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MARITIME OPERATIONS EXTERNAL TO THE WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1813-1814

In broad generalization, based upon analysis of conditions, it has been said that the seacoast of the United States was in 1812 a defensive frontier, from which, as from all defensive lines, there should be, and was, opportunity for offensive returns; for action planned to relieve the shore-line, and the general military situation, by inflicting elsewhere upon the opponent injury, harassment, and perplexity. The last chapter dealt with the warfare depending upon the seaboard chiefly from the defensive point of view; to illustrate the difficulties, the blows, and the sufferings, to which the country was exposed, owing to inability to force the enemy away from any large portion of the coast. The pressure was as universal as it was inexorable and irresistible.

It remains still to consider the employment and effects of the one offensive maritime measure left open by the exigencies of the war; the cruises directed against the enemy’s commerce, and the characteristic incidents to which they gave rise. In this pursuit were engaged both the national ships of war and those equipped by the enterprise of the mercantile community; but, as the operations were in their nature more consonant to the proper purpose of privateers, so the far greater number of these caused them to play a part much more considerable in effect, though proportionately less fruitful in conspicuous action. Fighting, when avoidable, is to the privateer a misdirection of energy. Profit is his object, by depredation upon the enemy’s commerce; not the preservation of that of his own people. To the ship of war, on the other hand, protection of the national shipping is the primary concern; and for that reason it becomes her to shun no encounter by which she may hope to remove from the seas a hostile cruiser.

The limited success of the frigates in their attempts against British trade has been noted, and attributed to the general fact that their cruises were confined to the more open sea, upon the highways of commerce. These were now travelled by British ships under strict laws of convoy, the effect of which was not merely to protect the several flocks concentrated under their particular watchdogs, but to strip the sea of those isolated vessels, that in time of peace rise in irregular but frequent succession above the horizon, covering the face of the deep with a network of tracks. These solitary wayfarers were now to be found only as rare exceptions to the general rule, until the port of destination was approached. There the homing impulse overbore the bonds of regulation; and the convoys tended to the conduct noted by Nelson as a captain, “behaving as all convoys that ever I saw did, shamefully ill, parting company every day.” Commodore John Rodgers has before been quoted, as observing that the British practice was to rely upon pressure on the enemy over sea, for security near home; and that the waters surrounding the British Islands themselves were the field where commerce destruction could be most decisively effected.

The first United States vessel to emphasize this fact was the brig “Argus,” Captain William H. Allen, which sailed from New York June 18, 1813, having on board a newly appointed minister to France, Mr. William H. Crawford, recently a senator from Georgia. On July 11 she reached L’Orient, having in the twenty-three days of passage made but one prize. Three days later she proceeded to cruise in the chops of the English Channel, and against the local trade between Ireland and England; continuing thus until August 14, thirty-one days, during which she captured nineteen sail, extending her depredations well up into St. George’s Channel. The contrast of results mentioned, between her voyage across and her occupancy of British waters, illustrates the comparative advantages of the two scenes of operations, regarded in their relation to British commerce.

On August 12 the British brig of war “Pelican,” Captain Maples, anchored at Cork from the West Indies. Before her sails were furled she received orders to go out in search of the American ship of war whose depredations had been reported. Two hours later she was again at sea. The following evening, at half-past seven, a burning vessel to the eastward gave direction to her course, and at daybreak, August 14, she sighted a brig of war in the northeast, just quitting another prize, which had also been fired. The wind, being south, gave the windward position to the “Pelican,” which stood in pursuit; the “Argus” steering east, near the wind, but under moderate sail to enable her opponent to close (positions 1). The advantage in size and armament was on this occasion on the British side; the “Pelican” being twenty per cent larger, and her broadside seventeen per cent heavier.

At 5.55 A.M., St. David’s Head on the coast of Wales bearing east, distant about fifteen miles, the “Argus” wore, standing now to the westward, with the wind on the port side (2). The “Pelican” did the same, and the battle opened at six; the vessels running side by side, within the range of grapeshot and musketry, probably under two hundred yards apart (2). Within five minutes Captain Allen received a wound which cost him his leg, and in the end his life. He at first refused to be taken below, but loss of blood soon so reduced him that he could no longer exercise command. Ten minutes later the first lieutenant was stunned by the graze of a grapeshot along his head, and the charge of the ship devolved on the second. By this time the rigging of the “Argus” had been a good deal cut, and the “Pelican” bore up (3) to pass under her stern; but the American brig, luffing close to the wind and backing her maintopsail (3), balked the attempt, throwing herself across the enemy’s path, and giving a raking broadside, the poor aim of which seems to have lost her the effect that should have resulted from this ready and neat manoeuvre. The main braces of the “Argus” had already been shot away, as well as much of the other gear upon which the after sails depended; and at 6.18 the preventer (duplicate) braces, which formed part of the preparation for battle, were also severed. The vessel thus became unmanageable, falling off before the wind (4), and the “Pelican” was enabled to work round her at will. This she did, placing herself first under the stern (4), and then on the bow (5) of her antagonist, where the only reply to her broadside was with musketry.

In this helpless situation the “Argus” surrendered, after an engagement of a little over three quarters of an hour. The British loss was two killed and five wounded; the American, six killed and seventeen wounded, of whom five afterwards died. Among these was Captain Allen, who survived only four days, and was buried with military honors at Plymouth, whither Captain Maples sent his prize. After every allowance for disparity of force, the injury done by the American fire cannot be deemed satisfactory, and suggests the consideration whether the voyage to France under pressure of a diplomatic mission, and the busy preoccupation of making, manning, and firing prizes, during the brief month of Channel cruising, may not have interfered unduly with the more important requirements of fighting efficiency. The surviving officer in command mentions in explanation, “the superior size and metal of our opponent, and the fatigue which the crew of the ‘Argus’ underwent from a very rapid succession of prizes.”

From the broad outlook of the universal maritime situation, this rapid succession of captures is a matter of more significance than the loss of a single brig of war. It showed the vulnerable point of British trade and local intercommunication; and the career of the “Argus,” prematurely cut short though it was, tended to fix attention upon facts sufficiently well known, but perhaps not fully appreciated. From this time the opportunities offered by the English Channel and adjacent waters, long familiar to French corsairs, were better understood by Americans; as was also the difficulty of adequately policing them against a number of swift and handy cruisers, preying upon merchant vessels comparatively slow, lumbering, and undermanned. The subsequent career of the United States ship “Wasp,” and the audacious exploits of several privateers, recall the impunity of Paul Jones a generation before, and form a sequel to the brief prelude, in which the leading part, though ultimately disastrous, was played by the “Argus.”

While the cruise of the “Argus” stood by no means alone at this time, the attending incidents made it conspicuous among several others of a like nature, on the same scene or close by; and it therefore may be taken as indicative of the changing character of the war, which soon began to be manifest, owing to the change of conditions in Europe. In general summary, the result was to transfer an additional weight of British naval operations to the American side of the Atlantic, which in turn compelled American cruisers, national and private, in pursuit of commerce destruction, to get away from their own shores, and to seek comparative security as well as richer prey in distant waters. To this contributed also the increasing stringency of British convoy regulation, enforced with special rigor in the Caribbean Sea and over the Western Atlantic. It was impossible to impose the same strict prescription upon the coastwise trade, by which chiefly the indispensable continuous intercourse between the several parts of the United Kingdom was maintained. Before the introduction of steam this had a consequence quite disproportionate to the interior traffic by land; and its development, combined with the feeling of greater security as the British Islands were approached, occasioned in the narrow seas, and on the coasts of Europe, a dispersion of vessels not to be seen elsewhere. This favored the depredations of the light, swift, and handy cruisers that alone are capable of profiting by such an opportunity, through their power to evade the numerous, but necessarily scattered, ships of war, which under these circumstances must patrol the sea, like a watchman on beat, as the best substitute for the more formal and regularized convoy protection, when that ceases to apply.

From the end of the summer of 1813, when this tendency to distant enterprise became predominant, to the corresponding season a year later, there were captured by American cruisers some six hundred and fifty British vessels, chiefly merchantmen; a number which had increased to between four and five hundred more, when the war ended in the following winter. An intelligible account of such multitudinous activities can be framed only by selecting amid the mass some illustrative particulars, accompanied by a general estimate of the conditions they indicate and the results they exemplify. Thus it may be stated, with fair approach to precision, that from September 30, 1813, to September 30, 1814, there were taken six hundred and thirty-nine British vessels, of which four hundred and twenty-four were in seas that may be called remote from the United States. From that time to the end of the war, about six months, the total captures were four hundred and fourteen, of which those distant were two hundred and ninety-three. These figures, larger actually and in impression than they are relatively to the total of British shipping, represent the offensive maritime action of the United States during the period in question; but, in considering them, it must be remembered that such results were possible only because the sea was kept open to British commerce by the paramount power of the British navy. This could not prevent all mishaps; but it reduced them, by the annihilation of hostile navies, to such a small percentage of the whole shipping movement, that the British mercantile community found steady profit both in foreign and coasting trade, of which the United States at the same time was almost totally deprived.

The numerous but beggarly array of American bay-craft and oyster boats, which were paraded to swell British prize lists, till there seemed to be a numerical set-off to their own losses, show indeed that in point of size and value of vessels taken there was no real comparison; but this was due to the fact, not at once suggested by the figures themselves, that there were but few American merchant vessels to be taken, because they did not dare to go to sea, with the exception of the few to whom exceptional speed gave a chance of immunity, not always realized. In the period under consideration, September, 1813, to September, 1814, despite the great falling off of trade noted in the returns, over thirty American merchant ships and letters of marque were captured at sea; at the head of the list being the “Ned,” whose hair-breadth escapes in seeking to reach a United States port have been mentioned already. She met her fate near the French coast, September 6, 1813, on the outward voyage from New York to Bordeaux. Privateering, risky though it was, offered a more profitable employment, with less chance of capture; because, besides being better armed and manned, the ship was not impeded in her sailing by the carriage of a heavy cargo. While the enemy was losing a certain small proportion of vessels, the United States suffered practically an entire deprivation of external commerce; and her coasting trade was almost wholly suppressed, at the time that her cruisers, national and private, were causing exaggerated anxiety concerning the intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland, which, though certainly molested, was not seriously interrupted.

