily roused to 
anger ; but left to the voluntary guidance of his own 
heart, no one was more ready to serve his fellow-crea 
tures. It seemed to make little difference with him, 
whether he assisted an Englishman or a Frenchman ; 
his national antipathies, though decided and strong, 
never interfering with his humanity. Napoleon had 
just before attained the First Consulate, and he offered 
the American officer his personal thanks for this piece 
of humane and disinterested service to his countrymen. 
At a later day, when misfortune came upon Bainbridge, 
he is said to have remembered this act, and to have 
interested himself in favour of the captive. -^ 

On reaching home, Bainbridge had the gratification 
of finding his conduct, in every particular, approved by 
the government. It was so much a matter of course, in 
that day, for the nations of Christendom to submit to 
exactions from those of Barbary, that little was thought 
of the voyage to Constantinople, and less said about it. 
A general feeling must have prevailed that censure, if 
it fell any where, ought to light on the short-sighted 
policy of trade, and the misguided opinions of the age. 
It is more probable, however, that the whole transaction 
was looked upon as a legitimate consequence of the 
system of tribute, which then so extensively prevailed. 

Bainbridge must have enjoyed another and still more 
unequivocal evidence that the misfortunes which cer 
tainly accompanied his short naval career, had left no 
injurious impressions on the government, as touching 
his own conduct. The reduction law, which created a 


species of naval peace establishment, was passed during 
his late absence, and, on his arrival, he found its details 
nearly completed in practice. Previously to this law s 
going into effect, there were twenty-eight captains in 
the navy, of which number he stood himself as low as 
the twenty-seventh in rank. There was, indeed, but 
one other officer of that grade below him, and under 
such circumstances, the chances of being retained would 
have been very small, for any man who had not the 
complete confidence of his superiors. He was retained, 
however, and that, too, in a manner in defiance of the 
law, for, by its provisions, only nine captains were to 
be continued in the service in a time of peace ; whereas, 
his was the eleventh name on the new list, until Dale 
and Truxtun resigned ; events which did not occur until 
the succeeding year. The cautious and reluctant man 
ner in which these reductions were made by Mr. Jeffer 
son, under a law that had passed during the adminis 
tration of his predecessor, is another proof that the 
former statesman did not deserve all the reproaches of 
hostility to this branch of the public service that were 
heaped upon him.* 

Not satisfied with retaining Capt. Bainbridge in the 
service, after the late occurrences at Algiers, the Depart- 

* There appears to have been some uncertainty about officers 
remaining in service, after the peace of 1801, that contributed to 
rendering the reduction irregular. The resignations of Dale and 
Truxtun, and the death of Barry, brought the list down to nine ; 
the number prescribed by law. As the Tripolitan war occurred so 
soon, a question might arise how far the peace establishment law 
was binding at all. Certainly, in its spirit, it was meant only for 
a time of peace. On the other hand, Mr. Jefferson, by his public 
acts, did not seem to think the nation legally at war with Tripoli, 
even after battles were fought and vessels captured. 


merit also gave him immediate employment. For the 
first time this gallant officer was given a good service 
able ship, that had been regularly constructed for a 
man-of-war. He was attached to the Essex 32, a fine 
twelve-pounder frigate, that had just returned from a 
first cruise to the East Indies, under Preble : an officer 
who subsequently became so justly celebrated. The 
orders to this vessel were issued in May, 1801, and the 
ship w r as directed to form part of a squadron then about 
to sail for the Mediterranean. 

Capt. Bainbridge joined the Essex at New York. 
He had Stephen Decatur for his first lieutenant, and 
was otherwise w r ell officered and manned. The squad 
ron, consisting of the President 44, Philadelphia 38, 
Essex 3 2, and Enterprise 12, sailed in company : the 
President being commanded by Capt. James Barron, the 
Philadelphia by Capt. Samuel Barron, and the Enter 
prise by Lieut. Com. Sterrett. The broad pennant of 
Com. Dale was flying in the President. This force 
went abroad under very limited instructions. Although 
the Bashaw of Tripoli was seizing American vessels, and 
was carrying on an effective war, Mr. Jefferson appeared 
to think legal enactments at home necessary to author 
ize the marine to retaliate. As respected ourselves, 
statutes may have been wanting to prescribe the forms 
under which comdemnations could be had, and the 
other national rights carried out in full practice ; but, as 
respected the enemy, there can be no question his own 
acts authorized the cruisers of this country to capture 
their assailants wherever they could be found, even 
though they rotted in our harbors for the want of a 
prescribed manner of bringing them under the hammer. 


The mode of condemnation is dependent on municipal 
regulations alone, but the right to capture is solely de 
pendent on public law. It was in this singular state 
of things that the Enterprise, after a bloody action, took 
a Tripolitan, and was then obliged to let her go ! 

The American squadron reached Gibraltar the 1st day 
of July, where it found and blockaded two of the largest 
Tripolitan cruisers, under the orders of a Scotch rene 
gade, who bore the rank of an admiral. The Phila 
delphia watched these vessels, while the Essex was 
sent along the north shore to give convoy. The great 
object, in that day, appears to have been to carry the 
trade safely through the Straits, and to prevent the 
enemy s rovers from getting out into the Atlantic ; mea 
sures that the peculiar formation of the coasts rendered 
highly important. It was while employed on this duty, 
that Capt. Bainbridge had an unpleasant collision with 
some of the Spanish authorities at Barcelona, in conse 
quence of repeated insults offered to his ship s officers 
and boats ; his own barge having been fired into twice, 
while he was in it in person. In this affair he showed 
his usual decision and spirit, and the matter was pushed 
so far and so vigorously as to induce an order from the 
Prince of Peace, "to treat all officers of the United 
States with courtesy and respect, and more particularly 
those attached to the United States frigate Essex." The 
high and native courtesy of the Spanish character ren 
ders it probable that some misunderstandings increased 
and complicated these difficulties, though there is little 
doubt that jealousy of the superior order and beauty of 
the Essex, among certain subordinates of the Spanish 
marine, produced the original aggression. In the dis- 


cussions and collisions that followed, the sudden and 
somewhat brusque spirit of the American usages was 
not likely to be cordially met by the precise and almost 
oriental school of manners that regulates the intercourse 
of Spanish society. Bainbridge, however, is admitted 
to have conducted his part of the dispute with dignity 
and propriety ; though he was not wanting in the 
promptitude and directness of a man-of-war s man. 

On the arrival of the Essex below, with a convoy, it 
was found that the enemy had laid up his ships, and 
had sent the crews across to Africa in the night ; the 
admiral making the best of his way home in a neutral. 
Com. Morris had relieved Com. Dale, and the Essex, 
wanting material repairs, was sent home in the summer 
of 1802, after an absence of rather more than a year. 
During her short cruise, the Essex had been deemed a 
model ship, as to efficiency and discipline, and extorted 
admiration wherever she appeared. On her arrival at 
New York, the frigate was unexpectedly ordered to 
Washington to be laid up, a measure that excited great 
discontent in her crew. One of those quasi mutinies 
which, under similar circumstances, were not uncom 
mon in that day, followed ; the men insisting that their 
times were up, and that they ought to be paid off in a 
seaport, and " not on a tobacco plantation, up in Vir 
ginia;" but Bainbridge and Decatur were men un 
willing to be controlled in this way. The disaffection 
was put down, and the ship obeyed her orders. 

Bainbridge was now employed in superintending the 
construction of the Siren and Vixen ; two of the small 
vessels that had been recently ordered by law. As 
soon as these vessels were launched, he was again 

VOL. i, 4 


directed to prepare for service in the Mediterranean, for 
which station the celebrated squadron of Preble was 
now fitting. This force consisted of the Constitution 
44, Philadelphia 38, Siren 16, Argus 16, Nautilus 14, 
Vixen 14, and Enterprise 12; the latter vessel being 
then on the station, under Lieut. Com. Hull. Of these 
ships, Bainbridge had the Philadelphia, 38, a fine 
eighteen-pounder frigate that was often, by mistake, 
called a forty-four, though by no means as large a ves 
sel as some others of her proper class. It was much 
the practice of that day to attach officers to the ships 
which were fitting near their places of residence, and 
thus it followed that a vessel frequently had a sort of 
local character. Such, in a degree, was the case with 
the Philadelphia, most of whose sea-officers were Dela 
ware sailors, in one sense ; though all the juniors had 
now been regularly bred in the navy. As these gen 
tlemen are entitled to have their sufferings recorded, we 
give their names, with the states of which they were 
natives, viz. : 

Captain. William Bainbridge, of New Jersey. 

Lieutenants. John T. R. Cox, Jacob Jones, Dela 
ware ; Theodore Hunt, New Jersey ; Benjamin Smith, 
Rhode Island. 

Lieutenant of Marines. Wm. S. Osborne. 

Surgeon. John Ridge ly, Maryland. 

Purser. Rich. Spence, New Hampshire. 

Sailing-Master. Wm. Knight, Pennsylvania. 

Surgeon s Mates. Jonathan Cowdery, New York ; 
Nicholas Harwood, Va. 

Midshipmen. Bernard Henry, Pa. ; James Gibbon, 
Va.; James Biddle, Pa.; Richard B. Jones, Pa.; D. T. 


Patterson, N. Y. ; Wm. Cutbush, Pa. ; B. F. Reed, Pa. ; 
Thomas M Donough, Del.; Wallace Wormley, .Va. ; 
Robert Gamble, Va. ; Simon Smith, Pa. ; James Ren- 
shaw, Pa. 

The Philadelphia had a crew a little exceeding three 
hundred souls on board, including her officers. One or 
two changes occurred among the latter, however, when 
the ship reached Gibraltar, which will be mentioned in 
their proper places. 

The vessels of Com. Preble did not sail in squadron, 
but left home as each ship got ready. Bainbridge, 
being equipped, was ordered to sail in July, and he en 
tered the Straits on the 24th of August, after a passage 
down the Delaware and across the Atlantic of some 
length. Understanding at Gibraltar that certain cruisers 
of the enemy were in the neighborhood of Cape de 
Gatte, he proceeded off that well-known headland the 
very next day ; and, in the night of the 26th, it blowing 
fresh, he fell in with a ship under nothing but a fore 
sail, with a brig in company, also under very short 
canvas. These suspicious circumstances induced him 
to run alongside of the ship, and to demand her charac 
ter. After a good deal of hailing, and some evasion on 
the part of the stranger, it was ascertained that he was 
a cruiser from Morocco, called the Meshboha 22, com 
manded by Ibrahim Lubarez, and having a crew of one 
hundred and twenty men. The Philadelphia had con 
cealed her own nation, and a boat coming from the 
Meshboha, the fact was extracted from its crew that the- 
brig in company was an American, bound into Spain, 
and that they had boarded but had not detained her. 
Bainbridge s suspicions were aroused by all the circum- 


stances ; particularly by the little sail the brig carried ; 
so unlike an American, who is ever in a hurry. He 
accordingly directed Mr. Cox, his first lieutenant, to 
board the Meshboha, and to ascertain if any Americans 
were in her, as prisoners. In attempting to execute 
this order, Mr. Cox was resisted, and it was necessary 
to send an armed boat. The master and crew of the 
brig, the Celia of Boston, were actually found in the 
Meshboha, which ship had captured them, nine days 
before, in the vicinity of Malaga, the port to which they 
were bound. 

Bainbridge took possession of the Moorish ship. 
The next day he recovered the brig, which was stand 
ing in for the bay of Almeria, to the westward of Cape 
de Gatte. On inquiry he discovered that Ibrahim 
Lubarez was cruising for Americans under an order 
issued by the governor of Mogadore. Although Mo 
rocco was ostensibly at peace with the United States, 
Bainbridge did not hesitate, now, about taking his prize 
to Gibraltar. Here he left the Meshboha in charge 
of Mr. M Donough, under the superintendence of the 
consul, and then went off Cape St. Vincent in pursuit 
of a Moorish frigate, which was understood to be in 
that neighborhood. Failing in his search, he returned 
within the Straits, and went aloft, in obedience to his 
original orders. At Gibraltar, the Philadelphia met 
the homeward bound vessels, under Com. Rodgers, 
which were waiting the arrival of Preble, in the Con 
stitution. As this force was sufficient to watch the 
Moors, it left the Philadelphia the greater liberty to 
proceed on her cruise. While together, however, Lieut. 
Porter, the first of the New York 36, exchanged with 


Lieut. Cox, the latter gentleman wishing to return home, 
where he soon after resigned ; while the former pre 
ferred active service. 

The Philadelphia found nothing but the Vixen be 
fore Tripoli. A Neapolitan had given information that 
a corsair had just sailed on a cruise, and this induced 
Capt. Bainbridge to despatch Lieut. Com. Smith in 
chase. In consequence of this unfortunate but perfectly 
justifiable decision, the frigate was left alone off the 
town. A vigorous blockade having been determined 
on, the ship maintained her station as close in as her 
draught of water would allow until near the close of 
October, when, it coming on to blow fresh from the 
westward, she was driven some distance to leeward, as 
often occurred to vessels on that station. As soon as it 
moderated, sail was made to recover the lost ground, 
and, by the morning of the 31st, the wind had become 
fair, from the eastward. At 8, A. M., a sail was made 
ahead, standing like themselves to the westward. This 
vessel proved to be a small cruiser of the Bashaw s, 
and was probably the very vessel of which the Vixen 
had gone in pursuit. The Philadelphia now crowded 
every thing that would draw, and was soon so near the 
chase as to induce the latter to hug the land. There is 
an extensive reef to the eastward of Tripoli, called 
Kaliusa, that was not laid down in the charts of the 
ship, and which runs nearly parallel to the coast for 
some miles. There is abundance of water inside of it, 
as was doubtless known to those on board the chase, and 
there is a wide opening through it, by which six and 
seven fathoms can be carried out to sea ; but all these 
facts were then profound mysteries to the officers of the 


Philadelphia. Agreeably to the chart of Capt. Smyth, 
of the British navy, the latest and best in existence, the 
eastern division of this reef lies about a mile and a half 
from the coast, and its western about a mile. Accord 
ing to the same chart, one of authority, and made from 
accurate surveys, the latter portion of the reef is distant 
from the town of Tripoli about two and a half miles, 
and the former something like a mile and a half more. 
There is an interval of quite half a mile in length be 
tween these two main divisions of the reef, through 
which it is possible to carry six and seven fathoms, pro 
vided three or four detached fragments of reef, of no 
great extent, be avoided. The channels among these 
rocks afforded great facilities to the Turks in getting in 
and out of their port during the blockade, since a vessel 
of moderate draught, that knew the land-marks, might 
run through them with great confidence by daylight. It 
is probable the chase, in this instance, led in among 
these reefs as much to induce the frigate to follow as to 
cover her own escape, either of which motives showed 
a knowledge of the coast, and a familiarity with his 
duties in her commander. 

In coming down from the eastward, and bringing with 
her a plenty of water, the Philadelphia must have passed 
two or three hundred yards to the southward of the 
northeastern extremity of the most easterly of the two 
great divisions of the reef in question. This position 
agrees with the soundings found at the time, and with 
those laid down in the chart. She had the chase some 
distance inshore of her ; so much so, indeed, as to have 
been firing into her from the two forward divisions of 
the larboard guns, in the hope of cutting something 


away. Coming from the eastward, the ship brought 
into this pass, between the reef and the shore, from 
fourteen to ten fathoms of water, which gradually 
shoaled to eight, when Capt. Bainbridge, seeing no 
prospect of overhauling the chase, then beginning to 
open the harbour of Tripoli, from which the frigate her 
self was distant but some three or four miles, ordered 
the helm a-port, and the yards braced forward, in the 
natural expectation of hauling directly off the land into 
deep water. The leads were going at the time, and, to 
the surprise of all on board, the water shoaled, as the 
frigate run off, instead of deepening. The yards were 
immediately ordered to be braced sharp up, and the ship 
brought close on a wind, in the hope of beating out of 
this seeming cul de sac, by the way in which she had 
entered. The command was hardly given, however, 
before the ship struck forward, and, having eight knots 
way on her, she shot up on the rocks until she had only 
fourteen and a half feet of water under her fore-chains. 
Under the bowsprit there were but twelve. Aft she 
floated, having, it is said, come directly out of six or 
seven fathoms of water into twelve and fifteen feet ; all 
of which strictly corresponds with the soundings of the 
modern charts.* 

* There already exists some disagreement as to the question on 
which of the two principal portions of this reef, the eastern or the 
western, the Philadelphia ran. Captain Bainbridge, in his official 
letter, says that the harbour of Tripoli was distant three or four 
miles, when his ship struck. But the harbour of Tripoli extends 
more than a mile to the eastward of the town. Fort English lies 
properly near the mouth of the harbour, and it is considerably 
more than a mile east of the castle ; which, itself, stands at the 
southeastern angle of the town. Commodore Porter, in his testi- 


There was much of the hard fortune which attended 
a good deal of Bainbridge s professional career, in the 
circumstances of this accident. Had the prospects of 
the chase induced him to continue it, the frigate might 
have passed ahead, and the chances were that she 
would have hauled off, directly before the mouth of the 
harbour of Tripoli, and gone clear; carrying through 
nowhere less than five fathoms of water. Had she 
stood directly on, after first hauling up, she might have 
passed through the opening between the two portions 
of the reef, carrying with her six, seven, nine and ten 
fathoms, out to sea. But, in pursuing the very course 
which prudence and a sound discretion dictated to one 
who was ignorant of the existence of this reef, he ran 
his ship upon the very danger he was endeavouring to 
avoid. It is by making provision for war, in a time of 
peace, and, in expending its money freely, to further 

mony before the court of inquiry, thought the ship struck about 
three miles and a half from the town of Tripoli, and one and a half 
from the nearest point of land, which bore south. By the chart, 
the western margin of the western reef is about 4000 yards from 
the nearest point in the town, and the western margin of the east 
ern reef, about 6000. Three miles and a half would be just 6110 
yards. This reef, too, lies as near as may be, a mile and a half 
north of the nearest land ; thus agreeing perfectly with Commo 
dore Porter s testimony. In addition, the western portion of the 
reef could not have been reached without passing into five fathoms 
water, and Capt. Bainbridge deemed it prudent to haul oft when 
he found himself in eight. All the soundings show, as well as the 
distances, that the frigate struck as stated in the text, on the east 
ern half of the Kaliusa Reef; which might well be named the 
Philadelphia Reef. It may be added, that the nearest land would 
bear nearer southeast, than south, from the western half of these 
shoals. The following sketch will explain the text more fully. 



the objects of general science, in the way of surveys 
and other similar precautions, that a great maritime 
state, in particular, economizes, by means of a present 
expenditure, for the moments of necessity and danger 
that may await it, an age ahead. 


Bainbridge s first recourse, was the natural expedient 
of attempting to force the ship over the obstacle, in the ex 
pectation that the deep water lay to seaward. As soon, 
however, as the boats were lowered, and soundings 
taken, the true nature of the disaster was comprehended, 
and every effort was made to back the Philadelphia off, 
by the stern. A ship of the size of a frigate, that goes 
seven or eight knots, unavoidably piles a mass of water 
under her bows, and this, aided by the shelving of the 
reef, and possibly by a ground swell, had carried the 
ship up too far, to be got off by any ordinary efforts. 
The desperate nature of her situation was soon seen by 
the circumstance of her falling over so much, as to 
render it impossible to use any of her starboard guns. 

The firing of the chase had set several gun-boats in 
motion in the harbor, and a division of nine was turn 
ing to windward, in order to assist the xebec the Phila 
delphia had been pursuing, even before the last struck. 
Of course the nature of the accident was understood, 
and these enemies soon began to come within reach of 
shot, though at a respectful distance on the larboard 
quarter. Their fire did some injury aloft, but neither 
the hull nor any of the crew of the frigate were hit. 

Every expedient which could be resorted to, in order 
to get the Philadelphia off, was put in practice. The 
anchors were cut from the bows ; water was pumped 
out, and other heavy articles were thrown overboard, 
including all the guns, but those aft. Finally the fore 
mast was cut away. It would seem that the frigate 
had no boat strong enough to carry out an anchor, a 
serious oversight in the equipment of a vessel of any 
sort. After exerting himself, with great coolness and 


discretion, until sunset, Bainbridge consulted his offi 
cers, and the hard necessity of hauling down the colors 
was admitted. By this time, the gun-boats had ventured 
to cross the frigate s stern, and had got upon her weather 
quarter, where, as she had fallen over several feet to 
leeward, it was utterly impossible to do them any harm. 
Other boats, too, were coming out of the harbour to the 
assistance of the division which had first appeared. 

The Tripolitans got on board the Philadelphia, just 
as night was setting in, on the last day of October. 
They came tumbling in at the ports, in a croAvd, and 
then followed a scene of indiscriminate plunder and 
confusion. Swords, epaulettes, watches, jewels, money, 
and no small portion of the clothing of the officers even, 
disappeared, the person of Bainbridge himself being 
respected little more than those of the common men. 
He submitted to be robbed, until they undertook to force 
from him a miniature of his young and beautiful wife ? 
when he successfully resisted. The manly determi 
nation he showed in withstanding this last violence, had 
the effect to check the aggression, so far as he was con 
cerned, and about ten at night, the prisoners reached 
the shore, near the castle of the bashaw. 

Jussuf Caramelli received his prisoners, late as was 
the hour, in full divan ; feeling a curiosity, no doubt, to 
ascertain what sort of beings the chances of war had 
thrown into his power. There was a barbarous cour 
tesy in his deportment, nor was the reception one of 
which the Americans had any right to complain. After 
a short interview, he dismissed the officers to an excel 
lent supper which had been prepared for them in the 
castle itself, and to this hour, the gentlemen who sat 


down to that feast with the appetites of midshipmen, 
speak of its merits with an affection which proves that 
it was got up in the spirit of true hospitality. When 
all had supped, they were carried back to the divan, 
where the Pacha and his ministers had patiently awaited 
their return ; when the former put them in charge of 
Sidi Mohammed D Ghies, one of the highest function 
aries of the regency, who conducted the officers, with 
the necessary attendants, to the building that had lately 
been the American consular residence. 

This was the commencement of a long and irksome 
captivity, which terminated only with the war. The 
feelings of Bainbridge were most painful, as we know 
from his letters, his private admissions, and the peculiar 
nature of his case. He had been unfortunate through 
out most of his public service. The Retaliation was 
the only American cruiser taken in the war of 1798, 
and down to that moment, she was the only vessel of 
the new marine that had been taken at all. Here, then, 
was the second ship that had fallen into the enemy s 
hands, also under his orders. Then the affair of the 
George Washington was one likely to wound the feel 
ings of a high-spirited and sensitive mind, to which 
expknations, however satisfactory, are of themselves 
painful and humiliating. These were circumstances 
that might have destroyed the buoyancy of some men ; 
and there is no question, that Bainbridge felt them 
acutely, and with a lively desire to be justified before 
his country. At this moment, his officers stepped in to 
relieve him, by sending a generous letter, signed by 
every man in the ship whose testimony could at all 
influence the opinion of a court of inquiry. Care was 


taken to say, in this letter, that the charts and soundings 
justified the ship in approaching the shore, as near as 
she had, which was the material point, as connected 
with his conduct as a commander ; his personal deport 
ment after the accident being beyond censure. Bain- 
bridge was greatly relieved by the receipt of this letter, 
the writing of which was generously and kindly con 
ceived, though doubts may exist as to its propriety, in a 
military point of view. The commander of a ship, to a 
certain extent, is properly responsible for its loss, and 
his subordinates are the witnesses by whose, testimony 
the court, which is finally to exonerate, or to condemn, 
is guided ; to anticipate their evidence, by a joint letter, 
therefore, is opening the door to management and in 
fluence which may sometimes shield a real delinquent. 
So tender are military tribunals, strictly courts of honour, 
that one witness is not allowed to hear the testimony of 
another, and the utmost caution should ever be shown 
about the expression of opinions even, until the moment 
arrives to give them in the presence of the judges, and 
under the solemnities of oaths. This is said without 
direct reference to the case before us, however ; for, if 
ever an instance occurred in which a departure from 
severe principles is justifiable, it was this ; and no one 
can regret that Bainbridge, in the long captivity which 
followed, had the consolation of possessing such a let 
ter. It may be well, here, to mention that all the offi 
cers whose names are given already in this biography, 
shared his prison, with the exception of Messrs. Cox 
and M Donough : the former of -whom had exchanged 
with Lieutenant Porter, now a captive, while the latter 
had been left at Gibraltar, in charge of the Meshboha, 

VOL. I. 5 


to come aloft with Decatur, and to share in all the gal 
lant deeds of that distinguished officer, before Tripoli. 

Much exaggeration has prevailed on the subject of 
the treatment the American prisoners received from the 
Turks. It was not regulated by the rules of a more 
civilized warfare, certainly, and the common men were 
compelled to labour under the restrictions of African 
slavery ; but the officers, on the whole, were kindly 
treated, and the young men were even indulged in 
many of the wild expressions of their humors. There 
were moments of irritation, and perhaps of policy, it is 
true, in which changes of treatment occurred, but con 
finement was the principal grievance. Books were 
obtained, and the studies of the midshipmen were not 
neglected. Sidi Mohammed D Ghies proved their 
friend, though the Danish consul, M. Nissen, was the 
individual to whom the gratitude of the prisoners was 
principally due. This benevolent man commenced his 
acts of kindness the day after the Americans were 
taken, and he continued them, with unwearying pbi- 
lanthropy, down to the hour of their liberation. By 
means of this gentleman, Bainbridge was enabled to 
communicate with Commodore Preble, who received 
many useful suggestions from the prisoner, concerning 
his own operations before the town. 

The Turks were so fortunate as to be favored with 
good weather, for several days after the Philadelphia 
fell into their hands. Surrounding the ship with their 
gunboats, and carrying out the necessary anchors, they 
soon hove her off the reef into deep water ; where she 
floated, though it was necessary to use the pumps freely, 
and to stop some bad leaks. The guns, anchors, &c., 


had unavoidably been thrown on the rocks ; and they 
were also recovered with little difficulty. The prisoners, 
therefore, in a day or two, had the mortification to see 
their late ship anchored between the reef and the town ; 
and, ere long, she was brought into the harbor and par 
tially repaired. 

tt is said, on good authority, that Bainbridge suggest 
ed to Preble the plan for the destruction of the Phila 
delphia, which was subsequently adopted. His corre 
spondence was active, and there is no question that it 
contained many useful suggestions. A few weeks after 
he was captured, he received a manly, sensible letter 
from Preble, which, no doubt, had a cheering influence 
on his feelings. 

It will be remembered that the Philadelphia went 
ashore on the morning of the 31st October, 1803. On 
the 15th of the succeeding February, the captives were 
awaked about midnight by the firing of guns. A bright 
light gleamed upon the windows, and they had the 
pleasure to see the frigate enveloped in flames. Deca- 
tur had just quitted the ship, and his ketch was then 
sweeping down the harbor towards the Siren, which 
awaited her in the offing ! 

This exploit caused a sensible change in the treat 
ment of the officers, who were then captives in Tripoli. 
On the first of March, they were all removed to the 
castle, where they continued for the remainder of the 
time they were prisoners, or more than a twelvemonth. 
Several attempts at escape were made, but they all 
failed ; principally for the want of means. In this 
manner passed month after month, until the spring had 
advanced into the summer. One day the cheering in- 


telligence spread among the captives that a numerous 
force was visible in the offing, but it disappeared in 
consequence of a gale of wind. This was about the 
1st of August, 1804. A day or two later this force re 
appeared, a heavy firing followed, and the gentlemen 
clambered up to the windows which commanded a par 
tial view of the offing. There they saw a flotilla of 
gunboats, brigs, and schooners, gathering towards the 
rocks, where lay a strong division of the Turks, the 
shot from the batteries and shipping dashing the spray 
about, and a canopy of smoke collecting over the sea. 
In the back-ground v/as the Constitution that glorious 
frigate ! coming down into the fray, with the men on 
her top-gallant-yards gathering in the canvas, as coolly 
as if she were about to anchor. This was a sight to 
warm a sailor s heart, even within the walls of a prison ! 
Then they got a glimpse of the desperate assault led 
by Decatur the position of their windows permitting 
no more and they were left to imagine what was going 
on, amid the roar of cannon, to leeward. This was the 
celebrated attack of the 3d August ; or that with which 
Preble began his own warfare, and little intermission 
followed for the next six weeks. On the njght of the 
4th of September, a few guns were fired a heavy ex 
plosion was heard and this terminated the din of war. 
It was the catastrophe in which Somers perished. A 
day or two later, Bainbridge was taken to see some of 
the dead of that affair, but he found the bodies so much 
mutilated as to render recognition impossible. 

Bainbridge kept a journal of the leading events that 
occurred during his captivity. Its meagerness, how 
ever, supplies proof of the sameness of his Jife ; little 


occurring to give it interest, except an occasional diffi 
culty with the Turks, and these attacks. In this jour 
nal he speaks of the explosion of the Intrepid, as an 
enterprise that entirely failed ; injuring nothing. It 
was thought in the squadron that a part of the wall of 
the castle had fallen, on this occasion, but it was a mis 
take. Not a man, house, or vessel of Tripoli, so far as 
can now be ascertained, suffered, in the least, by the 
explosion. Bainbridge also mentions, what other infor 
mation corroborates, that the shells seldom burst. Many 
fell within the town, but none blew up. Two or three 
even struck the house of the worthy Nissen, but the 
injury was slight, comparatively, in consequence of this 

At length the moment of liberation arrived. An 
American negotiator appeared in the person of the con 
sul-general for Barbary, and matters drew towards a 
happy termination. Some obstacles, however, occurred, 
and, to get rid of them, Sidi Mohammed D Ghies, a judge 
of human nature, and a man superior to most around him, 
proposed to the Bashaw to let Bainbridge go on board 
the Constitution, then commanded by Com. Rodgers. 
The proposal appeared preposterous to the wily and 
treacherous Jussuf, who insisted that his prisoner would 
never be fool enough to come back, if once at liberty. 
The minister understood the notions of military honor 
that prevailed amongst Christian nations better, and he 
finally succeeded in persuading his master to consent 
that Bainbridge might depart; but not until he had 
placed his own son in the Bashaw s hands, as a hostage.* 

* It is pleasing 1 to know that this son has since had his life most 
probably saved, by the timely intervention of the American au- 


The 1st of June, 1805, was a happy hour for the 
subject of our memoir, for then, after a captivity of 
nineteen months, to a day, was he permitted again to 
tread the deck of an American man-of-war. The entire 
day was spent in the squadron, and Bainbridge returned 
in the night, greatly discouraged as to the success of 
the negotiation. Finding Sidi Mohammed D Ghies, 
they repaired to the palace together, where the Bashaw 
received them with wonder. He had given up the 
slight expectation he ever had of seeing his captive 
again, and had been sharply rebuking his minister for 
the weakness he had manifested by his credulity. 
Bainbridge stated to the prince the only terms on which 
the Americans would treat, and these Jussuf immedi 
ately rejected. The friendly offices of M. Nissen were 
employed next day, however, and on the third, a coun 
cil of state was convened, at which the treaty, drawn 
up in form, was laid before the members for approval 
or rejection. 

At this council, Bainbridge was invited to be present. 
When he entered, he was told by the Bashaw, himself, 
that no prisoner in Barbary had ever before been admit 
ted to a similar honor, and that the discussions should 
be carried on in French, in order that he might under 
stand them. The question of " peace or war" was then 
solemnly proposed. There were eight members of the 
council, and six were for war. Sidi Mohammed D Ghies 

thorities. A man-of-war was sent to Tripoli, and brought him off 
at a most critical moment, when he was about to fall a sacrifice to 
his enemies. He is dead ; having been an enlightened statesman, 
like his father, and a firm friend of this country j though much 
vilified and persecuted toward the close of his brief career. 


and the commandant of the marine alone maintained 
the doctrine of peace. There may have been precon 
cert and artifice in all this ; if so, it was well acted. 
The speeches were grave and dignified, and seemingly 
sincere, and, after a time, two of the dissentients were 
converted to the side of peace; leaving the cabinet 
equally divided. "How shall I act?" demanded the 
Bashaw. " Which party shall I satisfy ? you are four 
for peace, and four for war !" Here Sidi Mohammed 
D Ghies arose and said it was for the sovereign to de 
cide they were but councillors, whereas he was their 
prince : though he entreated him, for his own interests 
and for those of his people, to make peace. The 
Bashaw drew his signet from his bosom, deliberately 
affixed it to the treaty, and said, with dignity and em 
phasis, "It is peace. 11 

The salutes followed, and the war ceased. The 
principal officers of the squadron visited the captives that 
evening ; and the next day the latter were taken on board 
ship. A generous trait of the seamen and marines, on 
this occasion, merits notice. A Neapolitan slave had 
been much employed about them, and had shown them 
great kindness. They sent a deputation to Bainbridge, 
to request he would authorize the purser to advance 
them $700, of their joint pay ; it was done, and, with 
the money, they bought the liberty of the Neapolitan ; 
carrying him off with them finally landing him on 
his own shores. 

At Syracuse, a court of inquiry was held, for the loss 
of the Philadelphia. This court consisted of Capts. 
James Barren, Hugh G. Campbell and Stephen Deca- 
tur, jun. Gen. Eaton was the judge advocate. The 


result was an honorable acquittal. The rinding of this 
court was dated June 29, 1805. 

The country dealt generously and fairly by Bain- 
bridge and his officers. The loss of the Philadelphia 
was viewed as being, precisely what it was, an una 
voidable accident, that was met by men engaged in the 
zealous service of their country, in a distant sea, on an 
inhospitable shore, and at an inclement season of the 
year ; and an accident that entailed on the sufferers a 
long and irksome captivity. To have been one of the 
Philadelphia s crew has ever been rightly deemed a 
strong claim on the gratitude of the republic, and from 
the hour at which the ill-fated ship lowered her ensign, 
down to the present moment, a syllable of reproach has 
never been whispered. Bainbridge, himself, was brought 
prominently into notice by the affair, and the sympathy 
his misfortunes produced in the public mind, made him 
a favorite with the nation. The advantage thus ob 
tained, was supported and perpetuated by that frank and 
sincere earnestness which marked his public service, 
and which was so well adapted to embellish the manly 
career of a sailor. 

The officers and crew of the Philadelphia reached 
home in the autumn of 1805, and were welcomed 
with the warmth that their privations entitled them to 

Capt. Bainbridge had married, when a young man, 
and he now found himself embarrassed in his circum 
stances, with an increasing family. But few ships were 
employed, and there were officers senior to himself to 
command them. The half-pay of his rank was then 
only $600 a year, and he determined to get leave to 


make a voyage or two in the merchant service, in order 
to repair his fortunes. He had been appointed to the 
navy-yard at New York, however, previously to this 
determination, but prudence pointed out the course on 
which he had decided. A voyage to the Havana, in 
w T hich he was part owner, turned out well, and he con 
tinued in this pursuit for two years ; or from the sum 
mer of 1806, until the spring of 1808. In March of 
the latter year, he was ordered to Portland, and, in De 
cember following, he was transferred to the command 
of the President 44, then considered the finest ship in 
the navy. Owing to deaths, resignations, and promo 
tions, the list of captains had undergone some changes 
since the passage of the reduction-law. It now con 
tained thirteen names, a number determined by an act 
passed in 1806, among which that of Bainbridge stood 
the sixth in rank.* The difficulties with England, which 
had produced the armament, seemed on the point of ad 
justment, and immediate war was no longer expected. 
Bainbridge hoisted his first broad pennant in the Presi 
dent, having the command on the southern division of 
the coast ; Com. Rodgers commanding at the north. In 
the summer of 1809, the President sailed on the coast 
service, and continued under Bainbridge s orders, until 
May, 1810, when he left her, again to return to a mer 
chant vessel. 

On this occasion Bainbridge went into the Baltic. 
On his way to St. Petersburg, a Danish cruiser took 
him, and carried him into Copenhagen. Here, his first 
thought was of his old friend Nissen. Within half an 
hour, the latter was with him, and it is a coincidence 
worthy of being mentioned, that at the very moment 


the benevolent ex-consul heard of Bainbridge s arrival, 
lie was actually engaged in unpacking a handsome 
silver urn, which had been sent to him, as a memorial of 
his own kindness to them, by the late officers of the 

Through the exertions of this constant friend, Bain- 
bridge soon obtained justice, and his ship was released. 
He then went up the Baltic. In this trade Capt. Bain- 
bridge was induced to continue, until the rencontre oc 
curred, between his late ship, the President, and the 
British vessel of war, the Little Belt. As soon as ap 
prized of this event, he left St. Petersburg, and made 
the best of his way to the Atlantic coast, over-land. In 
February, 1812, he reached Washington, and reported 
himself for service. But no consequences ever followed 
the action mentioned, and a period of brief but delusive 
calm succeeded, during which few, if any, believed that 
war was near. Still it had been seriously contemplated ; 
and, it is understood, the question of the disposition of 
the navy, in the event of a struggle so serious as one 
with Great Britain s occurring, had been gravely agi 
tated in the cabinet. To his great mortification, Bain- 
bridge learned the opinion prevailed that it would be 
expedient to lay up all the vessels ; or, at most, to use 
them only for harbor defence. Fortunately, the present 
Com. Stewart, an officer several years the junior of 
Bainbridge in rank, but one of high moral courage and 
of great decision of character, happened to be also at 
the seat of government. After a consultation, these 
two captains had interviews with the Secretary and 
President, and, at the request of the latter, ad 
dressed to him such a letter as finally induced a change 


of policy. Had Bainbridge and Stewart never served 
their country but in this one act, they would be entitled 
to receive its lasting gratitude. Their remonstrances 
against belonging to a peace-navy were particularly 
pungent ; but their main arguments were solid and 
convincing. After aiding in performing this act of vital 
service to the corps to which he belonged, Bainbridge 
proceeded to Charlestown, Massachusetts, and assumed 
the command of the yard. 

War was declared on the 18th June, 1812 ; or shortly 
after Bainbridge was established at his new post. By 
this time death had cleared the list of captains of most 
of his superiors. Murray was at the head of the navy, 
but too old and infirm for active service. Next to him 
stood Rodgers ; James Barron came third, but he was 
abroad ; and Bainbridge was the fourth. This circum 
stance entitled him to a command afloat, and he got the 
Constellation 38, a lucky ship, though not the one he 
would have chosen, or the one he might justly have 
claimed in virtue of his commission. But the three 
best frigates had all gone to sea, in quest of the enemy, 
and he was glad to get any thing. A few weeks later, 
Hull came in with the Constitution, after performing 
two handsome exploits in her, and very generously 
consented to give her up, in order that some one else 
might have a chance. To this ship Bainbridge was 
immediately transferred, and on board her he hoisted 
his broad pennant on the loth September, 1812. 

The Essex 32, Capt. Porter, and Hornet 18, Capt. 
Lawrence, were joined to Bainbridge s orders, and his in 
structions were to cruise for the English East India trade, 
in the South Atlantic. The Essex was in the Delaware ; 


she was directed to rendezvous at the Cape de Verdes, 
or on the coast of South America. The Constitution 
and Hornet sailed in company, from Boston, on the 
26th October. The events of the cruise prevented the 
Essex, which ship was commanded by Porter, his old 
first lieutenant in the Philadelphia, from joining the 

The Constitution and Hornet arrived off St. Salvador 
on the 13th of December. The latter ship went in, and 
found the Bonne Citoyenne, an enemy s cruiser of 
equal force, lying in the harbor. This discovery led to 
a correspondence which will be mentioned in the life 
of Lawrence, and which induced Bainbridge to quit the 
offing, leaving the Hornet on the look-out for her enemy. 
On the 26th, accordingly, he steered to the southward, 
intending to stand along the coast as low as 12 20 S., 
when, about 9, A. M., on the 29th, the ship then being 
in 13 6 S. latitude, and 31 W. longitude, or about 
thirty miles from the land, she made two strange sail, 
inshore and to windward. After a little manoeuvring, 
one of the ships closing, while the other stood on to 
wards St. Salvador, Bainbridge was .satisfied he had an 
enemy s frigate fairly within his reach. This was a 
fortunate meeting to occur in a sea where there was 
little hazard of finding himself environed by hostile 
cruisers, and only sixty-four days out himself from 

In receiving the Constitution from Hull, Bainbridge 
found her with only a portion of her old officers in 
her, though the crew remained essentially the same. 
Morris, her late first lieutenant, had been promoted, 
and was succeeded by George Parker, a gentleman of 


Virginia, and a man of spirit and determination. John 
Shubrick and Beekman Hoffman, the first of South 
Carolina and the last of New York, two officers who 
stood second to none of their rank in the service, were 
still in the ship, however, and Alwyn, her late master, 
had been promoted, and was now the junior lieutenant.* 
In a word, their commander could rely on his officers 
and people, and he prepared for action with confidence 
and alacrity. A similar spirit seemed to prevail in the 
other vessel, which was exceedingly well officered, and, 
as it appeared in the end, was extra manned. 

At a quarter past meridian, the enemy showed Eng 
lish colors. Soon after, the Constitution, which had 
stood to the southward to draw the stranger off the land, 
hauled up her mainsail, took in her royals, and tacked 
toward the stranger. As the wind was light and the 
water smooth, the Constitution kept every thing aloft, 
ready for use, closing w r ith her enemy with royal yards 
across. At 2 P. M. the stranger was about half a mile 
to windward of the Constitution, and showed no colors, 
except a jack. Bainbridge now ordered a shot fired at 
him, to induce him to set an ensign. This order being 
misunderstood, produced a whole broadside from the 
Constitution, when the stranger showed English colors 
again and returned the fire. 

This was the commencement of a furious cannon- 

* Alas ! how few of the gallant spirits of the late war remain ! 
Bainbridge is gone. Parker died in command of the Siren, the 
next year. John Shubrick was lost in the Epervier, a twelve 
month later; and Beekman Hoffman died a captain in 1834; 
while Alwyn survived the wounds received in this action but a 
few days. 

VOL. I. 6 


ading, both ships manoeuvring to rake and to avoid 
being raked. Very soon after the action commenced, 
Bainbridge was hit by a musket ball in the hip ; and, 
a minute or two later, a shot came in and carried away 
the wheel, and drove a small bolt with considerable 
violence into his thigh. Neither injury, however, in 
duced him even to sit down; he kept walking the 
quarter-deck, and attending to the ship, greatly adding 
to the subsequent inflammation, as these foreign sub 
stances were lodged in the muscles of his leg, and, in the 
end, threatened tetanus. The last injury was received 
about twenty minutes after the firing commenced, and 
was even of more importance to the ship than the 
wound it produced was to her captain. The wheel 
was knocked into splinters, and it became necessary 
to steer below.* This was a serious evil in the 
midst of a battle, and more particularly in an action in 
which there was an unusual amount of manoeuvring. 
The English vessel, being very strong manned, was 

* Some time after the peace of 1815, a distinguished officer of 
the English navy visited the Constitution, then just fitted anew at 
Boston, for a Mediterranean cruise. He went through the ship 

accompanied by Capt. , of our service. " Well, what do you 

think of her?" asked the latter, after the two had gone through 
the vessel and reached the quarter-deck again. " She is one of 
the finest frigates, if not the very finest frigate, I ever put my foot 
on board of," returned the Englishman; " but as I must find some 
fault, I ll just say that your wheel is one of the clumsiest things 

I ever saw, and-is unworthy of the vessel." Capt. laughed, 

and then explained the appearance of the wheel to the other, as 
follows: "When the Constitution took the Java, the former s 
wheel was shot out of her. The Java s wheel was fitted on the 
Constitution to steer with, and, although we think it as ugly as 
you do, we keep it as a trophy !" 


actively handled, and, sailing better than the Con 
stitution in light winds, her efforts to rake produced a 
succession of evolutions, which caused both ships to 
ware so often, that the battle terminated several miles 
to leeward of the point on the ocean where it com 

After the action had lasted some time, Bainbridge 
determined to close with his enemy at every hazard. 
He set his courses accordingly, and luffed up close to 
the wind. This brought matters to a crisis, and the 
Englishman, finding the Constitution s fire too heavy, 
attempted to run her aboard. His jib-boom did get foul 
of the American frigate s mizen rigging, but the end of 
his bowsprit being shot away, and his foremast soon 
after following, the ships passed clear of each other, 
making a lucky escape for the assailants.* The battle 

* On the part of the enemy, in the war of words which succeed 
ed the war of 1812, it was pretended that the Constitution kept 
off in this engagement. Bainbridge, in his official letter, says he 
endeavoured to close, at the risk of being raked ; the early loss 
of the Constitution s wheel prevented her from manoeuvring as 
she might otherwise have done. When a frigate s wheel is gone, 
the tiller is worked by tackles, below two decks, and this makes 
awkward work ; first, as to the transmission of orders, and next, 
and principally, as to the degree of change, the men who do the 
work not being able to see the sails. There are two modes of 
transmitting the orders ; one by a tube fitted for that express pur 
pose, and the other by a line of midshipmen. 

But the absurd part of the argument was an attempt to show 
that the Constitution captured the Java by her great superiority in 
small-arms-men; Kentucky riflemen, of course, of whom, by the 
way, there probably was never one in an American ship. This 
attempt was made, in connection with a battle in which the de 
feated party, too, had every spar, even to her bowsprit, shot out 
of her ! All the witnesses on the subsequent court of inquiry ap- 


continued some time longer, the Constitution throwing 
in several effective raking broadsides, and then falling 
alongside of her enemy to leeward. At length, finding 
her adversary s guns silenced and his ensign down, 
Bainbridge boarded his tacks again, luffed up athwart 
the Englishman s bows, and got a position ahead 
and to windward, in order to repair damages ; actually 
coming out of the battle as he had gone into it, with 
royal yards across, and every spar, from the highest 
to the lowest, in its place ! The enemy presented a 
singular contrast. Stick after stick had been shot out 
of him, as it might be, inch by inch too, until nothing, 
but a few stumps, was left. All her masts were gone, 
the foremast having been shot away twice, once near 
the cat-harpings, and again much nearer to the deck ; 
the main-topmast had come down some time before the 
mainmast fell. The bowsprit, as has been said, was 
shot away at the cap. After receiving these damages, 
the enemy did not wait for a new attack, but as soon as 
the Constitution came round, with an intention to cross 

pear to have been asked about this musketry, and the answer of 
the boatswain is amusing. 

Question. " Did you suffer much from musketry on the fore 

Answer. " Yes ; and likewise from round and grape." 
Another absurdity was an attempt to show (see James, Ap. p. 12) 
that the Java would have carried the Constitution had her men 
boarded. The Constitution s upper deck was said to be deserted, 
as if her people had left it in apprehension of their enemies. Not 
a man left his station in the ship, that day, except under orders, 
and so far from caring about the attempt to board, they ridiculed it. 
The Java was very bravely fought, beyond a question, but the 
Constitution took her, and came out of the action with royal yards 



her fore-foot, he lowered a jack which had been flying 
at the stump of his mizenmast.* 

* The following diagram will aid the reader in his view of the 
movements of the two vessels, during the engagement. 

Wind N. E. 

ufl W 


Hour 2.10. 

e - 

J I 

S i 


The ship Bainbridge captured was the Java 38, Capt. 
Lambert. The Java was a French built ship that had 
been captured some time previously, under the name of 
La Renommee, in those seas where lies the island after 
which she was subsequently called. She mounted 49 
carriage guns, and had a sufficient number of supernu 
meraries on board to raise her complement at quarters 
to something like 400 souls. Of these the English ac 
counts admit that 124 were killed and wounded; though 
Bainbridge thought her loss was materially greater. It 
is said a muster-list was found in the ship, that was dated 
five days after the Java left England, and which con 
tained 446 names. From these, however, was to be 
deducted the crew for a prize she had taken ; the ship 
in company when made the day of the action. Capt. 
Lambert died of his wounds ; but there was a master 
and commander on board, among the passengers, and 
the surviving first lieutenant was an officer of merit. 

In addition to the officers and seamen who were in 
the Java, as passengers, were Lieutenant-General Hislop 
and his staff, the former of whom was going to Bombay 
as governor. Bainbridge treated these captives with 
great liberality and kindness, and after destroying his 
prize for want of means to refit her, he landed all his 
prisoners, on parole, at St. Salvador. 

In this action the Constitution had nine men killed 
and twenty-five men wounded. She was a good deal 
cut up in the rigging, and had a few spars injured, but 
considering the vigour of the engagement and the 
smoothness of the water, she escaped with but little in 
jury. There is no doubt that she was a heavier ship 
than her adversary, but the difference in the batteries 


was less than appeared by the nominal calibres of the 
guns ; the American shot, in that war, being generally 
of light weight, while those of the Java, by some ac 
counts, were French. 

It has been said that Bainbridge disregarded his own 
wounds until the irritation endangered his life. His 
last injury must have been received about half-past two, 
and he remained actively engaged on deck until 11 
o clock at night ; thus adding the irritation of eight 
hours of exertion to the original injuries. The conse 
quences were some exceedingly threatening symptoms, 
but skilful treatment subdued them, when his recovery 
was rapid. 

An interesting interview took place between Bain- 
bridge and Lambert, on the quarter-deck of the Consti 
tution, after the arrival of the ship at St. Salvador. 
The English captain was in his cot, and Bainbridge 
approached, supported by two of his own officers, to 
take his leave, and to restore the dying man his sword. 
This interview has been described as touching, and as 
leaving kind feelings between the parting officers. Poor 
Lambert, an officer of great merit, died a day or two 

The Constitution now returned home for repairs, being 
very rotten. She reached Boston, February 27, 1813, 
after a cruise of only four months and one day. Bain 
bridge returned in triumph, this time, and, if his coun 
trymen had previously manifested a generous sympa 
thy in his misfortunes, they now showed as strong a 
feeling in his success. Tho victor was not more 
esteemed for his courage and skill than for the high 


and chivalrous courtesy and liberality with which he 
had treated his prisoners. 

Bainbridge gave up the Constitution on his return 
home, and resumed the command of the yard at Charles- 
town, where the Independence 74 was building, a vessel 
he intended to take, when launched. Here he remained 
until the peace, that ship not being quite ready to go 
out when the treaty was signed. In the spring of 1815, 
a squadron was sent to the Mediterranean, under Deca- 
tur, to act against the Dey of Algiers, and Bainbridge 
followed, as command er-in-chief, in the Independence, 
though he did not arrive until his active predecessor 
had brought the war to a successful close. On this oc 
casion, Bainbridge had under his orders the largest naval 
force that had then ever been assembled under the 
American flag ; from eighteen to twenty sail of efficient 
cruisers being included in his command. In November, 
after a cruise of about five months, he returned to New 
port, having one ship of the line, two frigates, seven 
brigs, and three schooners in company. Thus he car 
ried to sea the first two-decker that ever sailed under 
the American flag ; the present Capt. Bolton being his 
first lieutenant. During this cruise, Com. Bainbridge 
arranged several difficulties with the Barbary powers, 
and in all his service, he maintained the honor and 
dignity of his flag and of his command. 

Bainbridge now continued at Boston several years, 
with his pennant flying in the Independence, as a guard 
ship . In the autu mn of 1 8 1 9, however, he was detached 
once more, for the purpose of again commanding in 
the Mediterranean. This was the fifth time in which 


he had been sent into that sea ; three times in command 
of frigates, and twice at the head of squadrons. The 
Columbus 80, an entirely new ship, was selected for his 
pennant, and he did not sail until April, 1820, in conse 
quence of the work that it was necessary to do on board 
her. The Columbus reached Gibraltar early in June. 
This was an easy and a pleasant cruise, one of the ob 
jects being to show the squadron in the ports of the 
Mediterranean, in order to impress the different nations 
on its coast with the importance of respecting the mari 
time rights of the republic. Bainbridge had a strong 
desire to show his present force, the Columbus in par 
ticular, before Constantinople, whither he had been 
sent twenty years before, against his wishes, but a firman 
could not be procured to pass the castles with so heavy 
a ship. After remaining out about a year, Bainbridge 
was relieved, and returned home, the principal objects 
of his cruise having been effected. 

This was Bainbridge s last service afloat. He had 
now made ten cruises in the public service, had com 
manded a schooner, a brig, five frigates and two line-of- 
battle ships, besides being at the head of three different 
squadrons, and it was thought expedient to let younger 
officers gain some experience. Age did not induce 
him to retire, for he was not yet fifty ; but others had 
claims on the country, and his family had claims on 

Although unemployed afloat, Bainbridge continued 
diligently engaged in the service, generally of the re 
public and of the navy. He was at Charlestown a 
favourite station with him for some time, and then was 
placed at the head of the board of navy commissioners. 


at Washington. After serving his three years in the 
latter station, he had the Philadelphia yard. Bainbridge 
had removed his family twenty-six times, in the course 
of his different changes, and considering himself as a 
Delaware seaman, he now determined to establish him 
self permanently in the ancient capital of the country. 
An unpleasant collision with the head of the depart 
ment, however, forced him from his command in 1831 ; 
but, the next year, he was restored to the station at 
Charlestown. His health compelled him to give up this 
station in a few months, and his constitution being broken, 
he returned to his family in Philadelphia, in the month of 
March, 1832, only to die. His disease was pneumonia, 
connected with great irritation of the bowels and a 
wasting diarrhoea. As early as in January, 1833, he was 
told that his case was hopeless, when he manifested a 
calm and manly resignation to his fate. He lived, 
however, until the 28th of July, when he breathed his 
last, aged fifty-nine years, two months and twenty-one 
days. An hour or two previously to his death, his mind 
began to wander, and not long before he yielded up his 
breath, he raised all that was left of his once noble 
frame, demanded his arms, and ordered all hands called 
to board the enemy ! 

Bainbridge married, in the early part of his career, a 
lady of the West Indies, of the name Hyleger. She 
was the grand-daughter of a former governor of St. 
Eustatia, of the same name. By this lady he had five 
children who grew up ; a son and four daughters. The 
son was educated to the bar ; was a young man of much 
promise, but he died a short time previously to his 
father. Of the daughters, one married a gentleman of 




the name of Hayes, formerly of the navy ; another 
married Mr. A. G. Jaudon, of Philadelphia, and a third 
is now the wife of Henry K. Hoff, a native of Penn 
sylvania, and a sea-lieutenant in the service, of eleven 
years standing. He left his family in easy circum 
stances, principally the result of his own prudence, 
forethought, gallantry, and enterprise. 

At the time of his death, Commodore Bainbridge 
stood third in rank, in the American navy ; having a 
long list of captains beneath him. Had justice been done 
to this gallant officer, to the service to which he be 
longed, or even to the country, whose interests are alone 
to be efficiently protected by a powerful marine, he 
would have worn a flag some years before the termina 
tion of his career. Quite recently a brig of war has 
received his name, in that service which he so much 
loved, and in which he passed the best of his days. 

Com. Bainbridge was a man of fine and commanding 
personal appearance. His stature was about six feet, 
and his frame was muscular and of unusually good 
proportions. His face was handsome, particularly in 
youth, and his eye uncommonly animated and piercing. 
In temperament he was ardent and sanguine ; but cool 
in danger, and of a courage of proof. His feelings 
were vehement, and he was quickly roused ; but, gene 
rous and brave, he was easily appeased. Like most 
men who are excitable, but who are firm at bottom, he 
was the calmest in moments of the greatest responsi 
bility.* He was hospitable, chivalrous, magnanimous, 

* A singular proof how far the resolution of Bainbridge could 
overcome his natural infirmities, was connected with a very melan 
choly affair. When Decatur fought the duel in which he fell, he 


and a firm friend. His discipline was severe, but he 
tempered it with much consideration for the wants and 
health of his crews. Few served with him who did 
not love him, for the conviction that his heart was right, 
was general among all who knew him. There was a 
cordiality and warmth in his manner, that gained him 
friends, and those who knew him best, say he had the 
art of keeping them. 

A shade was thrown over the last years of the life 
of this noble-spirited man by disease. His sufferings 
drove him to the use of antispasmodics, to an extent 
which deranged the nerves. This altered his mood so 
much as to induce those who did not know him well to 
imagine that his character had undergone the change.. 
This was not the case, however; to his dying hour 
Bainbridge continued the warm-hearted friend, the 
chivalrous gentleman, and the devoted lover of his 
country s honor and interests. 

selected his old commander and friend, Bainbridge, to accompany 
him to the field. Bainbridge had a slight natural impediment in 
his speech, which sometimes embarrassed his utterance ; especially 
when any thing excited him. On such occasions, he usually be 
gan a sentence "un-fer" "un-er," or "un-Zo," and then he 
managed to get out the beginning of what he had to say. On the 
sad occasion alluded to, the word of command was to be " Fire 
one, two, three ;" the parties firing between " Fire" and " three." 
Bainbridge won the toss, and was to give the word. It then oc 
curred to one of the gentlemen of the other side that some accident 
might arise from this peculiarity of Bainbridge s "one two 11 
sounding so much like " un-fer." and he desired that the whole 
order might be rehearsed before it was finally acted. This was 
done; but Bainbridge was perfectly cool, and no mistake was 


FEW men in this country have left names as distin 
guished as that of Somers, around whose personal history 
there remains so much doubt. Had he not given up 
his life in the service of his country, he would most 
probably have now been living, in a green old age. 
While many of his friends and shipmates still survive 
to bear testimony to his bravery and his virtues, yet no 
one seems to possess the precise information that is 
necessary to a full and accurate biographical sketch of 
more than his public services. The same mystery that 
has so long clothed the incidents of his death, appears 
to have gathered about those of his early life, veiling the 
beginning and the end equally in a sad and uncertain 

The family of Somers emigrated from England to 
America in the early part of the eighteenth century, 
establishing itself at Great Egg Harbor, Gloucester 
county, New Jersey. Here the emigrant became the 
proprietor of a considerable landed property, most of 
which still remains in the hands of his descendants, the 
place bearing the name of Somers Point. This Point 
forms the southeastern extremity of the county, being 
separated from that of Cape May merely by the Harbor. 
Gordon, in his Gazetteer of New Jersey, thus describes 
the spot, viz.: "Somers Point, post-office and port of 

VOL. i. 7 73 


entry for Great Egg Harbor district, upon the Great Egg 
Harbor bay, about 43 miles S. E. from Woodbury, 88 
from Trenton, and, by post-route, 196 from Washington. 
There is a tavern and boarding-house here v and several 
farm-houses. It is much resorted to for sea-bath incr in 


summer, and gunning in the fall season." 

It is believed that the Christian name of the emigrant 
was John, and as this was also the baptismal designation 
of the celebrated jurist, who came from the middle class 
of society, the circumstances, taken in connection with 
the fact that the family was known to have been respect 
able in England, leaves the strong probability that the 
parties had a common origin. At all events, this John 
Somers, by his possessions, and position, must have 
been of a condition in life much superior to the great 
body of the emigrants to the American colonies. Report 
makes him a man of strong English habits and charac 
ter, while there is a tradition among his descendants of 
the existence of a mother, or of a mother-in-law, who 
was of French extraction, and a native of Acadie. This 
person may have been the mother of the wife of the 
emigrant, however ; but the circumstance is not without 
interest, when it is remembered that the regretted 
Somers ^himself, like his intimate friend Decatur, had 
more of the physical appearance of one descended from 
a French stock, than of one who was derived from a 
purely Anglo-Saxon ancestry. 

The property at Somers Point descended princi 
pally, if not entirp y, to the two sons of the emigrant, 
John and Richard. John, the eldest, lived and died on 
the estate, where his descendants are still to be found. 
Richard, the youngest, married Sophia Stillwell, of the 


same part of his native province, by whom he had three 
children, Constant, Sarah, and Richard. 

Constant Somers married Miss Learning, of Cape 
May county, and died young, leaving a son and a 
daughter. The former, who bore his father s name, 
was accidentally killed at Cronstadt, in Russia, while 
yet a youth, and the daughter married a gentleman of 
the name of Corsen, also of Cape May county, and has 
issue. These children are the only descendants, in the 
third generation, of Richard Somers, the second son of 
the emigrant. 

Sarah Somers married Captain Keen, of Philadelphia, 
and still survives as his widow, but has no children. 
Richard, the youngest child, is the subject of our 

Richard Somers, the elder, would seem to have been 
a man of considerable local note. He was a colonel of 
the militia, a judge of the county court, and his name 
appears among those of the members from his native 
county in the Provincial Congress, for the year 1775 ; 
though it would seem that he did not take his seat. 
Col. Somers was an active w r hig in the Revolution, and 
was much employed, in the field and otherwise, more 
especially during the first years of the great struggle 
for national existence. His influence, in the part of 
New Jersey where he resided, was of sufficient import 
ance to render him particularly obnoxious to the attacks 
of the tories, who were in the practice of seizing promi 
nent whigs, and of carrying them within the British 
lines ; and Great Egg Harbor being much exposed to 
descents from the side of the sea, Col. Somers was 
induced to remove to Philadelphia with his family, for 


protection. As this removal must have been made 
after the town was evacuated by Sir Henry Clinton, it 
could not have taken place earlier than the summer of 
1778 ; and there is good reason for thinking it occurred 
two or three seasons later. Here Col. Somers remained 
for several years, or nearly down to the period of his 

Richard Somers, the son of Richard, and the grandson 
of the emigrant, it is believed was born in 1779, and it 
is known that his birth took place prior to the removal 
of his parents to Philadelphia. As his father was born 
November 24, 1737, it determines two facts : first, that 
the family must have emigrated at least as early as 
1730, if not some years earlier ; and, secondly, that 
Col. Somers had reached middle age when his distin 
guished and youngest child drew his earliest breath. 
Somers first went to school in Philadelphia, and was 
subsequently sent to Burlington, where there was an 
academy of some merit for the period. At the latter 
place the boy continued until near the time of the death 
of his father, if not quite down to the day of that event. 

Col. Somers died in 1793 or 1794 ; two records of his 
death existing, one of which places it in the former, and 
the other in the latter year. 

There is even some uncertainty thrown around the 
precise period when Somers first went to sea. His 
nearest surviving relative is of opinion that he had 
never entered upon the profession when he joined the 
navy ; but this opinion is met by the more precise 
knowledge of one of his shipmates in the frigate in 
which he first served, who affirms that the young man 
was a very respectable seamen on coming on board 


The result of our inquiries is to convince us that 
Somers must have gone to sea somewhere about the 
year 1794, or shortly after the death of his father, and 
when he himself was probably between fifteen and six 
teen years of age. The latter period, indeed^ agrees 
with that named by the relative mentioned, as his age 
when he went to sea, though it is irreconcilable with 
the date of the equipment of the man-of-war he first 
joined, and that of his own warrant in the navy. From 
the best information in our possession, therefore, we are 
led to believe that the boy sailed, first as a hand and 
then as a mate, if not as master, on board a coaster, 
owned by some one of his own family, of which more 
than one plied between Great Egg Harbor and the ports 
of New York and Philadelphia. This accords, too, 
with his known love of adventure and native resolution, 
as well as with his orphan condition ; though he inhe 
rited from his father a respectable property, including a 
portion of the original family estate, as well as of lands 
in the interior of Pennsylvania. 

In his boyhood and youth, Somers was remarkable 
for a chivalrous sense of honor, great mildness of man 
ner and disposition, all mingled with singular firmness 
of purpose. His uncle, John Somers, who was the 
head of the family, and as such maintained an authority 
that was more usual in the last century than it is to-day, 
is described as an austere man, who was held in great 
awe by his relative^, and who was accustomed to meet 
with the greatest preference amongst his kindred, not 
only for all his commands, but for most of his opinions. 
The firmness and decision shown by his nephew, 
Richard, however, in a controversy about a dog, in 



which the uncle was wrong and the boy right, are said 
to have astonished the whole family, and to have created 
a profound respect in the senior for the junior, that con 
tinued as long as the two lived. Richard could not 
have been more than twelve when this little incident 

Somers received his warrant as a midshipman in the 
spring of 1798. This was, virtually, at the commence 
ment of the present navy, the Ganges 24, Capt. Dale, 
the first vessel that got out, being ordered to sea May 
22d of that year. The Ganges was soon followed by 
the Constellation 38, and Delaware 20, the three ships 
cruising on the coast to prevent the depredations com 
mitted by French privateers. The next vessel out was 
the United States 44, bearing the broad pennant of Com. 
John Barry, the senior, officer of the service. To this 
vessel Somers was attached, making his first cruise in 

The United States was then, as now, one of the finest 
frigates that floats. Equipped in Philadelphia, then the 
capital of the country, and the centre of American civili 
zation, and commanded by an experienced and excellent 
officer, no young man could have commenced his pro 
fessional career under more favorable auspices than was 
the case with Somers. The ship had for lieutenants, 
Ross 1st, Mullowney 2d, Barron 3d, and Stewart 4th. 
The two latter are now the senior officers of the service. 
Among his messmates in the steerage, Somers had for 
friends and associates Decatur and Caldwell, both Phila- 
delphians. It is a proof that Somers had been previously 
to sea, that, on joining this ship, he was named as mas 
ter s mate of the hold, a situation uniformly given, in 


that day, to the most experienced and trust-worthy of 
the midshipmen. It was while thus associated, that 
the close connection was generated between Somers and 
Decatur, which, for the remainder of their joint lives, 
rendered them generous professional rivals and fast per 
sonal friends. 

The United States sailed on her first cruise early in 
July, 1798, going to the eastward, where she collected 
a small squadron, that had come out of the ports of New 
England, and with which she soon after proceeded to 
the West Indies. She remained cruising in those seas 
for the remainder of the year, as the commanding 
vessel ; Com. Barry having collected a force of some 
twenty sail under his orders by the commencement of 
winter. Shortly after Mr. Ross left the ship, and 
Messrs. Mullowney and Barren were promoted. This 
occurred in the spring of 1799, when Mr. Stewart be 
came 1st lieutenant of the frigate, Mr. Edward Meade 
2d, Somers 3d, and Decatur 4th. Thus the service of 
Somers, as a midshipman, could not have exceeded a 
twelvemonth : conclusive evidence of his having been 
at sea previously to joining the navy, were any other 
testimony required than that of his shipmates. In the 
autumn of 1799, the United States sailed from New 
port, Rhode Island, for Lisbon, having on board, as 
commissioners to the French Republic, the gentlemen 
who subsequently arranged the terms of peace. It is 
probable that Somers, whose previous experience had 
been in the American seas, crossed the Atlantic for the 
first time in this cruise. Mr. Stewart being placed in 
command of the Experiment 12, in the year 1800, 
Somers ended the war as second lieutenant of the ship 


he had joined as a midshipman about three years 

The war of 1798 allowed but few opportunities for 
officers to distinguish themselves. But two frigate 
actions were fought, and, singularly enough, on the 
side of the Americans, both fell to the share of the 
same commander and the same ship, Truxtun and the 
Constellation ; leaving nothing but vigilant watchful 
ness and activity to the lot of most of the other officers 
and vessels. While the United States had no chance 
for earning laurels, she was always a model cruiser for 
discipline and seamanship, and the young men who 
served in her during the quasi-war, had no grounds of 
complaint on the score of either precept or example. 
They had been in an excellent school, and the " Old 
Wagoner," as this vessel was afterwards called, turned 
out as many distinguished officers as any vessel of the 

At the formation of the peace establishment, in 1801, 
Somers was retained as the twelfth lieutenant, in a list 
that then presented only thirty-six officers of that rank. 
The rapid promotion which marked the first few years 
of the existence of the present marine, belongs to the 
history of the day, and must be ascribed to the occur 
rence of two wars in quick succession, and to the wants 
of an infant service. The list alluded to forms a sub 
ject of melancholy and yet proud interest to every 
American who is familiar with this branch of the re 
public s annals. It is headed by the name of Charles 
Stewart, and closes with that of Jacob Jones. Hull, 
Shaw, Chauncy and Smith precede Somers on this list ; 
Decatur stands next to him ; and Dent, Porter, the 


elder Cassin, Gordon and Caldwell follow. A long list 
of names that have since become distinguished, in 
cluding those of JVTDonough, Lawrence, the younger 
Biddle, Perry, the younger Cassin, Trippe, Allen, 
Burrows, Blakely, Downes, Crane, Morris, Ridgely, 
Warrington, the elder Wadsworth, &c. &c., was then 
to be found among the midshipmen. Not a name be 
low that of the seventeenth captain of the present day 
(Woodhouse) was then to be found in the navy regis 
ter at all ; that of Sloat, now the thirty-third captain, 
having lost its place in consequence of a resignation. 
When Commodores Stewart and Hull examine the 
present register, they find on it but eleven names, be 
sides their own, that were there even when they were 
made commanders. They both remain captains them 
selves to this hour ! 

The United States was laid up in ordinary at the 
peace of 1801, and there was this noble frigate suffered 
to remain, until she was again commissioned for the 
coast service, a few months previously to the war of 
1813. Among the vessels that were built to meet the 
emergency of the French struggle, was a frigate called 
the Boston, a vessel that it was usual then to rate as a 
thirty-two, but which was properly a twenty-eight, 
* carrying only twenty-four twelves on her gun-deck. 
This little ship had fought a spirited action with a 
heavy French corvette called the Bercean, in the war 
that had just terminated, and had brought in her an 
tagonist. This circumstance rendered her a favourite, 
and she was kept in commission at the termination of 
hostilities, under the command of Captain Daniel 
M Niell, an officer of whose eccentricities there will be 


occasion to speak, when we come to the record of his 
extraordinary career. Somers, on quitting the United 
States, was transferred to the Boston as her first lieu 
tenant. The ship sailed from New York in the sum 
mer of 1801, for L Orient, in France, having on board 
Chancellor Livingston and suite, the newly appointed 
legation to that country. After landing the minister, 
the Boston proceeded to the Mediterranean. The 
cruise of this ship was remarkable for its entire inde 
pendence. Capt. M Niell had been ordered to join the 
Mediterranean squadron, then under the pennant of 
Com. Dale ; and, although he was in that sea during 
parts of the commands of that officer and his successor, 
Com. Morris, he so successfully eluded both as never 
to fall in with them ; or if he met the latter at all, it 
was only for a moment, and near the end of his own 
cruise. Capt. M Niell, notwithstanding, wanted for 
neither courage nor activity. He visited many ports, 
gave frequent convoys, and even w r ent off Tripoli, the 
scene of the war ; but, from accident or design, all 
this was so timed as to destroy every thing like concert 
and combination. In this cruise Somers had an oppor 
tunity of seeing many of the ports of Italy, Spain, and 
the islands, and doubtless he acquired much of that 
self-reliance and experience which are so necessary tq 
a seaman, in his responsible station of a first lieutenant. 
He was then a very young man, not more than twenty- 
three ; and this was a period of life when such oppor 
tunities were of importance. Nor does he seem to 
have neglected them, as all of his contemporaries speak 
of his steadiness of character, good sense, and amiable, 
correct deportment, with affection and respect. The 


Boston returned home at the close of 1802, when Capt. 
M Nieil retired from the service, under the reduction 
law, and the ship was laid up, never to be employed 
again. The commander subsequently returned to the 
seas, in the revenue service, but the frigate lay rotting 
at Washington, until she was burned at the inroad of 
the enemy, in 1814, a worthless hulk. 

At the reduction of the navy in 1801, but one 
vessel below the rate of a frigate, the Enterprise 12, 
was retained in the marine. Most of the sloops that 
had been used in the French war were clumsy vessels 
with gun-decks, that had been bought into the service. 
They were not fit to be preserved, and the department 
was not sorry to get rid of them. By this time, how 
ever, the want of small vessels was much felt in carry 
ing on the Tripolitan war, and a law providing for the 
construction of four vessels of not more than sixteen 
guns, passed in the session of 1802-3. These vessels 
were the Siren 16, Argus 16, Nautilus 12, and Vixen 
12. As the country at that day had no proper yards, 
it was customary to assign certain officers to superin 
tend the building and equipment of vessels on the 
stocks, the selections being commonly made from those 
who it was intended should subsequently serve in them. 
On this occasion Decatur was attached to the Argus, it 
being understood he was to take her to the Mediterra 
nean arid give her up to Hull, receiving the Enterprise 
from the latter in exchange, as the junior officer. 
Stewart was given the Siren, as his due ; Smith got 
the Vixen ; and Soiners the Nautilus. By this time, 
or in the spring of 1803, owing to resignations, the 
kttcr stood seventh on the list of lieutenants, Smith 


being one before him, and Decatur one his junior. 
Stewart and Hull headed the register. Of the thirty- 
six officers of this rank retained under the reduction 
law, but twenty-five then remained in service. To-day 
their number is lowered to three, viz., Stewart, Hull 
and Jacob Jones ! 

The Nautilus, the first and only command of Somers, 
was a beautiful schooner of about 160 or 170 tons, and 
mounted twelve 181b. carronades, with two sixes, having 
a crew of from 75 to 95 souls. This was a hand 
some situation for a young sailor of twenty-four, who 
had then followed his profession but about nine years, 
and who had been in the navy but five, having com 
menced a midshipman. In that day, however, no one 
envied Somers, or believed him unduly favoured, for 
he was thought to be an old officer, though he had not 
been half the time in the service which is now employ 
ed in the subordinate situations of midshipman and 
passed midshipman. 

The Mediterranean squadron, which sailed in the 
summer and autumn of 1803, was that which subse 
quently became so celebrated under the orders of Preble. 
It consisted of the Constitution 44, Treble s own ship ; 
the Philadelphia 38, Capt. Bainbridge ; Argus 16, first 
Lieut. Com. Decatur, then Lieut. Com. Hull ; Siren 16, 
Lieut. Com. Stewart ; Vixen 12, Lieut. Com. Smith ; 
Enterprise 12, first Lieut. Com. Hull, then Lieut. 
Com. Decatur ; and Nautilus 12, Lieut. Com. Somers. 
These vessels did not proceed to their station in squad 
ron, but they left home as they got ready. The En 
terprise was already out, but, of the ships fitting, the 
Nautilus was the first equipped, and the first to sail. 


Somers left America early in the summer, and anchored 
in Gibraltar Bay on the 27th July. The remaining 
vessels arrived at different times, between the last of 
August and the first of November. After a short stop 
at Gibraltar, the Nautilus went aloft, giving convoy 
when required, returning to the Rock in time to meet 
the commodore in September. 

The relief and the homeward-bound squadrons, or at 
least that part of the former which had then arrived 
and was below, and the return ships under Com. Rod- 
gers, met at Gibraltar early in September. The state 
of the relations with Morocco being very precarious, 
Com. Preble determined to make an effort to avert a 
new war, and Com. Rodgers handsomely consenting to 
aid him, the former proceeded to Tangiers with all the 
force he could assemble. Here he succeeded in awing 
the Emperor into a treaty, and in putting a stop to a 
system of depredations which the subjects of that prince 
had already commenced. The Nautilus formed a part 
of the force employed on this occasion, and was par 
ticularly useful on account of her light draught of 

After arranging the difficulty with Morocco, Preble 
made a formal declaration of the blockade of Tripoli, 
before which town he believed that the Philadelphia 
and Vixen were then cruising; though, unknown to 
him, the latter had been temporarily detached, and the 
Philadelphia was in possession of the enemy. From 
this time until the succeeding spring, the Nautilus 
was employed in convoying, or in carrying orders 
necessary to the preparations that were making for the 
coming season ; but in March she formed a part of the 
VOL. i. 8 


blockading force in front of Tripoli. In consequence 
of the captivity of Capt. Bainbridge, Lieut. Com. 
Stewart was the officer second in rank in the squadron, 
and he was consequently kept much upon the coast in 
command, while Preble was carrying on the negotiations 
by means of which he obtained the gunboats and other 
supplies neccessary to the attacks he contemplated. 
In March, 1804, while the Siren and Nautilus were 
alone maintaining the blockade, the two vessels had 
been driven to the eastward of their port by a gale, and 
early in the morning, while returning, they made a 
warlike looking brig lying to off the place, with which 
she was evidently in communication. Signal was 
made to the Nautilus to stand close in, and watch the 
gunboats, while the Siren ran alongside of the stranger, 
who was captured for a violation of the blockade. The 
prize proved to be a privateer called the Transfer, with 
an English commission. She carried 10 guns and 80 
men, and hailed from Malta, but, in fact, belonged to the 
Bashaw of Tripoli ; her papers having been obtained 
through the Tripolitan consul in Malta, who was a native 
of that island. This vessel was appraised, equipped by 
the squadron, and used in the war, having had her name 
changed to the Scourge. Owing to certain scruples of 
Mr. Jefferson on the subject of blockades, the vessel was 
not condemned until the war of 1812, nor were the 
captors paid their prize-money until Somers had been 
dead nearly eleven years. 

Between the time of the capture of the Transfer and 
the month of July, the Nautilus was much employed 
by the commodore, going beknv and visiting different 
ports in Sicily. On the 20th of that month, Somers 


sailed from Malta, in company with the Constitution, 
the Enterprise, two bomb ketches and six gunboats that 
had been obtained from the Neapolitans, bound off Tri 
poli. On the arrival of the commodore, his whole force 
was collected, and that series of short but brilliant opera 
tions commenced, which has rendered the service of 
this season so remarkable in the history of the American 

A spirit of high emulation existed among the young 
commanders by whom Preble now found himself sup 
ported. Hull was the oldest in years, and he had 
hardly reached the prime of life, while Stewart, Smith, 
Somers and Decatur were all under five-and-twenty. 
With the exception of the commodore, no commanding 
officer was married, and most of them were bound 
together by the ties of intimate friendships. In a word, 
their lives, as yet, had been prosperous ; the past left 
little to complain of, the future was full of hope ; and 
there had been little opportunity for that spirit of 
selfishness which is so apt to generate quarrels, to 
get possession of minds so free and temperaments so 

This is the proper .place to allude to a private adven 
ture of Somers , about the existence of which there 
would seem to be no doubt, though, like so much that 
belongs to this interesting man, its details are involved 
in obscurity. While at Syracuse, where the American 
vessels made their principal rendezvous, he was walking 
in the vicinity of the town in company Avith two brother 
officers, when five men carrying swords, who were 
afterwards ascertained to be soldiers of the garrison, 
made an attack on the party, with an attempt to rob. 


One of the gentlemen was provided with a dirk, but 
Soraers and the other were totally unarmed. The officer 
with the dirk used the weapon so vigorously as soon to 
bring down one assailant, while Somers grappled with 
another. In the struggle Somers seized the blade of 
his antagonist s sword, and was severely cut in the hand 
by the efforts of the robber to recover it, but the latter 
did not succeed, the weapon being wrested from him 
and plunged into his own body. This decided the mat 
ter, the three remaining robbers taking to flight. The 
dead bodies were carried into the town and recognised. 
This adventure is believed to have occurred while the 
Nautilus was absent on her last visit to Sicily, though 
it may have been of older date ; possibly as old as the 
time when Somers was in the Boston. We think the 
latter improbable, however, as the circumstance seems 
to be unknown to his nearest relatives in this country, 
which would hardly have been the case had it taken 
place previously to his last visit to America. Our 
information comes from an intimate friend, who received 
the facts from Somers himself, but who was not at 
Syracuse at the moment the attempt to rob occurred. 

A gale of wind prevented the American vessels from 
commencing operations before the 3d of August. On 
that day Com. Preble stood in within a league of Tri 
poli, with a pleasant breeze from the eastward. Here 
he wore ship, with his head off the land, and signaled 
all the vessels to pass within hail of the Constitution. 
As the brigs and schooners passed the frigate each com 
mander was ordered to prepare for an attack. Every 
thing was previously arranged, and the ardor of the 
young men under the orders of Preble being of the 


highest character, in one hour every man and craft were 
ready for the contemplated service. 

The harbor of Tripoli lies in a shallow indentation of 
the coast, being tolerably protected against easterly and 
westerly gales* by the formation of the land, while a 
reef of rocks, which stretches for a mile and a half in a 
northeasterly course, commencing at the town itself, 
breaks the seas that roll in from the northward. This 
reef extends near half a mile from the walls, entirely 
above water, and is of sufficient height and width 
to receive water batteries, containing the Lazaretto and 
one or two forts. It is this commencement of the reef 
which constitutes what is usually termed the mole, and 
behind it lies the harbor proper. At its termination is 
a narrow opening in the reef which is called the western 
entrance, through which it is possible for a ship to pass, 
though the channel is not more than two hundred feet 
in width. Beyond this passage the rocks reappear, 
with intervals between them, though lying on shoals 
with from one half to five and a half feet of water on 
them. The line of rocks and shoals extends more than 
a mile outside of the western entrance. Beyond its 
termination is the principal entrance to Tripoli, which 
is of sufficient width though not altogether free from 
shoals. The distance across the bay, from the north 
eastern extremity of the rocks to what is called the 
English fort, on the main land, is about two thousand 
yards, or quite within the effective range of heavy guns. 
In the bottom of the bay, or at the southeastern angle 
of the town, stands the bashaw s castle, a work of some 
size and force. It lies rather more than half a mile 
from the western entrance, and somewhat more than a 


mile from the outer extremity of the reef. Thus any 
thing within the rocks is commanded by all the water 
defences of the place, while shot from the castle, and 
more especially from the natural mole, would reach a 
considerable distance into the offing. Some artificial 
works aided in rendering the northwestern corner of the 
harbor still more secure, and this place is usually called 
the galley mole. Near this is the ordinary landing, and 
it is the spot that may properly be termed the port. 

The Tripolitans fully expected the attack of the 2d 
of August, though they little anticipated its desperate 
character, or its results. They had anchored nine of 
their large, well-manned gunboats just outside of what 
are called the Harbor Rocks, or the northeastern 
extremity of the reef, evidently with a view of flanking 
the expected attack on the town, which, lying on the 
margin of the sea, is much exposed, though the rocks in 
its front were well garnished with heavy guns. Accus 
tomed to cannonading at the distance of a mile, these 
gunboats expected no warmer service, more especially 
as a nearer approach would bring their assailants within 
reach of the castle and batteries. In addition to the 
nine boats to the eastward, there were five others which 
also lay along the line of rocks nearer to the western 
entrance, and within pistol shot of the batteries in that 
part of the defences. Within the reef were five more 
gunboats and several heavy galleys, ready to protect the 
outer line of gunboats at need, forming a reserve. 

Com. Preble had borrowed only six gunboats from 
the King of Naples, and these were craft that were 
much inferior in size and force to the generality of those 
used by the enemy. Each of these boats had a few 


Neapolitans in her to manage her on ordinary occasions, 
but, for the purposes of action, officers and crews were 
detailed from the different vessels of the squadron. 
These six boats were divided into two divisions ; to the 
command of one was assigned Lieut. Com. Somers, 
while Lieut. Com. Decatur led the other. Somers was 
thought to be the senior lieutenant of the two, though 
Decatur was at this time actually a captain, and Somers 
himself was a master commandant, as well as Stewart, 
Hull, and Smith, though the intelligence of these promo 
tions had not yet reached the squadron. The three 
boats commanded by Somers were 

No. 1. Lieut. Com. Somers, of the Nautilus. 

No. 2. Lieut. James Decatur, of the Nautilus. 

No. 3. Lieut. Blake, of the Argus. 
Decatur had under his immediate orders, 

No. 4. Lieut. Com. Decatur of the Enterprise. 

No. 5. Lieut. Joseph Bainbridge, of the Enterprise. 

No. 6. Lieut. Trippe, of the Vixen. 
Somers had with him in No. 1 a crew from his own 
schooner, and Messrs. Ridgely and Miller, midshipmen; 
the former being the present Com. Ridgely. Decatur 
had the late Lieut. Jonathan Thorn, who was subsequently 
blown up on the northwest coast of America, and the 
modest, but lion-hearted M Donough. Trippe had with 
him in No. 6 the late Com. J. D. Henley and the late 
Capt. Deacon, both then midshipmen. Of all the SG gal 
lant young men Ridgely alone survives ! 

It was the intention of Preble to attack the eastern 
division of the enemy s boats with his own flotilla, while 
the ketches bombarded the town, and the frigate and 
sloop covered both assaults with their round and grape. 


With this object in view, the whole force stood in 
towards the place at half-past one, the gunboats in tow. 
Half an hour later the latter were cast off and formed in 
advance, while the brigs and schooners, six in number, 
formed a line without them, and the ketches began to 
throw their shells. The batteries were instantly in a 
blaze, and the Americans immediately opened from all 
their shipping in return. 

Circumstances had thrown the- division of gunboats 
commanded by Somers to leeward of that commanded 
by Decatur. It was on the right of the little line, and, 
under ordinary occurrences, it would have been the 
most exposed, being nearest to the batteries and the 
weight of the Tripolitan fire, but Decatur gave a new 
character to the whole affair by his extraordinary deci 
sion and intrepidity. The manner in which this chi 
valrous officer led on in a hand-to-hand conflict will be 
related in his own biography, but it may be well to 
state here that he was sustained only by Trippe, in No. 
6, and his brother James, in No. 2 ; the latter being far 
enough to windward to fetch into the easternmost divi 
sion of the Tripolitan boats, though belonging to the 
division commanded by Somers. No. 5, Lieut. Bain- 
bridge, was disabled in approaching, though she con 
tinued to engage, and finally grounded on the rocks. 
Deprived of the support of No. 2 by the successful 
effort of her gallant commander to close with the eastern 
most division,, and of that of No. 3, in consequence of a 
signal of recall that was made from the Constitution, 
which arrested the movements of that boat, though it 
was either unseen or disregarded by all the others, 
Somers found himself alone, within the line of small 


vessels, and much exposed to the fire of the leeward 
division of the enemy s boats, as well as to that of the 
nearest battery. The struggle to windward was too 
fierce to last long, and Preble fearing that some of the 
gunboats might be pushed into extreme peril, made the 
signal of recall, at least an hour before the firing ceased, 
No. 1 with Somers and his brave companions being all 
that time in the very forlorn hope of the affair so far as 
missiles were concerned. As soon as it had been ascer 
tained that he could not fetch into the most weatherly 
division of the enemy, Somers had turned like a lion on 
that to leeward, and engaged the whole of that division, 
five in number and at least of five times his own force, 
within pistol shot ; one party being sustained by some 
of the vessels outside, and the other by the batteries and 
the craft within the rocks. In consequence of the direc 
tion of the wind, the only means, short of anchoring, 
that could be devised to prevent No. 1 from drifting 
directly down, as it might be, into the enemy s hands, 
was to keep the sweeps backing astern, while the long 
gun of the boat delivered bags of musket balls filled 
with a thousand bullets each. In the end, the enemy 
was obliged to make off, and Somers was extricated from 
his perilous position by the approach of the Constitution, 
which enabled him to obey the commodore s signal and 
bring out his boat in triumph. 

