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.

On arriving at Halifax the unfortunate Jenkin Ratford was found guilty of mutiny and desertion, and was hanged at the foreyard-arm of the ship from which he had deserted. The other men, though found guilty of desertion, were pardoned.

This untoward event was the cause of protracted diplomatic negotiations. Every apology was offered to the United States; and England gave up all claim to the right of searching men-of-war of other nations for deserters. About three years afterwards the British frigate Guerrier impressed out of an American merchant-vessel a man named Deguyo, said to be a citizen of the United States, and shortly afterwards two other native Americans in the belief that they all three were English subjects. At this time the 44-gun frigate President, belonging to the United States, lay moored in the Chesapeake. On receiving directions from his government, Commodore Rogers, who took the command, put to sea in search of theGuerrier on the 12th of May, 1811. Soon after noon of the 16th, from the mast-head of the President, a ship was descried standing towards her under a press of sail, which Commodore Rogers at once concluded was the frigate Guerrier. The stranger was, however, the British ship-sloopLittle Belt, mounting 18 32-pounder carronades, and 2 long nines, with a crew of 120 men and boys, commanded by Captain Bingham, who at the same time made out the President. Captain Bingham, finding her signals unanswered, felt assured that the stranger was an American frigate, and continued his course round Cape Hatteras. By the time the evening was closing in, the President was up to her Captain Bingham hailed, asking, “What ship is that?” Commodore Rogers merely repeated the question. At that instant a gun was fired from the President, as was afterwards alleged, by chance. On this the Little Belt fired, and a furious action commenced, which lasted upwards of half-an-hour, with a short intermission. The after-sail of the Little Belt being shot away, and her rigging much damaged, she fell off, so that, being unable to bring her guns to bear on her antagonist, she ceased firing. Commodore Rogers again hailed, when he received answer that the vessel he had attacked was a British ship of war, but, owing to the freshness of the breeze, he did not hear her name. During this short engagement her masts and yards were badly wounded, and her rigging cut to pieces, while her hull was severely injured. She had lost a midshipman and 10 men killed or mortally wounded, and 21 wounded; while the President had only one boy wounded, and her rigging and masts but slightly injured. The President now hove to to leeward during the night, while the Little Belt was employed in stopping her leaks and repairing damages. Next morning the first lieutenant of thePresident came on board, expressing Commodore Rogers’ regret at the unfortunate affair, and stating that had he known the size of the British ship he would not have fired into her. Captain Bingham inquired why he had fired at all; on which the lieutenant replied that the Little Belt had fired first. Captain Bingham denied this, and the subject was long a matter of dispute—though there can be no doubt that one of the President’sguns went off, possibly by chance, and that Captain Bingham lost no time in replying to it. That Captain Bingham’s conduct was considered most gallant was proved by his being immediately promoted to post-rank.

The following year the United States unhappily declared war against Great Britain. The American government had previously laid an embargo upon all their national ships and vessels during a space of ninety days, so that when war broke out on the 18th of June a large number of fast-sailing-vessels of all sizes were ready to issue forth as privateers; while Commodore Rogers, in command of the squadron, consisting of the President,United States, and Congress frigates, and two brigs of war, sailed in hopes of capturing a fleet of above 100 homeward-bound Jamaica men, known to be off the coast, under the convoy of a single frigate and brig. Fortunately for the merchant-vessels, Commodore Rogers discovered the British frigate Belvidera, of 36 guns, 18-pounders, commanded by Captain Byron, standing towards him. Captain Byron, having ascertained the character of the American squadron, tacked and made sail, not so much to escape as to lead the enemy to a distance from their expected prey. By consummate seamanship and gallantry, he kept them employed, carrying on a spirited action with his two long 18-pounders run through his stern-ports, and the two 32-pounder carronades on his quarter-deck, greatly galling the President, and afterwards the Congress, when that frigate got near enough to open her fire. So successfully did he manoeuvre, that after leading his pursuers a long chase, he escaped from them and got into Halifax. The Belvidera lost altogether 3 killed and 22 wounded. The President, which was cut up in her rigging, lost 2 midshipmen and a marine killed, and 22 officers and men wounded; while the Jamaica convoy reached England in safety.