Further evidence of the control exerted by the British Navy, and of the consequent difficulty under which offensive action was maintained by the United States, is to be found in the practice, from this time largely followed, of destroying prizes, after removing from them packages of little weight compared to their price. The prospect of a captured vessel reaching an American port was very doubtful, for the same reason that prevented the movement of American commerce; and while the risk was sometimes run, it usually was with cargoes which were at once costly and bulky, such as West India goods, sugars and coffees. Even then specie, and light costly articles, were first removed to the cruiser, where the chances for escape were decidedly better. Recourse to burning to prevent recapture was permissible only with enemy’s vessels. If a neutral were found carrying enemy’s goods, a frequent incident of maritime war, she must be sent in for adjudication; which, if adverse, affected the cargo only. Summary processes, therefore, could not be applied in such cases, and the close blockade of the United States coast seriously restricted the operations of her cruisers in this particular field.

Examination of the records goes to show that, although individual American vessels sometimes made numerous seizures in rapid succession, they seldom, if ever, effected the capture or destruction of a large convoy at a single blow. This was the object with which Rodgers started on his first cruise, but failed to accomplish. A stroke of this kind is always possible, and he had combined conditions unusually favorable to his hopes; but, while history certainly presents a few instances of such achievement on the large scale, they are comparatively rare, and opportunity, when it offers, can be utilized only by a more numerous force than at any subsequent time gathered under the American flag. In 1813 two privateers, the “Scourge” of New York and “Rattlesnake” of Philadelphia, passed the summer in the North Sea, and there made a number of prizes, twenty-two, which being reported together gave the impression of a single lucky encounter; were supposed in fact to be the convoy for which Rodgers in the “President” had looked unsuccessfully the same season. The logs, however, showed that these captures were spread over a period of two months, and almost all made severally. Norway being then politically attached to Denmark, and hostile to Great Britain, such prizes as were not burned were sent into her ports. The “Scourge” appears to have been singularly fortunate, for on her homeward trip she took, sent in, or destroyed, ten more enemy’s vessels; and in an absence extending a little over a year had taken four hundred and twenty prisoners, more than the crew of a 38-gun frigate.

At the same time the privateer schooner “Leo,” of Baltimore, was similarly successful on the coast of Spain and Portugal. By an odd coincidence, another of the same class, bearing the nearly identical name, “Lion,” was operating at the same time in the same waters, and with like results; which may possibly account for a contemporary report in a London paper, that an American off the Tagus had taken thirty-two British vessels. The “Leo” destroyed thirteen, and took four others; while the “Lion” destroyed fifteen, having first removed from them cargo to the amount of $400,000, which she carried safely into France. A curious circumstance, incidental to the presence of the privateers off Cape Finisterre, is that Wellington’s troops, which had now passed the Pyrénées and were operating in southern France, had for a long time to wait for their great-coats, which had been stored in Lisbon for the summer, and now could not be returned by sea to Bayonne and Bordeaux before convoy was furnished to protect the transports against capture. Money to pay the troops, and for the commissariat, was similarly detained. Niles’ Register, which followed carefully the news of maritime capture, announced in November, 1813, that eighty British vessels had been taken within a few months in European seas by the “President,” “Argus,” and five privateers. Compared with the continuous harassment and loss to which the enemy had become hardened during twenty years of war with France, allied often with other maritime states, this result, viewed singly, was not remarkable; but coming in addition to the other sufferings of British trade, and associated with similar injuries in the West Indies, and disquiet about the British seas themselves, the cumulative effect was undeniable, and found voice in public meetings, resolutions, and addresses to the Government.

Although the United States was not in formal alliance with France, the common hostility made the ports of either nation a base of operations to the other, and much facilitated the activities of American cruisers in British seas. One of the most successful of the privateers, the “True Blooded Yankee,” was originally equipped at Brest, under American ownership, though it does not appear whether she was American built. On her first cruise her prizes are reported at twenty-seven. She remained out thirty-seven days, chiefly off the coast of Ireland, where she is said to have held an island for six days. Afterwards she burned several vessels in a Scotch harbor. Her procedure illustrates the methods of privateering in more respects than one. Thus, two large ships, one from Smyrna and one from Buenos Ayres, were thought sufficiently valuable to attempt sending into a French port, although the enemy watched the French coast as rigorously as the American. The recapture of a third, ordered to Morlaix, received specific mention, because one of the prize crew, being found to be an Englishman, was sentenced to death by an English court. Eight others were destroyed; and, when the privateer returned to port, she carried in her own hold a miscellaneous cargo of light goods, too costly to risk in a less nimble bottom. Among these are named eighteen bales of Turkey carpets, forty-three bales of raw silk, seventy packs of skins, etc. The “True Blooded Yankee” apparently continued to prefer European waters; for towards the end of 1814 she was taken there and sent into Gibraltar.

While there were certain well-known districts, such as these just mentioned, and others before specified, in which from causes constant in operation there was always to be found abundant material for the hazardous occupation of the commerce-destroyer, it was not to them alone that American cruisers went. There were other smaller but lucrative fields, into which an occasional irruption proved profitable. Such were the gold-coast on the west shore of Africa, and the island groups of Madeira, the Canaries, and Cape Verde, which geographically appertain to that continent. Thither Captain Morris directed the frigate “Adams,” in January, 1814, after first escaping from his long blockade in the Potomac. This voyage, whence he returned to Savannah in April, was not remunerative; his most valuable prize, an East India ship, being snatched out of his hands, when in the act of taking possession, by an enemy’s division in charge of a convoy of twenty-five sail, to which probably she had belonged, and had been separated by the thick weather that permitted her capture. A year before this the privateer “Yankee,” of Bristol, Rhode Island, had had better success. When she returned to Narragansett Bay in the spring of 1813, after a five months’ absence, she reported having scoured the whole west coast of Africa, taking eight vessels, which carried in the aggregate sixty-two guns, one hundred and ninety-six men, and property to the amount of $296,000. In accordance with the practice already noticed, of distributing the spoil in order better to insure its arrival, she brought back in her own hold the light but costly items of six tons of ivory, thirty-two bales of fine goods, and $40,000 in gold-dust. This vessel was out again several times; and when the war closed was said to have been the most successful of all American cruisers. Her prizes numbered forty, of which thirty-four were ships or brigs; that is, of the larger classes of merchantmen then used. The estimated value of themselves and cargoes, $3,000,000, is to be received with reserve.

It was in this neighborhood that the privateer schooner “Globe,” Captain Moon, of Baltimore, mounting eight 9-pounder carronades and one long gun, met with an adventure illustrative of the fighting incidental to the business. To this the privateersmen as a class were in no wise loath, where there was a fair prospect of the gain for which they were sent to look. Being off Funchal, in the island of Madeira, November 1, 1813, two brigs, which proved to be English packets, the “Montague” and “Pelham,” were seen “backing and filling;” that is, keeping position in the open roadstead which constitutes the harbor, under sail, but not anchored. Packets, being in government service, were well armed for their size, and as mail carriers were necessarily chosen for speed; they therefore frequently carried specie. In one taken by the “Essex,” Captain Porter found $55,000, which as ready cash helped him much to pay his frigate’s way in a long and adventurous career. It does not appear that the “Globe” at first recognized the character of these particular vessels; but she lay-by during the night, watching for their quitting the shelter of neutral waters. This they did at 9 P.M., when the privateer pursued, but lost sight of them in a squall. The next morning they were seen in the southwest, and again chased. At 10.15 A.M. the “Montague” began firing her stern guns. The schooner replied, but kept on to board, knowing her superiority in men, and at 12.30 ran alongside (1). The attack being smartly met, and the vessels separating almost immediately, the attempt failed disastrously; there being left on board the packet the two lieutenants of the “Globe” and three or four seamen. Immediately upon this repulse, the “Pelham” crossed the privateer’s bow and raked her (P 2), dealing such destruction to sails and rigging as to leave her unmanageable. The “Montague” and “Globe” now lay broadside to broadside (2), engaging; and ten minutes later the “Montague” by her own report was completely disabled (M 3). Captain Moon claimed that she struck; and this was probably the case, if his further incidental mention, that the mailbags were seen to be thrown overboard, is not a mistake. The action then continued with the “Pelham,” within pistol-shot (3), for an hour or so, when the schooner, being found in a sinking condition, was compelled to haul off; “having seven shot between wind and water, the greater part of our standing and running rigging shot away, and not a sail but was perfectly riddled and almost useless.” After separating, the several combatants all steered with the tradewinds for the Canaries; the British going to Teneriffe, and the American to the Grand Canary.

From the injuries received, it is apparent that, for the armaments of the vessels, this was a very severe as well as determined engagement. The British had six killed and twelve wounded; the American five killed and thirteen wounded, besides the prisoners lost in boarding. All three captains were severely hurt, that of the “Montague” being killed. The figures given are those reported by each side; how exaggerated the rumors current about such encounters, and the consequent difficulty to the historian, is shown by what each heard about the other’s casualties. A Spanish brig from Teneriffe told Moon that the enemy had twenty-seven men killed; while the British were equally credibly informed that the “Globe” lost thirty-three killed and nineteen wounded.

Near about this time, in the same neighborhood of Madeira, the privateer schooner “Governor Tompkins,” of New York, captured in rapid succession three British merchant vessels which had belonged to a convoy from England to Buenos Ayres, but after its dispersal in a gale were pursuing their route singly. Two of these reached an American port, their bulky and heavy ladings of dry goods and hardware not permitting transfer or distribution. The sale of one cargo realized $270,000. At about the same moment came in a brig of like value, not improbably another wanderer from the same group, captured near Madeira by the ship “America,” of Salem. This vicinity, from the islands to the equator, between 20 deg. and 30 deg. west longitude, belongs essentially to the thronged highway and cross-roads of commerce, which has been noted as a favorite cruising ground of American ships of war. Hereabouts passed vessels both to and from the East Indies and South America. The bad luck of several frigates, and the rough handling of the “Globe” by the packets, illustrate one side of the fortune of war, as the good hap of the “America” and “Governor Tompkins” shows the other.

It is, however, the beginnings and endings of commercial routes, rather than the intermediate stretch, which most favor enterprises against an enemy’s trade. In the thronging of vessels, the Caribbean Sea, with its teeming archipelago, was second only, if second, to the waters surrounding the United Kingdom. England was one extremity, and the several West India Islands the other, of a traffic then one of the richest in the world; while the tropical articles of this exchange, if not absolute necessaries of life, had become by long indulgence indispensable to the great part of civilized mankind. Here, therefore, the numbers, the efforts, and the successes of American privateers most nearly rivalled the daring achievements of their fellows in the Narrow Seas and the approaches to Great Britain and Ireland. The two regions resembled each other in another respect. Not only was there for both an external trade, mainly with one another, but in each there was also a local traffic of distribution and collection of goods, from and to central ports, in which was concentrated the movement of import and export. As has been remarked concerning the coastwise carriage of the United Kingdom, this local intercourse, to be efficient, could not be regulated and hampered to the same extent as the long voyage, over-sea, transportation. A certain amount of freedom and independence was essential, and the risk attendant upon such separate action must be compensated, as far as might be, by diminishing the size of the vessels engaged; a resource particularly applicable to the moderate weather and quiet seas prevalent in the tropics.