Although the extraordinary nature of the hand-to-hand 
conflict in which Decatur had been engaged threw a 
sort of shade over the efforts of the other vessels em 
ployed that day, the feeling of admiration for the con 
duct of Somers, in particular, was very general in the 
squadron. Apart from the struggles with the pike, 

94 N A V A L B I G R A P H Y. 

sword and bayonet, his position was much the most cri 
tical of any vessel engaged in the attack, and no man 
could have behaved better than he was admitted to have 
done. In short, next to Nos. 4 and 6, No. 1, it was con 
ceded, had most distinguished herself, although No. 2, 
under James Decatur, did as well as the circumstances 
would allow. One of the best evidences which can be 
given of the spirit of this attack is to be found in the 
trifling nature of the loss the Americans suffered. But 
fourteen men were killed and wounded in all the vessels, 
and of these thirteen were on board the gunboats. 
No. 4, notwithstanding her great exposure, had only 
two casualties. 

The Americans employed themselves, between the 
3d and 7th of August, in altering the rigs of the three 
boats they had taken in their first assault, and in equip 
ping them for service. They were all ready by the 
morning of the last day, and were taken into the line as 
Nos. 7, 8, and 9. At half-past 2, the ketches began again 
to throw their shells, and the nine gunboats opened a heavy 
fire, still in two divisions commanded as before, though 
the enemy tbis time kept his small vessels too far within 
the rocks to be liable to another attempt at boarding. 
While No. 1 was advancing to her station, on this oc 
casion, Somers stood leaning against her nag-staff. In 
this position he saw a shot flying directly in a line for 
him. and bowed his head to avoid it. The shot cut the 
flag-staff, and on measuring afterwards, it was rendered 
eertain that he .escaped death only by the timely re 
moval. The boats were under fire three hours in this 
attack ; one of them, commanded by Lieut. Caldwell, 
of the Siren, having been blown up. Between 5 and 6 


P. M., the brigs and schooners took the lighter craft in 
tow, and carried them beyond the reach of the batteries. 
In this affair Somers boat was hulled by a heavy shot, 
and was much exposed. 

A strange sail hove in sight near the close of this 
attack, and she proved to be the John Adams 28, Capt. 
Chauncy, last from home. This ship brought out the 
commission already mentioned, as having been issued 
some time previously. By this promotion, Somers be 
came a master commandant, or a commander, as the 
grade is now termed ; a rank in the navy which cor 
responds to that of a major in the army, and which en 
titles its possessor to the command of a sloop of w T ar. 
Several of these commanders were made at this time, 
of whom Somers ranked as the seventh, which was pre 
cisely the number he had previously occupied on the 
list of lieutenants. There was a peculiarity about this 
promotion which is worthy of comment, and which goes 
to show the irregularities that have been practised in a 
service which is generally understood to be governed 
and protected by the most precise principles and enact 

Certainly some, and it is believed that all the com 
missions of commanders, bestowed upon the service in 
1804, were issued without referring the nominations to 
the Senate for confirmation. We have examined one 
of these commissions, and find that it contains no allu 
sion to that body, as is always done in those cases in 
which a confirmation has been had ; and the omission 
raises a curious question as to the legality of the ap 
pointments. As the rank of commander in the navy 
has never been declared by law to be one of those 


offices in which the appointing power is exclusively be 
stowed on the president, or a head of a department, it 
follows that it comes within the ordinary provision of 
the constitution. Now, in all the latter cases, the power 
of the executive to appoint is confined to that of filling 
vacancies which occur in the recess of the Senate, and 
the commission issued, even under this strictly consti 
tutional authority, is valid only until the expiration of 
the succeeding session of that body. Thus three ques 
tions present themselves as to the legality of these com 
missions. First, that the grade of masters and com 
manders had been indirectly, if not directly, abolished 
by the reduction law of 1801 ; and, such being the 
fact, the constitution giving to Congress full powers 
to pass laws for the government of the army and navy, 
it may well be questioned if the president and Senate 
united had any legal right to re-establish the grade by 
the mere use of the appointing power. Second, whether 
such a vacancy existed as to authorize the president to 
fill it in the recess of the Senate, had Congress renewed 
the rank by law, which, however, is believed not to have 
been the fact ; and, third, whether the commissions ac 
tually granted, being without the advice and consent of 
the Senate, could be legal, after the close of the suc 
ceeding session of that body, under any circumstances. 
As to the last objection, it is understood all the gentle 
men who received these commissions continued to 
serve under them until they died, resigned, or were 

The grave considerations connected with courts mar 
tial, commands, and other legal consequences, which 
unavoidably offer themselves when we are made ac- 


quainted with so extraordinary a state of facts, are ma 
terially lessened by the circumstances that all the gen 
tlemen thus irregularly promoted were officers in the 
navy under their former commissions, and that no rela 
tive rank was disturbed. Thus, if Messrs. Stewart and 
Hull were not legally the two oldest commanders in the 
service, they were the two oldest lieutenants, and all the 
other commanders being in the same dilemma with 
themselves, their relative rank remained precisely as it 
would have been had no new commissions been grant 
ed. So also as regards courts ; the judge having a right 
to sit as a lieutenant, unless, indeed, the informality of 
annexing a wrong rank to the orders might raise a legal 

That so gross an irregularity should have arisen 
under a government that professes to be one purely of 
law, excites our wonder ; and this so much the more, 
when we remember that it occurred- in a service in 
which life itself may be the penalty of error. The ex- 

* There are so many modes for evading the simplest provisions 
of a written constitution, when power feels itself fettered, that it 
is not easy to say in what manner the difficulties of this case were 
got over. The reduction law said that there should be only nine 
captains, thirty-six lieutenants, and one hundred and fifty midship 
men during peace, and as the country was at war with Tripoli in 
1804, there was a show of plausibility in getting over the force of 
this particular enactment. Still the appointments of the com 
manders were not to fill vacancies under any common-sense con 
struction of their nature ; and even admitting that political inge 
nuity could torture the law of Congress to build four vessels like 
those actually put into the water, into an obligation to appoint 
proper persons to cpmmand them, these appointments could have 
no validity after the termination of the next session of the Senate. 
Of the facts of the case we believe there can be no doubt. 
VOL. I. 9 


planation is to be found in the infancy of the establish-- 
ments, and in practices in which principles remained to 
be settled, aided by the known moral courage and ex 
ceeding personal popularity of the statesman who then 
presided in the councils of the republic. While Jeffer 
son affected, and probably felt, a profound respect for 
legality, he is known to have used the power he wield 
ed with great political fearlessness, and to have consi 
dered himself as the head of a new school in the ad 
ministration of the government, which did not always 
hesitate about the introduction of new rules of conduct. 
To these remarks, however, it must in justice be added, 
that no party or personal views could have influenced 
the appointments in question, which, apart from the 
irregularity of their manner, were certainly recognised 
equally by justice and the wants of the service, and 
which were made in perfect conformity with the rules 
of promotion as observed under the severest principles 
of military preferment. They prove even more in favor 
of the statesman, as they show that he did not deserve 
all the accusations of hostility to this branch of the na 
tional defences that were heaped upon him ; but rather 
that he was disposed to stretch his authority to foster 
and advance it. The introduction of a new class of 
vessels, too, required the revival of a class of officers of 
a rank proper to command them ; and, though we wish 
never to see illegality countenanced in the management 
of interests as delicate as those ot a marine, it is desira 
ble to see the proper authorities of the country imitate 
this feature of the case, now that the republic has fleets 
which flag officers alone can ever lead with a proper 
degree of dignity and authority. 


It was the 28th of August before another attack was 
made on Tripoli, in which Somers participated. The 
ketches bombarded it on the night of the 24th ; but 
finding little impression made by this mode of assault, 
Com. Preble determined to renew the cannonading. On 
this occasion Capt. Somers led one division of the gun 
boats, as before, while Capt. Decatur led the other ; the 
latter having five of these craft under his orders, and 
the former three. The approach was made under the 
cover of darkness, all the boats anchoring near the rocks, 
where they opened a heavy fire on the shipping, castle, 
and town. The brigs and schooners assisted in this 
attack, and at daylight the frigate stood in, and opened 
her batteries. The Tripolitan galleys and gunboats, 
thirteen in all, were principally opposed to the eight 
American gunboats, which did not retire until they had 
expended their ammunition. One Tripolitan was sunk, 
two more were run on shore, and all were finally driven 
into the mole by the frigate. 

On the 3d of September, a fourth and last attack was 
made on Tripoli by the gunboats, aided by all the other 
^ssels. The Turkish boats did not wait, as before, to 
be assaulted off the town, but, accompanied by the gal 
leys, they placed themselves under Fort English, and a 
new battery that had been built near it, with an inten 
tion to draw the American shot in that direction. This 
change of disposition induced Preble to send Captains 
Decatur and Somers, with the gunboats, covered by the 
brigs and schooners, into the harbor s mouth, while the 
ketches bombarded more to leeward. On this occasion, 
Somers was more than an hour hotly engaged, pressing 
the enemy into his own port. 


The season was now drawing near a close, and the 
arrival of reinforcements from America had been ex 
pected, in vain, for several weeks. It was during this 
interval that a plan for destroying the enemy s flotilla, 
as it lay anchored in his innermost harhor, was con 
ceived, and preparations were soon made for putting it 
in execution. The conception of this daring scheme 
has been claimed for Somers himself, and not without 
a share of reason. There existed between him and 
Decatur a singular professional competition, that was 
never permitted, however, to cool their personal friend 
ships. The great success of the latter, in his daring 
assaults, stimulated Somers to attempt some exploit 
equally adventurous, and none better than the one 
adopted then offered. The five attacks made on Tripoli, 
with the vigorous blockade, had produced a sensible 
effect on the tone of the bashaw, and it was hoped that 
a blow as appalling as that now meditated might at 
once produce a peace. The delicacy that a commander 
would naturally feel about proposing a service so des 
perate to a subordinate, renders it highly probable that 
the idea originated with Somers himself, who thus s- 
cured the office of endeavoring to execute it. It is 
proper to add, however, that Com. Preble says the pro 
ject had long been in contemplation, though he does not 
say who suggested it. The plan was as follows : The 
ketch that had originally been taken by Decatur in the 
Enterprise, and in which he had subsequently carried 
the Philadelphia frigate, was still in the squadron. She 
had been named the Intrepid, for the brilliant occasion 
on which she had first been used, but had since fallen 
from her high estate, having latterly been employed in 


bringing water and stores from Malta. This craft had been 
constructed for a gun vessel by the French, in their expe 
dition against Egypt ; from their service she had passed 
into that of Tripoli ; had fallen into the hands of warriors 
from the new world ; by them she had been used in one of 
the most brilliant exploits of naval warfare, and was now 
about to terminate her career in another, of the most 
desperate and daring character. It was proposed to fit 
up the ketch in the double capacity of fire-ship and in 
fernal, and to send her into the inner harbor of Tripoli, 
by the western passage, there to explode in the very 
centre of the vessels of the Turks. As her deck was 
to be covered with missiles, and a large quantity of 
powder was to be used, it was hoped that the town and 
castle would suffer, not less than the shipping. The 
panic created by such an assault, made in the dead of 
night, it was fondly hoped would produce an instant 
peace, and, more especially, the liberation of the crew 
of the Philadelphia. The latter object was deemed one 
of high interest to the whole force before Tripoli, and 
was never* lost sight of in all their operations, 

Com. Prebie having determined upon his plan, 
Somers received the orders to commence the prepara 
tions ; a duty in which he had the advice and assist 
ance of Decatur, Stewart, and the other commanders 
of the squadron, for all these ardent and gallant young- 
men felt a common sympathy in his daring, and an 
equal interest in his anticipated triumph. The first 
step was to prepare the ketch for the desperate service 
in which she was to be engaged. With this object a 
small apartment was planked up in the broadest part of 
her hold, 0$ just forward of the principal mast ; this 


was rendered as secure as was believed necessary 
against accidents. Into this room a hundred barrels of 
gunpowder were emptied in bulk. A train was led aft 
to a cabin window, through a tube, and, by some ac 
counts, another was led into the forepeak. A port-fire, 
graduated to burn a certain number of minutes, was 
affixed to the end of the train, and a body of light, 
splintered wood was collected in another receptacle 
abaft the magazine, which was to be set on fire, with 
the double purpose of making certain of the explosion, 
and of keeping the enemy aloof under the apprehen 
sion of its flames. On the deck of the ketch, around 
the mast and immediately over the magazine, were 
piled a quantity of shells of different sizes with their 
fuses prepared, in the expectation that the latter would 
ignite and produce the usual explosion. The number 
of these shells has been variously stated at from one 
hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty, the size 
ranging from nine to thirteen and a half inches. The 
best information, however, would seem to place the 
number below two hundred. Some accounts give the 
quantity of powder as high as fifteen thousand pounds, 
which was probably near the truth. 

Two boats were to accompany the ketch, one an ex 
ceedingly fast rowing four-oared boat, being lent for the 
purpose by the Siren, and the other was a six-oared 
cutter of the Constitution. The service requiring but 
few men, no more were employed than were necessary 
to pull the two boats. To have gone in with a single 
boat would have been unnecessarily hazardous, as a 
shot might have disabled her, while the chances of es 
cape were nearly doubled by adding a second, at the 


same time that the additional men did not more than 
make an ordinary crew for a Mediterranean craft of the 
size of the Intrepid. A second officer, however, was 
thought necessary, and Lieut. Henry Wadsworth, of the 
Constitution, volunteering, his offer was accepted. Mr. 
Joseph Israel, of the same ship, who had just been pro 
moted, was also anxious to be of the party, but Com. 
Preble deeming his assistance unnecessary, permission 
to go was refused him. Thus it was intended that the 
adventurers should be limited to twelve, of whom ten 
were common seamen, one a lieutenant, and the other 
a commander, or Somers himself. 

It now became necessary to obtain volunteers for the 
Siren s boat, and a call for this purpose was made by 
Somers on the crew of his own vessel, the Nautilus. 
Notwithstanding the desperate character of the service, 
when the want was stated to the people of this little 
vessel every man in her offered himself to go. This 
compelled their superior to make a selection. The 
other six seamen were obtained from the Constitution, 
and were chosen, it is believed, by Mr. Wadsworth, 
under the supervision of the ship s first lieutenant, who 
at that time was the late Capt. Gordon. The four men 
belonging to the Nautilus were James Simms, Thomas 
Tompline, James Harris and William Keith ; all sea 
men rated. Mr. Wadsworth took with him from the 
Constitution William Harrison, Robert Clark, Hugh 
M Cormick, Jacob Williams, Peter Penner and Isaac 
W. Downes, all seamen rated also. 

Several days were necessary to complete all these 
arrangements, more especially to equip the ketch in the 
manner described, and the action of the 3d had taken 



place even after the Intrepid was ready. Somers made 
one or two attempts to go in before the night finally se 
lected, but they were abandoned on account of the light 
ness of the air. At length there were appearances in 
and about the harbor that induced him to think that the 
movements of the fire-vessel were distrusted, and, fear 
ful of detection, he decided to go in on the night of the 
4th September, if the thing were at all practicable. 

Several interviews had taken place between Preble 
and Somers in the course of the preparations for the 
attempt. On one occasion the commodore burnt a port 
fire in order to ascertain its time, and when it was con 
sumed he asked Somers if he thought the boats could 
get out of reach of the shells within the few minutes it 
was burning. " I think we can, sir," answered Somers. 
Preble looked intently at the young man a moment, and 
then inquired if he should have the time reduced, or 
the port-fire made shorter. " I ask for no port-fire at 
all, sir," was the reply, firmly but quietly expressed. 

After this interview, Somers expressed his determi 
nation not to allow himself to be captured. The com 
modore had felt it to be his duty to point out the great 
importance of not letting so large an amount of powder 
fall into the enemy s hands, the Tripolitans being 
thought to be short of ammunition, and all the circum 
stances united had a tendency to increase the feeling of 
determination in the minds of the two officers who were 
to go in. Both were singularly quiet men in their ordi 
nary habits, perfectly free from any thing like noisy 
declarations or empty boastings of what they intended 
to perform, and their simple announcement of their in 
tentions not to be taken appears to have made a deep 


and general impression among their brethren in 

On the afternoon of the 4th September, Somers pre 
pared to take his final departure from the Nautilus, with 
a full determination to carry the ketch into Tripoli that 
night. Previously to quitting his own vessel, however, 
he felt that it would be proper to point out the desperate 
nature of the service to the four men he had selected, 
that their services might be perfectly free and voluntary. 
He told them he wished no man to accompany him 
who would .not prefer being blown up to being taken; 
that such was his own determination, and that he wished 
all who went with him to be of the same way of think 
ing. The boat s crew gave three cheers in answer, and 
each man is said to have separately asked to be selected 
to apply the match. Once assured of the temper of his 
companions, Somers took leave of his officers, the boat s 
crew doing the same, shaking hands and expressing 
their feelings as if they felt assured of their fates in 
advance. This was done in good faith, and yet cheer 
fully ; and, of all the desperate service undertaken by 
that devoted squadron, none was ever entered on with 
so many forebodings of the fatal consequences to those 
concerned in it. Each of the four rnen made his will 
verbally ; disposing of his effects among his shipmates 
like those who are about to die with disease. 

It would seem that the Constitution s boat did not 
join the ketch until it was dusk. When the two crews 
were mustered, it was found that Mr. Israel had 
managed to get out of the frigate and to join the party ; 
whether by collusion, or not, it is now impossible to say. 
Finding him on board, and admiring his determination to 


make one of the party, Somers consented to his remaining. 
One account says he was sent hy Preble with a final or 
der, but it is hardly probable Somers would have allowed 
him to remain under such circumstances. He was 
more likely to be smuggled in by means of the cutter, 
and to be kept when there was no boat by which he 
could be sent back. The night of the 4th was not 
particularly dark, though it could scarcely be account 
ed clear. The stars were visible, but there was a haze 
on the water that rendered objects more uncertain than 
they would otherwise have been. In this respect the 
light was favourable enough, as the rocks could be seen, 
while the real character of the ketch would not be so 
likely to be discovered from the shore. The wind was 
light, from the eastward, but fair. 

Several of Somers friends visited him on board the 
Intrepid before she got under way. Among them were 
Stewart and Decatur, with whom he had commenced 
his naval career in the United States. These three 
young men, then about twenty-five each, were Phila 
delphia-bred sailors, and had been intimately associated 
in service for the last six years. They all knew that 
the enterprise was one of extreme hazard, and the two 
who were to remain behind felt a deep interest in the 
fate of him who was to go in. Somers was grave, and 
entirely without any affectation of levity or indifference, 
but he maintained his usual tranquil and quiet manner. 
After some conversation, he took a ring from his finger, 
and breaking it into three pieces, gave each of his com 
panions one, while he retained the third himself. As 
the night shut in, three gunboats were seen at anchor a 
short distance within the western entrance, by which 


the Intrepid was to pass, and Decatur, who felt a strong" 
anxiety for the success ot his friend, admonished Sorrier? 
to take care they did not hoard him, as it was the inten 
tion to carry the ketch some distance within them. To 
this Somers quietly replied that the Turks had got to 
be so shy that he thought they would be more likely to cut 
and run on his approach than to advance and meet him. 

It was eight o clock in the evening before the Intrepid 
lifted her anchor; the Argus, Vixen, and Nautilus 
weighing and standing in, in company. The night was 
sufficiently advanced to cover this movement, and all 
four vessels stood down towards the rocks under their 
canvas. The last person who left the ketch was Lieut. 
Washington Reed, then first of the Nautilus. This 
officer did not quit his commander until it was thought 
necessary for him to rejoin the vessel of which he was 
now in charge. When he went over the side of the 
Intrepid, all communication between the gallant spirits 
she contained and the rest of the world ceased. At 
that time every thing seemed propitious ; Somers was 
cheerful, though calm; and perfect order and method 
prevailed in the little craft. The leave-taking was 
affectionate and serious with the officers, though the 
common men appeared to be in high spirits. This was 
about nine o clock. 

The Argus and Vixen lay off at a little distance from 
the rocks to attack the galleys or gunboats, should either 
attempt to follow the party out on their retreat, while 
the Nautilus shortened sail and accompanied the ketch 
as close in as was deemed prudent, with the especial 
intention of bringing off the boats. Lieut. Reed direct 
ed the present Com. Ridgely, then one of the Nautilus* 


midshipmen,* to watch the ketch s movements with a 
night-glass ; and, as this order was strictly complied 
with, it is almost certain that this officer was the last 
person of the American squadron who saw the vessel. 
It was thought she was advancing slowly to the last 
moment, though the distance and the obscurity render 
this fact a little doubtful. 

Preble had directed the Siren to weigh and stand in, 
shortly after the other vessels left him, and, in obeying 
the orders he received, Capt. Stewart kept more in the 
offing than the vessels which preceded him. As the 
direction of the western entrance and the inner harbor 
were known, every eye in this brig was riveted in that 
quarter in silent suspense. It was not long before the 
enemy began to fire at the ketch, which, by this time, 
was quite near the batteries, though the reports were 
neither rapid nor numerous. At this moment, near ten 
o clock, Capt. Stewart and Lieut. Carrol were standing in 
the Siren s gangway, looking intently towards the place 
where the ketch was known to be, when the latter ex 
claimed, " Look ! see the ligttt !" At that instant a light 
was seen passing and waving, as if a lantern were car 
ried by some person in quick motion along a vessel s 
deck. Then it sunk from view. Half a minute may 
have elapsed when the whole firmament was lighted with 
a fiery glow, a burning mast, with its sails, was seen in 
the air, the whole harbor was momentarily illuminated, 
the awful explosion came, and "a darkness like that of 
doom succeeded. The whole was over in less than a 

* Mr. Ridgely signed a letter to Preble just two months later as 
a lieutenant. He may possibly have been promoted at the time 
the Intrepid went in. 


minute ; the flame, the quaking of towers, the reeling 
of ships, and even the bursting of shells, of which most 
fell in the water, though some lodged on the rocks. 
The firing ceased, and from that instant Tripoli passed 
the night in a stillness as profound as that in which the 
victims of this frightful explosion have lain from that 
fatal hour to this. 

The Nautilus showed lights in hopes to guide the 
retreating boats to her side ; all eyes in the squadron 
looked in vain for the expected signal ; a moaning gun 
occasionally was heard from the frigate, a fitting knell 
for such a disaster, but in vain. No one ever came back 
from the ill-fated Intrepid to relate the history of her 
loss. The Argus, Vixen and Nautilus hovered near the 
rocks until the sun arose, but nothing was discovered to 
throw r any light on the manner in which the ketch was 
lost. The gun-boats anchored near the pass had been 
moved ; one, it was thought, had entirely disappeared, 
and two or three more were hauled ashore as if- 

In the American squadron the opinion was general 
that Somers and his determined companions had blown 
themselves up to prevent capture. In the absence of 
certainty, facts were imagined to render such a desperate 
step probable if not necessary. It was supposed that 
gunboats had advanced to board the ketch, and that So 
mers had fired the train in preference to falling into the 
hands of the Tripolitans, or allowing them to get pos 
session of the powder. Such appears to have been the 
opinion of Com. Preble, who reported as much to the 
government ; and the country, receiving its impressions 
from this source, has long entertained the same idea. 

VOL. i. 10 


A few, however, of the more thoughtful have always 
doubted, and subsequent discoveries have rendered these 
doubts more and more probable. 

Among the American prisoners in Tripoli was a 
surgeon s mate of the name of Cowdery, now the oldest 
surgeon in the navy, who was permitted to go very much 
at large in the town, his professional services being 
found useful. From this gentleman, from Capt. Bain- 
bridge s private journal, and from other sources equally 
credible, the following interesting facts have been ob 
tained, leaving no question of their accuracy. 

In the first place, neither the works, the town, nor the 
Tripolitans themselves, appear to have suffered any 
injury by the explosion. Captain Bainbridge in his 
journal, where he speaks of this explosion, says : - 
" which unfortunate scheme did no damage whatever to 
the Tripolitans ; nor did it appear even to heave them 
into confusion." The bashaw, being desirous of ascer 
taining how many Americans had been lost in the 
explosion, offered a dollar for each body that could be 
discovered. This produced the desired effect, and by 
the 6th, the dead were all brought up. The bottom of 
the ketch had drifted among the rocks, on the north 
side of the round battery, which is near the western 
entrance, and there it grounded. In the wreck, two 
bodies were found. The Constitution s cutter, or the 
six-oared boat, had drifted on the beach, a short distance 
to the westward of the town. One body was in it. Six 
more bodies were found on the shore to the southward, 
and the remaining four were discovered floating in the 
harbor. This makes the entire number of the thirteen 
who were lost in the ketch. Captain Bainbridge de- 


scribes the six dead whom he saw as " being so much 
disfigured, it was impossible to recognise any feature 
known to us, or even to distinguish an officer from a 
seaman." Those six bodies were the two found in the 
wreck, and the four floating in the harbor. But Mr. 
Cowdery was more successful. He selected three of the 
bodies as those of officers, being guided by some frag 
ments of dress still remaining on* them, and still more 
by the delicate appearance of their hands. As this was 
just the number of the officers who were actually lost, 
and the Americans in Tripoli were then entirely igno 
rant of the character of the party sent in, it leaves 
scarcely a doubt that this gentleman decided accurately. 
Indeed, if the palms of the hands were not much 
injured, it would not be easy to make a mistake in such 
a matter ; and any portions of the dress would be 
almost as safe guides. The ten seamen were buried on 
the beach, outside the town and near the walls : while 
the three officers were interred in the same grave, on the 
plain beyond, or a cable s length to the southward and 
eastward of the castle. Small stones were placed at the 
four corners of this last grave, to mark its site ; but they 
were shortly after removed by the Turks, who refused 
to let what they conceived to be a Christian monument, 
Disfigure their land. Here, then, lie the remains of 
Somers, and his two gallant friends ; and it might be 
well to instruct the commander of some national cruiser 
to search for their bones, that they may be finally incor 
porated with the dust of their native land. Their 
identity would at once be established by the number of 
the skeletons, and the friends of the deceased might 
experience a melancholy consolation in being permitted 



to drop a tear over the spot in which they would be 
finally entombed. 

The facts related leave little doubt that Com. Preble 
was mistaken in, at least, a portion of his conjectures. 
That no Turks suffered, is shown by the direct testimony 
of Captain Bainbridge s journal, a record made at the 
time, and that, too, under circumstances which will not 
well admit of mistakes! This truth is also corroborated 
by other convincing testimony. Those who saw the 
explosion, saw no signs of any vessel near the ketch at 
the time it occurred, nor were the vestiges of any 
wreck, but that of the Intrepid, to be seen in the harbor. 
The officer who saw the ketch to the last moment, by 
means of the glass, is not understood to have seen any 
thing near her, and the thirteen bodies found, the pre 
cise number of the Americans known to have been 
lost, go to confirm the fact. It adds value to the testi 
mony, too, that a written memorial of this very number 
of the dead was made, before the prisoners in Tripoli 
had any information concerning the force of the party 
sent in from the squadron. 

Nor is there sufficient reason for supposing that the 
Americans blew themselves up, on this occasion. That 
Somers went in with a full determination to put in force 
this desperate expedient in the event of its becoming 
necessary to prevent capture, is beyond dispute ; but 
there is no proof of the existence of the necessity. To 
suppose the match would have been applied, except in 
the last emergency, is to accuse him who did it with a 
want of coolness ; a virtue that Captain Somers pos 
sessed in an eminent degree ; and this emergency could 
hardly have existed without some of the enemy having 


been near enough to suffer by the explosion. The whole 
party was accustomed to fire, and it is scarcely possible 
that they could have been driven to this desperate step, 
by means of injury received in this manner, as they 
always had their boats for a flight, when required. 
There was a vague rumor that most of the bodies found 
had been perforated by grape-shot, and a conjecture was 
made that the survivors fired the train, in order to pre 
vent the Turks from getting possession of the powder. 
But the report can be traced to no sufficient authority, 
and it is not probable that so many would have suffered 
in this way as to prevent the unhurt from using the 
boats and the train in the mode originally contemplated. 
But one man was found in the Constitution s cutter, 
and he, doubtless, was the boat-sitter, who lost his 
life at his post. This indicates any thing but hurry or 

It is also certain that the splinter-room was not 
lighted, as its flame would have been both quick and 
bright ; and, with a thousand anxious eyes on watch, 
it could not fail to have been seen. This circumstance 
goes further to show, that no gunboat or galley could 
have been approaching the ketch at the time she ex 
ploded, one of the purposes of these splinters being to 
keep the enemy aloof, through the dread of a fire-vessel. 
To suppose a neglect of using the splinter-room, in a 
case of necessity, would be to accuse the party of the 
same want of coolness as is inferred by the supposition 
of their blowing themselves up when no foe was near. 
Both were morally impossible, with such a man as 
Somers. Admitting that no Tripolitan vessel was near 
the Intrepid, and still insisting that the train was fired 


by the Americans, no reason can be given why the pre 
parations for the safety of the latter s crew should not 
have been used. The Constitution s cutter was found 
with its keeper alone in it, but of the Siren s boat we 
have no account. The latter was probably alongside 
the ketch and destroyed : it may have been sunk by a 
falling shell ; or it may have been privately appropriated 
to himself by some Turk. That no one was in it, how 
ever, is shown by the twelve bodies that were found 
out of the boats ; for, if manned, and a few yards from 
the ketch, the crew would have been blown into its bot 
tom, and not into the water. 

Abandoning the idea that the Intrepid was intention 
ally blown up, by Somers and his party, we have the 
alternatives of believing the disaster to have been the 
result of the fire of the enemy, or the consequences of 
an accident. The latter is possible, but, the former 
appears to us to be much the most probable. The light 
seen by Captain Stewart and Lieutenant Carrol, taken 
in connection with the circumstance that the explosion 
occurred immediately after, and apparently at that pre 
cise spot, is certainly an incident worthy of our consi 
deration, though it is not easy to see how this light could 
have produced the calamity. Accidents are much less 
likely to happen on board such a vessel, than on ordi 
nary occasions, every care being taken to prevent them. 
As the intention was to fire the splinters, all caution 
was doubtless used to see that no loose powder was lying 
about, and that the flames should not communicate with 
the train, except at the right moment, and in the proper 
manner. Still an accident from this source may have 
occurred through some unforeseen agency. If this light 


was really on board the ketch it was probably carried 
from aft, where it had been kept under the eye of the 
officers, to the main-hatch, in order to kindle the splint 
ers, a step that it was about time to take. Commodore 
Preble, in his official letter, adverts to the circumstance 
that this splinter-room had not been set on fire when the 
ketch blew up, as a proof that the party had been 
induced to act on an emergency ; for he always reasoned 
as if they blew themselves up ; believing; that the Intre 
pid was surrounded, and that many of the enemy were 
killed. Reasoning on the same circumstance, with the 
knowledge we now possess that no Turks were near, or 
that any suffered, and it goes to show that the explosion 
occurred at a moment when it was not expected by So- 
mers, who would not have neglected to fire this room, 
in any ordinary case. If the accident had its rise on 
board the ketch, it probably occurred in the attempt to 
take this preliminary step. 

But the Intrepid may have been blown up, by means 
of a shot from the enemy. This is the most probable 
solution of the catastrophe, and the one which is the 
most consoling to the friends of the sufferers, and which 
ought to be the most satisfactory to the nation. Com 
modore Preble says, "on entering the harbor several 
shot were fired at her (the Intrepid) from the batteries." 
The western entrance, in or near which the ketch blew 
up, is within pistol shot of what is called the Spanish 
fort, or, indeed, of most of the works on and about the 
mole. Even the bashaw s castle lies within fair canister 
range of this spot, and, prepared as the Turks were for 
any desperate enterprise on the part of the Americans, 
nothing is more probable than that they jealously 


watched the movements of a vessel that was entering 
their harbor after dark, necessarily passing near, if not 
coming directly from the American squadron. Their 
batteries may even have been provided with hot shot, 
for any emergency like this. Gunboat No. 8, Lieute 
nant Caldwell, was blown up in the attack of the 7th 
August, and that very circumstance would probably 
induce the Turks to make a provision for repeating the 
injury. A cold shot, however, might very well have 
caused the explosion. The breaking of one of the 
shells on deck ; the collision with a bolt, a spike or even 
a nail passing through the hull, may have struck fire. 
It is possible a shot passed through the splinter-room, 
and exposed the powder of the train, and that in run 
ning below with a lantern to ascertain what damage had 
been done, the accident may have occurred. The mov 
ing light seen by the present Commodore Stewart, 
would favor such a supposition ; though it must be 
remembered this light may also have been on board 
some vessel beyond the ketch, or even on the shore. 

Only one other supposition has been made concerning 
this melancholy affair. It has been thought that the 
ketch grounded on the rocks, in the western entrance, 
and was blown up there, to prevent the enemy from 
getting possession of her powder. That the Intrepid 
may have touched the rocks is not improbable, the pass 
being laid down in the most accurate chart of the har 
bor, as less than eighty fathoms wide, with shoal water 
on each side, the visible rocks being more than double 
that distance asunder ; but grounding does not infer the 
necessity of blowing up the ketch s crew. To suppose 
that Somers would have destroyed himself through 


mortification, at finding his vessel on shore, is opposed 
to reason and probability ; while it is doing gross injus 
tice to a character of singular chivalry and generosity 
to believe he would have sacrificed his companions to 
any consideration so strictly selfish. 

In this case, as in all others, the simplest and most 
natural solution of the difficulty is the most probable. 
Ah 1 the known facts of tj|e case, too, help to sustain 
this mode of reasoning. Those who saw the ketch, 
think she was advancing to the last moment, while it 
is agreed she had not reached, by several hundred 
yards, the spot to which it was the intention to carry 
her. By the chart alluded to, one recently made by 
an English officer of great merit, it is about eleven 
hundred yards from the western entrance to the 
bashaw s castle, and about five hundred and fifty to the 
inner harbor, or galley mole. Here, close to windward 
of the enemy s vessels, Somers intended to have left 
the ketch, and there is no doubt she would have drifted 
into their midst, when the destruction must have been 
fearful. God disposed of the result differently, for 
some wise purpose of his own, rendering the assailants 
the sole victims of the enterprise. It is only by con 
sidering the utter insignificance of all temporal mea 
sures, as compared with what lies beyond, that we can 
learn to submit to these dispensations, with a just sense 
of our own impotency. 

All agree that the Intrepid blew up, in or quite near 
to the western entrance. This was the result of direct 
observation ; it is proved by the fact that portions of the 
wreck and some of the shells fell on the rocks, and by 
the positions in which the Constitution s cutter and the 


bottom of the ketch were found. With the wind at 
the eastward, the wreck could not have " grounded on 
the north side of the rocks near the round battery," as 
is stated in Commodore Bainbridge s private journal, 
had the Intrepid been any distance within the entrance ; 
nor would the Constitution s boat have drifted past the 
intervening objects to the westward. The wind had 
probably a little northing iiuit, following the line of 
coast, as is usual with light airs, and as is shown by 
the wreck s touching on the north side of the rocks, all 
of which goes to prove, from an examination of the 
chart, as well as from the evidence of those who were 
present, that the accident occurred quite near the place 
stated. Occurring so far out, with nothing near to en 
danger the party, it leaves the moral certainty that the 
explosion was the result of accident, and not of design ; 
or, if the latter, of an attempt of the enemy to destroy 
the Intrepid. 

Thus perished Richard Somers, the subject of our 
memoir, and one of the "bravest of the brave." Not 
withstanding all our means of reasoning, and the great 
est efforts of human ingenuity, there will remain a 
melancholy interest around the manner of his end, 
which, by the Almighty will, is for ever veiled from 
human eyes in a sad and solemn mystery. In what 
ever way we view the result, the service on which he 
went was one of exceeding peril. He is known to 
have volunteered for it, with readiness ; to have made 
his preparation s with steadiness and alacrity ; and, 
when last seen, to have been entering on its immediate 
execution, with a calm and intrepid serenity. There 
was an ennobling motive, too, for undertaking so great a 


risk. In addition to the usual inducements of country 
and honour, the immediate liberation of Bainbridge and 
his brave companions was believed to depend on its 
success. Exaggerated notions of the sufferings of the 
Philadelphia s crew prevailed in the squadron before 
Tripoli, as well as in the country, and their brethren 
in arms fought with the double incentive of duty and 
friendship. Ten minutes, more would probably have 
realized the fondest hopes of the adventurers, but the 
providence of God was opposed to their success, and the 
cause, if it is ever to be known to man, must abide the 
revolutions that await the end of time, and the com 
mencement of eternity. 

In person, Somers was a man of middle stature 
rather below than above it but stout of frame ; ex 
ceedingly active and muscular. His nose was inclining 
to the aquiline, his eyes and hair were dark, and his 
whole face bore marks of the cross of the French blood 
that was said to run in his veins. It is a remarkable 
circumstance in the career of this distinguished young 
officer, that no one has any thing to urge against him. 
He was mild, amiable and affectionate, both in disposi 
tion and deportment, though of singularly chivalrous 
notions of duty and honor. It has been said by a 
writer who has had every opportunity of ascertaining 
the fact, that when a very young man he fought three 
duels in one day almost at the same time being 
wounded himself in the two first, and fighting the last, 
seated on the ground, sustained by his friend Decatur. 
Although such an incident could only have occurred 
with very young men, and perhaps under the exagger 
ations of a very young service, it was perfectly charac- 


teristic of Somers. There was nothing vindictive in 
these duels. He fired but once at each adversary he 
wounded the last man and was himself, in a physical 
sense, the principal sufferer. The quarrels arose from 
his opponents imputing to him a want of spirit for not 
resenting some idle expression of Decatur s, who was 
the last man living to intend to hurt Sorners feelings. 
They loved each other as brothers, and Decatur proved 
it, by offering to fight the two last duels for his friend, 
after the latter had received his first wound. But So 
mers fought for honor, and was determined that the men 
who doubted him, should be convinced of their mis 
take. Apart from the error of continuing the affairs 
after the first injury, and the general moral mistake of 
supposing that a moral injury can be repaired in this 
mode at all, these duels had the chivalrous character 
that should ever characterize such meetings, if meetings 
of this nature are really necessary to human civilization. 

Although it is scarcely possible that a warm-hearted 
young man, like Somers, should not have felt a prefer 
ence for some person of the other sex, it is not known 
that he had any serious attachment when he lost his 
life. Glory appears to have been his mistress, for the 
time being at least, and he left no one of this nature 
behind him to mourn his early loss. He died possessed 
of a respectable landed property, and one of increasing 
value ; all of which he bequeathed to the only sister 

Somers was thought to be an expert seaman, by 
those who were good judges of such qualifications. As 
a commander he was mild, but sufficiently firm. His 
education, without being unusual even in his profession 


at that day, had not been neglected, though he would 
not probably have been classed among the reading men 
of the service. A chivalrous sense of honor, an un 
moved courage, and perfect devotion to the service in 
which he was engaged, formed the prominent points of 
his character, and as all were accompanied by great 
gentleness of manner and amiability of feeling, he 
appears to have been equally beloved and respected. 
The attachment which existed between him and Decatur 
had something romantic about it. They were rivals in 
professional daring, while they were bosom friends. As 
we have already said, it is by no means improbable that 
the exploits of Decatur induced Somers, through a gen 
erous competition, to engage in the perilous enterprise 
in which he perished, and on which he entered with a 
known intention of yielding up his life, if necessary to 
prevent the enemy s obtaining the great advantage of 
demanding ransom for his party, or of seizing the pow 
der in the ketch. 

Congress passed a resolution of condolence with the 
friends of the officers who died in the Intrepid, as well 
as with those of all the officers who fell before Tripoli. 
Of these brave men, Somers, on account of his rank, 
the manner of his death, and his previous exploits, has 
stood foremost with the country and the service. These 
claims justly entitle him to this high distinction. Among 
all the gallant young men that this war first made known 
to the nation, he has always maintained a high place, 
and, as it is a station sealed with his blood, it has become 
sacred to the entire republic. 

It is a proof of the estimation in which this regretted 
officer is held, that several small vessels have since been 

VOL. I. 11 


called after him. Perry had a schooner, which was 
thus designated, under his orders on the memorable 
10th September, 1813; and a beautiful little brig 
has lately been put into the water on the seaboard, 
which is called the Somers. In short, his name has 
passed into a watchword in the American navy ; and 
as they who are first associated with the annals of a na 
tion, whether in connection with its institutions, its arms, 
its literature, or its arts, form the germs of all its future 
renown, it is probable it will be handed down to pos 
terity, as one of the bright examples which the aspiring 
and daring in their country s service will do well to 


AMONG the many brave Irishmen who, first and last, 
have manifested their courage, and shown how strong 
is the sympathy between the people of their native 
island and this country, the subject of this sketch is 
entitled to occupy a highly honourable place. There 
was a short period, indeed, when his name and services 
stood second to none on the list of gallant seamen with 
which the present navy of the republic commenced its 
brilliant career. Those whose memories extend so far 
back as the commencement of the century, and who are 
familiar with naval events, will readily recall how often 
they were required to listen to his successes and his 

The family of John Shaw was of English origin. 
In 1690, however, his grandfather, an officer in the com 
missariat of King William s army, passed into Ireland, 
on service, where he appears to have married and es 
tablished himself. The son, who was the father of our 
subject, served as an officer in the fourth regiment of 
heavy horse, on the Irish establishment. He was 
actively and creditably employed with his regiment in 
the war of 56, serving no less than four years in Ger 
many. During this time he was present at several 
battles, including that of Minden. In 1763, this gen 
tleman returned to Ireland, shortly after marrying Eliza- 



beth Barton, of Kilkenna. In 1779, he quitted the 
army altogether, retiring to a farm. The family of 
Barton, like that of Shaw, was also English, and had 
come into Ireland with the army with which Cromwell 
invaded that country, in 1649. 

John Shaw was born at Mt. Mellick, Gtueen s 
county, Ireland, in the year 1773, or while his father 
was still in the army. There were several older chil 
dren, and the family becoming numerous, his studies 
were necessarily limited to such an education as could 
be obtained at a country school, of the ordinary character. 
The means of providing for so many children early oc 
cupied the father s thoughts, and, at the proper time, 
the matter was laid fairly before two of the older sons, 
for their own consideration. One of these sons was 
John. This occurred in 1790, when the lad was in his 
seventeenth year. The father recommended America, 
as the most promising theatre for their future exertions ; 
and the advice agreeing with the inclinations of the 
youths, John and an elder brother sailed for New York, 
which port they reached in December of the same year. 
After remaining a short time in New York, the subject 
of our sketch proceeded to Philadelphia, then the politi 
cal capital and largest town of the infant republic. Here 
he delivered various letters of introduction, and, after 
looking about him a little, he determined to push his 
fortunes on the ocean, of which he had a taste in the 
passage out. 

In March, 1791, young Shaw sailed for the East In 
dies, being then nearly eighteen years of age. The 
destination of the ship was, in truth, China, all those 
distant seas going, in the parlance of seamen, under the 


general name of the Indies. The first voyage appears 
to have produced no event of any particular interest. 
It served, however, to make the youth familiar with his 
new profession, and to open the way to preferment. In 
the intervals between his voyages to Canton, of which 
he seems to have made four in the next six years, he 
was occupied in improving himself, and in serving in 
counting-houses as a clerk. On the second voyage, the 
ship he was in, the Sampson, was attacked by a num 
ber of Malay prows, during a calm. This occurred in 
the Straits of Banca, and in the night. The attack ap 
pears to have been vigorous and the situation of the 
vessel critical. Notwithstanding, she kept up so brisk 
a fire from six four-pounders, as to compel several of 
her assailants to haul off, to repair their damages. A 
breeze coming, the Sampson was brought under com 
mand, and soon cleared herself from her enemies, who 
ran for the island of Borneo. This was the first occa 
sion on which Shaw met with real service. 

While on shore, young Shaw had joined that well- 
known body of irregular volunteers, known as the Mac- 
pherson Blues. This corps, when its size is considered, 
was probably the most remarkable, as regards efficiency, 
discipline, appearance, and the characters of its members, 
that ever existed in the country. Several hundreds of 
the most respectable young men of Philadelphia were 
in its ranks, and many of the more distinguished citizens 
did not disdain its service. It volunteered, in 1794. to 
march against the insurgents in western Pennsylvania, 
young Shaw shouldering his kit and his musket with 
the rest. The troops did not return to Philadelphia 


until the close of the year, having marched early in 
the autumn.* 

In the third of his voyages to Canton, young Shaw 
was the third officer of the ship, and the fourth he made 
ns her first officer. This was quick preferment, and 
furnishes proof in itself that his employers had reason 
to be satisfied with his application and character. 

Four voyages to China gave our young sailor so much 
professional knowledge and reputation as to procure him 
a vessel. Near the close of the year 1797, he sailed 
for the West Indies, as master of a brig, returning to 
Baltimore the succeeding May. This was at a moment 
when the American trade was greatly depredated on by 

* An anecdote is related of one of the " citizen soldiers" in this 
expedition which is worthy of being recorded. The person re 
ferred to was a German by birth, of the name of Koch, and was 
well known in Philadelphia, in his day, as a large out-door under 
writer. He died some ten or twelve years since, in Paris, whiiher 
he had gone for the benefit of the climate, leaving a fortune esti 
mated at $1,200,000. Mr. Koch, like young Shaw, was a private 
in the M acpherson Blues. It fell to his lot one night to be sta 
tioned sentinel over a baggage-wagon. The weather was cold, 
raw, stormy, and wet. This set the sentinel musing. After re 
maining on post half an hour, he was heard calling lustily, " Cor 
poral of ter guartz Corporal of ter guartz." The corporal came, 
and inquired what was wanting. Koch wished to be relieved 
for a few minutes, having something to say to Macpherson. He 
was gratified, and in a few minutes he stood in the presence of the 
general, "Well, Mr. Koch, what is your pleasure?" asked Mac- 
pherson. " Why, yeneral, I wish to know what may be ter value 
of dat d d wagon over which I am shentinel !" " How the d 1 
should I know, Koch?" "Well, sornet ing approximative not 
to be barticular." " A thousand dollars, perhaps." " Very well, 
Yeneral Macpherson, I write a sheck for ter money, and ten 1 
will go to bets." 


the French privateers, and Mr. Shaw had much reason 
to complain of the treatment he received at their hands. 
The Spring of 1798, or the moment of his return to 
this country, was precisely that when the armaments 
against France were in progress, and Mr. Shaw felt 
strongly disposed, on more accounts than one, to take 
service in the infant navy. Dale sailed in the 
Ganges, the first vessel out, on the 22d of May, the 
very month when the brig of Mr. Shaw reached Balti 

Soon after this important event, an application was 
made to the Navy Department in behalf of Mr. Shaw, 
and being sustained by the late Gen. Samuel Smith, 
and other men of influence in Baltimore, he was com 
missioned as a lieutenant. Mr. Shaw s place on the 
list must have been about the thirtieth, though promo 
tions soon raised him much nearer to the top. Rodgers, 
Preble, James Barron, Bainbridge, Stewart, Hull, and 
Sterret were all above him; while he ranked above 
Chauncy, John Smith, Somers, Decatur, &c. At this 
time, Mr. Shaw was five and twenty years of age. 

Soon after receiving his appointment, our subject was 
ordered to join the Montezuma 20, Capt. Alexander 
Murray ; a ship bought into the service, as one of the 
hasty equipments of the period. From the date of his 
commission, there is not much doubt that Mr. Shaw was 
the senior lieutenant of this vessel ; at all events, if he 
did not hold this rank on joining her, he obtained it be 
fore she had been long in service. 

The Montezuma did not get to sea until November, 
1798, when she proceeded to the West Indies, the 
Norfolk 18, Capt. Williams, and Retaliation 12, Lieut. 


Com. Bainbridge, sailing in company. While cruising 
off Guadaloupe, the same month, the Americans were 
chased by two French frigates, le Volontaire and 1 In- 
surgente. The Retaliation was captured, and the ship 
and brig ^escaped only by the address of Lieut. Com. 
Bainbridge, who induced the French commander to 
recall Tlnsurgente by signal, by exaggerating the force 
of the two Americans. The Montezuma remained in 
the West Indies, convoying and cruising, until October, 
1799, when she was compelled to come home to get a 
new crew, and to refit. This year of active servi.ce in 
a vessel of war, added to the seamanship obtained in 
his voyages to Canton, made Mr. Shaw a good officer ; 
Capt. Murray having come out of the war of the Revo 
lution, though only a lieutenant in rank, with the repu 
tation of being one of the most active and best man-of- 
war s men of the service. 

Our young Irishman had no reason to complain of 
his luck in the country of his adoption. He had now 
been at sea but nine years, and in America the same 
time, when he found himself fairly enlisted in an 
honorable service, and in the possession of very re 
spectable rank. His good fortune, however, did not 
stop here. During the late cruise, Mr. Shaw had won 
the respect and regard of his commander, who was a 
gentleman of highly respectable family, and who pos 
sessed considerable naval influence in particular, being 
allied to the Nicholsons, and other families of mark. 
Through the warm recommendations of Capt. Murray, 
Mr. Shaw was appointed to a separate command, and 
was at once placed in the way of carving out a name 
for himself. 


The vessel to which Lieut. Com. Shaw was appoint 
ed was built on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and 
was a schooner that was pierced for twelve long sixes, 
a species of gun that preceded the use of the light car- 
ronade. She was called the Enterprise, and subse 
quently became celebrated in the service, for her extra 
ordinary good fortune and many captures. A few years 
later, Porter had her lengthened at Venice, and pierced 
for two more guns, and in the end she was converted 
into a brig, terminating her career, under the late Capt. 
Galligher, by shipwreck, in the West Indies. In the 
course of her service, the Enterprise fought nine or ten 
actions, in all of which she was either completely suc 
cessful, or came off with credit. It was her officers 
and men, too, in a great measure, that carried the Phila 
delphia, in the harbor of Tripoli, and Decatur s own 
boat was manned from her, in the desperate hand-to- 
hand conflict that occurred under the rocks before that 
town. In one sense, she was more useful than any 
other craft that ever sailed under the flag. 

Lieut. Com. Shaw got to sea in the Enterprise, with 
a crew of seventy-six men on board, in December, 1799. 
He proceeded to the Windward Island station. In 
February, 1800, on his return from Cura^oa, off the 
east end of Porto Rico, Shaw fell in with the Constella 
tion 38, Com. Truxtun, thirty-six hours after her warm 
engagement with le Vengeance, a ship of larger size, 
heavier, and more guns, and a stronger crew. The 
Constellation, as is well known, had been partly dis 
masted in the battle, and was now making the best of 
her way to Jamaica. Com. Truxtun sent the Enter 
prise to Philadelphia with despatches, where she arrived 


fifteen days later, having experienced heavy gales on 
the coast. 

Lieut. Com. Shaw left the Delaware again, in March, 
having orders to proceed off Cape Francois with de 
spatches for Com. Talbot. Having delivered his de 
spatches, he proceeded on to join Com. Truxtun at Ja 
maica. Off the eastern end of the island, however, he fell 
in with an English sloop of war, and ascertained that the 
Constellation had sailed for home, when he immediately 
hauled up for St. Kitts, the rendezvous of the Wind 
ward squadron. While off the Mona Passage, working 
up towards her station, the Enterprise saw a large brig 
to the southward and eastward, to which she gave chase 
with the American ensign flying. Gaining on the chase, 
the latter showed Spanish colors, and opened a fire on 
the schooner, when about a mile distant. Lieut. Com. 
Shaw stood on, keeping his luff until he had got well 
on the brig s quarter, when, determined not to be fired 
at without resenting it, he poured in a broadside upon 
the Spaniard. A sharp conflict ensued, the brig mount 
ing eighteen guns, and having heavier metal than her 
antagonist. After exchanging their fire for twenty 
minutes the vessels separated, without any explana 
tions, each being seemingly satisfied of the national 
character of the other. This was the first affair of the 
gallant little Enterprise, and it might be taken as a 
pledge of the spirit with which she was to be sailed and 
fought, during the twenty succeeding years. Both 
vessels suffered materially in this combat, though little 
was said of it, even at the time, and it appears not to 
have led to any political dissension. The American 
went into St. Thomas to refit. 


In the port of St. Thomas there happened to be lying, 
at the time, a large French lugger, that mounted twelve 
guns, and is said to have had a crew of a hundred souls 
on board. The commander of this lugger sent a civil 
message to Lieut. Shaw, naming an hour when he 
should be pleased to make a trial of strength in the offing. 
As soon as this proposal was mentioned to the crew of 
the American schooner, it was accepted with three 
cheers, and the enemy was duly apprised of the fact. 

At the time named in the challenge, Lieut. Shaw got 
under way, and stood into the offing. Here he hove-to, 
waiting for his antagonist to come out. Observing that 
the lugger did not lift her anchor, he fired a shot in the 
direction of the harbour. This signal was repeated 
several times, during the remainder of the day, without 
producing any effect. After dark, the Enterprise bore 
up, and ran down to leeward of St. Croix, where she 
continued cruising for several days ; during which time 
she captured a small letter-of-marque, and carried her 
into St. Kitts. 

After filling up his water and provisions, Lieut. 
Com. Shaw sailed again immediately v A day or two 
out, or in May, 1800, he fell in with, and brought to 
action a French privateer schooner, called la Seine, 
armed with four guns, and having a complement of 
fifty-four men. The combat was short, but exceedingly 
spirited, the Frenchman making a most desperate re 
sistance. He did not yield until he had twenty-four 
of his crew killed and wounded, and his sails and rig 
ging cut to pieces. The Enterprise had a few men 
hurt also. The prize was manned and sent into St. 


Two weeks later, the Enterprise being to leeward of 
Guadaloupe, chased and engaged another privateer 
called la Citoyenne, carrying six guns, and manned 
with fifty-seven men. Like la Seine, la Citoyenne 
held out and fought to the last, refusing to strike so 
long as a hope of escape remained. When she struck, 
it was ascertained that she had lost four men killed, 
beside having eleven men wounded. Capt. Shaw al 
ways spoke of the obstinacy of the resistance made by 
these two gallant Frenchmen with great respect. In 
the two affairs, the Enterprise had a marine killed and 
seven men wounded. La Citoyenne was also manned 
and sent into St. Kitts. 

The Enterprise next went off Porto Rico. Here 
Lieut. Com. Shaw heard that two American mariners 
were sentenced to death for having killed two French 
men in an attempt to recapture their vessel. These 
seamen had been twice taken to the place of execution 
and reprieved, suffering, in addition to this cruel trifling, 
much in the way of ordinary treatment. In the strug 
gle in which the Frenchmen fell, they had actually 
succeeded, but were recaptured before they could reach 
a port. Shortly after the Enterprise went into St. Kitts, 
when Lieut. Shaw made known the situation of these 
captives to the American agent for prisoners, and an 
abortive attempt was made to obtain their release. The 
affair was not finally disposed of, however, before the 
Enterprise sailed on another cruise. 

Lieut. Com. Shaw now passed between Antigua and 
Desirade, where he made a large three-masted French 
lugger, which he immediately recognised as the vessel 
that had sent him the challenge at St. Thomas. The 


Enterprise closed in expectation of an engagement, but, 
after exchanging a few shot, the lugger hauled down 
her colors. This vessel proved to be the same as that 
which had sent the challenge, and from the feebleness 
of her resistance, in connection with the other circum 
stances, we are left to suppose some artifice led to her 
defiance. On board the prize were several officers of 
the French army, one of whom proved to be of the rank 
of a major-general. The Enterprise went into St. Kitts 
with the lugger, and no sooner did she arrive than 
Lieut. Com. Shaw put the general and a captain in 
close confinement, as hostages for the security of the 
two condemned Americans. Care was taken to let this 
fact be known at Guadaloupe, and it had its influence. 

In the mean time, Com. Truxtun arrived on the 
station, and he supported Mr. Shaw in what he had 
done. Matters now looked so serious that the general 
asked permission to be sent, on his parole, to Guada 
loupe, to arrange the difficulty in person. His request 
was granted, and, within the month, he returned, 
bringing back the liberated Americans in his company. 
Mr. Shaw s spirit and decision obtained for him much 
credit with the authorities of the period, and were 
doubtless the means of saving two brave men much ad 
ditional suffering, if not from ignominious deaths. 

While the affair of the condemned mariners was in 
progress, Lieut. Com. Shaw did not keep his schooner 
idle in port. She had now become a favorite little 
cruiser, and was seldom at anchor longer than was ne 
cessary to repair damages, or taken in supplies. In 
June she was cruising to leeward of Guadaloupe, when 
she fell in with another privateer called P Aigle ; a very 

VOL. i. 12 


fast and destructive cruiser, of nearly the Enterprise s 
force, as she carried ten guns, and had seventy-eight 
men on board. L Aigle had cut up both the English 
and American trade very extensively, nor had her com 
mander any objections to engage, although the Enter 
prise was so handled as to leave her no choice. The 
vessels crossed each other on opposite tacks, the Ameri 
can to leeward, but close aboard her enemy. Each 
delivered her broadside in passing, with considerable 
effect. The helm of the Enterprise was put down in the 
smoke, and she shot rapidly up into the wind, tacking 
directly athwart the Frenchman s wake. This was 
done so quickly as to enable the American to discharge 
four of her six guns fairly into the enemy s stern, rak 
ing her with great effect. The enemy was now evi 
dently in confusion, and his schooner coming round, 
Mr. Shaw laid the enemy aboard to windward, firing 
but one more gun ; or eleven in all. The Americans 
met with no resistance, finding the crew of 1 Aigle 
below. At first this circumstance excited surprise, the 
French commander having one of the greatest reputa 
tions of any private ersrnan in the West Indies, and 
being known to be as resolute as he was skillful. 

On examining the state of the prize, however, it was 
ascertained that a round shot had struck the French 
commander on the upper part of his forehead, tearing 
away the scalp, and he lay for dead, on deck. He re 
covered his senses in the end, and survived the injury. 
Another shot had passed directly through the breast of 
the first lieutenant. Nor was the fate of the second 
lieutenant much better than that of his commander. A 
shot had also grazed his head, carrying away a part of 


one ear, and much of the skin, throwing him on the 
deck senseless. It was owing to these singular casual 
ties that the men, finding themselves without leaders, 
deserted their quarters when the Americans boarded. 

L Aigle had three men killed and nine wounded, in 
this short affair. Three of the Enterprise s peopJe 
were wounded, but no one was slain. The prize was 
sent in, as usual, and Mr. Shaw immediately prepared 
for farther service. 

In July, this gallant little schooner, then cruising to 
leeward of Dominico, fell in with le Flambeau, another 
privateer of note in those seas. This vessel, a brig, 
was every way superior to the Enterprise, mounting 
the same number of guns, it is true, but of heavier 
metal, and having a crew on board of one hundred and 
ten souls. She had also a reputation for sailing and 
working well, and was commanded by a brave and ex 
perienced seaman. 

The Flambeau was seen by the Americans over 
night, but could not close. Next morning, she was 
discovered sweeping toward them in a calm. Lieut. 
Com. Shaw allowed her to approach, until the sea 
breeze struck his schooner, when he immediately set 
every thing, and crowded sail in chase. The brig 
spread all her canvas, and both vessels went off free, 
for some time, with studding-sails set. The Flambeau 
was apparently disposed to observe before she permitted 
the Enterprise to come any nearer. While running, in 
this manner, at a rapid rate, through the water, the 
Frenchman, who was then carrying studding-sails on 
both sides, suddenly hauled up close on a wind, board 
ing his starboard tack. The Enterprise did the same, 



hauling up nearly in her wake. In this manner the 
chase continued, the Enterprise gaining, until the ves 
sels got within range of musketry, when the Flambeau 
opened a heavy fire with that species of arms. The 
Enterprise returned the fire in the same manner, until 
close aboard of her enemy, when Lieut. Com. Shaw 
edged a little off, shortened sail, and received a broad 
side. This discharge was immediately returned, and a 
spirited fire was kept up for about twenty minutes. 
Finding himself getting the worst of the combat, the 
Frenchman hauled all his sheets flat aft, luffed, and 
tacked. The Enterprise endeavoured to imitate this 
manoeuvre, but unluckily she missed stays. There re 
mained no other expedient for Lieut. Com. Shaw but 
to trim every thing that would draw, get round as fast 
as he could, and endeavour to get alongside of his 
enemy by his superiority of sailing. This was done, 
and the firing re-commenced. The foretopmast of le 
Flambeau had been badly wounded, and men were 
seen aloft endeavouring to secure it, when, a flaw of 
wind striking the brig, the spar came down, carrying 
six men with it overboard. As the Flambeau was run 
ning away from the spot where the accident happened, 
and the Enterprise was fast coming up to it, the latter 
lowered a boat, and saved all the Frenchmen. A few 
minutes later, she ranged close alongside her enemy, 
when le Flambeau struck.* The action lasted forty 
minutes, and had been hotly contested on both sides. 

* This account of the combat between the Enterprise and le 
Flambeau differs, in several particulars, from that given by the 
writer in his History of the Navy of the United States. The ac 
count in the latter work was written from the statements of an 


Le Flambeau had forty men killed and wounded, and 
the Enterprise eight or ten. The Frenchman was 
hulled repeatedly, and among other accidents that befel 
him, a shot passed through his medicine chest, while 
the surgeon was busy operating on the hurt. The 
prize was carried to St. Kitts, and, in the end, all the 
proceeds were adjudged to the officers and people of 
the Enterprise, as having captured a vessel of superior 
force. In the engagement, the Enterprise mustered 
eighty-three souls, all told. 

This was one of the warmest actions of the war of 
1798. It added largely to the reputation of the schooner 
and her gallant commander, the services of both having 
been unusually brilliant for the force employed. Active 
as our subject had been, he was not content to remain 
idle, however, going to sea again as soon as he had re 
paired damages. 

In August, Lieut. Shaw, cruising in the Antigua 
passage, fell in with another French privateer, in the 
night. The Frenchman endeavoured to escape, but, 
after a chase of five hours, the Enterprise got him fairly 
under her guns, when he struck. This vessel proved 
to be la Pauline, of six guns and forty men. The 
French consul at Porto Rico was a passenger in this 
vessel. La Pauline was sent into St. Kitts, like all her 

In September, still cruising in the Antigua passage, 
Lieut. Shaw captured, after firing a few guns, a letter- 
of-marque, called le Guadaloupeenne, a vessel of seven 

officer of the Enterprise, who admitted that he trusted altogether 
to memory. The present account is taken from memoranda made 
by Captain Shaw himself, and is doubtless correct. 


guns and forty-five men. On board the prize was 
found the same general officer who had been taken in 
the three-masted lugger and exchanged, and who now 
became a prisoner, the second time, to Lieut. Com. 
Shaw, in the same season. 

How much longer this success and activity would 
have continued, it is hard to say ; but, by this time, 
the health of Mr. Shaw was suffering severely through 
the influence of the climate, and, induced to follow the 
advice of his medical attendants, he asked to be relieved. 
The malady was a continued diarrhrea, and was not to 
be neglected in that latitude. Highly as the activity 
of Mr. Shaw was appreciated, he was ordered to trans 
fer the command of the Enterprise to Lieut. Sterret, 
late of the Constellation, and permitted to sail for the 
United States in the Petapsco sloop of war, where he 
arrived late in November. Lieut. Shaw did not reach 
Washington until early in January, 1801, where he 
was personally thanked by the President for his ser 
vices. The Secretary also paid him a similar com 
pliment. He was promised promotion, and actually 
received verbal orders to prepare to go to Boston, where 
he was to assume the charge of the Berceau, a prize 
corvette of twenty-six guns, which was a post-captain s 
command. This arrangement, however, was defeated 
by the progress of the negotiations, and a treaty of 
peace was ratified by the Senate the following month. 

In March, 1801, Mr. Jefferson s administration com 
menced, and the peace establishment law, which had 
been passed under the government of his predecessor 
in office, was now carried into effect. The Berceau 
was restored to the French by the conditions of the 


treaty, and, so far from promoting any of inferior rank, 
there existed the necessity of disbanding the greater 
portion of the gentlemen already on the list of captains. 
Of more than thirty captains and commanders then in 
service, but nine of the former rank were to be retained. 
The law, however, directed that thirty-six lieutenants 
were to continue on the list. This was a reduction of 
nearly three-fourths, arid it became a serious question 
who was, and who was not, to be disbanded. 

Under ordinary circumstances, there is little question 
that Mr. Shaw, a native of a foreign country, and with 
out political support, with less than twelve years resi 
dence, and not yet three years service in the navy, 
would have been among those who would be compelled 
to retire. But the cruise of the Enterprise had been 
far too brilliant to suffer this injustice. In six months 
that schooner had captured eight privateers and letters- 
of-marque, and fought five spirited actions ; two of which 
were with vessels of superior force. In four of these 
actions she had actually captured her antagonists, and 
in that in which the combatants separated as not being 
lawfully belligerents as respects each other, she had 
nobly sustained the honor of the flag. It was impossi 
ble to overlook such services, and Mr. Shaw was re 
tained in his proper rank. His name appears as fourth 
on the list of lieutenants, under the peace establishment 
law, leaving Stewart, Hull,*and Sterret above him. 

In the spring of 1801, the government sent the 
George Washington 28, armed en flute., into the Medi 
terranean, with the tribute for Algiers. To this vessel 
Lieut. Com. Shaw was appointed, as honorable a com 
mand as could be connected with such duty. After 



delivering the stores, the ship remained out, convoying 
and looking after the interests of the American trade, 
until the following year, when she returned to America. 
The whole service occupied about a twelve-month ; the 
usual extent of a cruise in that day, when crews were 
shipped for only a year. On her return home,- the 
George Washington, which had been an Indiaman 
bought into the navy, was sold and returned to her 
original occupation. 

By the new law Mr. Shaw was now put on lieu 
tenant s half-pay, which, at that period of the history 
of the navy, was only twenty dollars a month. Neces 
sity compelled him to ask for a furlough, on receiving 
which he made a voyage, as master, to Canton, touching 
at the Isle of France. On this voyage he was absent about 
eighteen months, returning to the United States in Sep 
tember, 1804. Previously to this, Mr. Shaw had married 
a lady of Philadelphia, of the name of Palmer. Eliza 
beth Palmer was of a family of Friends, but attachment 
to the subject of our biography induced her to break 
the rigid laws of her sect, and, of course, submit to 
being rejected by her church. It was this marriage, 
and the birth of one or two children, that compelled Mr. 
Shaw to seek service in the Indiaman just mentioned. 

During his absence on the India voyage, or May 22d, 
1804, the rank of master commandants was restored to 
the navy, by the promotion of the eight oldest lieu 
tenants. Of course, Capt. Shaw became the fourth officer 
of that rank then in service. This was at the moment 
when Preble was carrying on his brilliant operations 
before Tripoli, and the subject of gunboats was much 
discussed in the naval circles. Early in January, 1805, 

JOHN SHAW. 141, 

Capt. Shaw addressed a letter to the Secretary, offering 
to carry a flotilla of these craft into the Mediterranean. 
His idea was to build them in time to sail in March, 
expecting to be able to reach the point of operations in 
the succeeding May. To this offer, Capt. Shaw an 
nexed a request that the commodore on the station should 
be instructed to give him the command of the gunboats 
he should succeed in navigating in front of the enemy s 
port. The arrival of Com. Preble, in this country, in 
duced the government to construct the boats, but Capt. 
Shaw, himself, was appointed to the command of the 
John Adams 28, and in May he sailed for the Mediter 
ranean, having three of the gunboats in company. On 
their arrival on the station, it was found that peace had 
been made, and shortly after the John Adams returned 
home. The ship was now laid up in ordinary at Wash 
ington, at which port she had arrived in December, after 
a cruise of seven months. 

Capt. Shaw received orders to repair to New Orleans 
in January, 1806, or the month after his return home, 
with directions to construct a flotilla of gunboats, for the 
service of those waters. This was the commencement 
of the great gunboat system in the country, those 
already in use having been built for special service 
abroad. The following winter he was made acquainted 
with the existence of the plot of Burr. This compelled 
him to use extraordinary exertions to equip a force equal 
to commanding the river, under circumstances of this 
nature. Early in February, he appeared off Natchez, 
with a flotilla mounting sixty-one guns, and manned 
with four hundred and forty-eight seamen and soldiers. 
The two ketches. ^rEtna and Vesuvius, had joined him 


in the river, composing more than a third of this force. 
The services of Capt. Shaw, on this occasion, met with 
the approbation of the government. 

After the dispersion of Burr s force, Capt. Shaw was 
ordered to Washington, and was sent to Richmond, as a 
witness on the trial of the accused. At the close of the 
year 1807, he was commanded to sit on the court which 
tried Com. Barren for the affair of the Chesapeake, 
having been promoted to the rank of post-captain the 
. 27th August, previously. 

After the court rose, Capt. Shaw received Orders, of 
the date of May, 1808, to take charge of the navy yard 
at Norfolk. On this station he continued until August, 
1810, when he was commanded to proceed, once more, 
to New Orleans. On this occasion, he repaired to his 
station by land.. On reaching Natchez, he met Gover 
nor Claiborne, who had been directed to seize Baton 
Rouge. A flotilla of gunboats had been lying off 
Natchez some time, and taking command of it, Capt. 
Shaw covered the debarkation of the troops that effected 
this piece of service. 

During the year 1811, Capt. Shaw was principally 
engaged in making preparations to defend New Orleans, 
in the event of a war with Great Britain. He examined 
all the approaches to the place, though the storm blew 
over, and little was done by the government towards 
effecting this important object. These labors, however, 
were of service, when the war so suddenly and unex 
pectedly broke out, the following year. As the enemy 
paid no great attention to this part of the country until 
late in the war, Capt. Shaw had little other duty to per 
form, while he remained on this station, than to make 


such preparations as his means and orders allowed. 
Among other things, he commenced the construction of 
a heavy block ship, that subsequently was used in the 
defence of the place. In 1813, Gen. Wilkinson seized 
Mobile, Capt. Shaw commanding the maritime part of 
the expedition. On this duty the latter was employed 
about three months, having a strong division of gun 
boats and light cruisers under his orders. On this oc 
casion, the navy transported the guns and stores to the 
point, where the troops erected the work subsequently 
rendered distinguished by the repulse of a British attack 
by water. The communication with New Orleans, by 
sea, was also kept up by means of the flotilla. On his 
return to New Orleans, Capt. Shaw was much engaged 
in procuring cannon, ammunition and gun-carriages, for 
the defence of that important place. To obtain the 
latter, a quantity of mahogany was purchased, and on 
this material about forty heavy guns were mounted. 
These guns were subsequently used by the army that 
repulsed the enemy in 1815. 

In the spring of 1814, Capt. Shaw left the station 
and repaired to Washington, at which place he arrived 
early in May. After settling his accounts, he obtained 
a short leave of absence to visit his friends. After dis 
charging this domestic duty, he proceeded on to Con 
necticut, and took command of the squadron lying in 
the Thames, between New London and Norwich. This 
force consisted of the United States 44, Macedonian 38, 
and Hornet 18. As these ships were vigilantly block 
aded by the enemy, the Hornet alone was enabled to 
get out. She effected her escape under Capt. Biddle, 
and subsequently captured the Penguin 18, but the 


two frigates were kept in the river until peace ; or 
March, 1815. 

As soon as the war terminated, the United States 
proceeded to Boston under Capt. Shaw, with orders to 
prepare for a cruise in the Mediterranean. In Sep 
tember of the same year she joined the squadron under 
Bainbridge, at Malaga. Peace with Algiers, however, 
had been made by Decatur, and, there being no neces 
sity for retaining the large force that was out in that 
distant sea, Com. Bainbridge came home, leaving the 
station in command of Capt. Shaw, the next senior to 
himself in the Mediterranean. The force left with 
Com. Shaw consisted of his own ship, the United States 
44, Constellation 38, Capt. Crane, Ontario 18, Capt. 
Elliot, and Erie 18, Capt. Ridgely. The Java 44, Capt. 
Perry, joined him soon after. 

Com. Shaw retained this command until the follow 
ing year, cruising and visiting the different ports of that 
sea, when he was relieved by Com. Chauncy, in the 
Washington 74. Capt. Shaw continued out, however, 
until November, 1817, when he exchanged for the 
Constellation, and came home, that ship requiring 
repairs. The Constellation anchored in Hampton 
Roads, December 26, 1817, making the cruise of her 
commander extend to about twenty-eight months. Com. 
Shaw got leave to visit his family in Philadelphia, from 
which he had now been separated, on service, nearly 
five years. 

Com. Shaw never went to sea again, in command. 
He was shortly after put in charge of the Boston navy 
yard, where he remained the usual time. When re 
lieved, he was placed in command at Charleston, S. 


Carolina, a station rather of honor, however, than of 
active duty. September 17, 1823, he died at Philadel 
phia, where he had been taken ill ; the place that he 
considered his home, and where he had first established 
himself on his arrival in the country, thirty-three years 
before. As Com. Shaw was born in 1773, he was just 
fifty when he died. 

Com. Shaw was twice married. His first wife was 
Elizabeth Palmer, the Quakeress already mentioned. 
By this lady he had several children, all of whom, but 
two daughters, died young. Of the^se two daughters, 
Elizabeth, the eldest, married Francis H. Gregory, Es 
quire, of Connecticut, a captain in the navy, and now 
in command of the Raritan 44; and Virginia, the 
youngest, is the wife of Win. H. Lynch, Esquire, of 
Virginia, a lieutenant in the navy of fifteen years 
standing, and late commander of the steamer Poinsett. 
By Mrs. Gregory, there are seven grandchildren, the 
descendants of Com. Shaw ; and by Mrs. Lynch, two. 
The second wife of Com. Shaw was a Miss Breed, of 
Charlestown, Massachusetts, and of the family that gave 
its name to the celebrated hill, on which the renowned 
battle was fought, in June, 1775. By this lady, who 
still survives, there was no issue. 

Com. Shaw was a man of great probity and sincerity 
of character. As a seaman, he was active, decided, 
and ready. No man was braver, or more willing to 
serve the flag under which he sailed. As has been 
said, the cruise of the Enterprise, in 1800, if not posi 
tively the most useful, and, considering the force and 
means employed, the most brilliant, of any that ever 
occurred in the American navy, it was certainly among 

VOL. i. 18 


the most useful and brilliant. Of itself, it was sufficient 
to give a commander an established reputation. His 
other services were of a respectable order, though cir 
cumstances never placed him subsequently in situations 
to manifest the same qualities. 

Com. Shaw was a man of fine presence, and had the 
manly bearing and frank demeanor of a seaman. His 
character answered to his exterior. There was a warm 
heartedness in his demeanor toward his friends, that de 
noted good feelings. Few officers were more beloved 
by those who served under him, and he was disposed 
to deal honorably and justly by all mankind. 



THE subject of our sketch is the eldest of four brothers 
who have served with credit and reputation in the navy, 
since the commencement of the present century. Of 
these brothers, John, the oldest, never rose higher in 
rank than to be a lieutenant commandant ; William 
Branford, the second in seniority, is the present Com 
modore Shubrick ; Edward Rutledge, the third, died 
quite recently, a captain, on his passage between the 
Brazil and the Mediterranean stations, in command of 
the Columbia 44 ; while Irvine, the fourth and young 
est, is a commander of the promotion of 1841. It is 
seldom, indeed, that so many members of a single 
family are found in the same profession, serving equally 
with credit to themselves, and advantage to their 

The family of Shubrick belongs to South Carolina, in 
which state it has long been connected with many of 
the most distinguished names. We have only to men 
tion those of Drayton, Hayne, Heyward, Hamilton, 
Pinckney, Horry, Trapier, &c., &c., to show the cha 
racter of its connections. 

Col. Thomas Shubrick, the father of the four sons 
just mentioned, was an officer of the Revolution, hav 
ing served with distinction in the aimy of Gen. Greene 


during the celebrated southern campaign. He was 
with the latter, in the capacity of an aid, at the battle 
of Eutaw Springs. This gentleman was born late in 
1755, and was consequently quite young at the com 
mencement of the great struggle for national indepen 
dence. He was the seventh child, and the third son 
of Thomas Shubrick and Sarah Motte, both of Charles 
ton ; the latter being of the connection of that noble 
woman who furnished Lee with the implements to set 
fire to her own house, in order to subdue a British gar 
rison. Col. Thomas Shubrick, the father of our sub 
ject, married a Miss Branford, in 1778. Her mother 
was a Bullein, one of the variations of the name of 
Boleyn. John was the seventh child and the fifth 
son of this marriage, having been born on Bull s Island, 
a valuable estate that belonged to Col. Shubrick, on the 
12th September, 1788. His father died at another 
estate called Belvedere, March 4th, 1810; his mother 
survived until August, 1832. 

Young Shubrick was taught in the schools of 
Charleston, in the manner usual to boys of his class in 
life, until the year 1801, when he was sent to the care 
of the Rev. Thomas Thacher, of Dedham, Massachu 
setts, accompanied by his elder brother, Richard. The 
succeeding year, they were joined by their next young 
er brother, William, the present Commodore Shubrick. 
Under the instruction of this truly kind and excellent 
guide and friend, he remained until the spring of 1804, 
when he returned to Charleston, and commenced the 
study of the law, in the office of his kinsman, Col. 
Drayton, so well known to the country for his probity 
and public services. During the time young Shubrick 


remained occupied in this pursuit, his progress created 
the most sanguine hopes of his future success, though 
his disposition strongly tempted him to engage in more 
active and stirring scenes than those likely to attend 
the career of a barrister. By the persuasion of friends, 
however, as well as a sense of duty, the young man 
persevered for two years, when his father yielded to the 
wishes of two of his sons, and procured for them mid 
shipmen s appointments. The warrants of the two 
Shubricks were of the same date, August 19th, 1806, 
though there were more than two years difference in 
their ages. This placed John, the elder of the two, 
and the subject of our sketch, in the navy when he was 
little more than eighteen years old. With many minds 
and temperaments, this would have been commencing 
the profession somewhat too late, perhaps, though the 
education previously obtained was of great advantage 
to one so much disposed to acquire all useful know 
ledge as this youth. By some mistake of the Depart 
ment, the warrants were ante-dated, appearing as if 
issued June 20th. The circumstance was of little 
moment, nor do we know that it had any influence on 
the subsequent promotions of either of the young 
gentlemen interested. 

From the very commencement of his service, John 
Shubrick s career was marked by that species of fortune 
that seemed ever to lead him where hard knocks were 
to be given and taken. So marked, indeed, was his 
career in this respect, that, in the end, it began to be 
thought, that his luck would give any ship a chance 
for a fight on board which he might happen to serve. 
The first vessel to which the young man was attached 


was the Chesapeake 86, Capt. Gordon, which vessel he 
joined at Washington, while fitting for the Mediter 
ranean station, to carry the broad pennant of Commo 
dore James Barren. In this ship he dropped down to 
Norfolk, remained there until she sailed, and was in 
her at the time of the memorable attack that was made 
on her by the Leopard 50, Capt. Humphreys. In this 
affair, those on board the Chesapeake were probably 
more exposed than had they been in a regular engage 
ment in which both parties were prepared, and con 
tended under equal advantages. 

On the occasion of his first hearing a shot fired in 
anger, Shubrick was one of the midshipmen in the 
division of Lieut. Wm. H. Allen, he who was so long 
Decatur s first lieutenant, and who was subsequently 
killed in command of the Argus. Allen was third lieu 
tenant of the Chesapeake, a rank that gave him the 
midship division on the gun-deck, a berth that is usually 
called the slaughter-house, from the circumstance that 
the fire is generally concentrated on the centre of the 
ship. The division was particularly lumbered, but great 
activity was manifested in clearing it. It is generally 
known that the Chesapeake could not discharge her guns 
for want of powder-horns to prime them with, as well 
as the want of matches, or heated loggerheads. But for 
this unprepared condition of the ship, one broadside 
might have been fired, though it is probable a second 
could not. As it was, the only gun discharged was in 
the division to which Mr. Shubrick belonged. Two 
powder-horns were received from below, after the Leo 
pard had opened some time, when three of the guns 
were primed, being otherwise ready. Mr. Allen him- 


self got a loggerhead from the galley, and applied it to 
the priming of one of these guns, but it was not yet 
warm enough to cause the powder to explode. He then 
ran to the galley, procured a coal, and with that he suc 
ceeded in discharging one gun. It is doubtful whether 
this was before or after the order had been given to haul 
down the colors, the two things occurring almost at the 
same instant. Allen and his officers were about to dis 
charge the other two guns, when an order was issued 
to fire no more. The officers worked as well as the 
men, in these critical circumstances ; and the breeching 
of one of the guns of the second division was middled 
principally by Allen himself, Shubrick, and the present 
Commodore Wads worth, who was the senior mid 
shipman of the division. But two of the crew appear 
to have been at that gun in consequence of the rest being 
wounded or absent.* -^ 

* Mr. Wadsworth, having been a midshipman more than three 
years when the Leopard attacked the Chesapeake, was one of the 
witnesses examined on the trial of Commodore Barron, which 
Shubrick was not, most probably on account of the short time he 
had been in service. It will give the reader some idea of the un 
prepared state of the ship, in the division whence the only gun was 
fired, if we extract some of the questions put to this witness, and 
the answers he gave. 

Q. "What time elapsed before you received powder-horns?" 

A. " About twelve or fifteen minutes, I suppose, from the com 
mencement of the attack." 

The powder of these horns was the priming, without which the 
guns could not be fired. 

Q. " Had you cartridges in your division, at any time before 
the surrender?" 

A. " Not that I knew of." 

Q. " Had you matches or loggerheads in your division, at any 
time before the surrender?" 


This was a rude encounter for so young an adventurer 
to meet, almost in the first hour after he got to sea. 
The Chesapeake suffered much less than might have 
been expected, when it is remembered that she lay 
near a quarter of an hour, and in smooth water, virtually 
unresisting, under the broadside of a fifty gun ship. 
Still she suffered ; having had no less than between 
twenty and thirty of her people killed and wounded. 
Of this loss, a fair proportion occurred in the division to 
which Shubrick belonged.* 

A. "No lighted matches, or hot loggerheads. The gun we 
fired was fired by a coal of fire." 

Q. "If you had fired the guns, had you every thing necessary 
to reload and to continue the fire?" 

A. " We had not in the division." 

Q. " Were any men killed or wounded in your division ?" 

A. " Several were wounded, how many I do not know. None 
were killed immediately, but one died a short time afterward." 

Q. " State to the court to what guns these wounded men be 

A. " Several of them to this gun, F. I don t recollect the rest." 

This was the gun mentioned as that at which the three officers 

* The curious in such matters may have a desire to know the 
extent of the damage received by the Chesapeake in this celebrated 
affair. The firing lasted from twelve to fifteen minutes, in smooth 
water, and without resistance, the one gun fired by Allen ex- 
cepted ; viz. : 

" In the foresail, four round-shot holes, twelve grape-shot 
holes, and the starboard leech (bolt rope) cut away. In the mainsail, 
(which must have been in the brails, as the ship was hove-to,) three 
round-shot holes, full of grape do., and the footrope cut away." 

"Maintop-sail, one round-shot hole; foretop-mast stay-sail 
much injured by grape-shot. In the spare foretop-mast, two twelve- 
pound shot holes, which have rendered it entirely unfit for service." 

" Main-sky-sail-mast cut in two." 

" The second cutter much injured by a shot hole, which went 


Shubrick remained in the Chesapeake after she was 
given to Decatur. Late in 1808, however, he was 
transferred to the brig Argus, in which vessel he re 
mained, cruising on the coast, under three several com 
manders, Capts. Wederstrandt, Evans, and Jones, until 
early in 1810. As this was a very active little cruiser, 
the time passed in her was of great service to our young 
officer, as, indeed, was that under Decatur, in the Chesa 
peake. After remaining in the Argus near twenty 
months, Shubrick was ordered to join the United States 
44, which was just fitted out to carry Decatur s pennant. 
He continued but a few months, however, in this fine 
frigate, being compelled to quit her in consequence of a 
misunderstanding with another officer, which was near 
producing a duel. Shubrick gave the challenge, con 
ceiving himself the injured party, and all the arrange 
ments were made for the meeting, when the affair 
reached the ears of the commodore. Decatur sent for 
the gentlemen, and demanded a pledge from each that 
the affair should go no farther. This pledge Shubrick 
refused to give, as the challenger, and Decatur found 
himself rather awkwardly placed in his character of a 
mediator. It would not do to suffer discipline to be 

through and through her, cut both of her masts, and three of her 
cars in two. First cutter slightly injured." 

" Twenty-two round-shot in her hull, that is to say, twenty-one 
on her starboard, and one on her larboard side." 

" The fore and main-masts are incapable of being made sea 
worthy ; the mizzen mast badly wounded, but not incapable of 
being repaired on shore ; three starboard, and two larboard main- 
ahrouds, two starboard fore-shrouds, two starboard mizzen-shrouds, 
main-top-mast stay, cap, bob-stay, and starboard main-lift cut 
away ; likewise the middle stay-sail stay. 