The war between England and her former dependencies had now commenced in earnest. Since their independence, the United States had taken pains to construct an efficient, though small navy. Aware that it would be useless to attempt building line-of-battle ships to compete with the fleets of Europe, they had turned their attention to the construction of frigates, to act as ocean cruisers, of a size and armament capable of contending successfully with any possessed by England, or indeed any other maritime power. The result proved the wisdom and forethought of their naval authorities. Their most famed frigates were the Constitution, the United States, and President. The other two were of the same size and force as the latter vessel. The President measured 1533 tons: her sides and bulwarks were thicker, and her spars and rigging stouter than those of a British 74-gun ship, while she sailed admirably. She was pierced for 56 guns, but only mounted 52, of which 32 were long 24-pounders, and 20 42-pounders, her complement being 480 men. The other two mounted 54 guns, and the Constitution carried 32 instead of 42-pounder carronades.

On the 18th the Constitution, Captain Hull, then cruising off the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, having heard from an American privateer that a British ship of war was at a short distance to the southward, immediately made sail in that direction. The ship of which Captain Hull had heard was the British frigate Guerrier, commanded by Captain Dacres, an officer of known talent and gallantry. She carried 48 guns, including 30 long 18-pounders on the main-deck, 16 carronades, 32-pounders, and 2 long nines on her quarter-deck and forecastle. She measured under 1100 tons, and though her regular complement was 300 men and boys, she was nearly 40 men short. Seeing the Constitution approaching, at 4:30 p.m. on the 19th the Guerrier laid her main-topsail to the mast, to enable her the more quickly to close. She then hoisted an English ensign at the peak, another at the mizzen-topgallant mast-head, and the Union Jack at the fore, and at 4:50 opened her starboard broadside at the Constitution. The American frigate being admirably manoeuvred, her heavy shot in a short time began to tell with destructive effect on the English frigate. TheGuerrier’s mizzen-mast was soon carried away, as it fell, knocking a large hole in the counter, and by dragging in the water, brought the ship up in the wind—thus enabling the Constitution to place herself on the Guerrier’s larboard bow, in which position she opened a destructive fire of great guns and small-arms on the British frigate, who could only return it with her bow-guns. The riflemen in the Constitution’s tops continued firing all the time with unerring aim. Captain Dacres was severely wounded, as were several of his officers. At length the Guerrier’s foremast and mizzen-mast were carried over the side, leaving a defenceless wreck, rolling her main-deck guns in the water. From the rotten state of her breachings, many of her guns broke loose, but still Captain Dacres, having cleared away the wreck of his masts, continued the action, till the Constitution, having rove new braces, took up a position within pistol-shot of the Guerrier’s starboard-quarter. Finding his ship utterly unmanageable, to prevent further sacrifice of life, Captain Dacres at 6:45 hauled down the Union Jack from the stump of the mizzen-mast, the only stick he had standing. The Guerrier in this desperate action lost 15 men killed and 63 wounded, 6 of the latter mortally; while the Constitution, out of her 468 men and boys, lost 7 killed and about double that number more or less wounded. Though the Americans might well be gratified at the result of the action, the English had no cause to be ashamed at the loss of the Guerrier to a ship the weight of whose broadside was nearly one-half heavier than that of her own, especially when a considerable number of the Constitution’s crew were English seamen, and all had been carefully trained.

On the 25th of October the Macedonian, a frigate of the same size as the Guerrier, was captured by the United States, a frigate in all respects similar to the Constitution. Commodore Decatur, commanding the United States, used every effort to induce the crew of the captured frigate to enter the American service, though, to the credit of British seamen, the band alone, who were foreigners, and three or four others, said to be Americans, yielded to his persuasions.