Both the exposure of trade under such relaxed conditions, and the relative security obtained by the convoy system, rigidly applied, are shown by a few facts. From September 1, 1813, to March 1, 1814, six months, the number of prizes taken by Americans, exclusive of those on the Lakes, was reported as two hundred and seventy. Of these, nearly one third eighty-six were to, from, or within the West Indies. Since in many reports the place of capture is not given, nor any data sufficient to fix it, it is probable that quite one third belonged to this trade. This evidences the scale, both of the commerce itself and of its pursuers, justifying a contemporary statement that “the West Indies swarm with American privateers;” and it suggests also that many of the seizures were local traders between the islands, or at least vessels taking their chance on short runs. On the other hand, the stringency with which the local officials enforced the Convoy Act was shown, generally, by the experience at this time of the United States naval vessels, the records of which, unlike those of most privateers, have been preserved by filing or publication; and, specifically, by a number of papers found in a prize by the United States frigate “Constitution,” Captain Charles Stewart, while making a round of these waters in the first three months of 1814. Among other documents was a petition, signed by many merchants of Demerara, praying convoy for fifty-one vessels which were collected and waiting for many weary weeks, as often had to be done. In one letter occurs the following: “With respect to procuring a license for the “Fanny” to run it, in case any other ships should be about to do so, we do not believe that, out of forty vessels ready to sail, any application has been made for such license, though out of the number are several out-port vessels well armed and manned. Indeed, we are aware application would be perfectly useless, as the present Governor, when at Berbice, would not permit a vessel from that colony to this [adjoining] without convoy. If we could obtain a license, we could not justify ourselves to shippers, who have ordered insurance with convoy."

The expense and embarrassment incident to such detentions are far-reaching, and the effects are as properly chargeable as are captures themselves to the credit of the cruisers, by the activity of which they are occasioned. The “Constitution” could report only four prizes as the result of a three months’ cruise, necessarily shortened by the approach of spring. This made it imperative for a vessel, denied admission to most home ports by her draught of water, to recover the shelter of one of them before the blockade again began, and the exhaustion of her provisions should compel her to attempt entrance under risk of an engagement with superior force. As it was, she was chased into Salem, and had to lighten ship to escape. But Stewart had driven an enemy’s brig of war into Surinam, chased a packet off Barbados, and a frigate in the Mona Passage; and the report of these occurrences, wherever received, imposed additional precaution, delay, and expense.

At the same time that the “Constitution” was passing through the southern Caribbean, the naval brigs “Rattlesnake” and “Enterprise” were searching its northern limits. These had put out from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when the winter weather drove the blockaders from there, as from Boston, whence the “Constitution” had sailed. Starting early in January, 1814, these two light cruisers kept company, passing east of Bermuda to the island of St. Thomas, at the northeast corner of the Caribbean. Thence they turned west, skirting the north shores of Porto Rico and Santo Domingo as far as the Windward Passage. Through this they entered the Caribbean, followed the south coast of Cuba, between it and Jamaica, rounded Cape San Antonio, at its western extremity, and thence, traversing the Straits of Florida, returned along the coast of the United States. Having already been chased twice in this cruise, they were compelled by a third pursuer to separate, February 25. The stranger chose to keep after the “Enterprise,” which being a very dull sailer was obliged in a flight of seventy hours to throw overboard most of her battery to escape. The two put into Wilmington, North Carolina, a port impracticable to a frigate.

In this long round the brigs overhauled eleven vessels, two only of which were under the British flag. Two were Americans; the rest neutrals, either Swedes or Spaniards. Of the two enemies, only one was a merchant ship. The other was a privateer, the chase of which gave rise to a curious and significant incident. Being near the Florida coast, and thinking the brigs to be British, twenty or thirty of the crew took to the boats and fled ashore to escape anticipated impressment. As Marryat remarks, a British private vessel of that day feared a British ship of war more than it did an enemy of equal force. Of the neutrals stopped, one was in possession of a British prize crew, and another had on board enemy’s goods. For these reasons they were sent in for adjudication, and arrived safely. Judged by these small results from the several cruises of the “Enterprise,” “Rattlesnake,” and “Constitution,” the large aggregate of captures before quoted, two hundred and seventy, would indicate that to effect them required a great number of cruisers, national and private. That this inference is correct will be shown later, by some interesting and instructive figures.

While the making of prizes was the primary concern of the American privateers, their cruises in the West Indies, as elsewhere, gave rise to a certain amount of hard fighting. One of the most noted of these encounters, that of the schooner “Decatur,” of Charleston, with the man-of-war schooner “Dominica,” can hardly be claimed for the United States; for, though fought under the flag, her captain, Diron, was French, as were most of the crew. The “Dominica” was in company with a King’s packet, which she was to convoy part of the way to England from St. Thomas. On August 5, 1813, the “Decatur” met the two about three hundred miles north of the island. The British vessel was superior in armament, having fifteen guns; all carronades, except two long sixes. The “Decatur’s” battery was six carronades, and one long 18-pounder. For long distances the latter was superior in carrying power and penetration to anything on board the “Dominica;” but the American captain, knowing himself to have most men, sought to board, and the artillery combat was therefore mainly at close quarters, within carronade range. It began at 2 P.M. At 2.30 the schooners were within half-gunshot of one another; the “Dominica” in the position of being chased, because of the necessity of avoiding the evident intention of the “Decatur” to come hand to hand. Twice the latter tried to run alongside, and twice was foiled by watchful steering, accompanied in each case by a broadside which damaged her rigging and sails, besides killing two of her crew. The third attempt was successful, the “Decatur’s” bow coming against the quarter of the “Dominica,” the jib-boom passing through her mainsail. The crew of the privateer clambered on board, and there followed a hand-to-hand fight equally honorable to both parties. The British captain, Lieutenant Barrette, a young man of twenty-five, who had already proved his coolness and skill in the management of the action, fell at the head of his men, of whom sixty out of a total of eighty-eight were killed or wounded before their colors were struck. The assailants, who numbered one hundred and three, lost nineteen. The packet, though armed, took no part in the fight, and when it was over effected her escape. The “Decatur” with her prize reached Charleston safely, August 20; bringing also a captured merchantman. The moment of arrival was most opportune; two enemy’s brigs, which for some time had been blockading the harbor, having left only the day before.

In March, 1814, the privateer schooner “Comet,” of Baltimore, not being able to make her home port, put into Wilmington, North Carolina. She had been cruising in the West Indies, and had there taken twenty vessels, most of which were destroyed after removing valuables. In the course of her operations she encountered near St. Thomas the British ship “Hibernia;” the size of which, and her height above the water, by preventing boarding, enabled her successfully to repel attack, and the privateer was obliged to haul off, having lost three men killed and thirteen wounded. The American account of this affair ascribes twenty-two guns to the “Hibernia.” The British story says that she had but six, with a crew of twenty-two men; of whom one was killed and eleven wounded. The importance of the matter in itself scarcely demands a serious attempt to reconcile this discrepancy; and it is safer to accept each party’s statement of his own force. The two agree that the action lasted eight or nine hours, and that both were much cut up. It is evident also from each narrative that they lay alongside most of the time, which makes it probable that the ship’s height saved her from being overborne by superior numbers.

The “Saucy Jack,” of Charleston, passed through several severe combats, in one of which she was even worse mauled than the “Comet” in the instance just cited. On April 30, 1814, off St. Nicolas Mole, in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Santo Domingo, she met the British ship “Pelham,” a vessel of five hundred and forty tons, and mounting ten guns, bound from London to Port au Prince. The “Pelham” fought well, and the action lasted two hours, at the end of which she was carried by boarding. Her forty men were overpowered by numbers, but nevertheless still resisted with a resolution which commanded the admiration of the victors. She lost four killed and eleven wounded; among the latter her captain, dangerously. The privateer had two killed and nine wounded. Both vessels reached Charleston safely, and the “Saucy Jack” at once fitted out again. It is told that, between daylight and dark of the day she began to enlist, one hundred and thirty able-bodied seamen had shipped; and this at a time when the navy with difficulty found crews.

The “Saucy Jack” returned to the West Indies for another cruise, in which she encountered one of those rude deceptions which privateers often experienced. She had made already eight prizes, for one of which, the ship “Amelia,” she had had to fight vigorously, killing four and wounding five of the enemy, while herself sustaining a loss of one killed and one wounded, when on October 31, 1814, about 1 A.M., being then off Cape Tiburon at the west end of Haïti, she sighted two vessels standing to the westward. Chase was made, and an hour later the privateer opened fire. The strangers replied, at the same time shortening sail, which looked ominous; but the “Saucy Jack,” willing to justify her name, kept on to close. At 6 A.M., having arrived within a few hundred yards, the enemy were seen to be well armed, but appeared not to be well manned. At seven, by which time it was daylight, the “Saucy Jack” began an engagement with the nearer, and ten minutes later ran her alongside, when she was found to be full of soldiers. The privateer sheered off at once, and took to her heels, followed by an incessant fire of grape and musketry from those whom she had recently pursued. This awkward position, which carried the chance of a disabling shot and consequent capture, lasted till eight, when the speed of the schooner took her out of range, having had in all eight men killed and fifteen wounded; two round shot in the hull, and spars and rigging much cut up. It was afterwards ascertained that her opponent was the “Volcano” bombship, convoying the transport “Golden Fleece,” on board which were two hundred and fifty troops from Chesapeake Bay for Jamaica. The “Volcano” lost an officer and two men killed, and two wounded; proving that under somewhat awkward circumstances the “Saucy Jack” could give as well as take.