" Killed, 3; badly wounded, 8; slightly wounded, 10." 


brow-beaten, on the one hand, while his own nature 
was opposed to punishing a young officer for having 
sensitive feelings on the subject of his honor, even 
though those* feelings might be a little exaggerated. In 
this dilemma, he decided on ordering young Shubrick 
to quit his ship, taking care to send him on board 
another vessel of his squadron, with the acting appoint 
ment of lieutenant ! There was a slight semblance of 
punishment in sending a midshipman from the finest 
vessel under his orders, to the smallest and least de 
sirable craft he had among his cruisers, but it was a 
punishment any midshipman in the service would have 
been rejoiced to receive. 

The vessel to which Shubrick was now sent was the 
Viper, probably the smallest sea-going craft in the navy, 
at that time. He joined her at midsummer, 1810, and 
it may be remarked in passing, that William Shubrick 
was made acting lieutenant in the Wasp, by Lawrence, 
about the same time. As John Shubrick was born in 
1788, he got this important step in his profession when in 
his twenty-second year, and after having been only four 
years in the service. This seems extraordinary prefer 
ment in days like these, when a young gentleman is 
compelled to pass six years as a midshipman before he 
can even be examined, and frequently as many more as 
a passed midshipman before he gets his lieutenant s 
commission. .The service requires an entirely new 
arrangement of its grades, as well as the establishment 
of some that are new, in order to impart to it fresh life 
and hope. About the time of which we are now writ 
ing, Commodore Stewart sent a nephew of his, the pre 
sent Capt. M Cauley, late of the Delaware 80, with a 


letter of introduction to Decatur, who had just hoisted 
his pennant in the United States. Young M Cauley 
had been made a midshipman a short time previously, 
and had been ordered to join the frigate. As Decatur 
and Stewart were close friends, the former felt the pro 
priety of saying a few encouraging words to the kinsman 
of the latter, on his introduction to naval life. After a 
few general remarks, the commodore added, " Every 
thing depends on yourself, young gentleman. You see 
my pennant aloft, there ; well, I joined this very ship 
myself, only twelve years since, a midshipman, like 
yourself, and you see I now carry a broad pennant in 
her." All this is very true, but Mr. M Cauley, when 
he related to us this anecdote, had been a lieutenant as 
long as Decatur had then been in the navy.* 

In addition to the pleasure of receiving this acting 
lieutenancy, Shubrick had the satisfaction of being put 
under the orders of a townsman, Lieut. Com. Gadsden, 
the officer who commanded the Viper. The schooner 
cruised along the coast south, touching at Charleston, 
and passing into the Gulf of Mexico. At New Orleans, 
Lieut. Joseph Bainbridge took charge of the Viper. 

* Decatur entered the navy as a midshipman in 1798. He was 
made a lieutenant in 1799, and a captain in 1804. The first ship 
he commanded was the Constitution, Old Ironsides, which vessel 
was turned over to him by Preble, on quitting the Mediterranean 
command, September, 1804, or about six years after he entered the 
navy. In 1805, he exchanged the Constitution for the Congress 
38, with Rodgers, and in 1807, he got the Chesapeake, after the 
affair with the Leopard. In 1810, he was transferred to the United 
States, which he held until 1814, when he went to the President, 
and was captured off New York. In 1815 he got the Guerriere, 
and the Mediterranean squadron. This was the last ship he ever 


In 1811, Shubrick was transferred to the Siren 16, 
Capt. Gordon, one of the medium sized brigs, that had 
done so much service before the town of Tripoli. So 
attentive had the young man been to his duty, and so 
great was his improvement in his profession, that he 
was soon intrusted with the duties of the first lieutenant 
of this brig. It is true he was not commissioned as a 
lieutenant at all, but in that day it was no unusual thing 
for a majority of the ward-room officers of even frigates 
to be merely acting. 

An unpleasant affair occurred while Mr. Shubrick 
was doing first lieutenant s duty in this brig. Some 
rope was making for the vessel, and Shubrick had 
occasion to attend at the walk, with a gang of hands. 
The superintendent of the rope-walk was an English 
man, and, in the course of the duty, he abused the sea 
men and ended by grossly insulting their officer. 
Shubrick was armed, but, unwilling to draw his sword 
on such an opponent, he caught up a stick and began 
to thresh him with it. It seems that the Englishman 
carried a pistol, which he leveled at Shubrick s head 
and fired. At the moment, the latter had the stick 
grasped with both hands, and was in the act of repeating 
the blow. His thumbs were crossed, and the ball 
injured them so badly that both were amputated. Not 
withstanding this outrage, and the fact that the man had 
provoked and merited the chastisement he received, 
Shubrick refused to proceed against him, saying he 
could not take the satisfaction that was customary among 
gentlemen, and he would not resort to any other mode 
of atonement. 

Toward the close of the year 1811, the Siren came 


north, and Shubrick still remained in her. Early in 
1812, he received his commission as a lieutenant, 
having now been nearly six years in the service, and 
having reached his twenty-fourth year. 

Lieut. Shubrick was now ordered to join the Consti 
tution 44, Capt. Hull, which ship had just returned 
from Europe, and was receiving a new crew, together 
with many new officers. War was declared a few days 
later, and every nerve was strained to get the ship 
ready for sea as soon as possible. So hurried were the 
epuipments that one hundred of the ship s people joined 
her only the night previously to the day on which she 
sailed from Annapolis. -The Constitution was, exceed 
ingly well officered. For her first lieutenant she had 
Charles Morris, now Commodore Morris, one of the 
very ablest men the American marine ever possessed. 
Even in that day, this gentleman enjoyed a reputation 
very unusual for one of his rank ; while, at the present 
time, after filling many places of high responsibility, no 
officer commands more of the confidence and respect 
both of the service and the country. The Constitution 
had, for her second lieutenant, Alexander S. Wadsworth, 
an officer of great respectability, a brother of the gentle 
man who was blown up with Somers in the Intrepid, 
and the present Commodore Wadsworth. The third 
lieutenant was George Campbell Read, the present 
Commodore Read, who has always ranked high in the 
service ; the fourth lieutenant was Beekman Verplank 
Hoffman, who died a captain a few years since, and 
who was thought to be one of the best, if not the very 
best division officer in the navy ; the fifth lieutenant 
was Shubrick, an d there was an acting sixth, in Charles 

VOL. i. 14 


Morgan, the present Commodore Morgan, who was 
then young as an officer, but of very excellent materials. 

This was officering a frigate in an unusual manner, 
but there were so few ships at the time, it is not sur 
prising as many young men crowded in those that did 
go out, as could get on board them, or could get per 
mission to go. Hull experienced the benefit of possess 
ing such a quarter-deck before he had been out long, it 
being probable the escape of his ship, a few days later, 
was owing to his having so many lieutenants to relieve 
each other, and to keep the duty alive. 

The Constitution lifted her anchor on the 12th of 
July, 1812. On the 17th, she fell in with an English 
squadron of five vessels, including one ship of the line 
and four frigates. The memorable chase that suc 
ceeded will be related in detail elsewhere, though it has 
already passed into history, as one of the most brilliant 
things of its kind on record. At one time the Consti 
tution was so hard pressed as to escape only by kedg- 
ing. This was done out of sight of land, and it 
occasioned no little surprise among the English when 
they discovered the fact. On the side of the enemy, 
the boats of five ships were put upon two, in order to 
tow them up, in the calm, and no alternative remained 
to the Constitution but the expedient so successfully 

It will not be difficult ; to fancy the fatigue and trials 
of a chase of this character, which lasted altogether 
three days and nights. The officers, as soon as re 
lieved, threw themselves on the quarter-deck, sleeping 
in the best spot they could select, no one thinking of 
undressing, or of quitting duty a moment longer than 


was absolutely necessary. Shubrick had his full share 
of the work, being employed in the boats as well as in 
the ship, as belonged to his rank. In a struggle of 
this nature, in which all may be said to have done 
well, no particular praise, however, can be accorded to 
any individual. Hull himself generously attributed 
much of his extraordinary success to Morris and his 
other officers, which was probably well deserved, 
though Hull himself was a prime seaman, and well 
fitted for such a scene. 

The Constitution cruised a short time after this 
escape, and went into Boston. Bainbridge had claimed 
the ship, as due to his rank, and there was a strong 
prospect of his getting her, but Hull profited by some 
delay and uncertainty, and got to sea again on the 2d 
of August. This was the cruise in which the Consti 
tution captured the Guerriere. In that engagement^ ,, f 
Shubrick, as fifth lieutenant, commanded the quarter 
deck guns, and was of course in the midst of the active 
scene that occurred in that portion of the ship, when 
the Constitution got a stern board and came foul of her 
adversary. He escaped without a wound, and had the 
gratification of seeing the first British frigate lower her 
flag, that struck in that war. He was sent on board the 
prize, before she was abandoned, and otherwise was 
usefully employed. 

Shubrick had now been in the navy but little more 
than six years, and he had actually been present at the 
three most important events which had then occurred, 
since the peace with Tripoli, viz., the attack on the 
Chesapeake, the chase of the Constitution, and the 
capture of the Guerriere ! But his good fortune did 


not end here. Bainbridge now got the ship, and 
Parker succeeded Morris as his first lieutenant. Wads- 
worth left her also, going with Morris, who had been 
promoted to the Adams, as his first lieutenant. Shu- 
brick and Hoffman remained in the frigate, the latter 
becoming her second lieutenant, and the former her 
third. Alwyn, who had been master in the late en 
gagement, was also promoted to a lieutenancy, and 
became the junior of the ship. 

Bainbridge sailed from Boston on his cruise, October 
26th, 1812, having the Hornet 18, Capt. Lawrence, in 
company. The Essex was to leave the Delaware about 
the same time, and to join the commodore at Port 
Praya. This junction was never effected, however, 
and the Constitution stood across to the coast of Brazil, 
reaching St. Salvador, December 13th. Here the Hor 
net was left to blockade an English sloop of war, that 
was carrying specie, while the Constitution cruised to 
the southward. On the 29th she fell in with and cap 
tured the enemy s frigate, the Java, after a bloody com 
bat of near two hours duration ; the particulars of which 
are to be found in our sketch of Bainbridge s Life. 
After destroying his prize, the commodore went into 
Salvador, where he landed his prisoners on parole. 

In this battle, Shubrick was stationed on the gun- 
deck, where he did his duty, as usual. His customary 
good fortune attended him, for he was not injured, 
though the loss of the ship was considerable. Alwyn 
died of his wounds, and Bainbridge himself was hurt 
seriously, though the danger was fortunately subdued. 
This made the third of Shubrick s combats, without 
speaking of the celebrated chase. 


It would seem, now, that Shubrick s luck began to be 
rated against that of the Constitution herself. Lieut., 
now Com. Ballard, was desirous of getting into the 
frigate> in the hope that she might have another fight, 
while Lawrence was willing to take Shubrick in 
exchange, trusting he would bring his good fortune, and 
certain he would bring his good conduct with him. 
The exchange was effected accordingly, and the Consti 
tution sailed for home, January 6, 1813, leaving the 
Hornet still blockading the Bonne Citoyenne. After 
remaining off the port alone, eighteen days, Lawrence 
was chased into the harbor by the Montagu 74, and then 
running out to sea, he made sail to the northward. On 
the 24th of Eebruary, the Hornet fell in with, engaged 
and captured the British sloop of war Peacock 18, Capt. 
Peake,- after a close arid warrifr combat of only fifteen 
minutes. The result is well known ; the prize sinking 
while Lieut., now Com. Conner, and Midshipman, now 
Capt. Cooper, were on board of her. These gentlemen, 
and most of their men, were saved in the Peacock s 
launch, but several of their companions, as well as a 
good many of the English, went down in the brig. 

In this engagement Shubrick acted as the Hornet s 
first lieutenant. Mr. Walter Stewart, of Philadelphia, 
was on board and his senior, but that gentleman was ill 
in his berth, and unable to do duty. Lawrence com 
mended the conduct of his new officer, and every one 
who witnessed it spoke of it in the same terms. Of 
course Shubrick remained in the Hornet until she 
reached home, carrying with him a reputation for good 
fortune, as well as good conduct, that was very enviable 
in an officer of his rank. He had now been four times 


in action ; three times successfully within the last eight 
months, or within the seven months he had been at sea. 
In addition to this, he was in the Constitution s chase, 
an exploit worth a victory any day. These were some 
compensations for the attack of the Leopard, and so did 
Mr. Shubrick not alone feel them to be, for they were 
thus regarded by the service and the country. 

Shubrick continued attached to the Hornet for some 
time after her return, and sailed in her, under Capt. 
Biddle, when Com. Decatur s squadron was chased into 
New London. Previously to this, however, an amusing 
instance of the influence of his fortunes on the minds of 
his brother officers occurred. A report was circulated 
that an enemy s brig was cruising close in with the 
eastern outlet of the Sound, and the Argus went out to 
look for it. Shubrick went in her, as a volunteer, hop 
ing that his usual good fortune might bring on a combat. 
The enemy s cruiser was not met, however, and the 
Argus returned to sail on her cruise under Allen. 

Finding that there was little chance of getting out in 
the Hornet, Shubrick got transferred to the United 
States, thus joining the ship of his old commander, 
Decatur, once more. Under this distinguished officer 
he continued to serve until near the close of his own 

The summer that Com. Decatur s squadron was 
blockaded in the Thames, Lieut. Shubrick was married 
to Elizabeth Matilda Ludlow, a young lady of one of 
the old and respectable families of New York. This 
new connection was formed in the height of a war, but 
could not lead our young officer from the obligations of 
duty. When Decatur left the United States and Mace- 


(Ionian lying in the river, where they continued until 
the peace, in order to take the President, Lieut. Shu- 
brick, in common with most of his officers, was trans 
ferred along with him. Shubrick ranked as the second 
lieutenant of this fine frigate, having Warrington, and 
subsequently Fitz Henry Babbitt, as the first. Babbitt 
was but a year or two older in the service than he was 
himself, and they had already been shipmates once 
before, in the unfortunate Chesapeake. In that frigate, 
Babbitt had been one of the oldest of the midshipmen, 
and Shubrick one of the youngest. 

The President did not get to sea until January 14th, 
1815. That very night she fell in with an English 
squadron, consisting of the Majestic, razee, Endymiori, 
Nymphe and Tenedos frigates. As resisting such a 
force was out of the question, a long chase ensued, 
during which the Endymion, a heavy frigate, succeeded 
in getting so near as to compel Decatur to engage, in 
order to avoid the hazard of being crippled by her chase 
guns. A long and bloody action ensued, during which 
both ships suffered severely, the American more particu 
larly in officers and men. Shubrick, as second lieu 
tenant, commanded the forward division of the gun-deck. 
But Mr. Babbitt falling early in the engagement, by 
being hit in the knee by a round-shot, the commodore 
sent for Shubrick to supply his place, and he was vir 
tually the first lieutenant of the ship during the remain 
der of the trying scenes of that day and night. After 
crippling and quitting the Endymion, the President 
endeavoured to escape from the remainder of the 
squadron, which now drew near. The attempt was 
useless, however, and the Tenedos and Nymphe having 


closed and commenced a fire, the colors were hauled 

This was the second time that Shubrick had seen the 
American ensign lowered to the English, but it now 
occurred under circumstances that rather added lustre, 
than the reverse, to the national flag. If he had seen 
the ensign in which he took so much pride twice low 
ered, he had the consciousness of having seen it compel 
that of the enemy to yield three times, in actions of ship 
to ship. 

In this bloody battle no less than three of the Presi 
dent s lieutenants were killed, viz., Babbitt, Hamilton 
and Howell. Decatur himself was injured ; but, as 
usual, Shubrick escaped unharmed. He was carried a 
prisoner to Bermuda, but was shortly after released by 
the peace. Irvine Shubrick, the youngest of the four 
brothers, was on board the President, as a midshipman, 
on this occasion, and on his first cruise. 

Although the country, substantially, had a release 
from the pains and penalties of war, in 1815, it was not 
so with the subject of this sketch. Algiers had begun 
her depredations on American commerce shortly after 
the Dey fancied the English power would leave him 
without any grounds of apprehension from the little 
marine that had made so deep an impression on the 
Barbary States, in its conflict with Tripoli. It remained, 
therefore, to punish this treacherous aggression, which 
had no other motive than a wish to plunder. Decatur 
was offered a squadron for this purpose the moment he 
got home, and he hoisted his pennant in the Guerriere 
44, a new frigate that had been built during the English 
war, and which had never yet been to sea. The com- 


modore had become too sensible of the merits of 
Shubrick to leave him behind, and the latter was 
immediately attached to the Guerriere, as her first lieu 

Decatur sailed from New York, May 21st, for the 
Mediterranean, having under his orders three frigates, 
and seven sloops, brigs and schooners, or ten sail in all. 
The Guerriere reached Tangiers, June 15th, and com 
municated with the consul. From this gentleman the 
commodore ascertained that the Algerine admiral had 
been off the port only the day before, and that he had 
sailed for Carthagena, in Spain, at which port he 
intended to touch. The squadron made sail immedi 
ately, and, without touching at Gibraltar, it entered the 
Mediterranean. Decatur called out by signal, however, 
in passing, three of his vessels that had separated ir 
heavy weather, and rendezvoused at the Rock, by 
instructions. On the 17th, the Americans came up 
with and engaged the Algerine admiral, in a frigate, 
chasing a large brig, that was in company, on shore at 
the same time. The Constellation was the first to en 
gage, but Decatur soon shoved the Guerriere in between 
the combatants, driving the enemy from his guns by his 
broadside. In making this discharge, one of the Guer- 
riere s guns bursted, blew up the spar-deck, and killed 
or wounded from thirty to forty-five men. A larg e 
fragment of the breach of this gun passed so near Shu- 
brick as to hit his hat ; and still he escaped without a 
wound. Shortly after, the Algerine struck, after suffer 
ing a fearful loss. 

Decatur got off the brig, which was also captured, 
and sending his prizes into Carthagena, he proceeded 


to Algiers, off which place he arrived on the 28th, 
Here he dictated the terms of a just treaty with the 
Regency, both parties signing it on the, 30th June ; or 
just forty days after the squadron had left America ! 

This rapid success put it in the power of Decatur to 
give Shubrick a high proof of the respect and confi 
dence in which he held his character. Capt. Lewis, 
of the Guerriere, had been married a very short time 
before he sailed, and, now the war was so soon and 
honorably terminated, he felt a natural wish to return 
to his bride. Lieut. B. J. Neale, of the Constellation, 
was in the same situation, he and Capt. Lewis having 
married sisters. These two gentlemen got leave of ab 
sence, as soon as the treaty was signed, with a view to 
return to America. This enabled the commodore to 
qrdei Capt. Downes, of the Epervier, to his own ship, 
and to give the former vessel, with an acting appoint 
ment, to Shubrick, who was directed to sail immediate 
ly for the nearest American port. It is understood that 
Shubrick himself was also selected to bear the treaty; 
a high distinction under the circumstances. 

The Epervier sailed from Algiers early in July, 1815, 
and is known to have passed the Straits of Gibraltar, 
about the 10th of the month ; since which time no cer 
tain information lias ever been heard of her. There is 
a vague rumour that she was seen in a tremendous 
gale, in the month of August, not far from the American 
coast, but it is of a character too questionable to be relied 
upon. The Enterprise, Lieut., Kearney, was making 
a passage at this time, and she experienced a heavy 
blow, which was said to be tremendous a little farther 
to the eastward of her, and the most probable conjecture 


is, that the Epervier was lost in that gale. Near thirty 
years have gone by since the melancholy occurrence, 
and all that is certain is the fact that no one belonging 
to the ill-fated vessel has ever appeared to tell the tale 
of her calamity. 

Thus prematurely terminated the career of one of 
the noblest spirits that ever served under the American 
flag. Shubrick was not quite twenty-seven when he 
perished, and was just attaining a rank where his own 
name would become more intimately connected with 
his services, than could be the case while he acted in 
only subordinate situations. Considering the duration 
of the peace that has since existed, it would seem as if 
he had lived just long enough to see all the real service 
the profession opened to him, and vanished from the 
scene like one who, having well enacted his part, had 
no longer any motive for remaining on the stage. 
With him perished in the Epervier, Capt. Lewis, 
Lieut. Neale, Lieut. Yarnall, Lieut. Drury, and other 
sea officers, besides several citizens who had been re 
cently released from captivity in Algiers, in virtue of 
one of the conditions of the treaty. 

It is rare, indeed, that any sea officer who is not 
called on to command a vessel, obtains as much repu 
tation as fell to the share of John Shubrick ; still rarer, 
that any one so thoroughly deserved it. Entering the 
navy in the summer of 1806, and perishing in that of 
1815, his services were limited to just nine years ; one 
half of which period he did duty as a lieutenant. 
During these nine pregnant years, he served in the 
Chesapeake 38, the Argus 16, the United States 44, 
the Viper 12, the Siren 16, the Constitution 44, the 


Hornet 18, the United States 44, the President 44, the 
Guerriere 44, and the Epervier 18; ten different 
cruisers in all, without enumerating his second turn of 
duty in the United States, at a time when she did not 
get out. We are not aware that he had a furlough for 
an hour, though he had a short leave of absence about 
the time of his marriage. In these nine years, besides 
being kept thus on the alert, in ten different sea-going 
craft, he was present at six regular sea-fights, five of 
which were between vessels of a force as heavy as that 
of frigates. He participated, also, in the glory of the 
celebrated chase off New York, and lost his life by one 
of those dire disasters that so often close the seaman s 
career ; as if Providence designed for him a fate suited 
to the risks and dangers he had already run. 

One child, a son, was the issue of the marriage of 
Lieut. Com. Shubrick with Miss Ludlow. This gen 
tleman, Edmund Templer Shubrick, still survives, and 
is now a lieutenant on board the Raritan 44, Capt. 

Shubrick was a man .of martial bearing, and of ex 
tremely fine personal appearance. In these particulars 
few men were his equals. He was five feet eleven 
inches in height, was well and compactly made, with 
a frame indicating strength and activity. His eyes 
were of a bluish gray, with an expression inclining to 
seriousness ; his hair was brown, and his complexion 
ruddy. In temperament he was grave, with little dis 
position to merriment; on the contrary, a shade of 
melancholy \vas not unfrequently thrown gcross his 
countenance, as if Providence shadowed forth to him, 

!wfj ,t iioijirtfcano !) *dJ f OI n-rtiS sd? 1 loqiY w- 


in mercy, the shortness of his time, and the fearful as 
well as early termination of his days. 

Among other commendable qualities, Shubrick pos 
sessed the gentleman-like attention to personal neat 
ness. Without the least propensity to dyess, in the 
vulgar sense, the feeling which associates character, 
station and appearance together, was strong in him. 
An instance is related of his attention to such matters, 
that occurred under circumstances to render it charac 
teristic. While serving in the Argus, which was then 
commanded by Capt. Wederstrandt, the brig was near 
being lost off the mouth of the Penobscot, in a tremen 
dous gale of wind. Nothing saved the vessel but her 
own excellent qualities, for it blew directly on shore, 
and there was a common expectation that the vessel 
and crew would all go together, on that wild coast. 
Orders were given to overhaul ranges of cables, to an 
chor as a last resort, though no one believed the 
ground tackle could or would hold on for five minutes. 
Among the midshipmen was Foxhall Parker, of Vir 
ginia, now Commodore Parker of the East India squad 
ron. Parker was attending to the cables, when Shu- 
brick, who was also at the same duty, quietly remarked 
to him, that their situation had caused them to neglect 
their appearance ; that &ey would, in all probability, 
be soon thrown upon the beach, where their bodies 
would be found and interred with the rest of the crew, 
without distinction. By dressing themselves in uniform 
they would be interred apart, when their friends might 
have the melancholy gratification of knowing where 
their remains were to be found. At this suggestion 

VOL. I. 15 


Shubrick and Parker put on their uniforms, and waited 
the result with composure. Providence caused the 
gale to abate, and the vessel was saved. 

The firmness of Shubrick, on all occasions of duty, 
was of proof, though the lamb was not more gentle in 
the intercourse of private life. None served with him, 
without feeling that he was a man fitted for high des 
tinies. His very character might be said to have been 
as martial as was his appearance, and there is little 
doubt, had not Almighty God called him away thus 
early, he would have won, and decorously worn, the 
highest honors of his manly profession. Entering the 
service so late, with an education so well and thorough 
ly commenced, the mind of this young officer was 
more cultivated than was then customary with seamen. 
In a word, his early death was a national loss, the navy 
containing, at the time it occurred, no officer of brighter 
promise, or one from whom the country had more to 
hope for, than John Templer Shubrick. To this hour 
he is mentioned with manly regret by his old shipmates, 
and his name is never introduced in the navy except 
in terms of commendation and respect. 

fcfcK jfOr{*V7&./.>ii* ."fl-i^* tt"7 i to a^^Hlw staoroiv 


THE family of Preble is of long standing in the 
country. The name appears in the records of the 
seventeenth century, and is to be referred to the earlier 
emigrations. Thus it was that the subject of this 
sketch and William P. Preble, the late charge-d affaires 
of this country in Holland, the gentleman who was em 
ployed to protect the interests of Maine in the negotia 
tions connected with the north-eastern boundary ques 
tion, were the descendants of a common ancestor, 
though quite distantly related. 

The father of our subject was Jedediah Preble, who 
was born in 1707, at York, in the Province of Maine, 
as the present state of that name was formerly called. 
He was the second son of Benjamin Preble, who was 
the second son of Abraham, who was the son of the 
emigrant. Abraham Preble, the emigrant, was first 
settled at Scituate., in Massachusetts proper, where his 
name appears as early as 1036. He is found in Maine 
as early as 1645, and died in 1663. It follows that the 
Prebles have been Americans for more than two hun 
dred years, and residents of Maine nearly, if not quite, 
two centuries. In 1645, the name of this Abraham 
Preble appears, in Maine, as an assistant or councillor 
of the government of Sir Ferdiriando Gorges ; an office 
he held until its dissolution. He subsequently held 



various offices of trust under the sway of Massachusetts, 
having been one of a commission to exercise many of 
the powers of governor, after the junction. 

Jedediah Preble appears also to have been a man of 
local note and influence, having filled various situations 
of trust and dignity in his own section of the country. 
This gentleman is described as a man of fine presence, 
of great resolution, and of a fixedness of purpose that is 
still alluded to among his descendants, whenever a 
similar tendency is observed among his posterity, as a 
quality indicating that the party has inherited " a little 
of the brigadier ;" a rank to which this gentleman at 
tained among the provincial troops of his day. In the 
campaign in which Quebec was taken, Mr. Preble 
served as a captain. On the Plains of Abraham, he 
was quite near Wolfe when he fell, and he was wound 
ed himself in the course of that celebrated battle. In 
that day, waistcoats were worn with flaps that descend 
ed some distance down the thigh, and a bullet struck 
Capt. Preble, penetrated this part of the dress, and 
entered the flesh, carrying with it, however, so much 
of his different garments that the wounded officer was 
enabled to extract the lead himself, by pulling upon the 
cloth. At a later day, this gentleman had the com 
mand on the Penobscot, occupying a place called Fort 
Pownal. Previously to filling this trust, Mr. Preble 
had risen to the rank of brigadier-general, in the ser 
vice of his native colony, which, it will be remembered, 
was properly Massachusetts. He is said to have been 
wounded in another of the engagements of this war. 
At the peace of 1763, Gen. Preble was in command on 
the frontier just mentioned. When the quarrel oc- 


curred between the mother country and her North 
American Colonies, Gen. Preble took sides with his 
native land. He became so warm a whig that he even 
abandoned the Episcopal church, to which he properly 
belonged, because his clergyman continued to pray for 
the king and royal family. As this old gentleman did 
nothing by halves, he joined a Congregational church 
on that occasion. About this time he was elected a 
major-general by the provincial government, but de 
clined the appointment on account of his advanced age. 
General Preble died the year peace was made, or in 
1783, at the age of seventy-seven. He must, conse 
quently, have been turned of fifty at the taking of 
Quebec, was fifty-seven at the peace of 63, and near, 
or quite, seventy at the commencement of the Revolu 
tion. One account, however, places the death of Gen. 
Preble a year later. He represented his town in the 
Legislature of Massachusetts, between the years 1753 
and 1780. In 1773, he was chosen a councillor, and 
was accepted by the royal governor, though of the 
popular party ; several others of the same way of 
thinking having been rejected. Under the Constitu 
tion of 1780, Gen. Preble was elected to the State 
Senate, from the county of Cumberland, and he was 
made a Judge of the Common Pleas in 1782. 

General Preble appears to have been twice married. 
By his first wife he had two sons and a daughter. The 
commodore was the child of a second connection, hav 
ing been born August 15th, 1761, on that part of Fal- 
mouth Neck, in the Province of Maine, which is the 
site of the present town of Portland. Of the four bro 
thers of Preble, of the whole blood, two were older and 


two younger than himself. Eben seems to have been 
the eldest son of Gen. Preble by his second marriage. 
He was a merchant in Boston, where he accumulated 
a considerable estate. His residence at Watertown 
has since passed into the possession of a China merchant 
of ^he name of Gushing, and is much admired for its 
beauties. This gentleman had two sons, both of whom 
are dead, and two daughters. Of the latter, one mar 
ried into the family of Amory, and the other married 
Capt. Ralph Wormley, of the British navy. Joshua, 
the next son of Gen. Preble, married and settled him 
self in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he left 
issue. Edward, the subject of our memoir, was the 
third son, as has been mentioned. Enoch, the fourth, 
became a sailor, making his first voyage in 1779, and 
his last in 1824. He was a respected ship-master 
thirty-seven years, having passed eight years, including 
the time he was at sea during the Re volution, in sub 
ordinate situations. This gentleman was the last sur 
vivor of his generation, in his own family, dying in 
October, 1842, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. 
He has left four children, of whom the youngest, 
George H. Preble, is now a passed midshipman in the 
navy, of the date of 1841. We believe this last gentle 
man to be the only representative of his distinguished 
name in the service, contrary to what is usual in cases 
where one of the family has earned a name, in times 
that are gone, under the ensign of the republic. Henry, 
the youngest brother of the whole blood, lived a long 
time in Sicily, having been consul at Palermo. He is 
said to have been a man of taste and of cultivated mind. 
This gentleman subsequently settled in Pittsburg, Penn., 


where one of his two daughters married Thomas, a son 
of the celebrated Joel Barlow. He died, in 1826, leav 
ing one other child, a daughter, who continues single. 

Of the sisters of Preble, of the whole blood, one mar 
ried a Mr. Codman, and another a Mr. Oxnard. The 
latter gentleman adhered to the crown, in the war of 
the Revolution. The sons of this last marriage, how 
ever, were American, heart and mind ; one of them, 
Thomas Oxnard, having fitted out, at Marseilles, and 
commanded a privateer, during the last English war, 
that he called the True-Blooded Yankee ; a vessel that 
became famous for her success and boldness. Capt. 
Oxnard manifested much of the enterprise and re 
sources of his celebrated uncle, and was so warmly 
American in feeling, that, though expatriated, at his 
death recently he made a request that his shroud should 
be the stars and stripes ! 

Young Preble manifested the peculiarities that 
marked his subsequent career, at a very early period 
in life. From childhood he was of a quick, fiery tem 
perament ; a quality that formed the principal, if not 
the only serious blot on his professional character. It 
has been thought that this natural failing was increased 
in after-life by the disease, dyspepsia, that undermined 
his constitution. From childhood, also, he was dis 
tinguished for resolution, undaunted firmness, decision, 
and an inflexibility of opinion, that rendered it very 
difficult to cause him to swerve from a purpose. In 
this last particular, he was thought to have his fair 
proportion " of the brigadier" in him. 

Many anecdotes are related of the boyhood of young 
Preble, all tending to prove his courage, determination. 


and high temper. On one occasion, his father was 
about to go on an excursion to the neighbouring islands, 
with a party of gentlemen, and the boy was denied a 
place in the boat, on account of his tender years. In 
order to get rid of his importunities, his father gave 
Edward a task, which it was thought could not pos 
sibly be completed in time, with a promise that he 
should go, did he get through with it. The boy suc 
ceeded, and, to his father s surprise, appeared on the 
shore, claiming the promised place in the boat. This 
was still denied him, under the pretext that there was 
not room. Finding the party about to shove off with 
out him, young Preble, then about ten years of age, 
commenced hostilities by making an attack with stones 
picked up on the wharf, peppering the party pretty 
effectually before his laughing father directed a capitu 
lation. It seems the old general decided that the boy 
had the " right stuff" in him, and overlooked the gross 
impropriety of the assault, on account of its justice and 
spirit. This species of indulgence is more natural than 
prudent, and it is probable we can trace in it one of the 
causes why Preble had so little command over himself 
in after-life. Still it was proper to make concessions 
to the boy, as he had right on his side, in one respect 
at least ; though it should riot have been a concession 
made under fire. 

A more creditable, and an equally characteristic, 
anecdote is related of young Preble, while still a school 
boy. It would seem that his master, a person of the 
name of Moody, was a man of a temper almost as quick 
and violent as that of his pupil. On one occasion 
Preble had a quarrel with a boy of about his own age, 


and he struck his competitor a smart blow in the face, 
causing the blood to flow pretty freely. This was done 
out of school, but the sufferer appeared in the presence 
of the master bleeding. The latter was so much ex 
asperated as to catch up the shovel and aim a blow at 
the offender. The blow missed the boy, but fell heavily 
on the writing-desk at which he was seated. The calm, 
unmoved, and firm manner in which the boy received 
this assault, sitting, looking with a fearless eye at. his 
assailant, caused the purpose of the latter to change. 
He laid down his formidable weapon, exclaiming 
" That fellow will make a general, too, one day !" 

It appears to have been the intention of Gen. Preble 
to educate his son Edward for one of the liberal profes 
sions. The boy was sent, while yet quite young, to 
Dummer Academy, where he laid the foundation of a 
respectable education, having made some progress in 
the Latin language, when the times induced his parent 
to withdraw him from school. One version of the 
anecdote just related, makes it occur at this academy. 
In the year 1775, young Preble, who was born in 1761, 
was of course only fourteen years of age. This was 
the year in which the English pursued the false policy 
of setting fire to sundry small seaports that were easy 
of access to their shipping, and substantially without 
protection. Much private misery was produced by 
this species of warfare, and, in every instance probably, 
a desire of personal revenge was added to the spirit of 
opposition that had previously existed in the country. 
Falmouth, (now Portland,) Preble s birth-place, was 
among the towns thus assailed, and it was partly de 
stroyed. Gen. Preble thought it expedient, on account 


of his exposed position in the town, to remove his family 
to a farm in its vicinity, where it remained several 
years ; and here Edward found his friends on his re 
turn from school. In that day and region, laborers 
were not to be had for the asking, and so many of the 
young men of the country being absent in the army, or 
in private armed vessels of war, Gen. Preble was com 
pelled to take the field, at the head of all his sons, in a 
capacity that was less martial than had distinguished 
his previous enterprises. On a pressing occasion, he 
ordered all his boys to handle their hoes, repair to the 
proper place, and to begin the humble, but very neces 
sary, business of digging potatoes. Young Edward 
did his part of the duty with many rebellious repin- 
ina^s, until he suddenly threw down his hoe, declared 
he should do no more such work, and left the field. 
While his brothers were making their calculations as 
to what would be the consequences of the next meeting 
between the Brigadier and Ned, the latter was making 
the best of his way towards what was left of Falmouth. 
Here he shipped in a letter-of-marque that was bound 
to Europe, sailing soon after. The year in which this 
occurred does not appear in any of our published ac 
counts, but we suppose it to have been as late as 1777 
or 1778. Preble had long before manifested a desire 
to become a sailor, but his father opposed it, though it 
would seem he acquiesced, now the lad was fairly 
shipped, hoping one voyage would cure him. The 
voyage was to Europe, and the return passage was 
particularly severe. All this had no effect on the 
spirited young man, and Gen. Preble, finding his son 
bent on the profession, procured the appointment of 


a midshipman for him, in the provincial marine of 
Massachusetts, which was probably the most active 
state marine in the confederation. 

This appointment occurred early in 1779, and Preble 
was attached to a ship that mounted twenty-six guns, 
and which was called the Protector. His commanding 
officer was John Foster Williams, who had done a very 
handsome thing that very season, in a brig called the 
Herald, and who enjoyed a high reputation in the 
service to which he belonged. Preble was in his 
eighteenth year when he joined this ship, and all 
accounts render him a youth of high promise in 
profession. He must have gone to sea originally, when 
a little turned of sixteen. 

The Protector sailed soon after Preble joined her, 
and in June of the same year, she fell in with, and 
engaged an enemy s letter-of-marque, of quite her own 
force, if not of superior ; one of those strongly armed 
running ships, it was much the fashion for the Eng 
lish to send to sea in that war. This vessel was called 
the Admiral Duflf. The combat between the Protector 
and the Duff was close and sharp, and it would probably 
have proved as bloody as that between the Trumbull 
and the Watt, but for an accident that befell the English 
ship, which blew up at the expiration of more than an 
hour. Some of the accounts say, however, that the Duff 
had struck her colors before the accident occurred, but 
this circumstance may be questioned. The boats of the 
Protector picked up fifty-five of her crew, who had time 
to jump overboard. The Protector had six men killed 
and wounded in this affair. Shortly after the Protector 
had a running fight, and a narrow escape from the 


Thames 32, in which affair the English frigate is said 
to have been a good deal cut up aloft. 

Capt. Williams had made several prizes, and he 
returned to port to land his prisoners. He was now 
ordered to join the expedition against the enemy s post 
on the Penobscot, having been put under the orders of 
Com. Saltonstall, of the United States navy, for that 
purpose. It was while thus employed, that an incident 
occurred to Preble, that is worthy of being recorded, 
more especially since subsequent events have confirmed 
its truth. Preble related the affair substantially as fol- 
lows : The Protector was lying in one of the bays on 
the eastern coast, which has been forgotten, waiting the 
slow movements of the squadron. The day was clear 
and calm, when a large serpent was discovered outside 
the ship. The animal was lying on the water quite 
motionless. After inspecting it with the glasses for 
some time, Capt. Williams ordered Preble to man and 
arm a large boat, and endeavor to destroy the creature ; 
or at least to go as near to it as he could. The selection 
of Preble for such a service, proves the standing he 
occupied among the hardy and daring. The boat thus 
employed pulled twelve oars, and carried a swivel in 
its bows, besides having its crew armed as boarders. 
Preble shoved off, and pulled directly towards the mon 
ster. As the boat neared it, the serpent raised its head 
about ten feet above the surface of the water, looking 
about it. It then began to move slowly away from the 
boat. Preble pushed on, his men pulling with all their 
force, and the animal being at no great distance, the 
swivel was discharged loaded with bullets. The dis 
charge produced no other effect than to quicken the 


speed of the serpent, which soon ran the boat out of 


There is no question that in after-life, Prehle occa 
sionally mentioned this circumstance, to a few of his 
intimates. He was not loquacious, and probably saw 
that he was relating a fact that most persons would be 
disposed to doubt, and self-respect prevented his making 
frequent allusions to it. When it is remembered that 
Preble died long before the accounts of the appearance 
of a similar serpent, that have been promulgated in this 
country, were brought to light, it affords a singular con 
firmation of the latter. Preble stated it as his opinion, 
that the serpent he saw was from one hundred to one 
hundred and fifty feet long, and larger than a barrel. 

This account of the size of the serpent undoubtedly 
seen by Preble, is in singular accordance with that given 
to the writer by an intelligent officer of the navy, more 
than twenty years since. On that occasion the serpent 
was seen quite near by, for fully an hour, and once was 
viewed under water, as it passed beneath the boat. 
The writer s informant said it was his opinion that the 
animal was nearer one hundred and fifty than one hun 
dred feet in length, and he supposed him to be of the 
size of a wine-pipe. 

There appears an indisposition in the human mind 
to acknowledge that others have seen that which chance 
has concealed from our own sight. Travellers are dis 
credited and derided merely because they relate facts 
that lie beyond the circle of the common acquisitions ; 
and the term of "traveller s stories" has its origin more 
in a narrow jealousy, than in any prudent wariness of 
exaggeration. The provincial distrusts the accounts of 

VOL. i. 16 


the inhabitant of the capital, while self-love induces 
even the former to deride the marvels of the country. 
As respects marine serpents, they are well-known to 
exist, the merest physical tyro living being familiar 
with the fact that there are water-snakes. This being 
admitted, the philosopher should have, no difficulty in 
believing, in their substance, the accounts that have 
been published of the appearance of one or more sea- 
serpents on the eastern coast of this country. The 
animals of the ocean are known to exceed those of the 
land in magnitude, and the difference in size between 
the boa constrictor, or the anaconda, and the one hun 
dred and fifty feet of the sea-serpent, is not so great as 
that between the mammoth and the whale. 

There have been accounts published which would 
give the readef reason to suppose that Preble was cap 
tured in the Protector, by a frigate and a sloop of war, 
in a cruise that succeeded the one in which the action 
with the Duff took place. We conceive this to be true 
only in essentials. The Protector formed a part of Sal- 
tonstali s squadron, as has been mentioned, and fell into 
the enemy s hands, in common with most of the rest of 
that armament. Tnat Preble was made a prisoner, is 
out of all doubt, and we suppose he was taken in the 
Penobscot on that occasion. 

The young man was sent to New York, and became 
a prisoner on board the well-known prison-ship, the 
Jersey. After a time he was placed on parole, how 
ever, and a letter from General Preble is still in exist 
ence, in which he cautions his son not to violate his 
word, "not to stain his honor by attempting to escape." 
It would seem that Preble was not exchanged, or released 


for a long time ; though the influence of an old brother 
officer of his father s had been exerted in his behalf, 
and contributed to render his captivity less irksome.* 

* Nothing will give a better idea of the notions that our young 
man imbibed from his education, than to copy a letter written by 
Gen. Preble to his son, while the latter was a prisoner in New 

Falmouth, July 11th, 1781. 

DEAR CHILD : I received your favor with great pleasure and 
satisfaction, to find you met with so much kindness and friendship 
from Col. Tyng and lady. I have wrote him my acknowledg 
ments on the subject, and hope that your future conduct will be 
such as to render you in some measure worthy their further notice. 
As you are admitted on shore, a favor denied all the officers of 
the ship, never stain your honor by attempting to make your 
escape. I shall do every thing, and pursue every measure, that 
affords the least prospect of success, to get you exchanged in a jus 
tifiable way. Present your mamma s and my best compliments to 
Col. Tyng and lady, and let them know Madame Ross was in 
good health yesterday. Be always on your guard against tempta 
tions, or giving the least occasion to any that has shown you 
favors, to charge you with a breach of trust : be kind and obliging 
to all ; for no man ever does a designed injury to another, without 
doing a greater to himself. Let reason always govern your thoughts 
and actions. Be sure and write me at all opportunities. Your 
mamma, brothers and sisters join me in presenting their love to 
you, and wishing you a speedy exchange. I am your ready friend 
and affectionate father. JEDEDIAH PREBLE. 

This letter is creditable to the father, and contains one sentence 
that is full of sound morality, expressed with the terseness of an 
apophthegm. The date of this letter, however, throws a little doubt 
over a portion of Preble s career. The expedition to the Penob- 
scot occurred in July, 1779, and this letter is dated two years later. 
Now, most of the crews of the vessels taken escaped through the 
wilderness, and it is possible Preble was among the number; else 
he must have remained a captive two entire years. One version 
of his life says, he was taken at sea in the Protector, but that ship 


On being restored to his liberty, Preble was received 
on board the Winthrop, another state cruiser, as her 
first lieutenant. This vessel was commanded by Capt. 
George Little, subsequently of the United States navy ; 
an officer who had been first lieutenant of the Protector, 
and the gentleman who afterwards captured the Ber- 
ceau, in the war of 1798, while in command of the 
Boston frigate. There is little question that our young 
adventurer made great progress in his profession while 
under the orders of two such expert seamen and discreet 
commanders as Williams and Little. 

The exploit that gave Preble an early reputation for 
daring and presence of mind, occurred in this his first 
cruise in the Winthrop. The Americans captured a 
sloop off Penobscot, from the crew of which they learned 
the position of an armed brig, that had previously taken 
the sloop, and sent her out manned to cruise for coast 
ers. Capt. Little determined to carry this vessel by 
surprise, as she lay at her anchors. Preparations 
were made accordingly, and the Winthrop stood into 
the bay under favorable circumstances. Preble, as first 
lieutenant, was to lead the boarders, who were selected 
with care. His party was to consist of forty men. 
The enterprise succeeded so well that the Winthrop ran 
alongside of her enemy, and Preble and the foremost 
of his party threw themselves on the decks of the Eng 
lishman ; but the Winthrop had so much way on her 
in closing, that she shot clear of her enemy, leaving 

was destroyed in the Penobscot, and I can find no trace of Treble s 
having belonged to more than three vessels during the war of the 
Revolution, viz., the Letter-of- Marque, the Protector, and the 


Preble with only fourteen men among the enemy. It 
is said that Little called out to his lieutenant to know if 
he should send him more men, and that Preble coolly 
answered, " No, he had too many already." At any 
rate, he carried the brig, securing her officers before 
they had time to gain the deck. In the exaggerated 
accounts that have succeeded, it has been pretended that 
this prize was a vessel of war, and that she was supe 
rior in force to the Winthrop. Neither was probably 
the fact, though the exploit was sufficiently creditable 
as it really occurred. That Preble was inferior to the 
force actually opposed to his small party, there is little 
question, and it is certain the whole affair was conduct 
ed with great skill and spirit. As the prize lay under, 
not only the guns of the English works, but even within 
reach of musketry, the enemy opened on her, and Pre- 
bie had to work out to sea, with his small party, under 
a brisk fire. In this he succeeded, as ably as he had 
done in the attack, without sustaining any damage of 

The reader who is familiar with the exploits of 
Trippe, will find an incident in the life of that gallant 
officer, while serving under Preble s orders, that sin 
gularly resembled this which occurred to Preble him 

Although there is now some obscurity thrown around 
the particulars of this affair, the name of the vessel 
captured appearing in none of the clearer accounts of 
it, there is no question that it was a very gallant ex 
ploit, and obtained for both Little and Preble much 
reputation in the naval circles of that day. Preble 
probably owed the rank he subsequently obtained in the 


navy of the republic to the cool courage he manifested 
on this occasion, united to his conduct and general good 
character. Among the old seamen who lived at the 
close of the last century, it was often mentioned in 
terms of high eulogium. 

Mr. Preble remained in the Winthrop until peace 
was made. During this time he saw much service on 
the coast, that cruiser being actively employed, and 
doing a vast deal of useful duty. She captured a good 
many vessels, and was particularly destructive to the 
small privateers, of wHich the enemy employed so 
many, more especially to the eastward. There can be 
no question that our young man s professional character 
was formed in the Protector and the Winthrop. 

At the peace of 1783 all the naval armaments of the 
country were substantially suppressed. Some of the 
States, it is true, maintained a sort of guarda costas, 
each government having its own revenue laws under 
its own control ; but these were few in number, and of 
small account. Preble was discharged, in common 
with most of his brethren, and was compelled to turn to 
the merchant service for employment. As our young 
man was now in his twenty-second year, and was pos 
sessed of so much character and skill, he had little diffi 
culty in obtaining a vessel. At one time he was in the 
employment of a gentleman in North Carolina, though 
he appears to have passed the fifteen years that suc 
ceeded the peace in sailing from and to different parts 
of the globe. 

In 1798 the quasi war with France commenced. 
Preble s predilections for the navy still remaining, his 
wishes to enter it were gratified by his receiving one 



of the five first commissions that were granted to lieu 
tenants. At the commencement of the new marine, it 
was determined that each lieutenant should be named 
for his particular rank in each vessel, and that the 
relative rank of the whole service should be determined 
by those of the respective commanders with whom the 
junior officers were required to serve. Preble was in 
tended for the first lieutenant of the Constitution, a po 
sition that would have left him the second on the list 
of lieutenants in the entire service, that being the place 
Com. Nicholson held on the list of captains. Fortu 
nately for Preble, perhaps, he did not like his captain, 
and. he succeeded in keeping out of his ship, for he 
was placed in command of the Pickering, a brig of 14 
guns, which was first commissioned for the revenue 
service. There were six of these small cruisers em 
ployed on the coast at this time, all of which were 
under the command of officers who properly belonged 
to the navy. The names of Preble, Campbell, Brown 
and Leonard were among them, and they all appear to 
have received the commissions of lieutenants com 

The Pickering was attached to what was called the 
Windward West India squadron, having its rendezvous 
at Prince Rupert s Bay, and cruising as far south as 
the Island of Tobago. Barry commanded this force, 
which, in the course of the year 1798, consisted of 
twelve vessels, including two frigates. 

Preble appears to have made two cruises in the 
Pickering, in the course of the years 1798 and 1799. 
We cannot discover that any service worthy of being 
mentioned occurred in either. At the close of the year 



1799, our officer was promoted to the rank of captain, 
appearing to have passed over that of master com 
mandant, and he was appointed to command the Essex 
32, then a new ship, and just getting ready for her first 
cruise. The Pickering was given to Capt. Hillar, was 
sent to the Guadaloupe station, and was lost at sea, all 
hands perishing. This appointment of Prehle s is, in 
itself, an evidence of a just appreciation of his cha 
racter, since both the rank and the ship he now obtained 
were a little beyond his claims on the score of date of 
commission. Rodgers, who had been Truxtun s first 
lieutenant, and who ranked him one as a captain, got 
only the Maryland sloop of war. It is a fact worthy of 
notice, that Little, Preble s first lieutenant in the Pro 
tector, and his commander in the Winthrop, ranked 
him by only two on the list of captains, as it was es 
tablished in 1799. Rodgers was the only name be 
tween them. 

The Essex was destined to accompany the Congress 
38, also a new ship, on a cruise as far east as Batavia, 
to meet and give convoy to the homeward-bound India 
and China ships. Capt. Sever, of the Congress, was 
the senior of the two captains thus employed. The 
Congress and Essex sailed on this cruise, then much 
the most distant that any American cruiser had ever 
attempted, in the month of January, 1800. A few 
days out, the ships encountered a heavy gale, and lost 
sight of each other. The Congress was dismasted and 
returned to port, but the Essex made better weather, 
and continued on her course. Preble persevered, 
doubled the Cape, and reached his port of destination, 
where he proceeded to carry out the objects of the cruise. 



It- was his duty to collect a convoy of the valuable 
homeward-bound ships that were expected to pass the 
Straits of Sunda, giving notice of his presence, and 
cruising himself, in the interval, against the enemy s 
rovers. After remaining several months in the Indian 
seas, he collected a convoy of fourteen sail, with which 
he left Batavia, in the month of June. No opportunity 
occurred for distinguishing himself in this cruise, be 
yond the accurate and complete manner in which 
Preble executed his orders. One small French cruiser, 
out of the Isle of France, was chased off from the con 
voy, but she escaped under her sweeps in light weather. 
Notwithstanding the magnitude of his charge, the value 
of which amounted to many millions, Preble passed 
every thing in safety, and came into New York in the 
autumn. As sailing in convoy is dull work, it was 
near the close of the year when the Essex reached 
home. Peace was soon after made with France, and 
the ship was paid off. It is worthy of a passing re 
mark, that this ship was the first American man-of-war 
to carry the pennant round both Capes ; that of Good 
Hope, under Preble, as just related, and that of Cape 
Horn, under Porter, in 1813. 

The health of Preble had suffered materially in this 
cruise, and he needed repose. He was offered the 
Adams 28, then fitting out for the Mediterranean, but 
felt himself bound to decline service at the moment. 
It is much in favor of the impression made by Preble 
at Washington, that he was retained at the reduction 
of the navy, in 1801, though no opportunity for distin 
guishing himself had occurred, and notwithstanding he 
was absent at a most important moment, on so distant a 


cruise. At that time there were twenty-eight captains 
on the list, and seven commanders. The last were all 
discharged ; but twelve of the former were at first re 
tained, though the law directed that the number should 
be reduced to nine. Preble was the twenty-first cap 
tain before the reduction, and the ninth after it was 
actually made. James Barron, Bainbridge and Camp 
bell were his juniors. As Dale and Truxtun both re 
signed the succeeding year, Barry died in 1803, and 
Morris was dismissed, without a trial, by Mr. Jefferson, 
in 1804, it brought, the list down to one less than the 
number contemplated by the law, and left Preble the 
fifth in rank in the service. At this time Stewart was 
the senior lieutenant, and ought to have been promoted, 
under the provisions of the reduction law, early in 
1804, though he did not receive that act of justice 
until two years later, having been made a commander, 
however, without law, in 1804. 

There may have been an additional reason for Pre- 
ble s declining the Adams, as he was married in 1801, 
being then just forty years of age. The woman of his 
choice was Mary Deering, or Dering, the only daugh 
ter of Nathaniel Dering, of Portland. This is an 
ancient and honorable name in Massachusetts, and we 
presume this lady was of the old stock ; at any rate, 
she is known to have brought her husband a consider 
able accession of fortune. Preble was now at ease in 
his circumstances, and might have been excused for 
quitting a service that offered so few inducements to 
remain in it ; but he loved his profession, and, fortu 
nately for his own reputation, he determined to con 
tinue in service. In 1803, believing his health to be 


sufficiently re-established, he reported himself as fit for 
duty, and asked for service. In May he was attached 
to the Constitution 44, Old Ironsides, as the ship is now 
affectionately called, which was then lying at Boston, 
and was about to be fitted out for the Mediterranean 

The Tripolitan war had been miserably mismanaged 
since the peace with France. This was partly owing 
to the narrow policy that reigned in the national legis 
lation ; in some slight degree, perhaps, to the inexpe 
rience of certain officers employed ; but most of all to 
the extraordinary instructions with which Mr. Jefferson 
had sent his cruisers to sea. As the Constitution vests 
the power to declare war in Congress, and that body 
had not directly exercised this authority in connection 
with Tripoli, the government chose to act, in its legal 
relations, as if America were not at war with the Ba 
shaw, though everybody was willing to allow that the 
Bashaw was at war with America ! In consequence of 
these peculiar views of the restrictions imposed by the 
Constitution, Dale had left home with instructions that 
compelled one of his small vessels to release an enemy s 
cruiser, after she had handsomely captured her in a 
warm and bloody action. According to the earliest 
notions of international rights, as limited by the Federal 
Constitution, an American man-of-w r ar possessed the 
natural right to defend herself, but not the conventional 
right to bring her assailant, when fairly overcome, into 
port, unless by Act of Congress ! Had Mr. Jefferson 
exercised the reasoning faculties he certainly possessed 
in no small degree, he might have seen that the right 
to capture ships on the high seas is purely an inter- 


national, and not a mere national right, and that one 
nation can, to all intents and purposes, make war, 
though the consent of two may he necessary to re 
establish peace. He made the capital mistake of sup 
posing that the Constitution, in prescribing restraints 
on the powers of the servants of the public, also con 
templated restrictions on the rights of the nation ; it 
being material for every people to possess the privilege 
of defending themselves on equal terms, when assailed. 

The indecision and uncertainty that such feeble and 
unstatesman-like constructions of public law threw over 
the operations of Dale, and, to a certain extent, over 
those of Morris, had emboldened the enemy, and left 
matters very much, in 1803, where they had been 
found in 1801. A better feeling, however, began to 
prevail at Washington ; and it was now resolved to 
carry on the war with more of spirit and decision than 
had hitherto been manifested. With this view, Preble 
was ordered to hoist a broad pennant, and to take 
charge of the squadron intended to assemble for duty in 
the Mediterranean. This was a happy selection, and 
might be taken as a pledge of the success that was to 

But it was a far easier thing for the republic, in 
1803, to resolve bravely in a matter of this sort, than to 
carry out its resolutions with military promptitude. 
The equipment of a single frigate was not always an 
easy thing, and the collection of a squadron, though it 
were even small, was a measure of serious moment. 
In some respects, however, the service, was on the ad 
vance, and care had been taken to construct several 
small cruisers, a species of vessel of which there had been 


but one in the navy since its last reduction, and which 
was particularly needed for the purposes of blockading 
close in. The force that was put under the orders of 
Preble, on this occasion, consisted of the following ves 
sels, viz : 

Constitution 44 Com. Preble. 

Philadelphia 38 Capt. Bainbridge. 

Argus 16 Lt. Com. Decatur. 

Siren 16 Lt. Com, Stewart. 

Enterprise 12 Lt. Com. Hull. 

Nautilus 12 Lt. Com. Somers. 

Vixen 12 Lt. Com. Smith. 

These were all fine vessels of their respective classes, 
and they were singularly well commanded. It is true, 
the five last were of little use for serious attacks, but 
they were the best craft that could be constructed for 
the blockade of a town like Tripoli. As was usual in 
that day, and in that service, they sailed from home as 
each got ready. The Enterprise was already out on 
the station, where she had been kept for some time, 
being a vessel not to be spared. Hull was in charge 
of her, but he being the second lieutenant in the navy, 
as respects rank, Decatur was to carry the Argus, a 
much heavier vessel, out to that officer, and to take the 
Enterprise in exchange ; an arrangement that was sub 
sequently effected. 

Of the vessels belonging to Preble s squadron that 
sailed from home, the Nautilus was the first that got to 
sea. The schooner arrived at Gibraltar, July 27th, 
1803. The Philadelphia reached the same place Au 
gust 24th. The Constitution, wearing Pretye s pen 
nant, left Boston, August 13th, and she anchored off the 
VOL. i. 17 


Rock, September 12th, The Vixen came in two days 
later; the Siren October 1st, and the Argus was detained 
until November 1st. 

As the Philadelphia preceded the commodore by 
nearly three weeks, Bainbridge, acting under his orders, 
lost no time at the Rock, but commenced operations by 
capturing a Moorish cruiser that he fell in with off Cape 
de Gatt, and which had begun to commit depredations 
on the American trade. Returning first to Gibraltar 
with his prize, this officer proceeded aloft, after cruising 
a short time in quest of a Moorish frigate that was said 
to be just without the Straits. On her passage up the 
Mediterranean, the Philadelphia must have passed the 
New York 36, Com. Rodgers, and Adams 28, Capf. 
Campbell, coming down to meet the relief squadron at 
Gibraltar. This left nothing before Tripoli but the En 
terprise, Lt. Com. Hull. Soon after the Vixen got 
there, and was joined by Bainbridge in the Phila 

A little incident occurred, shortly after the arrival of 
the Constitution at the Rock, that it may be well to 
relate. The strict discipline of Preble, and his occa 
sionally ungovernable temper, had made him any thing 
but personally a favorite with his officers. While all 
admitted his abilities as a commander, there were few 
who did not complain of his temper, which, beyond a 
question, was rendered worse by the peculiar disease 
of w r hich he was the victim. One dark night, as the 
ship was near the Straits, she was suddenly found to be 
quite close to a strange vessel of war. The Constitu 
tion mi^t have seen the stranger first, for she went to 
quarters, and was ready to engage by the time she had 


closed. The hailing now commenced, both vessels 
appearing > be more anxious to ask questions than to 
answer them. Vexed with this delay, Preble ordered 
the name of his ship and of his country to be commu 
nicated to the other vesseJ, and to demand those of the 
stranger, under the penalty of getting a shot, if the de 
mand were refused. The stranger answered that he 
would return a broadside for a shot. This was more 
than Preble could bear ; he sprang up into the mizen 
rigging himself, took a trumpet, and called out in a 
clear, strong voice, "This is the United States ship 
Constitution 44, Com. Edward Preble. I am about to 
hail you for the last time ; if you do not answer, I shall 
give you a broadside. What ship is that ? Blow your 
matches, boys I" The stranger now answered " This 
is his Britannic Majesty s ship Donnegal, a razee of 60 
guns." Preble declared he did not believe him, and that 
he should stick by him until morning, to make certain of 
his character. A boat, however, soon came from the 
other vessel to explain. The stranger was the Maid- 
stone frigate, and the Constitution had got alongside of 
her so unexpectedly, that the delay in answering and 
the false name had been given to gain time to clear 
ship, and to get the people to their guns. 

The spirit and firmness manifested by Preble, on this 
occasion, produced a great revolution in his favor, among 
the younger officers in particular. They saw he could 
be as prompt with an English ship of war as he was 
with them, and they had a saying, " If the old man s 
temper is wrong, his heart is right." Such an incident, 
in that day, when England was nearly what she claimed 
to be, "mistress of the seas," would make a strong im- 



pression. It was not considered a trifle " to beard the 
lion in his den." But Preble had served irfrthe Revo 
lution, and, while he knew that an English ship was 
usually to be respected, he also knew that she was far 
from being invincible. It is a proof of the influence of 
the current literature and newspaper opinions of the 
day, that all the old officers of the Revolution had a far 
less exalted idea of English prowess, at the commence 
ment of the war of 1812, than the bulk of the population. 

Preble met Rodgers at the Rock, as has been men 
tioned, with two frigates under his orders. The 
Nautilus, Lieut. Com. Somers, which had been giving 
convoy aloft, also came in and joined. The state of 
things with Morocco was such as to demand immediate 
attention. There is little question that the Barbary 
powers played into each other s hands, in their wars 
with Christian states. In all their previous operations 
against Tripoli, the Americans had been diverted from 
the main object by the movements of the Moors, and 
the Adams had been kept below, a long time, cruising 
in the Straits, to watch the cruisers of the Emperor, 
and two Tunisians that were lying at the Rock. Pre 
ble resolved to leave every thing in his rear in a settled 
state, and he made his dispositions accordingly. 

Although Com. Rodgers was the senior officer, he 
placed his ships at his successor s disposal, in the 
handsomest manner. The Constitution, New York, 
Adams and Nautilus went into the Bay of Tangiers, 
accordingly, October 6th, and Preble immediately pre 
sented his demands. He had an interview with the 
Emperor, in person, and the negotiations, conducted 
with moderation and firmness, resulted in a renewal of 


the treaty of 1786. It is no more than justice toRodgers, 
to say that his agency in this prompt demonstration was 
both liberal and important. He was consulted, and 
joined heart and hand in all that was negotiated and 

This important duty performed, Rodgers sailed for 
home, and Preble gave all his attention to his important 
duties up the Mediterranean. While he had been at 
Tangiers, and during the time occupied about the 
Straits, several of his small vessels had arrived. 
JVearly his whole force, inde-ed, was collected at Gib 
raltar, with the exception of the Philadelphia and 
Enterprise. As the vessels aloft were commanded by 
Bainbridge and Hull, not only was the single officer of 
his own rank absent, but the two oldest men of his 
squadron also. It was under such circumstances that 
Preble caused his commanding officers to meet him, to 
deliberate on future operations. This council, conse 
quently, consisted of Preble himself, Stewart, Decatur, 
Smith .and Somers. To these was added Col. Lear, 
who had long been employed in Africa, and who had 
certain powers to treat, at the proper moment. The 
four gentlemen of the service, who thus met Preble, 
almost for the first time, were all young in years, and 
they held a rank no higher than that of lieutenants. 
Preble had been very little known to the service, during 
its brief existence of five years, which was all it then 
possessed, his East India cruise having kept him much 
out of sight in the French war, and his want of health 
since. Of his six commanders, four, yiz., Bainbridge, 
Somers, Decatur and Stewart, \yere all Philadelphia 
seamen ; Smith was from South Carolina, and Hu.ll 


alone was from New England. In addition to these 
circumstances, the commodore s reputation for severity 
of discipline and a hot temper, was so well established, 
as to produce little confidence and sympathy between 
these young men and himself. The former fought shy 
at the council, therefore, letting the commodore have 
things very much in his own way. They fancied it 
was their office to obey, and his to plan. 

After his lieutenants commandant had withdrawn, 
Preble and Lear remained alone together in the Con 
stitution s cabin. The former seemed thoughtful and 
melancholy, leaning his head on his arm, the latter 
resting on a table. Lear, observing this, inquired if he 
were unwell. " I have been indiscreet, Col. Lear," 
answered Preble, raising himself up to answer, "in 
accepting this command. Had I known how I was 
to be supported, I certainly should have declined it. 
Government has sent me here a parcel of children, as 
commanders of all my light craft." A year later, Lear 
reminded Preble of this speech, and asked him if he 
remembered it. " Perfectly well, said Preble, smiling, 
"but the children turned out to be good children." 

Preble now sent off some of his small vessels, the 
Vixen going up the Mediterranean to relieve the Enter 
prise. He visited Cadiz in the Constitution on duty, 
and returned to the Rock. On the 12th November he 
gave a formal notification of the blockade of Tripoli, off 
which town he supposed Bainbridge then to be, having 
the Philadelphia, Vixen, &c., with him. On the 13th 
he sailed for Algiers, where he put a consul on shore. 
He then proceeded to Malta, which port he reached on 
the 27th of the same month. Here he was met by 


letters from Bainbridge, communicating the dishearten 
ing intelligence of the loss of the Philadelphia. Some 
rumors of this disaster had been heard lower down the 
Mediterranean, but it was hoped they would prove not 
to be true. This ship had run on a reef in chase, and 
had been compelled to haul down her colors to the Tri- 
politan gunboats. To render the calamity still more 
poignant, the enemy succeeded in getting the frigate 
off, and had carried her in triumph into their harbor, 
where she now lay safely at anchor. 

Preble keenly felt this loss in several points of view. 
It was commencing his operations against the Bashaw 
M ith much the most serious reverse the infant navy of 
the republic had then experienced. Although he could 
have no direct personal connection with the affair, it had 
occurred within his command, and more or less of the 
misfortunes, as well as of the success of military opera 
tions, is given by the world to him who is at the head 
of affairs. Then, in losing Bainbridge, he lost his only 
captain, and the man of all others to whom he would 
naturally turn for counsel and support. The frigate, 
moreover, was a very important part of his force, and 
her loss was, in fact, the one thing that most impeded 
his attaining complete success in his future operations. 
Under all the circumstances of the case, the kind and 
considerate manner with which he treated Bainbridge 
does his heart much honor. Had his unfortunate bro 
ther in arms been his brother in blood, Preble s letters 
and conduct, in all respects, could riot have been more 
friendly or delicate. That Bainbridge felt this, is ap 
parent in his own correspondence, and it is probable 
these two brave men had a just appreciation of each 


other s intrinsic worth, in consequence of this common 
misfortune. Every thing that lay in Treble s power 
was done to alleviate the sufferings of the captives, and 
the utmost attention appears to have been bestowed on 
all their wants, so far as the command of funds and the 
exercise of a distant authority could go. In a word, no 
thing was omitted that it lay in the commodore s power 
to perform. 

Preble, however, was not a man to waste his time in 
useless regrets. He sailed immediately for Syracuse, 
which port he reached on the 28th. His object in go 
ing into Sicily was to establish a point of rendezvous, 
and to open negotiations with the authorities of that 
island for certain aids that he now felt would be neces 
sary for executing his plans. While these preliminary 
steps were in progress, the commodore disposed of his 
force in the best manner to protect the trade, and sailed 
for Tripoli in the Constitution, having the Enterprise 
in company. The vessels quitted Syracuse on the 17th 
December, and on the 23d the schooner, which was now 
commanded by Decatur, captured a ketch that was car 
rying female slaves from the Bashaw as a present to the 

Preble had a double object in going off Tripoli, on 
that occasion. By showing his force before the town 
he encouraged the captives, and he gave his enemies 
reason to respect him. But the principal motive was 
to reconnoitre the place in person, in order to direct his 
future movements with a greater degree of intelligence. 
An active correspondence was kept up with Bainbridge, 
who suggested many useful hints as to different modes 
of annoying the enemy. One letter of Bainbridge, 


bearing date December 5th, certainly suggested the 
practicability of destroying the Philadelphia, as she lay 
at her anchor, in the harbor of Tripoli. Preble bore all 
these things in mind, and he examined the position of 
the ship, the castle, batteries, &c., for himself. When 
he had been off the port a few days, it came on to blow 
heavily from the north-east, and he was admonished 
of the necessity of quitting that inhospitable coast, in 
that which was the worst month in the year. The 
Constitution and Enterprise accordingly returned to 

It is probable that the thought of destroying the Phil 
adelphia was first suggested by Bainbridge, though it 
has been claimed for both Preble and Decatur. It is 
not unlikely that such an idea should suggest itself to 
different minds simultaneously. It is certain that Pre 
ble did not risk any of his officers and men in such an 
enterprise, without calculating all its chances. One of 
Preble s characteristic traits was the great care he be 
stowed on all his preparations to insure success. It 
Will be seen, as we proceed, that he wasted no ti$ne in 
useless parade, but, on the contrary, having taken a 
look at his enemy, he paid him no unnecessary visits 
until he was ready to go to work in earnest. Twice 
more only did he see Tripoli, until he came with his 
whole force to bombard the place. All the previous 
commanders had cruised, more or less, in front of the- 
town, occasionally engaging a battery? or assaulting 
small convoys, and, in one instance, in making an 
abortive attempt at cannonading ; but Preble did none 
of this. He ascertained his wants, supplied the defi 
ciencies in the best manner he could, and when the 


moment arrived, he applied his means with an intelli 
gence and activity that showed he possessed the quali 
ties of a great commander. The world, which sees 
little beyond victory or defeat, seldom fully appreciates 
the care, forethought and labor with which armaments 
are made, particularly at distant points and with im 
perfect means. 

To whomsoever may belong the credit of suggesting 
the plan of burning the Philadelphia, to Preble belongs 
the merit of assuming the responsibility of ordering it, 
as well as of pointing out as many of the details as was 
consistent with a discreet exercise of authority, in an 
affair of such a nature. When the scheme was origi 
nally agitated between him and Decatur, as was pro 
bably the case while they were, for the first time, off 
Tripoli in company, the latter offered to make the at 
tempt with his own schooner. This Preble thought too 
hazardous, and he turned his attention to the ketch 
which had fallen into his hands in the late cruise. 
The advantages offered by the possession of this vessel 
were^not to be thrown away. She was of Mediter 
ranean rig, and Mediterranean construction throughout, 
and might appear in the offing without exciting any 
distrust as to her intentions. All this was foreseen by 
Preble, and his instructions to his subordinates met, 
with great precision, the very contingency which oc 
curred when this nicely arranged plan was carried into 

When every thing was ready, Preble issued his 
orders, February 3d, to Stewart and Decatur, and those 
two gallant officers sailed immediately. If it were a 
trait in Preble to make every provision to insure sue- 


cess, it was another to enter into all the hopes and 
anxieties of those who were embarked in the enter 
prises he had directed. He was calm to the eye, but 
he felt the anxiety natural to his temperament, while 
the brig and ketch were absent. The delay was much 
greater than had been anticipated, in consequence of a 
gale of wind, which drove the adventurers from the 
mouth of the harbor itself, where they had anchored, 
and where Decatur had sent a boat to examine the lit 
tle entrance to the port. The uncertainty lasted more 
than a fortnight, the two vessels being absent fifteen 
days. At length the long-expected craft hove in sight, 
and Preble soon had the pleasure of seeing the signal 
of success flying on board the Siren. The Sicilians, 
who were also at war with Tripoli, received the con 
querors with as much delight as the Americans them 
selves, firing salutes and rending the air with shouts. 

This success was of great moment to the future pros 
pects of Preble. The Turks, though known to be in 
different gunners, and no very excellent seamen, were 
of sturdy frame, bold enough in battle, and had fearful 
reputations for their prowess in hand-to-hand conflicts. 
Every sea officer was cautious about letting these 
bloody-minded sabrcurs get over his plank sheer ; but 
here had Decatur met him at his own play, and proved 
that the Christian was the better man. Then the 
stigma of the frigate s loss (for in war misfortune ever 
leaves a reproach) was wiped out by the gallant man 
ner of her re-capture, and her subsequent destruction. 
Among those who understand that it takes a man of a 
certain degree of military resolution even to order an 
enterprise of this daring, Preble s connection with the 


attack on the Philadelphia was fully appreciated. It 
is highly probable that his own equally gallant exploit 
in the Penobscot was present to his mind when he first 
thought of this enterprise, and influenced him to decide 
in its favor. 

As the season was advancing, and the important 
point of the destruction of the Philadelphia was dis 
posed of, Preble now began to turn his attention still 
more earnestly toward making his preparations for the 
approaching summer. He sent Stewart, in the Siren, 
again off Tripoli to blockade, having Somers in the 
Nautilus under his orders ; and these vessels were, in 
due time, relieved by others, so as to maintain a force 
at all times before the town. On the 2d of March the 
commodore took the Constitution to Malta, where he 
had business of importance, and, the run being short, 
on the 21st he went off Tripoli the second time. While 
he was there, the Nautilus captured a man-of-war built 
brig, that pretended to be an English privateer, but 
which in truth was a Tripolitan, and was intended to 
cruise against Americans. Preble sent her to Syra 
cuse, where she was appraised, manned, and put into 
the service, by the name of the Scourge. She was 
given to Lt. Dent, who had been acting captain of 
Preble s own ship. On the 27th, a flag was sent 
ashore with letters for the prisoners. 

After remaining a few days before Tripoli, again re- 
connoitering, Preble sailed for Tunis, though not with 
out experiencing another very heavy gale of wind, 
anchoring before that town, with the Siren in company, 
April 4th. The reader will better understand the ar 
duous nature of Preble s duties, when he is reminded 


that he was now left with a single frigate and six small 
vessels, his prize included, to hold in check all the 
Barbary powers, which were more or less leagued to 
gether, and to carry on the war with Tripoli. He had 
awed Morocco by his early course, but Tunis was very 
troublesome, and menaced a war from day to day. 
His immediate predecessor in command had been given 
a force of no less than five frigates and one small ves 
sel to perform the same duty. No better idea can be 
formed of the nature of the commodore s duties, and of 
the energy with which he discharged them, however, 
than to give a brief summary of his movements at this 
juncture, as well as of their objects. 

It has been seen that Preble reached Tunis on the 
4th of April. On the 7th he sailed, in a gale of wind, 
and reached Malta on the 12th. On the 14th he left 
Malta, and next day went into Syracuse. Here he 
was detained five days, sailing again on the 20th. He 
touched at Malta on the 29th ; anchored once more at 
Tunis, May 2d ; left it next day for Naples, where he 
arrived on the 9th. His business at this place was to 
obtain gun-boats for attacking Tripoli ; the negotiation 
being successful. Preble procuring an order from the 
King of the Two Sicilies for both bomb vessels and 
gun-boats, on the 19th he sailed for Messina, where he 
arrived on the 25th. Here he selected two bomb ves 
sels and six gun-boats. The latter he manned imme 
diately, and, on the 30th, he sailed with them for Syra 
cuse, getting in next day. Leaving the Sicilian vessels 
to be altered and equipped, Preble sailed again from 
Syracuse on the 4th of June, and anchored at Malta on the 
5th ; on the 9th he again sailed for Tripoli. The ob- 

VOL. i. 18 


ject of this third visit was to treat for the liberation of 
the prisoners, previously to commencing serious opera 
tions, it being uncertain what might otherwise be the 
influence on their fate. The effort was fruitless, but 
supplies were sent to Bainbridge, whose condition was 
much alleviated in consequence. 

Mr. O Brien had been sent ashore, to treat for ran 
som, on the 13th June, and on the 14th Preble sailed 
once more for Tunis, with the Argus and Enterprise in 
company. The consul had sent him information that 
the Bey was in an ill humor, and required looking after. 
The vessels reached Tunis Bay on the 19th. On the 
22d, Preble, satisfied his visit would produce its effect, 
sailed for Syracuse, touching at Malta on the 24th, and 
arriving on the 25th. The 28th was employed in 
sending money and clothing to Bainbridge, and on the 
29th he sailed for Messina, arriving July 1st. On the 
8th the Nautilus left Messina for Syracuse, with the 
two bomb vessels under convoy, and on the 9th the 
commodore followed, in the Constitution, which ship 
got in the day she sailed. July 14th, Preble sailed 
from Syracuse for Malta, with the bomb vessels and 
gun-boats in company ; where he anchored on the 16th. 
Here he completed his arrangements, and sailed with 
every thing he could collect for Tripoli, on the 21st, 
arriving in sight of the place on the 25th July, 1S04. 

By recurring to this brief account, the following re 
sults will be discovered. Between the 2d of March 
and the 25th of July are one hundred and forty-five 
days ; in this interval Preble put to sea nineteen differ 
ent times, as often reaching his point of destination, 
besides calling off Malta once, without anchoring. 


Although he actually brought up on every one of these 
entrances into harbors, his visits to Tripoli excepted, 
on which occasion the ship was usually kept free of the 
ground, he passed seventy-four days at anchor, and 
nearly as many under his canvas. The average time 
of his stops in port was less than four days ; his long 
est detention was at Malta, fourteen days, where he 
went for supplies, and when he was not the master of 
his own time. Deduct this detention, as in fact ought 
to be done, to form a proper estimate of the character 
we wish to exhibit, with ten days passed at Naples, 
negotiating for the gun-boats, when he had to wait for 
the movements of royalty, and but fifty days will re 
main for nineteen visits to port, or less than three days 
for each visit. It may be questioned if any ship of the 
Constitution s size was ever more actively employed 
on duty of a similar nature. We know of no better 
illustration of Preble s real character, than this history 
of the movements of his ship for those four months and 
a half. Decision, combination, energy, unwearied ac 
tivity, and a clear comprehension of every one of his 
duties, are apparent in all he did. Nor was the main 
object, of holding the Tripoli tans completely in check 
the while, forgotten. Their town was vigorously 
blockaded the whole time, and when Preble arrived 
with his assembled force, the people were already be 
ginning to feel the effects of having their commerce 

It is worthy of remark, that Preble resorted to no 
spurious warfare, in all his preliminary measures. On 
his several calls off Tripoli, he had specific objects in 
view, and these he accomplished without any menaces 



or parade. We cannot find that the Constitution even 
scaled her guns against the place, or that Preble fired 
a single shot at the enemy, from his own ship, until he 
came prepared to make war on a scale as large as the 
means furnished by his own government would at all 
permit. It might be added, even larger, as he had 
materially increased those means by his own resources, 
while he was on the station. 

Preble found himself, on the 25th July, before Tri 
poli, with fifteen sail, including every thing he could 
collect, viz., one frigate, three brigs, three schooners, 
two bomb vessels and six gun-boats. On estimating 
this force, it will be found that the Americans had at 
command six long 26s, twenty-two long 24s, a few long 
12-pounders on the Constitution s quarter-deck and fore 
castle, with something like twenty light chase guns, 
counting all in broadside. In other words, it was in 
Preble s power to bring about twenty-eight long heavy 
guns to bear on the castle, batteries, &c., at once, with 
something like twenty long light guns, 6s, 9s and 12s. 
The carronades could only be of use as against the 
enemy s gunboats and other craft. The long 26s men 
tioned were guns procured by Preble in Sicily, and 
were mounted in the Constitution s waist, three of a 
side. Altogether, the Americans had 1060 souls pre 

The means of the Bashaw were infinitely more for 
midable. In addition to the advantage of fighting be 
hind solid masonry, he had 118 guns in battery, most 
of which were heavy, and nineteen gun-boats, that of 
themselves threw a weight of shot almost equal to the 
frigate s broadside. In addition, he had a brig, two 


schooners and two large galleys in the port, all of which 
were armed and fully manned. As for men, however, 
there was no want of them ; the Bashaw s troops, in 
cluding all sorts, amounting, as was thought, to a num 
ber between twenty and thirty thousand ; a large force 
having been collected from the interior for the defence 
of the place. 

Preble was not able to come to an anchor until the 
28th. This was hardly done before it came on to blow 
fresh from the northward, and the whole squadron was 
compelled to weigh, and to claw off shore. It was 
thought at one time the gun-boats would have been 
towed under, but luckily the wind hauled, a circum 
stance which allowed less sail to be carried. The wind 
continued to freshen, proving how wisely Preble had 
acted, and, on the 31st, it blew fearfully; so violently, 
indeed, as to take the frigate s reefed courses out of the 
bolt-ropes. There would have been no hopes for the 
miserable little craft that had been obtained in Sicily, 
had not the wind continued to haul, until it made the 
coast a weather-shore, which gave them smooth water. 
On the 31st, the weather moderated, and the commo 
dore was enabled to collect his scattered vessels. 

Owing to all these disadvantages, it was August 3d, 
before Preble got again in front of Tripoli. By that 
time the enemy had sent two divisions of his gun-boats 
outside of a line of rocks that stretches from the little 
entrance of the harbor quite near the galley-mole, for a 
mile diagonally to seaward. No part of this reef, how 
ever, lay beyond complete protection from the fire of all 
the works, so far as that fire was efficient in itself. As 


has been mentioned, these craft were separated in two 
divisions, one lying near the eastern, or main entrance 
into the harbor, which was in a great measure formed 
by these rocks, aided by a natural indentation in the 
coast, and the other near the western or little entrance, 
so often mentioned, and which has since become memo 
rable from the explosion of the ketch Intrepid, which 
subsequently occurred at, or near, this point. A third 
division lay just within the rocks, as a reserve, but so 
placed as to be able to fire through their openings. The 
galleys were there also. These two divisions lay about 
half a mile asunder. There is no question that the 
Tripolitans, judging of the future by the past, fancied 
that this disposition of their floating force would keep 
their vessels inside from suffering by the fire of the 
Amerkan shipping. Their galleys and remaining gun 
boats lay just within the reef, quite within supporting 
distance. Preble did not anchor, but a little after noon 
he laid his own ship s head off shore, distant about a 
league from the town, and showed a signal for every 
thing to pass within hail. Each commander received 
his orders according to previous instructions, the whole 
duty being conducted with singular regularity and pre 
cision. The small vessels manned the gun-boats and 
bomb vessels, and in one hour every thing and every 
body were reported ready. The Constitution then 
wore round, and stood in toward the town, leading the 
whole squadron. Half an hour later the gun-boats cast 
off, and formed in front of the sea-going craft. This 
was no sooner done than Preble made the signal to en 
gage. Every thing advanced, the gun-boats covered 
by the light cruisers, and the bomb vessels began to 


throw shells. The batteries replied, and then the 
smaller shipping on both sides joined in. 

Preble had ordered Decatur and Somers, who com 
manded the American gun-boats, to attack the division 
of the enemy that lay near the main or eastern entrance 
to the harbor. There were six large gun-boats at this 
point, and they were the farthest to windward as well 
as the most remote from support, though quite within 
range of shot from all parts of the works. 

Decatur s division of boats, three in number, being 
to windward in the American line, could fetch into the 
point aimed, while one boat belonging to Somers s divi 
sion did the same ; but Somers himself in one boat, and 
Lt. Bainbridge in another, both of the leeward division, 
were not able to close to windward, and they turned on 
the enemy to leeward. One of Decatur s divisions, 
however, did not close in consequence of some mistake 
in a signal. The desperate and remarkable conflict 
that followed among these gun-boats has been already 
described by us, and will be again in our sketch of 
Decatur s life, with farther details, and we shall conse 
quently pass over it here. It is known that three of the 
Tripolitans were boarded, and brought out of their line, 
while the remaining boats were driven in behind the 
rocks under the cover of their own batteries. 

While this bloody hand-to-hand conflict was going 
on close in with the rocks, the brigs and schooners en 
gaged the division to leeward, and the division inside 
the rocks, assisted by Somers in his single boat, who 
had no other means to prevent his vessel from drifting 
in among the enemy, than to keep a few sweeps back 
ing her off, throwing grape, canister and musket-balls 



The accompanying plate will give a tolerably accurate notion of 
this day s work. No. 1 is the Constitution hove to ; No. 2 are the 
American brigs and schooners ; No. 3 is Somers ; No. 4, Bain- 
bridge ; No. 5, Decatur attacking the enemy ; No. 6, Tripolitan 
gun-boats; No. 7, Tripolitan galleys, &c. The bomb ketches 
were too far to the westward to be brought into the plate. 


the whole time, in showers, upon the Turks. Once or 
twice the division inside manifested an intention to pass 
through the opening, and come out to the assistance of 
their brethren, but the grape and canister of the brigs 
and schooners as often drove them back. These move 
ments were distinct and methodical, and each time the 
repulse was the result of signals from Preble himself, 
who did his duty nobly that day as a commander-in- 
chief, having his eye on all parts of the line, and 
neglecting nothing. The Constitution was engaged 
early, and her own fire was kept up with a vigor that 
has often been the subject of praise. She seemed to 
control the fight, moving along just within range of 
grape, as the deity of the combat. She silenced all the 
nearer batteries as she passed them, though they opened 
again as soon as she was out of range. We have heard 
a gentleman, who was then one of the prisoners in Tri 
poli, describe the enthusiasm excited among them by 
the daring and cool manner in which Preble handled 
his own ship on this occasion. They had but a single 
window, in the castle where they were confined, which 
commanded a view of only a part of the scene of action, 
the end of the rocks where Decatur engaged being out 
of sight; but they beheld enough to fill them all with 
exultation and delight. When the Constitution was seen 
standing in, she was deliberately shortening sail, with 
the men on the yards, and every thing going on as re 
gularly as if about to anchor in a friendly port. Then 
she edged off and let the Turks have it. In the course 
of the action, the ship suffered a good deal, principally 
aloft. Preble himself bad a very narrow escape, a shot 
coming in through a stern-port as the frigate was waring, 


for this was the time when the Turks vented all their 
spite on her, and there is little doubt it would have cut 
the commodore in two, had it not struck the breech of a 
quarter-deck gun, and broken into fragments. Luckily 
it did no other damage than to wound a marine, though 
the fragments flew about a quarter-deck that was filled 
with men. The ship had a heavy shot through her 
mainmast, and her main-royal yard shot away. She 
met with a good deal of other damage, though it was 
principally aloft. 