The third British frigate, also of the size and force of the two preceding ones, captured by the Americans was the Java, taken by the Constitution, on the 29th of September. The Java was originally the French frigate Renommée, and had been commissioned at Portsmouth by Captain Lambert to carry out Lieutenant-General John Hislop, the governor of Bombay. Her crew, hurriedly got together, were inefficient in the extreme. They consisted of 60 raw Irishmen, 50 mutinous fellows sent from on board the Coquette, a body of 50 marines, several of whom were recruits, while the prison-ships and press-gangs furnished a large portion of the remainder. Exclusive of the petty officers, the best of the crew consisted of eight seamen, who were allowed to volunteer from the Rodney, indeed, scarcely fifty of the whole ship’s company had ever been in action, while the ship herself was hurriedly fitted out, lumbered up with stores, and scarcely in a condition to put to sea. Meeting with a succession of heavy gales, it was not till the 28th December that Captain Lambert had an opportunity of exercising his men at firing the guns, when the Java fired six broadsides with blank cartridges, the first the greater number of his crew had ever discharged. While steering for Saint Salvador to obtain water, early the following morning, the Java sighted the Constitution, and made sail in chase. Standing to the wind, which was very fresh, the Javarapidly gained on her, and at length the two ships being within half-a-mile of each other, the Constitution fired her larboard broadside, which theJava waited to return till she got considerably nearer, when she fired her broadside, every shot of which took effect. The untrained British crew lost soon after this an opportunity of raking their powerful antagonist. Most gallantly Captain Lambert fought his ship, and his rigging being cut to pieces and masts injured, with several officers and men killed and wounded, he determined to board his antagonist as affording the best chance of success. His bowsprit, however, catching the starboard mizzen-rigging of the Constitution, his ship was brought up to the wind, and he lost the opportunity both of raking her or boarding. While in this position, Captain Lambert fell mortally wounded, when the command devolved on Lieutenant Henry Chads. The Constitution getting clear, had now the Java at her mercy. Still, animated by their officers, her crew, bad as they were, worked energetically at their guns, and seeing the Constitution standing off to repair damages, cheered under the belief that she was taking to flight. After the action had lasted rather more than three hours, the Constitution placing herself so as to rake the dismasted Java, Lieutenant Chads ordered the colours to be lowered from the stump of the mizzen-mast, and the frigate was taken possession of by the victor. The whole of the Java’s boats, and all except one of the Constitution’s, were knocked to pieces. The operation of conveying the prisoners on board the American frigate occupied a considerable time. As soon as it was accomplished, the Java, being much shattered was set on fire. Though the Americans behaved civilly to the British officers, the crew complained bitterly of being handcuffed and otherwise severely treated. The Java had her captain, 3 masters’ mates, 2 midshipmen, and I supernumerary clerk killed, and 17 seamen and marines, and 102 officers and men wounded, among whom was her gallant first lieutenant.

Several brig-sloops and other small craft were also captured during the war by the Americans, who had every reason to be proud of the gallantry displayed by their seamen. Success, however, did not always attend on the “star-spangled banner,” and, as was natural, the captains of the British 38-gun frigates were eager to fall in with one of the famed American forty-fours. Among others, Captain Philip Vere Broke, commanding theShannon frigate, resolved, if possible, to show what a well-disciplined crew could do. He had from the time he had been appointed to her, several years before, diligently exercised his crew in gunnery, so that those who knew him and his ship’s company felt confident of his success. The following lines, written soon after the commencement of the war, prove this:—

“And as the war they did provoke,
    We’ll pay them with our cannon;
The first to do it will be Broke,
    In the gallant ship the Shannon.”

The following song well describes the far-famed action:—

The “Chesapeake” and the “Shannon.”
At Boston one day, as the Chesapeake lay,
    The captain, his crew thus began on:
See that ship out at sea, she our prize soon shall be;
    ’Tis the tight little frigate the Shannon.
        Oh, ’twill be a good joke
        To take Commodore Broke,
    And add to our navy the Shannon.
Then he made a great bluster, calling all hands to muster,
    And said, Now boys, stand firm to your cannon;
Let us get under weigh without further delay,
    And capture the insolent Shannon.
        Within two hours’ space
        We’ll return to this place,
    And bring into harbour the Shannon.
Now alongside they range, and broadsides they exchange,
    But the Yankees soon flinch from their cannon;
When the captain and crew, without further ado,
    Are attacked, sword in hand, from the Shannon.
    The brave commodore of the Shannon
        Fired a friendly salute
        Just to end the dispute,
    And the Chesapeake struck to the Shannon.
Let America know the respect she should show
    To our national flag and our cannon;
And let her take heed that the Thames and the Tweed
    Give us tars just as brave as the Shannon.
    Here’s to Commodore Broke of the Shannon;
        May the olive of peace
        Soon bid enmity cease
    From the Chesapeake shore to the Shannon.