A little later in this season a group of nine sail, from the West Indies for Europe, was encountered by the privateer “Kemp,” of Baltimore, broad off the coast of North Carolina. Excluded, like the “Comet” and others, from return to the port where she belonged, the “Kemp” had been in Wilmington, which she left November 29, 1814; the strangers being sighted at 8 A.M. December 1. One was a convoying frigate, which, when the “Kemp” pursued, gave chase and drove her off that afternoon. The privateer outran her pursuer, and during the night by devious courses gave her the slip; thereupon steering for the position where she judged she would again fall in with the merchant vessels. In this she was successful, at daylight discovering them, three ships, three brigs, and two schooners. At 11 A.M. one ship was overtaken, but proving to be Spanish, from Havana to Hamburg, was allowed to proceed, while the “Kemp” again followed the others. At noon they were five miles to windward, drawn up in a line to fight; for in those days of war and piracy most merchant ships carried at least a few guns for defence, and in this case their numbers, combined in mutual support, might effect a successful resistance. At two they took the initiative, bearing down together and attacking. The “Kemp” engaged them all, and in half an hour the untrained squadron was naturally in confusion. One after the other, six of the seven were boarded, or without waiting to be attacked struck their colors as the schooner drew up; but while four were being taken into possession, the two others seized the opportunity and made off. Two ships and two brigs remained in the hands of the captor. All were laden with sugar and coffee, valuable at any time, but especially so in the then destitute condition of the United States. After this unusual, if not wholly unique, experience, the “Kemp” returned to port, having been absent only six days. Her prisoners amounted to seventy-one, her own crew being fifty-three. The separation of the escort from the convoy, the subsequent judicious search for the latter, and the completeness of the result, constitute this a very remarkable instance of good management accompanied by good fortune; success deserved and achieved.

The privateer brig “Chasseur,” of Baltimore, Captain Thomas Boyle, was one of the typically successful and renowned cruisers of the time. She carried a battery of sixteen 12-pounder carronades, and in the course of the war thirty prizes are credited to her. In the late summer of 1814 she cruised off the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, returning at the end of October; having made eighteen captures during an absence of three months. From these she paroled and sent in by cartels one hundred and fifty prisoners, bringing back with her forty-three, of whom she had not been able thus to rid herself. After refitting she went to the West Indies for a winter cruise, which extended from the Windward Islands to the neighborhood of Havana. Here she signalized the approaching end of her career by an action, fought after peace not only had been concluded at Ghent, but already was known in the United States. On February 26, 1815, at 11 A.M., being then twenty miles east of Havana, and six miles from the Cuban coast, a schooner was seen in the northeast (1), running down before the northeast trade-wind. Sail was made to intercept her (2), there being at the time visible from the “Chasseur’s” masthead a convoy lying-to off Havana, information concerning which probably accounts for her presence at this spot. The chase steered more to the northward (2), bringing the wind on her starboard side, apparently wishing to avoid a meeting. The “Chasseur” followed her motions, and when within about three miles the stranger’s foretopmast went over the side, showing the press of sail she was carrying. After clearing the wreck she hauled close on the wind, heading northerly. At 1 P.M., she began to fire her stern gun and showed British colors; but only three port-holes were visible on her port side, towards the “Chasseur.”

Believing from appearances that he had before him a weakly armed vessel making a passage, and seeing but few men on her deck, Captain Boyle pressed forward without much preparation and under all sail. At 1.26 P.M. the “Chasseur” had come within pistol-shot (3), on the port side, when the enemy disclosed a tier of ten ports and opened his broadside, with round shot, grape, and musket balls. The American schooner, having much way on, shot ahead, and as she was to leeward in doing so, the British vessel kept off quickly (4) to run under her stern and rake. This was successfully avoided by imitating the movement (4), and the two were again side by side, but with the “Chasseur” now to the right (5). The action continued thus for about ten minutes, when Boyle found his opponent’s battery too heavy for him. He therefore ran alongside (6), and in the act of boarding the enemy struck. She proved to be the British schooner “St. Lawrence,” belonging to the royal navy; formerly a renowned Philadelphia privateer, the “Atlas.” Her battery, one long 9-pounder and fourteen 12-pounder carronades, would have been no very unequal match for the sixteen of her antagonist; but the “Chasseur” had been obliged recently to throw overboard ten of these, while hard chased by the Barrosa frigate, and had replaced them with some 9-pounders from a prize, for which she had no proper projectiles. The complement allowed the “St. Lawrence” was seventy-five, though it does not seem certain that all were on board; and she was carrying also some soldiers, marines, and naval officers, bound to New Orleans, in ignorance probably of the disastrous end of that expedition. The “Chasseur” had eighty-nine men, besides several boys. The British loss reported by her captain was six killed and seventeen wounded; the American, five killed and eight wounded.

This action was very creditably fought on both sides, but to the American captain belongs the meed of having not only won success, but deserved it. His sole mistake was the over-confidence in what he could see, which made him a victim to the very proper ruse practised by his antagonist in concealing his force. His manoeuvring was prompt, ready, and accurate; that of the British vessel was likewise good, but a greater disproportion of injury should have resulted from her superior battery. In reporting the affair to his owners, Captain Boyle said, apologetically: “I should not willingly, perhaps, have sought a contest with a King’s vessel, knowing that is not our object; but my expectations at first were a valuable vessel, and a valuable cargo also. When I found myself deceived, the honor of the flag intrusted to my care was not to be disgraced by flight.” The feeling expressed was modest as well as spirited, and Captain Boyle’s handsome conduct merits the mention that the day after the action, when the captured schooner was released as a cartel to Havana, in compassion to her wounded, the commander of the “St. Lawrence” gave him a letter, in the event of his being taken by a British cruiser, testifying to his “obliging attention and watchful solicitude to preserve our effects, and render us comfortable during the short time we were in his possession;” in which, he added, the captain “was carefully seconded by all his officers."

These instances, occurring either in the West Indies, or, in the case of the “Kemp,” affecting vessels which had just loaded there, are sufficient, when taken in connection with those before cited from other quarters of the globe, to illustrate the varied activities and fortunes of privateering. The general subject, therefore, need not further be pursued. It will be observed that in each case the cruiser acts on the offensive; being careful, however, in choosing the object of attack, to avoid armed ships, the capture of which seems unlikely to yield pecuniary profit adequate to the risk. The gallantry and skill of Captain Boyle of the “Chasseur” made particularly permissible to him the avowal, that only mistake of judgment excused his committing himself to an encounter which held out no such promise; and it may be believed that the equally capable Captain Diron, if free to do as he pleased, would have chosen the packet, and not her escort the “Dominica,” as the object of his pursuit. This the naval schooner of course could not permit. It was necessary, therefore, first to fight her; and, although she was beaten, the result of the action was to insure the escape of the ship under her charge. These examples define exactly the spirit and aim of privateering, and distinguish them from the motives inspiring the ship of war. The object of the privateer is profit by capture; to which fighting is only incidental, and where avoidable is blamable. The mission of a navy on the other hand is primarily military; and while custom permitted the immediate captor a share in the proceeds of his prizes, the taking of them was in conception not for direct gain, personal or national, but for injury to the enemy.

It may seem that, even though the ostensible motive was not the same, the two courses of operation followed identical methods, and in outcome were indistinguishable. This is not so. However subtle the working of the desire for gain upon the individual naval officer, leading at times to acts of doubtful propriety, the tone and spirit of a profession, even when not clearly formulated in phrase and definition, will assert itself in the determination of personal conduct. The dominating sense of advantage to the state, which is the military motive, and the dominating desire for gain in a mercantile enterprise, are very different incentives; and the result showed itself in a fact which has never been appreciated, and perhaps never noted, that the national ships of war were far more effective as prize takers than were the privateers. A contrary impression has certainly obtained, and was shared by the present writer until he resorted to the commonplace test of adding up figures.

Amid much brilliant achievement, privateering, like all other business pursuits, had also a large and preponderant record of unsuccess. The very small number of naval cruisers necessarily yielded a much smaller aggregate of prizes; but when the respective totals are considered with reference to the numbers of vessels engaged in making them, the returns from the individual vessels of the United States navy far exceed those from the privateers. Among conspicuously successful cruisers, also, the United States ships “Argus,” “Essex,” “Peacock,” and “Wasp” compare favorably in general results with the most celebrated privateers, even without allowing for the evident fact that a few instances of very extraordinary qualities and record are more likely to be found among five hundred vessels than among twenty-two; this being the entire number of naval pendants actually engaged in open-sea cruising, from first to last. These twenty-two captured one hundred and sixty-five prizes, an average of 7.5 each, in which are included the enemy’s ships of war taken. Of privateers of all classes there were five hundred and twenty-six; or, excluding a few small nondescripts, four hundred and ninety-two. By these were captured thirteen hundred and forty-four vessels, an average of less than three; to be exact, 2.7. The proportion, therefore, of prizes taken by ships of war to those by private armed vessels was nearly three to one.

Comparison may be instituted in other ways. Of the twenty-two national cruisers, four only, or one in five, took no prize; leaving to the remaining eighteen an average of nine. Out of the grand total of five hundred and twenty-six privateers only two hundred and seven caught anything; three hundred and nineteen, three out of five, returned to port empty-handed, or were themselves taken. Dividing the thirteen hundred and forty-four prizes among the two hundred and seven more or less successful privateers, there results an average of 6.5; so that, regard being had only to successful cruisers, the achievement of the naval vessels was to that of the private armed nearly as three to two. These results may be accepted as disposing entirely of the extravagant claims made for privateering as a system, when compared with a regular naval service, especially when it is remembered with what difficulty the American frigates could get to sea at all, on account of their heavy draft and the close blockade; whereas the smaller vessels, national or private, had not only many harbors open, but also comparatively numerous opportunities to escape. The frigate “United States” never got out after her capture of the “Macedonian,” in 1812; the “Congress” was shut up after her return in December, 1813; and the “Chesapeake” had been captured in the previous June. All these nevertheless count in the twenty-two pendants reckoned above.

The figures here cited are from a compilation by Lieutenant George F. Emmons, of the United States Navy, published in 1853 under the title, “The United States Navy from 1775 to 1853.” Mr. Emmons made no analyses, confining himself to giving lists and particulars; his work is purely statistical. Counting captures upon the lakes, and a few along the coast difficult of classification, his grand total of floating craft taken from the enemy reaches fifteen hundred and ninety-nine; which agrees nearly with the sixteen hundred and thirty-four of Niles, whom he names among his sources of information. From an examination of the tables some other details of interest may be drawn. Of the five hundred and twenty-six privateers and letters-of-marque given by name, twenty-six were ships, sixty-seven brigs, three hundred and sixty-four schooners, thirty-five sloops, thirty-four miscellaneous; down to, and including, a few boats putting out from the beach. The number captured by the enemy was one hundred and forty-eight, or twenty-eight per cent. The navy suffered more severely. Of the twenty-two vessels reckoned above, twelve were taken, or destroyed to keep them out of an enemy’s hands; over fifty per cent. Of the twelve, six were small brigs, corresponding in size and nautical powers to the privateer. Three were frigates the “President,” “Essex,” and “Chesapeake.” One, the “Adams,” was not at sea when destroyed by her own captain to escape capture. Only two sloops of war, the first “Wasp” and the “Frolic," were taken; and of these the former, as already known, was caught when partially dismasted, at the end of a successful engagement.