After covering the retreat of his bomb-vessels, gun 
boats and prizes, with the Constitution, Preble hauled 
off among the Jast, and rendezvoused, with all his force, 
beyond the range of shot. His commanders then re 
paired on board the flag-ship to make their reports, 
receive their orders, and to learn, in that centre of in 
telligence, the incidents and casualties of the day. It 
was now that a scene occurred which it will not do to 
pass over in silence, inasmuch as it is closely connected 
with the personal character of the subject of this me 
moir, delineating his good, as well as his bad qualities. 
Preble had made his disposition for this attack with great 
care and preparation, and he anticipated from it even 
more important results than it had actually produced. 
In placing six of his gun-boats so near the eastern en 
trance of the harbor, while the rest were either within 
the reef, or half a mile distant, his enemy had made a 
very judicious disposition of his force, to contend against 
attacks similar to those which had hitherto been made 
on the place in the course of this war ; but one that was 
very injudicious, when operations directed by Preble 
and executed by Decatur were to be resisted. The 


commodore felt sure of seizing all these boats, and there 
is little question that his hopes would have heen realized 
but for unforeseen accidents. Somers had got a little 
too far to leeward, his boat was an indifferent sailer, and 
he and Bainbridge were prevented from fetching into 
this division, and were compelled to engage to leeward, 
as has been seen, which they did in the most gallant 
manner. A third boat, one that belonged to Decatur s 
own division, did not close at all, engaging at a distance ; 
her commander justifying his course on a subsequent 
inquiry, by showing that a signal of recall had been 
made from the frigate. Such a signal had actually 
been hoisted by mistake, though it was only for a 
moment, and it is probable the fact served to increase 
Treble s dissatisfaction. The six gun-boats procured 
from the Neapolitans were of only twenty-five tons each, 
and were fit for nothing but harbor duty, while those of 
the Tripolitans were much -larger, and were built to be 
used on the coast. Thus, those that were compelled 
to remain in the offing were built principally to remain 
inside, while those that were compelled to remain inside 
would have done perfectly well in the offing. The six 
boats mentioned would, consequently, have been a very 
important acquisition to the blockading and assaulting 
force ; and Preble, properly appreciating the daring 
and enterprise of Decatur and his companions, believed 
that in sending his six small boats against this division 
he would become master of the whole of it. These 
boats, too, were the only trophies of his victory, the 
effect of his attack on the batteries, and the rest of the 
shipping, being less apparent and less captivating to the 
public eye. 


Decatur s exploit, in itself, was one of the most extra 
ordinary and brilliant in naval annals, but it had obtained 
only half of the anticipated success. As a commander- 
in-chief Preble looked to results, and in these he had 
been keenly disappointed. It is probable, moreover, 
that his mind and senses had been too much occupied 
with the other portions of the stirring scene of that day, 
to leave him master, by means of his own observations, 
of the precise difficulties with which Decatur had to 
contend, or the supremely gallant manner in which he 
had overcome them. 

Preble was in the frame of mind that such circum 
stances would be likely to produce on a temperament 
naturally so fiery, and with that temperament undoubt 
edly much aggravated by the disease which so soon 
after terminated his life, when Decatur appeared on the 
quarter-deck of the Constitution to report his acts, and 
to learn the news, like most of the rest of the command 
ers. The young man was in a roundabout, or in his 
fighting gear, just as he had come out of the combat ; 
his face begrimed with powder, armed to the teeth, and 
with his breast covered with the blood that had flown 
from a wound received in his celebrated encounter with 
the captain of one of the two boats he had taken, almost 
as it might be with his own hand. At such a moment, 
Decatur was the centre of observation of all on the quar 
ter-deck of Old Ironsides. He approached Preble in a 
quiet way, and said, " Well, commodore, I have brought 
you out three of the gun-boats." To Decatur s astonish 
ment, and doubtless to that of all who witnessed this 
extraordinary scene, Preble seized his young subordi 
nate with both hands by the collar, shook him violently, 


as one would shake an offending boy, and cried bitterly 
"Ay, sir, why did you not bring me more?" At the 
next instant Preble turned, and disappeared in his own 

The whole thing had been so sudden, was so very 
different from what everybody had anticipated, and was 
of a character so very unusual for the quarter-deck of 
a ship of war, that all who witnessed it were astounded. 
Decatur himself was strongly excited and indignant, and 
it is said he made a spontaneous movement with one 
hand for the dirk he wore in his bosom. Then he 
ordered his boat, and was about to quit the ship. Had 
he been permitted to leave the Constitution in that 
frame of mind, it is probable that consequences of a very 
unpleasant character would have followed. Decatur 
was then a captain in rank, though he did not learn the 
fact until four days later, and his equality of commission 
would have been very likely to render the difficulty 
more serious. Down to that moment, however, he had 
been accustomed to regard Preble as one much his 
superior in degree ; and it is not easy to impress on 
laymen the influence that rank possesses in the military 

The older officers present crowded around Decatur, 
and entreated him to pause, and above all not to leave 
the Constitution at that moment. They reminded him 
of the notoriously fiery temper of the commodore, and 
assured him that no one would be more sorry for what 
had just occurred than Preble himself, as soon as he re 
covered his self-possession. They called to his recol 
lection that, to use their own expression, while they 
" despised him for his temper," they all respected the 

VOL. I. 19 



commodore s qualities as a commander, and even his 
justice in his cooler moments. Decatur was still in 
suspense surrounded by his friends and old messmates, 
when the cabin steward came to say, " Com. Preble 
wished to see Capt. Decatur below." After a mo 
ment s hesitation, Decatur complied, as indeed he was 
bound to do ; such a request being usually considered 
as an order on board a man-of-war, coming from a su 
perior to an inferior. In a few minutes, an officer who 
could presume on his rank, and who felt uneasy at 
leaving the two together, descended also to the cabin. He 
found Preble and Decatur seated very amicably, within 
a few feet of each other, both silent, and both in tears ! 
Explanations and apologies had doubtless been made 
by Preble, and from that moment all was forgotten. It 
is to the credit of both parties, that the occurrence ap 
pears to have left no rankling in the breast of either, 
each ever after doing full justice to the merit of the other. 
Decatur, indeed, was one of Preble s warmest friends, 
and so continued to the hour of the latter s death. 
: Notwithstanding the attack of the 3d August fell 
short in its results of Preble s expectations, there is lit 
tle doubt that it produced a deep impression on the 
Turks. The gun-boats of the latter trusted themselves 
no more outside of the reef, and they got to be so shy 
that they would retire as soon as they found the Ameri- 
dan boats coming within the range of musket-balls. 
The Bashaw perceived that he had a vigorous leader 
1b oppose, and his notions of impunity, living where he 
did in his castle within massive walls, were materially 
1 As for Preble, he pursued his operations with cha- 


racteristic vigor. The 4th, 5th and 6th, were em* 
ployed in altering the rig- of the captured boats, and in 
preparing them to be brought into line for future ser 
vice. They were numbered 7, 8 and 9, and given to 
Lts. Crane, Caldweli and Thorn.* Early on the morn 
ing of the 7th, Preble made a signal for all the light 
vessels to weigh, when they proceeded to take stations 
that had been pointed out to them respectively. The 
action did not commence until half-past two, when the 
mortar vessels and the gun-boats opened on the bat 
teries and town ; the latter with good effect, though the 
bombs, from some defect in their filling, as well as from 
the bad qualities of the vessels, never appeared to be 
of much service. The Tripolitan galleys and gun 
boats made a demonstration toward passing the rocks to 
come out and attack the American gun-boats, but the 
latter were covered by the Siren and Vixen, while the 
frigate, with one or two of the other vessels, lay to 
windward in a position to overawe them. On one oc 
casion this day. Stewart in the Siren manifested an in 
tention to close with the enemy s galleys without a 
signal, for which he afterward received a stern rebuke 
from the commodore, who was disposed to hold his 
whole command in hand, like a skilful coachman ma 
naging his team. It was almost as unsafe to rush into 
the fight without orders from Preble, as it would have 
been to run away. In a word, he was a comrnander-in- 
chief, and did all the duties of that responsible station 
as much in battle as at any other time. 

It was in this attack that No. 8, Lt. Caldweli, blew 

* It is singular that the two last of these officers were blown up, 
at an interval of six years between the events. 


up. The calamity occurred when the cannonading 
had lasted only an hour, but it had no effect whatever 
on Preble s operations. Every thing proceeded as if 
no such calamity had occurred, and it did not in the 
least lessen the weight of the American fire. He al 
lowed the action to continue two hours longer, when, 
their ammunition being expended, he called the gun 
boats off by signal. This was a hard day s work for 
those who were in the gun-boats, the latter suffering 
considerably, besides losing one of their number by the 
explosion. That evening Preble was joined by the 
John Adams 28, Capt. Chauncy, direct from home. 
This ship, however, could not be brought within range 
of the batteries, having placed her guns in her hold, 
and the carriages in other vessels, in order to convey 
stores to the squadron already on the station. 

The arrival of the John Adams produced a short 
pause in Preble s activity. Since the two attacks, the 
Bashaw had become more disposed to treat, and Preble, 
in consequence of learning through his despatches, that 
a strong squadron would be likely to appear in a few 
days, thought it would be more in conformity with his 
duty to renew the negotiations. The result, however, 
was not fortunate. The Bashaw had commenced by 
demanding a thousand dollars a man, ransom, and the 
customary tribute in future. He now fell in his de 
mands to five hundred dollars a man, ransom, and 
waived the claim to future tribute altogether. Preble 
would not accede to even these terms, as he hoped the 
appearance of the relief squadron would compel the 
Tripolitans to make peace on the conditions usually re 
cognised by civilized nations. 


During this informal truce, Preble had a very nar 
row escape. On the night of the 9th, he went on 
board the Argus, and directed Capt. Hull to run close 
in with the rocks, in order that he might reconnoitre 
the state of the port. This was done, but the vessel 
being seen, was fired at by the batteries, and a heavy 
shot raked her bottom for several feet, glancing under 
water, and ripping the plank out for half its thickness. 
An inch or two of variation in the direction of this 
shot, would have sent the brig to the bottom in a very 
few minutes ; the injury having been between wind 
and water, and of a nature that scarcely admitted of any 
remedy at the moment. 

Preble waited in vain for the appearance of the 
squadron, which Chauncy had told him he might 
hourly expect, until the 16th, when he determined to 
renew his operations with the means he possessed. 
Despatching the Enterprise to Malta, with directions to 
have water sent to the squadron, he ordered Decatur 
and Chauucy to reconnoitre as close in as was prudent, 
in boats. These officers found that the gun-boats and 
galleys of the enemy were moored in a line between 
the mole and the castle, so as to form a defence to the 
inner harbor, or galley-mole, being flanked and other 
wise supported themselves by the works. An attack 
would have been made the day that succeeded this re- 
connoitering, but a gale of wind coming on from the 
northward, the squadron was obliged to quit its anchors. 
When it had obtained an offing and was ]yig-to, it 
fell in with the supplies from Malta, and learned that 
no intelligence had been received from the expected 
reinforcement. This last information caused Preble to 


decide that he would continue his operations with his 
own limited means. 

It was the 24th, however, before the weather per 
mitted the squadron to stand in again toward the town. 
The Constitution anchored in the evening just without 
the drop of the enemy s shot, and sent her boats to tow 
the bomb-vessels to their stations. Shells were thrown 
most of the night, the enemy not returning a gun. 
There is no doubt that the vessels were anchored too 
far off from their object, and that few of their missiles 
reached the points aimed at. 

On the 28th, Preble issued his orders for a combined 
attack by his whole force. On this occasion, the com 
modore determined to leave his bomb-vessels out of the 
affair, and to go to work with solid shot, and as close 
aboard as he could get. The gun-boats proceeded to 
their stations by midnight, so that they were soon close 
in with the rocks at the eastern entrance, where they 
had a partial protection under the reef, well assured 
the enemy s small craft would not dare to come near 
them, after the lesson they had received in the affair 
of the 3d. The gun-boats were covered by the Argus, 
Siren, Enterprise, Vixen, and Nautilus. Here the 
former anchored, and opened a heavy fire on the ship 
ping and works. At daylight the Constitution weighed 
and stood in, the enemy s batteries immediately turning 
most of their attention on her, as the largest and most 
formidable of their assailants. Preble found his own 
eight gun-boats quite closely engaged with the sixteen 
that were left to the enemy, as well as with their gal 
leys, and apprised that little ammunition remained in 
his own flotilla, he ordered it, by signal, to withdraw, 


while he occupied the attention of its foes with his own 
ship. The frigate soon sank one gun-boat, drove two 
on shore and scattered the rest. 

Preble did not haul off when this important service 
was rendered, but stood on until he was within musket- 
shot of the mole, where he backed his top-sail and lay 
near an hour, giving and taking, until all his small craft 
were safely out of harm s way. This was probably 
the hottest affair that had yet occurred. All the ves 
sels were more or less injured aloft, and many grape 
struck the frigate ; still the latter had not a man hurt ! 
The Constitution lost shrouds, back-stays, trusses, 
spring-stays, lifts, and a great deal of running rigging 
was cut, while her hull received very little damage. 
The Tripolitans suffered a good deal, and, among other 
accidents that happened on shore, Capt. Bainbridge was 
near being killed by one of the shot of his countrymen, 
which penetrated his prison, covering him with stones 
and debris. 

No further attack occurred until the 3d September, 
the interval having been employed in preparations. 
The enemy had not been idle, but had got up three of 
their boats which had been sunk in the previous affairs, 
and had added to their means of defence in other re 
spects. They had also learned some lessons from ex 
perience. Instead of remaining in front of the town 
to await the assault, a position which took every shot 
that missed them into the place itself, they got under 
way the moment they saw the Americans in motion, 
and worked up to the weather side of their own harbor, 
under Fort English and another battery in its neigh 
borhood, where they had also the benefit of some ex- 


tensive shoals to protect them against the brigs and 

This new disposition of the enemy s force compelled 
Preble to make a corresponding change in the dispo 
sition of his own. The only point favorable for bom 
barding was more to the westward, while the enemy s 
flotilla lay to the eastward. The commodore deter 
mined, therefore, to send all his light vessels to engage 
the Tripolitan flotilla, while he undertook the office of 
covering the bomb-vessels on himself. It having been 
ascertained that the range of the mortars was less than 
had been supposed, the two vessels were anchored 
nearer than on the former occasions, which left them a 
good deal exposed to the fire of the batteries. 

Decatur, who was now a captain, commanded to 
windward and pressed the enemy closely. The Tripo- 
litans stood his assault until the musketry began to tell, 
when they retired more up the harbor. A part of the 
American boats pressed the retreating flotilla, while the 
rest, covered by the brigs and schooners, engaged the 
works to windward. 

Preble now stood in with the frigate to cover his 
mortar vessels, and running quite near the rocks he 
hove to, at a point whence he could bring his broad 
side to bear on all the principal works ; but, at a point 
also where no less than seventy guns, principally those 
that were heavy, could, and did bear on him. The 
fire of Old Ironsides on this occasion greatly surpassed 
that of any previous attack, and was quite, in propor 
tion to the exposed position she was compelled to oc 
cupy. Preble threw more than three hundred round 
shot at the enemy, besides quantities of grape and 


canister, before he left his position, having previously 
directed the small vessels to retire. 

In the affair of the 3d, the gun-boats were an hour 
in action, during which time they threw four hundred 
round shot at the enemy ; averaging among the eight 
the large number of fifty shot for each gun. When 
the American squadron returned home, a Spanish 
nominal six-and-twenty, that belonged to one of the 
Tripolitan prizes, was shown, which was said to have 
been loaded and fired in this action near seventy times, 
as fast as it could be spunged, rammed home, and 
touched off. The small vessels all suffered more or 
less aloft, as a matter of course, and the Argus received 
some damage in her hull. The bomb- vessels were 
much crippled : one of them was near sinking, and she 
had all her rigging cut away. Preble was much 
pleased with the conduct of the whole squadron in this 

The Constitution was much exposed in the affair of 
the 3d September, and she did not escape altogether 
with impunity, though it was wonderful that she was 
so little injured. Her own heavy fire probably alone 
protected her from very serious damage. When it is 
remembered that she was opposed to quite double the 
number of guns she could herself bring to bear in broad 
side, and that these guns were fought behind masonry, 
the reader will at once understand the odds with which 
she had to contend. Although some recent events that 
have occurred in conflicts between the fleets of the most 
civilized nations of Europe and the water batteries of 
semi-civilized, if not of semi-barbarous nations, may 
lead the public mind astray on such matters, no truths 


of this nature are better established than the facts that 
ships cannot fight forts where there is a just proportion 
between their respective forces, as well as equality in 
other respects, and that forts cannot stop ships under 
similar circumstances. 

In addition to this general truth, Preble was obliged 
to fight his ship under marked disadvantages. The 
power of a ship in conflicts with batteries on the shore, 
is best exhibited when she can lie so close as to enable 
her concentrated fire to tell, and it is for this reason that 
the seaman always wishes to get his vessel as near to 
the work he is to attack, as possible. Could the Con 
stitution have been placed in close contact with any 
single work in Tripoli, there is little question that the 
close discharge of the thirty guns she then carried in 
broadside, would have soon demolished that particular 
work, while the enemy could have brought only some 
eight or ten guns, at most, to bear on her. But several 
reasons existed why Preble could not profit by this 
peculiar mode of securing advantages to vessels. It 
would not have done to risk his single ship, situated as 
he was at such a distance from home, in so close a 
struggle with an enemy so powerful. Then the reef 
so often mentioned, reduced him to the necessity either 
of coming to very close quarters within it, or of giving 
the castle, Fort English, and the other batteries of the 
Tripolitans, the great advantage of cannonading him at 
the distance of about a mile ; the very range for shot 
that such works would choose in repelling an attack 
from a ship, since their own missiles would penetrate 
wood, while those of the vessel would produce a very 
diminished effect on stone walls. In addition, a vessel 


at that distance, lying in front, would probably be ex 
posed to most of the fire of the place, at the same 

On the 3d September, the Constitution received the 
whole fire of Tripoli, while the small vessels were re 
tiring, and it is good cause of surprise that she hauled 
off herself with so little loss. As it was, three shells 
passed through her canvas, one of which hit the bolt- 
rope of the maintop-sail, and nearly tore the sail in two. 
Her rigging, both standing and running, was much cut 
by shot, as were her sails generally. Most of the 
damages, however, were temporarily repaired during 
the height of the action. 

Preble had now been just a month before Tripoli, 
with his whole force. During this brief space he had 
made no less than five attacks on the place,, four of 
which produced serious impressions. His own ship 
had been three times hotly engaged, rendering the most 
material service. Under ordinary men, this would 
have been thought sufficiently active service of itself, 
but it would never have satisfied Preble, had it been in 
his power to do more. The time between the 7th and 
the 24th August, rather more than .one-half of this 
month, was lost in fruitless expectation of the squadron 
under Com. Barron, and by the occurrence of a gale 
of wind. Thus, in point of fact, so far as the energies 
of the man were concerned, these five attacks should be 
considered as having occurred in fourteen working 
days. Even allowing time to repair damages, after the 
attack of the 7th, seventeen or eighteen of these busy 
days would be a liberal allowance. We dwell on these 
circumstances, as they are closely connected with 


Treble s character, and demonstrate its energy. That 
it belonged to his true character, is further proved by 
the pause he made when Capt. Chauncy s arrival gave 
him reason to suppose a strong reinforcement was near, 
for which he waited with patience, as most conducive 
to the true interests of his country. Many officers 
would have been aroused to renewed exertions, by the 
wish of earning all the laurels they could, previously to 
being superseded ; but no such motive influenced Pre- 
ble. On the contrary, he restrained his natural dispo 
sition to act, for the good of all, and only resumed the 
offensive when he found that the fine season was fast 
passing away in idleness. We see much to admire in 
Preble s short career as a commander, but we see no 
trait which so distinctly shows that he was governed 
purely by high and noble motives, as this pause in this 
otherwise ceaseless activity of mind and movement. 

By reference to our dates, the reader will see that 
the two first attacks on Tripoli occurred within four 
days of each other, and the three last within ten. 
Even while making these last assaults on the place, 
Preble was meditating the bold and serious project of 
sending in the Infernal, as the ketch Intrepid was not 
unaptly termed. We shall not go over again the de 
tails of this melancholy enterprise, which have already 
been given in our sketch of Somers, but confine our 
selves in the present article to the more immediate con 
nection of our subject with the event. 

The project of sending in a vessel like the Intrepid, 
to explode in the inner harbor of Tripoli, in the midst 
of all the shipping, was doubtless Preble s own. It 
was admirably conceived, and the preparations for it 


were made with the utmost care. The ketch had 
arrived from Malta with a cargo of fresh water, while 
the squadron was blown into the offing, and she was 
no sooner discharged than arrangements were com 
menced for this important service. 

Preble gave much of his own time and attention to 
the equipment of the ketch. Somers was with him 
repeatedly on the business, and not only did Preble use 
much caution in issuing his instructions, but he experi 
mented personally, with port-fires and other means of 
firing the train, in order to make sure that all the cal 
culations were strictly accurate. 

Even in recording this, the saddest of all the exploits 
as yet connected with American naval enterprise, we 
shall be excused for directing the attention of the reader 
to Treble s untiring activity. The last assault on the 
town had been made on the 3d of September ; the In 
trepid was sent in on the night of the 5th, making, in 
truth, six attacks in a month and one day. The 
country knows, that it was hoped the result of this at 
tempt would be to coerce the bashaw to treat as with 
an equal. During the forty years that have since rolled 
by, no new light has been thrown on the cause of the 
disaster. It is a secret with the brave thirteen who 
volunteered to man the ketch, and who perished to a 
man in the catastrophe. 

It is certain that Preble, in his officiqj narrative of 
the events before Tripoli, a well-written, manly, and 
seaman-like communication, it may be said in passing, 
gives it as his opinion that Somers and his party blew 
themselves up, in order to prevent falling into the 
hands of the enemy. He thought that one of the 
VOL. i. 20 


largest Tripolitan gun-boats was missing next morning, 
and the people of the port were seen hauling on shore 
three others that appeared to be much shattered. From 
these circumstances, Preble inferred that the large boat 
had boarded the ketch, and that the others were ap 
proaching to sustain her, when Somers, in conformity 
with a resolution previously expressed, blew himself 
up. Preble left the station so soon after the occurrence 
of the event itself, as to leave him little opportunity to 
ascertain the facts, and his report was made out as soon 
as he got to Malta. 

There is little doubt that the explosion of the Intrepid 
was the result of an accident, or was produced by the 
shot of the enemy. The batteries were firing at the 
time, and the Constitution keeping well in the offing, 
to prevent suspicion, the shot from a gun inside the 
ketch might very well have hit its object before its re 
port reached the frigate, not having a tenth of the dis 
tance to go. These circumstances may have blended 
the two reports, that of the explosion and that of the 
gun, in one. Some untoward accident may have oc 
curred inboard. Had a shot passed through the ketch 
and hit a nail, or a bolt, it might very well have pro 
duced an explosion on board a vessel into which powder 
had been started in bulk. The gun-boat that blew up 
in the action of the 7th August was probably struck by 
a cold shot, although Preble naturally enough supposed 
it, at the time, to have been a hot shot ; there being no 
other proof that the Tripolitans used hot shot at all. 

But the journal of Bainbridge sets at rest the ques 
tion, so far as the loss of the enemy was concerned. 
He says distinctly that the explosion did no injury 


whatever. He then enumerates the number of the 
dead, and the places where they were found. The 
dead were just thirteen, corresponding exactly with 
the number of persons in the ketch. Preble had in 
tended that number to be only twelve, viz., two officers 
and ten men ; but a third officer, Lieut. Israel, smug 
gled himself on board the ketch, increasing the party 
by one. Now Bainbridge recorded all these particu 
lars at the time, and before he knew any thing of the 
character of the ketch, who were in her, or any thing 
beyond the facts of the loss, and the finding of the 
bodies. Had any Turks been killed, their bodies would 
also have been found ; but thirteen alone were ascer 
tained to have been destroyed. It is true that the 
bodies could not be distinguished, some of them scarce 
retaining the vestiges of humanity, rendering it diffi 
cult, in some of the cases, to say whether the sufferer 
were a Christian or a Mahommedan ; but the exact cor 
respondence of the number found, with the number 
known to have been in the ketch, and the well ascer 
tained fact that the Intrepid had hot reached her point 
of destination by several hundred yards, would seem to 
dispose of the question entirely. Preble was mistaken, 
beyond a doubt. No Turk was injured, nor was any 
damage done to the shipping of the port. The gun 
boats that were seen hauling up, were probably 
damaged in the attack of the previous day, and the one 
that had disappeared may have shifted her berth, as one 
locks the stable after the horse has been stolen. It is 
possible that one of the boats nearest the ketch may 
have been sunk, but none of the prisoners in Tripoli 
appear to have heard of any damage whatever, that 



was done the enemy. As Dr. Cowdery, in particular, 
was permitted to go a good deal at large, and even 
Bainbridge got very accurate information through the 
Danish Consul, it is hardly possible any serious damage 
could have been done, and they not learn it. 

Preble s anxiety was intense, the whole of the night 
of the 4th. On the morning of the 5th, however, his 
narrative-journal commences with the following cha 
racteristic paragraph : " We were employed in sup 
plying the gun-boats with ammunition, &c., and 
repairing the bomb-vessels for another attack," &c. 
The weather compelled him to relinquish thjs design; 
and on the 7th, the season showed so many evidences 
of its character, that he ordered the guns, mortars, shot 
and shells to be taken out of the Neapolitan craft and 
his prizes, and sent the vessels themselves to Syracuse, 
thus effectually bringing the attacking system to a close 
for that year. The John Adams, Siren, Nautilus, and 
Enterprise, were sent to tow these craft into port, leav 
ing Preble, in the Constitution, with the Argus and 
Vixen in company, to -maintain the blockade. 

It is impossible to say what the resources and energy 
of a mind like that of Preble s might have dictated, had 
he remained long, with even this diminished force, near 
his enemy. Something he would have attempted, be 
yond a question, though we have no clue to his inten 
tions, nor do we know that any were yet formed. On 
the 10th September, or quite a month later than Preble 
had been induced to expect him, Com. Barren hove in 
sight, in the President 44, having the Constellation 38, 
Capt. Campbell, in company. There being now a 
senior officer present, Preble sailed on the 12th for 



Malta, where he soon after relinquished the command 
of the Constitution. 

Had the arrangements for sending the reinforcement 
been made after the government was apprised of Preble s 
spirited operations before Tripoli, it is probable some 
means would have been devised to leave him still in 
command. The thing might have been done, easily 
enough, though the excuse for sending a senior captain 
was the smallness of the list. It is more probable that 
the solicitations of officers at home, and the influence of 
that principle which is so active in the country, rotation 
in office, and which is sufficiently vicious as practised 
in civil affairs, but which is fatal to any thing like mili 
tary success, on a scale large enough to meet the wants 
or to satisfy the pride of a great nation, were at the 
bottom of the change. When Rodgers assembled his 
whole force in the bay of Tunis, the succeeding year, 
then the largest squadron that was ever collected under 
the flag, he had but four captains present, including him 
self; and by substituting the name of Preble for that 
of Rodgers, this force could have been commanded by 
one of these officers as well as by the other. The three 
junior captains, James Barren, Campbell and Decatur, 
were all younger than Preble. But these things were 
not thought of at the time, and two seniors were sent 
*out to the station, a circumstance that induced Preble 
to come home. He accordingly sailed for Syracuse, in 
the Argus, which place he reached on the 24th Sep 
tember. Finding Decatur here, he ordered him to 
Malta, to take charge of his own frigate, feeling a deep 
gratification in being able to bestow so fine a ship on an 
officer who had so brilliantly distinguished himself. 


Preble had still a great deal to do before he left the 
Mediterranean, though relieved from his command. 
His accounts were to be settled, and they occupied him 
several weeks ; especially as the duty carried him to 
Malta, Syracuse, Messina, and Palermo. Barron, too, 
had occasion for his services. Preble had gone on 
board the John Adams 28, Captain Chauncy, late in 
October, and having closed up his affairs at Palermo, 
he sailed for Naples, December 2d, in order to ascertain 
if he could not obtain additional and better vessels, from 
the Neapolitan government, for the ensuing season. 
The negotiation failed, and he sailed for home, Decem 
ber 23d. The ship called in at Gibraltar, and visited 
Tangiers, in order to see if all remained tranquil in that 
quarter. Finding nothing to detain him, the commo 
dore proceeded on, anchoring at New York, February 
26th, 1805. He repaired to Washington, with as little 
delay as possible, which place he reached the day of 
Mr. Jefferson s second inauguration, or March 4th, 1805. 

Thus terminated the celebrated cruise of Preble, after 
an absence from home of only -one year, six months and 
twelve days. Its operations having been stated already, 
with sufficient minuteness, it remains only to add a few 
particulars, and to speak of its effects, not only on the 
country, and on the Barbary Powers, but on the civi 
lized world. On the country, the effect was to induce 
it to love and cherish its marine, of which it now became 
justly proud. It was something for a nation, whose 
political independence had not been acknowledged but 
one-and-twenty years, to carry on a war four thousand 
miles from home, and to make so deep an inroad upon 
what had been the settled policy of Europe for ages. 


Previously to Preble s quitting his command, the ba 
shaw was willing to relinquish all claims to tribute, for 
ever, and, in the peace that shortly succeeded, this relic 
of a barbarous policy was totally abandoned. Tunis 
submitted to a similar provision the same year, and 
Algiers followed on the first occasion. There is no 
question that the general abolition of tribute, and of the 
system of making slaves of Christians captured in war, 
was but the direct consequence of the vigor and spirit 
manifested by Preble before the town of Tripoli. The 
Pope, whose coasts were peculiarly exposed to ravages 
from the corsairs of Africa, and are lined by towers 
built expressly to repel their inroads, publicly declared 
that the Americans had done more to suppress the law 
lessness of the Barbarians, than all the rest of Christen 
dom united ! 

The effect of Preble s discipline on the navy was in 
the highest degree beneficial. No complaints were 
made of vessels not doing their duty, in presence of 
the enemy, as so often happens in naval warfare. His 
squadron got into no confusion, and no excuses were 
heard of a want of preparation. He had inspired his 
subordinates with such a spirit, that the signal for battle 
was looked for with eagerness ; and, once flying, every 
man knew his station, and he occupied it with certainty 
and despatch. Preble commanded his squadron ; and 
so thoroughly was every man in it sensible of this fact, 
that his overseeing eye was sufficient to ensure obe 
dience. In this particular, no naval force was probably 
ever in better condition than the little squadron under 
his orders. When Preble left it, it was like a band of 
brothers ; but, in a few months, it was torn to pieces by 


factions. It is true that a portion of these dissensions 
might have been the natural consequence of bringing 
together men from different squadrons, but there is no 
question that Preble had the faculty of imparting to his 
inferiors such a sympathy in his own ardent desire to 
advance the duty on which he was employed, as to 
place country before self. Nothing could be less alike, 
in this respect, than the squadron Preble left behind 
him, on quitting Tripoli, and that which was to be found 
there six months later. 

The effect produced on the Barbary Powers, by Pre- 
ble s service before Tripoli, as it was connected with 
the treaties that succeeded, has already been incident 
ally mentioned. Since the year 1804, a trifling instance 
to the contrary during the war with England excepted, 
the American name and American rights have been 
respected on all of that inhospitable coast. The ice 
was broken, and the Turk had learned to respect the 
prowess of a distant, and, as he had imagined, a feeble 
people. England herself had not so great a name among 
these semi-barbarians, as that Preble had purchased for 
his country. 

It is proper to mention the loss with which Preble 
effected so much. Between the 3d August, when he 
fired the first gun at the Tripolitans, and the 4th Sep 
tember, when he may be said to have fired the last, the 
Americans had only thirty men killed, and twenty-four 
wounded ; making a total of fifty-four casualties. 
Among the slain were one master and commander, 
four lieutenants, and one midshipman. Among the 
wounded, one captain and one lieutenant. Compared 
to the magnitude of the services performed, and the re- 


suits obtained, this may be taken as a demonstration of 
the prudence and judgment manifested in conducting 
the different attacks. 

When Preble left the station, the officers who had 
served under him addressed to him a letter, that was 
intended to convey their high sense of his character and 
services. Such letters are usually improper, and, in 
deed, ought not to be received ; but this originated in a 
generous motive the fact that Preble had been super 
seded in command appearing to call for some testimony 
from that quarter. The communication was short, but 
it said all that such a document could well say. Preble 
was not only not liked at the commencement of the 
cruise, he was almost hated, by many under his orders, 
on account of the hotness of his temper, and the tight 
ness of the hand he held over them. But if Preble were 
passionate, he was just. The merit of every man was 
observed, appreciated, and rewarded. Coupling this 
high feeling with his military qualities, respect had 
ripened into esteem, and it may be questioned if the 
commodore left an enemy behind him when he sailed 
from Syracuse, the Tripolitans excepted. The letter 
in question was signed by one captain, (Decatur,) four 
commanders, two lieutenants commandant, twenty-four 
lieutenants, five masters, eight surgeons, five pursers, 
three marine officers, and the only chaplain there was.* 

* The names of the senior officers have appeared sufficiently often 
in this sketch to render them familiar, but the reader may like to 
know who were the younger lieutenants that served under Preble 
in this war. They and their subsequent fates were as follows, viz. : 

Gordon, died a captain, 1817. 

Tarbell, do. do. 1815. 

Elbert, died a lieutenant, 1812. 

Morris, now a commodore. 

Reed, died a lieutenant, 1812. 


At Washington, Preble was consulted by the govern 
ment, and he recommended it to build suitable bomb- 
ketches, and to cause some heavy gun-boats to be con 
structed, especially in reference to the present war. 
Both were done ; the duty of superintending the build 
ing of the ketches being assigned to himself. On in 
quiry, finding he could not get the ketches ready in 
time for the expected operations before Tripoli, he was 
authorized to purchase two substantial vessels, and have 
them fitted with mortars ; thus extending his duty against 
the enemy to this country. The bomb-vessels and gun 
boats were sent out in the spring of 1805, and all but 
one arrived in safety ; though peace was concluded 
previously to their reaching the station. This peace, 

Dexter, died a commander, 1818. 

Bennet, died a lieutenant, 1810. 

Nicholson, resigned, 1810. 

Lawrence, killed a captain, 1813. 

Bainbridge, died a captain, 1824. 

Thorn, blown up, 1810. 
M Donough died a commodore, 1825. 
Carroll, resigned a commander. 

Maxwell, died a lieutenant, 1806. 

Burrows, killed a master com. 1813. 

Spence, died a captain, 1827. 

Van Schaick. resigned, 1807. 

Trippe, died a lieutenant com. 1810. 
Crane, now a commodore. 

Reed, died a master com. 1813. 
Ridgely, now a commodore. 

Izard, resigned, 1810. 

Has well, do. 1810. 

Marcellin, died, 1810. 

Thus, of these twenty-four lieutenants, who served under Pre 
ble, between the 3d August and the 4th September, 1804, only 
three remain in the navy, and only three are believed to be living. 
Among the list of names that signed the letter to Preble, we can 
discover but one more (Stewart) that has not departed for the other 
world. It is much the same even with the midshipmen, not one 
now remaining in service, unless it be the present Commodore 
Cassin, who was then an acting master. 


it should never be forgotten, was the consequence of the 
spirited operations of the summer of 1804 ; the Tripo- 
litans not deeming it prudent to await the results of the 
operations of a force so much larger, in the summer of 

Preble had received much kindness from Sir Alex 
ander Ball, one of Nelson s captains, who had been 
made governor of Malta. This excellent officer, and 
amiable man, had expressed a wish to procure two 
fishing-smacks, of the American build, and Preble took 
this occasion to purchase two, which were carried to 
Malta, and delivered to the admiral, who received them, 
not as presents, but by paying for them, at their original 

Preble had a proper sensibility on the subject of his 
being superseded, as well as a just appreciation of the 
worth of Sir Alexander Ball s good opinion. He 
accordingly sent to that officer a copy of the letter he 
had received from the secretary of the Navy, wherein 
that high functionary explained the necessity, or what 
he conceived to be the necessity, of sending to the Me 
diterranean two captains senior to himself. In reply to 
Preble s letter, Ball says "I have communicated this 
to all I know. They join me in regretting that an of 
ficer whose talents and professional abilities have been 
justly appreciated, and whose manners and conduct 
eminently fit him for so high a command, should be 
removed from it." 

In another letter, in reply to a communication of his 
thanks for services received from Preble, Ball says 
"I beg to repeat my congratulations on the services 
you have rendered your country," &c. "If I were to 
offer my humble opinion, it would be that you have 


done well in not purchasing a peace with money a 
few brave men have been sacrificed, but they could not 
have fallen in a better cause ; and I conceive it better 
to risk more lives, than to submit to terms that might 
encourage the Barbary States to add fresh demands and 

Preble s exertions and services were not forgotten by 
the nation. Congress voted him, and, through him, to 
the officers and men who had served under his orders, 
their solemn thanks. It also voted a suitable medal in 
gold to the commodore, and swords to various officers, 
who had distinguished themselves in the different 
affairs. As this resolution was approved by the Presi 
dent, March 5th, 1805, on the day after Preble reached 
Washington, it must have been so timed in order to 
give him a suitable, and no doubt a most gratifying, 
greeting on reaching the seat of government. 

As for the nation itself, its reception of Preble par 
took of none of those noisy demonstrations of joy that 
have attended the return of other successful officers ; 
but his services made a very deep impression. The 
character he had acquired, through deeds that demanded 
more of intellect than is usual in the mere combats of 
ships, partook of its own peculiarity, and he was re 
garded as an officer who had manifested some of the 
higher qualities of his profession, rather than simply as 
a bold and skilful sea-captain. 

The impression made by Preble at Washington 
would seem to have been particularly favorable. In 
1806, if not earlier, Jefferson offered him a seat in his 
cabinet, by wishing to place him at the head of the 
Navy Department. It would seem that there is no 
doubt of this fact, as well as that the offer was subse- 


quently renewed. The President had become sensible 
of the necessity of a considerable navy, and wished to 
reorganize that of this country under the advice of an 
officer of whom he had formed so favorable an opinion. 
Preble, at first, declined ; but several officers of rank 
urging him to accept, among the foremost of whom was 
Decatur, he felt disposed to comply. Had it not been 
for the state of his health, which now began to give 
way seriously, under the derangement of the digestive 
organs, it is supposed he would have been put at the 
head of the department in question. In making up his 
mind to accept this civil appointment, we have no 
means of knowing whether it was, or was not, the in 
tention of Preble to lay down his commission as a sea- 
officer. As he always manifested a strong attachment 
to his original profession, it is probable he would have 
retained his rank in the navy, there being nothing con 
trary to law, or nothing incompatible in the duties, in 
placing a soldier, or a sailor, at the head of his own 
particular branch of civil control, but much that is to 
the contrary. Carnot, when only a captain of engi 
neers, directed the movements and organization of all 
the armies of France, returning to his modest rank, 
after the duty had been admirably performed. It is to 
the credit of both Jefferson and Preble, that when the 
former offered, and the latter consented to accept a seat 
in the cabinet, the two were opposed to each other in 
their politics. The good of the navy was their common 

Ill health, however, prevented Preble from rendering 
this additional service to his country. His malady as 
sumed the character of a wasting consumption, and in 

VOL. I. 21 


the summer of 1807, the symptoms became so alarming 
as to give cause to apprehend an early and a fatal 
termination. His last remedy appears to have been a 
short trip to sea, but it proved of no avail, and in August 
he returned to his native place, Portland, to die. The 
brother next him- in years, who was also a seaman, 
though in the merchant service, was the closest in feel 
ing of all Preble s blood relations. This brother at 
tended him much in his last illness, and to this brother 
were Preble s last words addressed. They were 
"Give me your hand, Enoch I m going give me 
your hand." His death occurred August the 25th, 
1807 ; and, consequently, when he was just turned of 
forty-six years of age. 

Commodore Preble left a widow, who still survives, 
and an only child, a son. This child was a mere 
infant at his father s death. He was subsequently 
educated at one of the Eastern colleges, and at Gottingen 
in Germany. When he reached the proper age, go 
vernment sent him the appointment of a midshipman, 
but it was declined for him, by his mother. This son 
still survives, and may perpetuate the line of his dis 
tinguished parent. 

In person, Preble, like his father and most of his 
family, was a man of imposing presence. He was 
about six feet in height, though rather of an active than 
of a large frame. Still he was sufficiently muscular, 
and the style of his personal appearance was a union 
of gentleman-like outline, with size and force. In uni 
form, he was a striking figure. His countenance varied 
with his feelings, and altogether he would be consi 
dered, in any part of the world, a man of mark. 

Much has been said of the temper of Preble, and 

EDWARD P R E B L E. 243 

some allusion has been made to it here. Certainly it 
was bad, in the ordinary meaning of the term ; though 
disease had probably a full share in producing it. By 
nature, he was quick, and in early life impetuous even ; 
but he was said to be affectionate and kind in all the 
domestic relations. His friends were much attached to 
him, and no man of a bad heart can secure the love of 
intimates. Many anecdotes are told in connection with 
this quickness of temper, one of which was circulated 
with much gusto by the young men of his squadron, 
who had suffered themselves, from time to time, by his 
bursts of passion. The vessels had not a sufficient 
number of medical men, and Preble was induced to 
engage a Sicilian, to whom he gave a temporary acting 
appointment, as a surgeon s mate. This person was to 
assist in, or to take charge of, the hospital established 
at Syracuse. When the preliminaries were settled, 
the doctor inquired if it would be proper for him to 
wear a uniform. To this Preble answered, certainly ; 
it was expected that every officer should appear in the 
livery prescribed by law. It was understood the doctor 
would equip himself, and return next day to receive his 
orders. At the appointed hour, and while Preble was 
in his dressing-gown shaving, an officer was ushered 
in, wearing a richly laced coat, a cocked hat, and tivo 
epaulettes. At first the commodore could not recognise 
this personage. He saw the American button, but he 
himself was the only man on the station authorized to 
wear two epaulettes. Commanders then only wore 
one, on the right shoulder ; and lieutenants, one on the. 
left. After bowing, and looking his surprise, Preble 
recognised his Sicilian surgeon s mate in this exag 
gerated guise. Terrible was the burst of passion that 


followed ! Preble profoundly deferred to military rank, 
and was very particular in respecting all its claims. 
To have a Sicilian surgeon s mate thus desecrate a 
captain s uniform was more than he could stand ; and 
the very first outbreak of his passion set the poor Si 
cilian on the jump. Preble gave chase, in the hope of 
helping him down stairs, by a posterior application, and 
the scene is said to have come to its climax in the street. 
The man was so frightened as never to return. 

But these were infirmities that sink into insignifi 
cance when we come to consider the higher qualities 
of Preble. His career in the present navy was so 
short, and the greater portion of it kept him so much 
aloof from the body of his brother officers, that we must 
look to some unusual cause for the great influence he 
obtained while living, and the lasting renown he has 
left attached to his name, now he is dead. If the few 
days passed in visits, during which nothing ostensible 
was done, be excepted, Preble was only forty-two days 
before Tripoli, altogether. In that time he captured 
nothing, excluding the three gun-boats taken in the first 
attack, nor did he meet with any of that brilliant suc 
cess which carries away men s imaginations, making 
the result the sole test of merit, without regard to the 
means by which it was obtained. Still it may be 
questioned if any other name in American naval annals 
has as high a place in the estimation of the better class 
of judges, as that of Preble. Decatur performed many 
more brilliant personal exploits ; the victory of M Do- 
nough, besides standing first on the score of odds and 
magnitude, possesses the advantage of bringing in its 
train far more important immediate consequences than 
any other naval achievement of the country ; yet it may 


be doubted if the intelligent do not give to Preble a 
place in the scale of renown, still higher than that oc 
cupied by either of these heroes. Hull broke the 
charm of a long-established and imposing invincibility, 
} et no man competent to judge of merit of this nature, 
would think of comparing Hull to Preble, though the 
latter virtually never took a ship. The names of 
neither Lawrence, Bainbridge, nor Perry, will ever be 
placed by the discriminating at the side of that of Pre 
ble, though tenfold more has been written to exalt the 
renown of either, than has been written in behalf of 
Preble. They, themselves, would have deferred to the 
superiority of the old Mediterranean commodore, and 
neither would probably dream of placing his own name 
on a level with that of Preble s. Chauricy, out of all 
question, occupied the most arduous and responsible 
station ever yet filled by an American naval com 
mander, and Preble never performed more gallant per 
sonal deeds than Chauncy, or showed higher resolution 
in face of his enemy ; yet Chauncy always spoke of 
Preble as men name their admitted superiors ! Paul 
Jones alone can claim to be placed on the same eleva 
tion as to resources and combinations, but few who are 
familiar with the details of the events connected with 
both, would think of placing even Jones fairly at Pre 
ble s side. There was a compactness, a power of com 
bination, an integrity of command, and a distinctness 
of operations about Preble s memorable month, that 
Jones justly renowned cruise did not exhibit. . It will 
be vain to contend that Jones materials were bad, and 
that his inferiors could scarcely be called his subordi 
nates. There may have been much truth in this, but 


Jones cruise showed high resolution and far-reaching 
views, rather than the ability to control, combine and 
influence, the qualities that Preble so eminently pos 
sessed. Landais would never have deserted Preble 
twice ; he would have had him out of his ship and 
Dale in his place, for the first offence. Stewart, who, 
with a singularly equal temper, has caught his old 
commander s tact at making himself obeyed, would 
have managed to get the Frenchman out of the Alliance 
before he had effected one half of the mischief of which 
he was the cause. 

There can be little doubt that some portion of Pre- 
ble s reputation is owing to the place he filled in the 
order of time, as connected with the formation of the 
present marine. This of itself, however, would not 
have built up a permanent name, and the subsequent 
exploits of M Donough, Decatur, Lawrence, Biddle, 
Blakely, &c., would have been certain to throw it in 
the shade. We must look to something more than this 
priority as to time, for the credit our subject has ob 
tained. We think the solution of the difficulty will be 
found by making the brief analysis of his services, with 
which we shall conclude this sketch. 

Preble was sent into a distant sea to act against an 
enemy who was but little understood at home, and 
under instructions from a cabinet that gave itself 
scarcely any concern about naval operations of any 
sort. The most that can be said of the naval adminis 
tration of this country for the first ten years of the 
century, is to admit that it was liberal to the officers, 
and sufficiently well disposed to carry out the laws ; 
but, as a directing spirit capable of wielding the force 
committed to its care with activity and intelligence, it 


did not then, nor has it since existed in any emergency. 
In an intellectual, professional sense, the navy has 
scarcely had a head, nor is it likely to possess one 
while the selections of its chiefs are made from among 
state-court lawyers, ex-masters of merchant vessels, and 
politicians by trade. 

Under such circumstances, an officer is sent with a 
very insufficient force to compel a prince of Barbary to 
conclude a peace on honorable and equal terms. The 
small vessels placed under his orders, though admirably 
adapted to blockading Tripoli, were of very little ser 
vice in making attacks on the place. Had Decatur 
never quitted his six pounder schooner, the Enterprise, 
we probably should not have heard of her name in con 
nection with this war. The same is true of Somers 
and the Nautilus. In a word, the use that could alone 
be made of five of the six vessels Preble possessed in 
the moment of action, was to blockade the port, to cover 
his flotilla, a power created solely by himself, and to 
employ their officers and people in such service as he 
could create for them in emergencies. Useful as these 
little cruisers might be, and were, in certain portions 
of the duty, they were of very little account as part of 
the assailing force. 

Insufficient as were his means originally. Preble was 
met, even before he had reached the scene of action, 
by the unpleasant tidings that these means were di 
minished quite one-third, through the accidental loss 
of one of his frigates. Not only did this loss subtract 
from his own force, but it added almost in an equal 
degree to that of the enemy. The Philadelphia was a 
stout eighteen pounder frigate, and used as a floating 
battery only, and equally well fought, she would have 



proven almost a counterpoise to the only battering ship 
Preble now had. This he saw, and he took his mea 
sures early to destroy her. The instructions given to 
Decatur on that occasion, prove how fully Preble s 
mind was impressed with all the contingencies of such 
an enterprise; how clearly he foresaw success, and 
how far he wished to improve it. The possibility of 
converting the Intrepid into a fire-ship, was calculated,* 
and orders given accordingly. The sudden shifting of 
the wind rendered it impossible to profit by this hint ; 
but the order itself shows how fully and comprehen 
sively Preble understood the matters he had in hand. 
Decatur was ordered to take fixed ammunition for the 
Philadelphia s guns, and to use them against the town, 
should it be in his power. He found these guns loaded, 
and the flames drove him out of the ship ; but they did 
a part of the duty of gunners for him. On the destruc 
tion of this ship depended the success of the approach 
ing season, in a word, and Preble laid his plan and 
chose his agent accordingly. The success was as much 
his, as success ever belongs to the head that conceives and 
combines, when the hand is not employed to execute. 

This accomplished, Preble commenced that scene of 
active preparation of which we have already endeavored 
to give the reader some idea. Nearly all the available 
force that could be employed against Tripoli, was to be 
created four thousand miles from home, with one hand, 

* In his instructions to Decatur, Preble uses these words, viz : 
" Make your reireat good with the Intrepid, if possible, unless you 
can make her the means of destroying the tnemy s vessels in the 
harbor, by converting her into a fire-ship for that, purpose, and re 
treating in your boats and those of the Siren. You must take 
fixed ammunition and apparatus for the frigate 1 s eighteen pound 
ers ; nnd if you can, without risking too much, you may endeavor to 
make them the instruments of destruction to the shipping and ba 
shaw s castle. 1 


while the dissatisfied Barbary States were to be held in 
check with the other. 

This scene of preparatory activity ended, the new 
one began, of attacking stone wails and a strong flotilla, 
with a single frigate ; a twenty-four pounder ship, it is 
true, but supported only by six very badly constructed 
gun-boats. The batteries had many heavy pieces, and 
the three boats captured on the 3d August, mounted 
nominal twenty-sixes, which threw shot that weighed 
twenty-nine pounds. At this time all the heavy Ame 
rican shot fell two or three pounds short of their nominal 
weight. Against these odds, then, Preble had to con 
tend. Nevertheless he had his advantages. His enemy 
possessed no accurate gunners, and were otherwise 
deficient in the resources of an advanced civilization. 
Under these circumstances, Preble risked just as much 
as was prudent. So nicely balanced were his move 
ments between extreme audacity and the most wary 
and seaman-like caution, that we never find a vessel of 
any sort exposed without a sufficient object, or, an 
accident excepted, exposed in vain. His operations 
commenced, nothing checked their vigor but the most 
discreet forbearance. When Barren was hourly ex 
pected, he paused with a magnanimity that in itself 
denoted a high and loyal character ; but when the dire 
calamity occurred to Somers, and when Caldwell was 
blown up, he went to work the next hour, as it might 
be, to push his operations, just as if nothing unusual 
had occurred. Under the most disadvantageous cir 
cumstances, and with cruelly insufficient means, he 
lowered the pretensions of his enemy one half, in ten 
days, and had brought them down to next to nothing by 
the end of a month ! We say cruelly insufficient 


means, for, in effect, the Constitution alone, with her 
thirty guns in broadside, had frequently to contend with 
more than a hundred guns in batteries. 

But, no better circumstance can be cited in favor of 
Preble s professional character and conduct, than the 
hold he obtained on the minds of his officers. Person 
ally, they had much to induce them to dislike him ; yet, 
we cannot recall an instance in which we have ever 
heard one of them find any fault with the least of his 
movements. All seem to think that every thing that 
was done was done for the best. We hear no com 
plaints of injudicious or unreasonable operations ; and 
what is still more unusual in combined movements, of 
commanders who did not do their whole duty. In 
equality of conduct and of services is one of the com 
monest occurrences in all extended operations, by sea or 
land. We hear tales and anecdotes of this sort, as con 
nected with McDonough s and Perry s victories, as 
connected with Chauncy s various manoeuvres and bat 
tles, but none in relation to Preble and his command. 
Every man in his squadron knew and felt that he was 
governed ; though it is not improbable that Preble was, 
in a degree, aided in the exercise of his authority, by 
the fact that an entire grade existed between his own 
rank and that of all of his commanders. A stronger prac 
tical argument in favor of the creation of admirals cannot 
be cited, than the manner in which Preble held all his 
vessels in hand, during his operations against Triploi. 
Still his own character had the most connection with 
the result ; and even to this hour, old men who have 
since commanded squadrons themselves, speak of his 
discipline with a shake of the head, as if they still felt 
its influence. 


Follow Preble from his scene of glory to his native 
land, and we find him appreciated by many of the 
highest intellects of the republic. His mind was used, 
even across the Atlantic, in arranging future operations 
against the enemy ; and so much was his advice 
esteemed, and his counsel coveted, that he is finally 
invited to preside over the branch of the public service 
to which he belonged. Such would have been his des 
tiny had not death intervened. 

One cannot but regret that Preble did not survive, 
with all his powers, until after the occurrence of the 
last English war. Nothing was more apparent than 
the want of combination and intelligent wielding of 
force on the Atlantic, that was exhibited throughout the 
whole of those important years ; and we cannot but 
think, had Preble s capacity and energy been brought 
to bear on the service, he would have shown something 
more than brilliant isolated combats, as the result of 
even the small means that could have been placed at 
his control. He would then have been second in rank 
in the navy, as to all practical purposes, and must have 
been intrusted with one of the largest squadrons. His 
last moments were said to have been embittered by re 
grets for the affair between the Leopard and Chesa 
peake, and he always retained a sort of revolutionary 
predilection for meeting the English. 

Preble s influence on the discipline of the service was 
of a valuable and lasting nature. Until his time, the 
men of the present navy were little accustomed to act 
in concert, and some of the previous attempts had not 
been attended with very flattering results. Officers 
would obey at every hazard, it is true, as Stewart did 
when he went to sea in the Experiment, towing out his 


main-mast after him, in consequence of a petulant order 
from Truxtun, but they had not been taught to repress 
their own ardor, to yield their own opinions to those of 
their superiors, in face of an enemy, in order to present 
a combined and available front, until Preble gave them 
the severe, but salutary lesson. 

It is probable that the marine of this country, long 
ere the close of this century, will become one of the 
most powerful the world has yet seen. With a rate 
of increase that will probably carry the population of 
the nation up to sixty millions, within the next fifty 
years, a commerce and tonnage that will be fully in 
proportion to these numbers, no narrow policy, or spu 
rious economy, can well prevent such a result. In that 
day, when the opinions of men shall have risen in some 
measure to the level of the stupendous facts by which 
they will be surrounded, the world will see the fleets 
of the republic, feel their influence on its policy, and 
hear of the renown of admirals who are yet unborn ; 
for the infatuated notion that wars are over, is a chimera 
of speculative moralists, who receive their own wishes 
as the inductions of reason. In that day, all the earlier 
facts of the national career will be collected with care, 
and preserved with veneration. Among the brightest 
of those which will be exhibited connected with the 
deeds of that infant navy out of which will have grown 
the colossal power that then must wield the trident of 
the seas, will stand prominent the forty days of the Tri- 
politan w r ar, crowded with events that are inseparable 
from the name and the renown of Edward Preble. 















Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846, by 

in the Clerk s Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 






PERRY 146 

DALE . 233 

Lith- , ..MiwtJii- . ill, jVasscu .ff, .// 



FEW names connected with the American marine 
have so much claim to celebrity as that of the subject 
of this sketch. His services were of a character so bold 
and romantic, the means he employed were seemingly 
so inadequate to the ends he had in view, and his suc 
cess, on one occasion in particular, was so very brilliant as 
to have given rise, on the part of his political and per 
sonal enemies, to much unmerited and bitter calumny, 
while his admirers and friends have been induced to 
lean a little too strongly to the side of eulogy and un- 
discriminating praise. As the matter of the life and 
character of this distinguished officer has been frequently 
the subject of comment in biographies, of more or less 
merit, within the last few years, and a great mass of 
evidence has been produced to remove the veil which 
was so long drawn before his early years, this is per 
haps the time when an attempt may best be made to 
arrive at a just appreciation of the deeds of the officer, 
and of the quallities of the man. In assuming this task, 
we shall avail ourselves of such of the best authenticated 
\* 5 


facts that offer, reasoning for ourselves on their results 
and principles. 

There are no longer any doubts thrown over the 
birth and early life of Paul Jones. His grandfather was 
a regular gardener, in the neighborhood of Leith, of the 
name of Paul. His father, John Paul, was apprenticed 
to the same trade, and at the expiration of his indentures 
he entered into the service of Mr. Craik, of Arbigland,* 
in which situation he passed the remainder of his days. 
We have the assertion of Jones himself, that there 
never existed any connection between the Earl of Sel 
kirk and his father, as has been long and generally 
asserted ; and we may add, the present head of that 
noble family has assured the writer of this article that 
the Pauls were never in the service of his grandfather. 

John Paul, the gardener of Craik, of Arbigland, mar 
ried Jean Macduff, the daughter of a small farmer in 
the parish of New Abbey. Seven children were the 
fruits of this connection, two of which died in infancy. 
John was the youngest of the remaining five. William, 
the eldest of the family, left Scotland at an early age, 
and finally married and settled at Fredericksburg, in 
Virginia. He was the principal cause of subsequently 
attracting his distinguished brother to America. The 
daughters were Elizabeth, Janet, and Mary Ann. The 
first never married ; the second became the wife of a 
watchmaker in Dumfries, of the name of Taylor ; and 
the third had two husbands, the first of whom was 

* Craik, of Arbigland, was a man of extensive scientific and lite 
rary attainments, as well as of large fortune. It may have interest 
with the American reader, to learn that Washington s friend and 
physician, Dr. James Craik, was a natural son of this gentleman. 
* j 

J H N P A U L J N E S. 7 

named Young, and the second Loudon. Several of the 
descendants of these sisters came to America, where 
some of them are now living. 

John, the fifth and youngest surviving child of this 
humble family, was born July 6th, 1747, at Arbigland, 
in the parish of Kirkbean, Scotland. His early educa 
tion was such as marked his condition, in a country 
like the land of his birth. It was plain, substantial, 
and moral. The boy appears to have improved his 
limited opportunities, however, for while his taste, sen 
timents and language, in after-life, betray the exagge 
ration of an imperfect instruction, his handwriting, 
orthography, and principles, prove that the essentials 
had not been neglected. Still, the acquirements he 
obtained at school could not have been great, for we find 
him regularly apprenticed to the sea at the age of twelve. 
His master was a Mr. Younger, a merchant in the 
American trade, and a resident of Whitehaven, a port 
at the entrance of the Solway, in the adjoining kingdom 
of England. 

Thus far, there was nothing unusual in the career 
of the boy. He neither ran away to go to sea, nor did 
any thing to throw a tinge of romance around this 
period of his life. His first voyage was to America ; 
with which country his personal connection may be 
said to have commenced at the age of thirteen. The 
vessel in which he sailed was the Friendship, of White- 
haven, Benson master, and her destination the Rap- 
pahannock. Here he found his brother William estab 
lished, and, while in port, young Paul became an inmate 
of his house. 

Jones manifested great aptitude for his profession, 


and soon acquired all that portion of seamanship that is 
not dependent on experience and judgment; the last 
two being ever the work of time. The affairs of his 
master becoming embarrassed, however, the indentures 
were given up, and the lad was left to shift for himself 
at an age when counsel and government were the most 
necessary. It is a proof that young Paul was not a 
common youth, that there is no difficulty in tracing him 
through all this period of his humble career. As soon 
as left to his own exertions, he shipped as third mate 
in the King George, a slaver out of Whitehaven. This 
must have occurred about the year 1765, or when he was 
eighteen, as we find him, in 1766, the first mate of the 
Two Friends, of Kingston, Jamaica, a vessel in the same 
trade. It would seem that he made but two voyages 
to the coast of Africa; and his tender years, necessities, 
and the opinions of the day, may well prove his apology. 
The pursuit did not please him, and he left the Two 
Friends on her return, and sailed for Kirkcudbright as a 
passenger, in the John of that port. This circumstance 
proved of great importance to him, for the master and 
mate died of yellow fever, on the passage, when Mr. 
Paul assumed the direction, and carried the vessel 
safely to her haven. His reward was the command of 
the brig he had most probably been the means of saving; 
the vessel belonging to Currie, Beck & Co., of Kirkcud 

This must have occurred in the year 1767.* Here, 

* Since the appearance of this sketch in Graham s Magazine, 
authentic information has been communicated to the writer on va 
rious points, which has induced him to vary a little from his origi 
nal statements. 


then, we find our hero, the son of an humble gardener, 
in command of a sea-going craft, at the early age of 
twenty, or at that of twenty-one, at the latest. Such 
preferment frequently occurs in cases where connections 
and patronage unite to push a youth forward ; but 
never with the obscure and unpatronized, without the 
existence of a high degree of merit. We want no bet 
ter evidence that Paul was discreet, intelligent, indus 
trious and worthy of respect, at that period of his life, 
than this single fact ; merchants never trusting their 
property out of their reach without sending their confi 
dence along with it. The new master also discharged 
the duties of supercargo ; additional proof of the early 
stability of his character. 

Our young seaman sailed but two years in this em 
ployment. He left the service of the house which had 
given him his first command, in consequence of its hav 
ing dissolved partnership and having no further em 
ployment for him. 

In our original sketch of Jones, it was stated that a 
prosecution for having caused the death of a certain 
Mungo Maxwell, while in command of the John, was 
probably connected with his quitting the employment 
of Currie, Beck & Co. ; but the fact is denied by his 
friends, on seemingly good authority. As the occur 
rence was the foundation of much calumny against 
Jones, when, at a later day, the passions and interests 
of nations got to be connected with his character, it is 
necessary to relate the circumstances, which appear to 
have been as follows : 

Jones had occasion to correct Maxwell, in the usual 
nautical mode, or by flogging. The punishment was 


probably severe, and it is equally probable that it was 
merited. The man, shortly after, shipped in another 
vessel, called the Barcelona Packet, where he died in 
the course of a week or two, after a few days of low 
spirits, accompanied by fever. This occurred in June, 
1770. It would seem, however, that Maxwell com 
plained to the authorities of Tobago, in which island 
the parties then were, of the flogging he had received 
from Capt. Paul, and that the latter was summoned to 
appear before the judge of the vice-admiralty court to 
answer. A certificate of the judge is extant, in which 
it is stated, that Maxwell s shoulders exhibited the 
proofs of severe flogging, but that he dismissed the 
complaint as frivolous, after a hearing. The certificate 
adds, that the deponent, the statement being in the form 
of an affidavit, carefully examined the back of Maxwell, 
and that he has no idea the man could have died in 
consequence of the flogging mentioned. Another affi 
davit, made by the master of the Barcelona Packet, 
establishes the other facts. 

The later biographers of Jones have alluded to this 
subject, though not always in a way that is sustained 
by their own proofs. Sands, the best and most logical 
of them all, has fallen into a leading error in his account 
of this affair. He appears to think that Maxwell insti 
tuted a prosecution against his commander in England, 
confounding the facts altogether. Maxwell died long 
before he could have reached England, on his pas 
sage from Tobago, where he had been flogged, to one 
of the Leeward Islands ; nor does it appear that he 
ever took any legal step in the matter, beyond the com 
plaint laid before the vice-admiralty judge. That a 


prosecution for murder was menaced or instituted 
against Jones, is shown by one of his own letters. Capt. 
Mackenzie, on no visible authority, refers this prosecu 
tion to the envy of some of his neighbors and com 
petitors of Kirkcudbright. There does not seem to be 
any conclusive reason, however, for supposing that the 
prosecution occurred anywhere but in the West In 
dies. It may have taken place in Great Britain, though 
the term " British jury," which Jones uses in connec 
tion with this affair, would apply as well to a colonial 
as to an English or Scottish jury. There was no trial, 
nor is it even certain, that there was even a formal pro 
secution af all ; Jones allusion to the subject being 
in the following words viz. : 

" I have enclosed you a copy of an affidavit, made 
before Governor Young by the judge of the court of 
vice-admiralty, at Tobago, by which you will see with 
how little reason my life has been thirsted after, and, 
which is much dearer to me, my honor, by maliciously 
loading my fair character with obloquy and vile asper 
sions. I believe there are few who are hard-hearted 
enough to think I have not long since given the world 
every satisfaction in my power, being conscious of my 
innocence before Heaven, who will one day judge even 
my judges. I staked my honor, life, and fortunes for 
six long months on the verdict of a British jury, not 
withstanding I was sensible of the general prejudices 
which ran against me ; but, after all, none of my ac 
cusers had the courage to confront me. Yet I am will 
ing to convince the world, if reason and facts will do 
it, that they have had no foundation for their harsh 
treatment," &c. 


This language was probably used by a man who 
remained openly within reach of the law, for six months, 
inviting by his presence a legal investigation of charges 
that involved a felony, without any legal steps having 
been commenced. The precise facts are of less import 
ance, as it is now reasonably certain that Maxwell did 
not die in consequence of the flogging he received from 
Jones ; for could a case have been made out against the 
latter, it is not probable it would have been abandoned 
altogether, when enmity was so active and prejudice 
so general. Nor is it material where this persecution 
was practiced, his subsequent career proving that our 
subject was by no means deserving of the character of 
an officer failing of humanity. The occurrence, not 
withstanding, appears to have embittered several of the 
earlier years of Jones life ; to have made an impression 
against him in his native country, and to have contri 
buted to induce him to abandon Scotland ; his last visit 
to that country, except as an enemy, taking place in 
1771. Jones left the employment of Currie, Beck & 
Co., April 1, 1771, and remained in Scotland until near 
the close of that year. 

On quitting Scotland, Jones repaired to London, 
where he assumed the command of a ship called the 
Betsey, which was also engaged in the West India 
trade. In this vessel he remained until the year 1773, 
when he was induced to relinquish his command, in 
order to proceed to Virginia, where his brother William 
had recently died, and to whose estate he was an heir. 
This call upon his services and time was probably sud 
den and imperative, as he subsequently complains 
much of the losses he suffered, in consequence of hav- 


ing left his affairs in Tobago in the hands of careless 
or unfaithful agents. It would seem that Jones reco 
vered about ten thousand dollars from the estate of his 
brother, though the commonwealth had already admin 
istered to it a circumstance that probably did not at all 
Qpntribute to increase the succession. All, or a portion 
of the money left in Tobago, was also recovered, so that 
our hero might now be said to be at ease in his circum 

At a later period of his life, Jones became a little 
remarkable for a display of poetic taste. This ten 
dency, which can scarcely be said to have ever ap 
proached the "sacred fire," was seen even at this early 
day, for he subsequently spoke of his intention to^e- 
vote the remainder of his days to calm contemplation 
and poetic ease, when he revisited Virginia. This 
feeling, quite probably, received some incentive from 
the discontent of a man who had not long before 
escaped from an inquiry that he deemed a persecu 
tion. It is certain that, while resident in Virginia, he 
assumed the name of Jones; calling himself John Paul 
Jones, instead of John Paul, which was his legal and 
proper appellation. The motive of this change of 
name, as well as the reason of the selection he made, 
are left to conjecture. It is probable the latter was 
purely arbitrary, as he does not appear to have had 
any near relatives or connections of the name of Jones. 
For the change itself, the most rational supposition is, 
that it was induced by his difficulties in connection 
with the affair of Mungo Maxwell. Sands thinks it 
may have come from a determination of founding a 
new race, when Jones transferred himself to a new 

VOL. II. 2 


country. Mackenzie fancies it may have proceeded 
from a wish to conceal his intended service against 
England, from the friends he had left in Scotland, or a 
desire to prevent his enemies from recognising him as 
a native of Great Britain, in the event of capture. 
Neither of these reasons is .satisfactory. That of^ 
Sands is purely imaginary, and unlikely to occur to 
a man who does not seem to think of marrying at all. 
Those of Mackenzie are equally untenable, since the 
friends Jones left in Scotland were too humble in station 
to render it necessary, or useful, or probable. How 
could one born in the colonies be thought any safer in 
the event of capture, in 1775, than one born in Great 
Brifcin, allegiance being claimed from all its subjects 
alike, by the British crown? In a letter to Robert 
Morris, Jones says, " I conclude that Mr. Hewes has 
acquainted you with a very great misfortune which 
befell me some years ago, and which brought me to 
North America. I am under no concern, whatever, 
that this, or any other past circumstance of my life, 
will sink me in your opinion. Since human wisdom 
cannot secure us from accidents, it is the greatest effort 
of human wisdom to bear them well." This passage 
has induced Mr. Sands to think the "great misfortune" 
was some heavy mercantile loss. There is no evidence 
to show, nor is it at all probable, that Jones had then 
been in circumstances to justify his using such an ex 
pression as addressed to a man of Robert Morris rank 
and extensive dealings ; and it is far more rational to 
suppose that the word "accidents" has been loosely ap 
plied to the circumstances connected with Maxwell s 
death, than to any other event of Jones life. If a 


" great misfortune" had any agency in bringing him 
tc America, it was probably this event ; and it may 
have induced him to change his name, in a moment of 
disgust, or of morbid resentment. 

It is remarkable that there should still be a mystery 
connected with this change of name, in a man of Jones 
celebrity. One of his near connections thinks that the 
new appellation was not assumed until he entered the 
American navy, and that it might have been taken in 
compliment to Gen. Wm. Jones, of North Carolina, 
who had been much his friend. This circumstance 
may have induced the selection of the name, t-hougli it 
scarcely seems sufficient to account for the change 
itself. It is probably now too late to hope to explain 
the mystery. 

The year 1775, therefore, found Jones in every re 
spect in a proper mood to seek service in the young 
marine that sprung up out of the events of the day. 
He offered his services, accordingly, and they were 
accepted. There is reason to think Jones had a real 
attachment to the colonies, as well as to the principles 
for which they contended ; and it is certain that, hav 
ing fairly cast his fortunes in them, he had just as good 
a moral right to maintain both as any native of the 
country. The obligations created by the mere acci 
dents of birth, can never, in a moral sense, justly be 
put in competition with the social ties that are delibe 
rately formed in later life, and he is a traitor only who 
betrays by deceiving. The argument, that a native of 
England, established in America in 1775, had not the 
same moral right to resist parliamentary aggression as 
the subject born in the colonies, is like advancing a 


distinction between the social claims and duties of the 
man born in Yorkshire and those of the man born in 
London. By the English constitution, itself, the resi 
dent of the British capital had a right to oppose the 
aggressions which led to the American Revolution; 
and it was a right that did not extend to open revolt, 
merely, because the aggressions did not affect him in 
that direct and positive manner that alone justifies re 
sistance to existing law under the plea of necessity. 
All attempts, then, to brand Jones as a pirate, and as 
having been peculiarly a traitor to his country, must 
rest on fallacies for their support ; his case being sub 
stantially the same as those of Charles Lee, Gates, 
Montgomery, and a hundred others of merit and repu 
tation ; the difference of serving on the ocean, instead 
of serving on the land, and of being the means of car 
rying the war into the island of Great Britain itself, 
being the only reason why so much odium has been 
heaped on the one, while the others have virtually 
escaped. . ...? 

Jones does not appear to have had any connection 
with the American Navy, until a short time before the 
passage of the law of December 22, 1775, which, in 
fact, gave it legal and efficient existence. By this law, 
a commander-in-chief, four captains, and thirteen lieu 
tenants were appointed. The latter were classed as 
first, second, and third lieutenants, and of these the 
name of John Paul Jones takes rank of all others of the 
highest grade. His commission is said to have been 
dated the 7th of December, fifteen days before the pas 
sage of the law. This, in fact, made him the sixth in 
rank in the service ; though other appointments were 


shortly after made, and the question of permanent rank 
was reserved for future consideration. Thus, in the 
following year, when independence had been declared, 
and the rank was regulated, we find Dudley Salton- 
stall, the oldest captain by the law of December, 1775, 
placed as the fourth on the list, and Abraham Whipple, 
the second, reduced as low as to be the twelfth. As 
respected himself, Jones subsequently complained of a 
similar mortification, though it would seem unjustly, as 
the whole matter was understood when the appoint 
ments were made. There was some hardship in his 
case, however, as two of those who were his junior 
lieutenants in 1775, were made captains above him in 
1776. Still, it was in a revolution, related to original 
appointments, and every thing depended on the origi 
nal understanding. 

Jones was ordered to the Alfred 24, Commodore 
Hopkins own vessel, as her first lieutenant. A sloop 
called the Providence was purchased, and he was 
offered the command of her, but declined it, in conse 
quence of his ignorance of the mode of sailing such a 
craft. Jones always affirmed that he first hoisted the 
flag of the United Colonies, with his own hands, when 
Commodore Hopkins first visited the Alfred. This 
occurred on the Delaware, ofT Philadelphia ; and the 
flag was the pine-tree and rattle-snake, the symbols 
then used by the colonies. 

As a matter of course, Jones was in the expedition 
against New Providence. The squadron did not get 
out of the Delaware until the 17th February, 1776, 
lying frozen in, at Reedy Island, for six weeks. It is 
supposed that this circumstance enabled Capt. Barry 


to get to sea in the Lexington before it, though that 
brig was purchased and commissioned subsequently to 
the equipment of the vessels of Commodore Hopkins 

Jones was useful in piloting the vessels through 
some difficulties on the Bahama Banks, and seems to 
have enjoyed a consideration every way equal to his 
rank. In the action which occurred with the Glas 
gow 24, on the return of the squadron to America, he 
was stationed on the gun-deck of the Alfred, and had 
no other responsibility than was attached to the ma 
nagement of his battery. He states, himself, that the 
main-deck guns of the Alfred were so near the water 
as to have been useless in a good breeze. On this 
occasion, however, the wind was light, and nothing 
occurred to disturb the fire but the position of the ves 
sel. Her wheel-rope was shot away, and, broaching 
to, the Alfred was sharply raked by the Glasgow, for 
some time, and must have been beaten but for the pre 
sence of the other vessels. As it was, the English 
ship got into Newport ; a sufficient triumph of itself, 
when it is remembered that she had four or five ene 
mies on her, two of which were but little her inferiors 
in force. On the llth of April, Com. Hopkins carried 
his vessels into New London. 

This was unquestionably Jones first cruise, and the 
affair with the Glasgow was his first engagement. In 
that day slavers were not obliged to fight their way, or 
to run, as at present ; and there is no evidence that 
our hero had ever before met an enemy. He must 
have been at sea two or three years, during the con 
tinuation of the war of 1756, but he nowhere speaks 


of any adventures with the French cruisers. As the 
squadron sailed on the 17th February, and got into 
New London on the llth April, the cruise lasted only 
fifty-three days ; though it may be deemed an adven 
turous one, when we recollect the power of England 
and the indifferent qualities of the vessels. 

From New London, Commodore Hopkins carried all 
his vessels round to Providence, when the affair with 
the Glasgow resulted, as unfortunate military opera 
tions are very apt to do, in courts martial. Captain 
Hazard, of the Providence 12, the sloop Jones had 
once declined accepting, was cashiered, and Jones was 
appointed to succeed him. His orders were dated 
May 10th, 1776. There being no blanks, the order 
to take the Providence as her captain was written by 
Commodore Hopkins on the back of the commission 
Jones held from Congress, as a lieutenant. Being, at 
that time, certainly the oldest lieutenant in the navy, 
his right to the command could not well be questioned. 

The first service on which Jones was employed, 
after getting his vessel, was to transport certain troops 
to New York. Having done this with success, he re 
turned to Rhode Island, hove out his sloop, and pre 
pared her for more critical exploits. In June he was 
ready again for sea. He was now employed a few 
days in convoying military stores through the narrow 
waters about the eastern entrance of Long Island 
Sound ; and, as this was done in the presence of an 
enemy of greatly superior force, it was an extremely 
delicate and arduous duty. He was frequently chased, 
and several times under fire, but always escaped by 
address and precaution. On one occasion he covered 


the retreat of a brig that was coming in from the West 
Indies, laden with military supplies for Washington, 
and which was hard pressed by the Cerberus frigate. 
By drawing the attention of the latter to himself, the 
brig escaped, and, proving a fast vessel, she was sub 
sequently bought into the service, and called the 

It would seem that the spirit, enterprise and sea 
manship Jones displayed, during the fortnight he was 
thus employed, at once gave him a character in the 
navy; his boldness and success having passed into 
history, although no event of a brilliancy likely to at 
tract the common attention occurred. This is a proof 
that seamen appreciated what he had done. 

In July, Jones sailed for Boston, always with con 
voy ; thence he proceeded to the Delaware. As this 
was the moment when Lord Howe s fleet was crowd 
ing the American waters, the service was particularly 
critical, but it was successfully performed. While at 
Philadelphia, Jones received his commission as captain, 
signed by John Hancock ; it was dated August the 8th. 
This fact rests on his own assertion,* though Mr. Sher- 
burne has given a copy of a commission dated October 
10th, which he appears to think was the true commis 
sion of Jones. In this he is probably right ; new com 
missions, arranged according to the regulated rank, 

* It is proper to say, that the late Miss Jeanette Taylor, Jones 
niece, a woman of intelligence and character, assured the writer 
that she once possessed the commission of her uncle, that was 
dated August 8th, but had given it away as containing an auto 
graph signature of Hancock. The fact is of no material moment, 
the rank having been regulated only in October. 


having doubtless been issued accordingly. It will be 
seen that Independence was declared a little before the 
arrival of the Providence at Philadelphia. 

Hitherto, Jones had sailed under the orders of Com. 
Hopkins. He was now brought in immediate contact 
with the Marine Committee of Congress; and it is a 
proof of the estimation in which he was held, that the 
latter offered him the command of the Hampden, the 
vessel he had rescued from the Cerberus, by his own 
address. Jones, by this time, had got to understand the 
Providence, and he preferred remaining in her, now 
that he had her ready for immediate action, to accepting 
a vessel that had still to be equipped, though the latter 
was much the most considerable craft. The Providence 
mounted only twelve four-pounders, and she had a 
crew of seventy men. 

The Marine Committee next ordered the Providence 
out on a cruise that was not to exceed three months, 
giving her commander roving orders. Jones sailed on 
the 12th of August, and went off Bermuda. Here he 
fell in with the Solebay, frigate, which vessel outsailed 
him on a wind, with a heavy sea going, and actually 
got within pistol shot of him, in spite of all his efforts. 
While closing, the frigate kept up a steady fire from 
her chase-guns. Jones saw that he must change his 
course, if he would escape; and, getting ready, he 
bore up, set his square-sail, studding-sails, &c., and 
went off before the wind, directly under the broadside 
of his enemy. The manoeuvre was a bold one, but its 
success must have been, in some measure, owing to a 
concurrence of favorable circumstances. There was a 
nross sea on, and the Solebay not anticipating- any se- 


rious conflict with so inconsiderable an enemy, doubtless 
had her broadside guns secured ; or, if either battery 
had been manned at all, it was probably on the weather 
side, the Providence having been a little to windward 
during most of the chase. Previously to putting his 
helm up, Jones edged gradually away, thus effecting 
his intention completely by surprise ; the officers of the 
Solebay having reason to suppose they were gradually 
weathering on the chase, until they saw her going off 
dead before the wind. By the time the frigate could 
get her light sails set, the sloop was beyond the reach 
of grape, and her safety was insured, the Providence 
being unusually fast under her square canvas. 

After this critical chase, which had some such repu 
tation, though in a less degree, at the commencement 
of the war of the Revolution, as that of thfe Constitution 
possessed at the commencement of the war of 1812, the 
Providence went to the eastward. Off the Isle of Sable, 
she fell in with the Milford 32, which chased her, under 
fire, for nearly eight hours. Jones does not appear to 
have run the same risk on this occasion, as in the affair 
of the Solebay, though he evidently considered the ad 
venture creditable to himself. In point of fact, he kept, 
most of the time, just without the drop of the enemy s 
shot, though there were moments when both vessels 
kept up a distant cannonade. If there was any par 
ticular merit on the part of the Americans, it was in the 
steadiness and judgment with which Jones estimated his 
own advantages, and the audacity with which he used 
them. Such experiments certainly give confidence to 
a marine, and increase its means of usefulness, by 
bringing the hazards a vessel is compelled to run, down 


to a just and accurate standard. Maneuvering boldly, 
in face of a superior force, either on shore or afloat, is 
an evidence of high military confidence, and insomuch 
a pledge of both spirit and skill. The influence of both 
these little affairs must have been highly beneficial on 
the temper of the American navy. 

The day succeeding the last chase, Jones went into 
Canseau, where he destroyed the English fishing es 
tablishment, burned several vessels, and shipped some 
men. He next went to Isle Madame, and made several 
descents of a similar character, displaying great activity 
and zeal. In the course of the cruise the Providence 
made sixteen prizes, besides destroying a great number 
of fishermen. She was out more than six weeks, reach 
ing Providence, on her return, October 7th, 1776. 

The representations of Capt. Jones induced Com. 
Hopkins to send an expedition against the colliers of 
Cape Breton, including the adjacent fisheries. The 
Alfred had not been out since her first cruise, and was 
then lying in the river without a crew. That ship, the 
Hampden, and Providence were selected for the pur 
pose, and the command of the whole was assigned to 
Jones. No better proof of the estimation in which he 
was held, or of the influence he had obtained by means 
of his character, is needed than this fact. The orders 
were dated October 22d, 1776, and were perfectly legal ; 
for, though Congress regulated the rank on the 10th, 
Com. Hopkins continued at the head of the navy until 
the succeeding January, when his office was abolished. 

Jones soon found he could not collect a sufficient 
number of men for the three vessels, and he came to a 
determination to sail with only the Alfred and Hamp- 


den. This arrangement was changed, however, in 
consequence of the Hampden s getting ashore, and her 
officers and people were transferred to the Providence. 
This occurred on the 27th October, and the two vessels 
were unable to get out until the 2d of November. As it 
was, Jones conceived he put to sea very short-handed; the 
Alfred mustering only 140 souls, whereas she had sailed 
from Philadelphia, the previous February, with 235.* 
As this is the time at which the rank was regulated, 
though the circumstances do not seem to have yet been 
known in Rhode Island, it is proper to explain the in 
fluence the new arrangement ha,(J on the position of our 
subject. In the first appointments, Jones ranked as the 
senior first lieutenant of the navy. The fourth officer 
of the same grade was Mr. Hoysted Hacker, who was 
promoted to a command soon after Jones himself re 
ceived his own advancement. Still, Capt. Jones ranked 
Capt. Hacker, and the latter had actually been ap 
pointed to command the Hampden, in the expedition to 
the eastward. This same officer was transferred to the 
Providence, and actually sailed as a subordinate to Jones 
on the 2d November, when, by the regulated rank esta 
blished by a vote of Congress twenty-two days before, 
he was placed above him on the new list of captains. 
On that list appear the names of twenty-four captains. 
Of these, Jones ranks as the eighteenth, and Capt. 
Hacker as the sixteenth. It is not surprising that the 
former complained of such a change ; though his argu- 

* Clarke, Mackenzie, and various other writers give the Alfred 
and Columbus, each, 300 men, on the expedition against New 
Providence ; crews altogether disproportioned to the sizes of the 
ships. Jones own authority is used for what we say. 


ments against the elevatioai of many respectable gentle 
men who were placed over him, under original appoint 
ments, at the regular formation of the marine and after the 
declaration of independence, are by no means as strong. 

The Alfred and Providence went to the eastward, as 
had been arranged, crossing the shoals. They passed 
many of the enemy s ships that were lying off Block 
Island, in the night, anchoring in Tarpaulin Cove, for 
light to go over the shallow water. While lying in 
the Cove, a privateer was examined for deserters, four 
of which were found, and a few men were pressed, as 
Jones always maintained, in obedience to orders from 
Com. Hopkins. This affair, subsequently, gave Jones 
a good deal of trouble. He was sued by the owner of 
the privateer, the damages being laid at 10,000; 
Com. Hopkins declining to justify the act. This, for 
some time, was one of the many grievances of which 
Jones was in the habit of complaining, and quite pro 
bably with justice. 

OfFLouisburg, three prizes were made, one of which 
proved to be very valuable. It was a large store-ship, 
called the Mellish, conveying clothing to the British 
troops. The following night, the Providence parted 
company in a snow-storm. The two smaller prizes 
were now ordered in, but Jones continued his cruise, 
keeping the Mellish in company on account of her 
great importance to the American cause. A landing 
was made at Canseau, a good deal of injury done to the 
enemy, and the ships again put to sea. Off Louisburg, 
Jones took three colliers, out of a convoy, in a fog. 
Two days later, he captured a fine Letter of Marque, 
out of Liverpool, The Alfred was now full of prisoners, 

^01,. II. 8 


and, it being of great importance to secure the Mellish, 
Jones shaped his course for Boston. On the 7th De 
cember, he fell in with his old acquaintance, the Mil- 
ford, and had another critical chase, in which he suc 
ceeded in covering the Mellish, though the Letter of 
Marque was recaptured, owing to a false manoeuvre of 
the prize-master. On the 15th, the Alfred went into 
Boston, the Mellish, for the sake of certainty, going to 

At Boston, Jones received an order from Com. Hop 
kins to transfer the Alfred to Capt. Hinman, who was 
his junior, on the regulated list, even, by two numbers. 
This was certainly a hard case, and cannot well be ac 
counted for, except through the existence of prejudices 
against our hero. That Jones was the subject of many 
prejudices, throughout his life , is beyond a question ; 
and it can scarcely be doubted that some of these feel 
ings had their origin in faults of character. It is highly 
probable that he had some of the notions that the Eng 
lishman, or European, is known still to entertain toward 
the Americans, and which were much more general 
half-a-century since than they are to-day, the betrayal 
of which would not be very likely to make friends. It 
is undeniable that the Americans were an exceedingly 
provincial people in 1777 ; nor is the reproach entirely 
removed at the present time; and nothing is more 
natural than to hear men educated in a more advanced 
state of society, declaiming about defects that strike 
them unpleasantly ; or nothing more natural than to 
find those strictures producing an active and blind re 
sentment. Jones was unaided, too, by connections; 
even the delegates of Virginia appearing not to take the 


usual interest of the representative, in an unknown and 
unsupported stranger. His chief reliance seems to have 
been on Mr. Hewes, of the Marine Committee, and on 
Robert Morris; the latter of whom became his firm 
friend in the end. 