In March, 1813, Captain Broke sailed from Halifax in company with the Tenedos, Captain Hyde Parker. Captain Broke, finding that the Constitutionand Chesapeake were in Boston Harbour, the former undergoing considerable repairs, sent Captain Parker away, in hopes that the latter would come out and fight him. The Chesapeake was at this time commanded by a gallant officer, Captain Lawrence. Although Captain Broke captured several prizes, rather than weaken his crew, he destroyed them all, while he remained off the port waiting for the expected encounter. At length, having waited till the 1st of June, Captain Broke addressed a letter of challenge to Captain Lawrence, which begins: “As the Chesapeake appears now ready for sea, I request you will do me the favour to meet the Shannon with her, ship to ship, to try the fortune of our respective flags;” and added, “You will feel it as a compliment if I say, that the result of our meeting may be the most grateful service I can render to my country; and I doubt not that you, equally confident of success, will feel convinced that it is only by repeated triumphs in ‘even combats’ that your little navy can now hope to console your country for the loss of that trade it can no longer protect.”

The Shannon, having stood in close to Boston Lighthouse, with colours flying, lay to, when the Chesapeake was seen at anchor. She shortly afterwards, under all sail, stood out of the harbour, accompanied by numerous yachts and a schooner gunboat, with several American naval officers on board. At half-past five in the afternoon the Chesapeake, with a large flag flying, on which was inscribed the words, “Sailor’s rights and free trade,” approached the Shannon, and soon afterwards, luffing up within about fifty yards of her starboard-quarter, gave three cheers. At 5:50 p.m. the Shannon’s aftermost main-deck gun was fired, and the two combatants exchanged broadsides. The Chesapeake, however, coming sharply up to the wind, in consequence of all the men at her helm being killed, was exposed to a shot from the Shannon’s aftermost gun, which took a diagonal direction along her decks, beating in her stern-ports and sweeping the men from their quarters. The Shannon’s foremost guns also did considerable damage. In a few minutes the Chesapeake fell on board the Shannon, when Captain Broke, ordering the two ships to be lashed together, called away the main-deck boarders, and, followed by about twenty men, sprang on to her quarter-deck, which had been completely deserted. The British were, however, encountered on the gangways by some twenty-five or thirty Americans, who made but slight resistance, and being driven towards the forecastle, endeavoured to escape down the fore-hatchway, while others plunged overboard. The remainder threw down their arms and submitted. During this time the boarders were exposed to a destructive fire from the main and mizzen-tops, which continued till the main-top was gallantly stormed by a midshipman, William Smith, and five topmen. Having made their way along the Shannon’s foreyard on to that of the Chesapeake’s main-yard, another midshipman, Mr Cosnahan, climbing up on the starboard main-yard, fired at the Americans in the mizzen-top, when he compelled them to yield. Captain Broke, at the moment of victory, was nearly killed, having been cut-down by one of three Americans, who, after they had yielded, seized some arms and attacked their victors. The Americans, also, who had fled to the hold, opened a fire of musketry, which killed a marine. A still more unfortunate accident occurred; the Shannon’s first lieutenant, Mr Watt, after being severely wounded, was in the act of hoisting the English flag, when the halliards getting entangled, the American ensign went up first, and, observing this, the Shannon’s people reopened their fire, and he and several of those around him were killed before the mistake was rectified. Captain Broke, who had been assisted to a carronade slide, directed Lieutenant Faulkner to summon the Americans in the hold to give in if they expected quarter. They shouted out, “We surrender,” and all opposition ceased. From the moment the first gun was fired till Captain Broke led his boarders on the deck of the Chesapeake, only eleven minutes elapsed, and in four minutes more she was his. Including the first lieutenant, her purser, and captain’s clerk, the Shannon lost 24 killed and 59 wounded, two of these, her boatswain and one midshipman mortally; while the Chesapeake lost 47 killed, among whom was her fourth lieutenant, her master, one lieutenant of marines, and 3 midshipmen, and 14 mortally wounded, including her brave commander, and his first lieutenant, and 99 wounded. Other accounts state that the killed and wounded amounted to nearly 170. Among the 325 prisoners taken on board the Chesapeake, above 32 were British seamen. Several of the Shannon’s men recognised old shipmates among their foes, and one of the former, when boarding, was about to cut-down an enemy, when he was stopped by the cry, “What! you Bill!”

“What! Jack!”

“Ay, Bill, but it won’t do—so here goes,” and the poor fellow sprang overboard, and was drowned, rather than meet the fate which might have been his lot, as he had deserted from the Shannon a few months before.

The two frigates were pretty equally matched, there being a slight superiority only in favour of the Chesapeake, which was 31 tons larger, and had a crew of fully 70 more men. The gallant Captain Lawrence and his first lieutenant, Augustus Ludlow, died of their wounds, the former on the passage to Halifax, the latter on his arrival, and were buried there with all the honours their victors could bestow. Their remains were shortly afterwards removed in a cartel to the United States.

