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1812, again set sail, and stood to the eastward, in the hope ‘o of falling in with the british 38-gun frigate Spartan, pre- captain Edward Pelham Brenton, reported to be ... cruising in that direction. Having run, along the one coast as far as the bay of Fundy without discovering ... the object of her pursuit, the Constitution proceeded ” off Halifax and Cape Sable, and then steered to the eastward in the direction of Newfoundland. Passing close to the isle of Sable, the american frigate took a station off the gulf of St.-Lawrence, near Cape Race, for the purpose of intercepting vessels bound to or from Quebec and New-Brunswick. On the 15th captain Hull captured, and on account of their small value burnt, two merchant brigs and a bark; and on the 17th recaptured from the british shipsloop Avenger, the american brig Adeline, on board of which he placed a prize-master and six or seven men, to take her to Boston. Having received intelligence, that the squadron which, by a display of so much skill and perseverance, the Constitution had already once evaded, was off the Grand Bank, captain Hull changed his cruising ground, and stood to the southward. On the 18th, at midnight, an american privateer gave information, that she had the day before seen a british ship of war to the southward. The Constitution immediately made sail in that direction; and, in the course of a few hours, captain Hull found he had not been misinformed. Force The Guerrière, when she arrived on the Northo: American station, was armed the same as the other i. frigates of her class, with 46 guns, including 16 carronades, 32-pounders, and two long nines on her quarterdeck and forecastle. Like most french ships, the Guerrière sailed very much by the head; and, to assist in giving her that trim, as well as to obviate the inconvenience of a round-house which intervened between the foremost and bridle ports on each side, and prevented the gun stationed at the former port from being shifted to the latter when required to be used in chase, two additional 18-pounders, as standing bow-chase guns, were taken on board at Halifax; 1813. thus giving the Guerrière 48 guns, including 30 long ‘Ro’ 18-pounders on the main deck. The mere fact, that, for any use they could be in either broadside, these bow guns might as well have been in the hold, is not the principal point cleared up by the explanation. Those who are aware, that no frigate in the british navy, except the Acasta and Lavinia, and none at all belonging to the french navy, mounts as her establishment 30 long 18-pounders on the main deck, would have a right to consider the Guerrière as a frigate of a superior class and description; and so, for that very reason, is she still generally considered, as well on this as on the opposite side of the Atlantic. We are surprised that neither of our contemporaries, both of whom have given proofs that the first edition of this work has been occasionally consulted by them, has thought it worth his while to point out so important a peculiarity in the Guerrière's armament.*
We have already, at some length, shown how par- Facili: ticular the Americans were in manning their ships; ‘...." and how easy, having so few ships to man, it was to .
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supply them with picked crews. For many years i. previous to the war, America had been decoying ..." the men from british ships, by every artful stratagem. ...i. No ship, that anchored in her waters, could send ** a boat on shore, without having the crew assailed by a recruiting party from some american frigate fitting in the vicinity. Many british seamen had also entered on board american merchant vessels; and the numerous non-intercourse and embargo bills, in existence at different periods during the four years o the war, threw many merchant sailors out of employment. So that the captains of the american frigates, when preparing for active warfare, had to pick their complements from a numerous body of seamen. Highly to the credit of the maval administration of the United States, the crews of their ships were taught the practical rules
* Brenton, vol. v. p. 52. Marshall, vol. ii. p. 974, note.
1812, of gunnery; and 10 shot, with the necessary powder,
Remarks on the crews
were allowed to be expended in play, to make one
. There was another point in which the generality 812. of british crews, as compared with any one american A. crew, were miserably deficient; skill in the art of matgunnery. While theamerican seamenwere constantly: firing at marks, the british seamen, except in par-gunticular cases, scarcely did so once in a year; and . some ships could be named, on board of which not british a shot had been fired in this way for upwards of * three years. Nor was the fault wholly the captain's: the instructions, under which he was bound to act, forbad him to use, during the first six months after the ship had received her armament, more shots per month than amounted to a third in number of her upperdeck guns; and, after those six months had expired, he was to use only half the quantity. Considering by this, either that the lords of the admiralty discouraged firing at marks as a lavish expenditure of powder and shot, or that the limits they had thus set to the exercise of that branch of naval discipline destroyed its practical utility, many captains never put a shot in the guns until an enemy appeared: they employed the leisure time of the men in handling the sails, and in decorating the ship. Others, again, caring little about an order that placed their professional characters in jeopardy, exercised the crew repeatedly in firing at marks; leaving the gunner to account, in the best manner he could, for the deficiency in his stores. As the generality of . french crews were equally inexperienced with their british opponents, the unskilfulness of the latter in gunnery was not felt or remarked: we shall now have to adduce some instances, in quick succession, that will clearly show, how much the british navy at length suffered, by having relaxed in its attention to that most essential point in the business of war, the proper use of the weapons by which it was to be waged. That our opinion on this subject is in perfect accordance with what was the opinion of a british officer of the first rank and distinction, will appear by the
1812, following quotation from the work of a contemporary: `...” “The earl of St.-Vincent,” says captain Brenton, or “in a letter to the author in 1813, thus expresses of himself, ‘ I hear the exercise of the great gun is laid vo" aside, and is succeeded by a foolish frippery and use... less ornament. How far this may have been the subject case,” proceeds captain B., “ in the Mediterranean, or East or West Indies, with ships of the line, we shall not say; but certainly on the coast of North America it was not so, the ships on that station being kept constantly in exercise under the daily expectation of a war.” Notwithstanding this to us wholly unexpected dissent on the part of captain Brenton from an opinion given by earl St.-Vincent, we shall consider the latter to be the highest authority on the subject; especially as the former, in including the Mediterranean among the stations on which ships of the line were neglected to be exercised, has overlooked the very strict and commendable attention paid to that important branch of discipline by viceadmiral sir Edward Pellew. * We have already given the best account, which in the the imperfect state of the american records has ‘.... enabled us to give, of the construction, size, and arms- established armament of the three american 44-gun .." frigates. We have now to notice a slight alteration, crew. that was afterwards made in the armament of the Constitution. In the summer of 1811, when that frigate was fitting for sea at Norfolk, Virginia, captain Hull considered that her upperworks would not strain so much as they had been found to do, if her 42-pounder carronades were exchanged for 32s. This he got effected; and on or about the 31st of July the Constitution sailed for Cherbourg, with those guns and a reduced crew of 380 men on board. On the 6th or 7th of September the Constitution reached her destination, and in a month or two afterwards returned to her anchorage at
* Brenton, vol. v., p. 44.