And if you chance his shipp to borde,
This counsel I must give withall.
BALLAD OF SIR ANDREW BARTON, 1560.
And hardy valour are the twins of honour,
And, nursed together, make a conqueror!
Divided, but a talker.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
The survey having been completed,
Captain M –, in pursuance of the
orders which he had received, weighed his anchor, and
proceeded to cruise until the want of provisions and
water should compel him to return into port.
For many days the look-out men at the mastheads were
disappointed in their hopes of reporting a strange
sail, the chase or capture of which would relieve
the monotony of constant sky and water, until, one
Sunday forenoon, as Captain M – was
performing divine service, the man at the masthead
hailed the deck with “A strange sail on the
The puritan may be shocked to hear
that the service was speedily, although decorously
closed; but Captain M – was aware
from the fidgeting of the ship’s company, upon
the capstan bars, on which they were seated, that
it would be impossible to regain their attention to
the service, even if he had felt inclined to proceed:
and he well knew, that any worship of God in which
the mind and heart were not engaged, was but an idle
ceremony, if not a solemn mockery. The hands
were turned up all sail was made and
in an hour, the stranger was to be seen with the naked
eye from the fore-yard.
“What do you make of her, Mr
Stewart?” said the first-lieutenant to him,
as he sat aloft with his glass directed towards the
“A merchant ship, sir, in ballast.”
“What did he say, Jerry?”
inquired Prose, who stood by him on the gangway.
“A French vessel, deeply laden, Prose.”
“Bravo, Jerry!” said Prose,
rubbing his hands. “We shall get some
prize-money, I do declare.”
“To be sure we shall.
It will give us twenty pounds at least for a midshipman’s
share, for her cargo must be sugar and coffee.
Only, confound it, one has to wait so long for it.
I’ll sell mine, dog-cheap, if any one will
buy it. Will you, Prose?”
“Why, Jerry, I don’t much
like speculation: but, now, what would you really
sell your chance for?”
“I’ll take ten pounds
for it. We’re certain to come up with her.”
“Ten pounds! No, Jerry,
that is too much. I’ll tell you what, I’ll
give you five pounds.”
“Done,” replied Jerry,
who was aware that a vessel in ballast would not give
him thirty shillings, if Captain M –
sent her in, which was very unlikely. “Where’s
“Oh, you must trust to my honour;
the first port we go into, I pledge you my word that
you shall have it.”
“I don’t doubt your word,
or your honour, the least, Prose; but still I should
like to have the money in my hand. Could you
not borrow it? Never mind it’s
In two hours the frigate had neared
the stranger so as to distinguish her water-line from
the deck, and on hoisting her ensign and pendant,
the vessel bore down to her.
“She has hoisted English colours,
sir,” reported Stewart to the captain.
“What, Stewart! did you say
that she had hoisted English colours?” inquired
Prose, with an anxious face.
“Yes, you booby, I did.”
“Well, now, I do declare,”
cried Prose, with dismay, “if I haven’t
lost five pounds.”
The vessel ran under the stern of
the frigate, and requested a boat to be sent on board,
as she had intelligence to communicate. The boat
returned, and acquainted Captain M –
that the vessel had been boarded and plundered by
a French privateer schooner, which had committed great
depredation in that quarter, and that it was not above
eight hours that she had left her, and made sail towards
Porto Rico, taking out two merchants, who were passengers.
The boat was immediately hoisted up, and all sail
made in the direction of the island, which was not
above fifteen leagues distant. As the day closed
in, their eyes were gratified by the sight of the
schooner, becalmed close in under the land.
Perceiving the frigate in pursuit of her, and unable
to escape, she came to an anchor in a small and shallow
bay, within a cable’s length of the beach.
Captain M –, having run his ship
as close in as the depth of water would permit, which
was between two and three miles of her, so as to render
her escape impossible, came to an anchor, signifying
to his officers his determination to cut her out with
his boats on the ensuing day.
The officers who were to be intrusted
with the command of the boats, and the crews which
were to be employed on the service, were selected,
and mustered on the quarter-deck, previous to the
hammocks being piped down, that the former might hold
themselves in readiness, and that the latter might
remain in their hammocks during the night. All
was anxiety for the sun to rise again upon those who
were about to venture in the lottery, where the prizes
would be honour, and the blanks death.
There were but few whose souls were of that decided
brute composition that they could sleep through the
whole of the tedious night. They woke and “swore
a prayer or two, then slept again.” The
sun had not yet made his appearance above the horizon,
although the eastern blush announced that the spinning
earth would shortly whirl the Aspasia into his
presence, when the pipes of the boatswain and his
mates, with the summons of “All hands ahoy up
all hammocks!” were obeyed with the alacrity
so characteristic of English seamen anticipating danger.