Jones remonstrated against this appointment of Capt. 
Hinman, and succeeded in getting an order to place the 
Alfred, Columbus, Cabot, Hampden and Providence 
under his own command, with directions to sail to the 
southward, with great discretionary powers. These 
orders produced no results ; Com, Hopkins, according 
to Jones account of the matter, throwing impediments 
in the way. It is probable, too, that in February, 1777, 
the country was not in a condition to fit out a military 
enterprise of so much importance ; want of means 
being quite as instrumental in defeating Jones hopes 
as want of will. There is, also, reason for thinking 
that Hopkins distrusted Jones feelings as regards the 
country ; the result most likely of some of his loose and 
indiscreet remarks, 

Many of Jones official letters, written during the 
cruises he had made, have been preserved, and aid in 
throwing light on his character. In general, they are 
plainly and respectably written, though they are not 
entirely free from the vaunting which was more in 
fashion formerly than it is to-day; and occasionally 
they betray an exaggerated and false taste. On the 
whole, however, they may be received as superior to 
the reports of most of the commanders of the age; 
many captains in even the regular marine of the mo 
ther country making reports essentially below those of 
Jones in sentiment, distinctness, and diction. 


Hopkins having some of Jones new squadron with 
himself, at Providence, and refusing to give them up, 
the latter made a journey to Philadelphia, in order 
to demand redress of Congress. He does not appear 
to have been regularly apprized of the regulated rank, 
until this occasion. A memorial, addressed to Con 
gress, at a later day, and on the subject of rank, and his 
other grievances, was intemperate in language, and 
probably did his cause, which was tolerably strong in 
facts, no good. Speaking of the officers who were put 
above him on the regulated list, he says " Among 
those thirteen, there are individuals who can neither 
pretend to parts nor education, and with whom, as a 
private gentleman, / would disdain to associate" 
This is sufficiently vain-glorious, and downright rude. 
If he betrayed similar feelings while at Philadelphia, it 
is not surprising that his claims were slighted. 

Jones had an explanation with Hancock on the sub 
ject of his rank, and left Philadelphia, soothed with 
assurances that his services were appreciated. He 
had the indiscretion, however, to let the commission, 
dated August 5th, 1770, pass out of his hands, and was 
never able to recover it. This commission, he afterward 
affirmed, was the first granted after the declaration of 
independence, and entitled him to be put at the head 
of the list of captains.* 

By the journal of Congress, it would seem that a 
resolution was passed on the 15th March, 1777, direct 
ing that one of those ships that had been previously 

* It will be remembered that Miss Taylor told the writer she 
once owned this commission, and had given it away. 


ordered to be purchased, should be given to " Capt. 
John Paul Jones, until better provision can be made for 
him," Referring to the dates of these different trans 
actions, we are left to believe that this resolution was 
passed as some atonement for depriving our hero of his 
former command : that the project of sending him out 
with the vessels which Com. Hopkins detained, was 
subsequently formed, and a third means of employing 
this active officer was suggested after his visit to Phila 
delphia. It must be confessed, however, that much 
confusion exists in the dates of many of the events con 
nected with the life of Jones, those connected with the 
resolutions of Congress, in particular, often appearing 
irreconcilable with known occurrences, unless we sup 
pose that the passage of a resolution and its promulga 
tion were by no means simultaneous. Thus it is that 
we find Jones expressing his surprise at the regulated 
rank, in April, 1777, though it was enacted in October, 

The ship which was assigned to Jones, under the 
resolution just mentioned, was a vessel called the 
Ranger. She lay at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and 
wanted a great deal of work to fit her for sea. Her 
new captain immediately set about the necessary 
arrangements, when the third project alluded to was 
brought up, and he received fresh orders. The com 
missioners in Paris had ordered a very heavy frigate to 
be built in Holland, on account of government. This 
ship was, at first, called the Indien, and subsequently 
the South Carolina. She was one of the heaviest sin 
gle-decked ships that had then ever been constructed, 
mounting Swedish thirty-sixes on her main deck. The 


idea was now to give this ship to Jones, and to send 
him out to join hep, with a party of officers and men, in 
a French Letter of Marque, called the Amphitrite, that 
had recently arrived with stores from Europe. The 
arrangement contemplated that Jones should cruise 
in the Amphitrite, on his way out, and, as France, 
was then at peace with England, this could only be 
effected by a transfer of property. Owing to some 
difficulty of this nature, the scheme fell through; 
and, in June, by another resolution, Jones was ordered 
to the Ranger again. This ship he commenced fitting 
for sea, though it required months to effect the object. 
While engaged in the negotiation about the Amphi 
trite, Jones received a third commission as a captain, 
from the Marine Committee, direct. The two pre 
ceding it had been commissions to command particu 
lar vessels, while the present made him, in general 
terms, a captain in the navy, by virtue of which he 
might command any vessel of the government. This 
was done because the committee did not know precisely 
what the commissioners in France had effected in the 
way of ships in Europe. The date of this last com 
mission corresponded with that given under the regu 
lated rank. 

It is worthy of remark, that the very day Congress 
ordered Jones to the Ranger, it adopted the stars and 
stripes as the flag of the republic. This was June 14th, 
1777. One of the first things Jones did, on reaching 
his ship, was to hoist this new ensign. He always 
claimed to have been the first man to hoist the flag of 
1775, in a national ship, and the first man to show the 
present ensign on board a man-of-war. This may bo 


true or not. There was a weakness about the character 
of the man that rendered him a little liable to self-delu 
sions of this nature, and, while it is probable he was 
right as to the flag which was shown before Philadel 
phia, the town where Congress was sitting, it is by no 
means as reasonable to suppose that the first of the per 
manent flags was shown at a place as distant as Ports 
mouth. The circumstances are of no moment, except 
as they serve to betray a want of simplicity of character, 
that was rather a failing with the man, and his avidity 
for personal distinction of every sort. 

The Ranger was not ready for sea before the 15th 
October. Even then her equipment was very imper 
fect, the vessel having but one suit of sails, and some 
of these were made of insufficient cloth. The ship 
was frigate built, like most of the sloops of that day, 
and was pierced for twenty-six guns ; viz., eighteen 
below, and eight above. This number was furnished, 
but he rejected all but those for the main deck, mount 
ing eighteen sixes. Even these guns he considered as 
three diameters of the bore too short. Of men he had 
enough, but his stores were very short, and it is a sin 
gular fact, that he could obtain but a barrel of ruin for 
his whole crew. Under such difficulties, however, 
was the independence of this country obtained. 

The Ranger sailed from Portsmouth, New Hamp 
shire, for France, Nov. 1st, 1777. This was the first 
time Jones had left America, or the American waters, 
since his arrival in Virginia, after the death of his bro 
ther. He still went to Europe in expectation of obtain 
ing the Dutch-built frigate, intending to cruise in her, 
with the Ranger in company. On the 2d Dec. the 


Ranger arrived at Nantes, having made two captures 
on the passage. She saw a convoy, but got nothing 
from it, and had a short chase with a two-decked ship. 
On all occasions, Jones represents his people, who were 
principally eastern men, as behaving well. 

A severe disappointment awaited Jones on reaching 
France. Owing to the jealousy of England, the com 
missioners had found themselves under the necessity 
of transferring the ship building in Holland to the King 
of France ; an arrangement which deprived them of all 
authority over her.* Jones submitted to this defeat of 
his hopes with a moderation and good sense that are in 
his favor ; thus proving, we think, that his many pre 
vious complaints were founded on just principles, in his 
own opinion at least, and not in querulousness of cha 
racter, as has been sometimes alleged ; for, in this case, 
the evil being unavoidable, he saw no good motive for 
quarrelling with fortune. He consoled himself with the 

* The Indien was subsequently hired to the State of South Ca 
rolina, and had her name changed to that of the state. The nego 
tiation was carried on through the agency of the Chevalier de 
Luxembourg. In his History of the Navy, the writer mentions 
his belief that this Chevalier de Luxembourg was not a sovereign 
prince, as has been supposed, but a member of the House of Mont- 
morency. In an Acte de famille of this illustrious house, which 
was made in this century, we find these words viz. : 

" 1731. The Duke of Chatillon had but one son, Charles Paul 
Sigismund, known by the name of Duke of Bouteville ; who had 
an only son, Charles Anne de Montmorency-Luxembourg, Duke 
of Olonne. The Duke of Olonne had two sons, of which one, 
known as the Chevalier de Luxembourg, is dead without issue." 

There is no question that this Chevalier de Luxembourg is the 
person who hired the Indien to the State of South Carolina, on 
shares. As the ship had been given to the king, may not this have 
been a secret experiment, in royal privateering? 


knowledge that Congress thought him worthy of so 
important a trust, and says, " I can bear the disappoint 
ment with philosophy." 

As soon as all hopes of getting another and better 
ship were abandoned, Jones took the Ranger round to 
Q,uiberon Bay, convoying some American vessels. 
Here he met the fleet of M. Le Motte Picquet, and 
opened a negotiation for a salute. His request was 
acceded to, and salutes were exchanged, not only with 
this distinguished officer, but, a few days later, with the 
Cornte d Orvillers, the commander-in-chief o the 
Brest fleet. In consequence of these proceedings, Jones 
claimed the honor of having received the first salute to 
the American flag, as he did that of having first hoisted 
the flag itself. It is certain he is mistaken as to the for 
mer of these claims, unless he means the particular flag 
adopted by Congress, June, 1777 ; for a serious diffi 
culty occurred in consequence of a Dutch governor s 
having saluted an American vessel of war in the West 
Indies, the year previously. Still, the motive and the 
feeling were the same, and it was certainly a point 
gained to obtain a salute from a French commander-in- 
chief at the time mentioned. 

While lying among the French ships, Jones seems 
to have had a good deal of communication with its flag 
officers. He even went so far as to submit certain 
plans to them for expeditions to America, a general war 
being now certain, and his projects show an active and 
fertile mind. These qualities, indeed, form the great 
and distinctive features of his character, one military 
scheme being no sooner disposed of than he turned his 
thoughts to another with untiring ingenuity. 


April lOtJi, 1778, the Ranger again went to sea 
alone, Jones having relinquished all hope of doing any 
thing, for the present at least, without achieving it 
with his own limited means. It is usual to ascribe 
more credit to the great cruise that succeeded than to 
this of the Ranger, and yet Jones proba.bly never 
showed more of his real character than in the enter 
prise which he now undertook. We shall first relate 
the events as they occurred, and then give a summary 
of their character and importance. 

On the 14th, the Ranger took a vessel, loaded with 
flaxseed, and bound to Ireland. This prize secured, 
she shaped her course for St. George s Channel. Off 
Dublin she captured a London ship. The weather being 
favorable, Jones now determined to make a descent at 
Whitehaven, the place out of which he had first sailed, 
in order to destroy the shipping by fire. With this 
view, on the evening of the 18th, he was off the port, 
and, about ten at night, he was on the point of landing 
himself at the head of a party of volunteers, when the 
wind shifted, and began to blow so fresh, directly on 
shore, as to render the descent impracticable. The 
ship made sail to claw off the land. 

The next day the Ranger chased a revenue wherry 
unsuccessfully, and, though the ship was disguised as 
a merchantman, it is thought the crew of the boat sus 
pected her of being an enemy. It could not well be 
otherwise, indeed, since Jones, in his desire to get the 
boat, kept up a smart fire on her for some time. The 
next morning he found himself so near a coaster as to 
be compelled to sink her, in order to prevent the dis 
covery of his presence. Another attempt inshore was 


abandoned, the same day, on account of the state of the 

All this time Jones was close in with the land, visible 
from the shore, and looking into the different bays and 
roadsteads as he passed along the coast. One cutter he 
chased into the Clyde, going as high as the Rock of Ailsa, 
and he sunk a Dublin sloop, to prevent intelligence. 

On the 20th, the Ranger was off Carrickfergus, and 
detained a fishing-boat ^hat came alongside. A ship 
was at anchor in the road, which the prisoners said was 
the Drake, Capt. Burden, a vessel of about the size, 
armament and metal of the Ranger ; though she is said 
to have carried two more guns. This was just such an 
opportunity as Jones wanted, and though he was alone 
on an enemy s coast, and might be said to be fighting 
with a halter round his neck, he at once resolved to 
attack his enemy at anchor, as soon as it was dark. 
That night, therefore, the Ranger stood in, with a 
strong breeze, with the intention of laying the Drake 
athwart hawse, grappling, and fighting it out. Owing 
to the darkness, however, and the anchor s hanging, the 
Ranger brought up about half a cable s length on the 
Drake s quarter, instead of the position desired, and 
Jones at once saw the expediency of abandoning the 
design. He ordered the cable cut, on the instant, so as 
to give the appearance of its having parted in snubbing, 
made sail, and began to beat out of the loch. As no 
warlike demonstration had yet been made, singular as 
it may seem, this was done without molestation from 
the Drake. It was Jones intention to work to wind 
ward, and to renew the attempt the same night, but it 
blew so fresh that he was glad to get an offing on any 



terms. The wind increased to a gale, and he stood 
over toward the coast of Scotland to find a lee. 

As soon as the weather moderated, Jones determined 
to renew the attempt on Whitehaven. On the night 
of the 22d he got off that port again, though not as close 
in as he wished, in consequence of the lightness of the 
wind. At midnight he left the ship, having with him, 
in two boats, thirty-one volunteers. Day began to 
dawn just as the party reached the outer pier. Jones 
now divided his men. One party was sent, under Lieut. 
Wallirigford, to set fire to the shipping on the north side 
of the harbor, while he went himself with the other to 
do the same on the south. There was a small fort on 
Jones side, with a few men in it as a guard. He 
scaled the walls, found the men in the guard-house, 
where he secured them, and spiked the guns. Jones 
now took a single officer and went a distance of a quar 
ter of a mile to another battery, the guns of which he 
also spiked. 

On his return from the distant battery, Jones expected 
to find the ships on fire. So far from this, however, 
nothing material had been done. Mr. Wallingford had 
altogether abandoned his portion of the enterprise, the 
candle on which he relied having burnt out just as it 
was time to use it. The same accident had occurred 
on his own side of the harbor also. It was now broad 
daylight, and the alarm had been given, but Jones 
would not abandon his design. A candle was procured 
from a house, and a fire was kindled in the steerage 
of a large ship. As this vessel lay surrounded by a 
hundred and fifty or two hundred other craft, all high 
and dry, the tide being out, there is no question that 


a good fire, fairly kindled, would have destroyed the 

The great object of Jones was now to repair the loss 
of time. The sun had risen, and the people of the 
place were already in motion, though confused and in 
alarm. The fire burnt but slowly, and search was made 
for combustibles to aid it. At length a barrel of tar was 
found and poured upon the flames. Jones then collect 
ed his men, and ordered them to embark from the end 
of the pier. By this time the inhabitants of the place 
were out in thousands, and some of the men ran towards 
the pier. Jones met -the last with a presented pistol, 
ordering them off, at the risk of their lives. Such was 
the influence of courage and steadiness, that these men 
retreated, leaving the pier in possession of this handful 
of enemies. As the flames now burst out of the steer 
age and began to ascend the rigging, and the sun had 
been up an hour, Jones thought it prudent to retire. 
He had remained some time on the pier all alone, and 
embarked without molestation, though the eminences 
around were covered with spectators. 

The boats retired without difficulty. Attempts were 
made to fire on them from the batteries, but the guns 
were all spiked. One or two pieces, however, had 
escaped, or, as Jones believed, ship s guns were dragged 
down upon the pier, and began to play upon the adven 
turers without effect. No person was injured in the 
affair, and only one man was missing. This person is 
supposed to have deserted, and to have given the alarm ; 
such a man coming to several houses with the news 
that a ship had been set on fire. Nor was any material 
damage done to the shipping, the people of the place 

VOL. II. 4 


succeeding in extinguishing the flames, before they 
reached the other vessels. Jones took three prisoners, 
whom he brought off as a sort of trophy. 

The same day the Ranger crossed the Solway, and 
made a landing at St. Mary s Isle, where is the seat of 
the Earls of Selkirk. Jones had but a single boat on 
this occasion, and he landed again in person. His ob 
ject was to seize Lord Selkirk, fancying that a prisoner 
of his rank might be useful in affecting the treatment 
of the Americans, who were then in the English prisons. 
Ascertaining, soon after he had landed, that Lord Sel 
kirk was not at home, Jones returned to his boat. But 
the men complained of being again disappointed, and, 
after some discussion, their captain assented that they 
might go to the house and ask for plate. They were 
limited to accepting such as was offered. The truth is 
not to be concealed, that an officer was at the head of 
this party, but many of the officers of that period were 
men taken from trading vessels, and were actuated by 
motives that were little honorable to them. Lady Sel 
kirk received the officers of this party herself, none of 
the men being suffered to enter the house. Some plate, 
valued at about .100,* .was delivered, and the party 
retired, doing no other harm. 

In the present day, such an act would be entirely 
unjustifiable. No American officer would dare to be 

* The connection of Jones, already mentioned, affirms that the 
value of the plate taken was more than $5000. Our information 
was obtained from the present head of the house of Selkirk. Which 
is right, it is impossible to say, though it strikes us that the smaller 
sum is most likely to be the true one. If Jones actually paid 1000 
sterling out of his own pocket, to redeem this plate, as Miss Tay 
lor seems to think, it greatly enhances the merit of his sacrifices. 


guilty of it openly ; and it is to be hoped no one would 
wish to do it at all. Acts very similar to it, however, 
have been committed on our own coasts within the last 
thirty years, if not with the connivance of officers, at 
least in their presence. If we go back a century ear 
lier, it was the common mode of warfare of the Drakes 
and other commanders of the English service. As it 
was, Jones was sensible of its unworthiness, and he 
subsequently purchased the plate and restored it to its 
owner. Owing to the difficulties of communication, 
nearly or quite ten years elapsed before Lord Selkirk 
actually recovered his property, but he acknowledges 
that he got it at last, and expressed his satisfaction with 
the course pursued by Jones. 

A letter written by Jones to Lady Selkirk, on this 
occasion, has been often published, and has been greatly 
praised. It has much of the exaggerated and false taste 
of the writer, while it shows creditable sentiments. Its 
great fault is a want of simplicity, a defect that seems 
to have pervaded Jones character. That Jones com 
mitted a fault in allowing the plunder at all is undenia 
ble, though he seems to have yielded solely to a tempo 
rary expedient, reserving to himself the intention to 
repair the wrong at the earliest occasion. Sordid he 
was not ; and admitting the redemption to have been an 
after-thought even, there is no reason for believing that 
he was any way influenced by a wish to make money. 
With such an end in view, a man of his enterprise 
would scarcely have limited his efforts to accepting the 
little plate that was offered. He \vould have stripped 
the house. 

The landing at St. Mary s Isle occurred on the 23d 


April, and the following morning the Ranger once more 
appeared off Carrickfergus, where Jones saw symptoms 
that the Drake was preparing to come out. That the 
character of the American ship was not known, how 
ever, is clear from the fact that the Drake sent a boat 
out to reconnoitre. This boat was decoyed alongside, 
and her officer and crew captured. From his prisoners 
Jones ascertained that intelligence of what had occurred 
at Whitehaven reached Carrickfergus the previous 
night, and no doubt was entertained that the ship which 
had appeared off the one place was the vessel that had 
made the attempt on the Drake in the other. The lat 
ter vessel had weighed the lost anchor of the Ranger ; 
and it was now ascertained that she had received many 
volunteers on board, and was coming out in quest of her 
enemy. The only doubt, therefore, which could exist 
among the English was whether the vessel now in the 
offing was the same as that which had made the two 
previous attempts. 

When the Drake got underway, she was accompanied 
by several boats filled with persons who were disposed 
to be witnesses of the action. Jones hove-to and waited 
for his enemy, amid a scene that might well have dis- 
.turbed the self-confidence of a man of less fortitude. 
He was in the narrow waters of the most powerful 
naval power on earth, with the three.kingdoms in plain 
view. Alarm smokes were raised on each side of the 
channel, in great numbers, showing that his foes were 
up and doing. He had already given occasion for ex 
traordinary activity, and an enemy that had enjoyed 
time to get perfectly ready, and which, to say the least, 
was always his equal in force, was coming out from her 


moorings purposely to engage him. This, according 
to a favorite expression of Jones himself, was literally 
going into " harm s way." 

The tide was not favorable, and the English ship 
came out very slowly. The Ranger s drift was to wind 
ward, and her helm was put up several times, in order 
to run down toward her enemy, when she would throw 
her main-top-sail aback, and lie with her courses in the 
brails. As soon as the amateurs ascertained that the 
boat which was towing astern of the strange ship was 
that sent out by the Drake, they all bore up and ran 
back into the loch. At length, long after the turn of 
the day, the English ship succeeded in weathering the 
headland, and was enabled to lay a straight course into 
the offing. She now set her colors, and the Ranger 
showed what it was then the fashion of England to call 
the "rebel flag." Jones filled and stood off the land, 
under easy canvas, to lead his enemy out mid-channel. 
The Drake followed, gradually closing, until she got 
within hail. 

Jones had at length gained his point, and was in mo 
mentary expectation of commencing an action with an 
enemy s ship of equal force. While he awaited her 
fire, he was hailed, with a demand to know who and 
what he was. The answer was given by the master, 
under Jones direction " This is the American conti 
nental ship Ranger," he said ; " we wait for you, and 
beg you will come on. The sun is little more than an 
hour high, and it is time to begin." This cool invita 
tion was scarcely given before the Ranger fell broad 
off and delivered her fire. The Drake answered this 
attack, the two ships closing and running off before a 


light wind. It was soon apparent that the Ranger was 
getting the best of it ; her adversary s spars and sails 
beginning to suffer. Still the action was animated and 
well maintained for just one hour and four minutes, 
when the Drake called out for quarter ; her ensign 
having been previously shot away. 

This battle was fairly fought, side by side, and the 
victory not only gallantly but neatly won. Jones states, 
in his account of the cruise, that no one on board the 
Drake placed her people, including the volunteers, at 
less than one hundred and sixty, while some admitted 
there must have been one hundred and ninety souls 
on board. He estimated the loss of the Drake, in killed 
and wounded, at forty-two, though this exceeds the 
English statement by nearly half. The volunteers 
must have rendered the official account of the English 
very problematical, and there was somewhat of conjec 
ture in that of Jones. Captain Burden fell by a mus 
ket-shot in the head, though he was found alive on 
taking possession of the prize. The English first lieu 
tenant, also, was mortally wounded. The Drake s fore 
and main-topsail-yards were both down on the cap 
main-top-gallant yard and gaff were hanging up and 
down, the jib was in the water, and, otherwise, the ship 
had sustained much injury aloft. 

The Ranger suffered far less. She had two men 
killed and jsix wounded. Mr. Wallingford, the lieute 
nant who landed at Whitehaven, was one of the former, 
and a seaman among the wounded subsequently died. 
The gunner was hurt, and Mr. Powers, a midshipman, 
lost an arm. Jones remarks, in one of his letters, that 
he gave the dead a "spacious grave." 


The weather continued good, and the repairs pro 
ceeded actively. At first Jones intended to steer the 
direct course for France, but the wind coming foul, he 
changed his purpose, and passed up channel again. 
The evening of the 25th, or that of the day after the 
engagement, the two ships were off the bay of Belfast, 
once more, and here Jones dismissed the fishermen he 
had taken. He gave them a boat, money, and other 
necessaries, and lent them a sail of the Drake s, as a 
hint to those ashore concerning the fate of that vessel. 

On the 8th of May, the Ranger, with the Drake in 
company, arrived safely at Brest. Some bad weather 
had been encountered on the passage, but no event 
worthy of being mentioned occurred, unless it be that 
Jones felt himself bound to arrest his first lieutenant, 
Simpson, for disobedience of orders, in managing the 
prize. This affair gave him a good deal of trouble 
subsequently, though nothing of serious moment grew 
out of it. The Ranger appears to have been well 
manned but badly officered, as would be likely to hap 
pen with a vessel fitted in an eastern American port, at 
that early day. 

A great sensation was produced by this cruise of the 
Ranger. It lasted but twenty-eight days ; only one 
week passed between the arrival off the Isle of Man 
and the action with the Drake. Every hour of this 
time was passed in ceaseless activity. One enterprise 
was no sooner ended than another was begun. The 
reader has only to cast an eye at the map, to under 
stand the boldness with which the ship moved. Her 
audacity probably caused her impunity, for there was 
scarcely a more critical position, as to mere localities, in 


the narrow seas, than that into which Jones carried her. 
It is true, he knew every foot of the way, but he must 
have known the dangers of his path, as well as its dis 
advantages. The attempt on Whitehaven betokened 
a military mind, though it would scarcely be justified 
under any other principles of hostility than those so 
much in vogue with the English themselves. It was 
merited retaliation, and only failed through the incom 
petence of subordinates. Throughout the whole of this 
cruise, indeed, Jones displayed the highest species of 
courage ; that of justly appreciating his own resources, 
and of not exaggerating dangers, a union of spirit and 
judgment that ever produces the best commanders. 

Jones has been censured for having selected the 
region of his birth as the scene of his exploits. While 
it has been admitted that he had a perfect moral and 
political right to espouse the cause of his adopted coun 
try, it has been urged that he ought to have refrained 
from selecting, as the scene of his exploits, the very 
port out of which he had formerly sailed. We appre 
hend that this is the reasoning of a sickly and super 
ficial sentimentality, rather than of healthful sentiment. 
Had he captured and destroyed fifty sail belonging to 
Whitehaven, at sea, nothing would have been thought 
of the occurrence ; but to destroy the same, or any other 
number, in their port is ranked as an error, and by some 
it is classed with crimes ! Others have even fancied that 
a desire to revenge himself for imaginary wrongs led him 
to the coast of Scotland, and to Whitehaven, and that, 
under the pretence of serving public interests, he was, 
in truth, avenging private griefs. A calm consideration 
of the facts will show the injustice of these charges. 


Jones was ordered to France. He was ordered to 
cruise against England, on the English coast. In this 
latter particular, he followed the precedents of Wickes 
and Conyngham. In selecting the scene of his exploits, 
he went into a sea with which he was familiar, an im 
mense advantage of itself, and one, in a military point 
of view, he would have been censurable for neglecting, 
under the circumstances. If it were justifiable to re 
taliate for the enemy s burnings, it was proper to do so 
under the greatest advantages, and at the least risk to 
those employed on the service, and this could be done 
but by the greatest intimacy with the localities. To 
say that an officer is not to turn his knowledge to ac 
count in this way, because it was acquired under the 
sanction of ordinary intercourse and a state of peace, is 
like saying that Jones should not use the knowledge of 
navigation acquired in an English school to the injury 
of an English vessel. If he had a right to bear arms 
at all, in such a contest, he had a perfect right to use all 
the means practiced in civilized warfare, in effecting 
his objects. 

That private feelings were kept out of view, in this 
short but brilliant cruise, is seen from the fact that no 
injury was done, or attempted on shore, when the 
means offered. It would have been as easy to set fire 
to the house, on St. Mary s Isle, as to carry off the 
plate. The shipping alone was fired at Whitehaven, 
and generally the conduct of Jones showed a spirit of 
generous hostility, rather than one of vindictive resent 
ment. In a civil war, men must thus use the local 
information acquired in youth, or neglect their duties. 
No class of warriors do this more than sailors, who con- 


stantly avail themselves of knowledge obtained in the 
confidence of friendly intercourse to harass their ene 
mies. It is proper to add that the letter of Jones to Lady 
Selkirk, apologizing for taking the plate, was dated the 
day the Ranger anchored at Brest. 

The cruise of the Ranger brought Jones much repu 
tation. Still he had many causes of complaint, being 
greatly in want of funds. His difficulties were, in truth, 
the difficulties of the country and the times, rather than 
of any intention to harass him. He was fortunate 
enough to make many important friends, and was much 
caressed in the naval circles of Brest. His recent suc 
cess gave a species of authority to his bold opinions, and 
it was not long ere various schemes were entertained 
for employing him on other expeditions against the 
enemy. The Due de Chartres, afterward the celebrated 
Egalite, interested himself to obtain the Indien, still, 
for Jones, the ship being then at the disposal of the 
King of France. All Jones projects had a far-sighted 
reach, as was shown in his wish to burn the shipping 
at Whitehaven, which he says would have greatly 
distressed Ireland for coal. Some of his schemes were 
directed to convoys, others to the destruction of shipping, 
and some again to descents on the coast. Even Franklin 
entertained the hope of getting possession of the Indien 
for him, after all ; a plan for which was actually ar 
ranged with the French Minister of Marine. An ex 
change of prisoners was agreed on, with a view to man 
the vessel, one of the important results which attended 
the late cruise. It is an evidence how much the public 
appreciated that cruise, that the Prince of Nassau, an 


officer who subsequently caused Jones much trouble, 
had an idea of sailing under his orders. 

The breaking out of the Avar between England and 
France defeated many of Jones hopes, though it ren 
dered the connection of the Americans with the latter 
country much more simple than it had been. Holland 
objected to giving up the Indien, and thus put an end 
to all his expectations from that quarter. To increase 
his vexations, the difficulty with his first lieutenant re 
mained unsettled, notwithstanding his own efforts to 
obtain a court-martial, it being the opinion of the com 
missioners and others, that Jones had himself released 
his subordinate from arrest in a way that precluded a 
trial. This matter terminated by Simpson s sailing for 
America, in command of the Ranger, leaving Jones in 
France to push his projects of higher aim. 

For some time, Jones expected to receive different 
frigates from the French Minister, which were to serve 
under the American flag, Many difficulties arose to 
disappoint him, until all the various plans were con 
cluded by the scheme actually adopted. As this enter 
prise was connected with the great action of Jones life, 
it is necessary to explain it a little in detail. 

M. Le Ray, a banker of Paris much connected with 
America, and who, from owning the estate of Chau- 
mont, was styled Le Ray de Chaumont, had taken an 
active part in Jones plans. Under his direction, an 
arrangement, or concordat, to the following effect was 
made. The French officers employed were to receive 
American commissions for the cruise, and rank and 
command were to be according to seniority. This pro 
vision left Jones at the head of the squadron, lie being 


the oldest American captain connected with the expe 
dition. Succession was provided for, with the excep 
tion of the command of the Cerf, a cutter, the first lieu 
tenant of which craft was to succeed his own captain, 
in the event of his removal or loss. The distribution 
of prize money was to be in the proportions regulated 
by the laws of the two countries, respectively, and the 
prizes were to be sent in to the order of M. Le Ray. 

In addition to the express provisions of this concordat, 
which was signed by all the commanders and M. Le 
Ray, it was understood that the latter, as apparent agent 
of the King of France, should furnish certain vessels, 
which were to revert to their former owners after the 
cruise, and that the American commissioners were to 
order the Alliance, a new frigate which had recently 
come to Europe, to join the squadron. 

There is still something mysterious about the cha 
racter of this celebrated expedition. There is no doubt 
that Jones believed that he was to be fairly employed 
as a naval captain of an allied power, in command 
against the common enemy, in conformity with the 
ordinary practice on such occasions ; but it is by no 
means certain that this was his real position. It is true, 
that the commissioners gave legality to the enterprise, 
but there are certain reasons for thinking that private 
cupidity may have had more connection with it than is 
usual with public measures. Intrigue was so common 
and so elaborate in France, that one is hardly safe in 
forming any precise opinion under the circumstances, 
though nothing is more apparent than the fact that 
Jones squadron was not composed of ships of war be 
longing to France, united with ships of war belonging 


to America, in order to carry out the purposes of ordi 
nary warfare. Still, most of the expense appears to 
have been borne by the French government, and joint 
orders were received from the public functionaries of 
the two countries. Jones had a strong distaste for the 
concordat, which probably gave the whole affair too 
much of the character of a privateering compact, and 
he subsequently declared that he would not have signed 
it, had it not been presented at the last moment, by M. 
Le Ray, himself, under circumstances that rendered a 
refusal difficult. 

Under the arrangement made, a squadron was finally, 
though very imperfectly, equipped. It contained five 
vessels, or three frigates, a brig, and a cutter. The 
ships were the Duke of Duras, the Alliance, and the 
Pallas ; the brig was called the Vengeance, and the 
cutter the Cerf, or Stag. O. all these crafts, but two 
were regularly constructed for war, the Alliance 32* and 
the Stag 12. The Alliance was an exceedingly fast 
American-built ship of the class of large thirty-twos. 
All the other vessels were French. 

After all his delays arid disappointments, Jones could 
get no better vessel for his own pennant than the Due 
de Duras, an Indiaman, then fourteen years old. She 
proved in the end to be both dull and rotten, though 
she was purchased as fast and sound. She was a long, 
single-decked ship, and was pierced for twenty-eight 
guns on her main-deck. Her armament was intended 
for eighteens. This would have placed her about on 
a level, as to force, with the English thirty-eights of 
that day, supposing that she carried ten or twelve light 
guns on her quarter-deck and forecastle. The eighteens 

VOL. II. 5 




were yet to be cast, however, and failing to appear, 
Jones put twelves in their places. To supply this ma 
terial deficiency, he caused twelve ports to be cut in the 
gun-room, or below, where he mounted six eighteens, 
intending to fight them all on one side in smooth water. 
Eight nines and sixes were placed above, making a total 
armament of forty-two guns ; or of twenty-four in broad 
side, supposing the six eighteens to be fought together. 
Three hundred and eighty souls composed her crew. 
The last was a motley set, including natives of nearly 
every known maritime Christian nation, and having no 
less than one hundred and thirty of them enlisted in the 
character of soldiers. 

The Alliance had an ordinary American crew, while 
the other vessels appear to have been purely French. 
To render the whole more incongruous, however, the 
Alliance had a Frenchman for a captain ; a person of 
the name of Landais, whom Congress had appointed in 
compliment to its "new ally. M. Landais had been 
educated in the navy of his native country, but had left 
it in consequence of an irascible temper, that was con 
stantly getting him into trouble, and which proved to 
be of great disservice to this expedition in the end. 
Some persons even called his sanity in question. 

Jones- found a few native Americans of whom to make 
sea officers and petty officers for the Due de Duras, but 
he mentions in one of his statements that altogether 
they did not exceed thirty. He changed the name of 
his vessel, however, to the Goodman Richard, or le Bon 
Homme Richard, in compliment to Franklin, as near 
an approach to nationality as that circumstance would 
well allow. 


This motley squadron sailed from Groix, June 19th, 
1779, or more than a year after Jones return from his 
cruise in the Ranger. All that precious time had been 
wasted in endeavoring to obtain a command. The first 
object was to convoy some vessels southward, which 
duty was successfully performed. An accident oc 
curred, however, by means of which the Alliance ran 
into the Richard, injuring both vessels so much as to 
render it necessary to return to port. The vessels 
separated, by orders, to do this, leaving the Richard 
alone for a day or two. While thus situated, two Eng 
lish cruisers were made, and Jones offered battle, but 
it is supposed the enemy mistook him for a ship of the 
line, as they carried a press of canvas to escape. The 
occurrence is of no importance^ except to show that 
the people of the Richard were ready to fight ; Jones 
praising the alacrity they manifested. 

The rottenness of the old Indiaman does not appear 
to have been discovered until after she got back to the 
roads of Groix, in order to be repaired. While the 
work was in progress, a court-martial sat, and broke 
the first lieutenant of the Richard. About this time, a 
cartel arrived at Nantes, bringing in more than a hun 
dred exchanged American seamen, from Mill prison. 
A short time before this exchange was made, Mr. 
Richard Dale, late a master s mate of the U. S. brig 
Lexington, had made his escape from the same prison, 
and had joined Jones in his old capacity. This gentle 
man, a native of Virginia, and subsequently the well- 
known naval captain of his name, was now made first 
lieutenant of the Richard by Jones, who had blank 
commissions by him. The men of the cartel were ap- 


plied to, and many of them entered, thus giving the 
Richard a respectable body of Americans to help to 
sustain the honor of the flag she wore. Among the 
exchanged prisoners were two gentlemen of the name 
of Lunt, both natives of New Hampshire, and distant 
relatives. Henry Lunt was made second lieutenant of 
the Richard, while Cutting Lunt, his kinsman, is some 
times called the third lieutenant, and sometimes the 
master. Both these officers were respectable men, and 
appear to have given Jones satisfaction, until adverse 
circumstances deprived him of their services. In con 
sequence of this arrangement, it is believed that every 
quarter-deck sea-officer of the Richard was a native 
American, Jones himself and one midshipman excepted. 

It is a proof of the native goodness of Jones heart, 
that, while lying at 1 Orient, surrounded by perplexities, 
he sent a bill for %Q to his relatives in Scotland. 
This was not his only remittance, by several ; and, as 
money was far from being plenty with him in that day, 
they show the strength of his affections, and his desire 
to serve his sisters. 

When all was ready to go out again, two privateers, 
the Monsieur and the Grandeville, put themselves 
under Jones orders, raising his force to seven sail. As 
the Monsieur was frigate-built, and carried forty guns, 
her junction was thought a matter of no slight import 

On the 10th August, Jones issued some general 
orders to his captains, laying great stress on the point 
of not parting company; the commonest of all embar 
rassments with an irregular force at sea. The Richard 
had not proved a fast ship ; the Pallas, a Hcfht 20 gun 

* * 

JOHN P A U L J O N E S. 53 

ship, was decidedly dull, having also been built for a 
merchantman ; the Vengeance was barely respectable, 
while the Cerf was every way a noble cutter, though 
of trifling force. The Alliance, one of the fastest ships 
that ever floated, had been badly ballasted by Mons. 
Landais, on some philosophical principles of his own, 
and lost her qualities for that cruise. Such, then, was 
the character of the force, with which Jones once more 
ventured into the narrow seas, in quest of glory. 

The orders under which Jones sailed on his next 
and most remarkable cruise, directed him to go to the 
westward of Scilly, and to pass the west coast of Ire 
land, doubling the extremity of Scotland, and remaining 
some time on the Dogger Bank. By returning to his 
port of departure, this would have been making the 
complete circuit of Great Britain and Ireland, most of 
the time keeping the land aboard. The instructions, 
however, ordered him to put into the Texel for further 
orders. It was understood that this last destination was 
pointed out in the hope of putting the Indien under 
Jones, that ship still remaining in Holland, in a species 
of political durance. She was not released, until Eng 
land declared war against Holland, when the arrange 
ment was made with South Carolina, as already men 

The squadron left the roads of Groix, the second 
time, early on the morning of August loth, 1779. 
One day out, it recaptured a large Dutch ship, laden 
with French property. In consequence of some mis 
understanding with the commander of the Monsieur, 
which grew out of the disposition of this prize, that 
ship separated from the other vessels, which saw her 


no more. The Monsieur was subsequently captured by 
the enemy, and, as is believed, on this cruise. On the 
20th, a brig, from Limerick to London, was taken, and 
ordered in. 

The 23d, the squadron was off Cape Clear, having 
doubled Scilly, and passed up the west coast of Eng 
land, in the intervening time. Here it fell calm, and 
Jones sent several of the Richard s boats to seize a brig 
that was lying some distance to the north-west. As 
evening approached, he found it necessary to place his 
own barge in the water, containing a cockswain and six 
rnen, to keep the ship s head offshore. The brig was 
captured, and towed toward the squadron. Just at this 
moment, the men in the barge cut the tow-line, and 
pulled for the shore. Several shots were fired at the 
fugitives, but without effect. Seeing this, Mr. Cutting 
Lunt, who appears to have been with the prize, took 
four soldiers in a boat, and pursued the deserters, be 
coming lost in a fog. The Richard fired guns, as sig 
nals to the master, but he never returned. Counting 
himself, there were seventeen persons in his boat, mak 
ing a total loss to the Richard, including the fugitives, 
of twenty-four men. It is now known that, on the 
morning of the 23d, (civil time,) the seven men landed 
at Ballinskellix, in the county of Kerry, and that the 
other boat landed at the same place, the same day, 
about one, in pursuit. Mr. Lunt and his people were 
arrested, and sent to Mill prison. Jones intimates that 
he understood his master died in that place of confine 
ment, but, in this, he was misinformed. Mr. Lunt was 
liberated, in the course of a year or two, and was sub 
sequently lost at sea. This was Cutting Lunt. it will 


be remembered ; his kinsman, Henry Lunt, still re 
maining in the ship, as her second lieutenant. 
Through the reports of the deserters and prisoners, 
the character of the squadron, which was plainly visi 
ble as soon as the fog dispersed, became known on 
shore, and its. presence created great uneasiness. The 
linen ships were supposed to be Jones object, and pre 
cautions were taken accordingly. It is worthy of re 
mark, that Jones states, the master saw the Cerf, inshore, 
whither she had been sent to reconnoitre, and to look 
for the missing boats, but the cutter showed English 
colors, and fired at the boat, which induced Mr. Lunt 
to land, as a last resort. To add to the misfortune, the 
cutter herself got separated in the fog, and did not rejoin 
the squadron. 

It was at this time, that Jones had a serious quarrel 
with his second in command, M. Landais. Insubordi 
nation soon began seriously to show itself; the conduct 
of the Cerf being very unaccountable. She went back 
to France. It is probable that the loss of so many men 
induced the French officers to distrust the fidelity of the 
Richard s crew ; and it is known that this distrust in 
fluenced the conduct of the Pallas, on a most trying oc 
casion, a few weeks later. On -the 26th, the Grande- 
ville was sent in, with a prize. This reduced the force 
of the squadron to four vessels, viz., the Richard, Alli 
ance, Pallas, and Vengeance. 

It was the intention of Jones to remain a week longer 
off Cape Clear, but Capt. Landais seemed so apprehen 
sive of the approach of a superior force, that he yielded 
to the opinion of his subordinate. On the 20th, it 
blowed fresh ; the commodore accordingly made the 


signal to stand to the northward, the Alliance parting 
company the same night. On the 31st, the Richard, 
Pallas, and Vengeance, were off Cape Wrath, the north 
western extremity of the island of Great Britain, where 
the former captured a heavy Letter-of-Marque, of twen 
ty-two guns, laden with naval stores for the enemy s 
vessels on the American lakes. While this ship was 
chasing, the Alliance hove in sight, and joined in the 
chase, having another Letter-of-Marque in company, a 
prize. These two ships were manned from the Alli 
ance, at Landais request ; and the latter sent them into 
Norway, contrary to orders, where hoth were restored 
to the English by the Danish government. On the 
night of the 8th, the Alliance again parted company, 
in a gale of wind. 

Jones kept well off the land, the weather being thick, 
and the wind foul. On the 13th, however, the Cheviot 
Hills, in the south-eastern part of Scotland, became 
visible, and the commodore now seriously set about the 
execution of some of his larger plans. His intention 
was to land at Leith, the port of Edinburgh itself, and, 
not only to lay the place under contribution, but to 
seize the shipping he might find in the Forth. He 
had hopes that even the Scottish capital might be 
frightened into a temporary submission. This was a 
highly characteristic project, and one worthy of the 
military audacity of the man. Its great merit, in addi 
tion to its boldness and importance, was its strong pro 
bability of success. The late Com. Dale, who was to 
act a most important part in the enterprise, and who 
was a man of singular simplicity and moderation of 
character and temperament, assured the writer that he 


never could see any reason why the attack should have 
been defeated, beyond the obstacle that actually arose. 
Jones himself intimates that his two colleagues, present, 
(for so he bitterly styled his captains, in consequence 
of the terms of the concordat,} threw cold water on his 
views, until he pointed out to them the probable amount 
of the contributions of two such places as Leith and 
Edinburgh. A delay occurred, moreover, in conse 
quence of the momentary absence of the Pallas and 
Vengeance, which vessels had given chase to the 
southward, a circumstance that compelled the Richard 
to quit the Forth, after she had entered it alone, and 
this at a moment when she might have secured a twen 
ty-gun ship and two cutters, all of which were lying in 
Leith roads, unsuspicious of danger ; though it would 
have compelled him to abandon the other and principal 
objects of the attempt. In order to join his consorts, 
and consult his captains, therefore, Jones was compelled 
to quit the Forth, after having once entered it. It ap 
pears he had found a man ready to give him informa 
tion, but the golden opportunity was lost, in consequence 
of the doubts and misgivings of his subordinates. 

Still Jones determined to make the attempt. On the 
15th, the Richard, Pallas, and Vengeance, entered the 
Forth in company, turning up with the tide, against a 
head wind. By this time the alarm had been given on 
shore, and guns were mounted at Leith, to receive the 
strangers. A cutter had been watching the squadron 
for several hours, also; but Jones deemed all this imma 
terial. The ships had got up as high as Inchkeith, the 
island which shelters the roads seaward, and the boats 
were in the water and manned. Mr. Dale, who was to 


superintend and command the maritime part of the de 
barkation, had received his instructions, and was on the 
point of descending into his boat, when a squall struck 
the ships, and induced an order to take the people from 
the boats, to clue up and clue down. Jones held on 
against the wind as long as he found it possible, but, 
the squall turning to a gale, he was compelled to bear 
up before it, and was driven out of the Frith again, at a 
much faster rate than he had entered it. The gale was 
short, but so severe that one of the prizes in company 
foundered. It moderated in the afternoon, but Jones 
having plainly seen the cutter watching him, conceived 
it too late to hope for a surprise, his only rational ground 
for expecting success. 

It is a proof how much doubt existed concerning the 
true character of Jones vessels, among the people on 
shore, that a member of parliament sent off, to the Rich 
ard, a messenger, to ask for powder and shot ; stating 
that he had heard Paul Jones was on the coast, and that 
he wished to be ready for him. A barrel of powder 
was sent in answer, but the " honorable gentleman" 
was told the vessel had no shot of the size he requested. 
On this occasion, the ships were seen turning up the 
Forth, as they stood in quite near to the north shore, 
and, it being Sunday, thousands were out viewing the 
scene, which caused a great clamor, and made a deep 

* The Edinburgh Review, in an article on Cooper s History of 
the Navy, which has been pretty effectually answered, gives its 
readers reason to suppose that Jones appearance on the coast pro 
duced no uneasiness. Sir Walter Scott told the writer he well re 
membered the feeling excited by this event, and that it was wide 
spread and general. As Scott was born in 1769, his recollection 
might be relied on. 


Jones had now fresh projects to annoy the enemy ; 
designs on Hull or Newcastle, as is thought. His 
captains, however, refused to sustain him, and he was 
reluctantly obliged to abandon his plans. His object 
was glory; theirs appears to have been profit. It 
ought to be mentioned, that all the young officers sus 
tained the commodore, and professed a readiness to fol 
low wherever he would lead. Jones had a respect for 
the opinion of Capt. Cottineau, of the Pallas, and it is 
believed he yielded more to his persuasions than to 
those of all the rest of his commanders. This of 
ficer seemed to think any delay of moment would 
bring a superior force against them. The commodore 
viewed the matter more coolly, well knowing that the 
transmission of intelligence, and the.collection of three 
or four vessels, was a matter that required some little 

Between the 17th and 21st, many colliers and coast 
ers were captured. Most of them were sunk, though 
one or two were released, and a sloop was ransomed by 
the Pallas, contrary to orders. On the latter day, the 
ships were off Flamborough Head, where the Pallas 
chased to the north-east, leaving the Richard and Ven 
geance in pursuit of vessels in a directly opposite quar 
ter. Jones overtook and sunk a collier, late in the after 
noon. Several craft then hove in sight, and one was 
chased ashore. Soon after, a brig from Holland was 
captured, and, at daylight, next morning, a considerable 
fleet was seen inshore, which kept aloof, on account of 
the appearance of the Bon Homme Richard. Finding 
it impossible to decoy them out, Jones used some arti 
fices to delude a pilot, and two boats came alongside. 


The pilots were deceived, and gave Jones all the infor 
mation they possessed. 

As it was now impracticable to bring the shipping 
out of the Hurnber, on account of the state of the wind 
and tide, and the Pallas not being in sight, the commo 
dore turned his attention to looking for his consorts. 
He hauled off the land, therefore, making the best of his 
way back to Flamborough Head, after passing several 
hours in endeavoring to entice the ships out of the 

In the course of the night of the 22d, two ships were 
seen, and chased for several hours, when, finding him 
self near them, Jones hove-to, about three in the morn 
ing, waiting for light. When the day returned, the 
strangers were found to be the Pallas and the Alliance ; 
the latter of which had not been seen since she parted 
company off Cape Wrath. 

After communicating with his consorts, Jones chased 
a brig that was lying-to to windward. About meridian, 
however, a large ship was observed coming round Flam- 
borough Head, when Mr. Henry Lunt, the second lieu 
tenant of the Richard, was thrown into one of the pilot 
boats, with fifteen men, and ordered to seize the brig, 
while the Richard made sail toward the strange ship. 
Soon after, a fleet of forty-one sail was seen stretch 
ing out from behind the Head, bearing N. N. E. from 
the Richard. The wind was light at the southward, 
and these vessels were a convov from the Baltic, turn 
ing down the North Sea, towards the Straits of Dover, 
bound to London. This placed Jones to windward and 
a little in shore, if the projection of the headland be ex- 


As soon as the commodore ascertained that he was in 
the vicinity of this fleet, he made a signal of recall to 
the pilot boat, and another of a general chase to his 
squadron. The first was probably unseen or disre 
garded, for it was not obeyed : and the officer and men 
in the pilot boat remained out of their vessel during 
most of the trying scenes of that eventful day. As 
twenty-four officers and men had been captured, or had 
deserted, off Cape Clear, these sixteen increased the 
number of absentees to forty ; if to these we add some 
who had been sent away in prizes, the crew of the 
Richard, which consisted of but three hundred and 
eighty, all told, the day she sailed, was now diminished 
to little more than three hundred souls, of w r hom a large 
proportion were the quasi marines, or soldiers, who had 
entered for the cruise. 

Jones now crossed royal yards and made sail for 
the convoy. He had intelligence of this fleet, and 
knew that it was under the charge of Capt. Pearson, of 
the Serapis 44, who had the Countess of Scarborough 
20, Capt. Piercy, in company. As the scene we are 
about to relate is one memorable in naval annals, it may 
be well to mention the force of the vessels engaged. 

That of the Richard has been already given. The 
Pallas mounted thirty guns, of light calibre, and was 
perhaps more than a third heavier than the Scarborough, 
the vessel she subsequently engaged. The Alliance 
was a large thirty-two, mounting forty guns, mostly 
t\velve pounders. She had a full, but indifferent crew 
of about 300 souls, when she left the Roads of Groix, 
of which near, if not quite, fifty were absent in prizes. 

VOL. II. 6 


Of the Vengeance, which had no part in the events of the 
day,- it is unnecessary to speak. 

On thepart of the enemy, many of the convoy were 
armed, and, by acting in concert, they might have 
given a good deal of occupation to the Pallas and Ven 
geance, while the two men-of-war fought the Richard 
and Alliance. As it was, however, all of these ships 
sought safety in flight. The Serapis was a new ves 
sel, that both sailed and worked well, of a class that 
was then a good deal used in the North Sea, Baltic, and 
the narrow waters generally ; and which was sometimes 
brought into the line, in battles between the short ships 
that were much preferred, in that day, in all the seas 
mentioned. She was a 44, on two decks ; having an 
armament below of 20 eighteens ; one of 20 nines, on 
the upper gun-deck ; and one of 10 sixes, on her quar 
ter-deck and forecastle. This is believed to have been 
her real force, though Jones speaks of her, in one place, 
as having been pierced for 56 instead of 50 guns. The 
former was the usual force of what was called a fifty- 
gun ship, or a vessel like the Leander, which assailed 
the Chesapeake in 1807. Sands, the most original 
writer of authority on the subject of Paul Jones, or of 
any reasoning powers of much weight, infers from 
some of his calculations and information that the Serapis 
had 400 souls on board her at the commencement of the 
action which is now to be related. The English accounts 
state her crew to have been 320 ; a number that is 
quite sufficient for her metal and spars, and which is 
more in conformity with the practice of the English 
marine. The Indiamen, stated by Sands to have been 
obtained by Capt. Pearson, in Copenhagen, may have 


been 15 Lascars, who are known to have been on 
board, and to have been included in the 320 souls. It 
is not probable that the crews of the Richard and Se- 
rapis differed a dozen in number. The Countess of 
Scarborough was a hired ship in the British navy, dif 
fering in no respect from a regular man-of-war, except 
in the circumstance that she belonged to a private 
owner instead of the king. This was not unusual in 
that marine, the circumstance being rather in favor of 
the qualities of the vessel, since the admiralty, on the 
coast of England, would not be likely to hire any but a 
good ship. Her officers and people belonged to the 
navy, as a matter of course. There is a trifling dis 
crepancy as to the force of the Scarborough, though the 
point is of no great moment, under the circumstances. 
Jones states that she was a ship mounting 24 guns on 
one deck, while other accounts give her armament as 
22 guns in all. She probably had a crew of from 120 
to 150 men. 

As soon as the leading English vessels saw that 
strangers, and probably enemies, were to the southward, 
and to windward, they gave the alarm, -by firing guns, 
letting fly their top-gallant sheets, tacking together, and 
making the best of their way in toward the land again. 
At this moment the men-of-war were astern, with a 
view to keep the convoy in its place ; and being near 
the shore, the authorities of Scarborough had sent a 
boat off to the Serapis, to apprise her commander of the 
presence of Paul Jones fleet. By these means, the two 
senior officers were fully aware with whom they had to 
contend. Capt. Pearson fired two guns, and showed 
the proper signals, in order to call in his leading ships, 

64 N A V A L B I O G R A P H Y. 

but, as is very customary with merchant vessels, the 
warning and orders were unattended to. until the danger 
was seen to be pressing. While the merchantmen 
were gathered in behind the Head, or ran off to leeward, 
the Serapis signaled the Scarborough to follow, and 
stood gallantly out to sea, on the starboard tack, hugging 
the wind. 

Jones now threw out a signal to his own vessels to 
form the line of battle. The Alliance, which ought to 
have dropped in astern of the Richard, paid no attention 
to this order, though she approached the enemy to 
reconnoitre. In passing the Pallas, Capt. Landais 
remarked that if the larger of the enemy s ships proved 
to be a fifty-gun ship, all they had to do was to endea 
vor to escape ! This was not the best possible disposi 
tion with which to commence the action. Soon after 
the Pallas spoke the Richard, and asked for orders. 
Jones directed her to lead toward the enemy, but the 
order was not obeyed, as will be seen by what followed. 

The wind being light, several hours passed before 
the different evolutions mentioned could be carried into 
execution. As soon as Capt. Pearson found himself 
outside of all his convoy, and the latter out of danger, 
he tacked in shore, with a view to cover the merchant 
men. This change of course induced Jones to ware 
and carry sail, with a view to cut him off from the land. 
By this time it was evening, and this sudden change 
of course, on the part of the Serapis, seems to have 
given rise to a distrust, on the part of Capt. Cottineau, 
of the Pallas, concerning the control she was under. 
There were so many disaffected men in the Richard, 
English and other Europeans, that the security of the 


ship appears to have been a matter of doubt among all 
the other vessels. When those on board the Pallas, 
therefore, perceived the Richard crowding sail inshore, 
they believed Jones was killed by his own people, and 
that the mutineers had run away with the ship, intend 
ing to carry her into a British port. With this im 
pression, Capt. Cottineau hauled his wind, tacked, and 
laid the Pallas head offshore. In consequence of this 
manosuvre, and of the Vengeance s being far astern, 
nothing like a line was formed on this occasion. 

Jones object was to cut his enemy off from the land. 
Keeping this in view, he pressed down in the Richard, 
regardless of his consorts, passing the Alliance lying-to, 
out of gun-shot, on the weather quarter of the principal 
English ship. It was now dark, but Jones watched his 
enemy with a night-glass, and perceiving that he could 
cut off the Serapis from getting under the guns of Scar 
borough Castle, he continued to approach the English 
man under a press of sail. Soon after the Pallas wore 
round and followed. The Vengeance had directions to 
order the pilot-boat back, and then to pick up the con 
voy ; but as these last were inshore, and tolerably safe, 
she seems to have done little, or nothing. In the action 
that ensued, she took no part whatever. 

It was half-past seven, or eight o clock, when the 
Richard and Serapis drew near to each other. The 
former was to windward, both vessels being on the lar 
board tack. The Serapis hailed, demanding " What 
ship is that?" "I can t hear what you say," was 
returned from the Richard. " What ship is that ?" 
repeated the Englishman " answer immediately, or I 
shall be under the necessity of firing into you." The 


Richard now delivered her broadside, which was re 
turned from the Serapis so promptly as to render the 
two discharges nearly simultaneous. In an instant, the 
two ships were enveloped in smoke and darkness. 
The Richard backed her topsails, in order to deaden 
her way and keep her station to windward. She then 
filled, and passed ahead of the Serapis, crossing- her 
bows, becalming the Serapis partially. The latter was 
a short ship, and worked quick. She was, moreover, a 
good sailer, and Capt. Pearson keeping his luff, as soon 
as his canvas filled again, he came up on the weather 
quarter of Jones, taking the wind out of his sails ; both 
vessels fighting the other broadsides, or using the star 
board guns of the Serapis and the larboard of the Rich 
ard. It will be remembered that the Richard had six 
eighteens mounted in her gun-room. As the water 
was smooth, Jones relied greatly on the service of this 
battery, which, in fact, was his principal dependence 
with an adversary like the Serapis. Unfortunately 
two of these old, defective pieces burst at the first dis 
charge, blowing up the main-deck above them, beside 
killing and wounding many men. The alarm was so 
great as to destroy all confidence in these guns, which 
made but eight discharges in all, when their crews 
abandoned them. This, in addition to the actual 
damage done, was a most serious disadvantage. It 
reduced the Richard s armament at once to 32 guns, or, 
as some authorities say, to 34 ; leaving her with the 
metal of a 32 gun frigate, to contend with a full-manned 
and full-armed 44. The combat, now, was in fact be 
tween an eighteen-pounder and a twelve-pounder ship ; 
an inequality of. metal, to say nothing of that in guns, 


that seemed to render the chance of the Richard nearly 

Half an hour \vas consumed in these preliminary 
evolutions, the wind being light, and the vessels nearly 
stationary a part of the time. When the Richard first 
approached her adversary, it will be remembered she 
was quite alone, the Vengeance having been left leagues 
behind, the Alliance lying-to, out of gun-shot, to wind 
ward, and the Pallas not bearing up until her com 
mander had ascertained there was no mutiny on board 
the commodore, by seeing him commence the action. 
All this time the Countess of Scarborough was coming 
up, and she now closed so near as to be able to assist 
her consort. The Americans affirm that this ship did 
fire at least one raking broadside at the Richard, doing 
her some injury. On the other hand, Capt. Piercy, 
her commander, states that he was afraid to engage, as 
the smoke and obscurity rendered it impossible for him 
to tell friend from enemy. It is possible that both ac 
counts are true, Capt. Piercy meaning merely to excuse 
his subsequent course after having fired once or twice 
at the Richard. At all events, the connection of this 
vessel with the battle between the two principal ships 
must have been very trifling, as she soon edged away 
to a distance, and, after exchanging a distant broadside 
or two with the Alliance, she was brought to close ac 
tion by the Pallas, which ship compelled her to strike, 
after a creditable resistance of an hour s duration. This 
vessel fully occupied the Pallas, first in engaging her, 
then in securing the prisoners, until after the conflict 

When the Serapis came up on the weather quarter 


of the Richard, as has been mentioned, she kept her 
luff, passing slowly by, until she found herself so far 
ahead and to windward, as to induce Capt. Pearson to 
think he could fall broad off, cross the Richard s fore 
foot,- and rake her. This manreuvre was attempted, 
but finding there was not room to effect her purpose, the 
Serapis came to the wind again, as fast as she could, 
in order to prevent going foul. This uncertain move 
ment brought the two ships in a line, the Serapis lead 
ing. It so far deadened the way of the English ship, 
that the Richard ran into her, on her weather quarter. 
In this situation neither vessel could fire, nor could 
either crew board, the collision being necessarily gentle, 
and nothing touching but the jib-boom of the American. 
In this state the two vessels remained a minute or two. 
While in this singular position, the firing having 
entirely ceased, and it being quite dark, a voice from 
the Serapis demanded of the Richard, if she had struck. 
Jones answered promptly, "I have not yet begun to 
fight." As the ships had now been engaged nearly, 
or quite, an hour, this was not very encouraging, cer 
tainly, to the Englishman s hope of victory, though he 
immediately set about endeavoring to secure it. The 
yards of the Serapis ;were trimmed on the larboard tack, 
and her saj/s were full as the Richard touched her ; the 
latter ship bracing all aback, the two vessels soon part 
ed. ~s soon as Jones thought he had room, he filled 
on the other tack, and drew ahead again. The Serapis, 
however, most probably with a view of passing close 
athwart, either the Richard s fore foot or stern, luffed 
into the wind, laid all aback forward, and keeping her 
helm down while she shivered her after sails, she 


attempted to break round off on her heel. At this mo 
ment, Jones seeing his enemy coming down, thought 
he might lay him athwart hawse, and drew ahead with 
that object. In the smoke and obscurity, the moon not 
having yet risen, each party miscalculated his distance, 
and just before the Serapis had begun to come up on 
the other tack, her jib-boom passed in over the Richard s 
poop, getting foul of the mizzen rigging. Jones was 
perfectly satisfied, by this time, that he had no chance 
in a cannonade, and gladly seized the opportunity of 
grappling. He had sent the acting master for a haw 
ser as soon as he perceived what was likely to occur, 
but it not arriving in time, with his own hands he lashed 
the enemy s bowsprit to the Richard s mizzen-mast, by 
means of the Serapis rigging that had been shot away, 
and which was hanging loose beneath the spar. Other 
fastenings soon made all secure.* 

*Capt. Mackenzie, in his life of Paul Jones, has the following, 
in a note, p. 183, vol. 1, viz.: "As considerable difference will 
be observable between the account of this battle, given in Mr. 
Cooper s Naval History, and the above, (meaning his own ac 
count of the action,) it is proper to state that Mr. Cooper has followed 
Mr. Dale s description of the manoeuvres antecedent to the ship s 
being grappled ; whilst in the present account more reliance has 
been placed on those of the two commanders who directed the evo 
lutions. Mr. Dale was stationed on the Richard s main-deck, in 
a comparatively unfavorable position for observing the mano3uvres. 
The evolution of box-hauling his ship, ascribed by Mr. Cooper to 
Capt. Pearson, would, under the circumstances, have been highly 

In answer to this, the writer has to say, that he nowhere finds 
any reason for thinking that either of the commanders contradicts 
his account ; and as the late Com. Dale, in a long personal inter 
view, minutely described all the manoeuvres of the two vessels, as 
he has here given them, he feels bound to believe him. The argu- 


The wind being light, the movements of the two 
vessels were slow in proportion. It was owing to this 
circumstance, and to the fact that the Serapis was just 
beginning to gather way as she came foul, that the col- 

ment that Mr. Dale could not see what he described, is fallacious, 
since an officer in command of a gun-deck, finding no enemy on 
either beam, would naturally look for him, and by putting his head 
out of a forward port, Mr. Dale might have got a better view of 
the Serapis than any above him. But Com. Dale states a thing 
distinctly and affirmatively, and with such a witness, the writer 
feels bound much more to respect his direct assertions, than any 
of the very extraordinary theories in history, of which Capt. Mac 
kenzie has been the propagator. The manreuvres were probably 
discussed, too, between the younger officers, after the surrender 
of the Serapis. The writer dissents, also, to Capt. Mackenzie s 
views of seamanship. Bringing ships round before the wind, in the 
manner described, was far more practised in 1779 than it is to-day. 
It was more practised with the short ships of the narrow seas than 
with any other. The river vessels, in particular, frequently did it 
twenty or thirty times in a single trip up the Thames, or into the 
Nore. The writer has seen it done himself a hundred times in 
those waters. Many reasons may have induced Capt. Pearson to 
practice what, with a Baltic and London ship, must have been a 
common manoeuvre, especially with a master on board who was 
doubtless a channel pilot. He might have wished at first to pre 
serve the weather-gage ; he might not have desired to take the 
room necessary to ware with his helm hard-a-weather, or might 
have attempted to tack, and failing on account of the lightness of 
the wind, or the want of sufficient headway, brought his ship round 
as described. For the writer, it is sufficient that a seaman and a 
moralist like Richard Dale has deliberately told him in detail, that 
this manoeuvre was practiced, to upset the vague conjectures of a 
historian of the calibre of Capt. Mackenzie. A published statement 
from Com. Dale is given by another writer, in which that truth- 
loving and truth-telling old officer is made to say, " The Serapis 
wore short round on Tier heel, and her jib-boom ran into the mizzen 
rigging of the Bon Homme Richard." This is giving in brief what 
he gave to the writer in detail. 


lision itself did little damage. As soon as Capt. Pear 
son perceived he was foul, he dropped an anchor under 
foot, in the hope that the Richard would drift clear of 
him. The fastenings having been already made, this 
result was not obtained ; and the ships tending to the 
tide, which was now in the same direction with the 
wind, the latter brought the stern of the Serapis close in, 
alongside of the bows of the Richard. In this position 
the ships became so interlocked, by means of their 
spars, spare anchors, and other protruding objects, for the 
moment, as to become inseparable. 

As the stern of the Serapis swung round, her lower 
deck ports were lowered, in order to prevent being 
boarded. The ships sides touching, or at least being 
so close as to prevent the ports from being opened 
again, the guns were fired inboard, blowing away the 
lids. This was renewing the action, under circum 
stances which, in ordinary cases, would have soon 
brought it to a termination. Wherever a gun bore, it 
necessarily cleared all before it, and, in reloading, the 
rammers were frequently passed into a hostile port, in 
order to be entered into the muzzles of their proper 
guns. It is evident that such a conflict could be main 
tained only under very extraordinary circumstances. 

The eighteens of the Serapis soon destroyed every 
thing within their range, nor was it long before, the 
main-deck guns of the Richard were, in a great measure, 
silenced. A considerable number of the men who had 
been at the eighteens of the Richard s gun-room, had 
remained below after their pieces were abandoned, but 
the heavy fire of the Serapis lower guns soon started 
them up, and joining some of those who had been driven 


away from the twelves, they got upon the forecastle. 
As the Richard was a longer ship than the Serapis, 
this point was comparatively safe, and thence a fire of 
musketry was kept up on the enemy s tops and decks. 
These men, also, threw grenades. The tops, too, were 
not idle, but kept up a smart fire of muskets, and the 
men began to resort to grenades also. 

In this stage of the action, the Serapis had the can 
nonading nearly to herself. All her guns, with the 
exception of those on the quarter-deck and forecastle, 
appear to have been worked, while, on the part of the 
Richard, the fire was reduced to two nines on the quar 
ter-deck, two or three of the twelves, and the musketry. 
The consequences were, that the Richard was nearly 
torn to pieces below, while the upper part of the Sera- 
pis was deserted, with the exception of a few officers. 
Capt. Pearson himself appears to have sent his people 
from the quarter-deck guns. An advantage of this sort, 
once gained, was easily maintained, rendering it vir 
tually impossible for the losing party to recover the 
ground it had lost. 

The moon rose about the time the ships came foul. 
Until this occurred, the Alliance had not been near the 
principal combatants. She now passed some distance 
to leeward, and crossed the bows of the Richard and 
the stern of the Serapis, firing at such a distance as 
rendered it impossible for her to make sure of her ene 
my, even if she knew which was which. As soon as 
her guns ceased to bear, she up helm, and ran a consi 
derable distance farther to leeward, hovering about until 
the Scarborough submitted. Capt. Landais now spoke 
the Pallas, when Capt. Cottineau begged him to go to 


the assistance of the Richard, offering, at the same time, 
to go himself if the Alliance would take charge of his 
prize. All these facts appear under oath in the course 
of the controversy which grew out of the events of this 
memorable night. 

Ashamed to remain idle at such a moment, and in 
the face of such remonstrances, Capt. Landais hauled 
up, under very easy canvas, however, for the two com 
batants, and making a couple of stretches under his top 
sails, he passed the bows of the Serapis and stern of 
the Richard, opening with grape, the last shot to be 
used under such circumstances ; then keeping away a 
little, he certainly fired into the Richard s larboard quar 
ter, or that most distant from the enemy. Some of the 
witnesses even affirm that this fire was maintained until 
the Alliance had actually passed the Richard s beam, 
on her way to leeward. 

These movements of the Alliance induced Sands 
aptly to term that frigate the comet of this bloody sys 
tem. It is difficult tcr account for her evolutions, with 
out supposing treachery, or insanity, on the part of her 
commander. For the latter supposition there are some 
grounds, his subsequent deportment inducing the go 
vernment to put him out of employment, as a man at 
least partially deranged. Still it is difficult to suppose 
the officers would allow their men to fire into the Rich 
ard s quarter, as mentioned, unless they mistook the 
ship. On the other hand, it is affirmed by the wit 
nesses that three lanterns were shown on the offside 
of the Richard, the regular signal of reconnoisance ; 
that fifty voices called out, begging their friends to cease 
firing, and this, too, when so near that the remonstrances 

VOL. II. 7 


must have been heard. By direction of Jones, an 
officer hailed, too, and ordered Landais to lay the enemy 
aboard. A question was then put to ascertain whether 
the order was understood, and an answer was given in 
the affirmative. 

The effect of this transit of the Alliance was very 
disastrous to the Richard. Her fire dismounted a gun 
or two on board the latter ship, extinguished several 
lanterns, did a good deal of mischief aloft, and induced 
many of the people to desert their quarters, under the 
impression that the English on board the Alliance had 
got possession of the ship, and were aiding the enemy. 
It is, indeed, an important feature in the peculiarities 
of this remarkable cruise, and one that greatly enhances 
the merit of the man who used such discordant mate 
rials, that the two principal vessels distrusted each 
other s ability to look down revolt, and were distrusted 
by all the rest, on account of the same supposed inse 
curity. It may be added as one of the difficulties in 
explaining Capt. jLandais conduct, that the moon had 
now been up some time, and that it was very easy to 
distinguish the ships by their offsides ; that of the Se- 
rapis having two yellow streaks, dotted as usual with 
ports, while the Richard was all black. 

Not satisfied with what he had done, Capt. Landais 
shortly after made his re-appearance, approaching the 
Richard on her off side, running athwart her bows this 
time, and crossing the stern of her antagonist. On this 
occasion, it is affirmed, her fire commenced when there 
was no possibility of reaching the Serapis, unless it 
were through the Richard ; and her fire, of grape espe 
cially, was particularly destructive to the men collected 


on the Richard s forecastle. At this spot alone, ten or 
twelve men appear to have been killed or wounded, at 
a moment when the fire of the Serapis could not possi 
bly injure them. Among those slain, was a midship 
man of the name of Caswell, who affirmed with his 
dying breath that he had been hit by the shot of the 
Alliance. After this last exploit, Capt. Landais seemed 
satisfied with his own efforts, and appeared no more. 

While these erratic movements were in course of 
execution by the Alliance and her eccentric, if not in 
sane, commander, the two ships engaged lay canopied 
by smoke, a scene of fierce contention, and of accumu 
lated dangers. The alarm of fire was succeeded by 
reports that the Richard was sinking. To these sources 
of apprehension, soon followed that of the dread of a 
rising within. The accession of water in the hold in 
duced the master-at-arms to release the English pri 
soners on board, who were more than a hundred in 
number. As if this were not enough, the ships began 
to take fire from the explosions of the guns and grenades, 
and the combatants were frequently called from their 
quarters, in order to extinguish the flames. Capt. 
Pearson states, that the Serapis was on fire no less than 
twelve times, while the ships lay grappled ; and, as to 
the Richard, in addition to several accidents of this 
nature that were promptly suppressed, for the last hour 
she was burning the whole time, the flames having got 
within her ceilings. 

Jones was not a little astonished to see more than a 
hundred English mariners rushing up from below, at a 
moment when a heavy ship of their country was lashed 
alongside, and deliberately pouring her fire into his 


own vessel. Such a circumstance might have proved 
fatal, with a man less resolute and self-possessed. 
Lieut. Dale had been below, in person, to ascertain the 
state of the hold, and it was found that several heavy 
shot had struck beneath the water line, and that the 
danger from that source was in truth serious. Profiting 
by the alarm that prevailed among the prisoners, the 
commodore set the Englishmen at work at the pumps, 
where they toiled with commendable zeal near an hour! 
Had they been so disposed, or cool, most of them might 
have escaped on board the Serapis. 

The precise situations of the two vessels, and of the 
Richard in particular, are worthy of a passing remark. 
As for the Serapis, her injuries were far from great. 
She had suffered from the fire of her opponent at the 
commencement of the fight, it is true, but the bursting 
of the Richard s eighteens, and her own superior 
working and better sailing had given her such essential 
advantages as, added to her heavier fire, must have long 
before decided the affair in her favor, but for the cir 
cumstance of the two vessels getting foul of each other. 
The quiet determination of Jones not to give up, might 
have protracted the engagement longer than usual, but 
it could hardly have averted the result. The vessels 
were no sooner square alongside, however, than the 
English ship s heavy guns swept away every thing in 
their front. This superiority in the way of artillery 
could not be overcome, and continued to the close of the 
engagement. Under any thing like ordinary circum 
stances, this ascendancy must have given the victory 
to the English, but Jones was a man calculated by na 
ture, and his habits of thinking, to take refuge against 



a defeat in extraordinary circumstances. He had suc 
ceeded in driving the enemy from above board, and 
was, in this stage of the action, diligently working two 
nine-pounders, in the hope of cutting away the Serapis 
main-mast. Had he succeeded in this effort, no doubt 
he would have cut the lashings, and, obtaining a more 
favorable position on the bow or quarter of his enemy, 
settled the matter with his main-deck battery. Still, it 
required many shot, of the weight of his, to bring down 
so large a spar, with most of its rigging standing, and 
in smooth water. No one knows what would have- 
been the result, but for the coolness and judgment of a 
seaman, who belonged to the main-top. As the Eng 
lish had been cleared out of their tops by the greater 
fire of the Richard s musketry, this man lay out on the 
main-yard, until he found himself at the sheet-block. 
Here he placed a bucket of grenades, and began deli 
berately to throw them upon the Serapis decks, 
wherever he saw two or three men collected. Finding 
no one on the quarter-deck, or forecastle, to annoy, he 
tossed his grenades into the hatches, where they pro 
duced considerable confusion and injury. At length, 
he succeeded in getting one or two down upon the 
lower gun-deck, where one of them set fire to some 
loose powder. It appears that the powder boys had 
laid a row of cartridges on the off side of this deck, in 
readiness for use, no shot entering from the Richard to 
molest. To this act of gross negligence, Capt. Pearson 
probably owed the loss of his ship. The lower gun- 
deck of the Serapis had been perfectly safe from all 
annoyance, from the moment the ships got foul, no gun 
of the Richard s bearing on it, while the deck above 


protected it effectually from musketry. To this secu 
rity, it is probable, the dire catastrophe which succeeded 
was owing. The powder that ignited set fire to all 
these uncovered cartridges, and the explosion extended 
from the main-mast aft. It silenced every gun in that 
part of the ship, and indeed nearly stripped them of 
their crews. More than twenty men were killed out 
right, leaving on many of them nothing but the waist 
bands of their duck trowsers, and the collars and wrist 
bands of their shirts. Quite sixty of the Serapis peo 
ple must have been placed hors de combat, in a mo 
ment, by this fell assault. The reader may imagine 
its effects on a lower gun-deck, choked with smoke, 
with the ship on fire, amid the shrieks and groans of 
the living sufferers. 

It is now known that the English would have struck, 
soon after this accident occurred, had not the master of 
the London Letter of Marque, captured off Cape Wrath, 
passed out of a port of the Richard into one of the Se 
rapis and announced that the American ship was in a 
still worse situation, having actually released her pri 
soners, as she was on the point of sinking. About 
this time, too, another incident occurred, that aided in 
sustaining the hopes of Capt. Pearson. Two or three 
of the warrant officers of the Richard, when they found 
the ship in danger of sinking, had looked in vain for 
Jones, and Mr. Dale being below at that moment, ex 
amining into the state of the pumps, they determined 
that it was their duty to strike the colors, in order to 
save the lives of the survivors. Luckily, the ensign had 
been shot away, and the gunner, who had run up on 
the poop to lower it, called out for quarter. Hearing 


this, Capt. Pearson demanded if the Richard had struck. 
Jones answered for himself in the negative, but in such 
a way that he was not either heard or understood, and 
the English actually mustered a party of boarders to 
take possession of their prize. As this was giving 
Jones men a better chance with their muskets, the 
English were soon driven below again, with loss. 
Some of the latter, however, appeared on the sides of 
the Richard. 

These reverses turned the tide of battle in favor of 
the Americans. ,The latter got a gun or two more at 
work, and, while the fire of their adversaries was sen 
sibly diminishing, their own began to increase. The 
spirit of the Englishman drooped, and he finally hauled 
down his colors with his own hands, after the ships had 
been lashed together nearly, if not quite, two hours and 
a half. The main-yard of the Serapis was hanging 
a-cock-bill, the brace being shot away, and the brace 
pendant within reach. Lieut. Dale seized the latter 
and swung himself over upon the quarter-deck of the 
Serapis. Here he found Capt. Pearson quite alone, 
and received his submission. At this instant, the first 
lieutenant of the English ship came up from below, and 
inquired if the Richard had struck, her fire having now 
entirely ceased. Mr. Dale explained to this officer how 
the case stood, when, finding his own commander con 
firmed it, the lieutenant offered to go below, and to stop 
the guns that were still at work in the Serapis. Mr. 
Dale objected, however, and these two officers were 
immediately passed over to the quarter-deck of the 
Richard. A party of officers and men had followed 
Mr. Dale from his own ship, and one of them, a Mr. 



Mayrant, of South Carolina, one of the Richard s mid 
shipmen, was actually run through the thigh by a 
boarding spike; the blow coming from a party of 
boarders stationed on the main-deck. This was the 
last blood spilt on the occasion, the firing being stopped 
immediately afterward. 

> Thus ended the renowned conflict between the 
Serapis and the Bon Homme Richard; one of the most 
remarkable of naval annals, in some of its features, 
though far from being as comparatively bloody, or as 
well fought in others, as many that may be cited. Com. 
Dale, who was familiar with the facts, always placed 
the combat between the Trumbull and Watt, before that 
between these two ships, in the way of a cannonade ; 
nor was there much difference in the comparative loss 
of the English vessels, the Watt having about half her 
crew killed and wounded, which was not far from the 
casualties of the Serapis. Still, this battle must ever 
stand alone, in a few of its leading incidents. There is 
no other instance on record of two vessels, carrying 
such batteries, remaining foul of each other for so long 
a period. It could have happened in this case, only, 
through the circumstances that the Richard had the 
combat nearly all to herself above board, while the 
Serapis was tearing her to pieces below decks. The 
respective combatants were, in truth, out of the range 
of each other s fire, in a great degree ; else would the 
struggle have been brought to a termination in a very 
few minutes. The party that was first silenced must 
have soon submitted; and, as that was virtually the 
American ship, the victory would have belonged to the 
English, in any other circumstances than those which 


actually occurred. As for the cannonading that Jones 
kept up for more than an hour on the main-mast of the 
Serapis, it could have had no material influence on the 
result, since the mast stood until the ship had struck, 
coming down just as the two vessels separated. 

An examination into the injuries sustained by the 
respective combatants, proves the truth of the foregoing 
theory. As for the Richard, she had suffered a good 
deal during the first hour, or before the vessels closed, 
receiving several heavy shot between wind and water. 
Some shot, too, it would seem to be certain, were 
received in the same awkward places, from the fire of 
the Alliance, after the ships had grappled. But, the 
most extraordinary part of her injuries were those 
which were found from the main-mast aft, below the 
quarter-deck. Perhaps no vessel ever suffered in a 
degree approaching that in -which the Richard suffered 
in this part of her. Her side was almost destroyed by 
the guns of the Serapis, and nothing prevented the 
quarter-deck, main-deck and poop from literally falling 
down upon the lower-deck, but a few top-timbers and 
upper futtocks that had fortunately escaped. This left 
Jones and his companions fighting on a sort of stage, 
upheld by stanchions that were liable at any moment to 
be carried away. Nothing, indeed, saved these sup 
ports, or the men on the deck above them, but the fact 
that they were all so near the enemy s guns, that the 
latter could not be trained, or elevated sufficiently high 
to hit them. It was the opinion of Com. Dale that the 
shot of the Serapis, for the last hour of the action, must 
have passed in at one side of the Richard, in this part 
of the ship, and out at the other, without touching any 


thing, the previous fire having so effectually cleared 
the road ! 

The loss of men, in each ship, was fearfully great, 
and singularly equal. A muster-roll of the Richard 
has been preserved, which shows that, out of 227 souls 
on board when the ship sailed, exclusively of the sol 
diers, or marines, 83 were killed, or wounded. As 
many of these 227 persons were not in the action, while 
a few do not appear on this roll, who were on board, by 
placing the whole number of this portion of the crew 
at 200, we shall not be far out of the way. About 120 
of the soldiers were in the combat, and this proportion 
would make such an additional loss, as to raise the 
whole number to 132. These soldiers, however, suf 
fered in the commencement of the action more than the 
rest of the people, more especially a party of them that 
had been stationed on the poop ; and, the reports of the 
day making the loss of the Richard 150 altogether, we 
are inclined to believe it was not far from the truth. 
This was very near one half of all the men she had 

On the part of the English, Capt. Pearson reported 
117 casualties, admitting, however, that there were 
many more. Jones thought his own loss less than that 
of the Serapis, and there is reason to think it may have 
been so, in a trifling degree. It is probable that some 
thing like one half of all the combatants suffered in this 
bloody affair, which is a very unusual number for any 
battle, whether by sea or land. Many of those who 
suffered by the two explosions that of the Richard s 
eighteens, and that of the Serapis cartridges died of 
their injuries. 


To return to the state of the two vessels, and the 
events of the night : Jones no sooner found himself in 
possession of his prize, than he ordered the lashings 
cut in order to separate the vessels. This was done 
without much difficulty, the wind and tide, in a few 
minutes, carrying the Richard clear of her late antago 
nist. The Serapis was hailed, and ordered to follow 
the commodore. In order to do this, her head-yards 
were braced sharp aback, to cause the vessel to pay 
off, her main-mast having come down, nearly by the 
board, bringing with it the mizzen top-mast. The 
wreck was cleared, but the ship still refused to answer 
her helm. Excited by this singular state of things, Mr. 
Dale sprang from a seat he had taken, and fell his length 
upon deck. He had been wounded in the foot, and 
now ascertained for the first time that he was unable to 
walk. Luckily, Mr. Lunt, with the pilot boat, had 
come alongside, as soon as the firing ceased, and was 
ready to take his place. The fact being communicated 
to this officer that the Serapis was anchored, the cable 
was cut, and Jones orders obeyed. It is proper to add 
that the party in the pilot boat were of great service, as 
soon as they got on board again. 

The vessels of the squadron now collected together, 
and fresh men were obtained from her consorts, to 
attend to the critical wants of the Richard. That ship, 
it will be remembered, was not only on fire, but sinking. 
Gangs of hands were obtained from the other vessels, to 
work the pumps, as well as to assist in extinguishing 
the flames, and the night passed in strenuous efforts to 
effect their purposes. So critical was the condition of 
the vessel, however, that many men threw themselves 


into the water, and swam to the nearest ship, under an 
apprehension that the Richard might at any moment be 
blown up. In the course of this eventful night, too, 
eight or ten Englishmen, who had formed a part of 
Jones own crew, stole a boat from the Serapis, and de 
serted, landing at Scarborough. Despair of ever being 
able to escape into a neutral or friendly port, was doubt 
less their motive ; and, in the circumstances, the reader 
can see the vast disadvantages under which Jones had 
achieved his success. A careful attention to all the 
difficulties, as well as dangers, that surrounded him, is 
necessary to a just appreciation of the character of our 
subject, whose exploits would have been deemed illus 
trious, if accomplished with means as perfect as those 
usually at the disposal of commanders in well established 
and regular marines. It is not to be forgotten, more 
over, that Jones was personally so obnoxious to the 
anger of the English, as to render it certain that his 
treatment would be of the severest nature, in the event 
of his capture, if, indeed, he were allowed to escape 
with life. It was surely enough to meet an equal force 
of English seamen, on the high seas, favored by all the 
aids of perfect equipments and good vessels ; but, here, 
a desperate battle had been fought in sight of the Eng 
lish coast, against an enemy of means to render success 
doubtful, and with a reasonable probability that even 
victory might be the means of destroying the conqueror. 
Many a man will face death manfully, when he pre 
sents himself in the form of a declared enemy, in open 
fight, who will manifest a want of the highest moral 
qualities which distinguish true courage, when driven 
to a just appreciation of the risks of an unseen source 


of alarm. It is this cool discrimination between real 
and imaginary difficulties and dangers, which distin 
guishes the truly great commander from him who is 
suited only to the emergencies of every-day service ; 
and when, as in the case of Jones, this ability to discri 
minate, and to resist unnecessary alarms, is blended 
with the high military quality of knowing when to at 
tempt more than the calculations of a severe prudence 
will justify, we find the characteristics of the great land 
or sea captain. 

Daylight afforded an opportunity of making a full 
survey of the miserable plight in which the Richard 
had been left by the battle. A survey was held, and 
it was soon decided that any attempt to carry the ship 
in was hopeless. It may be questioned if she could 
have been kept from sinking in smooth water, so many 
and serious were the shot-holes ; though, after getting 
the powder on deck by way of security, and contending 
against them until ten ne$tt morning, the flames were 
got under. The fire had been working insidiously 
within the ceiling, or this advantage, immaterial as it 
proved in the end, could not have been gained. It was 
determined, after a consultation, to remove the wounded, 
and to abandon the ship. Jones came to this decision 
with the greatest reluctance, for he had a strong and 
natural desire to carry into port all the evidence of the 
struggle in which he had been engaged ; but his own 
judgment confirmed the opinions of his officers, and he 
reluctantly gave the order to commence the necessary 

The morning of the 24th, or that of the day which 
succeeded the battle, was foggy, and no view of the sea 

VOL. II. 8 



was had until near noon. Then it cleared away, and 
the eye could command a long range of the English 
coast, as well as of the waters of the offing. Not a sail 
of any sort was visible, with the exception of those of 
the squadron and its prizes. So completely had the 
audace of Jones, to use an expressive French term that 
has no precise English translation, daunted the enemy, 
that his whole coast appeared to be temporarily under a 

The two pilot boats were very serviceable in receiv 
ing the wounded. After toiling at the pumps all the 
24th and the succeeding night, the Richard was left in 
the forenoon of the 25th, the water being then as high 
as the lower deck. About ten, she settled slowly into 
the water, the poop and mizen-mast being the last that 
was ever seen of the old Due de Duras, a ship whose 
reputation will probably live in naval annals as Jong as 
books are written and men continue to read. 