Contemporary with the career of the “Argus,” the advantage of a sudden and unexpected inroad, like hers, upon a region deemed safe by the enemy, was receiving confirmation in the remote Pacific by the cruise of the frigate “Essex.” This vessel, which had formed part of Commodore Bainbridge’s squadron at the close of 1812, was last mentioned as keeping her Christmas off Cape Frio, on the coast of Brazil, awaiting there the coming of the consorts whom she never succeeded in joining. Captain Porter maintained this station, hearing frequently about Bainbridge by vessels from Bahia, until January 12, 1813. Then a threatened shortness of provisions, and rumors of enemy’s ships in the neighborhood, especially of the seventy-four “Montagu” combined to send him to St. Catherine’s Island, another appointed rendezvous, and the last upon the coast of Brazil. In this remote and sequestered anchorage hostile cruisers would scarcely look for him, at least until more likely positions had been carefully examined.

At St. Catherine’s Porter heard of the action between the “Constitution” and “Java” off Bahia, a thousand miles distant, and received also a rumor, which seemed probable enough, that the third ship of the division, the “Hornet,” had been captured by the “Montagu.” He consequently left port January 26, for the southward, still with the expectation of ultimately joining the Commodore off St. Helena, the last indicated point of assembly; but having been unable to renew his stores in St. Catherine’s, and ascertaining that there was no hope of better success at Buenos Ayres, or the other Spanish settlements within the River La Plata, he after reflection decided to cut loose from the squadron and go alone to the Pacific. There he could reasonably hope to support himself by the whalers of the enemy; that class of vessel being always well provided for long absences. This alternative course he knew would be acceptable to the Government, as well as to his immediate commander. The next six weeks were spent in the tempestuous passage round Cape Horn, the ship’s company living on half-allowance of provisions; but on March 14, 1813, the “Essex” anchored in Valparaiso, being the first United States ship of war to show the national flag in the Pacific. By a noteworthy coincidence she had already been the first to carry it beyond the Cape of Good Hope.

Chile received the frigate hospitably, being at the time in revolt against Spain; but the authority of the mother country was still maintained in Peru, where a Spanish viceroy resided, and it was learned that in the capacity of ally of Great Britain he intended to fit out privateers against American whalers, of which there were many in these seas. As several of the British whalers carried letters-of-marque, empowering them to make prizes, the arrival of the “Essex” not only menaced the hostile interests, but promised to protect her own countrymen from a double danger. Her departure therefore was hastened; and having secured abundant provision, such as the port supplied, she sailed for the northward a week after anchoring. A privateer from Peru was met, which had seized two Americans. Porter threw overboard her guns and ammunition, and then released her with a note for the viceroy, which served both as a respectful explanation and a warning. One of the prizes taken by this marauder was recaptured March 27, when entering Callao, the port of Lima.

The “Essex” then went to the Galapagos Islands, a group just south of the equator, five hundred miles from the South American mainland. These belong now to Ecuador, and at that day were a noted rendezvous for whalers. In this neighborhood the frigate remained from April 17 to October 3, during which period she captured twelve British whalers out of some twenty-odd reported in the Pacific; with the necessary consequence of driving all others to cover for the time being. The prizes were valuable, some more, some less; not only from the character of their cargoes, but because they themselves were larger than the average merchant ship, and exceptionally well found. Three were sent to Valparaiso in convoy of a fourth, which had been converted into a consort of the “Essex,” under the name of the “Essex Junior,” mounting twenty very light guns. September 30 she returned, bringing word that a British squadron, consisting of the 36-gun frigate “Phoebe,” Captain James Hillyar, and the sloops of war “Cherub” and “Raccoon,” had sailed for the Pacific. The rumor was correct, though long antedating the arrival of the vessels. In consequence of it, Porter, considering that his work at the Galapagos was now complete, and that the “Essex” would need overhauling before a possible encounter with a division, the largest unit of which was superior to her in class and force, decided to move to a position then even more remote from disturbance than St. Catherine’s had been. On October 25 the “Essex” and “Essex Junior” anchored at the island of Nukahiva, of the Marquesas group, having with them three of the prizes. Of the others, besides those now at Valparaiso, two had been given up to prisoners to convey them to England, and three had been sent to the United States. That all the last were captured on the way detracts nothing from Porter’s merit, but testifies vividly to the British command of the sea.

At the Marquesas, by aid of the resources of the prizes, the frigate was thoroughly overhauled, refitted, and provisioned for six months. Porter had not only maintained his ship, but in part paid his officers and crew from the proceeds of his captures. On December 12 he sailed for Chile, satisfied with the material outcome of his venturous cruise, but wishing to add to it something of further distinction by an encounter with Hillyar, if obtainable on terms approaching equality. With this object the ship’s company were diligently exercised at the guns and small arms during the passage, which lasted nearly eight weeks; the Chilean coast being sighted on January 12, far to the southward, and the “Essex” running slowly along it until February 3, when she reached Valparaiso. On the 8th the “Phoebe” and “Cherub” came in and anchored; the “Raccoon” having gone on to the North Pacific.

The antagonists now lay near one another, under the restraint of a neutral port, for several days, during which some social intercourse took place between the officers; the two captains renewing an acquaintance made years before in the Mediterranean. After a period of refit, and of repose for the crews, the British left the bay, and cruised off the port. The “Essex” and “Essex Junior” remained at anchor, imprisoned by a force too superior to be encountered without some modifying circumstances of advantage. Porter found opportunities for contrasting the speed of the two frigates, and convinced himself that the “Essex” was on that score superior; but the respective armaments introduced very important tactical considerations, which might, and in the result did, prove decisive. The “Essex” originally had been a 12-pounder frigate, classed as of thirty-two guns; but her battery now was forty 32-pounder carronades and six long twelves. Captain Porter in his report of the battle stated the armament of the “Phoebe” to be thirty long 18-pounders and sixteen 32-pounder carronades. The British naval historian James gives her twenty-six long eighteens, fourteen 32-pounder carronades, and four long nines; while to the “Cherub” he attributes a carronade battery of eighteen thirty-twos and six eighteens, with two long sixes. Whichever enumeration be accepted, the broadside of the “Essex” within carronade range considerably outweighed that of the “Phoebe” alone, but was much less than that of the two British ships combined; the light built and light-armed “Essex Junior” not being of account to either side. There remained always the serious chance that, even if the “Phoebe” accepted single combat, some accident of wind might prevent the “Essex” reaching her before being disabled by her long guns. Hillyar, moreover, was an old disciple of Nelson, fully imbued with the teaching that achievement of success, not personal glory, must dictate action; and, having a well established reputation for courage and conduct, he did not intend to leave anything to the chances of fortune incident to engagement between equals. He would accept no provocation to fight apart from the “Cherub.”

Forced to accept this condition, Porter now turned his attention to escape. Valparaiso Bay is an open roadstead, facing north. The high ground above the anchorage provides shelter from the south-southwest wind, which prevails along this coast throughout the year with very rare intermissions. At times, as is common under high land, it blows furiously in gusts. The British vessels underway kept their station close to the extreme western point of the bay, to prevent the “Essex” from passing to southward of them, and so gaining the advantage of the wind, which might entail a prolonged chase and enable her, if not to distance pursuit, at least to draw the “Phoebe” out of support of the “Cherub.” Porter’s aim of course was to seize an opportunity when by neglect, or unavoidably, they had left a practicable opening between them and the point. In the end, his hand was forced by an accident.

On March 28 the south wind blew with unusual violence, and the “Essex” parted one of her cables. The other anchor failed to hold when the strain came upon it, and the ship began to drift to sea. The cable was cut and sail made at once; for though the enemy were too nearly in their station to have warranted the attempt to leave under ordinary conditions, Porter, in the emergency thus suddenly thrust upon him, thought he saw a prospect of passing to windward. The “Essex” therefore was hauled close to the wind under single-reefed topsails, heading to the westward; but just as she came under the point of the bay a heavy squall carried away the maintopmast. The loss of this spar hopelessly crippled her, and made it impossible even to regain the anchorage left. She therefore put about, and ran eastward until within pistol-shot of the coast, about three miles north of the city. Here she anchored, well within neutral waters; Hillyar’s report stating that she was “so near shore as to preclude the possibility of passing ahead of her without risk to his Majesty’s ships.” Three miles, then the range of a cannon-shot, estimated liberally, was commonly accepted as the width of water adjacent to neutral territory, which was under the neutral protection. The British captain decided nevertheless to attack.

The wind remaining southerly, the “Essex” rode head to it; the two hostile vessels approaching with the intention of running north of her, close under her stern. The wind, however, forced them off as they drew near; and their first attack, beginning about 4 P.M. and lasting ten minutes, produced no visible effect, according to Hillyar’s report. Porter states, on the contrary, that considerable injury was done to the “Essex”; and in particular the spring which he was trying to get on the cable was thrice shot away, thus preventing the bringing of her broadside to bear as required. The “Phoebe” and her consort then wore, which increased their distance, and stood out again to sea. While doing this they threw a few “random shots;” fired, that is, at an elevation so great as to be incompatible with certainty of aim. During this cannonade the “Essex,” with three 12-pounders run out of her stern ports, had deprived the “Phoebe” of “the use of her mainsail, jib and mainstay.” On standing in again Hillyar prepared to anchor, but ordered the “Cherub” to keep underway, choosing a position whence she could most annoy their opponent.