The hammocks were soon stowed, and the hands turned
up. “Out boats!” The yard tackles
and stays were hooked, and the larger boats from the
booms descended with a heavy splash into the water,
which they threw out on each side of them as they
displaced it with their weight; while the cutters from
the quarter-davits were already lowered down, and
were being manned under the chains.
Broad daylight discovered the privateer,
who, aware of their intentions, had employed the night
in taking every precaution that skill could suggest
to repel the expected attack. Secured with cables
and hawsers, extending from each bow and quarter her
starboard broadside directed to seaward her
boarding netting triced up to the lower rigging and
booms, connected together, rigged out from the sides,
to prevent them from laying her on board. There
was no wind; the sea was smooth as glass; and the
French colours, hoisted in defiance at each masthead,
hung listlessly down the spars, as if fainting for
the breeze which would expand them in their vigour.
She was pierced for eight ports on a side; and the
guns, which pointed through them, with the tompions
out, ready to shower destruction upon her assailants,
showed like the teeth of the snarling wolf, who stands
at bay, awaiting the attack of his undaunted pursuers.
The boats had received their guns,
which were fixed on slides, so as to enable them to
be fired over the bows, without impeding the use of
the oars; the ammunition and arm-chests had been placed
in security abaft.
The sailors, with their cutlasses
belted round their waists, and a pistol stuck in their
girdles, or in a becket at the side of the boat, ready
to their hands the marines, in proportion
to the number which each boat could carry, sitting
in the stern-sheets, with their muskets between their
legs, and their well pipeclayed belts for bayonet and
cartouch-box crossed over their old jackets, half dirt,
half finery all was ready for shoving off,
when Captain M – desired the officers
whom he had appointed to the expedition to step down
into his cabin. Bully, the first lieutenant,
was unwell with an intermittent fever, and Captain
M –, at the request of Macallan, would
not accede to his anxiety to take the command.
Price, Courtenay, Stewart, and three other midshipmen,
were those who had been selected for the dangerous
“Gentlemen,” said Captain
M –, as they stood round the table
in the fore-cabin, waiting for his communication,
“I must call your attention to a few points,
which it is my wish that you should bear in remembrance,
now that you are about to proceed upon what will, in
all likelihood, prove to be an arduous service.
This vessel has already done so much mischief, that
I conceive it my duty to capture her if possible:
and although there is no service in which, generally
speaking, there is so great a sacrifice of life, in
proportion to the object to be attained, as that which
is generally termed `cutting out,’ yet, rather
than she should escape, to the further injury of our
trade, I have determined to have recourse to the measure.
“But, gentlemen (and to you,
Mr Price, as commanding the expedition, I particularly
address myself), recollect that, even in this extreme
case, without proper arrangement, we may not only
purchase our victory too dear, but may even sacrifice
a number of lives without succeeding in our attempt.
Of your courage I have not the least doubt; but let
it be remembered; that it is something more than mere
animal courage which I expect in the behaviour of
my officers. If nothing more were required,
the command of these boats might be as safely intrusted
to any of the foremast men, who, like the bulldogs
of our country, will thrust their heads into the lion’s
jaw with perfect indifference.
“What I require, and expect,
and will have, from every officer who looks for promotion
from my recommendation, is what I term conduct:
by which I would imply, that coolness and presence
of mind which enable him to calculate chances in the
midst of danger to take advantage of a
favourable opportunity in the heat of an engagement and
to restrain the impetuosity of those who have fallen
into the dangerous error of despising their enemy.
Of such conduct the most favourable construction
that can be put upon it is, that it is only preferable
“In a service of this description,
even with the greatest courage and prudence united,
some loss must necessarily be expected to take place,
and there is no providing against unforeseen accidents;
but if I find that, by rash and injudicious behaviour,
a greater sacrifice is made than there is a necessity
for, depend upon it that I shall not fail to let that
officer know the high value at which I estimate the
life of a British sailor. With this caution
I shall now give you my ideas as to what appears the
most eligible plan of insuring success. I have
made a rough sketch on this paper, which will assist
Captain M – then
entered into the plan of attack, pointing out the
precautions which should be taken, etcetera: and
concluded by observing, that they were by no means
to consider themselves as fettered by what he had
proposed, but merely to regard them as hints to guide
their conduct, if found preferable to any others which
might be suggested by the peculiarity of the service,
and the measures adopted by the enemy. The officers
returned on deck, and descended into their respective
boats, where they found many of the younger midshipmen,
who, although not selected for the service, had smuggled
themselves into the boats that they might be participators
in the conflict. Captain M –,
although he did not send them on the service, had
no objection to their going, and therefore pretended
not to see them when he looked over the side, and
desired the boats to shove off. Directly the
order was given, the remainder of the ship’s
company mounted the rigging, and saluted them with
The boats’ crews tossed their
oars while the cheers were given, and returned the
same number. The oars again descended into the
water, and the armament pulled in for the shore.