Jones now erected jury-masts in the Serapis, and 
endeavored to get into the Texel, his port of destination. 
So helpless was the principal prize, however, that she 
was blown about until the 6th October, before this object 
could be effected. With a presentiment of what would 
have been best, Jones himself strongly desired to go 
into Dunkirk, for which port the wind was fair, where 
he would have been under French protection ; but the 
concordat emboldened his captains to remonstrate, and 
they proceeded to Holland. 

The arrival of the soi-disant American squadron in 
a neutral country, accompanied by two British men-of- 
war, as prizes, gave rise to a great political commotion. 
The people of the Dutch nation were opposed to the 


English, and in favor of America, but the government, 
or its executive at least, and the aristocracy, as a mat 
ter of course, felt differently. We shall not weary the 
reader with the details of all that occurred. It will be 
sufficient to say, that it was found necessary to hoist 
French flags in most of the ships, and to put the prizes 
even under the protection of the Grand Monarque. 
Jones, for a time, got rid of Landais, who was sent for 
to Paris, and he transferred himself and his favorite of 
ficers to the Alliance. This vessel, the only real Ame 
rican ship in the squadron, continued to keep the stars 
and stripes flying. At one time matters proceeded so 
far, however, that ships of the line menaced the frigate 
with forcing her out to sea, where thirty or forty Eng 
lish cruisers were in waiting for her, if she did not 
lower the as yet unacknowledged ensign. All this 
Jones withstood, and he actually braved the authorities 
of Holland, under these critical circumstances, rather 
than discredit the flag of the country he legitimately 
served. A French commission was offered to himself, 
but he declined receiving it, always affirming that he 
was the senior American sea-captain in Europe, and he 
claimed all the honors and rights of his rank. His 
prizes and prisoners were taken from him, in virtue of 
the concordat, and through orders from Dr. Franklin, 
but the Alliance was an American ship, and American 
she should continue as long as she remained under his 
orders ! 

At length, after two months of wrangling and morti 
fication, Jones prepared to sail. He had been joined 
by the celebrated Capt. Couyngham, who went passen 
ger in his ship for France. He left the Texel on the 


27th December, and a letter written by himself, just as 
he discharged the pilot, stated that he was fairly out 
side, with a fair wind, and his best American ensign 
flying. The last was a triumph indeed, and one of 
which he was justly proud. 

The run of the Alliance from the Texel, through the 
British Channel, while so closely watched, has been 
much vaunted in certain publications, and Jones him 
self seemed proud of it. It is probable that its merits 
were the judgment and boldness with which the passage 
was planned and executed. Com. Dale, a man totally 
without exaggeration, spoke of it as a bold experiment, 
that succeeded perfectly because it was unexpected. 
The enemy, no doubt, looked for the ship to the north 
ward, never dreaming that she would run the gantlet at 
the Straits of Dover. 

Jones hugged the shoals as he came out, and kept 
well to windward of all the blockading English vessels. 
In gassing Dover he had to go in sight of the shipping 
in the Downs. As the wind held to the eastward, this 
he did at little risk. He was equally successful at the 
Isle of Wight, a fleet lying at Spithead ; and several 
times he eluded heavy cruisers, by going well to the 
eastward of them. The Alliance went into Corunna, 
to avoid a gale. Thence she sailed for France, arriving 
in the roads of Groix on the 10th of February. This 
was the only cruise Jones ever made in the Alliance. 
Capt. Landais had injured the sailing of the ship, by 
the manner in which he stowed the ballast, and this it 
was that induced her present commander to go in so 
early, else might he have made a cruise as brilliant as 
any that had preceded it. It is matter of great regret 


that Jones never could get to sea in a vessel worthy of 
his qualities as a commander. The Ranger was dull 
and crank ; the Alfred was no better ; the Providence 
was of no force, and the reader has just seen what 
might be expected from the Richard. The Alliance was 
an excellent ship of her class, though not very heavy ; 
but, just as accident threw her in Jones way, he was 
compelled to carry her into port, where she was taken 
from him. 

The history of Jones life, after he joined the navy, 
with the exception of the short intervals he was at sea, 
is a continued narrative of solicitations for commands, 
or service, and of as continual disappointments. During 
the whole war, and he sailed in the first squadron, Jones 
was actually at sea a little short of a year. The re 
mainder of his seven years of service was employed 
in struggling for employment, or in preparing the im 
perfect equipments with which he sailed. Could such 
a man have passed even half his time on board efficient 
and fast cruisers, on the high seas, we may form some 
estimate of what he would have effected, by the exploits 
he actually achieved. By the capture of the Serapis, 
and the character of his last cruise generally, Jones ac 
quired a great reputation, though it did little for him, 
in the way of obtaining commands suitable to his rank 
and services. 

Our hero had obtained some little circulation in Pa 
risian society, by his capture of the Drake, though 
there is surprisingly little sympathy with any nautical 
exploits in general, in the brilliant capital of France. 
But the exploits of the Bon Homme Richard over 
came this apathy toward the things of the sea, and 


Jones became a lion, at once, in the great centre of Eu 
ropean civilization. It would be idle to deny that this 
flattery and these attentions had an influence on his 
character. New habits and tastes were created, habits 
and tastes totally in opposition to those he had formed 
in youth ; and these are changes that rarely come late 
in life altogether free from exaggeration. The corre 
spondence of Jones, which was very active, and in the 
end became quite voluminous, proves, while his mind, 
manners and opinions were in several respects improved 
by this change of situation, that they suffered in others. 
He appears to have had an early predilection for poet 
ry, and he seems to have now indulged it with some 
freedom in making indifferent rhymes on various ladies. 
Some of his biographers have placed his effusions on a 
level with those of the ordinary vers de societe, then so 
much in vogue ; but they seem to forget that these 
were very indifferent rhymes also. In that gay and 
profligate society to which he was admitted, it was 
scarcely possible that a bachelor of Jones temperament 
should altogether escape the darts of love. His name 
has been connected with that of a certain Delia, also 

with that of a certain Madame T , and also with 

that of a lady of the name of Lavendahl. This Ma 
dame T is said to have been a natural daughter of 

Louis XV., a circumstance that may, or may not, infer 
rank in society. The attachment to the last, however, 
has been thought a mere platonic friendship. Some 
pains have been taken to show that these were ladies 
of high rank, but a mere title is not now, nor was it in 
1779, any proof of a high social condition in France, 
unless the rank were as high as that of a duchesse. 


That Jones was a lion in Paris, is a fact -beyond ques 
tion, but much exaggeration has accompanied the 
accounts of his reception. His return occurred in the 
midst of an exciting war, and it is scarcely possible that 
his exploits should be overlooked by the government, 
or the bean monde, but they were far from occupying 
either, in the manner that has been mentioned by cer 
tain of his panegyrists. 

After a visit to Paris, he returned to the coast, where 
new difficulties arose with Landais. By a decision of 
one of the commissioners, that officer was restored to the 
command of the Alliance, and the quarrel was renewed. 
But the brevity of this sketch will not permit us to give 
an account of all the discussions in which Jones was 
engaged, either with his superiors or with his subordi 
nates. It is difficult to believe that there was not some 
fault in the temperament of the man, although it must 
be admitted that he served under great disadvantages, 
and never had justice done to his talents or his deeds 
in the commands he received. The end of this new 
source of contempt was Landais putting Jones own of 
ficers, Dale and others, ashore, and sailing for America, 
where he was laid on the shelf himself, and his ship 
was given to Barry. 

The immediate nautical service on hand was to get 
several hundred tons of military stores to America. 
With this duty Jones had been intrusted, and he now 
begged hard that his prize, the Serapis, might be bor 
rowed for that purpose. He doubtless wished to show 
the ship in this country, as his plan was to arm her en 
flute, merely, and to give her convoy by a twenty-gun 
ship, called the Ariel, which the French government 


had consented to lend the Americans. On reaching 
America, he hoped to get up a new expedition, with 
the Serapis for his own pennant. 

This arrangement could not he made, however, and 
Jones was compelled to receive smaller favors. As a 
little consolation, and one to which he was far from be 
ing indifferent, the King of France sent him, about this 
time, (June, 1780,) the cross of military merit, which 
he was to carry to the French minister in America, who 
had instructions to confer it on him on some suitable occa 
sion. At the same time, he was informed that Louis 
XVI. had directed a handsome sword to be made, with 
suitable inscriptions, which should be forwarded to him 
as soon as possible. This was grateful intelligence to a 
man so sensitive on the subject of the opinions of others, 
and doubtless was received as some atonement for his 
many disappointments. 

By the beginning of September, Jones was ready to 
sail for America, in the Ariel. He had got together as 
many of his old Richard s as possible for a crew, and 
had crammed the vessel in every practicable place with 
stores. He lay a month in the roads of Groix, however, 
with a foul wind. On the 8th October, he went to sea, 
but met a gale that very night, in which his ship was 
nearly lost. He was obliged to anchor at no great dis 
tance to windward of the Penmarks, where the Ariel 
rolled her lower yard-arms into the water. She could 
not be kept head to sea with the anchors down, but fell 
off with a constant drift. Cutting away the fore-mast 
relieved her, but now she pitched the heel of the main 
mast out of the step, and it became necessary to cut 
away that spar, to save the ship. This brought down 


the mizen-mast, as a matter of course, when the vessel 
became easier. For two days and near three nights 
did the Ariel continue in her crazy berth, anchored in 
the open ocean, with one of the most dangerous ledges 
of rocks known, a short distance under her lee, when she 
was relieved by a shift of wind. Jury-masts were 
erected, and the vessel got back to the roads from which 
she had sailed. 

In speaking of this gale, in a letter to one of his fe 
male friends, Jones quaintly remarks, " I know not why 
Neptune was in such anger, unless he thought it an 
affront in me to appear on his ocean with so insignifi 
cant a force." It is in this same letter that he makes 
the manly and high-toned remark, apropos of some im 
puted dislike of a certain English lady, " The English 
nation may hate me, but 1 will force them to esteem me 

In the gale Jones was supported by his officers. 
Dale and Henry Lunt were with him, as indeed were 
most of the officers of the Richard who survived the 
action, and the risks of this gale were thought to equal 
those of their bloody encounter with the Serapis. Dale 
spoke of this time as one of the most, if not the most, 
serious he had met with in the course of his service, 
and extolled the coolness and seamanship of Jones as 
being of the highest order. The latter, indeed, was a 
quick, ready seaman, never hesitating with doubts or 

It is worthy of being mentioned, that while lying at 
Groix, repairing damages, a difficulty occurred between 
Jones and Truxtun, about the right of the latter to wear 
a pennant in his ship ; he being then in command of a 


private armed vessel. It appears Truxtun hoisted a 
broad pennant, and this at a time when he had no right 
to wear a narrow one, Congress having passed a law 
denying this privilege to private vessels. These fiery 
spirits were just suited to meet in such a conflict, and 
it is only surprising Jones did not send a force to lower 
Truxtun s emblem for him. His desire to prevent 
scandalous scenes in a French port alone prevented it. 
Jones did not get out again until the 18th December, 
when he made the best of his way to America. The 
Ariel appears to have made the southern passage. In 
lat. 26, N. and long. 59, she made an English frigate- 
built ship, that had greatly the superiority over her in 
sailing. Jones, according to his own account of the 
matter, rather wished to avoid this vessel, his own ship 
being deep and much burdened, his crew a good deal 
disaffected, and the stranger seeming the heaviest. 
After passing a night in a vain attempt to elude him, 
he was found so near the next day as to render an ac 
tion inevitable, should the stranger, now believed to be 
an enemy, see fit to seek it. Under the circumstances, 
therefore, Jones thought it prudent to clear ship. The 
stranger chased, the Ariel keeping him astern, in a way 
to prevent him from closing until after nightfall. As 
the day declined, the Ariel occasionally fired a light 
gun at the ship astern, crowding sail, as if anxious to 
escape. By this time, however, Jones was satisfied he 
should have to contend with a vessel not much, if any, 
heavier than his own, and he shortened sail, to allow 
the stranger to close. Both ships set English colors, 
and as they drew near, the Ariel hauled up, compelling 
the stranger to pass under her lee, both vessels at quar- 


ters, with the batteries lighted up. In this situation, 
each evidently afraid of the other, a conversation com 
menced that lasted an hour. Jones asked for news 
from America, which the stranger freely communicated. 
He said his ship was American built, and had been 
lately captured from the Americans and put into the 
English service. Her name was stated to be the Tri 
umph, and that of her commander Pindar. Jones now 
ordered this Mr. Pindar to lower a boat and come on 
board. A refusal brought on an action, which lasted a 
few minutes, when the stranger struck. The fire of the 
Ariel was very animated, that of the soi-disant Triumph 
very feeble. The latter called out for quarter, saying 
half his people were killed. The Ariel ceased firing, 
and as she had passed to leeward before she commenced 
firing, the stranger drew ahead and tacked, passing to 
windward in spite of the chasing fire of her enemy. 

Jones was greatly indignant at this escape. He al 
ways considered, or affected to consider, the Triumph a 
king s ship of equal force, though she was probably no 
thing more than a light armed and weakly manned Let- 
ter-of-Marque. By some it has even been imagined the 
Triumph was an American, who supposed he was ac 
tually engaged with an English vessel of war. Differ 
ent writers have spoken of this rencontre as a hand 
some victory ; but Com. Dale, a man whose nature 
seemed invulnerable to the attempts of any exaggerated 
feeling, believed the Ariel s foe was an English Let- 
ter-of-Marque, and attributed her escape to the clever 
ness of her manoeuvres. That her commander violated 
the laws of war, and those of morality, is beyond a 


Shortly after this affair, Jones discovered a plot among 
the English of his crew to seize the ship, and twenty 
of the most dangerous of the mutineers were confined. 
It was not found necessary, however, to execute any 
of them at sea, and the ship reached Philadelphia, 
on February 18th, 1781, making Jones absence from 
the country a little exceeding three years and three 

Notwithstanding certain unpleasant embarrassments 
awaited Jones, on his return to America, after the bril 
liant scenes in which he had been an actor, he had no 
reason to complain of his reception. Landais had actu 
ally been dismissed as insane, and this, too, principally 
on the testimony of Mr. Lee, the commissioner who had 
reinstated him in the command of the Alliance ; a cir 
cumstance that, of itself, settled several of the unplea 
sant points that had been in dispute. But the delay in 
shipping the stores had produced much inconvenience 
to the army, and Congress appointed a committee form 
ally to inquire into the cause. The result was favor 
able to Jones, arid the committee reported resolutions, 
that were adopted, expressive of the sense Congress 
entertained of Jones service, and of the gratification it 
afforded that body to know the King of France intended 
to confer on him the order of military merit. In conse 
quence of this resolution, the French minister gave a 
.fete, and, in presence of all the principal persons of the 
place, conferred on Jones the cross of the order. In 
the course of the examinations that were made by Con 
gress, forty-seven interrogatories were put to Jones, and 
it is worthy of remark, that his answers were of a 
nature to do credit to both his principles and his head. 


This affair disposed of, nothing but the grateful respect 
which followed success, awaited our hero, who justly 
filled a high place in the public estimation. The 
thanks of Congress were solemnly voted to him, as his 

A question now seriously arose in Congress, on the 
subject of making Jones a rear-admiral. He had 
earnestly remonstrated about the rank given him when 
the regulated list of captains was made out, and there 
was an eclat about his renown, that gave a weight to 
his representations. Remonstrances from the older 
captains, however, prevented any resolution from pass 
ing on this question, and Jones was finally rewarded by 
a unanimous election, by ballot, in Congress, appoint 
ing him to the command of the America 74, a ship then 
on the stocks. As this was much the most considerable 
trust of the sort within the gift of the government, it 
speaks in clear language the estimation in which he 
was held. 

The America was far from being ready to launch, 
however. Still Jones was greatly gratified with the 
compliment. He even inferred that it placed him 
highest in rank in the navy, the law regulating com 
parative rank with the army, saying that a captain of 
a ship of more than forty guns should rank with a 
colonel, while those of forty guns ranked only with 
lieutenants-colonel ; and the America being the only 
ship that carried or rated more than forty guns, he 
jumped to the conclusion that he out-ranked the eight 
or ten captains above him, whose commissions had 
higher numbers than his own. It j^ probable this rea 
soning would have given way before inquiry. A cap- 

VOL. II. 9 


tain in command of a squadron, now, ranks temporarily 
with a brigadier-general. The youngest captain on the 
list may hold this trust, yet, when he lowers his pen 
nant, or even when he meets his senior in service, 
though in command of a single ship, the date or num 
ber of the commission determines the relative rank of 
the parties. 

It is worthy of remark that Jones, before he quitted 
Philadelphia, exhibited his personal accounts, by which 
it appeared that he had not yet received one dollar of 
pay, and this for nearly five years service ; proof of 
itself that he was not without private funds, and did not 
enter the navy a mere adventurer. On the contrary, 
he is said to have advanced considerable sums to govern 
ment, and in the end to have been a loser by his ad 
vances. But who was not, that had money to lose, and 
who sustained the cause that triumphed in that arduous 
struggle ? 

It would be useless here to follow Jones, step by step, 
in connection with his new command. He joined the 
ship in the strong hope of having her at sea in a few 
months ; but this far exceeded the means of the country. 
As he travelled toward Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, 
where the America was on the stocks, he wore his cross 
of the order of Military Merit, which did well enough 
at head quarters, when he paid a visit to Washington. 
There, however, it was hinted to him he had better lay 
it aside on entering the New England states, a portion 
of the country in which personal distinctions were, and 
are peculiarly offensive to the people. One cannot ob 
ject to this particular instance of the feeling, for the 
citizen of a nation that rejects such rewards in its own 


political system, ought to have too much self-respect to 
accept them from a foreign state ; but an affectation of 
humility, rather than its reality, forms a part of the so 
cial faith of this section of the republic. Thus it is that 
we see the manly practice of self-nomination frowned 
on, while nowhere else are lower arts practiced to obtain 
nominations by others than among these fastidious ob 
servers of a proud political modesty. Exaggerations, 
whether in religion, morals, manners, speech, or appear 
ance, always result in this ; the simplicity of truth being 
as far removed from the acting they induce, as virtue is 
remote from vice. Nothing in nature can be violated 
with impunity, her laws never failing to vindicate their 
ascendancy in some shape or other. 

Jones reached Portsmouth, at the close of August, 
1781. The duty of superintending a vessel on the 
stocks, in the height of a war, was particularly irksome 
to a man of his temperament, and Portsmouth was a 
place very different from Paris. He was more than a 
year thus engaged, during most of which time he did 
not quit his post. In the course of the summer of 1782, 
however, the French lost a ship called the Magnifique, 
in the harbor of Boston, and Congress determined to 
present the America to the King of France, as a substi 
tute. This deprived Jones of his command, just as he 
was about to realize something from all his labors. 
Fortune had ordered that he was never to get a good 
ship under the American flag, and that all his exploits 
were to derive their lustre more from his own military 
qualities than from the means employed. 

November 5th, 1781, the America was launched; 
the same day Jones transferred her to the French of- 


ficer who was directed to receive her. At the time he 
did this, he believed he was to be employed on a second 
expedition. He expected, indeed, to get his old flame, 
the Indien, which was called the South Carolina, and 
was lying at Philadelphia. Her arrangement with 
South Carolina was nearly up, and Congress had 
claims, by means of which it was hoped she might yet 
be transferred to her original owners. Matters went so 
far that Com. Gillan, who commanded the ship, was 
arrested ; but the vessel got to sea under Capt. Joyner, 
and was captured by three English frigates, a few 
hours out ; not without suspicions of collusion with the 

There were now no means of employing Jones afloat, 
and he got permission to make a cruise in the French 
fleet, for the purpose of acquiring some knowledge of a 
fleet. He sailed in the Triomphante, the flag-ship of 
M. de Vaudreuil. M. de Viomenil, with a large mili 
tary suite, was on board, and sixty officers dined toge 
ther every day. It is characteristic of Jones, that he 
should mention that the French general was put into 
the larboard state-room, while he himself occupied the 
starboard! This might have been done on account of 
his being a stranger, and strictly a guest ; or it might 
have been done because M. de Viomenil knew nothing 
of naval etiquette on such points, while Jones attached 
great importance to it. 

This cruise doubtless furnished many new ideas to a 
man like Jones, but its military incidents were not 
worthy of being recorded. Peace was made in April, 
1783, and Jones left the fleet at Cape Francois, reach 
ing Philadelphia, May 18th. His health was not good, 


and he passed the summer at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 
for the benefit of a cold bath. He now had a project of 
retiring to a farm, but, it is probable, the quiet, dull con 
dition of the country, under the reaction of peace, did 
not suit him, for he applied to Congress for a commis 
sion as agent to look after the prizes made on his great 
cruise, particularly those which had been given up to 
the English by the Danes. Armed with such authority, 
he sailed for France, November 10th, in the Washing 
ton, late General Monk, the ship Barney had so gal 
lantly taken in the Hyder Ally, and which he then 
commanded. This vessel was the last relic of the navy 
of the Revolution, being the only vessel then owned by 
the government, or at least employed. Jones landed at 
Dover, from which place he proceeded to London, and 
thence to Paris, making the whole journey in five days ; 
tolerable proof he did not relish the country. Had he 
been known, it is by no means probable that he would 
have escaped without insult, for no man had ever 
alarmed the English coast so thoroughly in these later 
times. Nevertheless, he is said to have appeared on 
Change, while in London, and to have been recognised. 
He also went to one of the theatres, though a face 
must be much known to make that a very hazardous 

Jones was two yea^d engaged in settling his prize 
questions in France. This was done after a great deal 
of vexation, and his active mind then turned to a voyage 
of commercial enterprise, that included the North-west 
Coast, Japan, the Sandwich Islands, and the ends of the 
earth, in its plans. The celebrated Ledyard was to be 
his supercargo, and Jones commander-in-chief. Disco- 


very, science, and honor, were to be united with profit, 
and the whole was to have a character of high motives. 
Like so many others of our hero s projects, this also 
failed for want of means. 

In 1787, Jones determined to go to Denmark, to push 
his demands on that government in person. He had 
actually got as far as Brussels, when he was unexpect 
edly called to America, in consequence of some new 
difficulty connected with his compensation. The new 
constitution was not yet framed, and the affairs of the 
confederation presented embarrassments at every turn 
to all the public servants. This visit to America was 
made in the spring, and Jones remained in this country 
until autumn. October 18, 1787, Congress voted him 
a gold medal, in honor of his services while at the head 
of the squadron of the concordat. A letter to the King 
of France, in his favor, was also written by that body ; 
one of the highest honors it ever paid a citizen. It is 
singular that Jones, on his return to Europe, manifested 
an apprehension of being seized by some of the English 
ships, though a general peace prevailed, and it is not 
easy to see under what pretence such an outrage could 
have been committed. It would have been just as legal 
to arrest Washington, had he been found on the high 
seas. There was certainly no love between the par 
ties, and England, in that day, did many lawless things ; 
but it may be questioned if she would have presumed 
to go as far as this. Jones did not quit America, until 
November llth, 1787, which was the last day he ever 
had his foot on the western continent. 

In January, 1788, Jones received some new creden 
tials for Denmark, and shortly after he proceeded to 


Copenhagen. He is known to have been in that capi 
tal early in March. Previously to quitting Paris, some 
proposals had been made to Jones to enter into the ser 
vice of Russia, which were now renewed, through Ba 
ron Kreudener, Catherine s minister in Denmark. In 
April, our hero, in consequence of the negotiations 
which had commenced on this subject, determined to go 
to St. Petersburg. As regards his application to the 
Danish Court, it resulted in fair promises. The de 
mand amounted to 50,000 sterling, and Jones was put 
off with fine speeches and personal compliments, and 
had a patent sent after him, entitling him to a pension 
of 1500 Danish crowns, in consideration of "the respect 
he had shown to the Danish flag, while he had com 
manded in the North Seas." It seems to us impossible 
to understand this as any other than a direct bribe, in 
geniously covered up, to induce Jones not to press his 
demands. The agent who is sent to recover claims, in 
which others are interested, cannot accept compensation 
for himself, unless it include the interests of all the par 
ties concerned. Jones himself did not, at first, seem to 
know in what light he was to view this pension, and for 
several years he did not ask for the money. The ar 
rears were inventoried in his will, though it appears 
nothing was ever paid on them. Nothing was ever 
received, either, for the prizes. If must be confessed, 
Denmark paid her debts at a cheap rate. 

Jones had been well received at all the courts where 
he presented himself. Immediately on his arrival at 
St. Petersburg, Catherine made him a rear-admiral. 
His passage across the Gulf of Finland had been peril 
ous and romantic, and threw an eclat around his ap- 


proach, that was not unsuited to his established charac 
ter. He reached St. Petersburg, April 23d, (old style,) 
and he left it to join Prince Potemkin, in the Black Sea, 
on the 7th May, with his new commission in his pocket. 
His reception by Potemkin was flattering, but our ad 
miral did not conceal from himself that his brother flag- 
officers felt any thing but joy at seeing him. The 
cabals against him commenced the first hour of his 
arrival, nor do they appear to have ceased until the 
day of his departure. The motley force assembled 
under the Imperial flag, included officers of many dif 
ferent nations, some of whom much affected superiority 
over one whom the English, in particular, took every 
occasion to malign. 

The history of Jones service under the Russian flag 
is a revolting account of intrigues, bad management, 
and disappointment. The operations were far from 
trifling in their extent, and there were several engage 
ments, in all of which the Turks suffered, but nothing 
was effected of the brilliant and decisive character that 
marked the proper exploits of Paul Jones. Such a 
man ought not to have served under a chief like Po 
temkin, for nothing is more certain than that, in any 
glory, the favorite would seize the lion s share. Still 
Jones distinguished himself on more than one occasion, 
though our limits will not admit of entering into details. 
In one or two actions he was much exposed, and mani 
fested high personal resolution ; perhaps as much so as 
on any other occasions of his life. 

It has been seen that Jones ie/t St. Petersburg, May, 
1788 ; in December he had returned, virtually in dis 
grace. This event has often been ascribed to the 


enmity of the English officers in the Russian marine ; 
never to any official act of Jones himself. It was, in 
truth, owing to the personal displeasure of Potemkin, 
one with whom a man of our rear-admiral s disposition 
would not be likely long to agree. Catherine received 
Jones favorably, as to appearances at least, and, for a 
short time, he had hopes of being again employed. 

But the enemies of Jones had determined to get rid 
of him, and it is believed they resorted to an infamous 
expedient to effect his ruin in the estimation of the 
empress. A girl who entered his apartment, to sell 
some light* articles, charged him with an attempt to 
violate her person. Inquiry subsequently gave reason 
to believe the whole thing a trick, and Jones always 
protested his entire innocence ; but sufficient clamor 
was made to render his further sojourn in Russia, for 
the moment at least, unpleasant. Catherine was evi 
dently satisfied that injustice had been done him, but 
she did not care to offend Potemkin. Jones was per 
mitted to travel, retaining his rank and appointments. 
His furlough, which Jones himself, oddly enough, more 
than once calls his "parole," extended to two years, 
but was doubtless meant to be unlimited in its effect. 
Catherine had previously conferred on him the ribbon 
of St. Anne. 

Jones left St. Petersburg, in July, 1789, after a resi 
dence of about fifteen months in Russia. He traveled 
south, by Warsaw, where he remained some time, after 
which he visited Holland. About this time his consti 
tution began sensibly to give way. It is probable that 
the disappointments he had met with in the north preyed 
upon his feelings, his enemies being as active as ever 


in circulating stories to his disadvantage. His finances 
were impaired, too, and he appears to think that his 
pecuniary compensation from Russia had been light. 
Now it was that he would gladly have received the 
arrears of his pension from Denmark, a pension that 
certainly he ought never to have seemed to accept. In 
his justification, however, he says that both Jefferson 
and Morris advised him to profit by the liberality of 
the Danish Court ; but, in all cases, a man should decide 
for himself in a matter touching his own honor. Others 
frequently give advice, that they would reject in their 
own acts. 

In 1790, Jones was at Paris, well received by his 
friends ; but no longer a lion, or a subject of public 
attention. He manifested strong interest in his Scottish 
relations this season, and speaks of the education of his 
nephews and nieces. But it is to the credit of Jones, 
that, throughout his whole career, and while most flat 
tered with the attentions of the great, he never forgot to 
be affectionate and kind to his sisters. It was a blank 
year to him, however, his time being mostly occupied 
in endeavoring so to settle his affairs as to procure 
funds. In March, 1791, he addressed the empress, 
stating that his "parole" had nearly expired, and 
desiring to be ordered to return. All his letters and 
communications show that his spirit was a good deal 
broken, and the elasticity of his mind partially gone. 
He still thought of and reasoned about ships, but it was 
no longer with the fire and earnestness of his youth. 
The events in progress at Paris may have had some 
influence on him, though nowhere does he speak of 


them in his letters. His silence, in this respect, is even 

The new American Constitution went into operation 
in 1789 ; and Jones rightly enough predicted that this 
event would produce a regular and permanent marine. 
His hopes, however, outstripped the facts ; the results 
which he hoped would affect himself, and that soon, 
occurring several years later. He expected, and with 
reason, so far as his claims were concerned, to be com 
missioned an admiral in the new marine ; but he did 
not live to see the marine itself established. One ray 
of satisfaction, however, gleamed on his last days, the 
government of Washington giving him reason to expect 
a diplomatic appointment, to arrange certain difficulties 
with some of the Barbary powers. The appointment 
came shortly after Jones was laid in his grave ; proving 
beyond a question that he possessed the confidence of 
some of the wisest and best men of America, as long as 
he lived. 

Jones health had been impaired for some years. The 
form which his disease assumed jaundice renders it 
probable that the state of his mind affected his health. 
Dropsy supervened, and in July, 1792, he was thought 
so ill, as to send for Mr. Morris, and other friends, in 
order to make his will. For two days he was so much 
swollen as not to be able to button his vest ; this it was 
that induced him to make his will. It was signed 
about eight o clock, in the evening of the 18th, and he 
was then left, seated in his chair, by the friends who 
had witnessed it. Shortly after, he walked into his 
bed-room, by himself. It was not long before his phy 
sician came to see him. The bed-room was entered, 


and Jones was found lying on his face, on the bed, with, 
his feet on the floor, quite dead. 

The death of Jones was honorably noticed in France. 
The National Assembly sent a deputation of twelve of 
its members to attend the funeral, and other honors 
were shown his remains. He was interred in a cemetery 
that no longer exists, but which then was used, near la 
Barriere du Combat, for the interment of Protestants. It 
is probable that no traces of his grave could now be found. 

The estate left by Jones was respectable, though far 
from large. Still he could not be said to have died in 
poverty ; though so much of his estate was in claims, 
that he often wanted money. Among other assets 
mentioned in his will were $9000 of stock in the Bank 
of North America, with sundry unclaimed dividends. 
On the supposition that two years of dividends were due, 
this item alone must have amounted,- with the premium, 
to something like 2000 sterling. He bequeathed all 
he owned to his two sisters, and their children.* 

There can be no question that Paul Jones was a great 
man. By this we mean far more than an enterprising 

* Those who take an interest in such details, may be pleased to 
know that the heirs of Paul Jones realized about $40,000 from his 
estate, though much of it was lost. Among other assets, was the 
sword presented to him by Louis XVI. This sword is said to 
have cost 500 louis d or, near $2400. As there has been some 
controversy respecting it, growing out of a hasty and ill-considered 
statement of Capt. Mackenzie s, we will give the history of the 
transaction, as it has been communicated to us by Miss Janette 
Taylor, Jones niece, in part, and in part ascertained from other 

Jones made no bequest of the sword, which became the property 
of his ten heirs. It was sent to Scotland, where it was a bone of 
contention, and was the cause of an unpleasant legal proceeding 


and dashing seaman. The success which attended 
exploits effected by very insufficient means, forms the 
least portion of his claims to the character. His mind 
aimed at high objects, and kept an even pace with his 
elevated views. We have only to fancy such a man at 
the head of a force like that with which Nelson achieved 
the victory of the Nile twelve as perfect and well com 
manded two-decked ships as probably ever sailed in 
company in order to get some idea of what he would 
have done with them, having a peerage or Westminster 
Abbey in the perspective. No sea captain, of whom 
the world possesses any well authenticated account, 
ever attempted projects as bold as those of Jones, or 
which discovered more of the distinctive qualities of a 
great mind, if the character of his enemy be kept in view, 
as well as his own limited and imperfect means. The 
battle between the Serapis and the Richard had some 

between Mrs. Taylor and a brother-in-law. At last it was deter 
mined to present the sword to Robert Morris, as a testimonial of 
his services to its original owner. How it passed from Mr. Morris 
to Com. Barry is a disputed point. Capt. Mackenzie has said it 
was presented to the navy, to be worn by its senior officer ; but 
this cannot have been true, without making Barry unfaithful to his 
trust, and without any visible reason, as he undoubtedly bequeathed 
it to Dale, in his will ; Dale, who never was the senior officer of 
the navy, and who was not in the navy at all when the bequest 
was made. Mr. Morris, in the letter acknowledging the gift, re 
marks, that, being a civilian, he had given the sword, not to the 
navy, but to a naval officer. Nothing is said of any conditions. 
Barry bequeathed it to Dale, as the man of all others Jones 
family excepted who had the best right to it, and it is now the 
property of his son, Capt. Montgomery Dale, of the navy. It is 
not our intention to express any opinion on the subject of the per 
son who has now the best moral right to use this sword, though we 
think the legal right of Capt. Dale is indisputable. 
VOL. u. 10 


extraordinary peculiarities, beyond a question, and yet, 
as a victory, it has been often surpassed. The pecu 
liarities belong strictly to Jones ; but we think his offer 
ing battle to the Drake, alone in his sloop, in the centre 
of the Irish Channel, with enemies before, behind, and 
on each side of him, an act of higher moral courage 
than the attack on the Serapis. Landais extraordinary 
conduct could not have been foreseen, and it was only 
when Jones found himself reduced to an emergency in 
this last affair, that he came out in his character of indomi 
table resolution. But all the cruises of the man indicated 
forethought, intrepidity, and resources. Certainly, no 
sea captain under the American flag, Preble excepted, 
has ever yet equaled him, in these particulars. 

That Jones had many defects of character is certain. 
They arose in part from temperament, and in part from 
education. His constant declarations of the delicacy of 
his sentiments, and of the disinterestedness of his ser 
vices, though true in the main, were in a taste that 
higher associations in youth would probably have cor 
rected. There was, however, a loftiness of feeling about 
him, that disinclined him equally to meanness and vul 
garity ; and as for the coarseness of language and deport 
ment that too much characterized the habits of the sea, 
in his time, he appears never to have yielded to them. 
All this was well in itself, and did him credit ; but it 
would have been better had he spoken less frequently of 
his exemption from such failings, and not have alluded 
to them so often in his remarks on others. 

There was something in the personal character of 
Jones that weakened his hold on his contemporaries, 
though it does not appear to have ever produced a want 


of confidence in his services or probity. Com. Dale 
used to mention him with respect, and even with attach 
ment ; often calling him Paul, with a degree of affection 
that spoke well for both parties. Still, it is not to be 
concealed that a species of indefinite distrust clouded 
his reputation even in America, until the industry of 
his biographers, by means of indisputable documents 
and his own voluminous correspondence, succeeded in 
placing him before the public in a light too unequivo 
cally respectable to leave any reasonable doubts that 
public sentiment had silently done him injustice. The 
power of England, in the way of opinion, has always 
been great in this country, and it is probable the dis 
credit that nation threw on the reputation of Jones, pro 
duced an influence, more visible in its results than in 
its workings, on his standing even with those he had so 
well served. 

Notwithstanding the many proofs furnished by him 
self, of a weakness on the subject of personal consider 
ation, Jones gave some proofs of a high feeling of self- 
respect. His cards bore the simple, but proud name of 
"Paul Jones," without any titles or official rank. His 
associations, too, were unquestionably high, at one 
period of his life. Even Englishmen of rank and 
reputation drew accurate distinctions between his real 
character and career, and those which were so assidu 
ously imputed to him by Grub Street writers. The 
Duke of Dorset, the English ambassador at Paris, 
freely received him, and he is said to have lived on 
terms of intimacy with Lord Wemys, Admiral Digby, 
and others of like condition. 

In person, Jones was of the middle stature, with a 


complexion that was colorless, and with a skin that 
showed the exposure of the seas. He was well formed 
and active. His contemporaries have described him as 
quiet and unpresuming in his manners, and of rather 
retiring deportment. The enthusiasm which ran in so 
deep a current in his heart, was not of the obtrusive 
sort ; nor was it apt to appear until circumstances arose 
to call it into action ; then, it seemed to absorb all the 
other properties of his being. Glory, he constantly 
avowed, was his aim, and there is reason to think he 
did not mistake his own motives in this particular. It 
is perhaps to be regretted that his love of glory was so 
closely connected with his personal vanity ; but even 
this is better than the glory which is sought as an instru 
ment of ruthless power. 

If an author may be permitted to quote from himself, 
we shall conclude this sketch by adding what we have 
already said, by way of summary, of this remarkable 
man, in a note to the first edition of the History of the 
United States Navy, viz. : " In battle, Paul Jones was 
brave ; in enterprise, hardy and original ; in victory, 
mild and generous ; in motives, much disposed to disin 
terestedness, though ambitious of renown and covetous 
of distinction ; in his pecuniary relations, liberal ; in his 
affections, natural and sincere ; and in his temper, except 
in those cases which assailed his reputation, just and for 
giving." That these good qualities were without alloy, it 
would be presumptuous to assert ; but it appears certain 
that his defects were relieved by high proofs of great 
ness, and that his deeds were no more than the proper 
results of the impulses, talents, and native instincts of 
the man. 


THE subject of this sketch was a native of New York, 
in which state his family has long been resident. His 
father was Melancthon L. Woolsey, an officer of the 
Revolution, and subsequently known as General Wool 
sey, and collector of Plattsburg. His mother was a 
lady of the well-known family of Livingston, and a 
daughter of a divine of some eminence. The Woolseys 
were from Long Island, where they were very respect 
ably connected ; while, by his mother, young Woolsey, 
in addition to his Livingston descent, certainly one of 
the most distinguished of America, was connected with 
the Platts, Breeses, and other families of respectability, 
in the interior of his native state. The present Capt. 
Breese and the subject of this notice were cousins once- 

Young Woolsey was born about the year 1782, his 
parents having married near the termination of the war 
of the Revolution. His early education was that usually 
given to young gentlemen intended for the professions, 
and the commencement of the year 1800 found him a 
student in the office of the late Mr. Justice Platt, then 
a lawyer of note, residing at Whitesborough, in Oneida 
County, and the member of Congress for his district. 
This was the period when the present navy may be 
10* 113 


said to have been formed, the armaments of 1798 and 
1799 having substantially brought it into existence 
Young Woolsey, being of an athletic frame and manly 
habits, had early expressed a desire to enter the service, 
a wish that was gratified through the influence of Mr. 
Platt, as soon as that gentleman attended in his seat in 
Congress, which then sat in Philadelphia. We ought 
to have mentioned that Mr. Justice Platt was the hus 
band of a sister of his pupil s mother, and consequently 
was the latter s uncle by marriage. 

As the warrant of Mr. Woolsey was dated in 1800, 
he was about eighteen years of age when he first entered 
the service. He was ordered to the Adams 28, Capt. 
Valentine Morris, which vessel was bound to the West 
India station. The Adams, which was familiarly 
known to the service by the name of the "Little 
Adams," to distinguish her from the John Adams, was 
a vessel of great sailing qualities, and was one of the 
favorite ships of the navy. She was so sharp, and yet 
so slightly built, that it has been said it was not easy to 
write in her cabin, on account of the tremor, when she 
was going fast through the water. The Adams met 
with some success on this cruise, capturing no less than 
five French privateers, though neither was of a force 
to make any resistance. These vessels were named 
PHeureuse Rencontre, le Gambeau, la Renommee, the 
Dove, and le Massena. This was active service, and 
proved a good school for all the young men who served 
in the ship. Young Woolsey was conspicuous for at 
tention to his duty, and was a general favorite. When 
the cruise was up, the ship returned to New York. 

Woolsey learned a great deal of the elementary por- 


tions of his profession during the few months he served 
in the Adams. He was of an age to see the necessity 
for exertion, as well as to comprehend the .reasons of 
what he saw done, and few midshipmen made better 
use of their time. 

Young Woolsey was transferred to the Boston 28, 
Capt. McNiell, as soon as the Adams was paid off. 
This was the ship, commander, and cruise, that have 
since given rise to so many rumors and anecdotes in 
the service. Although the proper place to record the 
more material incidents of this singular cruise, as well 
as the striking personal peculiarities of Capt. McNiell 
himself, will be in the biography of that officer, one or 
two that were connected with the subject of this sketch 
may be related here. 

In dropping out of the East River into the Hudson, 
the pilot got the Boston on a reef of rocks that lie near 
the Battery. Woolsey, who had made himself a good 
deal of a seaman while in the Adams, was rated as a 
master s mate on board the Boston, and he was sent 
ashore with a boat, with orders to go to the navy-agent, 
in order to direct him to send off a lighter, with spare 
anchors and cables. On landing, he met the navy-agent 
on the battery, and communicated his orders. The 
latter asked Mr. Woolsey to proceed with his boat a 
short distance, in order to tow a lighter round to a point 
where it could receive the ground-tackle needed. Sup 
posing he should be conforming to the wishes of his 
captain, and knowing that, in consequence of meeting 
the navy-agent on the Battery, he might still return to 
the ship sooner than he was expected, the young officer 
complied. As soon as the duty was over, Woolsey 


returned on board the Boston, repaired to the cabin, and 
reported all that he had done. His captain heard him 
with grave attention. When the midshipman had got 
through with his story, and expected to be applauded 
for his judicious decision, the reasons for which he had 
paraded with some little effort, Capt. McNiell looked 
intently at him, and uttered, in a slow, distinct manner, 
the words, " D d yahoo !" Woolsey remonstrated, 
with some warmth, but the only atonement he received 
was a repetition of " D d yahoo !" uttered in a more 
quick and snappish manner. 

This little affair was very near driving our young 
officer out of the ship ; but his good sense got the better 
of his pride, and he came to the wise decision not to let 
his public career be affected by his private feelings. 
Ships were then difficult to be found ; the cruise pro 
mised to be both instructing and agreeable, in other 
respects ; and large allowances were always made for 
Capt. McNielPs humor. We say the wise decision, 
since an officer is usually wrong who suffers a misun 
derstanding with a superior to drive him from his 
vessel. So long as he is right and does his duty, he 
can always maintain his position with dignity and self- 

The Boston was the ship that carried Chancellor Li 
vingston and suite to France, when the former went as 
a minister to negotiate the treaty for the cession of 
Louisiana. The passage was pleasant enough, until 
the ship got near her port, when she was caught in a 
fearful gale, that blew directly on shore, and came very 
near being lost. Every one admitted that the frigate 
was saved by the steadiness and seamanship of the old 


officer who commanded her. He carried sail in a way 
that astounded all on board, but succeeded in clawing 
offthe land. We have heard Woolsey say that he car 
ried on the ship so hard that the muzzles of the quarter 
deck guns were frequently under water. In a word, the 
struggle seemed to be between the power of the elements 
and the resolution and perseverance of a single man, 
and the last prevailed. 

After landing the minister, the Boston, in pursuance 
of her instructions, proceeded to the Mediterranean, 
where she was to join the squadron under the orders 
of Com. Dale. But it did not suit the caprices of Capt. 
McNiell to come within the control of a superior, and 
he managed in a way to avoid both of the officers who 
commanded while the ship was out. He gave convoy, 
and for a short time was off Tripoli, blockading, but the 
Constellation appearing before that port, he immediately 
left it, and did not return. Woolsey used to relate a 
hundred laughable anecdotes concerning this cruise, 
during which Capt. McNiell committed some acts that 
hardly could be excused by the oddity of his character. 
While the ship was on the African coast, the captain 
sent for the pilot, a Frenchman, in order to ascertain the 
position of a particular reef, or a shoal, about which he 
had some misgivings. Woolsey entered the cabin on 
duty just as this consultation was held. The French 
man was pointing to the chart, and he said, a little at a 
loss to indicate the precise spot, " La-la, Monsieur. 1 
"La-la-la, b r Id, where s the reef?" demanded 

On another occasion, while the ship lay at Malaga, 
Woolsey was sent on shore, at nine, for the captain, 



who had dined that day with the consul. Sweden was 
at war with Tripoli, at that time, as well as ourselves, 
and a Swedish squadron was then at Malaga, the admi 
ral and captains also dining- with the consul on this 
occasion. McNiell was seated between the admiral 
and one of his captains, when Woolsey was shown into 
the dining-room. The young man reported the boat. 
"What do you say?" called out Capt. McNiell. 
Woolsey repeated what he had said. McNiell now 
leaned forward, and, his face within two feet of that of 
the admiral, he called out, " These bloody Swedes keep 
such a chattering, you must speak louder." 

But these were trifles in the history of this extraordi 
nary man, and we only relate them on account of their 
connection with the subject of this sketch. After 
remaining abroad near or quite a twelve-month, the 
Boston returned home, where her commander was dis 
charged from the service, and the ship was laid up in 
ordinary, never to be re-commissioned. She was sub 
sequently burned at the taking of Washington. 

We do not happen to possess the proofs to say whe 
ther Woolsey returned to America in the Boston, or 
whether he joined one of the ships of Com. Morris 
squadron, at Gibraltar. We cannot find any evidence 
that Capt. McNiell ever joined either commodore, and 
it is not easy to see how one of his midshipmen could 
have got into another ship without such a junction. At 
any rate, Woolsey was certainly in the Chesapeake, as 
one of her midshipmen, while Com. Morris had his 
pennant flying in her, and he went with that officer to 
the New York, acting Capt. Chauncey. On the pas 
sage between Gibraltar and Malta, the Enterprise in 


company, occurred the explosion on board the New 
York, by means of which that frigate came very near 
being lost. WooJsey always spoke in the highest 
terms of the coolness and decision of Chauncey, on this 
trying occasion, by which alone the vessel was saved. 
As it was, nineteen officers and men were blown up, or 
were seriously burned, fourteen of whom lost their lives. 
The sentinel in the magazine passage was driven quite 
through to the filling-room door, and only a single thick 
ness of plank lay between the fire and the powder of 
the magazine, when the flames were extinguished. 

Woolsey went off Tripoli again, in the New York, 
and was present when Porter made his spirited attack 
on the wheat-boats ashore, and in the abortive attempt 
that was subsequently made at cannonading the town. 
We are not certain whether Mr. Woolsey returned 
home in the Adams, with Com. Morris, or whether he 
continued out on the station until the New York s 
cruise was up. There could not have been much dif 
ference in the time, however, our young officer serving 
afloat in the Adams, Boston, Chesapeake, New York, 
and, we believe, in the Adams, again, with little or no 
interruption, from the time he entered the service, in 
1800, to the close of the year 1803. During these 
cruises, Woolsey made himself a sailor, and a good one 
he was for the time he had been at sea, and the oppor 
tunities he had enjoyed. 

In consequence of having been attached to the pre 
vious squadron, or that of Com. Morris, Woolsey had 
riot the good fortune to belong to that of Preble, which 
so much distinguished itself in the succeeding year. 
His next service was in the Essex 32, Capt. James 


Barren, a ship that was then justly deemed one of the 
best ordered in the navy. The Essex formed one of 
the vessels that were placed under the orders of Com. 
Samuel Barren, and she arrived out shortly after the 
explosion of the Intrepid ketch. When Com. Rodgers 
assumed the command of the force in the Mediterranean, 
the Essex was one of his squadron, which consisted of 
no less than twenty-four sail, gunboats included. Thir 
teen of these vessels appeared in company before the 
town of Tunis, dictating the terms of a treaty of indem 
nity to that regency. The Essex was of the number. 

In the course of the exchanges that were made, Capt. 
Campbell took command of the Essex. About this 
time Woolsey received an acting appointment as a 
lieutenant, and when Capt. Campbell again exchanged 
with Com. Rodgers, the latter coming home, and the 
former remaining out in command, Woolsey went, with 
a large proportion of the officers of the Essex, to the 
Constitution 44. 

In the Constitution, then the commanding ship, 
Woolsey remained on the Mediterranean station, until 
near the close of the year 1807. He had, for his mess 
mates, Charles Ludlow, William Burrows, and various 
other young men of merit. None of the lieutenants, 
Ludlow excepted, were commissioned, but they were 
all held in abeyance, with orders to Com. Campbell to 
report on their qualifications and conduct. That officer 
was so well satisfied with his young men, however, 
that in the end each of them got his proper place on 
the list. In that day, lieutenants were frequently very 
young men, and it sometimes happened that their 
frolics partook more of the levity of youth than is now 


apt to occur, in officers of that rank. One little inci 
dent, which occurred to Woolsey while he was under 
the command of Com. Campbell, tells so well for the 
parties concerned, that we cannot refrain from relating 
it ; more especially as the officer whose conduct ap 
peared to the most advantage in the affair is still living, 
and it may serve to make his true character known to 
the country. 

Com. Campbell had brought with him, to his ship, 
a near relative, of the name of Read. This young gen 
tleman was one of the midshipmen of the frigate, while 
Woolsey and Burrows were two of her lieutenants. 
On a certain occasion, when the latter was filled with 
wine," he became pugnacious, and came to voies de 
fait with his friend Woolsey. The latter, always an 
excellently tempered man, as well as one of great per 
sonal strength, succeeded in getting his riotous mess 
mate down on the ward-room floor, where he dictated 
the terms of peace. As such an achievement, notwith 
standing Burrows condition, could not be- effected 
without some tumult and noise, the fact that two of the 
ward-room officers had come to something very like 
blows, if not actually to that extremity, necessarily be 
came known to their neighbors in the steerage. From 
the steerage, the intelligence traveled to the cabin, and, 
next morning, both Woolsey and Burrows were placed 
under arrest. As between the two parties to the scene 
nothing further passed or was contemplated, they 
were particularly good friends, and the offender no 
sooner came to his senses than he expressed his regrets, 
and no more was thought of the affair. Capt. Camp 
bell himself was willing to overlook it, when he learned 

VOL. II. 11 


the true state of things, and all was forgotten but the 
manner in which it was supposed the commodore ob 
tained his information. That the last came from some 
one in the steerage was reasonably certain, and the 
ward-room officers .decided that the informer must have 
been Mr. Read, on account of his near consanguinity 
to the commanding officer. On a consultation, it was 
resolved to send Mr. Read to Coventry, which was 
forthwith done. 

For a long time, Mr. Read was only spoken to by 
the gentlemen of the ward-room on duty. They even 
went out of their way to invite the other midshipmen 
to dine with them, always omitting to include the sup 
posed informer in their hospitalities. Any one can 
imagine how unpleasant this must have been to the 
party suffering, who bore it all, however, without com 
plaining. At length Woolsey, while over a glass of 
wine in the cabin, ascertained from the commodore 
himself the manner in which the latter had obtained his 
knowledge of the fracas. It was through his own 
clerk, who messed in the steerage. 

The moment an opportunity offered, Woolsey, than 
whom a nobler or better-hearted man never existed, 
went 1 up to young Read on the quarter-deck, and, rais 
ing his hat, something like the following conversation 
passed between them. 

"You must have observed, Mr. Read, that the officers 
of the ward-room have treated you coldly, for some 
months past ?" 

"I am sorry to say I have, sir." 

"It was owing to the opinion that you had informed 


Com. Campbell of the unpleasant little affair that took 
place between Mr. Burrows and myself." 

" I have supposed it to be owing to that opinion, 

" Well, sir, we have now ascertained that we have 
done you great injustice, and I have come to apologize 
to you for my part of this business, and to beg you 
will forget it. I have it from your uncle, himself, that 
it was Mr. ;" 

" I have all along thought the commodore got his in 
formation from that source." 

" Good Heaven ! Mr. Read, had you intimated as 
much, it would have put an end at once to the unplea 
sant state of things which has so long existed between 
yourself and the gentlemen of the ward-room." 

"That would have been doing the very thing for 
which you blamed me, Mr. Woolsey turning in 

Woolsey frequently mentioned this occurrence, and 
always in terms of high commendation of the self-denial 
and self-respect of the midshipman.. We had it, much 
as it is related here, from the former s mouth. It is 
scarcely necessary to tell those who are acquainted 
with the navy that the young midshipman was the pre 
sent Commodore George Campbell Read, now in com 
mand of the coast of Africa squadron. 

The Constitution was kept out on the station some 
months longer than had been intended, in consequence 
of the attack that was made on the Chesapeake, the 
ship that was fitted out to relieve her. This delay 
caused the times of the crew to be up, and the frigate 


was kept waiting at Gibraltar in hourly expectation of 
this relief. Instead of receiving the welcome news 
that the anchors were to be lifted for home, the com 
modore was compelled to issue orders to return to some 
port aloft. These orders produced one of the very few 
mutinies that have occurred in the American marine, 
the people refusing to man the capstan bars. On this 
trying occasion, the lieutenants of the ship did their 
duty manfully. They rushed in to the crowd, brought 
out the ringleaders by the collar, and, sustained by the 
marine guard, which behaved well, they soon had the 
ship under complete subjection. This was done too, 
as the law then stood, with very questionable authority. 
Subsequent legislation has since provided for such a 
dilemma, but it may be well doubted if the majority of 
the Constitution s crew could have been legally made 
to do duty on that occasion. So complete, however, 
was the ascendancy of discipline, that the officers 
triumphed, and the ship was carried wherever her 
commander pleased. 

Nor was this all. When the Constitution did come 
home, she went into Boston. Instead of being paid 
off in that port, which under the peculiarities of her 
case certainly ought to have been done, orders arrived 
to take her round to New York. When all hands 
were called to "up anchor," her officers fully expected 
another revolt ! but, instead of that, the people manned 
the bars cheerfully, and no resistance was made to the 
movement. The men, when spoken to in commenda 
tion of their good conduct, admitted that they had been 
so effectually put down on the former occasion, that 
they entertained no further thoughts of resistance. 


Woolsey did his full share of duty in these critical cir 
cumstances, as, indeed, did all of her lieutenants. 

Woolsey had greatly improved himself not only in 
his profession, but in his mind generally, during his 
different Mediterranean cruises. Shortly after the Con 
stitution was paid off, he repaired to Washington, 
where he remained some time, employed in preparing 
a system of signals. The year 1808 was one during 
which the relations between this country and England 
very seriously menaced war. The government, in an 
ticipation of such an event, saw the necessity of making 
some provisions of defence on lakes Ontario and Cham- 
plain. Woolsey, during his stay at Washington, had 
so far gained the confidence of the Department, that he 
was selected to superintend at the construction of, and 
to command the first regular armaments ever made 
under the Union, on these inland waters. It was de 
cided to build a brig of sixteen guns on Lake Ontario, 
and two gun-boats on Champlain. Five officers were 
detached for this service, including Lieut. Woolsey, 
who had command on both lakes. Lieut. John Mon- 
tresor Has well was sent to Champlain, with Messrs. 
Walker and Hall, while Woolsey took with himself, 
to Ontario, Messrs. Gamble and Cooper. It is be 
lieved that all these gentlemen are now dead, with the 
exception of the last, who is here making an imperfect 
record of some of the service of his old friend and 

The port of Oswego was selected as the place where 
the brig was to be constructed. The contractors were 
Christian Bergh and Henry Eckford, both of whom 
afterwards became known to the country as eminent 



constructors and shipwrights. The brig was called the 
Oneida, and she was laid down on the eastern point 
that formed one side of the outlet of the river. In 1808 
Oswego was a mere hamlet of some twenty, or five-and- 
twenty, houses, that stood on a very irregular sort of a 
line, near the water, the surrounding country, for thirty 
or forty miles, being very little more than a wilderness. 
On the eastern bank of the river, and opposite to the vil 
lage, or on the side of the stream on which the Oneida 
was built, there was but a solitary log-house, and the 
ruins of the last English fort. 

The arrival of a party of officers, together with a 
strong gang of ship-carpenters, riggers, blacksmiths, 
&c., produced a great commotion in that retired hamlet, 
though port it was, and made a sensible change in its 
condition. For the first time, money began to be seen 
in the place, the circulating medium having previously 
been salt. The place was entirely supported by the 
carrying of the salt manufactured at Salina. Eight or ten 
schooners and sloops were employed in this business, 
and the inhabitants of Oswego then consisted of some 
four or five traders, who were mostly ship-owners, the 
masters and people of the vessels, boatmen who brought 
the salt down the river, a few mechanics, and a quar 
ter-educated personage who called himself doctor.* 

* The reader can form a sort of idea of the knowledge of the 
men who then practiced medicine, and who called themselves 
"doctors" on the frontiers, by the following anecdote. Colonel, 
then Ensign, Gardner of the " old sixth," had been a student of 
medicine with Hosack, previously to his entering the army. 
" Faute de mieux," he. prescribed for the men under his orders, 
and the writer of this article, in the familiarity of a messmate, 
used to say the G of his surname stood for " Galen." When Mr. 


Woolsey and his party hired a house and commenced 
housekeeping, their mess being soon increased by the 
arrival of a small detachment of the Old Sixth Infantry, 
under the orders of Lieut. Christie, subsequently the 
Colonel Christie who died in Canada, during the cam 
paign of 1813. Ensign Gardner accompanied the 
party. This gentleman rose to the rank of Colonel 
also, acting as adjutant-general to the division of Gen. 
Brown in the celebrated campaign of 14, and has 
since been deputy postmaster-general, auditor of the 
Post-office Department, &c., &c. 

This joint mess made a most merry winter of it. Wool 
sey was its head by rank, and he was its soul in spirits 
and resources. Balls, dinners, and suppers were given 

Gardner joined the mess, the " doctor" mentioned in the text was 
absent, nor did he return until the army officers had been some 
time at Oswego. The "doctor" and the "mess" were next door 
neighbors, the former living in a small building that joined the 
mess-house, cooking for himself, &c., &c. Many a time did the 
late Capt. Gamble and the writer risk breaking their necks, to 
crawl out on the doctor s wing and drop snow-balls and other 
" cooling ingredients," by means of the chimney, into the doctor s 
mess. The first evening of this personage s return to Oswego, 
he made his appearance in the mess, where he was cordially re 
ceived, and formally introduced to the ensign by the writer. 

"By the way, Galen, let me make you acquainted with our 
neighbor, Hippocrates, of whom you have heard us speak 
so often." 

Woolsey, Gamble, and Gardner smiled at the sally, but the 
smile was converted into a roar when the little doctor held out his 
hand to Gardner, and answered, with a simplicity that was 
of proof 

" Don t you mind what Cooper says, Mr. Galen; he is always 
at some foolery or other, and has nicknamed me Hippocrates ; 
why I do not know, but my real name is ." 


to the better portion of the inhabitants, and, from being 
regarded with distrust as likely to interfere with the 
free-trade principles that the embargo then rendered 
very decided on all the Canada frontier, Woolsey be 
came highly popular and beloved. He had nothing to 
do, in fact, with the smugglers, his duty being strictly 
that of a man-of-war s man. 

In the mean time, things did not drag on the point. 
Eckford was present, in person, and he went into the 
forest, marked his trees, had them cut, trimmed, and 
hauled, and in the frame of the Oneida in a very few 
days. The work advanced rapidly, and a small sloop 
of war, that was pierced for sixteen guns, soon rose on 
the stocks. Understanding that the floor-timbers of the 
salt-droggers never decayed, Woolsey had the frame 
of this brig filled in with salt, using the current coin of 
the place for that purpose. In that day, every thing 
was reduced to the standard value of salt, at Oswego. 
A barrel of salt on the wharf was counted at two dollars ; 
and so many barrels of salt were paid for a cow, so 
many for a horse, and one barrel for a week s board of 
the better quality. The living was excellent, salmon, 
bass, venison in season, rabbits, squirrels, wild-geese, 
ducks, &c., abounding. The mess, however, pro 
nounced cranberries the staple commodity of the region. 
They were uniformly served three times a day, and 
with venison, ducks, &c., made a most delicious ac 
companiment. WooLsey was a notable caterer, keeping 
his mess in abundance. The house had been a tavern, 
and the bar was now converted into a larder, the cold 
of that region serving to keep every thing sweet. It 
did the eye good to examine the collection that was 


made in this corner by Christmas ! At the fireside, 
Woolsey was the life of the mess in conversation, anec 
dote, and amusement. He would have been a treasure 
on such an expedition as that of Parry s. 

One day, an inhabitant of Oswego came running into 
the mess- house to say that a Lieut. R , from Kings 
ton, was then on board the brig, in disguise, examining 
her. The officers were at the table, and Woolsey 
coolly expressed his regrets that Mr. R. had not let him 
know of his visit, that he might have had the pleasure 
of his company at dinner. As the gentleman evidently 
wished to be incog., however, he could not think of 
disturbing him. This visit was the precursor of the 
construction of a ship at Kingston, of a force to over 
come the Oneida. The English vessel was called the 
Royal George, mounted twenty-four guns, and was 
much larger than the American brig. She subse 
quently figured in Sir James Yeo s squadron, under 
the name of the Montreal. A few months later, while 
the Royal George was still on the stocks, Woolsey had 
occasion to go to Kingston. He was invited by a friend 
in that place to pay a visit to the navy-yard, and, put 
ting on his uniform, he went. While on board the new 
ship, the very officer who had been at Oswego came 
up and remarked it was contrary to orders to allow 
foreign officers to examine the vessel. Woolsey apo 
logized, said he was ignorant of the rule, and would 

" I have the honor of seeing Mr. R , I believe," 
he added, as he was about to quit the ship. 

The other admitted he was that person. 

" I regret I did not know of the visit you did us the 


favor to make on board the Oneida, until it was too late 
to be of any service to you. The next time, I trust, 
you will apprize us of your intention, when I shall be 
extremely happy to let you see all we have that is 
worth the trouble of examining, and of showing you 
some of the hospitalities of the place." 

It is scarcely necessary to say that the lieutenant 
looked very foolish, and Woolsey had his revenge. It 
is proper to add that this personage did not belong to 
the Royal, but to the Provincial Navy, and was a man 
of confessedly inferior manners and habits. 

The Oneida was launched early in the spring, and 
was immediately equipped for the lake. Erskine s 
arrangement, as it was called, occurring soon after, how 
ever, she was not immediately used, Woolsey now 
determined to get a view of Niagara, as he did not know 
at what moment he might be ordered back to the sea 
board. Manning and provisioning the brig s launch, 
therefore, he and Mr. Cooper sailed from Oswego, late 
in June, 1809. The commencement of this little 
voyage was favorable, and it was thought the boat 
would reach the river in the course of eight-and-forty 
hours ; but the winds proved very variable, and came 
out fresh ahead. Instead of making the passage in the 
anticipated two days, the launch was a week out, en 
countering much bad weather. Relying on his sails, 
Woolsey had taken but four men. and this was not a 
force to do much with the oars, so that turning to 
windward was the business most of the time. Three 
times the boat beat up to a headland, called the Devil s 
Nose, and twice it was compelled, by the wind and sea, 
to bear up, before it could weather it. Four nights 


were passed in the boat, two on the beach, and one in 
a hut on the banks of the Genessee, a few miles below 
the falls, and of course quite near the present site of 

All the south shore of Ontario, with here and there 
some immaterial exception, was then a wilderness ! 
Four days out, the provisions failed, and there was 
actually a want of food. It was not easy to starve so 
near the forest, certainly, but the men had been im 
provident, and a fast of a few hours threw Woolsey on 
his resources. Even the last cracker was eaten, and 
fish could not be taken. One old seaman had passed 
forty years on the lake, and he knew the position of 
every dwelling that stood near its shore. There might 
then have been a dozen of these little clearings between 
the Oswego and the Niagara, and one that contained 
three or four log-houses was known to be some two or 
three leagues distant. There was no wind, and the 
launch was pulled up to a beach where it was easy to 
land, and at a point at no great distance from these 
houses. It T* r as so late, however, that it was not thought 
expedient to search for the habitations that evening. 
The whole party was about to bivouac supperless,when 
Mr. Cooper accidentally came across a hedge-hog, which 
he killed with the sword of a cane. On this animal 
all hands supped, and very good eating it proved to be. 

The next morning, the two gentlemen, accompanied 
by the old laker and another man, set out in quest of 
the log-huts, which stood a mile or two inland. One 
was found at the end of an hour, but no one was near 
it. It was inhabited, however, and in a pantry were 
found two loaves of bread, and a baking of dried 


whortleberry pies, as well as some milk. Necessity 
having no law, one loaf, two of the pies, and a gallon 
of milk were sequestered, two silver dollars being left 
in their places. After breakfasting, and sending the 
old man to the boat with some food, the two officers 
followed their pilot toward the other cabins. These 
were also found, and in them the mistress of the man 
sion already invaded. A full confession of what had 
been done followed, and a proposal was made to 
purchase the remainder of the pies. This alarmed the 
good woman, who returned with the party forthwith, 
but who took things more composedly when she got 
her hand on the silver. So difficult was it to obtain 
flour in those isolated clearings that she could not be 
tempted to sell any thing else, and the party returned 
to the boat, with about a fourth of a meal remaining in 
their possession. A breeze springing up, sail was 
made, and Woolsey proceeded. 

Hunger and head winds again brought the adven 
turers to a stand. A solitary dwelling was known to 
be at no great distance inland from the pomt where the 
boat now was, and again the party landed. The boat 
entered by a narrow inlet into a large bay, that was 
familiarly called Gerundegutt, (Irondoquoit,) and was 
hauled up for the night. The whole party bivouacked 

In the morning, the two officers and three of the men 
went in qtiest of the house, which was found, a mile 
or two inland. The man who lived here was a cock 
ney, who had left London some fifteen years before, and 
pitched his tent, as he said himself, twenty miles from 
his nearest neighbors. He went forty miles to mill, by 


his account, making most of. the journey in a skiff. 
He had neither bread nor flour to spare, nor would 
money tempt him. He had four or five sheep, but his 
wife remonstrated against parting with one of them ; 
she wanted the fleeces to spin, and they had not yet 
been sheared. Woolsey, however, persuaded the man 
to have the sheep penned, when the sailors caught a 
wether, and began to feel his ribs. The animal was 
pronounced to be in excellent condition. A half eagle 
was now exhibited, and old Peter, the pilot, got his 
knife out, ready for work. The woman remonstrated, 
on a high key, and the cockney vacillated. At one 
moment he was about to yield ; at the next, the clamor 
of the woman prevailed. This scene lasted near 
a quarter of an hour, when Woolsey commenced an 
attack on the lady, by paying compliments to her fine 
children, three as foul little Christians as one could find 
on the frontier. This threw the mother off her guard, 
and she wavered. At this unguarded moment, the man 
accepted the half eagle, about five times the value of 
the wether, as sheep sold at that season, in the settled 
parts of the country, uttered a faint, " Well, captain, 
since you wish it " and a signal from Woolsey 
caused the animal s throat to be cut incontinently. At 
the next instant the woman changed her mind ; but it 
was too late, the wether was bleeding to death. Not 
withstanding all this, the woman refused to be pacified 
until Woolsey made her a present of the skin and 
fleece, when the carcass was borne off in triumph. 

This sheep was all the food the party had for that 
day, and it was eaten without salt or bread. Woolsey 
contrived to make a sort of soup of it, over which he 

VOL. n. 12 



laughed and feasted, keeping everybody in good 
humor with his jokes and fine temper. Some scrapings 
of flour were thrown into the pot, and Woolsey called 
his dish a "noodle soup." 

These things are related more to show the state of 
the Ontario frontier five-and-thirty years since, than for 
any great interest they possess of themselves. Pro 
visions were almost of as much importance among the 
dwellers of the forest, as with the mariner at sea ; 
money itself, though of rare occurrence among them, 
becoming nearly valueless compared with flour, in par 
ticular. Even the Oswego currency, salt, did not 
abound among them, the difficulties of transportation 
rendering it of importance to husband the smallest 
article of subsistence. The party could get no salt to 
eat with their mutton. 

The day the sheep was purchased, the launch went 
out, and began to turn to windward, in squally weather 
and against a foul wind. In crossing Genessee Bay it 
came near filling in a squall, and it was found necessary 
to bear up for the river. Here the party passed 
another night, in a solitary log cabin, at, or near the 
point where the steamers and other craft must now 
make their harbor. A little bread was got in exchange 
for some sheep, and milk was purchased. But six 
hungry sailors seemed to create a famine wherever 
they went, and next morning the launch went out, 
though the wind was still foul. Then came the tug at 
the Devil s Nose, which has been mentioned, and the 
running to leeward to lie to in smooth water. At length 
the wind came off the land, when the remainder of the 
distance was run without much difficulty. 


It was just as the day broke, that the party in the 
launch made the mouth of the Niagara. The lantern 
was still burning in the light-house ; the two forts, the 
town of Newark, and the appearance of cultivation on 
every side, had an effect like that of enchantment on 
those who had been coasting a wilderness for a week. 
Even Oswego, though an old station, had little the air 
of a peopled country, but the region along the banks of 
the Niagara had been settled as long as that on the 
banks of the Hudson, and the transition was like that 
of suddenly quitting the forest to be placed in the midst 
of the labors of man. It was the Fourth of July, and 
the launch entered the river with an American ensign 
set. It proceeded to Newark, where the two officers 
took up their quarters for a week. In an hour a depu 
tation from Fort Niagara came across to inquire who 
had brought the American ensign, for the first time, in 
a man-of-war s boat, into that river. On being told, a 
formal invitation was given to join the officers on the 
other side in celebrating the day. 

Woolsey and his party remained some time in and 
about the Niagara. He passed up on the upper lake, 
and paid a visit on board the Adams, a brig that belonged 
to the War Department, which was subsequently taken 
by the British, at Hull s surrender, named the Detroit, 
and cut out from under Fort Erie, by Elliott, in 1812. 
The return to Oswego was less difficult, and was accom 
plished in two days. These were the first movements 
by American man-of-war s men that ever occurred on 
the great lakes waters that bave since become famous 
by the deeds of M Donough, Perry, and Chauncey. 

Although the Oneida was put out of commission, 


Woolsey still remained in charge of the station that had 
thus been created. In 1810, his brig was again fitted 
out, and she continued in service until the declaration 
of war. In the spring of 12, Woolsey seized an Eng 
lish schooner that was smuggling, brought her in, and 
had her condemned. This was the vessel that was 
subsequently lost under Chauncey, under the name of 
the Scourge. A characteristic anecdote is related of 
Woolsey, in connection with the sale of some of the 
effects taken on board this vessel. Every thing on 
board her was sold, even to some trunks that had be 
longed to a female passenger. Woolsey took care that 
the hardship of the case of this lady should be made 
known, in the expectation no one would be found mean 
enough to bid against her agent. But in this he was 
mistaken. When the agent bid five dollars, a blood 
sucker of a speculator bid ten "Twenty!" shouted 
Woolsey, seating himself on one of the trunks, in a way 
that said, "I ll have them, if they cost a thousand." 
This movement drove off the miserable creature, and 
Woolsey presented the lady her trunks, free of charges. 
At the declaration of war, in 1812, which came so 
unlocked for on the country, and which would not have 
been made at the time it was but for a concurrence of 
unexpected circumstances, Woolsey was still in com 
mand on Lake Ontario, with the rank of lieutenant. 
His whole force consisted of the Oneida brig, while the 
enemy could muster a small squadron of several sail, 
among which was the Royal George, a ship heavy 
enough to engage two such vessels as the American 
brig, with every chance of success. As soon as the 
Oneida was actively employed, the naval station had 


been removed from Oswego to Sackett s Harbor, where 
she was lying at the declaration of war. On the 19th 
of July, the enemy appeared in the offing, with the 
Royal George, Earl of Moira, Duke of Gloucester, Se 
neca, and Simcoe. The two first were ships, the third 
was a brig, and the two last schooners. As soon as ap 
prised of the presence of this force, Woolsey got the 
Oneida under way, and went out, with the view of 
passing the enemy, and escaping to the open lake, in 
the hope of being able to separate his enemies in chase. 
But finding this impossible, he beat back into the har 
bor, and anchored his brig directly opposite to its 
entrance, under the bank that is now occupied by Ma 
dison Barracks. The utmost activity was shown in 
making this arrangement, and in landing all the guns 
on the off side of the brig, and in placing them in bat 
tery on the bank. 

Finding that the enemy was slowly working up on 
the outside of the peninsula, Woolsey now repaired in 
person to a small work that had been erected on the 
high land above the navy-yard, and made his prepara 
tions to open on the English from that point. A long 
thirty-two had been sent on for the Oneida, but never 
mounted, being much too heavy for that brig, of which 
the armament consisted of twenty-four pound car- 
ronades. This gun Woolsey had caused to be mounted 
on its pivot, in the work named, and, as soon as the 
enemy got within range, he opened on them with it. 
The English had captured a boat in the offing, and 
sent in a demand for the surrender of the Oneida and 
the Lord Nelson, under the penalty of destroying the 
place, in the event of refusal. This demand Woolsey 


answered with his long Tom, when a cannonading that 
lasted two hours succeeded. As the enemy kept at long 
shot, little damage was done, though the English were 
supposed to have suffered sufficiently to induce them 
to bear up and abandon the attempt. Although this 
affair was not very bloody, Woolsey did all that circum 
stances would allow ; he preserved his brig, and saved 
the town. He was assisted by a small body of troops 
in the work. If the enemy did not press him harder, 
the fault was their own ; he had not the means of acting 
on the offensive. 

The government deciding to increase its force on 
Lake Ontario, Com. Chauncey was ordered to assume 
the command. Woolsey continued second in rank all 
that season, however, retaining the command of the 
Oneida. He was in charge of this brig in the spirited 
dash that Chauncey made against Kingston, in Novem 
ber, on which occasion the Oneida was warmly engaged, 
receiving some damage, and having four of her crew 
killed and wounded. This attack virtually closed the 
war on the lake for the season, as the affair of Sackett s 
Harbor had commenced it. 

Both parties building in the course of the winter, it 
was found necessary to send several officers to Ontario, 
who ranked Lieut. Com. Woolsey. As this was done 
only to take charge of new vessels, he ever after was 
employed in command, when employed at all. Wool 
sey was second in command, however, at the attack on 
York, retaining his own brig, the commodore having 
hoisted his pennant in the Madison. Woolsey was also 
present at the landing and the attack on the batteries of 
Fort George, still commanding the Oneida, with the 


rank of lieutenant. As Perry was present on this occa 
sion, our subject was only third in rank among the sea- 
officers engaged. 

Shortly after the landing at Fort George, Woolsey 
was promoted to be a commander, though he did not 
learn the fact for some time. His name appears as the 
seventh in a batch of fifteen. Two of his juniors, 
Trenchard and Elliott, were already on Lake Ontario, 
and several of his seniors were shortly afterward sent 
there. In all the manceuvering, and in the skirmishes 
which took place between Commodores Chauncey and 
Yeo, during the summer of 13, Woolsey still remained 
in charge of the Oneida, older officers and post-captains 
coming up with fresh crews for the larger vessels. 
Sinclair had the Pike, and Crane the Madison, leaving 
Woolsey the fourth in rank present. 

When the squadron returned to port, Woolsey found 
his new commission, and he was transferred to a large 
new schooner, called the Sylph, Lieut. Brown succeed 
ing him in his old command, the Oneida. The Sylph 
was a large, fast-sailing schooner, that carried an awk 
ward armament of four heavy pivot-guns amidships, 
mounted to fire over all. Woolsey was in this vessel, 
on the 2Sth September, when Chauncey so nobly 
brought the whole English squadron to close action, 
supported for a considerable time only by Bolton, in 
the Governor Tompkins, and the Asp, a schooner that 
the Pike had in tow. This was one of the sharpest 
affairs of the war, as long as it lasted, and would have 
been decisive had the Madison and Sylph been able to 
close ; or, had not Sir James Yeo run through his own 


line, and taken refuge under the batteries of Burlington 

As is usual, when success does not equal expectation, 
most of the superior officers received more or less cen 
sure, for supposed mistakes on this occasion. It is now 
well known that a complete defeat would have befallen 
the enemy had he been hotly pressed, and that he was 
seriously worsted as it was ; but it is easy to discover 
the avenues to success, after the road has been once 
thoroughly traveled. It is a fact worthy of being 
remembered, that not an English vessel was taken in 
battle, during the whole of the war of 1812, with two 
very immaterial exceptions, unless she offered freely to 
engage. The exceptions were the two small craft taken 
at the close of Perry s victory on Lake Erie, in which 
the whole English force had, in the first instance, very 
gallantly offered battle. 

Woolsey did not escape criticism in this affair, any 
more than other commanders. His schooner did not 
prove of as much service as she might have been, on 
account of the awkwardness of her armament, which 
was changed to broadside guns, as soon as the squadron 
went into port again. Woolsey alleged that he was 
compelled to tow a large schooner, as was the fact with 
the Madison. Neither dared to cast off the tow, in the 
presence of the commodore, and the latter had sufficient 
reasons for not ordering them to do so. Woolsey very 
frankly admitted, however, that he impaired the sailing 
of the Sylph, by surging on the tow-line in the hope it 
would part ; a false step, that dropped his schooner so 
far astern that she greatly embarrassed him by her yaw 
ing. It is by no means certain Sir James Yeo would 


have engaged at all, could the whole of the American 
force have closed at the same time, and he always had 
Burlington Bay under his lee. 

A few days after this action, Chauncey chased to the 
eastward, under a crowd of canvas, with the mistaken 
notion that the English had got past him in the night. 
In the afternoon of the 5th October, seven sail were 
made ahead, and it was supposed the British squadron 
was leading down the lake. An hour later, the ves 
sels ahead were made out to be schooners, when the 
commodore signalled the Sylph and Lady of the Lake 
to cast off their tows. This was no sooner done than 
these two fast schooners shot swiftly ahead. Seeing 
their danger, the enemy set fire to the dullest craft, and 
separated. The Pike now cast off her tow, and she 
soon succeeded in capturing three of the enemy. 
Woolsey soon after joined with a fourth, and, continuing 
on, next morning he brought a fifth out from the Ducks. 
The prizes were gun-vessels, and near 300 prisoners 
were made in them, including a detachment of troops. 
Two of these vessels were the schooners Chauncey had 
lost in his action with Sir James, earlier in the season. 
This affair substantially closed the cruising service of 
that year. 

Woolsey got a new vessel for the season of 1814. 
She was a large brig of twenty-two guns, called the 
Jones, and proved a fast and good vessel. Previously 
to the equipment of this vessel, however, he was sent 
to superintend the transportation of guns and cables, 
from Oswego to the Harbor, by water. This was very 
delicate service, as the enemy had obtained the tempo 
rary command of the lake, by building. He was at the 


Oswego Falls, engaged in this duty, when the English 
made their descent at Oswego. Woolsey showed much 
address on this occasion. The enemy possessing so 
many means of obtaining information, he was compelled 
to resort to artifice spreading a report that the direction 
of the stores was to be changed. Allowing sufficient 
time for this rumor to reach the enemy, he caused as 
many guns and cables to be run over the fails as he had 
boats to carry them in, and immediately went down the 
river. At dusk, on the evening of the 20th May, the 
look-outs seeing nothing in the offing, he went out with 
a brigade of nineteen heavy boats. The night proved 
to be dark and rainy, and the men toiled until daylight 
at the oars. When light returned, the boats were at 
the mouth of Big Salmon River. Here the party was 
met by a small detachment of Indians ; a party of rifle 
men, under Major Appling, having formed the guard 
from Oswego. It was found that one boat had parted 
company in the night. This boat, as it was afterward 
ascertained, attempted to pass the blockading squadron, 
and to go direct to the Harbor by water. It was cap 
tured by the English. 

Woolsey went on, and entered Big Sandy Creek, 
with his charge, agreeably to a previous understanding. 
In the mean time, Sir James Yeo, learning the situation 
of the brigade, from the crew of the captured boat, sent 
a strong party, covered by three gun-boats, to capture 
it. The English entered the creek with confidence, 
throwing grape and cannister into the bushes ahead of 
them, from some very heavy carronades. Woolsey set 
about discharging his guns and cables, in order to secure 
them, while Major Appling placed his command in am- 


bush, a short distance below the boats. As the English 
advanced they were met by a most destructive fire, and 
every man of their party was captured. Among the 
prisoners were two captains, four sea lieutenants, ancf 
two midshipmen. The stores were safely conveyed to 
the Harbor, and Chauncey was enabled to raise the 
blockade, as soon as he could arm his new ships. 

After the American squadron got out, Woolsey com 
manded the Jones 22. He was only the sixth in rank 
on the lake this summer, there being several captains 
present, beside two commanders that were his seniors. 
The Jones was kept in the squadron until Chauncey had 
swept the lake, but the commodore going off Kingston 
with a diminished force, in the hope of tempting Sir 
James to come out, he ordered Woolsey to cruise be 
tween Oswego and the Harbor, in order to keep the 
communication between these two important points 
free. At a later day Woolsey was sent to join Ridgely, 
who was blockading the Niagara. On this station the 
Jefferson and the Jones experienced a tremendous gale, 
in which the former had to throw some of her guns 

The last service on the lake that season, was in 
transporting the division of Gen. Izard to the west 
ward. Shortly after, Chauncey collected all his force 
at the Harbor, and prepared to repel an attack, which 
it was expected the English would make, having got 
their two-decker out. 

Peace being made the succeeding winter, most of 
the officers and crews were transferred to the seaboard. 
Woolsey, however, was left in charge of the station, 
where he remained for many years. There was a vast 


amount of property to take care of, and a little fleet of 
dismantled vessels. This continued for several years, 
but gradually the charge was reduced, officer after 
officer was withdrawn, ship after ship was broken up, 
until, in the end, the trust was one that might well be 
confided to a subordinate. In 1817, Woolsey was pro 
moted to be a captain, and not long after he married a 
lady of the name of Tredwell, a member of the Long 
Island family of that name. 

Woolsey passed the flower of his days on Lake 
Ontario. No doubt this was of disservice, by with 
drawing him, for many years, from the more active 
duties of his profession. But he liked, and was liked 
in, that quarter of the country, and family ties came in 
aid of old associations to keep him there. After re 
maining something like fifteen years in the lake service, 
however, he got the Constellation frigate, then attached 
to the West India Squadron. Com. Warrington had 
his pennant in his ship, most of the time, and there 
being very little difference in the dates of the commis 
sions of these two officers, Woolsey always spoke with 
feeling of the extreme delicacy with which he was 
treated by his superior. On his return from this station, 
he had charge of the Pensacola Yard. 

After quitting Pensacola, Woolsey preferred his own 
claims for a squadron, and he was sent to the coast of 
Brazils, Avhere he commanded, with a broad pennant, 
the usual term. This was the last of his service afloat, 
or, indeed, ashore. His health began to decline, not 
long after his return, and he died in 1838. 

Commodore Woolsey was of the middle height, sailor- 
built, and of a compact, athletic frame. His counte- 


nance was prepossessing, and had singularly the look 
of a gentleman. In his deportment, he was a pleasing 
mixture of gentleman-like refinement and seaman-like 
frankness. His long intimacy with frontier habits could 
not, and did not, destroy his early training, though it 
possibly impeded some of that advancement in his pro 
fessional and general knowledge, which he had so suc 
cessfully commenced in early life. He was an excellent 
seaman, and few officers had more correct notions of the 
rules of discipline. His familiar association with all the 
classes that mingle so freely together in border life, had 
produced a tendency, on his excellent disposition, to 
relax too much in his ordinary intercourse, perhaps, but 
his good sense prevented this weakness from proceed 
ing very far. Woolsey rather wanted the grimace than 
the substance of authority. A better-hearted man never 
lived. All who sailed with him loved him, and he had 
sufficient native mind, and sufficient acquired instruc 
tion, to command the respect of many of the strongest 
intellects of the service. 

The widow of Com. Woolsey still lives. She has 
several children, and we regret to say, like those of her 
sex who survive the public servants of this country, she 
is left with few of the world s goods to console her. 
Woolsey s eldest son is in the navy, and has nearly 
reached the rank of lieutenant. 

VOL. II. 13 



THE family of Perry has now been American for 
near two centuries. The first of the name on this side 
of the Atlantic, was a native of Devonshire, who emi 
grated to the new world about the middle of the seven 
teenth century, settling at Plymouth, in Massachusetts. 
Being of the sect of Friends, however, this residence 
proved to be as unfavorable to the indulgence of his 
peculiar religious opinions, as that from which he had 
so lately migrated in his native island, and he was in 
duced to go deeper into the wilderness. He finally 
established himself, accompanied by others of his per 
suasion, on Narragansett Bay, at a place called South 
Kingston. Here Edmund Perry, for so was the emi 
grant called, acquired a landed property of some extent, 
from the Indians, and by fair purchase, which has con 
tinued in the possession of his descendants down to our 
own time. 