At 5.35 P.M., by Hillyar’s report, Porter is silent as to the hour, the attack was renewed; the British ships both placing themselves on the starboard seaward quarter of the “Essex.” Before the “Phoebe” reached the position in which she intended to anchor, the “Essex” was seen to be underway. Hillyar could only suppose that her cable had been severed by a shot; but Porter states that under the galling fire to which she was subjected, without power to reply, he cut the cable, hoping, as the enemy were to leeward, he might bring the ship into close action, and perhaps even board the “Phoebe.” The decision was right, but under the conditions a counsel of desperation; for sheets, tacks, and halliards being shot away, movement depended upon sails hanging loose, spread, but not set. Nevertheless, he was able for a short time to near the enemy, and both accounts agree that hereupon ensued the heat of the combat; “a serious conflict,” to use Hillyar’s words, to which corresponds Porter’s statement that “the firing on both sides was now tremendous.” The “Phoebe,” however, was handled, very properly, to utilize to the full the tactical advantages she possessed in the greater range of her guns, and in power of manoeuvring. In the circumstances under which she was acting, the sail power left her was amply sufficient; having simply to keep drawing to leeward, maintaining from her opponent a distance at which his guns were useless and her own effective.

Under these conditions, seeing success to be out of the question, and suffering great loss of men, Porter turned to the last resort of the vanquished, to destroy the vessel and to save the crew from captivity. The “Essex” was pointed for the shore; but when within a couple of hundred yards the wind, which had so far favored her approach, shifted ahead. Still clinging to every chance, a kedge with a hawser was let go, to hold her where she was; perhaps the enemy might drift unwittingly out of range. But the hawser parted, and with it the frigate’s last hold upon the country which she had honored by an heroic defence. Porter then authorized any who might wish to swim ashore to do so; the flag being kept flying to warrant a proceeding which after formal surrender would be a breach of faith. At 6.20 the “Essex” at last lowered her colors. Out of a ship’s company of two hundred and fifty-five, with which she sailed in the morning, fifty-eight were killed, or died of their wounds, and sixty-five were wounded. The missing were reported at thirty-one. By agreement between Hillyar and Porter, the “Essex Junior” was disarmed, and neutralized, to convey to the United States, as paroled prisoners of war, the survivors who remained on board at the moment of surrender. These numbered one hundred and thirty-two. It is an interesting particular, linking those early days of the United States navy to a long subsequent period of renown, and worthy therefore to be recalled, that among the combatants of the “Essex” was Midshipman David G. Farragut, then thirteen years old. His name figures among the wounded, as well as in the list of passengers on board the “Essex Junior.”

The disaster to the “Essex” is connected by a singular and tragical link with the fate of an American cruiser of like adventurous enterprise in seas far distant from the Pacific. After the defeat at Valparaiso, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur McKnight and Midshipman James Lyman of the United States frigate were exchanged as prisoners of war against a certain number of officers and seamen belonging to one of the “Essex’s” prizes; which, having continued under protection of the neutral port, had undergone no change of belligerent relation by the capture of her captor. When the “Essex Junior” sailed, these two officers remained behind, by amicable arrangement, to go in the “Phoebe” to Rio Janeiro, there to give certain evidence needed in connection with the prize claims of the British frigate; which done, it was understood they would be at liberty to return to their own country by such conveyance as suited them. After arrival in Rio, the first convenient opportunity offering was by a Swedish brig sailing for Falmouth, England. In her they took passage, leaving Rio August 23, 1814. On October 9 the brig fell in with the United States sloop of war “Wasp,” in mid-ocean, about three hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, homeward bound. The two passengers transferred themselves to her. Since this occurrence nothing further has ever been heard of the American ship; nor would the incident itself have escaped oblivion but for the anxiety of friends, which after the lapse, of time prompted systematic inquiry to ascertain what had become of the missing officers.

The captain of the “Wasp” was Master-Commandant, or, as he would now be styled, Commander Johnstone Blakely; the same who had commanded the “Enterprise” up to a month before her engagement with the “Boxer,” when was demonstrated the efficiency to which he had brought her ship’s company. He sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 1, 1814. Of his instructions, the most decisive was to remain for thirty days in a position on the approaches to the English Channel, about one hundred and fifty miles south of Ireland, in which neighborhood occurred the most striking incidents of the cruise. On the outward passage was taken only one prize, June 2. She was from Cork to Halifax, twelve days out; therefore probably from six to eight hundred miles west of Ireland. The second, from Limerick for Bordeaux, June 13, would show the “Wasp” on her station; on which, Blakely reported, it was impossible to keep her, even approximately, being continually drawn away in pursuit, and often much further up the English Channel than desired, on account of the numerous sails passing. When overhauled, most of these were found to be neutrals. Nevertheless, seven British merchant vessels were taken; all of which were destroyed, except one given up to carry prisoners to England.

While thus engaged, the “Wasp” on June 28 sighted a sail, which proved to be the British brig of war “Reindeer,” Captain Manners, that had left Plymouth six days before. The place of this meeting was latitude 48-1/2 deg. North, longitude 11 deg. East; therefore nearly in the cruising ground assigned to Blakely by his instructions. The antagonists were unequally matched; the American carrying twenty 32-pounder carronades and two long guns, the British sixteen 24-pounders and two long; a difference against her of over fifty per cent. The “Reindeer” was to windward, and some manoeuvring took place in the respective efforts to keep or to gain this advantage. In the end the “Reindeer” retained it, and the action began with both on the starboard tack, closehauled, the British sloop on the weather quarter of the “Wasp,” behind, but on the weather side, which in this case was to the right (1). Approaching slowly, the “Reindeer” with great deliberation fired five times, at two-minute intervals, a light gun mounted on her forecastle, loaded with round and grape shot. Finding her to maintain this position, upon which his guns would not train, Blakely put the helm down, and the “Wasp” turned swiftly to the right (2), bringing her starboard battery to bear. This was at 3.26 P.M. The action immediately became very hot, at very close range (3), and the “Reindeer” was speedily disabled. The vessels then came together (4), and Captain Manners, who by this time had received two severe wounds, with great gallantry endeavored to board with his crew, reduced by the severe punishment already inflicted to half its originally inferior numbers. As he climbed into the rigging, two balls from the “Wasp’s” tops passed through his head, and he fell back dead on his own deck. No further resistance was offered, and the “Wasp” took possession. She had lost five killed and twenty-one wounded, of whom six afterwards died. The British casualties were twenty-three killed and forty-two wounded. The brig herself, being fairly torn to pieces, was burned the next day.

The results of this engagement testify to the efficiency and resolution of both combatants; but a special meed of praise is assuredly due to Captain Manners, whose tenacity was as marked as his daring, and who, by the injury done to his stronger antagonist, demonstrated both the thoroughness of his previous general preparation and the skill of his management in the particular instance. Under his command the “Reindeer” had become a notable vessel in the fleet to which she belonged; but as equality in force is at a disadvantage where there is serious inferiority in training and discipline, so the best of drilling must yield before decisive superiority of armament, when there has been equal care on both sides to insure efficiency in the use of the battery. To Blakely’s diligence in this respect his whole career bears witness.

After the action Blakely wished to remain cruising, which neither the condition of his ship nor her losses in men forbade; but the number of prisoners and wounded compelled him to make a harbor. He accordingly went into L’Orient, France, on July 8. Despite the change of government, and the peace with Great Britain which attended the restoration of the Bourbons, the “Wasp” was here hospitably received and remained for seven weeks refitting, sailing again August 27. By September 1 she had taken and destroyed three more enemy’s vessels; one of which was cut out from a convoy, and burnt under the eyes of the convoying 74-gun ship. At 6.30 P.M. of September 1 four sails were sighted, from which Blakely selected to pursue the one most to windward; for, should this prove a ship of war, the others, if consorts, would be to leeward of the fight, less able to assist. The chase lasted till 9.26, when the “Wasp” was near enough to see that the stranger was a brig of war, and to open with a light carronade on the forecastle, as the “Reindeer” had done upon her in the same situation. Confident in his vessel, however, Blakely abandoned this advantage of position, ran under his antagonist’s lee to prevent her standing down to join the vessels to leeward, and at 9.29 began the engagement, being then on her lee bow. At ten the “Wasp” ceased firing and hailed, believing the enemy to be silenced; but receiving no reply, and the British guns opening again, the combat was renewed. At 10.12, seeing the opponent to be suffering greatly, Blakely hailed again and was answered that the brig had surrendered. The “Wasp’s” battery was secured, and a boat was in the act of being lowered to take possession, when a second brig was discovered close astern. Preparation was made to receive her and her coming up awaited; but at 10.36 the two others were also visible, astern and approaching. The “Wasp” then made sail, hoping to decoy the second vessel from her supports; but the sinking condition of the one first engaged detained the new-comer, who, having come within pistol-shot, fired a broadside which took effect only aloft, and then gave all her attention to saving the crew of her comrade. As the “Wasp” drew away she heard the repeated signal guns of distress discharged by her late adversary, the name of which never became known to the captain and crew of the victorious ship.

The vessel thus engaged was the British brig “Avon,” of sixteen 32-pounder carronades, and two long 9-pounders; her force being to that of the “Wasp” as four to five. Her loss in men was ten killed and thirty-two wounded; that of the “Wasp” two killed and one wounded. The “Avon” being much superior to the “Reindeer,” this comparatively slight injury inflicted by her testifies to inferior efficiency. The broadside of her rescuer, the “Castilian,” of the same weight as her own, wholly missed the “Wasp’s” hull, though delivered from so near; a circumstance which drew from the British historian, James, the caustic remark that she probably would have done no better than the “Avon,” had the action continued. The “Wasp” was much damaged in sails and rigging; the “Avon” sank two hours and a half after the “Wasp” left her and one hour after being rejoined by the “Castilian.”

The course of the “Wasp” after this event is traced by her captures. The meeting with the “Avon” was within a hundred miles of that with the “Reindeer.” On September 12 and 14, having run south three hundred and sixty miles, she took two vessels; being then about two hundred and fifty miles west from Lisbon. On the 21st, having made four degrees more southing, she seized the British brig “Atalanta,” a hundred miles east of Madeira. This prize being of exceptional value, Blakely decided to send her in, and she arrived safely at Savannah on November 4, in charge of Midshipman David Geisinger, who lived to become a captain in the navy. She brought with her Blakely’s official despatches, including the report of the affair with the “Avon.” This was the last tidings received from the “Wasp” until the inquiries of friends elicited the fact that the two officers of the “Essex” had joined her three weeks after the capture of the “Atalanta,” nine hundred miles farther south. Besides these, there were among the lost two lieutenants who had been in the “Constitution” when she took the “Guerrière” and the “Java,” and one who had been in the “Enterprise” in her action with the “Boxer.”

