War with United States of America to war in Syria - from A.D. 1811 to A.D. 1840.
Much indignation had long been felt by the people of the United States in consequence of Great Britain claiming the right of searching neutral vessels for deserters from our ships. There existed, also, among them another cause of annoyance. It was this, that while the rest of the world were at war, the Americans had enjoyed the advantage of being the carriers for other powers, and that Napoleon, in the hope of crippling England, had declared all neutral vessels that had touched at any of her home or colonial ports liable to confiscation, thus virtually putting a stop to the commerce of the United States. Instead of complaining of France, the Americans put the blame on England, and hoped by going to war with her to regain the carrying trade they had lost. England had, besides, given great provocation as far back as the year 1807, when a small squadron of British ships was stationed off the American coast. Several men having deserted from the different ships, some of them were received on board the United States frigate Chesapeake. Hearing of the occurrence, the admiral at Halifax despatched the 50-gun frigate Leopard, commanded by Captain Humphries, with orders to the captains of any of the ships should they fall in with the Chesapeake without the limits of the United States to insist on searching her for deserters. Having delivered her despatches, the Leopard was lying with the rest of the squadron, when theChesapeake, which was at anchor in Hampton Roads, put to sea on her way to the Mediterranean. On this, the Leopard received orders from the British commodore, to make sail in chase of her. Captain Humphries, shortly afterwards, falling in with the Chesapeake, hailed to say that he had a message from the British commander-in-chief. To this the American commodore, Barron, replied, “Send it on board—I will heave to.” On the arrival of the Leopard’s lieutenant on board the Chesapeake, Commodore Barron declared that he had no such men on board as were described. On the lieutenant’s return, Captain Humphries again hailed the Chesapeake, and receiving unsatisfactory answers, observing also indications of intended resistance on board the American frigate, he ordered a shot to be fired across her forefoot. At intervals of two minutes he fired others, but evasive answers only being returned, and it being evident that the object of Commodore Barron was only to gain time, the Leopard opened her fire in earnest. After she had discharged three broadsides at the American frigate the latter hauled down her colours, having only returned a few guns. On this a lieutenant from the Chesapeake came on board the Leopard with a verbal message from Commodore Barron signifying that he considered his ship to be the Leopard’s prize. Without undertaking to receive her as such, Captain Humphries sent two of his lieutenants, with several petty officers and men, on board the Chesapeake to search for the deserters, and the crew being mustered, one of them, who was dragged out of the coal-hole, Jenkin Ratford, was recognised as a deserter from the Halifax. Three others were found, who had deserted from theMelampus, and about twelve more from various British ships of war. The first four, however, alone were carried on board the Leopard, when Commodore Barron again offered to deliver up his frigate as a prize; to this Captain Humphries replied that, having fulfilled his instructions, he had nothing more to desire, but must proceed to his destination. He, however, expressed his regret at having been compelled to attack him, and offered all the assistance in his power. The Chesapeake had indeed suffered severely from the broadsides of the Leopard, twenty-two shot being lodged in her hull, while her masts and rigging were greatly damaged. She had lost three seamen killed, while the commodore, one midshipman, and sixteen seamen and marines were wounded. Though nearly a hundred tons larger than the Leopard, and carrying a greater weight of shot, while her crew numbered fifty men more, she was almost unprepared for battle, so that no imputation could be cast on Commodore Barron for not continuing the engagement.