From Edmund Perry was descended, in the fourth 
generation, Christopher Raymond Perry, the father of 
the subject of this memoir, who was born in 1761. 
This gentleman chose to follow the sea. After serving 
for some time in private armed vessels of war, during 
the Revolution, he. turned to the merchant service for 
employment when peace was made, being at that time 





a very young man, as is seen by the date of his birth. 
In the course of one of his early voyages, Mr. Perry 
met with a passenger of the name of Sarah Alexander, 
a lady of Irish birth, but of Scotch extraction, whom he 
married, in the year 1784. The fruits of this union 
were a family of sons, most, if not all, of whom have 
been in the naval service of the country, and of daugh 
ters, one of whom, at least, is now the widow of an 
officer of rank. From this marriage, indeed, have 
been probably derived more officers of the navy, than 
from any other one connection, that of the family of 
Nicholson excepted. The lady who so soon found 
herself a wife and a mother, in the country of her 
adoption, proved a valuable acquisition to her new 
relatives, and left a strong and useful impression on 
most of those who have derived their existence from 

The first child of the marriage between Christopher 
Raymond Perry and Sarah Alexander, was the subject 
of this memoir. He was called Oliver Hazard, after 
an ancestor of that name who had died just previously 
to his birth, as well as after an uncle of the same ap 
pellation, who had been recently lost at sea. Oliver 
Hazard Perry was born on the 20th of August, 1785. 
The early years of the child were distinguished by no 
unusual occurrences. He was kept at school, at dif 
ferent places, but principally in the vicinity of the 
residences of his own family. The armaments against 
France, however, induced a sudden and material in 
crease of the naval force of the country ; and in June, 
1798, Christopher Raymond Perry, the father of Oliver, 
received an appointment as a captain in the new ma- 


rine. Capt. Perry s commission placed him the eighth 
on the list of officers of his rank, but there being no 
ship of a suitable size for him to take, he was directed 
to superintend the construction of a vessel that was soon 
after laid down, at Warren, in his native State. On 
this occasion, Capt. Perry, accompanied by his wife, 
removed to Warren, leaving the household in charge 
of their eldest son, then a boy of only thirteen. This 
may be said to have been Oliver Perry s first command, 
and it is the tradition of the family that he acquitted 
himself of these novel duties with great prudence, 
kindness and impartiality. It was certainly a high 
trust to repose in a boy of his tender years, and proves 
the complete confidence his parents had in his discre 
tion, temper and good sense. At this period of his 
life, as indeed he continued to be to a much later day, 
the youth was obliging, active and of singularly pre 
possessing appearance ; and is said to have been an 
object of great interest within the limited circle of his 

Captain Perry s vessel was a small frigate, that was 
very appropriately named the General Greene. She 
appears on the registers of the department as a vessel 
of 645 tons, and rating as a 24. In the journals of the 
day, however, she is oftener called a 32, which was 
about the number of guns she actually carried, while 
her true rate would have properly made her a 28. 
This ship was not ready to sail until the spring of the 
year 1799. By this time her captain s eldest son had 
resolved to enter on a career similar to that of his 
father s, and, having some time previously announced 
his wishes, a warrant was issued to him as a midship 


man. Perry s appointment was dated April 7th, 
1799, and made one of a small batch which occurred 
about that time, generally with intervals of a day be 
tween each warrant, and which contained the names 
of Trippe, Robert Henly, Joseph Bainbridge, Noel 
Cox, &c., &c. 

Soon after Perry joined his father s ship, or about 
the middle of May, the General Greene sailed to join 
the force in the West Indies. Capt. Perry was di 
rected to proceed to the Havana, and to look after the 
trade in that quarter, as " well as that which passes 
down the straits of Bahama to the Spanish main." 
After remaining a few weeks on her station, the yel 
low fever broke out in the ship, and she returned to 
Newport about the close of the month of July. In this 
short cruise Perry was first initiated in his sea service, 
and it is a singular circumstance that it was marked by 
the appearance of that dire disease by which he was, 
himself, subsequently lost to the country. 

By bringing his ship north, Capt. Perry soon puri 
fied her, and she sailed again, for the same station, a 
few weeks later. Thence she went off St. Domingo, 
to cruise against Rigaud s barges, which committed 
many and sanguinary outrages; his orders directing 
him to circumnavigate the whole island of St. Do 
mingo. While employed on this service, the General 
Greene found several of the brigand s light craft at 
anchor under the protection of some batteries. The 
ship stood in, and anchoring, a warm cannonade com 
menced. In about half an hour the batteries were 
silenced, as was supposed with some loss, but a vessel 
which had the appearance of a French frigate heaving 


in sight in the offing, Capt. Perry lifted his anchor, and 
went out to meet her, without taking possession of his 
conquests. The stranger proved to be a French built 
vessel, that had changed masters ; being, at that time, 
in the English navy. 

The General Greene next went off Jaquemel to assist 
Toussaint to reduce the place. The ship is said to have 
been very serviceable on this duty, and to have had her 
full share in the success which attended the expedition. 
In all this service, Perry was present, of course, though 
in the subordinate station of a young midshipman. It 
was the commencement of his career, and no doubt had 
an influence in giving him useful opinions of duty, and 
in favorably forming his character. 

The General Greene was placed under the particular 
command of Com. Talbot, by special orders from the 
department, of the date of September 3d, 1799, but did 
not fall in with that officer until April of the following 
year, when Capt. Perry reached Cape Francois, the 
point from which he had sailed to make the circuit of 
the island. Here the latter officer was directed to pro 
ceed to the mouth of the Mississippi, and receive on 
board Gen. Wilkinson and family ; that officer being 
then at the head of the army. The frigate arrived off 
the Balize about the 20th of the month, and sailed 
again for Newport on the 10th of May. An act of 
spirit manifested by the elder Perry, on his return 
home from the Balize, is recorded to his credit, and as 
affording a proof of the school in which his gallant son 
was educated. The General Greene had taken an 
American brig under convoy that was bound into the 
Havana. Off the latter port, an English two-decked 


ship fired a shot ahead of the brig to bring- her to. 
Capt. Pe?ry directing his convoy to disregard the 
signal, and the wind being light, the Englishman sent 
a boat in chase of the brig. When sufficiently near, 
the General Greene fired a shot ahead of the boat, as a 
hint to go no closer. The boat now came alongside of 
the frigate, and the two-decker closed at the same time, 
when the latter demanded the reason of the General 
Greene s shot. The answer was that it had been fired 
to prevent the boat from boarding a vessel under her 
convoy. The English officer, who must have known 
that this reply, which manifested far more spirit in the 
year 1800 than it would to-day, was in strict conformity 
with maritime usage, had the prudence not to persist, 
and the honor of the American flag was vindicated. 
This circumstance, taken in connection with a few 
others of a similar character, which occurred about the 
same time, had a strong influence in elevating the re 
putation of the infant navy, and in erasing an unfavor 
able impression that had been made by the impressment 
of five men, two years earlier, from on board the Balti 
more, 20. 

The crew of the General Greene were paid off, as 
usual, at the end of the year ; or, soon after her second 
return to Newport. Capt. Perry was continued in com 
mand of the ship, however, and orders were sent to 
prepare her for another cruise ; but the negotiations for 
peace assuming a favorable aspect, the orders were 
countermanded, and the ship was carried to Washing 
ton and laid up. The peace-establishment law reduced 
the list of captains from twenty-eight to nine, and, as 
Capt, Perry was not one of those retained, he retired 



from service, with Talbot, Sever, the elder Decatur, 
Tingey, Little, Geddes, Robinson, and others. His 
son Oliver, however, belonged to the one hundred and 
fifty midshipmen that the law directed to be retained, 
and his fortunes were cast for life in the service. 

Young Perry was left on shore, to pursue his studies, 
from the time the General Greene returned frpm her 
second cruise, until the spring of the year 1802, when 
he was ordered to join the Adams 28, Capt. Camp 
bell, which ship was then fitting for the Mediterranean 
station. This frigate, known to the navy by the sobri 
quet of the little Adams, was a vessel a hundred tons 
smaller than the General Greene, but was deemed one 
of the fastest ships the country had sent into the West 
Indies, during the late contest. Her present com 
mander was an officer of gentleman-like habits and 
opinions, and well suited to inspire young men with 
the manners and maxims appropriate to their caste. 
The ship also enjoyed the advantage of possessing a 
thorough practical seaman in her first lieutenant, the 
late Com. Hull, who, a short time before, had filled 
the same station on board the Constitution 44, Com. 

The Adams sailed from Newport, June 10th, 1802, 
and arrived at Gibraltar about the middle of July, 
where she found Com. Morris, in the Chesapeake 38, 
who sent her up as far as Malaga with a convoy. On 
her return from this duty, the ship was left below to 
watch a Tripoli tan that was then lying at Gibraltar, the 
remainder of the squadron going aloft. Here the 
Adams passed the winter, cruising in the Straits much 
of the time ; a duty that the young men in her found 


irksome beyond a question, but which they also must 
have found highly instructive, as nothing so much 
familiarizes officers to maneuvering, as handling a ship 
in narrow waters, and with the land constantly aboard. 
One of the favorite traditions of the service relates to 
the steady and cool manner in which Hull worked the 
Adams while employed on this duty, the ship being in 
great danger of going ashore on the rocks. Six or eight 
months of such service is equal, in the way of expe 
rience, to two or three years of running from port to 
port, in as straight lines as can be made ; or of making 
sail in good weather, and of reducing it in bad. The 
Adams must have commenced her blockade of the Tri- 
politan about the 21st July, 1802, the day Com. Morris 
sailed, and remained actively engaged on this duty 
until relieved by the squadron, which did not reach the 
rock until the 23d March, 1803; this makes a period 
of eight months and two days. Apart from the instruc 
tion which an ambitious youth like Perry must have 
been conscious of obtaining under such circumstances, 
this blockade contained an event which is always an 
epoch in the life of a young officer. Perry was a fa 
vorite with his captain, and being studious, attentive to 
his duties, sedate and considerate beyond his years, 
and of a person and manner to set off all these qualities 
to advantage, that officer gave him an acting appoint 
ment as a lieutenant. To enhance the gift, Capt. 
Campbell made out his orders on the young man s 
birth-day. This was transferring young Perry from 
the steerage to the ward-room the day he was seven 
teen, one of the very few instances of promotion so 


young, that have occurred in the American navy.* As 
this promotion took place on the 21st August, 1803, and 
Perry s warrant was dated April 7th, 1799, it follows 
that, in addition to his youth, he got this important step 
when he had been in the service less than four years 
and five months. 

As soon as the squadron came down to Gibraltar, the 
Adams was sent aloft again with a convoy. As the 
ship touched at many different ports on the North 
shore, our young lieutenant had various occasions to 
visit places at which she stopped, and to store his mind 
with the pleasing and useful information with which 
that region more abounds, probably, than any other 
portion of the globe. There is little doubt that one of 
the reasons why the American marine early obtained 
a thirst for a knowledge that is not uniformly connected 
with the pursuits of a seaman, and a taste which, per 
haps was above the level of that of the gentlemen of 
the country, was owing to the circumstance that the 
wars with Barbary called its officers so much, at the 
most critical period of its existence, into that quarter of 
Europe. Travellers to the old world were then ex 
tremely rare, and the American who, forty years ago, 
could converse, as an eye-witness, of the marvels of the 

* The writer knows of but two other instances of promotions at 
so very young an age. One was that of the present Capt. Cooper ; 
and the other that of the late Lt. Augustus Ludlow, who fell in 
the Chesapeake. In both these instances, he thinks the gentle 
men were a little turned ot seventeen. Mr. Cooper, however, got 
a commission, which was not the case with either Perry or Lud 
low. Lawrence must have been made acting when little more 
than eighteen, and Stewart s original appointment was made when 
he was only nineteen. 


Mediterranean; who had seen the remains of Car 
thage, or the glories of Constantinople ; who had 
visited the Coliseum, or was familiar with the affluence 
of Naples, was more than half the time, in some way or 
other, connected with the Navy. 

In May, the Adams, in company with the rest of the 
squadron, appeared before Tripoli, but no service of 
importance occurred in which there is any evidence 
that Perry participated. Soon after, Com. Morris left 
the coast, and his ships separated. The Adams cruised 
along the south shore, rejoining the squadron at Gibral 
tar. This gave Perry an opportunity of seeing some 
of the towns of Barbary. At Gibraltar, the commodore 
took the Adams, in person, she being the ship which 
he had first commanded in the service, and came home 
in her, Capt. Campbell going to the John Adams, but 
taking no officers with him. 

Perry reached America in the Adams, in November, 
1803. His cruise had lasted eighteen months ; much 
of the time the vessel being actually under her canvas. 
This was, in every respect, a most important piece of 
service to the young man, and probably laid the prin 
cipal foundation of his professional character, besides 
contributing largely to his information and manners as 
a man. On his return, he is said to have devoted him 
self earnestly to the studies peculiar to his calling, and 
to have made laudable efforts to do credit to himself in 
his new rank. The young officers, however, who made 
the Mediterranean cruise in 1802 and 1803, were unfor 
tunate as to the time of their service. The following- 
season, or that of the summer of 1804, was the eventful 
period of the Tripolitan war, and this was the moment 


when accident left Perry ashore, devoting himself to 
useful pursuits, it is true, but removing him from those 
scenes of active warfare in which he was so well quali 
fied to become distinguished. From the close of No 
vember, 1803, until the summer of 1804, Perry was on 
furlough, and at home. One cannot know this, without 
regretting that a young officer of his peculiar fitness for 
the service whiqh then occurred before Tripoli, should 
not have had it in his power to have been with Preble. 

In May, or June, of the latter year, however, Lieut. 
Perry received orders to join the Constellation, at Wash 
ington, then fitting for the Mediterranean, again, under 
his old commander and friend, Capt. Campbell. The 
ship sailed in July, and on the 10th of September, or 
six days after the explosion of the Intrepid, and just as 
the last shot had virtually, if not actually, been fired at 
the town, she appeared off* Tripoli, the President 44, 
Com. S. Barron, in company. The Constellation was 
subsequently employed near Derne, in sustaining the 
operations of Gen. Eaton, but her size rendered her of 
no great use on that coast. 

Among the vessels off Derne, was the Nautilus 14, 
the schooner of the lamented Somers, and being in want 
of a first lieutenant, Capt. Campbell ordered Perry to 
join her in that capacity. Perry was now in his twen 
ty-first year, and had been about six years in the navy. 
He had made himself a very good seaman, and was 
accounted a particularly efficient deck-officer. His 
acquirements were suited to his profession, his manners 
good and considerate, his appearance unusually pleas 
ing, his steadiness of character such as to awaken confi 
dence, and his mind, if riot of an unusually high order, 


was sufficient to command respect. The new situ- don 
in which he was placed, was one to put his professional 
qualities to the test, and he acquitted himself, notwith 
standing his youth, with great credit. 

Perry remained in the Nautilus till the autumn of 
1805, when Com. Rodgers gave him an order to join 
the Constitution, as one of his own lieutenants. As 
this officer was very rigid in his exactions of duty, and 
particularly fastidious in the choice of subordinates, it 
was a compliment, though no sinecure, to be thus select 
ed, and there can be no question that it was an advan 
tage to one disposed to do his whole duty to serve under 
his immediate eye. In this ship Perry remained until 
the autumn of the succeeding year, when he went to 
the Essex, as second lieutenant, following the commo 
dore, who was about to return home, where they arrive*! 
in October. 

Perry had now acquired his profession, and obtained 
respectable rank. At this period of his life, he was 
known as one of the more promising young officers of 
the navy, and had his full proportion of friends in all 
the grades of the service. He was employed in super 
intending the building and equipment of gun-boats, 
soon after his arrival at home, and this was the period 
of his life when he is said to have formed the attach 
ment which, a few years later, produced a union with 
the lady he married. After seeing the gun-boats 
equipped, he was attached to them, for some years, 
with the command of a division. This disagreeable 
service, however, finally ended. After superintending 
the construction of a second batch, for these useless 
craft were literally put into the water in flotillas, in 

VOL. II. 14 


1808, he was appointed in April, 1809, to his first proper 
command. The vessel he got was a schooner, called The 
Revenge, which had been bought into the service, and 
which proved to be a very respectable cruiser of her 
class ; her armament consisting of fourteen short and 
light guns. His predecessor in this schooner was Jacob 
Jones, who had been one of the oldest lieutenants, if not 
the very oldest lieutenant in the navy, at the time he 
commanded her. As Perry had several seniors on the 
list, his selection for this command is another proof of 
the estimation in which he was held by his superiors. 

The Revenge had been introduced into the navy 
more as a despatch-boat than as a regular cruiser, but 
she was subsequently put into the coast squadron, and 
was in that situation when Perry took her. After pass 
ing the summer of 1809, and the winter of 1809-10, in 
this duty, cruising most of the time on the Northern and 
Eastern coast, Perry was ordered to take his vessel to 
Washington for repairs, in April of the latter year. 
From this place the Revenge sailed on the 20th of May, 
for the Southern coast, where she was to be stationed. 
While thus employed, two occasions occurred to enable 
Perry to prove the spirit by which he was animated, 
and, on both of which, he acquitted himself with credit. 
The first was the seizure of an American vessel that 

had been run away with by her master, an Englishman 
by birth, who had put her under English colors, as 
English built. The vessel was lying in the Spanish 
waters, off Amelia Island, and two small English cruisers 
were at anchor near her. The Spanish authorities 
consented to the seizure, which was made by the Re 
venge, sustained by three gun-boats, and the vessel 


brought off in the presence of the two English cruisers. 
It is impossible to say whether the. English officers 
were, or were not apprised of the true circumstances 
of the case, or how far they were willing to see justice 
done ; but the spirit of Perry is not affected by these 
facts, as he proceeded in total ignorance of whai might 
be their determination. While carrying his prize off 
to sea, an English sloop of war was met, the captain of 
which sent a boat with a request that the commander of 
the Revenge would come on board and explain his cha 
racter. The occurrence between the Leopard and the 
Chesapeake was then fresh, and the utmost feeling ex* 
isted in the service on the subject of British aggressions. 
Perry refused to quit his vessel, and prepared for hosti 
lities. His plan was to throw all hands on board his 
expected foe, and to trust the chances to a hand-to-hand 
struggle. The Revenge was well manned, and so judi 
cious and cool were his arrangements, that the proba 
bility of success was far from hopeless. The desperate 
resort to force, however, was avoided by the discretion 
of the English officer, who did not press his demand. 

In August, 1810, the Revenge returned north, and 
was stationed on the coast in the vicinity of Newport. 
On the 8th of January, 1811, this schooner was unfor 
tunately wrecked on Watch Hill Reef, though many 
of her effects were saved through the activity of her 
commander and his people, aided by boats from the 
squadron then lying in the Thames. This accident 
was to be attributed to the influence of the tides in thick 
weather, but the blame, if blame there was, fell solely 
on the coast pilot, who was in charge at the time. It 
was one of those occurrences, however, to which all 


seamen are liable, and which it surpasses human means 
to foresee or prevent, while the duty on which the ves 
sel was employed was performed. Perry s conduct, 
on this occasion, was highly spoken of at the time, and 
he at least gained in the estimation of the service by 
an event which, perhaps, tries a commander s true 
qualities and reputation as much as any other which 
can occur to him. A court, consisting of Com. Hull, 
Lieut, now Com. Morris, and Lieut, the late Capt. 
Ludlow, fully acquitted Perry of all blame, while it ex 
tolled his coolness and judgment. By this accident 
Perry lost a command, which he had held about twenty- 
one months. 

On the 5th May, 1811, Perry was married to Eliza 
beth Champlin Mason, of Rhode Island, the lady to 
whom he had now been attached since the commence 
ment of the year 1807, and to whom he had been 
affianced for most of the intervening time. At the 
time of his marriage, Perry was in his twenty-sixth 
year, and his bride was about twenty. Not long after, 
he was promoted to the rank of master and commander. 
Perry obtained this step when he had not been quite 
fourteen years in service, and at the age of twenty-six. 
This was a fair rate of preferment, and one that would 
be observed even at the present time, with a proper 
division of the grades, and a judicious restriction on the 
appointment of midshipmen, a class of officers that 
ought never to be so numerous as to allow of idleness 
on shore, and which, in time of peace, should be so 
limited as to give them full employment when at sea. 

The declaration of war, in 1812, found Perry in 
command of a division of gun-boats on the Newport 


station. This being a duty in which the chance 
of seeing any important service was very trifling, his 
first and natural desire was to get to sea in a sloop of 
war. Most of the vessels of this class, which the navy 
then possessed, however, were commanded by his 
seniors in rank, and those that were not, accident had 
put in the hands of officers whom it would have been 
ungracious to supersede. Anxious to be in a more ac 
tive scene, in the course of the winter of 1812-13, he 
made an offer to serve on the Lakes. This offer was 
accepted, and in February, 1813, he was ordered to 
report to Com. Chauncey, at Sackett s Harbor, and to 
take with him such of the officers and men of his flo 
tilla as were suited to the contemplated service. 

Perry met his commanding officer at Albany, on the 
^th February, and together they set out for the Har 
bor, which place they reached on the 3d of March. 
Here Perry remained until the 16th, when he was 
ordered to Lake Erie, with instructions to superintend 
the equipment of a force on those waters. On the 27th, 
he arrived at the port of Presque Isle, or Erie, and im 
mediately urged on the work, which had been already 
commenced. There is a portion of military duty that 
figures but little in histories and gazettes, but which is 
frequently the most arduous of any on which an officer 
can be employed. To this class of service belong the 
preparations that are limited by insufficient means, the 
procuring of supplies, and contending with the diffi 
culties of hurried levies, undisciplined men, and imper 
fect equipments. These were the great embarrassments 
with which Washington had to contend in the war of 
the Revolution, and his conquests over them entitle him 



to more credit than he might have obtained for a dozen 

As respects the state of the Northern frontier during 
the last war, the reader of history is not apt fully to 
appreciate all the obstacles that were to be overcome in 
conducting the most important operations. In 1813, 
with very immaterial exceptions, the whole lake fron 
tier, on the American side of those inland waters, was 
little different from a wilderness. The few roads 
which communicated with the older parts of the 
country, were scarcely more than avenues cut through 
the forests, and not always these ; while the streams 
that it was indispensable to navigate were often ob 
structed by rapids and even falls, frequently filled with 
drift wood, and rarely aided by locks, or other similar 
inventions. Supplies usually had to be brought from 
the Atlantic towns, and most of the artisans were trans 
ported from the sea coast, into those distant wilds. 
Against the difficulties of this nature Perry had now 
to contend, and he exerted himself to the utmost. At 
different periods he received reinforcements of officers 
and men, and in the course of the spring all of his ves 
sels were got into the water. Still a great deal re 
mained to be done ; stores, guns, munitions of war, 
and, to a certain extent, crews having yet to be assem 

While thus employed, Perry received the welcome 
intelligence that the squadron and army below were 
about to make a descent on Fort George. This enter 
prise had been contemplated for some time, and Com 
modore Chauncey had promised to give our young 
commander the charge of the seamen that were to land. 


No sooner did he get the information that the expedi 
tion was about to take place, than he left Erie, in a four- 
oared boat, on a dark but placid night, and after a plea 
sant passage of twenty-four hours he reached Buffalo. 
In this passage he was accompanied by a sailing master 
of the name of Dobbins, who was well acquainted with 
the lake, and who, in fact, had been his predecessor in 
the command on Erie, having laid down and nearly 
built several of the vessels that subsequently formed the 
fighting squadron, besides having got out most of the 
timber of the two principal craft, previously to Perry s 
having reached the lake. The British batteries were 
then passed in the same boat, as it descended the Nia 
gara river. In descending the river, Perry encountered 
no danger, falling in with no enemy to obstruct his 
passage. On reaching Schlosser he landed. From 
Schlosser, Perry and Dobbins proceeded on foot to the 
falls, leaving the men with the boat. At the falls a 
horse was hired for him, and Perry left his companion 
on his way to Fort Niagara. By the evening of the 
twenty-fifth he got on board the Madison 24, in which 
ship Com. Chauncey s pennant was then flying.* 

Chauncey gave his visitor a warm reception. There 
was a scarcity of officers of rank on the lakes, and 
Perry had obtained a reputation for zeal and conduct 
that would be apt to render his presence acceptable on 
the eve of an important enterprise. When he got on 
board the ship, he found the officers of the squadron 

* The reader will find many of the minor incidents" related here, 
differing from those originally given in Graham. The corrections 
are made on the testimony of an eye-witness and an actor in the 


assembled to receive their orders, and a general wel 
come met him. The next morning the commodore 
went to reconnoitre the enemy s batteries, taking Perry 
with him, in the Lady of the Lake. Arrangements 
were then made for the descent. 

It would not be easy to write a better description of 
the appearance of the fleet, as it advanced to the attack 
on this occasion, than has been simply but graphically 
given by Perry himself, in one of his published letters. 
"The ship was under way," he says, "with a light 
breeze from the eastward, quite fair for us ; a thick 
mist hanging over Newark and Fort George, the sun 
breaking forth in the East, the vessels all under way, 
the lake covered with several hundred large boats, 
filled with soldiers, horses and artillery, advancing 
toward the enemy, altogether formed one of the grandest 
spectacles I ever witnessed." It had be"en decided 
that a body of seamen were to be landed, under the 
immediate orders of Perry, but some irregularity exist 
ing in the movements of the brigades, his duties took a 
more extended range. As the boats pulled toward the 
shore, Perry saw that the soldiers, who rowed their 
own boats, were getting too far to leeward, for the wind 
had freshened ; and, pointing out the circumstance to 
the commodore, he was desired to put them on the right 
course. Pulling toward the advance, Perry fortified 
his authority by requesting Col. Scott, who led the 
troops in front, to join him, and together they proceeded 
on the duty, which was successfully and very oppor 
tunely performed. Col. Scott now rejoined his com 
mand, and Perry pulled on board the schooner that was 
nearest in, covering the debarkation. Here the lookout 


aloft informed him that the British were advancing 
toward the lake, in force. Aware that the Americans 
did not expect such a meeting on the shore, Perry now 
pulled down the whole line to reach Col. Scott, and 
apprise him of the resistance he was to meet. Before 
he could reach that point, however, the British appeared 
on the bank and gave a volley. This unexpected at 
tack checked the advance but a moment ; the boats 
being within fifty yards of the beach at the time, were 
soon on it, and the troops landed. Perry now went 
on board the Hamilton, a schooner of 9 guns, which 
vessel maintained a heavy fire of grape and canister 
on the enemy. Other vessels aided, and the troops 
forming, rushed up and carried the bank. At this 
moment, Maj. Gen. Lewis, who was to command 
in chief on shore, reached the schooner, reconnoitered 
the ground, and then landed, Perry following him. 
Throughout all this affair, the latter manifested great 
temper, the utmost coolness, and a zeal which was cer 
tain to carry him into the scenes of danger. Commo 
dore Chauncey mentioned his services honorably in his 

The Americans now had command of the Niagara, 
and Chauncey profited by it to get several small vessels, 
that had been bought for the service, but which still 
lay at Black Rock, past the position of the enemy, and 
up the current into Lake Erie. Perry superintended 
this service in person, which was immensely laborious, 
but was successfully performed, in little more than 
a day. This was clearing the way for assembling all 
the force on Lake Erie, at a single point, and he sailed 
from Buffalo for Erie about the middle of June. At this 


time the command of the lake was with the enemy, and it 
was a great point to collect all the American vessels, in 
order to make head against him. This was now done, 
the enemy actually heaving in sight off their port as 
the last of the Americans arrived. 

The English had long maintained a naval force on 
the great lakes, which was termed the provincial 
marine. The vessels were employed for the general 
purposes of a maritime police, for transporting troops, 
and for conveying supplies. By their means the com 
munications were kept up with the different military 
posts of the interior, and the command of those inland 
waters was, at need, effectually secured. The Ameri 
cans had not imitated this policy. On the upper lakes, 
however, they kept a brig, which was found almost 
indispensable to convey the stores needed at the more 
distant stations, and particularly in the intercourse with 
the Indians in their vicinity. This brig belonged to the 
war department, however, and not to the navy. For 
some years previously to the war she had been com 
manded by a gentleman of the name of Brevoort, who 
was then an officer in the 1st Infantry. This brig was 
called the Adams, and she mounted a few guns. She 
had fallen into the hands of the enemy at the capture 
of Michigan, had her name changed to that of Detroit, 
had been cut out from under Fort Erie the previous 
autumn by the Americans, and destroyed. This pro 
duced the necessity of creating an entirely new force, 
leaving the command of the lake with the enemy until 
that object could be effected. 

In the face of a thousand obstacles, Perry succeeded 
in getting his vessels ready to go out by the early part 


of August, though he was still greatly in want of 
officers and of men, particularly of seamen. Capt. 
Barclay, who commanded the enemy, lay off the port 
watching him, however, and there existed a serious 
obstacle in a har, which extended some distance into 
the lake. To cross this har in the presence of the 
English would have been extremely hazardous, when, 
fortunately, the latter unexpectedly disappeared, in the 
Northern hoard. It is said that Capt. Barclay had ac 
cepted an invitation to dine on the Canada shore, and 
that he passed over with this intention, probably 
deceived by his spies as to the state of preparation of 
the Americans. A reinforcement of men was certainly 
expected from below, and, if acquainted with this fact, 
the English officer may very well have supposed that 
his opponent would wait for it.* 

It was of a Sunday afternoon when Perry commenced 
his movements ; a day and an hour when the measure 
was probably least expected. To cross the bar, it was 
necessary to lift the larger vessels on camels, and the 
work required not only great labor, but much time. It 
was attended with delays and embarrassments, nor 
was it entirely effected before the British re-appeared. 
Some distant firing between them and a few of the 
American small vessels succeeded, but with little or no 
damage on either side. 

* The dinner is said to have been given to Barclay, on the 1st 
or 2d August, 1813, by the inhabitants of a small place called 
Dover. In replying to a toast, Barclay stated it was his intention 
to return to Erie next day, where he should find the Yankee brigs 
hard and fast on the bar, when it would be an easy matter to de 
stroy them. Substantially, Perry gained the victory of the 10th 
September, at the bar of Erie. 


Once in the lake, incomplete as were his crews and 
his equipments, Perry was decidedly superior to the 
enemy, who had not yet brought their principal vessel, 
the Detroit, into their squadron. Under the circum 
stances, therefore, he wisely determined to bring on an 
action if possible without any unnecessary delay. Get 
ting under way with his vessels, he went off Long Point 
in search of the enemy, but failing to find them, as they 
had gone into Maiden to join their new ship, he re 
turned to the anchorage off Erie. Here he received 
the welcome intelligence that a party of seamen was 
on its way to join him, from the lower squadron. This 
reinforcement arrived a day or two later. It was under 
the orders of Capt. Elliott, who had just been promoted 
to the rank of master and commander. 

As soon as possible after the arrival of the party 
from below, the squadron sailed again in quest of the 
enemy. After communicating with the army above, 
and ineffectually chasing a British cruiser, it went into 
Put In Bay, a haven among some islands that lie in the 
vicinity of Maiden, and was favorably placed for watch 
ing the enemy. The malady common to these waters 
in the Fall of the year, had attacked the crew, and 
Perry himself was soon include^ among those on the 
doctor s list. His case was a very severe one, and to 
render the matter more grave, all three of the medical 
officers of the squadron were taken ill also. This was 
a critical situation to be in, in the face of the enemy, 
and the more especially, as the vessels were still short 
of their complements. The latter difficulty, however, 
was in part remedied, by receiving a hundred volun 
teers from the army. While lying in this port, the 


men were exercised in boats, it being Perry s intention 
to make an attack on the enemy in that manner, should 
the latter fail to come out. 

Early in September, Perry had so far recovered as 
to quit his cabin. He now went off Maiden to recon 
noitre, and to invite the British to meet him. After 
maneuvering about the head of the lake for a few 
days, the Americans returned to Put In Bay, on the 
6th of September. It would seem Perry received an 
intimation at Sandusky, that it was the enemy s inten 
tion to come out and engage him, as he was short of 
provisions, and felt the immediate necessity of opening 
a communication with his supplies. Subsequent in 
telligence has confirmed this report, and it is now 
known that the battle which was fought a few days 
later was actually owing to this circumstance. 

As Perry now fully expected that the English would 
at least attempt to force a passage toward Long Point, 
he made his final preparations for a general battle. At 
a meeting of some of his officers, on the evening of the 
9th September, it was determined, at all events, to go 
out next day, and attack the enemy at anchor, should 
it be necessary. In order, however, that the reader 
may have a clear idea of the forces of the respective 
parties in the approaching action, as well as of their 
distinctive characters, it is now necessary to give lists 
of the two squadrons, from the best authorities it has 
been in our power to consult. The vessels under the 
command of Capt. Perry, and which were present on 
the morning of the 10th of September, 1813, were as 
follows ; the Ohio, Mr. Dobbins, having been sent down 
the lake on duty, a few days before, viz. 

VOL. II. 15 


Guns. Metal. 

Lawrence, Capt. Perry, 20 2 long 12s, IS 32lb. carronades. 

Niagara, Capt. Elliott, 20 2 long 12s, 18 32lb. carronades. 

Caledonia, Lieut. Turner, 3 2 long 24s, 1 32lb. carronade. 

Ariel, Lieut. Packett, 4 4 12s. 

Somers, Mr. Almy, 2 1 long 24, 1 32lb. carronade. 

Porcupine, Mr. Scnatt, 1 1 long 32. 

Scorpion, Mr. Champlin, 2 1 long 24, 1 32lb. carronade. 

Tigress, Lieut. Conklin, 1 1 long 32. 

Trippe, Lieut. Holdup, 1 1 long 32. 

Total number of guns, 54* 

It is proper to add, that all the guns of all the American 
vessels, with the exception of those of the Lawrence 
and the Niagara, were on pivots, and could be used 
together. The vessels which carried them, however, 
were without bulwarks, and their crews were exposed 
to even musketry in a close action. Of these vessels, 
the Lawrence, Niagara, and Caledonia were brigs ; the 
Trippe was a sloop ; and the remainder were schooners. 
The force of the British has been variously stated, 
as to the metal, though all the accounts agree as to the 
vessels and the number of the guns.t No American 

* Mr. Dobbins, who had a large agency in equipping this force, 
says, the 32 of the Trippe ought to be given to another vessel, 
and a 24 substituted in its place. 

t It is extremely difficult to get the exact truth in details of this 
nature. With the best intentions men make mistakes, and the 
historian is obliged to depend on such authority as he can get. 
The foregoing has been laid before the world by the English, as 
Capt. Barclay s official account of his own force. .It may have 
some inaccuracies, but it is doubtless true in the mai$f, A 
biography of Perry has lately appeared, written by Alexander 
Slidell Mackenzie, a gentleman who is connected with the family 
of the late Com. Perry, and who ought to have enjoyed great ad 
vantages in collecting many of his personal facts, but the work is 


statement of the English metal has ever been officially 
made, but one was appended to Capt. Barclay s report 
of the engagement, which should be taken as substan 
tially correct, though a few of its less important details 
have been questioned by some of the American officers, 
but not, so far as we have been able to ascertain, on 
grounds sufficient to render their own recollections 
certain. The English vessels were as follows, their 
force being, as stated by Capt. Barclay 

written in too partisan a spirit to be at all relied on in matters re 
lating to the battle of Lake Erie. As respects the force of the two 
squadrons, for instance, Capt. Mackenzie has fallen into material 
mistakes even in relation to the American vessels ; or not only ia 
the writer greatly misinformed, but the incidental evidence which 
has appeared in the course of the controversy that has arisen from 
this battle, is incorrect. Thus Capt. Mackenzie puts the force of 
the Somers at "two long thirty-twos." Mack. Per. p. 228, 
vol. i. Now this is contrary to the English official account, con 
trary to every other American account the writer can get, and 
contrary to the certificate of Mr. Nichols, who commanded the 
Somers, after Mr. Almy was sent below. This officer in ex 
plaining the silly story about Capt. Elliott s dodging a shot, says 
" the quarter-gunner at the 32, being about to fire," &c. This 
language "would not have been used had there been two thirty- 
twos. Capt. Elliott has more than once distinctly called the 32 a 
carronade, in speaking of this transaction to the writer, and, as the 
fact cannot affect any question connected with himself, his testi 
mony is certainly go od on such a point. Capt. Mackenzie gives 
the Scorpion two long guns, whereas the writer believes she had 
but one ; the Caledonia three long guns, when she had but two, 
&c. &c. It is a fact which would seem to have been generally 
known to the American squadron, that the third gun of the Cale 
donia, a 32lb. carronade, was dismounted by its recoil, and fell into 
the hatchway. Capt. Mackenzie s account of the British metal, 
the writer entertains no doubt, is materially inaccurate also, while 
he will not insist that the one he gives himself, from Capt. Bar 
clay, is rigidly correct. 


Detroit, Capt. Barclay, 19 guns ; 2 long 24a, 1 long 18 on 
pivot, 6 long 12s, 8 long 9s, 1 241b. carronade, 1 18lb. do. 

Queen Charlotte, Capt. Finnis, 17 guns; 1 long 12 on pivot, 
2 long 9s, 14 24Ib. carronades. 

Lady Prevost, Lieut. Buchan, 13 guns ; 1 long 9 on pivot, 2 
long 6s, 10 12lb. carronades. 

Hunter, Lieut. Bignall, 10 guns ; 4 long 6s, 2 long 4s, 2 long 
2s, 2 12lb. carronades. 

Little Belt, 3 guns ; 1 long 12 on pivot, 2 long 6s. 

Chippewa, Mr. Campbell, 1 long 9 on pivot. 

Total number of guns, 63. 

On the morning of the 10th September, the British 
squadron was seen in the offing, and the American 
vessels got under way, and went out to meet it. The 
wind, at first, was unfavorable, but so determined was 
Perry to engage, that he decided to give the enemy the 
weather-gage, a very important advantage with the 
armament he possessed, should it become necessary. 
A shift of wind, however, brought him out into the 
lake to windward, and left him every prospect of en 
gaging in a manner more desirable to himself. 

The enemy had hove-to, on the larboard tack, in a 
compact line ahead, with the wind at south-east. This 
brought his vessels heads nearly, or quite, as high as 
S. S. West. He had placed the Chippewa in his van, 
with the Detroit, Barclay s own vessel, next to her. 
Then followed the Hunter, Queen Charlotte, Lady 
Prevost, and Little Belt, in the manner named. Perry 
had issued his order of battle some time previously, but 
finding that the enemy did not form his line as he had 
anticipated, he determined to make a corresponding 
change in his own plan. Originally, it had been in 
tended that the Niagara should lead the American line, 
in the expectation that the Glueen Charlotte would lead 


that of the English ; but finding the Detroit ahead of 
the latter vessel, it became necessary to place the Law 
rence ahead of the Niagara, in order to bring the two 
commanding vessels fairly along side of each other. 
As there was an essential difference of force between 
the two English ships, the Detroit being a vessel at 
least a fourth larger and every way heavier than the 
Queen Charlotte, this prompt decision to stick to his 
own chosen adversary is strongly indicative of the 
chivalry of Perry s character, for many an officer would 
not have thought this accidental change on the part of 
his enemy a sufficient reason for changing his own 
order of battle on the eve of engaging. Calling the 
leading vessels near him, however, and learning from 
Capt. Brevoort, of the army, and late of the brig 
Adams, who was then serving on board the Niagara 
as a marine officer, the names of the different British 
vessels, Capt. Perry communicated his orders for the 
Lawrence and Niagara to change places in the con 
templated line, a departure from his former plan which 
would bring him more fairly abreast of the Detroit. 

At this moment, the Lawrence, Niagara, Caledonia, 
Ariel and Scorpion were all up, and near each other, 
but the Trippe, Tigress, Somers and Porcupine were 
still a considerable distance astern. All of the last named 
craft but the Porcupine had been merchant vessels, 
purchased into the service and strengthened ; alter 
ations that were necessary to enable them to bear their 
metal, but which were not likely to improve whatever 
sailing qualities they might possess. 

It was now past ten, and the leading vessels ma 
neuvered to get into their stations, in obedience to the 


orders just received. This brought the Scorpion a 
short distance ahead, and to windward of the Law 
rence, and the Ariel a little more on that brig s wea 
ther bow, but in advance. Then came the Lawrence 
herself, leading the main line, the two schooners just 
mentioned being directed to keep to windward of her ; 
the Caledonia, the Niagara, the Tigress, the Somers, 
the Porcupine and the Trippe. The prescribed dis 
tance that was to be maintained between the different 
vessels was half a cable s length. 

The Americans were now astern and to windward 
of their enemies, the latter still lying gallantly with 
their topsails aback, in waiting for them to come down. 
Perry brought the wind abeam, in the Lawrence, and 
edged away for a position abreast of the Detroit, the 
Caledonia and Niagara following in their stations. 
The two schooners ahead were also well placed, 
though the Ariel appears to have soon got more on 
the Lawrence s beam than the order of battle had di 
rected. All these vessels, however, were in as good 
order as circumstances allowed, and Perry determined 
to close, without waiting for the four gun-vessels astern 
to come up. 

The wind had been light and variable throughout 
the early part of the morning, and it still continued 
light, though sufficiently steady. It is stated to have 
been about a two-knot breeze when the American van 
bore up to engage. As they must have been fully two 
miles from the enemy at this time, it, of course, would 
have required an hour to have brought them up fairly 
along side of the British vessels, most of the way under 
fire. The Lawrence was yet a long distance from the 


English when the Detroit threw a twenty-four pound 
shot at her. When this gun was fired, the weight of 
the direct testimony that has appeared in the case, and 
the attendant circumstances, would show that the inter 
val between the heads of the two lines was nearer two 
than one mile. Perry now showed his signal to en 
gage, as the vessels came up, each against her de 
signated opponent, in the prescribed order of battle. 
The object of this signal was to direct the different 
commanders to engage as soon as they could do so 
with effect ; to preserve their stations in the line ; and 
to direct their fire at such particular vessels of the 
British as had been pointed out to them severally 
in previous orders. Soon after an order was passed 
astern, by trumpet, for the different vessels to close up 
to the prescribed distance of half a cable s length from 
each other. This was the last order that Perry issued 
that day from the Lawrence to any vessel of the fleet, 
his own brig excepted. It was intended principally 
for the schooners in the rear, most of which were still 
a considerable distance astern. The Caledonia and 
Niagara were accurately in their stations, and at long 
gun-shot from the enemy. A deliberate fire now 
opened on the part of the enemy, which was returned 
from the long gun of the Scorpion, and soon after from 
the long guns of the other leading American vessels, 
though not with much apparent effect on either side. 
The first gun is stated to have been fired at a quarter 
before twelve. About noon, finding that the Lawrence 
was beginning to suffer, Perry ordered her carronades 
to be tried, but it was found that the brig was still too 
distant for the shot to tell. He now set his top-gallant- 


sail and edged away more for the enemy, suffering 
considerably from the fire of the long guns of the De 
troit in particular. 

The Caledonia, the Lawrence s second astern, was 
a prize brig, that had been built for burden, rather than 
for sailing, having originally been in the employment 
of the Northwest Company. Although her gallant 
commander, Lieut. Turner, pressed down with her as 
fast as he could, the Lawrence reached ahead of her 
some distance, and consequently became the principal 
object of the British fire ; which she was, as yet, un 
able to return with more than her two long twelves; the 
larboard bow gun having been shifted over for that pur 
pose. The Scorpion, Ariel, Caledonia and Niagara, 
however, were now firing with their long guns, also, 
carronades being still next to useless. The latter brig, 
though under short canvas, was kept in her station 
astern of the Caledonia, only by watching her sails, 
occasionally bracing her main-topsail sharp aback, in 
order to prevent running into her second ahead. As 
the incidents of this battle have led to a painful and pro 
tracted controversy, which no biographical notice of 
Perry can altogether overlook, it may be well to add, 
here, that the facts just stated are proved by testimony 
that has never been questioned, and that they appear 
to us to relate to the only circumstance in the manage 
ment of the Niagara, on the 10th of September, that is 
at all worthy of the consideration of an intelligent critic. 
At the proper moment, this circumstance shall receive 
our comments. 

It will be remembered that each of the American ves 
sels had received an order to direct her fire at a particular 


adversary in the British line. This was done to prevent 
confusion, and was the more necessary, as the Americans 
had nine vessels to the enemy s six. On the other hand, 
the English, waiting the attack, had to take such oppo 
nents as offered. In consequence of these orders, the 
Niagara, which brig had also shifted over a long twelve, 
directed the fire of her two chase-guns at the Queen 
Charlotte, and the Caledonia engaged the Hunter, the 
vessel pointed out to her for that purpose ; leaving the 
Lawrence, supported by the Ariel and Scorpion, to sus 
tain the cannonading of the Detroit, supported by the 
Chippewa, as well as to bear the available fire of all the 
vessels in the stern of the English line, as, in leading 
down, she passed ahead to her station abreast of her 
proper adversary. Making a comparison of the aggre 
gate batteries of the five vessels thus engaged at long 
shot, or before carronades were fully available, we get 
on the part of the Americans, one 24 and six 12s, or 
seven guns in all, to oppose to one 24, one 18, three 
12s, and five 9 pounders, all long guns. This is esti 
mating all the known available long guns of the Ariel, 
Scorpion and Lawrence, and the batteries of the Chip 
pewa and the Detroit, as given by Capt. Barclay, in his 
published official letter, which, as respects these vessels, 
is probably minutely accurate ; though it is proper to 
add that an American officer, who subsequently had 
good opportunities for knowing the fact, thinks that the 
Chippewa s gun was a 12 pounder. Although the dis 
parity between 7 and 10 guns is material, as is the dif 
ference between 96 and 123lbs. of metal, they do not 
seem sufficient to account for the great disparity of the 
injury that was sustained by the Lawrence, more espe- 


cially in the commencement of the action. We are 
left, then, to look for the explanation in some additional 

It is known that one of the Ariel s 12s burst early in 
the day. This would at once bring the comparison of 
the guns and metal, as between the five leading vessels, 
down to 6 to 10 of the first, and 84 to 123 of the last. 
But we have seen that both the Lawrence and Niagara 
shifted each a larboard bow-gun over to the starboard 
side, a course that almost any commander would be 
likely to adopt under the circumstances of the action. 
It is not probable that the Detroit, commencing her fire 
at so great a distance, with the certainty that it must be 
some time before her enemy could get within reach of 
his short guns, neglected to bring her most available 
pieces into battery also. Admitting this to have been 
done, there would be a very different result in the 
figures. The Detroit fought ten guns in broadside, and 
she had an armament that would permit her to bring to 
bear on the Lawrence, at one time, two 24s, one 18, six 
12s and one 9 pounder. This would leave the compa 
rison between the guns as 6 are to 11, and between the 
metal as 84 are to 147. Nor is this all. The Hunter 
lay close to the Detroit, and as the vessel which assailed 
her was still at long shot, it is probable that she also 
brought the heaviest of her guns into broadside, and 
used them against the nearest vessel ; more particularly 
as her guns were light, and would be much the most 
useful in such a mode of firing. 

But other circumstances conspired to sacrifice the 
Lawrence. Finding that he was suffering heavily, 
and that he had got nearly abreast of the Detroit, Perry 


failed his topgallant-sail, hauled up his fore-sail, and 
rounded to, opening with his carronades. The distance 
from the enemy at which this was done, as well as the 
length of time after the commencement of the fire, have 
given rise to contradictoiy statements. The distance, 
Perry himself, in his official letter, says was " within 
canister-shot," a term too vague to give any accurate 
notion that can be used in a critical analysis of the facts 
of the engagement. A canister-shot, thrown from a 
heavy gun, would probably kill at a mile ; though sea 
men are not apt to apply the term to so great a range. 
Still they use all such phrases as " yard-arm and yard- 
arm," "musket-shot," "canister-shot," and "pistol- 
shot," very vaguely ; one applying a term to a distance 
twice as great as would be understood by another. The 
distance from the English line, at which the Lawrence 
backed her topsail, has been placed by some as far as 
half a mile, and by others as near as 300 yards. It 
was probably between the two, nearer to the last than 
to the first ; though the brig, as she became crippled 
aloft, and so long as there was any wind, must have 
been slowly drifting nearer to her enemies. 

On the supposition that there was a two-knot breeze 
the whole time, that the action commenced when the 
Lawrence was a mile and a half from the enemy, and 
that she went within a quarter of a mile of the British 
line, she could not have backed her topsail until after 
she had been under fire considerably more than a half 
an hour. This \vas a period quite sufficient to cause 
her to suffer heavily, under the peculiar circumstances 
of the case. 

The effect of a cannonade is always to deaden, or 


even "to kill," as it is technically termed by seamen, a 
light wind. Counteracting forces neutralize each other, 
and the constant explosions from guns repel the currents 
of the atmosphere. This difficulty came to increase 
the critical nature of the Lawrence s situation, the wind 
falling to something very near, if not absolutely to a flat 
calm. This fact, which- is material to a right under 
standing of the events of the day, is unanswerably shown 
in the following manner. 

The fact that the gun-boats had been kept astern by 
the lightness of the Avind, is mentioned by Perry, him 
self, in his official account of the battle. He also says, 
" at half past two, the wind springing up, Capt. Elliott 
was enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara, gallantly 
into close action," leaving the unavoidable inference 
that a want of wind prevailed at an earlier period of the 
engagement. Several officers testify that it fell nearly 
calm, while no one denies it. One officer says it be 
came "perfectly calm," and others go near to substan 
tiate the statement. There is a physical fact, however, 
that disposes of this point more satisfactorily than can 
ever be done by the power of memories or the value of 
opinions. Both Perry and his sailing-master say that 
the Lawrence was perfectly unmanageable for a consi 
derable time. This period, a rigid construction of Per 
ry s language would make two hours ; and by the most 
liberal that can be given to that of the master, must have 
been considerably more than one hour. It is physi 
cally impossible that an unmanageable vessel, with her 
sails loose, should not drift half a mile, in an hour, 
had there been only a two-knot breeze. The want of 
this drift, which would have carried the Lawrence 


directly down into the English line, had it existed, 
effectually shows, then, that there must have been a 
considerable period of the action in which there was 
little or no wind, and corroborates the direct testimony 
that has been given on this point.* 

* In the battle of Plattsburg Bay, which took place the succeed 
ing year, the wind was so light and baffling, that the British an 
chored before they got as close as they had intended to go. Still, 
one of their vessels, the Chubb, was crippled, and she drifted into 
the American line, in the first half hour of the engagement. The 
distance this vessel actually drifted, under such circumstances, was 
about as far as that at which Perry engaged the enemy, proving 
that the latter must also have drifted an equal distance, after he 
was disabled, had there been any wind. The Chubb, too, was a 
fore-and-aft vessel, a species of craft that would not have the drift 
of a square-rigged brig, as her sails would be, and probably were, 
lowered ; nor would they hold as much wind. It is true that the 
English on Lake Erie were not anchored, as was the case with the 
Americans on Lake Champlain; but a vessel hove-to in smooth 
water, would not have half the drift of one that was all abroad, 
and the difference, as a principle, would be only one of time. If 
the Chubb drifted a quarter of a mile in half an hour, the Law 
rence should have drifted twice that distance in twice that time. 
She should have drifted farther, being of light draught of water, 
and having the most top-hamper. Again. The drift of a vessel 
in the situation of the Lawrence would have been astern and to 
leeward, while that of vessels hove-to would have been ahead and 
to leeward. On the supposition that there was any wind, these 
last facts would effectually have prevented the Lawrence from re 
maining abeam of her enemies two whole hours, as is admitted to 
have been the case. In our former edition we did not advert to 
the circumstance of McDonough s being anchored, simply because 
we believed, with Marshall, that "a Chief Justice of the United 
States might be presumed to know something." We never in 
tended to say that Perry would have reached the English line as 
soon as the Chubb reached the American, but that he must have 
reached it during the battle ; meaning the rear of that line. The 
Chubb was probably in the American line within ten minutes after 
VOL. II. 16 


Previously, however, to its falling calm, or nearly so, 
and about the time the Lawrence backed her topsail, a 
change occurred in the British line. The Queen Char 
lotte had an armament of three long guns, the heaviest 
of which is stated by Capt. Barclay to have been a 12 
pounder, on a pivot, and fourteen 24lb. carronades. 
The latter guns were shorter than common, and, of 
course, were useless when the ordinary American 321b. 
guns of this class could not be served. For some rea 
son, which has not been quite satisfactorily explained, 
this ship shifted her berth, after the engagement had 
lasted some time, filling her topsail, passing the Hunter, 
and closing with the Detroit, under her lee. Shortly 
after, however, she regained the line, directly astern of 
the commanding British vessel. The enemy s line 
being in very compact order, and the distance but 

she became unmanageable, having been in our possession within 
the first half hour of the battle. 

Capt. Pring, in his official account of this battle, excuses his not 
cutting the brig Linnet s cable, after the Confiance had struck, and 
endeavoring to escape, on the ground that his vessel was crippled, 
and that had he done so she would have drifted directly into the 
American line. "The result of doing so, (cutting the cable,) 
must," he says, " in a few minutes, have been her drifting alongside 
of the enemy s vessels close under our lee." The distance was 
about two cables length, or 480 yards; 440 yards being a quarter 
of a mile. Those who believe that Perry engaged the enemy at a 
less distance than this, increase the probability of his drifting into 
the British line, had there been any wind. The fact that he did 
not, is conclusive on the subject of the wind. It should also be 
remembered that Perry, in saying that the Lawrence \vas disabled, 
does not in the least speak figuratively, but literally. His words 
are, " every brace and bowline being shot away, she became unma 
nageable, notwithstanding the great exertions of the sailing -mas 
ter" A square -rigged vessel, without a brace or bowline, is per 
fectly unmanageable, as a matter of course. 


trifling, the Queen" Charlotte was enabled to effect this 
in a few minutes, there still being a little wind. The 
Detroit probably drew ahead to enable her to regain a 
proper position. 

This evolution on the part of the Queen Charlotte 
has been differently accounted for. At the time it was 
made the Niagara was engaging her sufficiently near 
to do execution with her long twelves, and, at the mo 
ment, it was the opinion on board that brig, that she had 
driven her opponent out of the line. As the Queen 
Charlotte opened on the Lawrence with her carronades, 
as soon as she got into her new position, a more plausi 
ble motive was that she had shifted her berth, in order 
to bring her short guns into efficient use. The letter 
of Capt. Barclay, however, gives a more probable solu 
tion to this manoeuvre, than either of the foregoing con 
jectures. He says that Capt. Finnis, of the Queen 
Charlotte, was killed soon after the commencement of 
the action, and that her first lieutenant was shortly after 
struck senseless by a splinter. These two casualties 
threw the command of the vessel on a provincial officer 
of the name of Irvine. This part of Capt. Barclay s 
letter is not English, and has doubtless been altered a 
little in printing. Enough remains, however, to show, 
that he attaches to the loss of the two officers mentioned, 
serious consequences ; and in a connection that alludes 
to this change of position, since he speaks of the pros 
pect of its leaving him the Niagara also to engage. 
From the fact that the Queen Charlotte first went under 
the lee of the Detroit, so close as io induce the Ameri 
cans to think she was foul of the quarter of that ship, a 
position into which she never would have been carried 


had the motive been merely to get nearer to the Law 
rence, or farther from the Niagara, we infer that the 
provincial officer, finding himself unexpectedly in his 
novel situation, went so near to the Detroit to report his 
casualties and to ask for orders, and that he regained 
the line in obedience to instructions from Capt. Barclay 
in person. 

Whatever was the motive for changing the Queen 
Charlotte s position in the British line, the effect on the 
Lawrence was the same. Her fire was added to that 
of the Detroit, which ship appeared to direct all her 
guns at the leading American brig, alone. Indeed, 
there, was a period in this part of the action, during 
which most, if not all of the guns of the Detroit, the 
Queen Charlotte, and Hunter, were aimed at this one 
vessel. Perry appears to have been of opinion that it 
was a premeditated plan, on the part of the enemy, to 
destroy the commanding American vessel. It is true, 
that the Ariel, Scorpion, Caledonia and Niagara, from 
a fe\v minutes after the commencement of the action, 
were firing at the English ships, but that the latter dis 
regarded them, in*the main, would appear from the 
little loss the three small American vessels sustained, 
in particular. The Caledonia and Niagara, moreover, 
were still too distant to render their assistance of much 
effect. About this time, however, the gun-boats astern 
got near enough to use their heavy guns, though most 
of them were yet a long way off. The Somers would 
seem to have engaged a short time before the others. 

. At length, Capt. Elliott finding himself kept astern 
by the bad sailing of the Caledonia, and his own brig 
so near as again to be under the necessity of bracing 


her topsail aback, to prevent going into her, determined 
to assume the responsibility of changing the line of 
battle, and to pass the Caledonia. He accordingly 
hailed the latter, and directed that brig to put her helm 
up and let the Niagara pass ahead. As this order was 
obeyed, the Niagara filled and drew slowly head, con 
tinuing to approach the Lawrence as fast as the air 
would allow. This change did not take place, however, 
until the Lawrence had suffered so heavily as to render 
her substantially a beaten ship. 

The evidence that has been given on the details is 
so contradictory and confused, as to render it exceed 
ingly difficult to say whether the comparative calm of 
which we have spoken occurred before or after this 
change in the relative positions of the Lawrence and 
Caledonia. Some wind there must have been, at this 
time, or the Niagara could not have passed. As the 
wind had been light and baffling most of the day, it is 
even probable that there may have been intervals in it, 
to reconcile in some measure these apparent contradic 
tions, and which will explain the inconsistencies. 
After the Niagara had passed her second ahead, to do 
which she had made sail, she continued to approach 
the Lawrence in a greater or less degree of movement, 
as there may have been more or less wind, until she 
had got near enough to the heavier vessels of the enemy 
to open on them with her carronades ; always keeping 
in the Lawrence s wake. The Caledonia, having pivot 
guns, and being now nearly or quite abeam of the 
Hunter, the vessel she had been directed to engage, 
kept off more, and was slowly drawing nearer to the 
enemy s line. The gun-vessels astern were closing, too, 


though not in any order, using their sweeps, and 
throwing the shot of their long heavy guns, principally 
32 pounders, quite to the head of the British line ; be 
ginning to tell effectually in the combat. 

As the wind was so light, and the movements of all 
the vessels had been so slow, much time was consumed 
in these several changes. The Lawrence had now 
been under fire more than two hours, and, being almost 
the sole aim of the headmost English ships, she was 
dismantled. Her decks were covered with killed and 
wounded, and every gun but one in her starboard bat 
tery was dismounted, either by shot or its own recoil. 
At this moment, or at about half-past two, agreeably to 
Perry s official letter, the wind sprang up and produced 
a general change among the vessels. One of its first 
effects was to set the Lawrence, perfectly unmanageable 
as she was, astern and to leeward, or to cause her to 
drop, as it has been described by Capt. Barclay, while 
the enemy appear to have filled, and to commence 
drawing ahead. The Lady Prevost, which had been 
in the rear of the British line, passed to leeward and 
ahead, under the published plea of having had her 
rudder injured, but probably suffering from the heavy 
metal of the American gun-vessels as they came nearer. 
An intention existed on the part of Capt. Barclay to get 
his vessels round, in order to bring fresh broadsides to 
bear. The larboard battery of the Detroit by this time 
was nearly useless, many of the guns having lost even 
their trucks, and, as usually happens in a long cannon 
ade, the pieces that had been used were getting to be 
unserviceable, from one cause or another. 

At this moment the Niagara passed the Lawrence 


to windward, and then kept off toward the head of the 
enemy s line, which was slowly drawing more toward 
the Southward and Westward. In order to do this, 
she set topgallant-sails and brought the wind abaft the 
beam. The Caledonia also followed the enemy , passing 
inside the Lawrence, having got nearer to the enemy, 
at that moment, than any other American vessel. As 
soon as Perry perceived that his own brig was dropping, 
and that the battle was passing ahead of him, he got 
into a boat, taking with him a young brother, a mid 
shipman of the Lawrence, and pulled after the Niagara, 
then a short distance ahead of him. When he reached 
the latter brig, he found her from three to five hundred 
yards to windward of the principal force of the enemy, 
and nearly abreast of the Detroit, that ship, the Q,ueen 
Charlotte and the Lady Prevost being now quite near 
each other, and probably two cables length to the 
Southward and Westward ; or that distance nearly 
ahead of the Lawrence, and about as far from the 
enemy s line as, the latter brig had been lying for the 
last hour. . 

Perry now had a few words of explanation with 
Capt. Elliott, when the latter officer volunteered to go 
in the boat, and bring down the gun-vesseJs, which 
were still astern, and a good deal scattered. As this 
was doing precisely what Perry wished, Capt. Elliott 
proceeded on his duty immediately, leaving his own 
brig, to which he did not return until after the engage 
ment had terminated. Perry now backed the main-top 
sail of the Niagara, being fairly abeam of his enemy, 
and showed the signal for close action. After waiting 
a few minutes for the different vessels to answer and to 


close, the latter of which they were now doing fast as 
the wind continued to increase, he bore up, bringing 
the wind on the starboard quarter of the Niagara, and 
stood down upon the enemy, passing directly through 
his line. Capt. Barclay, with a view of getting his 
fresh broadsides to bear, was in the act of attempting to 
ware, as the Niagara approached, but his vessel being 
much crippled aloft, and the Queen Charlotte being 
badly handled, the latter ship got foul of the Detroit, on 
her starboard quarter. At this critical instant, the Nia 
gara had passed the commanding British vessel s bow, 
and coming to the wind on the starboard tack, lay 
raking the two ships of the enemy, at close quarters, 
and with fatal effect. By this 1 time, the gun-vessels, 
under Capt. Elliott, had closed to windward of the 
enemy, the Caledonia in company, and the raking 
cross-fire soon compelled the English to haul down 
their colors. The Detroit, Queen Charlotte, Lady 
Prevost and Hunter struck under this fire, being in the 
melee of vessels ; but the Chippewa ,and Little Belt 
made sail and endeavored to escape to leeward. They 
were followed by the Scorpion and Trippe, which ves 
sels came up with them in about an hour, and firing a 
shot or two into them, they both submitted. The Law 
rence had struck her flag also, soon after Perry quitted 

Such, in its outline, appears to have been the picture 
presented by a battle that has given rise to more con 
troversy than all the other naval combats of the republic 
united. We are quite aware that by rejecting all the 
testimony that has been given on one side of the dis 
puted points, and by exaggerating and mutilating that 


which has heen given on the other, a different repre 
sentation might be made of some of the incidents ; but, 
on comparing one portion of the evidence with another, 
selecting in all instances that which in the nature of 
things should be best, and bringing the whole within 
the laws of physics and probabilities, we believe that 
no other result, in the main, can be reached, than the 
one which has been given. To return more particularly 
to our subject. 

Perry had manifested the best spirit, and the mosl 
indomitable resolution not to be overcome, throughout 
the trying scenes of this eventful day. Just before the 
action commenced, he coolly prepared his public letters, 
to be thrown overboard in the event of misfortune, 
glanced his eyes over those which he had received from 
his wife, and then tore them. He appeared fully sen 
sible of the magnitude of the stake which was at issue, 
remarking to one of his officers, who possessed his con 
fidence, that this day was the most important of his 
life. In a word, it was not possible for a commander 
to go into action in a better frame of mind, and his con 
duct in this particular might well serve for an example 
to all who find themselves similarly circumstanced. 
The possibility of defeat appears not to have been lost 
sight of, but it in no degree impaired the determination 
to contend for victory. The situation of the Lawrence 
was most critical, the slaughter on board her being 
terrible, and yet no man read discouragement in his 
countenance. The survivors all unite in saying that 
he did not manifest even the anxiety he must have 
felt at the ominous appearance of things. The Law 
rence was effectually a beaten ship an hour before she 


struck ; but Perry felt the vast importance of keeping 
the colors of the commanding vessel flying to the last 
moment ; and the instant an opportunity presented 
itself to redeem the seemingly waning fortunes of the 
day, he seized it with promptitude, carrying off the 
victory not only in triumph, but apparently against all 
the accidents and chances which, for a time, menaced 
him with defeat. 

Perry appears seriously to have satisfied himself 
that he captured a materially superior force in the battle 
of Lake Erie. If any reliance is to be placed on the 
published report of Capt. Barclay, this is certainly an 
error; and, we may add, that the better opinion of 
those naval men who have had proper opportunities 
for ascertaining the fact, is also against it. In the men 
of the two squadrons, there was probably no essential 
disparity ; although there are reasons for thinking 
that the English a little outnumbered the Americans. 
Neither side had many above or under five hundred 
souls engaged in this action. But the sick lists of the 
Americans amounted to more than a hundred. As 
Capt. Barclay came out expressly to fight, expecting 
to meet his enemy the next day, and he had received 
aboard his vessels a strong party of troops, it is not 
probable he brought out any sick with him. It is in 
confirmation of this opinion, that, while the enemy 
dwell on their inferiority of force, and the other dis 
advantages under which they supposed themselves to 
labor, nothing is said of any sick. This fact would 
make a material difference as respects the men, even 
allowing the opposing parties to have been equal, 


In vessels the Americans were to the English as 
nine are to six. This might have been a disadvantage, 
however, and in one sense it was, by distributing the 
force unequally at the commencement of the battle. 
Still, as the two largest American brigs were essentially 
heavier than the two heaviest British vessels, and the 
Ariel was a schooner of some size, this circumstance 
would have been more than balanced by their weight, 
could these three vessels have got into close action 
simultaneously, and soon ; or before the enemy had an 
opportunity to cripple one of them in detail. 

The opinion of Perry, and, we may add, that of the 
country, concerning the superiority of the enemy in 
this battle, appear to have been founde d principally on 
the circumstance that the English had the most guns. 
A mere numerical superiority in guns is altogether 
fallacious. A single long 32 pounder, for most of the 
purposes of nautical warfare, would be more efficient 
than thirty -two 1 pounders ; the sizes of the guns 
being quite as important as the number. There can 
be little question that a vessel, always supposing her 
to be of a size suitable to bear the metal, Avhich carried 
twenty 32 pounders, would be fully a match for two 
similar ships that carried each twenty 12 pounders ; 
or, perhaps, for two that carried each twenty 18 pound 
ers ; the guns being long or short alike. As the latter, 
however, was not the fact in the battle of Lake Erie, 
the Detroit carrying long guns, principally, while the 
two heaviest American brigs carried carronades, the 
comparative estimates of force become complicated in a 
way that does not altogether refer to weight of shot. 
The superiority of the long gun depends, first, on its 


greater range, and the greater momentum of the shot, 
pound for pound ; second, from the circumstance that 
the long ship-gun will almost always bear two, and 
sometimes three shot ; whereas the carronade is in 
danger of dismounting itsejf by the recoil, if over 
charged, and of so far lessening the momentum of its 
shot as to prevent them from penetrating a vessel s 
side ;* and, thirdly, because the long gun will sustain 
a protracted cannonade, while a short gun is seldom of 
much efficiency after an hour s service. There can be 
no question that the Lawrence and Niagara would have 
been an overmatch for the Detroit and Queen Charlotte 

* In this battle the Detroit s side was full of shot that did not 
penetrate. By some it was supposed that the American powder 
was bad ; but, it is far more probable that the distance at which 
the Lawrence engaged at first, and over-shotting her carronades, 
were the true reasons the English escaped so well for the first hour 
or two. This fact is now asserted, on direct testimony. Hfcr. 
Dobbins, an officer of experience who served on the Lake, but 
who was not in this battle, having joined the squadron from dis 
tant service, a day or two after its occurrence, writes as follows : 
" A day or two after the action I was on board the Detroit, and 
in company with Lieut. Rolette of the British service, and late of 
that ship, with whom I was well acquainted previous to the war, 
and shown by him the division he had charge of, and had from 
him an explanation and account of the action. There was one 
thing he remarked, which I have never seen mentioned in any ac 
count of that affair. He said that the* ship (the Detroit) received 
more damage in her hull from the long guns, more particularly 
the long 32s of the gun-boats, than from all the rest put together ; 
and that the carronades, particularly of the Lawrence, must have 
been much over-shotted, as the shot from them would frequently 
strike the side of the ship, and rebound into the water. In fact, I 
was told by some of those who were on board of her, (Lawrence,) 
that they invariably put in, first, a round shot, and then a stand of 
both grape and canister, and sometimes a bag of langrage besides. 


in close action, and when we come to see the great dis 
parity of the metal of the remaining vessels, it can leave 
no doubt that the Americans possessed the strongest 
force on this occasion, comparing the two squadrons in 
the aggregate. A very brief analysis will prove the 
justice of this position. 

The American vessels, in the battle of Lake Erie, 
carried 54 guns, while the English had 63. This 
makes a numerical superiority of 9 guns, and on this 
vague fallacy the victory has been assumed to have 
been one of an inferior over a superior force. In the 
combat between the Constellation and J Insurgente, the 
latter vessel mounted 40 guns, and the former only 38. 
There was also a difference of a hundred men, in favor 
of the French ship. But the Constellation s gun-deck 
metal was long 24s, while that of Plnsurgente was 
French 12s ; leaving the former an essential superior 
ity of force that no intelligent seaman has ever denied. 
In the action we are examining, the Hunter mounted 
10 guns, and the Caledonia 3. Thus, numerically 
speaking, the former vessel was of more than treble 
the force of the latter. But a critical analysis of the 
metal, and of the armaments, will give a very different 
result. In the first place, the Caledonia s guns were 
on pivots, which gaveJier 3 guns in broadside, whereas 
the Hunter could fignT but 5 at any one time, and under 
any circumstances. This fact alone reduces the nu 
merical superiority of the British vessel from more than 
treble to less than double. Then comes the consider 
ation of the metal. Agreeably to Capt. Barclay s re 
turn of the force of his vessels, which is appended to 
his official account of the battle, the regular broadside 

VOL. II. 17 


metal of the Hunter was only 301bs., and this, too, dis 
tributed in shot, of which some were so small as 2, 4, 
and Gibs, each ; while the Caledonia threw 80lbs. of 
metal at a discharge, in 24 and 32lb. shot. On the 
other hand, however, the Hunter had quarters, or 
bulwarks, which make a protection against small mis 

There is another circumstance to prove the fallacy 
of placing the superiority of force on a naked numerical 
superiority in guns. Including the pivot guns, and the 
regular armament of the British on the 10th September, 
they fought 34 guns at a time, or Avhat may be termed 
in broadside ; while the Americans, owing to their hav 
ing more traversing pieces mounted, fought precisely 
the same number, though of much heavier metal. This 
fact at once reduces the apparent comparative force of 
the two squadrons in guns, or from that of 54 to 63, to 
a numerical equality ; or, to that of 34 to 34. 

But the fortunes of a battle are not to be estimated 
solely by the physical forces employed by the opposing 
parties. Circumstances constantly occur to neutralize 
these advantages, and to render the chances nearer 
equal. The assailant has frequently more to contend 
with than the assailed, and it is obvious that the force 
which cannot be used is, for the ^purposes of that par 
ticular occasion, as if it did not emst. While, therefore, 
there can be little doubt that the American squadron, in 
the battle on Lake Erie, was much superior to the Brit 
ish squadron as a whole, there were circumstances to aid 
the enemy which produced far more of a real than 
there was of an apparent equality. As respects Perry, 
himself, he certainly, in his own brig, contended against 


a vastly superior force, owing to the dispersed state of 
his vessels, in part, though quite as much, probably, to 
the determination of the enemy to concentrate their fire 
on the American commanding vessel until they had de 
stroyed her. The latter circumstance will account for 
many of the seeming anomalies of this day. Thus the 
Ariel and Scorpion, though engaged from the first, suf 
fered comparatively but little ; as did the Caledonia. 
All these vessels were under fire from an early period 
in the action, and it is in direct proof that a shot passed 
through the wails of both sides of the latter vessel, 
within a short time after the battle commenced. 

The slaughter on board the Lawrence was terrible. 
Mr. Yarnall, her first lieutenant, testified before a Court 
of Inquiry, in 1815, that the Lawrence had on board of 
her " 131 men and boys of every description, of which 
103 were fit for duty." Of this number 22 were killed, 
and 63 were wounded. The loss of the Niagara, also, 
would have been deemed heavy but for this carnage on 
board the Lawrence. By the report of Perry, himself, 
she had 2 killed and 25 wounded. Her own surgeon, 
however, says that this report was inaccurate, the 
slightly wounded having been omitted. He also says 
that there were five men killed. The discrepancy is 
to be accounted for by -the circumstances that after the 
action, the men were much scattered in the prizes, 
the Niagara furnishing most of their crews, and that 
her own medical officer had no agency in drawing up 
the report. Thus the number of the dangerously and 
severely wounded the latter states to have been accu 
rately given, while those of the slain and slightly 
wounded were not. These are facts which it is diffi- 


cult to authenticate, at this late day, though there are 
circumstances which go to render the accuracy of this 
correction of the official report probable, if not certain. 
In a squadron which now numbered fifteen sail, with 
broken crews, few officers to report, and some of those 
few wounded or ill, and with men dying of disease 
daily, mistakes of this nature might readily occur. 
The other vessels did not suffer heavily, and the Brit 
ish, as a whole, lost about as many men as the Ameri 

While the nation was disposed to overlook every 
thing connected with this battle, in the result, Perry 
did not escape criticism for the manner in which he 
engaged the enemy. It was said that he ought to 
have waited until his line had become compact, and 
covered the approach of his two principal brigs, by the 
fire of the heavy long guns of the smaller vessels. 
This is probably still the opinion of many distinguished 
seamen. i<t ^ f{/;( 

It is certain that by placing the schooners of the 
American squadron in the advance, it would have 
been possible to open on the enemy with as many long 
guns as he possessed himself, and guns of much 
heavier metal ; but grave questions of this nature are 
not to be so lightly determined, as this admission may 
seem to infer. There was the experience of the war 
fare on Lake Ontario to induce Perry to suppose that 
a similar policy might be resorted to on Lake Erie. 
The English sailed better in squadron than the Ameri 
cans, on both lakes, and having the same object in 
view, the commander on Lake Erie had every rea 
son to suppose that they would retire before him, as 


soon as a general action became probable, and thus 
postpone, or altogether avoid the desired conflict for 
the command of those waters. The distances being so 
small, nothing was easier than to carry out this policy. 
Even allowing Perry to have sent his heavily armed 
schooners in advance, and to have approached himself 
under cover of their fire, there can scarcely be a doubt 
that Barclay would have wore round, and changed the 
order of formation, by bringing them, again, into the 
rear of the American line ; an evolution that would 
have been easy of accomplishment, with his superiority 
of sailing. 

Had the wind stood, or even had not the enemy hit 
upon the plan of directing most of their fire against the 
Lawrence, the victory of Lake Erie, now so complete 
in its results, would have had no drawbacks. But, 
with the high ends he kept in view, the importance of 
securing the command of the lake, and the moral cer 
tainty of success could he close with his enemy, Perry 
would scarcely have been justified in delaying the 
attack, on the plea that the lightness of the wind en 
dangered any particular vessel of his command. Now 
that the battle is over, it is doubtless easy to perceive 
in what manner it might have been better fought, but 
this is a remark that will probably apply to all human 

His victory at once raised Perry from comparative 
obscurity to a high degree of renown before the nation. 
With the navy he had always stood well, but neither 
his rank nor his services had given him an opportunity 
of becoming known to the world. The important results 
that attended his success, the completeness of that sue- 


cess, the number of vessels captured at the same time, 
and the novelty of a victory in squadron over the Eng 
lish, all contributed to shed more than an ordinary de 
gree of renown on this event ; and, by necessary con 
nection, on the youthful conqueror of that day. His 
own great personal exertions, too, gave a romantic cha 
racter to his success, and disposed the public mind to 
regard it with an unusual degree of interest. The 
government granted gold medals to Perry and his 
second in command, and the former was promoted to be 
a captain, his commission being dated on the 10th 
September, 1813. 

His triumph on the water did not satisfy Perry. 
After co-operating with the army, by assisting in re 
gaining possession of Detroit, and in transporting the 
troops, he joined the land forces, under General Harri 
son, in person, and was present at the Battle of the 
Moravian Towns. In all this service, he was as active 
as his peculiar situation would allow, and there can be 
little doubt that the presence of a gallant young sailor, 
flushed with victory and ever foremost on the march, 
was cheering to the army which then pressed on the 
rear of the enemy. After the surrender of the British 
troops, Perry issued, conjointly with Harrison, a pro 
clamation to the people of the portion of Upper Canada 
that had fallen into the hands of the republic, pointing 
out the usual conditions for their government and sub 
mission. It is worthy of remark that this was the first 
instance in which any American naval officer was ever 
in a situation to perform a similar act. 

Shortly after, the end of the season being at hand, 
Perry gave up his command. As he returned to the 


older parts of the country, his journey was a species 
of triumph, in which warm, spontaneous feeling, 
however, rather than studied exhibition predominated. 

Perry s victory did not prove altogether barren, in 
another sense, though his pecuniary benefits were cer 
tainly out of proportion small, as compared with the 
political benefits it conferred on the country. There 
was properly no broad pennant on Lake Erie, in either 
squadron, Com. Chauncey, in the one case, and Sir 
James Yeo, in the other, being the commander-in-chief. 
This circumstance deprived Perry of the usual share 
of prize money which legally fell to that rank, but Con 
gress added the sum of $5000 to that of $7500 which 
belonged to him as commander of the Lawrence, making 
a total amount of $12,500; a sum which, while it is 
insignificant when viewed as the gift of a nation, be 
stowed on a conqueror for such a service, was not alto 
gether unimportant to the young housekeeper, whose 
family had now been increased in number to four by 
the birth of two children. It may be added, here, as a 
proof of the high estimation in which Perry s success 
has ever been held by the nation, that his most elabo 
rate biographer states that something like forty coun 
ties, towns, villages, etc., have been named after him, 
in different parts of the Union. 

Perry had returned to his command and his family 
at Newport, on quitting Lake Erie, but here it was not 
possible for him to remain long, in the height of an ac 
tive war.. In August, 1814, he was transferred to the 
Java 44, an entirely new ship, then fitting at Baltimore. 
This vessel, however, was unable to get out, in conse 
quence of the force the enemy kept in the bay, below. 


Her commander and crew were actively employed in 
the operations that were carried on to annoy the British 
vessels on their descent of the Potomac from Alexan 
dria, and the defence of their own vessel was confided 
to them in the fruitless attempt on Baltimore. 

About the close of the year, preparations were made 
for equipping two light squadrons, with a view to ha 
rass the .trade of the enemy. One of the squadrons 
was now given to Perry, it being found that the Java 
could not get to sea. He immediately caused the keels 
of three brigs to be laid, intending to have two more 
constructed to complete the number. Peace, however, 
put an end to this enterprise. 

In May, 1815, Perry was attached anew to the Java, 
and he remained in this ship, at different ports, until 
January, 1816, when he sailed from Newport for the 
Mediterranean. While lying at the port from which 
he now took his departure, an opportunity offered for 
this brave man, always active on emergencies of this sort, 
to rescue the crew of a wreck from drowning, during a 
gale in the cold weather of an American winter. The 
season was boisterous, and it is mentioned as an extra 
ordinary fact that the Java, which sailed from New 
port with strong north-west gales, passed the Western 
Islands, the eighth day out. On the fourteenth she was 
within a few hours run of Cape St. Vincent. 

On reaching the Mediterranean, the Java joined a 
squadron commanded by Com, Shaw, and was present 
before Algiers at a moment when very serious move 
ments were contemplated against that regency. Peace, 
however, was preserved, and the ship continued to 
cruise in that beautiful sea, subsequently under the 


command of Com. Chauncey, until January, 1817, when 
she was ordered home. 

The termination of this cruise was made uncomfort 
able to Perry, by an exceedingly unpleasant misunder 
standing . with the commanding marine-officer of his 
own ship. Some disagreeable occurrences had already 
created a coolness between them, when Perry, in a per 
sonal interview, became so far irritated as to strike his 
subordinate in his own cabin. It may be some little 
extenuation of this act, that it is understood to have 
been committed after Perry had returned from a dinner 
party on shore. There is little to be said in justifica 
tion of such a violation of propriety, beyond the usual 
plea that no one is always right. Perry appears to 
have been soon sensible that he had committed himself 
in a way to require concessions, and these he very 
liandsomely offered to make. They were not accepted, 
and the affair subsequently led to recriminating charges 
and trials, by means of which both the offenders were 
sentenced to be privately reprimanded. 

This transaction produced a deeper feeling, perhaps, 
than any other question of mere discipline that ever 
agitated the American marine. It was justly said that, 
in Perry s case, the punishment was altogether dispro- 
portioned to the offence, and that the persons and honor 
of the subordinates were placed at the mercy of the 
captains by the decision. There can be no sufficient 
reason for the commanding officer of a ship s using vio 
lence toward an inferior, as he has all legal means for 
compelling legal submission ; and beyond this his 
power does not extend. Thus the punishment of the 
superior who thus transcends his just authority ought 


even to exceed that which awaits the subordinate who 
rebels against it, since it is without a motive in itself, 
while passion may goad the other to an act of madness ; 
and, of the two, it is ever more dangerous to discipline 
for the superior than for the inferior to err. In the one 
case, the crime is that of an individual ; while in the 
other, it is authority itself which is in fault ; and power 
can never offend without bringing discredit on its attri 

As respects the conduct of Perry in this matter, it 
partakes equally of what we conceive to be the strong 
and the weak points of his character. Notwithstanding 
all that rigorous moralists may be disposed to say, the 
best excuse for the offence, perhaps, is the fact that he 
was a little off his guard by the exhilaration of the 
scene he is understood to have just left. The fault 
committed, apology was his true course, and this reflec 
tion induced him to offer. It was not accepted, and he 
saw before him the prospect of a trial. Then it was 
that he preferred the charges against the marine officer. 
Here he committed, by far, the gravest of his faults ; and 
truth compels us to say it was a fault that he committed 
more than once in the course of his life, leaving, under 
the gravity of the cases, reason to infer that it was con 
nected with some controlling trait of character. A com 
mander has little discretion in the preferring of charges. 
If the party merit punishment, or if the act demand in 
vestigation, the public good is the object, in both cases 
alike. Under no circumstances can a commander, with 
propriety, compromise or vindicate justice, on grounds 
that are purely personal to himself. If the marine offi 
cer, in this case, merited punishment, the charges 


should not have been delayed, but have been instituted 
independently of all questions between him and his 
commander ; and did he not merit it, they should not 
have been preferred, even though Perry s commission 
were the price of his own error. There will be another 
occasion to advert to a similar confusion between right 
and wrong, in the official career of this distinguished 
officer, and in a case affecting himself. 

On the other hand, Perry showed a deep sense of 
the error he had committed in connection with this 
affair, in his subsequent conduct. After his return 
home, a meeting took place between him and the ma 
rine officer, in which he received the shot of his oppo 
nent, declining to fire in return. Nothing could have 
been better than his conduct throughout the latter part 
of this affair. In a letter written to his friend Decatur, 
on this occasion, he uses the following generous and 
manly language " I cannot return his fire, as the meet 
ing, on my part, will be entirely an atonement for the 
violated rules of the service." 

The affair with his marine officer was not quite dis 
posed of, when a new difficulty arose to embitter the 
close of Perry s life. Like that of the marine officer, 
it has already attracted too much notice, and the indis 
cretions of ill-judging and partial vindicators have 
dragged into the question principles of far too much 
importance to the navy, and indeed to the nation at 
large, to allow of any biographer s passing it over in 

The battle of Lake Erie was attended by two cir 
cumstances that were likely to entail dissensions and 
discussions on the actors in that important event. 


Though victory crowned the efforts of the Americans, 
the commanding vessel, the Lawrence, struck her flag 
to the enemy, while the Niagara, a vessel every way 
her equal in force, did not get her full share of the 
combat until near its close. Nothing is more certain 
than that both these peculiarities might have occurred 
without blame being properly attached to any one ; but 
nothing was more natural than that such circumstances 
should lead to accusations, recriminations, and quarrels. 
Most of the officers were exceedingly young men, and, 
while some of the Niagara were indiscreet in accusing 
those who surrendered the Lawrence of having tar 
nished the lustre of the day, those of the Lawrence re 
torted by accusing the Niagara of not having properly 
supported them. When this business of recrimination 
commenced, or which party was the .aggressor, it 
would now most probably be in vain to ask ; but the 
result has been one of the most protracted and bitter 
controversies that has ever darkened the pages of the 
history of the American marine ; and a controversy to 
which political malignancy has endeavored to add its 
sting. As full and elaborate discussions of this subject 
have appeared, or will appear in print, we intend to 
allude to it here no farther than it is inseparably con 
nected with the acts and character of the subject of our 
memoir, and the vindication of our own opinions. 

In his official account of the battle of Lake Erie, 
Perry commended the conduct of his second in com 
mand, Capt. Elliott, in terms of strong eulogium. But 
it would seem that the circumstances above mentioned 
gave rise to some early rumors to the prejudice of both 
parties ; it being contended, on one side, that Capt. El- 


liott did not do his duty in the engagement, and, on the 
other, that Capt. Perry came on board the Niagara dis 
pirited, and ready to abandon the day. The country 
heard but little of this, though the report to the preju 
dice of Capt. Elliott was widely circulated in the region 
of the lakes, particularly among the troops of Gen. Har 
rison s army. In 1815, in consequence of a paragraph 
in an English newspaper, which accompanied the find 
ing of the Court Martial that sat on Capt. Barclay, 
and which appears to have been mistaken even by 
Capt. Elliott, as Well as by sundry writers of this coun 
try, for a part of the finding itself, Capt. Elliott asked 
for a Court of Inquiry into his conduct on the 10th 
Sept. The court sat ; and the finding was an honor 
able acquittal. Here the matter rested for three years, 
or until after the return of Perry from the Mediter 
ranean, when he received a letter from Capt. Elliott, 
who asked for explanations on the matter of certain cer 
tificates enclosed, which alleged that he, Capt. Perry, 
had spoken disrespectfully of his, Capt. Elliott s, con-, 
duct in the battle of Lake Erie. This letter produced " : 
a brief but envenomed correspondence, in which Perry 
avowed the imputations charged to him, and which ter 
minated in a challenge from Capt. Elliott. This chal 
lenge Perry declined accepting, on the ground that he 
was about to prefer charges against his late subordinate. 
Here the matter terminated, in waiting for the future 
course of the government. It is known that these 
charges were shortly after sent, but no proceedings 
were ever ordered by the department. 