Coincident in time with the cruise of the “Wasp” was that of her sister ship, the “Peacock”; like her also newly built, and named after the British brig sunk by Captain Lawrence in the “Hornet.” The finest achievement of the “Wasp,” however, was near the end of her career, while it fell to the “Peacock” to begin with a successful action. Having left New York early in March, she went first to St. Mary’s, Georgia, carrying a quantity of warlike stores. In making this passage she was repeatedly chased by enemies. Having landed her cargo, she sailed immediately and ran south as far as one of the Bahama Islands, called the Great Isaac, near to which vessels from Jamaica and Cuba bound to Europe must pass, because of the narrowness of the channel separating the islands from the Florida coast. In this neighborhood she remained from April 18 to 24, seeing only one neutral and two privateers, which were pursued unsuccessfully. This absence of unguarded merchant ships, coupled with the frequency of hostile cruisers met before, illustrates exactly the conditions to which attention has been repeatedly drawn, as characterizing the British plan of action in the Western Atlantic. Learning that the expected Jamaica convoy would be under charge of a seventy-four, two frigates, and two sloops, and that the merchant ships in Havana, fearing to sail alone, would await its passing to join, Captain Warrington next stood slowly to the northward, and on April 29, off Cape Canaveral, sighted four sail, which proved to be the British brig “Épervier” of eighteen 32-pounder carronades, also northward bound, with three merchant vessels under her convoy; one of these being Russian, and one Spanish, belonging therefore to nations still at war with France, though neutral towards the United States. The third, a merchant brig, was the first British commercial vessel seen since leaving Savannah.

As usual and proper, the “Épervier,” seeing that the “Peacock” would overtake her and her convoy, directed the latter to separate while she stood down to engage the hostile cruiser. The two vessels soon came to blows. The accounts of the action on both sides are extremely meagre, and preclude any certain statement as to manoeuvres; which indeed cannot have been material to the issue reached. The “Épervier,” for reasons that will appear later, fought first one broadside and then the other; but substantially the contest appears to have been maintained side to side. From the first discharge of the “Épervier” two round shot struck the “Peacock’s” foreyard nearly in the same place, which so weakened the spar as to deprive the ship of the use of her foresail and foretopsail; that is, practically, of all sail on the foremast. Having thenceforth only the jibs for headsail, she had to be kept a little off the wind. The action lasted forty-five minutes, when the “Épervier” struck. Her loss in men was eight killed, and fifteen wounded; the “Peacock” had two wounded.

In extenuation of this disproportion in result, James states that in the first broadside three of the “Épervier’s” carronades were unshipped; and that, when those on the other side were brought into action by tacking, similar mishaps occurred. Further, the moment the guns got warm they drew out the breeching bolts. Allowing full force to these facts, they certainly have some bearing on the general outcome; but viewed with regard to the particular question of efficiency, which is the issue of credit in every fight, there remains the first broadside, and such other discharges as the carronades could endure before getting warm. The light metal of those guns indisputably caused them to heat rapidly, and to kick nastily; but it can scarcely be considered probable that the “Épervier” was not able to get in half a dozen broadsides. The result, two wounded, establishes inefficiency, and a practical certainty of defeat had all her ironwork held; for the “Peacock,” though only three months commissioned, was a good ship under a thoroughly capable and attentive captain. A comical remark of James in connection with this engagement illustrates the weakness of prepossession, in all matters relating to Americans, which in him was joined to a painstaking accuracy in ascertaining and stating external facts. “Two well-directed shot,” he says, disabled the “Peacock’s” foreyard. It was certainly a capital piece of luck for the “Épervier” that her opponent at the outset lost the use of one of her most important spars; but the implication that the shot were directed for the point hit is not only preposterous but, in a combat between vessels nearly equal, depreciatory. The shot of a first broadside had no business to be so high in the air.

James alleges also poor quality and a mutinous spirit in the crew, and that at the end, when their captain called upon them to board, they refused, saying, “She is too heavy for us.” To this the adequate reply is that the brig had been in commission since the end of 1812, sixteen months; time sufficient to bring even an indifferent crew to a very reasonable degree of efficiency, yet not enough to cause serious deterioration of material. That after the punishment received the men refused to board, if discreditable to them under the conditions, is discreditable also to the captain; not to his courage, but to his hold upon the men whom he had commanded so long. The establishment of the “Épervier’s” inefficiency certainly detracts from the distinction of the “Peacock’s” victory; but it was scarcely her fault that her adversary was not worthier, and it does not detract from her credit for management and gunnery, considering that the combat began with the loss of her own foresails, and ended with forty-five shot in the hull, and five feet of water in the hold, of her antagonist.

By dark of the day of action the prize was in condition to make sail, and the “Peacock’s” yard had been fished and again sent aloft. The two vessels then steered north for Savannah. The next evening two British frigates appeared. Captain Warrington directed the “Épervier” to keep on close along shore, while he stood southward to draw away the enemy. This proved effective; the “Épervier” arriving safely May 2 at the anchorage at the mouth of the Savannah River, where the “Peacock” rejoined her on the 4th. The “Adams,” Captain Morris, was also there; having arrived from the coast of Africa on the day of the fight, and sailing again a week after it, May 5, for another cruise.

On June 4 the “Peacock” also started upon a protracted cruise, from which she returned to New York October 30, after an absence of one hundred and forty-seven days. She followed the Gulf Stream, outside the line of British blockaders, to the Banks of Newfoundland, thence to the Azores, and so on to Ireland; off the south of which, between Waterford and Cape Clear, she remained for four days. After this she passed round the west coast, and to the northward as far as Shetland and the Faroe Islands. She then retraced her course, crossed the Bay of Biscay, and ran along the Portuguese coast; pursuing in general outline the same path as that in which the “Wasp” very soon afterwards followed. Fourteen prizes were taken; of which twelve were destroyed, and two utilized as cartels to carry prisoners to England. Of the whole number, one only was seized from September 2, when the ship was off the Canaries, to October 12, off Barbuda in the West Indies; and none from there to the United States. “Not a single vessel was seen from the Cape Verde to Surinam,” reported Warrington; while in seven days spent between the Rock of Lisbon and Cape Ortegal, at the northwest extremity of the Spanish peninsula, of twelve sail seen, nine of which were spoken, only two were British.

In these conditions were seen, exemplified and emphasized, the alarm felt and precautions taken, by both the mercantile classes and the Admiralty, in consequence of the invasion of European waters by American armed vessels, of a class and an energy unusually fitted to harass commerce. The lists of American prizes teem with evidence of extraordinary activity, by cruisers singularly adapted for their work, and audacious in proportion to their confidence of immunity, based upon knowledge of their particular nautical qualities. The impression produced by their operations is reflected in the representations of the mercantile community, in the rise of insurance, and in the stricter measures instituted by the Admiralty. The Naval Chronicle, a service journal which since 1798 had been recording the successes and supremacy of the British Navy, confessed now that “the depredations committed on our commerce by American ships of war and privateers have attained an extent beyond all former precedent.... We refer our readers to the letters in our correspondence. The insurance between Bristol and Waterford or Cork is now three times higher than it was when we were at war with all Europe. The Admiralty have been overwhelmed with letters of complaint or remonstrance." In the exertions of the cruisers the pace seems to grow more and more furious, as the year 1814 draws to its close amid a scene of exasperated coast warfare, desolation, and humiliation, in America; as though they were determined, amid all their pursuit of gain, to make the enemy also feel the excess of mortification which he was inflicting upon their own country. The discouragement testified by British shippers and underwriters was doubtless enhanced and embittered by disappointment, in finding the movement of trade thus embarrassed and intercepted at the very moment when the restoration of peace in Europe had given high hopes of healing the wounds, and repairing the breaches, made by over twenty years of maritime warfare, almost unbroken.

In London, on August 17, 1814, directors of two insurance companies presented to the Admiralty remonstrances on the want of protection in the Channel; to which the usual official reply was made that an adequate force was stationed both in St. George’s Channel and in the North Sea. The London paper from which this intelligence was taken stated that premiums on vessels trading between England and Ireland had risen from an ordinary rate of less than one pound sterling to five guineas per cent. The Admiralty, taxed with neglect, attributed blame to the merchant captains, and announced additional severity to those who should part convoy. Proceedings were instituted against two masters guilty of this offence. September 9, the merchants and shipowners of Liverpool remonstrated direct to the Prince Regent, going over the heads of the Admiralty, whom they censured. Again the Admiralty alleged sufficient precautions, specifying three frigates and fourteen sloops actually at sea for the immediate protection of St. George’s Channel and the western Irish coast against depredations, which they nevertheless did not succeed in suppressing.

At the same time the same classes in Glasgow were taking action, and passing resolutions, the biting phrases of which were probably prompted as much by a desire to sting the Admiralty as by a personal sense of national abasement. “At a time when we are at peace with all the rest of the world, when the maintenance of our marine costs so large a sum to the country, when the mercantile and shipping interests pay a tax for protection under the form of convoy duty, and when, in the plenitude of our power, we have declared the whole American coast under blockade, it is equally distressing and mortifying that our ships cannot with safety traverse our own channels, that insurance cannot be effected but at an excessive premium, and that a horde of American cruisers should be allowed, unheeded, unmolested, unresisted, to take, burn, or sink our own vessels in our own inlets, and almost in sight of our own harbours." In the same month the merchants of Bristol, the position of which was comparatively favorable to intercourse with Ireland, also presented a memorial, stating that the rate of insurance had risen to more than twofold the amount at which it was usually effected during the continental war, when the British Navy could not, as it now might, direct its operations solely against American cruisers. Shipments consequently had been in a considerable degree suspended. The Admiralty replied that the only certain protection was by convoy. This they were ready to supply but could not compel, for the Convoy Act did not apply to trade between ports of the United Kingdom.