Passing over a number of actions between smaller vessels, in which sometimes the English and at others the Americans were the victors, a celebrated combat in the Pacific between two frigates, the American being the smallest, must be mentioned. In October, 1822, the United States 32-gun frigate Essex, commanded by Captain David Porter, sailed from Delaware Bay on a cruise in the Pacific. Having captured several whale-ships, he named one of them the Essex Junior, and having visited the Marquesas, where he exhibited his prowess against the natives, he reached Valparaiso about the 12th of January, 1814. The British 36-gun frigate Phoebe, Captain James Hillyar, with the 18-gun ship-sloop Cherub, Captain Tucker, which vessels had sailed in search of him, standing towards Valparaiso, on the 8th of February discovered the American cruisers, with several prizes at anchor in the harbour. For a couple of weeks or more Captain Hillyar did his best to draw the American ships out of the port. Captain Porter, however, had considered that his most prudent course was to attempt to escape, and he and his consort were on the point of doing so, a strong wind blowing out of the harbour, when the Essex was struck by a squall, which carried away her main-topmast. She accordingly bore up and anchored, while the Essex Junior ran back into the harbour. The Phoebe and Cherub made sail towards them. The former at length got near enough to open her fire. Captain Hillyar now ordered Captain Tucker to keep under way, while he himself stood in closer with the intention of anchoring close to the Essex. The latter ship now cut her cable, and endeavoured to run on shore, but the strong wind from the land blew her off towards the Phoebe, and she had again to let go an anchor. By this time most of her boats were destroyed. The three boats from the Essex Juniorwere alongside, carrying off the specie and other valuables in the ship. Those of her crew who were English taking the opportunity of escaping, a report was raised at this juncture that the ship was on fire, and a number of her men leaped overboard during the confusion. At about 6:30 p.m. the Essex hauled down her flags, and the boats of the Phoebe, pulling for her, saved the lives of 16 of her crew who were in the water, though too late to rescue 30 others who perished; while between 30 and 40 reached the shore. The Phoebe lost 5 killed and 10 wounded, and the Americans 24 killed, including one of the lieutenants, and 45 wounded. As soon as the Essex could be repaired, the command of her being given to Lieutenant Charles Pearson, she and the Phoebe sailed for England, and anchored safely in Plymouth Sound, although Captain Porter had stated that the damage she had received would prevent her making the voyage. Of the prizes she had taken, not one reached the States, all having been recaptured, with the exception of three, which were burnt by the Americans, and one, the Seringapatam, the American prize-crew of which mutinied and carried her to New South Wales, whence she was brought to England and delivered to her former owners; while the Essexherself was placed on the list of the British Navy. Those who have read the journals of Captain Porter’s cruise in the Pacific will feel very little pity for him on account of its result.

This miserable war, proved, on the whole, disastrous to the Americans. The ships of the English squadron on their coasts were employed in sailing up their rivers, destroying their towns, as also in despatching numerous boat expeditions to cut out their merchantmen, and to attack the gunboats prepared for the defence of their harbours. At the same time, both parties fitted out flotillas on the great lakes, where a number of engagements, often with heavy losses on either side, occurred. The principal British officer employed in this service was Sir James Yeo, who was sent with a small body of seamen to man the ships on these fresh-water seas. Some of these vessels were of large size; one named the Prince Regent measured 1310 tons, and carried 58 guns, with a complement of 485 men and boys. Another, the Princess Charlotte, measured 815 tons, and carried 42 guns. The larger number of vessels, however, were of much smaller size. The Americans had also several powerful vessels, and before the close of the war they had actually begun to build one 74 and a frigate, to vie with a ship built by the English called the Saint Lawrence, of 2305 tons, and intended to mount 102 guns. None of these large craft, however, went out of harbour. The whole of the gear and stores for these vessels had been brought overland at a considerable expense, and it was said that the Admiralty sent out a supply of water-casks, forgetting that their ships were to navigate fresh-water seas. To make any of the actions which took place intelligible, far more space would be required than can be afforded. Happily, by the end of 1814, this unnatural and ill-advised war was brought to a conclusion; the Americans finding that although occasionally victorious, they were in the end greatly the losers. It left, however, an amount of ill-feeling between the two nations which the war of independence had failed to create, and which it took many years to eradicate—though, happily, at the present time the people of both countries are too right-minded and enlightened to wish to see a recurrence of a similar contest, both convinced that it is to their mutual interest to remain in amity, and to cultivate to the utmost that good understanding which has for long happily existed.