In order to form a just estimate of Perry s conduct 
in this affair, and to discharge our own duties as im- 

VOL. n. 18 


partial biographers, it will be necessary to analyze his 
charges, and to give him the benefit of his own expla 
nations. Perry felt the awkwardness of his present 
position. In 1813, a few days after the battle, he had 
written a letter to the secretary, eulogizing the conduct 
of Capt. Elliott in unequivocal terms. This letter was 
written three days after the occurrence of the events, 
when all the circumstances were still quite recent, and 
yet when sufficient time had been given to become ac 
quainted with any incidents which may have escaped 
his personal observation. He was now, five years later, 
bringing accusations which necessarily involved a con 
tradiction of his eulogiums, and he felt the necessity of 
offering his reasons for this change of course and 
seemingly of opinion. This he did in a letter that was 
sent with his charges, and which was dated August 
10th, 1818. 

In his explanations, Perry took the ground that when 
he wrote the official letter of 1813, commending the 
conduct of Capt. Elliott, he was not fully apprised of 
all the facts of the case ; but that he now possessed the 
evidence necessary to substantiate his charges. This 
was the only substantial excuse that could be offered, 
the profession of a reluctance to say any thing which 
might injure Capt. Elliott, which was also urged, 
hardly sufficing to explain away a eulogy. The truth, 
however, compels us to go further, and to add that 
Perry, in this instance, committed the same fault that 
he had just before fallen into in the case of the marine 
officer. He allowed considerations that were purely 
personal to himself, to control his official conduct. In 
his explanations, it is distinctly stated that he should 


still have been willing to pass over the alleged delin 
quency of Capt. Elliott, had not the ktter, by assailing 
his, Perry s, character, endeavored to repair his own. 
While he makes this admission, Perry also confesses 
that the facts upon which some of his present charges 
were founded had long been in his possession, thus 
weakening his best defence for the course he was no\v 
taking, or that of previous ignorance. If we add that 
Perry gave as an additional reason for praising Capt. 
Elliott in his official report of the battle, that he wished 
all under his orders to share in the glory of the day, 
the excuse is not tenable, as he omitted altogether to 
mention four of his commanders, and this, too, under 
circumstances that produced deep mortification to 
the gentlemen whose names were not given to the 

A dispassionate examination of this letter, at once 
exposes its fallacies. In the first place, it was not ne 
cessary to eulogize the conduct of Capt. Elliott to screen 
him from censure. The praise that Perry gave him, 
in 1813, is prominent, distinct, and much fuller than 
that which is bestowed on any other officer under his 
command. It is but justice to Perry to say, however, 
that admitting Capt. Elliott deserved equally well with 
others, his rank, and the peculiar circumstance that he 
alone was Perry s equal in this respect, might fairly 
entitle him to more notice than his inferiors ; while it 
is due to Capt. Elliott to add that superiority of notice 
was by no means necessary if the object had been 
solely to protect from censure. There is a particularity 
in Perry s praise, however, that it is difficult to ascribe 
to any thing but an honest conviction that Elliott 


merited it. That the reader may judge for himself, 
we give parts of the letter itself, in a note, putting the 
passages that apply especially to Capt. Elliott in 

* The following passages from Perry s official report, are those 
in which he speaks of the conduct of Capt. Elliott, and in which 
he speaks of the conduct of his officers generally. They are all 
given for the purposes of comparison. 

" U. S. Schooner Ariel, Put-in-Bay, 13th Sept. 1813. 

" SIR In my last I informed you that we had captured the 
enemy s fleet on this lake. I have now the honor to give you the 
most important particulars of the action," &c. 

* " *; r { t i < i! i i *. * 
" At half -past two, the wind springing up, Capt. Elliott was 

enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara, gallantly into close action; 
I immediately went on board of her, when he. anticipated my wish, 
by volunteering to bring the schooners, which had been kept astern 
by the lightness of the wind, into close action" 

"The Niagara being very little injured, I determined to pass 
through the enemy s line bore up and passed ahead of their two 
ships and a brig, giving a raking fire to them with the starboard 
guns, and to a large schooner and sloop from the larboard side, at 
half pistol-shot distance. The smaller vessels at this time having 
got within grape and canister distance, under the direction of Capt, 
Elliott, and keeping up a well-directed fire, the two ships, a brig, 
and a schooner surrendered, a schooner and sloop making a vain 
attempt to escape." . . . . Jv/;. ^ "H-i- ;.,.> ,-. -. 

"Those officers and men under my observation evinced the 
greatest gallantry, and I have no doubt that all others conducted 
themselves as became American officers and seamen. Lieut. 
Yarnall, first of the Lawrence, though several times wounded, 
refused to quit the deck. Midshipman Forrest, (doing duty as 
lieutenant,) and sailing-master Taylor, were of great assistance to 
me. I have great pain in stating to you the death of Lieut. Brooks 
of the marines, and Mid. Lamb, both of the Lawrence; and Mid. 
John Clark, of the Scorpion they were valuable officers. Mr. 
Hambleton, purser, two volunteered his services on deck, was 


The next consideration is the circumstance that 
Perry forbore to prefer his charges, though some of the 
proofs had tang been in his possession, until an issue 
had been made up between his own character and that 
of Capt. Elliott. This, then, is the instance similar to 
that which occurred in the affair of the marine officer. 
In both cases, the prosecutor is in possession of the 
facts ; in both he delays to bring his charges while a 
controversy affecting himself is in suspense ; and in 
both he actually brings them when he finds that his 
own conduct is to be brought in question. All this is 
proved by Perry s own showing, and there is little ne 
cessity of dilating on the merits of his course. It is 
unjustifiable, and the mitigation of its errors is only to 
be sought in the universal predominance of human 

severely wounded late in the action. Mid. Swartout and Claxton, 
of the Lawrence, were severely wounded. On board the Niagara, 
Lieuts. Smith and Edwards, and Mid. Webster (doing duty as 
sailing-master) behaved in a very handsome manner. Capt. 
Brevoort, of the army, who acted as a volunteer in the capacity 
of a marine officer on board that vessel, is an excellent and brave 
officer, and with his musketry did great execution. Lieut. Turner, 
commanding the Caledonia, brought that vessel into action in the 
most able manner, and is an officer that in all situations may be 
relied upon. The Ariel, Lieut. Packett, and Scorpion, Sailing- 
Master Champlin, were enabled to get early into the action, and 
were of great service. Capt. Elliott speaks in the highest terms 
of Mr. Magrath, purser, who had been despatched in a boat on 
service, previous to my getting on board the Niagara ; and, being 
a seaman, since the action has rendered essential service in taking 
charge of one of the prizes. Of Capt. Elliott, already so well 
known to the government, it would be almost superfluous to speak. 
In this action ?ie evinced his characteristic bravery and judgment, 
and since the close of the action has given me the most able and 
essential assistance. 1 



infirmity. It must be allowed, perhaps, that a large 
majority of mankind would have acted under similar 
influence, and have made the same mistake ; but, at the 
same time, it is certain there are a few who would not. 
It follows, therefore, that the character of Perry, as re 
spects the qualities connected with this affair, must 
be classed with those of the men who suffer personal 
feeling to control their public conduct, instead of with 
those of the men who, in their public acts, overlook 
self, and decide solely on the abstract principles of 
duty. This is said without adverting more particularly 
to the issue which it is alleged had been made up 
between Perry and Elliott, since nothing is plainer than 
the fact, that accusations against the former might easily 
have been disproved, if false, without necessarily drag 
ging accusations against the latter into the inquiry. 
The result of ail is to show, that while Perry possessed 
some of the qualities of true greatness, he wanted 
others, without which no man can claim to be placed 
near the summit of human morals. 

It must also be conceded that Perry did riot manifest 
the strong desire he supposes, to allow all to share in 
the honors of the day, since, as has just been stated, he 
omitted to mention the names of no less than four of the 
commanders of his gun-vessels ; two of whom were 
superior in rank to others who were expressly named, 
and all of whom were as much entitled to be mentioned 
as the commanders of the other small vessels, under the 
usual considerations of naval etiquette. We come now 
to an examination of the charges themselves. 

The charges brought by Capt. Perry against Capt. 
Elliott, in 1818, may be divided into two classes : 


those which refer to the conduct of the latter on the 
10th Sept., 1813, and those which refer to his conduct 
subsequently to that day. As the last have no connec 
tion with any historical event, they may be passed 
without comment, though it is no more than justice to 
Perry to say that some of these charges, with their 
specifications, are of a nature, if true, to require the 
punishment of the offender ; while it is equally justice 
to Capt. Elliott to say that . others, on their face, 
are frivolous, and, in their nature, not to be legally sus 
tained. Of the latter class, is a specification which 
charges Capt. Elliott with having " declared, that the 
officers and men of the Lawrence were not entitled to 
prize-money on account of the vessels of the enemy 
captured on Lake Erie, but that the officers and crews 
of the other vessels of the American fleet were entitled 
to prize-money for the re-capture of the Lawrence." 
To deny an officer the right to make declarations of 
this nature, would be virtually to deny him the right 
of maintaining his private interests in the forms 
prescribed by law. This particular specification 
appears to have been conceived in a spirit that appeals 
to the national vanity, rather than to the national 

* In another specification, Perry charges Elliott with having said 
that the British vessels might, from the superior force of the 
Americans, have been taken in fifteen minutes, " although he, the 
said Capt. Elliott, well knew that the force of the enemy in that 
engagement was superior to that of the American fleet." 

The writer cannot see on what principle of force the English, 
comparing fleet to fleet, \vere superior to the Americans. An ex 
perienced officer, who examined both squadrons, tells him that 
the Americans were decidedly superior. Officers who were in 


The charges of ill conduct on the part of Capt. Elliott, 
in the battle of Lake Erie, are three in number. The 
first is conceived in the following words, viz. : " That 
the said Capt. Elliott, on the 10th Sept., 1813, being 
then a master and commander in the navy of the United 
States, and commanding the U. S. brig Niagara, one 
of the American squadron on Lake Erie, did not use 
his utmost exertions to carry into execution the orders 
of his commanding officer to join in the battle of that 
day between the American and British fleets." There 
are two other charges, one accusing Capt. Elliott of 
not doing his utmost to destroy the vessel he had been 
particularly ordered to engage, and the other that he 
did not do his utmost to succor the Lawrence. All 
three of these charges substantially rest on the same 
specifications, there being but one elaborately prepared, 
which assumes to give an outline of the movements of 
the Niagara in the action. 

the engagement have given him the same account of the matter. 
His own calculations produce a similar result. Mr. Webster, 
before the Court of Inquiry, in 1815, says : " In close action they 
were not superior to us, in my opinion ; but from the lightness of 
the wind, the situation of the fleets, and the enemy s having long 
guns, I consider them superior." 

Capt. Turner, in his affidavit, says that it was owing to the 
Niagara s being so far astern, or, to use his own words, "which 
circumstance, only, made the result of the battle for a short time 
doubtful." This is strong language to use as against a superior 

Mr. Packett also says, substantially, the same thing. Now, 
neither of these brave men would be apt to think success against 
a superior British force certain. 

The charge against Elliott is extraordinary in every point of 
view, since it is like compelling an officer to submit his opinions 
to those of other persons, in a matter affecting his views of force. 


As the purpose of this article is merely to draw a 
sketch of Perry s acts and character, it is unnecessary 
to comment on these charges further than is required 
to effect that object. We deem it impossible for any 
impartial person to read these charges, and then to ex 
amine the evidence, without coming to the conclusion 
that the subject of this memoir lost sight of public duty 
in the pursuit of private resentment. He appears to 
have even overlooked the effect of his own orders in the 
desire to criminate, and it is certain that one of the spe 
cifications involves so great an ignorance of some of the 
plainest principles of nautical practice, as to raise a sus 
picion that the hand of some legal man has been em 
ployed to pervert that which depends so palpably on 
natural laws as to admit of no serious dispute. There 
is other evidence, we think, that Perry did not draw up 
these charges himself ; a fact that may, in a -measure, 
relieve him from the responsibility of having brought 
them in the precise forms in which they appear. 

In the specification of charge fourth, we get the fol 
lowing statement, as coming from Perry himself, touch 
ing his own order of battle, viz. : " 1st. An order direct 
ing in what manner the line of battle should be formed : 
the several vessels to keep within half a cable s length 
of each other, and enjoining it upon the commanders 
to preserve their stations in the line, and in all cases to 
keep as near to the commanding officer s vessel (the Law 
rence) as possible. 2d. An order of attack: in which 
order the Lawrence was designated to attack the ene 
my s new ship, (afterward ascertained to be named the 
Detroit,) and the Niagara, commanded by the said Capt. 
Elliott, designated to attack the enemy s ship Queen 


Charlotte," &c., &c. This, then, was the general order 
of battle, as respects the Niagara, with the addition that 
her station in the line was half a cable s length astern 
of the Caledonia. Perry also gave a repetition of Nel 
son s well known order " That if his officers laid 
their vessels close alongside of their enemies, they 
could not be out of the way." Under these orders, not 
only Perry himself, in 1818, but several of his wit 
nesses, appear to think it was the duty of a commander 
to close with the particular adversary he was ordered 
to engage, if in his power, without regard to any other 
consideration. This opinion is such an unmilitary 
construction of the orders, and might have led to con 
sequences so injurious, as to be easily shown to be 

If the construction of the orders just mentioned can 
be sustained, the line, the distance from each other at 
which the vessels were to form, and every other provi 
sion for the battle, the one alluded to excepted, becam-e 
worse than useless. The true course would have been, 
with such an intention before a commander, to have 
directed the several officers to their respective antago 
nists, and left them to find their way alongside in the 
best manner they could. If such were intended to be 
the primary order, in the orders for battle, it should 
have been so worded as to let the subordinates under 
stand it, and not fetter them with other orders, of which 
the execution must materially interfere with the execu 
tion of this particular mandate. 

But it is impossible to understand the order of battle 
in this restricted sense; else would it reflect sorely on 
Perry s judgment as an officer, and do utter discredit to 


his powers of explanation. The order of battle clearly- 
meant first, to prescribe a line of battle, in which each 
ship had her assigned station, with an additional direc 
tion, " enjoining it on her to keep her station in the 
line;" second, to point out at what vessel of the enemy 
each American should direct his efforts, from that sta 
tion in the line ; and, lastly, if circumstances deranged 
the original plan, to keep near the Lawrence, though 
you may place yourself alongside of your enemy as a 
last resort ; there you cannot be much out of your way. 
Without this construction of them, the orders would be 
a contradictory mass of confusion. 

Now it is in proof that the Niagara was in her station 
astern of the Caledonia, until Capt. Elliott, after waiting 
for orders to shift his berth in vain, did it on his own 
responsibility, breaking that line of battle which he was 
enjoined to keep, and from the responsibility of doing 
which it was certainly the peculiar duty of Perry to 
relieve him, either by a signal, or by an order sent by a 
boat, did it appear to him to be necessary. It is also in 
proof, that, when Capt. Elliott took on himself, in the 
immediate presence of his commander, without a signal, 
to break an order of battle he was enjoined to keep, he 
endeavored to close with the Lawrence, and that when 
the latter dropped, he passed ahead, and came abeam of 
the only heavy vessels the enemy possessed, engaging 
them within musket-shot. If these facts are not true, 
human testimony is worthless ; for they are substan 
tially shown even by the best of Capt. Perry s own 
witnesses. This confusion in the reading of the orders 
prevails among most of the witnesses, who evidently 
mistake the accessory for the principal. 


Another of Perry s specifications accuses Capt. Elliott 
of keeping his brig " nearly a mile s distance from the 
Lawrence," &c., at the period of the engagement be 
fore he passed the Caledonia. It is beyond dispute 
that the Caledonia was close to the Niagara all this 
time, and, let the distance be what it might, it is not 
easy to find the principle which censures one com 
mander, under these circumstances, and does not cen 
sure the other ; unless the explanation is to be found 
in the admitted superiority of the Niagara over the Ca 
ledonia in sailing. This we believe to be the solution 
of Perry s impression on this particular poini, as well 
as of those of the witnesses whose affidavits accompany 
his charges. In other words, they appear to have per 
suaded themselves that it was the duty of Capt. Elliott 
to have disregarded the line of battle, and the injunction 
to keep it, and to have broken it immediately, or as soon 
as the Lawrence drew ahead of the Caledonia. This 
is what is meant by their statement that the wind which 
carried the Lawrence ahead, would have done the same 
thing with the Niagara. No one can dispute the fact ; 
but the question, who ought to take the responsibility 
of altering a line of battle before any material damage 
had been done on either side, he who issued the order 
originally, and who had the power to change his own 
arrangements, or he whose duty it was to obey, is a 
question which can admit of no dispute in the minds of 
the clear-thinking and impartial. 

Having adverted to this particular specification, it is 
proper to add that all the witnesses of the Niagara, who 
speak to the point, differ from the charges as to this 
alleged distance of their vessel when astern ; and even 


the two lieutenants of the Lawrence, who were exa 
mined before the court of 1815, put it, the one at three 
quarters of a mile from the enemy, and the other at from 
half to three quarters of a mile ; thus lessening the dis 
tance averred in the charges, by nearly, if not quite, 
one half. 

In another specification Perry uses these words, viz. : 
" Instead of preventing which, or affording any assist 
ance to said brig Lawrence, the said Capt. Elliott left 
that vessel, her officers and crew, (eighty -three of whom 
were killed or wounded,) a sacrifice to the enemy, 
although his, the said Capt. Elliott s, vessel remained 
perfectly uninjured, with not more than one or two of 
his men, (if any,) while Capt. Elliott continued on board 
of her, wounded. 

Since the death of Perry, the clearest evidence has 
been produced to show that the Niagara had met with 
at least half of her whole loss before Perry reached her, 
and several witnesses have testified they do not think 
more than five or six of the casualties occurred while 
he was on board. Previously to his bringing the 
charges, however, the error of this allegation about the 
wounded, and that of the injuries to the vessel, had been 
publicly shown. Mr. Webster, the sailing-master of the 
Niagara, before the court of 1815, testified that he was 
hurt and carried below previously to Capt. Perry s 
coming on board ; and, in reply to a question as to the 
injuries received by the Niagara, he answered as fol 
lows, viz. : " There were two men killed from my divi 
sion before I went below, and several men wounded on 
board." This testimony forms part of the records of the 
department, though Perry may never have seen it. To 

VOL. n, 19 


suppose him capable of bringing an allegation that only 
two men were wounded in the Niagara, when it was 
established that two had been killed, would be to attri 
bute to him a subterfuge that could scarcely be palliated 
by the blindness of resentment. There is now no doubt, 
whatever, that the specification, so far as it relates to 
the hurt of the Niagara, rests solely on vague rumors, 
which, so far from strengthening the accusations against 
Capt. Elliott, have a direct tendency to weaken them, 
by proving the active feeling under which they have 
been brought. The specification, worthless as it would 
be if true, is unquestionably untrue. 

There is another specification which it is impossible 
to suppose Perry deliberately offered, and not to imagine 
him totally blinded by resentment, since it involves a 
physical contradiction. This specification is in these 
words : " And was (meaning Capt. Elliott) when his 
said commanding officer went on board that vessel, (the 
Niagara,) keeping her on a course by the wind, which 
would in a few minutes have carried said vessel entirely 
out of action ; to prevent which, and in order to bring 
said vessel into close action with the enemy, the said 
commanding officer was under the necessity of heaving- 
to, and immediately waring said vessel, and altering her 
course at least eight points. 11 

The first objection to this charge is a feature of disin- 
genuousness, that has greatly misled the public mind, on 
the subject of the situation the Niagara actually occu 
pied when Capt. Perry reached her. It is unanswer 
ably in proof that this brig was about as near to the 
enemy as the Lawrence ever got during the engage 
ment, and though Perry certainly carried her much 


nearer, the phrase he uses, in this charge, of " in order 
to bring the said vessel into close action," has a tend 
ency to mislead. If the Lawrence was ever in close 
action, then was the Niagara in close action when Perry 
reached her; and it would have been fairer to have 
used some expression which would have left a clearer 
idea of the real facts of the case. But this is the least 
objection to the specification. A reference to Capt. 
Perry s own official report of the action will show that 
he himself admits, in that document, that Capt. Elliott 
took the Niagara into close action. 

If Capt. Perry found the Niagara " on a course by 
the wind," he found her steering on a line parallel to 
that on which the enemy was sailing ; and if it re 
quired "a few minutes" to carry her out of action, 
under such circumstances, it is a proof she was still 
coming up abreast of her antagonist ; and to insinuate 
that that was an equivocal position, would be like in 
sinuating the same of Hull, when he ran alongside of 
the Guerriere, or of Lawrence when he did the same 
to the Shannon, as each of these officers was steering 
on courses off the wind, which in a few minutes would 
have carried them ahead of their foes, and out of the 
action, had they not devised means to prevent it. To 
accuse a man of what might happen, while he is still 
doing what is right, is to bring a charge which falls of 
its own weight. It is an accusation which may be 
brought against the most virtuous while employed in 
the performance of any act of merit. 

Feeble as is the imputation contained in the fore 
going feature of this specification, that which follows is 
still more so, since it contradicts the possibilities. Pass- 


ing over the singularity of a ship s first heaving-to, to 
prevent her running out of action, and of then " imme 
diately waring," a conjunction of evolutions that is en 
tirely novel to seamanship, we come to the charge that 
Capt. Perry was obliged to " ware" or alter his course 
" eight points," in order to cut the English line. The 
term "ware" is never used by a seaman unless he 
brings the wind from one quarter to the other. To 
"ware" is to come round before the wind; as to 
" tack" is to come round against the wind. With the 
wind at north, a ship on the larboard tack that was 
steering "a course by the wind" would head at least 
as high as east-north-east. Now keeping her off 
" eight points," would cause her to head south-south 
east ; a course which would not only still leave the 
wind on her larboard quarter, but which would want 
two full points of keeping dead away ; the last being a 
step preliminary to waring, or coming up on the other 
tack. If Capt. Perry used the term " waring" inad 
vertently, and merely meant to say that he kept away 
eight points to cut the line, it follows that the Niagara 
must have been nearly abeam of the enemy when he 
took command of her, and proves that Capt. Elliott him 
self was fairly coming up alongside of his enemy. If, 
however, he is to be understood as saying literally that 
he did " ware," or bring the wind on his starboard 
quarter, as is most probably true, both because the fact 
is believed to be so, and because a seaman would not 
be apt to use the word " ware" without meaning the 
thing, it gives a death-blow to the only serious imputa 
tion connected with the charge, by showing that Capt. 
Elliott must have been bearing down on the enemy 


when Capt. Perry reached the Niagara. The very 
minimum of waring would be to bring the wind one 
point on the quarter opposite to that on which it had 
been before the evolution was performed. Less than 
that would be keeping away. No seaman would think 
of using the term for a change less than this. Now, if 
Capt. Perry " wore," and altered his course only eight 
points, he must have had the wind one point abaft the 
beam when he commenced the evolution, and the 
charge that Capt. Elliott was hugging the wind cannot 
be true. 

It is impossible to refute this reasoning, which de 
pends on the simplest mathematical demonstration. 
The weakness of the specification is so apparent, in 
deed, as to give reason to distrust the agency of any 
seaman in its immediate production. There are some 
incidental facts that may possibly strengthen such a 
supposition. The answer of Perry to Capt. Elliott s 
last letter, is dated August 3d, 1818. In this answer, 
he says ** I have prepared the charges I am about to 
prefer against you ; and, by the mail to-morrow, shall 
transmit them to the Secretary of the Navy," &c. The 
date of the charges actually sent to the department, 
however, is August 8th, or five days later, and, from 
the phraseology of the charges, as well as from that of 
the accompanying affidavits, it gives some reason to 
suppose that an outline of the facts had, in the interval, 
been laid before some member of the bar, who has him 
self supplied the phraseology, and with it, quite likely, 
most of the defective reasoning. 

It is nevertheless impossible to read this page in the 
life of Perry without regret. The self-contradiction be- 


tween the language of his official report and that of his 
charges is of a character that every right-thinking man 
must condemn, and when we take his own explanations 
of the discrepancy, and look into the charges them 
selves, we find little to persuade us that the last were 
brought under that high sense of the convictions of 
public duty, which alone could justify his course. We 
have no pleasure in laying this matter before the world, 
but the ci 1 culatiou which has lately been given to the 
subject, rnder ei n ^ f trte views and mutilated testimony, 
imposes the obligation on a biographer to dwell longer 
on this therae than he might wish. There is ever a 
temptation in a democracy to natter even the prejudices 
of the community ; but he is, indeed, a short-sighted 
judge of human nature who fancies that the world will 
fail to punish those who have been the instruments of 
even its own delusions, and a miserable moralist who 
sees truth through the medium of popular clamor, at 
the expense equally of his reason and of the right. 

The government never ordered any proceedings on 
the charges thus preferred by Perry against Capt. 
Elliott. It appears to have viewed them, as they must 
be viewed by all impartial men who examine the sub 
ject, as the result of personal resentment, confessedly 
offered to its consideration under the influence of per 
sonal interests; and as something very like the as 
sumption of a right in a public servant to mould the 
history of the country to suit the passions or policy of 
the hour. Still, Perry remained a favorite, for his 
services were unequivocal, and there was a desire to 
overlook the capital mistake into which he had fallen. 
We have no evidence of his pressing the matter, and it 


is fair to presume, from this circumstance, that the 
advice of cool-headed friends prevailed on him to ac 
quiesce in the course taken by the functionaries at 

It was March, 1819, before Perry was again called 
into service. He had caused a small residence to be 
constructed on a part of the property that had been in 
his family since the settlement of the country, and here 
he passed the autumn of the year of his controversies ; 
certainly well clear of one of them, whatever may be 
the judgment of posterity concerning his course in the 
other. The following winter he purchased a house in 
Newport, and took possession of his new abode. Here 
he was found by letters from the department directing 
him to join the Secretary in New York. The result 
of the interview was his being ordered to the command 
of a force that was to be employed in protecting the 
trade with the countries near the equator, his functions 
being semi-diplomatic as well as nautical. 

It was intended that Perry, who now in truth first be 
came a commodore by orders, though the courtesy of 
the nation had bestowed on him the title ever since his 
success on Lake Erie, should hoist his broad pennant 
on board the Constellation 38 ; but that ship not being 
ready, he sailed from Annapolis in the John Adams 24, 
on the 7th June. He did not get to sea, however, 
until the llth. Early in July the John Adams reached 
Barbadoes. After communicating with the shore, she 
proceeded on to the mouth of the Orinoco, where Perry 
shifted his pennant to the Nonsuch schooner, which 
vessel had sailed in his company, and sent the ship to 
Trinidad. He then began to ascend the river toward 


Angostura, the capital of Venezuela ; off which town 
the Nonsuch, anchored on the evening of the 26th July. 

The American party remained at Angostura until 
the 15th August ; twenty days, at nearly the worst 
season of the year. The yellow fever prevailed, and 
Perry remarks in his journal, a few days after his 
arrival, that his crew was getting to be sickly, and that 
two Englishmen had already been buried from the 
house in which he resided. After transacting his 
business, it now became necessary to depart, and, on 
the day above mentioned, he took his leave of the au 
thorities, and immediately got under way. 

The situation of the Nonsuch was already critical, 
her commander, the late commodore, then Lieut. Clax- 
ton, the present Capt. Salter, who was a passenger, 
and Doctor Morgan, the surgeon, together with some 
fifteen or twenty of the crew, being already down with 
the fever. The whole service had been one of danger, 
though it was a danger that does not address itself to 
the imagination of men with the influence and bril 
liancy of that of war. The officers and crew of this ves 
sel had entered the Orinoco, only thirty-four days after 
they sailed from Lynn Haven, and were probably as 
much exposed to the dreadful disease of the equator as 
men well could be. As yet, however, the deaths in 
the schooner had not been numerous, about one fourth 
of the ill only having died. 

On the morning of the 17th, Perry entered his gig, 
and, as the Nonsuch continued to drop down with the 
current, he pulled ahead, amusing himself with a fowl 
ing-piece along the margin of the river. This may 
seem to have been running an unnecessary risk, but 


the seeds of disease were doubtless already in his sys 
tem. That evening, the vessel reached the mouth of 
the stream, but meeting with a fresh and foul wind, she 
was anchored on the bar. There was a good deal of 
sea in the course of the night, which was driven in be 
fore the breeze, and the schooner riding to the current, 
the spray washed over her quarter, from time to time, 
water descending into the cabin and wetting Perry in 
his sleep. When he awoke, which was quite early, he 
found himself in a cold chill. In about an hour the 
chill left him, and was succeeded by pains in the head 
and bones, a hot skin, and other symptoms of yellow 
fever. Perry was of a full habit of body, and to appear 
ances as unpromising a subject for this disease as might 
be. He had foreseen the risk he ran, and had foretold 
his own fate in the event of being seized. Notwith 
standing his appearance, it seems he would not bear the 
lancet, the loss of blood causing him to sink, and his 
attendants were compelled to relinquish a treatment that 
had been quite successful in most of the other cases. 
There were intervals of hope, however, his skin cooling, 
and his breathing becoming easier, but new accesses of 
the disorder as constantly succeeded to destroy their 
cheering influence. 

From the first, Perry himself had but little expectation 
of recovery. His fortitude was v not the less apparent, 
though he frequently betrayed the strength of the do 
mestic ties which bound him to life. By the 23d of 
August, the Nonsuch had got within two leagues of her 
haven, being bound to Port Spain, in Trinidad, where 
his own ship, the John Adams, was waiting his return. 
Perry was now so far gone as to have attacks of the 


hiccough, though his mind still remained calm and his 
deportment placid. He was lying on the floor of a 
trunk-cabin, in a small schooner, under a burning sun, 
and in light winds ; a situation that scarcely admitted 
of even the transient comfort of cooling breezes and 
complete ventilation. At noon of this day he desired 
the surgeon to let him know if any fatal symptoms oc 
curred, and shortly after he was actually seized with 
the vomiting which in this disorder is the unerring pre 
cursor of death. This was a sign he could understand 
as well as another, and he summoned to his side several 
of his senior officers, and made a verbal disposition of 
his property in favor of his wife. He appears to have 
waited to perform this act until quite assured that his 
fate was certain. This duty discharged, he asked to be 
left alone. 

A boat from the John Adams now arrived, and there 
was a moment of reviving interest in the world as he 
inquired of her first lieutenant as to the situation of his 
ship and crew. He then had an interview with the 
gentleman whom he wished to draw his will, but his 
mind wandered, and about half-past three he breathed 
his last. As his death occurred on the 23d of August, 
1819, he was just thirty-four years and two days old 
when he expired. When this event occurred, the Non 
such was only a mile from the anchorage, and it would 
have been a great mitigation of such a blow, could the 
dying man have passed the last few hours of his exist 
ence in the comfortable and airy cabin of a larger vessel. 
The death of the commodore was first announced to the 
officers and crew of the John Adams by seeing the 
broad pennant, the symbol of authority, lowered from 


the mast-head of the schooner. The body was interred 
with military honors in Trinidad, but, a few years later, 
it was transferred in a ship of war to Newport, where 
it now lies, in its native soil, and in the bosom of the 
community in which it first had an existence. 

In person, Com. Perry was singularly favored, being, 
in early manhood, of an unusually agreeable and pre 
possessing appearance. The expression of his counte 
nance was open, frank and cheerful, indicating more of 
the qualities of the heart, perhaps, than of the mind. 
His capacity was good, notwithstanding, if not brilliant 
or profound, and he had bestowed sufficient pains on 
himself to render his conversation and correspondence 
suited to the high rank and trust that were confided to 
him. He was warm-hearted, affectionate in disposi 
tion, gentle in his ordinary deportment, but quick in 
temper, and, as usually happens with men of vivid feel 
ings, as apt to dislike as strongly as he was cordial in 
his attachments. He was inclined to a clannish feel 
ing, as is apt to be the case with the members of small 
communities, and more or less of its effects are to be 
traced in several incidents of his life. Thus, in the con 
troversy that occurred between himself and Capt. El 
liott, of the nine witnesses who take a view of the latter 
officer s conduct similar to his own, six were gentlemen 
who followed him from Rhode Island,* and belonged to 

* Of the other three, two were the lieutenants of the Lawrence, 
and had their feelings enlisted in the fate of that brig, while the 
ninth was an officer who not only had just before quarreled with 
Capt. Elliott, but who, by his own showing, believed that the 
omission of his own name in the despatches was owing to Capt. 
Elliott s interference. No better proof of the nature of the feeling 
that prevailed need be given than the fact, that the surgeon s mate 


his own gallant little state. He was fond of surround 
ing himself with friends from his native place, and ever 
retired to it when not on service afloat. Perry was 
probably the only officer of his rank who never served 
an hour, unattached to a vessel in any state but his own. 
Whether this were accidental, or the result of choice, 
we cannot say ; but it is in singular conformity with his 
predilections, which go far toward explaining some of 
the more painful passages of his life. 

In stature, Commodore Perry was slightly above the 
middle height.* His frame was compact, muscular, 
and well formed, and his activity in due proportion. 
His voice was peculiarly clear and agreeable, and, aided 

of the Lawrence, one of Perry s immediate followers, testifies 
himself that he questioned the wounded of the Niagara, within 
thirty-six hours of the battle, in order to ascertain how many were 
hurt while Capt. Elliott was on board of her, and how many after 
Perry took command ! 

* The writer admits that many of the minor details of this sketch 
are obtained from the work of Capt. Mackenzie. But here his in 
debtedness ceases. He writes and thinks for himself in all that is 
distinctive in the history or character of Perry. In nothing does 
he agree less with Capt. Mackenzie, than in the opinion of the lat 
ter concerning Perry s stature. "The person of Perry, , says that 
gentleman, "was of the loftiest stature, and most graceful mould" 
p. 242, vol. 2d, Mack. Life of Perry. If Capt. Mackenzie viewed 
the whole of his subject through the same exaggerated medium, 
as he certainly has viewed the person of Perry, it is not surprising 
that others Should differ from him in opinion. The writer has 
stood side by side with Perry, often, and feels certain he was him 
self taller than Perry. His own stature was then rather under five 
feet ten. A gentleman who knew Perry well, assures the writer 
that he measured him once, for a wager, and that his height was 
as near as might be to five feet eight. The "loftiest stature" 
would infer, at the very least, six feet, and this Perry certainly was 
not by several inches. 


by its power, he was a brilliant deck-officer. His repu 
tation as a seaman, also, was good, while his steadiness 
in emergencies was often proved. 

By his marriage with Miss Mason, who still lives his 
widow, Perry left four children ; three sons and a 
daughter. The government made a larger provision 
than usual for their education and support, though it 
could scarcely be deemed adequate to its object, or to 
the claims of the deceased husband and father. Of the 
sons, the eldest was educated a physician ; the second 
is now a lieutenant in the navy ; the third has devoted 
himself to the profession of arms, as a student at West 
Point. The daughter is married to a clergyman of the 
name of Vinton. Perry appears to have been happy in 
his domestic relations, having been an attached husband 
and a careful father, though he did not permit the ties 
of the fireside to interfere with the discharge of his 
public duties, the severest of all trials perhaps on a 
man of an affectionate disposition and domestic habits. 

In reviewing the life of Com. Perry, one cannot but 
regret that the ill-directed zeal of mistaken friends has 
not left his memory peacefully to repose on the laurels 
he obtained in battle. Advancing under the cover of 
political vituperation, they have endeavored to sustain 
a vindictive controversy, by exaggerated pictures of the 
character of his victory, and by ex parte representations 
of testimony. It is a misfortune that men who have 
not been capable of appreciating how much more pow 
erful truth really is than even the illusions of national 
vanity, have had too much to do with what has been 
termed the vindication of his character, and have thus 
dragged before the world evidence to prove that Perry 

VOL. ii. 20 


was far from being superior to human failings. His 
professional career was short, and, though it was distin 
guished by a victory that led to important results, and 
which was attended by great success, it was not the 
victory of unrivaled skill and unsurpassed merit that 
ill-judged commentators have so strenuously asserted. 
Compared with the battle of Plattsburgh Bay, as a nau 
tical achievement, the victory of Lake Erie must always 
rank second in the eyes of American seamen, and, in 
the eyes of statesmen, as filling the same place in im 
portance. A mere ad captandum enumeration of guns 
can never mislead the intelligent and experienced, and 
these, when acquainted with the facts, will see that the 
action of the 10th September was one in which defeat 
would have been disgrace. Still it was a glorious vic 
tory, and gallantly achieved. Circumstances were ad 
verse, and the disadvantages were nobly met by Perry. 
His greatest merit on this day was in his personal 
exertions, and the indomitable resolution he manifested 
not to be conquered. The manner in which he changed 
his vessel, taken in connection with the motive, stands 
almost alone in the annals of naval exploits, and evinces 
a professional game that of itself would confer lustre on 
a sea-captain. His recent and severe illness, too, adds 
to the merit of his conduct, for it is seldom that the 
mind is enabled to look down the infirmities of the body. 
But the personal intrepidity of Perry, always of a high 
order, as was often manifested, was not the principal 
feature of this act, though it Jed him from the deck of 
one ship, already a slaughter-house, that was dropping 
out of the battle, to the deck of another then in the heat 
of the combat ; but it was that lofty determination to re- 


deem his previous losses, and still to wrest victory from 
the grasp of his enemy, that truly ennobles the deed, 
and, so far as he himself was personally concerned, 
throws the mere calculations of force into the shade. 

The death of Perry, too, has a claim on the public 
gratitude, that is quite equal to what would have been 
so readily conceded had he fallen in battle. In his 
case the fatal danger was not even concealed ; for he 
went into the Orinoco, as he went into the fight, con 
scious of the presence of an enemy, and with unerring 
warnings of his own fate should he happen to come 
within the reach of his ruthless arm. To our minds, 
Perry calmly dying on the cabin-floor of the little 
Nonsuch, surrounded by mourning friends, beneath a 
burning sky, and without even a breath of the scirocco- 
like atmosphere to fan his cheek, is a spectacle as 
sublime as if he lay weltering in his gore on the quar 
ter-deck of the Pennsylvania, with the shouts of victory 
still ringing in his ears. 

The name of Perry will ever remain associated with 
American naval annals. His victory was the first 
obtained, in squadron, by the regular and permanent 
marine of the country, and its reputation precedes all 
others in the order of time. The peculiar character of 
his personal exertions associated him more closely with 
his success, too, than is usual even for a commanding 
officer, securing to his renown a perpetuity of lustre 
that no one can envy who justly views his exertions. 
All attempts to rob Perry of a commander s credit for 
the battle of Lake Erie must fail ; for to this he is fairly 
entitled, and this the good sense and natural justice of 
men must award him ; but too much is exacted when 


his admirers ask the world to disregard the known laws 
that regulate physical force ; to forget the points of the 
compass ; to overlook testimony, when it is direct, un- 
impeached, and the hest a case will admit of, in favor 
of rumors that .can be traced to no responsible source ; 
to believe all that even Perry says to-day, and to forget 
all that he said yesterday; in short, to place judgment, 
knowledge, evidence, the truth, and even the laws of 
nature, at the mercy of imbittered disputants, who have 
fancied that the ephemeral influence of political clamor 
is to outlast the eternal principles of right, and even to 
supplant the mandates of God 


AMONG the many brave men who early contributed 
to render the navy of the republic popular and respect 
able, the gallant seaman whose name is placed at the 
head of this article is entitled to a conspicuous place ; 
equally on account of his services, his professional 
skill, and his personal merit. Although his connec 
tion with the marine, created under the constitution of 
1789, was of short continuance, it left a durable im 
pression on the service ; and, if we look back to the 
dark period of the Revolution, we find him contending 
in some of the fiercest combats of the period, always 
with heroism, and not unfrequently with success. Cir 
cumstances, too, have connected his renown with one 
of the most remarkable naval battles on record ; a dis 
tinction of itself which fully entitles him to a high 
place among those who have fought and bled for the 
independence of their country, in stations of subordi 
nate authority. 

Richard Dale was born in the colony of Virginia, on 
the 6th November, 1756. His birth-place was in the 
county of Norfolk, and not distant from the well known 
port of the same name. His parents were native 
Americans, of respectable standing, though of rather 
reduced circumstances. His father, dying early, lef f 
20* 233 


a widow with five children, of whom the subject of this 
memoir was the eldest. Some time after the death of 
his father, his mother contracted a second marriage 
with a gentleman of the name of Cooper, among the 
issue of which were two well known ship-masters of 

Young Dale manifested an inclination for the sea at 
a very early period of life. The distrust of a parental 
control that has no foundation in nature, and which is 
apt to be regarded with jealousy, stimulated if it did 
not quicken this desire, and we find him at the tender 
age of twelve, or in 1768, making a voyage between 
Norfolk and Liverpool, in a vessel commanded by one 
of his own uncles. On his return home, he appears to 
have passed nearly a twelvemonth on shore ; but his 
desire to become a sailor still continuing, in the spring 
of 1770 he was regularly apprenticed to a respectable 
merchant and ship-owner, of the borough of Norfolk, 
named Newton. From this moment his fortune in life 
was cast, and he continued devotedly employed in the 
profession, until his enterprise, prudence and gallantry 
enabled him finally to retire with credit, and unblemish 
ed name, and a competency. 

During his apprenticeship, Dale appears to have 
been, most of the time, employed in the West India 
trade. Every sailor has his chances and hair-breadth 
escapes, and our young mariner met with two, at that 
period of his life, which may be thought worthy of 
notice. On one occasion he fell from the spars stowed 
on the belfry into the vessel s hold, hitting the keelson, 
a distance of neaT twenty feet ; escaping, however, 
without material injury. A much greater risk was 


incurred on another. While the vessel to which he 
belonged was running off the wind, with a stiff breeze, 
Dale was accidentally knocked overboard by the jib 
sheets, arid was not picked up without great difficulty. 
He was an hour in the water, sustaining himself by 
swimming, and he ever spoke of the incident as one of 
more peril than any other in a very perilous career. 

When nineteen, or in 1775, Dale had risen to the 
station of chief mate on board a large brig belonging to 
his owner. In this situation he appears to have -re 
mained, industriously engaged during the few first 
months of the struggle for independence ; the active 
warfare not having yet extended itself as far south as 
his part of the country. Early in 1776, however, the 
aspect of things began to change, and it is probable 
that the interruption to commerce rendered him the 
master of his own movements. 

Virginia, in common with most of the larger and 
more maritime colonies, had a sort of marine of its 
own ; more especially anterior to the Declaration of 
Independence. It consisted principally of bay craft, 
and was employed in the extensive estuaries and rivers 
of that commonwealth. On board of one of these light 
cruisers Dale was entered as a lieutenant, in the early 
part of the memorable year 1776. While in this ser 
vice, he was sent a short distance for some guns, in a 
river craft ; but falling in with a tender of the Liver 
pool frigate, which ship was then cruising on the Cape 
Henry station, he was captured and carried into Nor 
folk. These tenders were usually smart little cruisers, 
another, belonging to the same frigate, having been 
taken shortly before, by the U. S. brig Lexington, after 


a sharp and bloody conflict. Resistance in the case of 
Dale was consequently out of the question, his capture 
having been altogether a matter of course. 

On reaching Norfolk, our young officer was thrown 
on board a prison-ship. Here he found himself in the 
midst of those whom it was the fashion to call " loyal 
subjects." Many of them were his old scnool-mates 
and friends. Among the latter was a young man of 
the name of Bridges Gutteridge, a sailor like himself, 
and one who possessed his entire confidence. Mr. 
Gutteridge, who it is believed subsequently took part 
with his countrymen himself, was then employed by 
the British, in the waters of the Chesapeake, actually 
commanding a tender in their service. The quarrel 
was still recent ; and honorable, as well as honest men, 
under the opinions which prevailed in that day, might 
well be divided as to its merits. Mr. Gutteridge had 
persuaded himself he was pursuing the proper course. 
Entertaining such opinions, he earnestly set about the 
attempt of making a convert of his captured friend. 
The usual arguments, touching the sacred rights of the 
king himself merely a legalized usurper, by the way, 
if any validity is to be given to the claims of hereditary 
right to the crown and the desperate nature of the 
"rebel cause," were freely and strenuously used, until 
Dale began to waver in his faith. In the end, he 
yielded and consented to accompany his friend in a 
cruise against the vessels of the state. This occurred 
in the month of May, and, hostilities beginning now to 
be active, the tender soon fell in with a party of Ameri 
cans, in some pilot boats, that were employed in the 
Rappahannock. A warm engagement ensued, in 


which the tender was compelled to run, after meeting 
with a heavy loss. It was a rude initiation into the 
mysteries of war, the fighting being of a desperate, and 
almost of a personal character. This was one of those 
combats that often occurred about this period, and in 
those waters, most of them being close and sanguinary. 

In this affair, Dale received a severe wound, having 
been hit in the head by a musket ball ; with this wound 
he was confined several weeks at Norfolk, during which 
time he had abundance of leisure to reflect on the false 
step into which he had been persuaded, and to form 
certain healthful resolutions for the future. To use 
his own words, in speaking of this error of his early 
life, he determined " never again to put himself in the 
way of the bullets of his own country." This resolu 
tion, however, it was necessary to conceal, if he would 
escape the horrors of a prison-ship, and he " bided his 
time," fully determined to take service again under the 
American flag, at the first fitting opportunity. 

In the peculiar state of the two countries at the time, 
and with the doubtful and contested morality of the 
misunderstanding, there was nothing extraordinary in 
this incident. Similar circumstances occurred to many 
men, who, with the best intentions and purest motives, 
saw, or fancied they saw, reasons for changing sides in 
what, in their eyes, was strictly a family quarrel. In 
the case of Dale, however, the feature most worthy of 
comment was the singleness of mind and simple in 
tegrity with which he used to confess his own error, 
together with the manner in which he finally became a 
convert to the true political faith. No narrative of the 
life of this respectable seaman would be complete, with- 


out including this temporary wavering of purpose ; nor 
would any delineation of his character be just, that did 
not point out the candor and sincerity with which, in 
after life, he admitted his fault. 

Dale was only in his twentieth year when he re 
ceived this instructive lesson from the " bullets of his 
countrymen." From that time, he took good care not 
to place himself again in their way, going, in June or 
July, to Bermuda, on a more peaceable expedition, in 
company with William Gutteridge, a relative of his be 
guiling friend. On the return passage, the vessel was 
captured by the Lexington, the brig just mentioned, 
then a successful cruiser, under the orders of Capt. 
John Barry ; an officer who subsequently died at the 
head of the service. This occurred just after the 
Declaration of Independence, and Dale immediately 
offered himself as a volunteer under the national flag. 
He was received and rated as a midshipman within a 
few hours of his capture. This was the commence 
ment of Dale s service in the regular navy of his native 
country. It was also the commencement of his ac 
quaintance with the distinguished commander of the 
Lexington, whose friendship and respect he enjoyed 
down to the day of the latter s death. While the brig 
was out, our midshipman had another narrow escape 
from death, having, together with several others, been 
struck senseless by lightning during a severe thunder 

Barry made the capture just mentioned near the end 
of his cruise, and he soon after went into Philadelphia, 
which place Dale now saw for the first time. Here 
Barry left the Lexington to take command of the Ef- 


fingham 28, a ship that never got to sea, leaving our 
new midshipman in the brig. Capt. Hailock was 
Barry s successor, and he soon rated Dale, by this time 
an active and skilful seaman, a master s mate. Early 
in the autumn, the Lexington sailed for Cape Francois, 
on special duty. On her return, in the month of De 
cember, she fell in with the Pearl frigate,* and was 
captured without resistance, carrying an armament of 
only a few fours. 

As it was blowing very fresh at the moment this cap 
ture was made, the Pearl took out of the prize four or 
five officers, threw a small crew on board, and directed 
the brig to follow her. By some accounts Dale was left 
in the Lexington, while by others he was not. A suc 
cinct history of the events of his life, written by a con 
nection under his own eye, and which is now before us, 
gives the latter version of the affair, and is probably the 
true one. At all events, the remaining officers and crew 
of the Lexington rose upon the captors in the course of 
the night, retook the brig, and carried her into Baltimore.! 

The English landed several of their prisoners on 
Cape Henlopen, in January, 1777, under some arrange 
ment that cannot now be explained, though probably it 
was connected with an exchange for the men taken and 
carried away in the prize. Among these was Dale, 

* This ship has been differently stated to have been the Liverpool 
and the Pearl. We follow what we think the best authorities. 

tThe prize-officer of the Lexington was a young American, of 
a highly respectable family, then an acting lieutenant in the Eng 
lish navy. His prisoners seized an occasion to rise, at a moment 
when he had gone below for an instant, in consequence of which 
he was dismissed the service ; living the remainder of his life, and 
dying, in his native country. 


who made the best of his way to Philadelphia, when he 
received orders to proceed to Baltimore ; which he 
obeyed, and rejoined his brig, the command of which 
had now been transferred to Capt. Henry Johnston. 

The next service on which the Lexington was em 
ployed was in the European seas. In March, she 
sailed from Baltimore for Bourdeaux, with despatches. 
On her arrival, this brig was attached to a small squad 
ron under the orders of Capt. Lambert Wickes, who 
was in the Reprisal 16, having under his command also 
the Dolphin 10, Capt. Samuel Nicholson. This force 
of little vessels accomplished a bold and destructive 
cruise, making the entire circuit of Ireland, though it 
was eventually chased into a French port by a line-of- 
battle ship. Its object was the interception of certain 
linen-ships, which it missed ; its success, however, in 
the main, was such as to excite great alarm among the 
English merchants, and to produce warm remonstrances 
to France, from their government. 

At this time France was not at war with England, 
although she secretly favored and aided the cause of 
the revolted colonies. The appearance of American 
cruisers in the narrow seas, however, gave rise to so 
many complaints, as to induce the French government, 
in preference to pushing matters to extremities, tempo 
rarily to sequester the vessels. The Lexington was 
included in this measure, having been detained in port 
more than two months, or until security was given that 
she would quit the European seas. This was done, and 
the brig got to sea again on the 18th September, 1777.* 

* It. is a curious feature of the times, that, the French ordering 
the Americans to quit their ports with their prizes, the latter were 
taken out a short distance to sea and sold, Frenchmen becoming 
the purchasers, and finding means to secure the property. 


It is probable that the recent difficulties had some 
effect on the amount of the military stores on board all 
three of the American vessels. At all events, it is cer 
tain that the Lexingion sailed with a short supply of 
both powder and shot, particularly of the latter. The 
very next day she made an English cutter lying-to, 
which was approached with a confidence that could 
only have proceeded from a mistake as to her character. 
This cutter proved to be a rnan-of-war, called the Alert, 
commanded by Lieutenant, afterward Admiral Bazely, 
having a strong crew on board, and an armament of ten 

In the action that ensued, and which was particularly 
well fought on the part of the enemy, the Americans 
were, in a measure, taken by surprise. So little were 
the latter prepared for the conflict, that not a match was 
ready when the engagement commenced, and several 
broadsides were fired by discharging muskets at the 
vents of the guns. The firing killed the wind, and 
there being considerable sea on, the engagement be 
came very protracted, during which the Lexington 
expended most of her ammunition. 

After a cannonading of two hours, believing his an 
tagonist to be too much crippled to follow, and aware 
of his own inability to continue the action much longer, 
Capt. Johnson made sail, and left the cutter, under favor 
of a breeze that Just then sprung up. The Lexington 
left the Alert rapidly at first, but the latter having bent 
new sails, and being the faster vessel, in the course of 
three or four hours succeeded in getting alongside 
again, and of renewing the engagement. This second 
struggle lasted an hour, the fighting being principally 

VOL. n. 21 


on one side. After the Lexington had thrown her last 
shot, had broken up and used all the iron that could be 
made available as substitutes, and had three of her 
officers and several of her men slain, besides many 
wounded, Capt. Johnston struck his colors. The first 
lieutenant, marine officer, and master of the Lexington 
were among the slain. 

By this accident Dale became a prisoner for the third 
time. This occurred when he wanted just fifty days 
of being twenty-one years old. On this occasion, how 
ever, he escaped unhurt, though the combat had been 
both fierce and sanguinary. The prize was taken into 
Plymouth, and her officers, after undergoing a severe 
examination, in order to ascertain their birthplaces, were 
all thrown into Mill Prison, on a charge of high treason. 
Here they found the common men ; the whole being 
doomed to a rigorous and painful confinement. 

Either from policy or cupidity, the treatment received 
by the Americans, in this particular prison, was of a 
cruel and oppressive character. There is no apology 
for excessive rigor, or, indeed, for any constraint beyond 
that which is necessary to security, toward an uncon- 
demned man. Viewed as mere prisoners of war, the 
Americans might claim the usual indulgence ; viewed 
as subjects still to be tried, they were rightfully in 
cluded in that healthful maxim of the law, which 
assumes that all are innocent until they are proved to 
be guilty. So severe were the privations of the Ame 
ricans on this occasion, however, that, in pure hunger, 
they caught a stray dog one day, skinned, cooked and 
ate him, to satisfy their cravings for food. Their situa 
tion at length attracted the attention of the liberal ; 


statements of their wants were laid before the public : 
and an appeal was made to the humanity of the English 
nation. This is always an efficient mode of obtaining 
assistance, and the large sum of sixteen thousand 
pounds was soon raised ; thereby relieving the wants 
of the sufferers, and effectually effacing the stain from 
the national escutcheon, by demonstrating that the suf 
ferers found a generous sympathy in the breasts of the 
public. But man requires more than food and warmth. 
Although suffering no longer from actual want and 
brutal maltreatment, Dale and his companions pined 
for liberty to be once more fighting the battles of their 
country. Seeing no hopes of an exchange, a large 
party of the prisoners determined to make an attempt 
at escape. A suitable place was selected, and a hole 
under a wall was commenced. The work required 
secrecy and time. The earth was removed, little by 
little, in the pockets of the captives, care being had to 
conceal the place, until a hole of sufficient size was 
made to permit the body of a man to pass through. It 
was a tedious process, for the only opportunity which 
occurred to empty their pockets, was while the Ameri 
cans were exercising on the walls of their prison, for a 
short period of each day. By patience and perseve 
rance, they accomplished their purpose, however, every 
hour dreading exposure and defeat. 

When all was ready, Capt. Johnston, most of his of 
ficers, and several of his crew, or as many as were in 
the secret, passed through the hole, and escaped. This 
was in February, 1778. The party wandered about 
the country in company, and by night, for more than a 
week, suffering all sorts of privations, until it was 


resolved to take the wiser course of separating. Dale, 
accompanied by one other, found his way to London, 
hotly pursued. At one time the two lay concealed 
under some straw in an out-house, while the premises 
were searched by those who were in quest of them. 
On reaching London, Dale and his companion imme 
diately got on board a vessel about to sail for Dunkirk. 
A pressgang unluckily took this craft in its rounds, and 
suspecting the true objects of the fugitives, they were 
arrested, and, their characters being ascertained, they 
were sent back to Mill Prison in disgrace. 

This was the commencement of a captivity far more 
tedious than the former. In the first place, they were 
condemned to forty days confinement in the black hole, 
as the punishment for the late escape ; and, released 
from this durance, they were deprived of many of their 
former indulgences. Dale himself took his revenge in 
singing " rebel songs," and paid a second visit to the 
black hole, as the penalty. This state of things, with 
alternations of favor and punishment, continued quite a 
year, when Dale, singly, succeeded in again effecting 
his great object of getting free. 

The mode in which this second escape was made is 
known, but the manner by which he procured the 
means he refused to his dying day to disclose. At all 
events, he obtained a full suit of British uniform, attired 
in which, and seizing a favorable moment, he boldly 
walked past all the sentinels, and got off. That some 
one was connected with his escape who might suffer by 
his revelations is almost certain; and it is a trait in his 
character, worthy of notice, that he kept this secret, 
with scrupulous fidelity, for forty-seven years. It is 


not known that he ever divulged it even to any individual 
of his own family. 

Rendered wary by experience, Dale now proceeded 
with great address and caution. He probably had mo 
ney as well as clothes. At all events, he went to Lon 
don, found means to nrocure a passport, and left the 
country for France, unsuspected and undetected. On 
reaching a friendly soil, he hastened to 1 Orient, and 
joined the force then equipping under Paul Jones, in 
his old rank of a master s mate. Here he was actively 
employed for some months, affording the commodore an 
opportunity to ascertain his true merits, when they met 
with something like their just reward. As Dale was 
now near twenty-three, and an accomplished seaman, 
Jones, after trying several less competent persons, pro 
cured a commission for him, from the commissioners, 
and made him the first lieutenant of his own ship, the 
justly celebrated Bon Homme Richard. 

It is not our intention, in this article, to enter any far 
ther info the incidents of this well known cruise, than is 
necessary to complete the present subject. Dale does 
not appear in any prominent situation, though always 
discharging the duties of his responsible station with 
skill and credit, until the squadron appeared off Leith, 
with the intention of seizing that town the port of 
Edinburgh and of laying it under contribution. On 
this occasion, our lieutenant was selected to command, 
the boats that were to land, a high compliment to so 
young a man, as coming from one of the character of 
Paul Jones. Every thing was ready, Dale had received 
his final orders, and was in the very act of proceeding 
to the ship s side to enter his boat, when a heavy squall 


struck the vessels, and induced an order for the men to 
come on deck, and assist in shortening sail. The ves 
sels were compelled to bear up before it, to save their 
spars ; this carried them out of the frith ; and, a gale 
succeeding, the enterprise was necessarily abandoned. 
This gale proved so heavy, th^f one of the prizes actu 
ally foundered. 

This attempt of Jones , while it is admitted to have 
greatly alarmed the coast, has often been pronounced 
rash and inconsiderate. Such was not the opinion of 
Dale. A man of singular moderation in his modes of 
thinking, and totally without bravado, it was his con 
viction that the effort would have been crowned with 
success. He assured the writer, years after the occur 
rence, that he was about to embark in the expedition 
with feelings of high confidence, and that he believed 
nothing but the inopportune intervention of the squall 
stood between Jones and a triumphant coup de main. 

A few days later, Jones made a secret proposal to his 
officers, which some affirm was to burn the shipping at 
North Shields, but which the commanders of two of his 
vessels strenuously opposed, in consequence of which 
the project was abandoned. The commodore himself, 
in speaking of the manner in which this and other 
similar propositions were received by his subordinates, 
extolled the ardor invariably manifested by the young 
men, among whom Dale was one of the foremost. 
Had it rested with them, the attempts at least would 
all have been made. 

On the 19th September occurred the celebrated bat 
tle between the Serapis and the Bon Homme Richard. 
As the proper place, to enter fully into the details of 


that murderous combat will be in the biography of 
Jones, we shall confine ourselves at present to incidents 
with which the subject of this memoir was more imme 
diately connected. 

The Bon Homme Richard had finally sailed on this 
cruise with only two proper sea-lieutenants on board 
her. There was a third officer of the name of Lunt, 
who has been indifferently called a lieutenant and the 
sailing-master, but who properly filled the latter station. 
This gentleman had separated from the ship in a fog, 
on the coast of Ireland, while in the pursuit of some 
deserters, and never rejoined the squadron. Another 
person of the same name, and a distant relative of the 
master, was the second lieutenant. He was sent in a 
pilot-boat, accompanied by a midshipman and several 
men, to capture a vessel in sight, before Jones made 
the Baltic fleet coming round Flamborough Head. 
This party was not able to return to the Bon Homme 
Richard, until after the battle had terminated. In con 
sequence of these two circumstances, each so novel in 
itself, the American frigate fought this bloody and ardu 
ous combat with only one officer on board her, of the 
rank of a sea-lieutenant, who was Dale. This is the 
reason why the latter is so often mentioned as the lieu 
tenant of the Bon Homme Richard, during that memo 
rable fight. The fact rendered his duties more arduous 
and diversified, and entitles him to the greater credit for 
their proper performance. Both the Lunts, however, 
appear to have been seamen of merit, and subsequently 
did good service. They were natives of New England. 

Dale was stationed on the gun-deck, where of course 
he commanded in chief, though it appears that his pro- 


per personal division was the forward guns. Until the 
ships got foul of each other, this brought him particu 
larly into the hottest of the work ; the Serapis keeping 
much on the bows, or ahead of the Bon Homme 
Richard. It is known that Jones was much pleased 
with his deportment, which, in truth, was every way 
worthy of his own. When the alarm was given that 
the ship was sinking, Dale went below himself to as 
certain the real state of the water, and his confident 
and fearless report cheered the men to renewed exer 
tions. Shortly after, the supply of powder was stop 
ped, when our lieutenant again quitted his quarters to 
inquire into the cause. On reaching the magazine 
passage he was told by the sentinels that they had 
closed the ingress, on account of a great number of 
strange and foreign faces that they saw around them. 
On further inquiry, Dale discovered that the master at 
arms, of his own head, had let loose all the prisoners 
more than a hundred in number under the belief that 
the ship was sinking. Dale soon saw the danger which 
might ensue, but finding the English much alarmed at 
the supposed condition of the ship, he succeeded in 
mustering them, and setting them at work at the 
pumps, where, by their exertions, they probably pre- 
vented the apprehended calamity. For some time, at 
the close of the action, all his guns being rendered use 
less, Dale was employed principally in this important 
service. There is no question that without some such 
succor, the Richard would have gone down much 
earlier than she did. It is a singular feature of this 
everyway extraordinary battle, that here were English 
men, zealously employed in aiding the efforts of their 


enemies, under the cool control of a collected and ob 
servant officer. 

At length the cheerful intelligence was received that 
the enemy had struck. Dale went on deck, and im 
mediately demanded Jones permission to take posses 
sion of the prize. It was granted, and had he never 
manifested any other act of personal intrepidity, his 
promptitude on this occasion, and the manner in which 
he went to work, to attain his purpose, would have 
shown him to be a man above personal considerations, 
when duty or honor pointed out his course. The 
main-yard of the Serapis was hanging a-cock-bill, over 
the side of the American ship. The brace was shot 
away, and the pendant hung within reach. Seizing 
the latter, Dale literally swung himself off, and alighted 
alone on the quarter-deck of the Serapis. Here he 
found no one but the brave Pierson, who had struck 
his own flag ; but the men below were still ignorant of 
the act. We may form an opinion of the risk that the 
young man ran, in thus boarding his enemy at night, 
and in the confusion of such a combat, for the English 
were still firing below, by the fact that Mr. Mayrant, a 
young man of South Carolina, and a midshipman of 
the Bon Homme Richard, who led a party after the 
lieutenant, was actually run through the thigh by a 
boarding pike, and by the hands of a man in the waist 

The first act of Dale, on getting on the quarter-deck 
of the Serapis, was to direct her captain to go on board 
the American ship. While thus employed, the Eng 
lish first lieutenant came up from below, and finding 
that the Americans had ceased their fire, he demanded 


if they had struck. "No, sir," answered Dale, "it is 
this ship that has struck, and you are my prisoner." 
An appeal to Capt. Pierson confirming this, the Eng 
lish lieutenant offered to go below and silence the re 
maining guns of the Serapis. To this Dale objected, 
and had both the officers passed on board the Bon 
Homme Richard. In a short time, the English below 
were sent from their guns, and full possession was ob 
tained of the prize. 

As more men were soon sent from the Bon Homme 
Richard, the two ships were now separated, the Rich 
ard making sail, and Jones ordering Dale to follow with 
the prize. A sense of fatigue had come over the ktter, 
in consequence of the reaction of so much excitement 
and so great exertions, and he took a seat on the bin 
nacle. Here he issued an order to brace the head 
yards aback, and to put the helm down. Wondering 
that the ship did not pay offj he directed that the wheel- 
ropes should be examined. It was reported that they 
were not injured, and that the helm was hard down. 
Astonished to find the ship immovable under such cir 
cumstances, there being a light breeze, Dale sprang 
upon his feet, and then discovered, for the first time, 
that he had been severely wounded, by a splinter, in 
the foot and ankle. The hurt, now that he was no 
longer sustained by the excitement of battle, deprived 
him of the use of his leg, and he fell. Just at this 
moment, Mr. Lunt, the officer who had been absent in 
the pilot-boat, reached the Richard, and Dale was 
forced to give up to him the command of the prize. 
The cause of the Serapis not minding her helm was 
the fact that Capt. Pierson had dropped an anchor under 


foot when the two ships got foul ; a circumstance of 
which the Americans were ignorant until this moment. 

Dale was some time laid up with his wound, but he 
remained with Jones in his old station of first lieutenant, 
accompanying that officer, in the Alliance, from the 
Texel to 1 Orient. In the controversy which ensued 
between the commodore and Landais, our lieutenant 
took sides warmly with the first, and even offered to 
head a party to recover the Alliance, by force. This 
measure not being resorted to, he remained with Jones, 
and finally sailed with him for America, as his first 
lieutenant, in the Ariel 20, a ship lent to the Ameri 
cans, by the King of France. 

The Ariel quitted port in October, 1780, but en 
countered a tremendous gale of wind off the Penmarks. 
Losing her masts, she was compelled to return to refit. 
On this occasion Dale, in his responsible situation of 
first lieutenant, showed all the coolness of his character, 
and the resources of a thorough seaman. The tempest 
was almost a hurricane, and of extraordinary violence. 
The Ariel sailed a second time about the commence 
ment of the year 1781, and reached Philadelphia on 
the 18th February. During the passage home, she 
had a short action, in the night, with a heavy British 
letter-of-marque, that gave her name as the Triumph ; 
and which ship is said to have struck, but to have made 
her escape by treachery. Jones, who was greedy of 
glory, even fancied that his enemy was a vessel of 
war, and that he had captured a cruiser of at least 
equal force. This was not Dale s impression. He 
spoke of the affair to the writer of this article, as one 
of no great moment, even questioning whether their 



antagonist struck at all ; giving it as his belief she was 
a quick-working and fast-sailing letter-of-marque. He 
distinctly stated that she got off by out-mancEuvering the 
Ariel, which vessel was badly manned, and had an ex 
ceedingly mixed and disaffected crew. It is worthy of 
remark, that, while two articles, enumerating the ser 
vices of Dale, have been written by gentlemen con 
nected with himself, and possessing his confidence, 
neither mentions this affair ; a proof, in itself, that Dale 
considered it one of little moment. . \... 

The account which Dale always gave of the meeting 
between the Ariel and Triumph admitting such to 
have been the name of the English ship so different 
from that which has found its way into various publi 
cations, on the representation of other actors in that 
affair, is illustrative of the character of the man. Sim 
ple of mind, totally without exaggeration, and a lover, 
as well as a practicer, of severe truth, he was one 
whose representations might be fully relied on. Even 
in his account of the extraordinary combat between the 
Richard and Serapis, he stripped the affair of all its 
romance, and of every thing that was wonderful ; ren 
dering the whole clear, simple and intelligible as his 
own thoughts. The only narratives of that battle, 
worthy of a seaman, have been written rigidly after 
his explanations, which leave it a bloody and murder 
ous fight, but one wholly without the marvelous. 

On his arrival at Philadelphia, after an absence of 
four years, more than one of which had been spent in 
prison, Dale was just twenty-four years and two months 
old. He was now regularly put on the list of lieu 
tenants, by the marine committee of Congress; his 


former authority proceeding from the agents of the go 
vernment in Europe. It is owing to this circumstance 
that the register of government places him so low as a 
lieutenant. Dale now parted from Paul Jones, with 
whom he had served near two years ; and that, too, in 
some of the most trying scenes of the latter s life. The 
commodore was anxious to take his favorite lieutenant 
with him to the America 74 ; but the latter declined 
the service, under the impression it would be a long time 
before the ship got to sea. He judged right, the America 
being transferred to the French in the end, and Jones 
himself never again sailing under the American flag. 

The name of Dale w r ill be inseparably connected 
with the battle of the Richard and Serapis. His pro 
minent position and excellent conduct entitle him to 
this mark of distinction, and it says much for the su 
perior, when it confers fame to have been " Paul Jones 
first lieutenant." We smile, however, at the legends 
of the day, when we recall the account of the "Lieu 
tenants Grubb" and other heroes of romance, who have 
been made to figure in the histories of that renowned 
combat, and place them in contrast with the truth-loving, 
sincere, moral and respectable subject of this memoir. 
The sword which Louis XVI. bestowed on Jones, for this 
victory, passed into the hands of Dale, and is now the 
property of a gallant son, a fitting mark of the service of 
the father, on the glorious occasion it commemorates.* 

* This sword has, quite recently, become the subject of public 
discussion, and of some private feeling, under circumstances not 
wholly without interest to the navy and the country. At page 
63, vol. 2, of Mackenzie s Life of Paul Jones, is the following 
note, viz : 

VOL. II. 22 


Dale was employed on board a schooner that was 
manned from the Ariel, after reaching Philadelphia, 
and sent down the Delaware to convoy certain public 
stores. The following June, he joined the Trumbull 

" This sword was sent by Jones heirs to his valued friend, 
Robert Morris, to whose favor he had owed his opportunities of ^ 
distinguishing himself. Mr. Morris gave the sword to the navy 
of the United States. It was to be retained and worn by the 
senior officer, and transmitted at his death, to his successor. 
After passing through the hands of Commodore Barry, and one or 
two other senior officers, it came into possession of Commodore 
Dale, and now remains in his family, through some mistake in 
the nature of the bequest, which seems to require that it should 
either be restored to the navy in the person of its senior officer, or 
else revert to the heirs of Mr. Robert Morris, from one of whom 
the writer has received this information." 

That Captain Mackenzie has been correctly informed as to a 
portion of the foregoing statement, is as probable as it is certain 
he has been misled as to the remainder. It would have been 
more discreet, however, in a writer to have heard both sides, pre 
viously to laying such a statement before the world. A very lit 
tle inquiry might have satisfied him that Commodore Dale could 
not have held any thing as the senior officer of the navy, since he 
never occupied that station. We believe the following will be 
found to be accurate. 

Of the manner in which Commodore Barry became possessed 
of this sword we know nothing beyond report, and the statement 
of Captain Mackenzie. We understand that a female member of 
the Morris family gives a version of the affair like that published 
in the note we have quoted, but the accuracy of her recollections 
can hardly be put in opposition to the acts of such men as Barry 
and Dale. 

The sword never passed through the hands " of one or two other 
senior officers," as stated by Captain Mackenzie, at all. It was 
bequeathed by Commodore Barry to Commodore Dale, in his 
will, and in the following words, viz. 

" Item, I give and bequeath to my good friend Captain Richard 
Dale, my gold-hiked sword, as a token of my esteem for him." 


28, Capt. Nicholson, as her first lieutenant. The 
Trumbull left the capes of the Delaware, on the 8th 
August, 1781, being chased off the land by three of 
the enemy s cruisers. The weather was squally, and 

We have carefully examined the will, inventory, &c., of Com 
modore Barry. The first is dated February 27, 1803 ; the will is 
proved and the inventory filed in the following September, in 
which month Commodore Barry died. Now Commodore Dale 
was not in the navy at all, when this sword was bequeathed to 
him, nor when he received it. Dale resigned in the autumn of 
1802; and he never rose nearer to the head of the list of captains, 
than to be the third in rank; Barry, himself, and Samuel Nichol 
son, being his seniors, when he resigned. 

The inventory of Commodore Barry s personal property is very 
minute, containing articles of a value as low as one dollar. It 
mentions two swords, both of which are specifically bequeathed 
viz. : " my gold-hilted," and " my silver-hilted sword." No allu 
sion is made in the will to any trust. Only these two swords were 
found among the assets, and each was delivered agreeably to the 
bequest. The gold-hilted sword was known in the family, as the 
" Paul Jones sword," and there is not the smallest doubt Com 
modore Barry intended to bequeath this particular sword, in full 
property, to Commodore Dale. 

Let us next look to the probabilities of the case. The heirs of 
Paul Jones, who left no issue, gave the sword to Robert Morris, 
says Capt. Mackenzie, as a mark of gratitude. This may very 
well be true. But Mr. Morris " gave the sword to the navy of 
the United States," to be retained and worn by its senior officer. 
It would have been a more usual course to have lodged the sword 
in the Navy Department, had such been the intention. That 
Commodore Barry did not view Aw possession of the sword in this 
light, is clear enough by his will. He gave it, without restraint of 
any sort, to a friend who was not in the navy at all, and who never 
had been its senior officer. This he did, in full possession of his 
mind and powers, six months before he died, and under circum 
stances to render ,any misconception highly improbable. It may 
be added, that Miss Jeannette Taylor, Paul Jones niece, in a 
written communication to the writer, affirms that information was 


night set in dark. In endeavoring to avoid her pur 
suers, the Trumbull found herself alongside of the 
largest, a frigate of thirty-two guns, and an action was 
fought under the most unfavorable circumstances. 
The Trumbull s fore-topmast was hanging over, or 
rather through her forecastle, her crew was disorgan 
ized, and the vessel herself in a state of no preparation 
for a conflict with an equal force ; much less with that 
actually opposed to her. The officers made great ex 
ertions, and maintained an action of more than an hour, 
when the colors of the American ship were struck to 
the Iris 32, and Monk 18. The former of these vessels 
had been the American frigate Hancock, and the latter 
was subsequently captured in the Delaware, by Barney, 
in the Hyder Ally. 

given her brother, which went to satisfy him that Robert Morris, 
in his pecuniary difficulties, sold the sword to Barry. Of the fact, 
the writer professes to know no more than is here stated. 

Can we find any motive for the bequest of Commodore Barry ? 
It was not personal to himself, as the sword went out of his own 
family. The other sword he gave to a brother-in-law. "Paul 
Jones sword" was bequeathed to a distinguished professional 
friend to one who, of all others, next to Jones himself, had the 
best professional right to wear it to " Paul Jones first lieute 
nant." Commodore Dale did leave sons, and some in the navy ; 
and the country will believe that the one who now owns the sword 
has as good a moral right to wear it, as the remote collaterals of 
Jones, and a much better right than the senior officer of the navy, 
on proof as vague as that offered. His legal right to the sword 
seems to be beyond dispute. 

In the inventory of Commodore Barry s personals, this sword 
is thus mentioned, viz.: "a very elegant gold-hilled sword 
$300." The other sword is thus mentioned, viz. : " a handsome 
silver-hiked do., $100." It is worthy of remark, that Miss Tay 
lor says the sword cost 500 louis d or. The $300 may have been 
the sum Barry paid for it. 


This was the fourth serious affair in which Dale had 
been engaged that war, and the fourth time he had 
been captured. As he was hurt also in this battle, it 
made the third of his wounds. His confinement, how 
ever, was short, and the treatment not a subject of 
complaint. He was taken into New York, paroled on 
Long Island, and exchanged in November. 

No new service offering in a marine which, by this 
time, had lost most of its ships, Dale obtained a fur 
lough, and joined a large letter-of-marque, called the 
Queen of France, that carried twelve guns, as her first 
officer. Soon after he was appointed to the command 
of the same vessel. In the spring of 1782, this ship, 
in company with several other letters-of-marque, sailed 
for France, making many captures by the way. The 
ship of Dale, however, parted from the fleet, and falling 
in with an English privateer of fourteen guns, a severe 
engagement followed, in which both parties were much 
cut up ; they parted by mutual consent. Dale did not 
get back to Philadelphia until February of the succeed 
ing year, or until about the time that peace was made. 

In common with most of the officers of the navy, 
Lieutenant Dale was disbanded, as soon as the war 
ceased. He was now in the twenty-seventh year of 
his age, with a perfect knowledge of his profession, in 
which he had passed more than half his life, a high 
reputation for his rank, a courage that had often been 
tried, a body well scarred, a character beyond reproach, 
and not altogether without "money in his purse." 
Under the circumstances, he naturally determined to 
follow up his fortunes in the line in which he had com 
menced his career. He became part owner of a large 


ship, and sailed in her for London, December, 1783, in 
the station of master. After this, he embarked success 
fully in the East India trade, in the same character, 
commanding several of the finest ships out of the 
country. In this manner he accumulated a respect 
able fortune, and began to take his place among the 
worthies of the land in a new character. 

In September, 1791, Mr. Dale was married to Dorothy 
Crathorne, the daughter of another respectable ship 
master of Philadelphia, and then a ward of Barry s. 
With this lady he passed the remainder of his days, 
she surviving him as his widow, and dying some years 
later than himself. No change in his pursuits occurred 
until 1794, when the new government commenced the 
organization of another marine, which has resulted in 
that which the country now possesses. 

Dale was one of the six captains appointed under the 
law of 1794, that directed the construction of as many 
frigates, with a view to resist the aggressions of Algiers. 
Each of the new captains was ordered to superintend 
the construction of one of the frigates, and Dale, who 
was fifth in rank, was directed to assume the superin 
tendence of the one laid down at Norfolk, virtually the 
place of his nativity. -This ship was intended to be a 
frigate of the first class, but, by some mistake in her 
moulds, she Droved in the end to be the smallest of the 
six vessels then built. It was the unfortunate Chesa 
peake, a vessel that never was in a situation to reflect 
much credit on the service. Her construction, how 
ever, was deferred, in consequence of an arrangement 
with Algiers, and her captain was put on furlough. 

Dale now returned to the China trade, in which he 


continued until the spring of 1798. The last vessel he 
commanded was called the Ganges. She was a fine, 
fast ship, and the state of our relations with France 
requiring a hurried armament, the government bought 
this vessel, in common with several others, put an arma 
ment of suitable guns in her, with a fall crew, gave her to 
Dale, and ordered her on the coast as a regular cruiser. 

In consequence of this arrangement, Capt. Dale was 
the first officer who ever got to sea under the pennant 
of the present navy. He sailed in May, 1798, and was 
followed by the Constellation and Delaware in a few 
days. The service of Dale in his new capacity was 
short, however, in consequence of some questions relat 
ing to rank. The captains appointed in 1794 claimed 
their old places, and, it being uncertain what might be 
the final decision of the government, as there were many 
aspirants, Dale declined serving until the matter was 
determined. In May, 1799, he sailed for Canton again, 
in command of a strong letter-of-marque, under a fur 
lough. On his return from this voyage, he found his 
place on the list settled according to his own views of 
justice and honor, and reported himself for service. 
Nothing offered, however, until the difficulties with 
France were arranged; but, in May, 1801, he was 
ordered to take command of a squadron of observation 
about to be sent to the Mediterranean. 

Dale now hoisted his broad pennant, for the first and 
only time, and assumed the title by which he was known 
for the rest of his days. He was in the prime of life, 
being in his forty-fifth year, of an active, manly frame, 
and had every prospect before him of a long and honor 
able service. The ships put under his orders were the 


President 44, Capt. James Barren ; Philadelphia 38, 
Capt. S. Barren; Essex 32, Capt. William Bainbridge ; 
and Enterprise 12, Lieut. Com. Sterrett. A better 
appointed, or a better commanded force, probably never 
sailed from America. But there was little to do, under 
the timid policy and defective laws of the day. Wai- 
was not supposed to exist, although hostilities did ; and 
cruisers were*sent into foreign seas with crews shipped 
for a period that would scarcely allow of a vessel s being 
got into proper order. 

The squadron sailed June 1st, 1801, and reached 
Gibraltar July 1st. The Philadelphia blockaded the 
Tripolitan admiral, with two cruisers, in Gibraltar, 
while the other vessels went aloft. A sharp action 
occurred between the Enterprise and a Tripolitan of 
equal force, in which the latter was compelled to sub 
mit, but was allowed to go into her own port again, for 
want of legal authority to detain her. Dale appeared 
off Tripoli, endeavored to negotiate about an exchange 
of prisoners, and did blockade the port ; but his orders 
fettered him in a way to prevent any serious enter 
prises. In a word, no circumstances occurred to allow 
the commodore to show his true character, except as it 
was manifested in his humanity, prudence and dignity. 
As a superior, he obtained the profound respect of all 
under his orders, and to this day his name is mentioned 
with regard by those who then served under him. It 
is thought that this squadron did much toward establish 
ing the high discipline of the marine. In one instance 
only had Dale an opportunity of manifesting his high 
personal and professional qualities. The President 
struck a rock, in quitting Port Mahon, and for some 


hours she was thought to be in imminent danger of 
foundering. Dale assumed the command, and one of 
his lieutenants, himself subsequently a flag officer of 
rare seamanship and merit, has often recounted to the 
writer his admiration of the commodore s coolness, 
judgment, and nerve, on so trying an occasion. The 
ship was carried to Toulon, blowing a gale, and, on ex 
amination, it was found that she was only saved from 
destruction by the skilful manner in which the wood 
ends had been secured. 

The vigilance of Dale was so great, however, and his 
dispositions so skilful, that the Tripolitans made no cap 
tures while he commanded in those seas. In March, 
1802, he sailed for home, under his orders, reaching 
Hampton Roads in April, after a cruise of about- ten 
months. The succeeding autumn, Com. Dale received 
an order to hold himself in readiness to resume the com 
mand from which he had just returned. Ever ready to 
serve his country, when it could be done with honor, he 
would cheerfully have made his preparations accord 
ingly, but, by the order itself, he ascertained that he 
was to be sent out without a captain in his own ship. 
This, agreeably to the notions he entertained, was a 
descent in the scale of rank, and he declined serving 
on such terms. There being no alternative between 
obedience and resignation, he chose the latter, and quit 
ted the navy. At this time, he was the third captain 
on the list, and it is no more than justice to say, that he 
stood second to no other in the public estimation. 

Dale never went to sea again. Enjoying an ample 
fortune, and possessing the esteem of all who knew 
him, he commanded the respect of those with whom he 


differed in opinion touching the question which drove 
him from the navy. With the latter he never quar 
reled, for, at the proper period, he gave to it his two 
eldest sons. To the last he retained his interest in its 
success, and his care of mariners, in general, extended 
far beyond the interests of this life. 

Many years previously to his death, Com. Dale 
entered into full communion with the Protestant Epis 
copal church, of which he proved a consistent and pious 
member. Under the newly awakened feelings which 
induced this step, he was the originator of a Mariner s 
Church, in Philadelphia, attending it in person, every 
Sunday afternoon, for a long succession of years. He 
was as free with his purse, too, as with his time ; and 
his charities, though properly concealed, were believed 
to be large and discriminating. With some it may be 
deemed a matter of moment, with all it should be a 
proof of the estimation in which Dale was held by cer 
tainly a very respectable part of his fellow citizens, that 
he was named to be the first president of the Washing 
ton Benevolent Society ; an association that soon degen 
erated to serve the ends of party politics, whatever 
may have been the design that influenced the few 
with which it originated. 

The evening of the life of Dale was singularly peace 
ful and happy. It was as calm as its morning had been 
tempestuous. It is true he had to weep for the loss of 
his first-born son, a noble youth, who died of wounds 
received in the action between his old ship, the Presi 
dent, and a British squadron ; but he had given the 
young man to his country, and knew how to bear up 
under the privation. He died, himself, in the seventieth 


year of his age, in his dwelling at Philadelphia, Febru 
ary 26, 1826 ; departing in peace with God and man, 
as he fondly trusted himself, and as those who survive 
have every reason to hope. 

By his marriage with Miss Crathorne, Com. )ale had 
several children, five of whom lived to become men and 
women, viz. : three sons and two daughters. Of the 
former, Richard, the eldest, fell at an early age, a mid 
shipman on board the President. John Montgomery, 
the second* is now a commander in the navy, having 
served with Warrington, in the last English war. This 
gentleman is married to a lady of the well known family 
of Willing. Edward Crathorne, the youngest son, is 
a merchant of Philadelphia. He is married, and has 
children. The eldest daughter, Sarah, married T. 
M Kean Pettit, Esq., a judge of the District Court, in 
Philadelphia, and is dead, leaving issue. Elizabeth, 
the youngest, is the wife of Com. George Campbell 
Read, of the navy, and has no issue. 

In considering the character of Dale, we are struck 
with its simple modesty and frank sincerity, quite as 
much as with its more brilliant qualities. His courage 
and constancy were of the highest order, rendering him 
always equal to the most critical duties, and never 
wearying in their performance. Such a man is per 
fectly free from all exaggeration. As he was not afraid 
to act when his cooler judgment approved, he had no 
distrusts to overcome ere he could forbear, as prudence 
dictated. Jones found him a man ready and willing 
to second all his boldest and most hazardous attempts, 
so long as reason showed the probabilities of success ; 
but the deed done, none more thoroughly stripped it of 

% *, 


all false coloring, or viewed it in a truer light, than he 
who had risked his life in aiding to achieve it. 

The person of Dale was in harmony with his moral 
qualities. It was manly, seaman-like, and of singularly 
respectable, bearing. Simplicity, good faith, truth and 
courage were imprinted on his countenance, which all 
who were thrown into his company soon discovered 
was no more than the mirror of his mind. The navy 
has had more brilliant -intellects, officers of profounder 
mental attainments, and of higher natural gifts, but it 
has had few leaders of cooler judgment, sounder dis 
cretion, more inflexible justice, or indomitable resolution. 
He was of a nature, an experience, and a professional 
skill to command respect and to inspire confidence, 
tributes that were cheerfully paid by all who served 
under his orders. The writer of this article has had 
extensive opportunities of hearing character discussed 
among the sea-officers of his country; few escape cri 
ticism of some sort or other, for their professional acts, 
and fewer still, as men; yet he cannot recall a single 
instance in which he has ever heard a whisper of com 
plaint against the public or private career of Richard 
Dale; This total exemption from the usual fortunes of 
the race, may in part be owing to the shortness of the 
latter s service in the present marine, and to the limited 
acquaintance of his contemporaries ; but it is difficult to 
believe that it is not chiefly to be ascribed to the tho 
roughly seaman-like character of the officer, and to the 
perfect truth and sterling probity of the man.