This was the offensive return made by America’s right arm of national safety; the retort to the harrying of the Chesapeake, and of Long Island Sound, and to the capture and destruction of Washington. But, despite the demonstrated superiority of a national navy, on the whole, for the infliction of such retaliation, even in the mere matter of commerce destroying, not to speak of confidence in national prowess, sustained chiefly by the fighting successes at sea, this weighty blow to the pride and commerce of Great Britain was not dealt by the national Government; for the national Government had gone to war culpably unprepared. It was the work of the people almost wholly, guided and governed by their own shrewdness and capacity; seeking, indeed, less a military than a pecuniary result, an indemnity at the expense of the enemy for the loss to which they had been subjected by protracted inefficiency in administration and in statesmanship on the part of their rulers. The Government sat wringing its hands, amid the ruins of its capital and the crash of its resources; reaping the reward of those wasted years during which, amid abounding warning, it had neglected preparation to meet the wrath to come. Monroe, the Secretary of State, writing from Washington to a private friend, July 3, 1814, said, “Even in this state, the Government shakes to the foundation. Let a strong force land anywhere, and what will be the effect?” A few months later, December 21, he tells Jefferson, “Our finances are in a deplorable state. The means of the country have scarcely yet been touched, yet we have neither money in the Treasury nor credit." This statement was abundantly confirmed by a contemporary official report of the Secretary of the Treasury. At the end of the year, Bainbridge, commanding the Boston navy yard, wrote the Department, “The officers and men of this station are really suffering for want of pay due them, and articles now purchased for the use of the navy are, in consequence of payment in treasury notes, enhanced about thirty per cent. Yesterday we had to discharge one hundred seamen, and could not pay them a cent of their wages. The officers and men have neither money, clothes, nor credit, and are embarrassed with debts." No wonder the privateers got the seamen.

The decision to abandon the leading contention of the war had been reached long before. In an official letter, dated June 27, 1814, to the commissioners appointed to treat for peace, after enumerating the threatening conditions confronting the country, now that the European conflict was at an end, Monroe wrote, “On mature consideration it has been decided that, under all the circumstances above alluded to, incident to a prosecution of the war, you may omit any stipulation on the subject of impressment, if found indispensably necessary to terminate it. You will of course not recur to this expedient until all your efforts to adjust the controversy in a more satisfactory manner have failed." The phraseology of this instruction disposes completely of the specious plea, advanced by partisans of the Administration, that the subject was dropped because impressment was no longer a live issue; the maritime war of Europe being over. It was dropped because it had to be dropped; because the favorable opportunities presented in 1812 and 1813 had been lost by the incompetency of the national Government, distributed over a period of nearly a dozen years of idle verbal argumentation; because in 1814 there stood between it and disastrous reverse, and loss of territory in the north, only the resolution and professional skill of a yet unrecognized seaman on the neglected waters of Lake Champlain.

Before concluding finally the subject of the offensive maritime operations against the enemy’s commerce, it may be mentioned that in the last six months of the war, that is within one fifth of its duration, were made one third of the total captures. Duly to weigh this result, regard must be had to the fact that, when the navy is adequate, the most numerous seizures of commercial shipping are usually effected at the beginning, because the scattered merchantmen are taken unawares. The success of the last few months of this war indicates the stimulus given to privateering, partly by the conditions of the country, imperiously demanding some relief from the necessity, and stagnancy of occupation, caused by the blockade; partly by the growing appreciation of the fact that a richer harvest was to be reaped by seeking the most suitable fields with the most suitable vessels. In an energetic and businesslike people it will be expected that the experience of the two preceding twelvemonths would have produced decided opinions and practical results in the construction of privateers, as well as in the direction given them. It is one thing to take what is at hand and make the most of it in an emergency; it is another to design thoughtfully a new instrument, best qualified for the end in view. The cruiser needed speed and handiness, that is the first and obvious requirement; but, to escape the numerous enemies gradually let loose to shorten her career, it became increasingly requisite that she should have also weight of armament, to fight, and weight of hull tonnage to hold her way in rough and head seas. These qualities were not irreconcilable; but, to effect the necessary combination, additional size was inevitable.

Accordingly, recognition of these facts is found in the laying down of privateers for the particular business. Niles’ Register, a Baltimore weekly, notes with local pride that, although the port itself is bolted and barred by the blockade of the Chesapeake, the Baltimore model for schooners is in demand from Maine to Georgia; that they are being built, often with Baltimore capital, in many places from which escape is always possible. In Boston, there are in construction three stout hulls, pierced for twenty-two guns; clearly much heavier in tonnage, as in armament, than the schooner rate, and bearing the linked names of “Blakely,” “Reindeer,” and “Avon.” Mention is made of one vessel of twenty-two long, heavy guns, which has already sailed, and of two others, to carry as many as thirty to thirty-six, nearly ready.

Between the divergent requirements of size and numbers, there is always a middle term; a mean, not capable of exact definition, but still existent within certain not very widely separated extremes. For commerce destroying by individual cruisers, acting separately, which was the measure that commended itself to the men of 1812, vessels approaching the tonnage of the national sloops of war seemed, by their successes and their immunity from capture, to realize very nearly the best conditions of advantage. The national brigs which put to sea were all captured, save one; and she was so notoriously dull of sailing that her escape was attributed to mere good luck, experienced on several critical occasions. Nearly all the sloops escaped; while the three frigates lost, the “Chesapeake,” “Essex,” and “President,” were taken under circumstances that offered no parallel to the exigencies to which the privateer was liable. They were not run down, uninjured, in a fair race. The only sloop so lost was the “Frolic,” of the class of the “Wasp” and “Peacock;” and the circumstances under which she was caught by a frigate are not sufficiently known to pronounce whether she might have been saved, as her sister ship, the “Hornet,” was, from the hot pursuit of a seventy-four. Under some conditions of wind and sea, inferiority of bulk inflicts irredeemable disadvantage of speed; but, taking one thing with another, in a system of commerce destroying which rejected squadron action, and was based avowedly upon dissemination of vessels, the gain of the frigate over the sloop due to size did not counterbalance the loss in distribution of effort which results from having only one ship, instead of two, for a first outlay.

That some such convictions, the fruit of rude experience in actual cruising, were gradually forming in men’s understanding, is probable from the particulars cited; and they would receive additional force from the consideration that, to make a profit out of privateering under existing conditions, it would be necessary, not only to capture vessels of weak force, but to return safely to port with at least some notable salvage from their cargoes. In other words, there must be power to fight small cruisers, and to escape large ones under all probable disadvantage of weather. Whatever the conclusions of practical seamen and shipowners in this respect, they found no reflection in the dominant power in the Administration and Congress. The exploits of the “Comet,” the “Chasseur,” and a few other fortunate privateer schooners or brigs of small size, among them being cited specifically the “Mammoth,” which in the autumn of 1814 made twenty-one prizes in three months, produced a strong popular impression; and this was diligently but somewhat thoughtlessly deepened by the press, as such popular movements are apt to be, without thorough mastery of all facts, contra as well as pro. It was undeniable, also, that in the threatening aspect of affairs, when Great Britain’s whole strength was freed to be exerted against the country, want of time to prepare new means was a weighty element in decision, and recourse must be had to resources immediately at hand for the retaliatory depredation upon the enemy’s commerce, from the effect of which so much was expected then, as it is now. For this reason the scheme had naval backing, prominent in which was Captain Porter, who had reached home in the July after the capture of the “Essex.”

Under these circumstances, the Secretary of the Navy addressed a letter, October 22, 1814, to the naval committees of both houses of Congress, enlarging on the greater attention of the enemy drawn to the heavy frigates, and the increased difficulty of their getting to sea. He recommended an appropriation of $600,000 for the purchase of fast-sailing schooners for preying on the hostile commerce. In consequence, a bill was introduced to build or purchase for the navy twenty vessels, to carry not less than eight nor more than fourteen guns; in short, of privateer class, but to be under naval control, not only as regarded discipline and organization but direction of effort. It was intended that a squadron of them should be intrusted to Captain Porter, another to Captain Perry; and Porter drew up a plan of operations, which he submitted to the Department, providing for the departure of the vessels, their keeping together for support in one quarter, scattering in another, and again reuniting at a fixed rendezvous. Both officers reported great difficulty in procuring suitable vessels, owing to the extent of privateering, the lack of necessary funds, and the depreciation of Government credit, which caused its drafts to be refused.

When introducing the bill into the lower House, the Chairman of the Naval Committee, after paying some compliments to the military achievements of the naval vessels, said that in regard to depredation on the commerce of the enemy, he believed their efficiency could not be compared to that of vessels of a smaller class. This note dominated the brief discussion; the speakers in favor being significantly enough from Maryland, prepossessed doubtless by local pride in their justly celebrated schooners. Mr. Ingersoll, of Pennsylvania, moved an amendment to allow vessels of twenty-two guns; an increase of fifty per cent. The limitation to fourteen guns, he remarked, was inserted in the Senate by a gentleman from Maryland; but it was not the fact that the best privateers were limited to fourteen guns. One or two which had arrived lately, after reaping a rich harvest, carried sixteen. Mr. Lowndes, of South Carolina, seconded this amendment, hoping that the Senate limitation would be rejected. He quoted Captain Perry, who had “never known an instance in which a brig of the United States had failed to overtake a schooner.” One member only, Mr. Reed, of Massachusetts, spoke against the whole scheme. Though opposed to the war, he said, he wished it conducted on correct principles. He “was warranted by facts in saying that no force would be half as efficient, in proportion to its expense; none would be of so much service to the country; none certainly would touch the enemy half so much as a naval force of a proper character;” which, he affirmed, this was not. Ingersoll’s amendment was rejected, obtaining only twenty-five votes. The bill went again to conference, and on November 11, 1814, was reported and passed, fixing the limits of armament at from eight to sixteen guns; a paltry addition of two. Forty years later the editor of the “Debates of Congress,” Senator Benton, wrote, “This was a movement in the right direction. Private armed vessels, and the success of small ships of war cruising as privateers, had taught Congress that small vessels, not large ships, were the effective means of attacking and annoying the enemy’s commerce."

The final test was not permitted, to determine what success would have attended the operations of several Baltimore schooners, united under the single control of a man like Porter or Perry, and limited strictly to the injury of the enemy’s commerce by the destruction of prizes, without thought of profit by sending them in. The advent of peace put a stop to an experiment which would have been most instructive as well as novel. Looking to other experiences of the past, it may be said with confidence little short of certainty that, despite the disadvantage of size, several schooners thus working in concert, and with pure military purpose, would effect vastly more than the same number acting separately, with a double eye to gain and glory. The French privateer squadrons of Jean Bart and Duguay Trouin, in the early eighteenth century, the example of the celebrated “Western” squadrons of British frigates in the war of the French Revolution, as protectors and destroyers of commerce, demonstrated beyond peradventure the advantage of combined action in this, as in all military enterprise; while the greater success of the individual United States cruiser over the average privateer, so singularly overlooked by the national legislators, gives assurance that Porter’s and Perry’s schooners would collectively have done incomparable work. This, however, is far from indicating that divisions of larger vessels, sloops or frigates, under officers of their known energy, could not have pushed home into the English Channel, or elsewhere where British commerce congregated, an enterprise the results of which would have caused the ears of those that heard them to tingle.