After the conclusion of the war, the Caribbean Sea was infested by a number of piratical vessels manned by blacks and desperate characters of all nations, which committed great havoc among the British merchantmen. Though several were from time to time captured, the pirates still continued their depredations. Bad as they were, some proved themselves not altogether destitute of humanity. On one occasion a small vessel, tender to his majesty’s frigate Tyne, commanded by Lieutenant Hobson, with a crew of 20 men, was surprised and captured by a powerful piratical craft. The pirates were, according to their usual custom, about to hang their prisoners; but seized with compunction, or dreading the consequences of their intended crime, they spared their lives, and allowed them to return to their ship. As it happened, the very men who had acted so humane a part were shortly afterwards captured, and the circumstance not being taken into consideration in their favour, they were hanged at Jamaica. At this time, a desperate character, named Cayatano Aragonez, commanded a schooner called the Zaragonaza, of 120 tons, carrying a long swivel 18-pounder, 4 long 9-pounders, and 8 swivels, with a crew of between 70 and 80 men. Hearing of the way his friends had been treated, looking upon it as an ungenerous act, he vowed to take fearful revenge on all the English he could capture. Summoning his men, he bound them under an oath never to spare an Englishman’s life, and in the event of being captured, to blow up themselves and their enemies. Some time before, they had taken a black man, a native of Jamaica, who had been compelled to act as their cook. In order thoroughly to commit his crew, Aragonez resolved on the sacrifice of the hapless negro. In vain he pleaded for mercy; he was hauled out to the end of the spritsail-yard, when the miscreants commenced firing at him from the deck, and thus tortured him for twenty minutes before death put an end to his sufferings. Sir Charles Rowley, commander-in-chief in the West Indies, having determined to put a stop to the exploits of the pirates, despatched the Tyne, under the command of Captain Walcott, accompanied by the sloop of war Thracian, to look out for and destroy them. Their chief places of rendezvous were known to be among the numerous keys or sandy islets off the coast of Cuba. Captain Walcott, after for a long time vainly searching for the pirates, was informed by the master of an American pilot-boat that a schooner supposed to be the Zaragonaza had been seen cruising off Barracoa, at the east end of Cuba. Captain Walcott endeavoured to bribe the American pilot to remain with him. He, however, declined the risk, declaring it was impossible to capture the schooner with boats, and as she was a remarkably fast sailer, she was sure to escape; should the enterprise not succeed, he would become known as the informer, and be no longer able to act as pilot in the Bahama Channel. This was a disappointment to Captain Walcott, who knowing that two Spanish men-of-war schooners were cruising off the coast, and that there were numerous trading schooners of the same appearance, feared that the pirates would escape. However, on the 31st of March, the two British ships discovered the vessel of which they were in search off Barracoa. Captain Walcott had disguised both ships as merchant-vessels, and their sails being set in a slovenly manner, they stood in towards the schooner. For several hours it was evident that the pirate did not suspect what they were. Before, however, they got up with her, she, setting all sail, steered for the harbour of Mata. On this the frigate and sloop crowded every stitch of canvas they could carry in chase. The wind, however, failed them before they could get up to the schooner, which, running in to the harbour, at 1:30 p.m., was seen moored head and stern athwart it, with the Spanish colours flying aloft. The entrance of the harbour not being more than a cable’s length in width, even the Thracian could not venture to approach close enough to attack the schooner. Captain Walcott, therefore, ordered out the boats, which carried altogether forty-seven men, and believing that a desperate resistance would be made, and that should the attack fail the pirates would slaughter all they might capture, he determined to lead the expedition himself. As he shoved off, he desired Commander Roberts of the Thracian to get as close as possible, so as to render all the assistance in his power. The sea was calm, the boats were in full view of the pirate. Shoving off from the ship’s sides, they pulled gallantly towards her. At 3 p.m. they arrived within gunshot, when up went the black flag, thus giving undoubted evidence of the character of the craft, while the schooner opened her fire, at the same time bullets came flying round the boats from a number of the pirate crew who had been landed, and been stationed under shelter among the trees which grew close to the shore of the harbour. Still the British boats pulled steadily on in two divisions, Captain Walcott’s intention being to board the pirate on both sides at once. Each of the pinnaces carried carronades, which were now rapidly fired, while the marines began to blaze away, thus partially, by the smoke which circled round them, concealing the boats and preventing the pirates from taking exact aim. As the boats approached, the deck of the pirate was seen crowded with men, and boarding nettings triced up. Three-quarters of an hour had the British seamen been exposed to her fire, as well as to that from the men on shore, when Captain Walcott issued the order to dash alongside. For a few moments the pirates ceased firing, being employed in loading all their guns in the hopes of sending their assailants with one broadside to the bottom. Three hearty cheers were given, and so rapidly did the boats approach that the shots flew over them, and before the schooner’s guns could be reloaded, the boats were up to her, and the seamen began climbing on board—no easy matter, for the sides were unusually high, and had been greased all over so as to render it as difficult as possible. At that moment the pirate crew losing heart, began to leap overboard and swim towards the shore, in the hopes of preserving their lives. Many, however, were cut-down before they could make their escape, while others were captured in the water. Among them Aragonez himself was taken, with 27 besides, 10 were killed, and 15 wounded; while the English lost 1 man killed and 4 wounded in this most gallant affair. Captain Walcott then sent a requisition to the governor of Barracoa, which induced him to dispatch a party in search of those who had escaped into the woods, when sixteen more were captured and immediately put to death by the Spaniards. The Tyne then sailed with her prisoners for Jamaica, when two of them turning king’s evidence, their chief and the remainder of the miscreant band were executed. The affair may well take rank with any of the most brilliant boat services on record, and Admiral Rowley expressed in a general order his sense of the admirable skill and courage with which the enterprise had been carried out. That most graphic of writers, Michael Scott, who spent many years in the West Indies, had evidently heard of it when he wrote “Tom Cringle’s Log.” The capture of Lieutenant Hobson by the pirates, and his subsequent release, afforded him the idea of the captive of his hero by the picaroon, while the destruction of Obed’s schooner in a harbour off Cuba, with not a few additional touches, was also taken from the account of the capture of the Zaragonaza.

The piratical cruisers belonging to Algiers had long been the terror of the merchantmen of all nations. The Algerines not only plundered but massacred the crews of the vessels they captured, and it was supposed that many hundreds had fallen into their power. Their crowning act of atrocity was the murder of the crews of three hundred small vessels engaged in the coral fishery off Bona, near Algiers, who, being Christians, had landed to visit a church. At length the British Government determined to put a stop to their proceedings, and Lord Exmouth, who had just returned to England, after having compelled the Dey of Tunis to restore 1792 slaves to freedom, and to sign a treaty for the abolition of Christian slavery, was appointed to the command of a fleet which sailed from Plymouth on the 28th of July, 1816, with his flag flying on board the Queen Charlotte, of 100 guns, Captain James Brisbane. During the passage out, every ship in the fleet was exercised with the great guns, firing at a target hung from the end of the fore-topmast studdingsail-boom rigged out for the purpose, so that they became unusually expert. Lord Exmouth’s fleet consisted of only five line-of-battle ships, with the 50-gun ship Leander, four frigates, and several sloops of war and bomb-vessels. Misled by the charts, which were altogether defective, Lord Nelson had required ten sail of the line, and the same number of bomb-vessels, when he proposed to attack Algiers, but the harbour and fortifications had lately been surveyed by Captain Warde, who had found the entrance of the harbour much narrower than had been supposed. The fortifications were, however, formidable in the extreme, the batteries defending the town bristling with several tiers of heavy guns, while powerful forts commanded the approaches. On the mole alone were upwards of 200 guns, and altogether 500 guns, few being smaller than 24-pounders, defended the piratic city. On reaching Gibraltar, Lord Exmouth found a Dutch squadron, Vice-Admiral Van de Cappellon, who entreated leave to co-operate with him, commanding it. After some delay owing to contrary winds, on the 14th of August the English and Dutch fleets, accompanied by several additional gunboats, sailed for Algiers. On their way they met the Prometheus sloop of war, Captain Dashwood, which had on board the wife, daughter, and infant child of the British consul, Mr McDonnell. The two ladies, disguised in midshipmen’s uniforms, had with great difficulty escaped, but as they were passing through the gateway the infant, who had been concealed in a basket, uttering a cry, was detained and carried to the dey. It should be recorded as a solitary instance of his humanity that it was sent off the next morning to its mother by the dey. The surgeon of the Prometheus with three midshipmen and the crews of two boats, consisting in all of eighteen persons, had been detained.

The fleet being becalmed, Lord Exmouth sent a lieutenant in one of the Queen Charlotte’s boats with a flag of truce to the dey, demanding the immediate liberation of the British consul and the people belonging to the Prometheus, the abolition of Christian slavery, the delivery of all Christian slaves in the Algerine state, and the repayment of the money exacted for the redemption of Neapolitan and Sardinian slaves, and peace with the King of the Netherlands. Before the answer had been received, a breeze sprung up, and the fleet standing in to the harbour, the ships took up their appointed positions before the city. The Queen Charlotte made herself fast to the main-mast of a brig on shore close to the mole. Near her lay the Leander, while the other ships arranged themselves to bring their guns to bear on different parts of the city, the lighter vessels bringing up abreast of any openings they could find in the line of battle. Scarcely had the Queen Charlotte brought up, when a shot was fired at her from the city, followed by two other guns, when Lord Exmouth seeing a large body of soldiers standing on the parapet of the mole, watching the ships, mercifully waved his hand to them to make their escape, and as they were leaping down, the Queen Charlotte opened her starboard broadside, the other ships following her example. So admirably were her guns served that her third broadside completely levelled the south end of the mole, when, changing her position, she attacked the batteries over the town-gate, and brought the guns on it tumbling over the battlements. Soon after this an Algerine frigate was boarded by the flag-ship’s barge, under Lieutenant Richards, and her crew driven overboard. Till about ten at night the ships kept up a furious fire at the town and forts; and by this time all the Algerine ships and vessels within the harbour were burning, as were the arsenal and storehouses on the mole, while several parts of the city were in flames. A fire-ship, which had been prepared at Gibraltar, was now, under the conduct of Captain Herbert Powell, run on shore, close under the semicircular battery, to the northward of the lighthouse, and exploding, committed great damage to the enemy. At length, the fire from most of the forts being silenced, and the batteries on the mole being in a state of dilapidation, the ammunition of the attacking ships falling short, Lord Exmouth took advantage of a light air of wind off the land to cut his cables, and stand out of fire, ordering the other ships to follow his example. Severe as had been the punishment inflicted on the Algerines, the allied squadrons suffered considerably, the British having lost 128 killed and 690 wounded, and the Dutch 13 killed and 52 wounded; while many of the ships had had their masts injured, and the Impregnable and Leander had received numerous shot in their hulls—the first ship to the number of 233; an 18-pound shot had entered the bulwark, passed through the heart of the main-mast, and had gone out on the opposite side. The Algerines were said to have lost between 4000 and 7000 men. Next morning a boat was again sent on shore with a note to the dey, repeating the demands of the preceding morning. She was met by an Algerine officer, who declared that an answer, yielding to all demands, had been at once sent. Finally, the dey agreed to the terms, and upwards of 1200 Christian slaves were delivered up, besides the British consul and the people from the Prometheus, 30,000 dollars to the British consul for the destruction of his property, and an apology to him, the restoration of the 382,500 dollars for the slaves redeemed by Naples and Sicily, and peace with the King of the Netherlands.

Numerous promotions followed as rewards to the officers engaged in this most important expedition, the objects of which were so fully attained. As a proof of the disinterestedness of the British, it should be known that of all the slaves liberated few, if any, were English. The Dutch admiral and his officers behaved with the greatest gallantry, each ship taking up her position as close to the enemy’s batteries as she could get. It was the first time that wooden ships were fairly matched against stone walls; the result proved that, provided the ships can get close enough, the advantage will be on their side, unless the stone batteries are of far greater thickness than any that had hitherto been erected.

Severe as had been the lesson received, scarcely eight years had passed by before the Algerines had again sent their cruisers to sea. In consequence of this, Sir Harry B. Neale, then the British admiral in the Mediterranean, received directions to inflict a fresh punishment on them. Before proceeding to extremities, however, he despatched the Naiad, Captain Spencer, to destroy a large 16-gun piratical brig, which had taken shelter under the fortress of Bona. The service was performed in the most gallant way by Lieutenant Quin, first lieutenant of the Naiad, with her boats, he having pulled in under a tremendous fire from the fortress, boarded and blown up the brig. Sir Harry then appeared off the place with his squadron, and the dey, without the slightest resistance, yielded to all his demands.

Six years after this the French, landing a powerful army, captured the fortress by attacking it in the rear, and took possession of the country.