Page images
PDF

Having discovered that 380 men, even in peace- 1812. able times, were not enough for so large and heavily T. rigged a ship as the Constitution, captain Hull, during H. his stay in the Chesapeake, enlisted as many more as crew restored his complement to 476. But, finding probably;" that the removal of six tons from the Constitution's creased upper battery afforded the ship great relief in a heavy sea, o Hull did not take back his 42pounders. He contrived, however, to reduce the inequality of force, by opening a port in the centre of the gangway for one of the two 24-pounders on the upper deck; or rather, as to be precise we should designate them, the two english long 18-pounders, (battery-guns, we believe,) bored to carry a 24pound shot. We formerly noticed the extraordinary size and weight of the Constitution's maindeck 24-pounders. It appears that the guns were mounted on very high carriages, which the height of the deck, represented to be nearly eight feet, rendered no inconvenience. The height of the President's midship maindeck port-sill from the water's edge was eight feet eight inches, and she is described as the lowest ship of the three. This goes far to reconcile the statement we have often heard made, that the Constitution's maindeck battery was upwards of 10 feet from the water; a height which, at along distance, gave her a decided advantage in the range.

It is a remarkable fact, that no one act of the little Differnavy of the United States had been at all calculated . to gain the respect of the British. First, was seen ments the Chesapeake allowing herself to be beaten, with one impunity, by a british ship only nominally superior in the to her. Then the huge frigate President attacks, ..., and fights for upwards of half an hour, the british when sloop Little-Belt. And, even since the war, the .m. same President, at the head of a squadron, makes a bungling business of chasing the Belvidera. While, therefore, a feeling towards America, bordering on contempt, had unhappily possessed the mind of the

british naval officer, rendering him more than usually

1812, careless and opiniative, the american naval officer, `... having been taught to regard his new foe with a portion of dread, sailed forth to meet him, with the whole of his energies roused. A moment's reflection taught him, that the honour of his country was now in his hands; and what, in the breast of man, could be a stronger incitement to extraordinary exertions 7 Thus situated were the navies of the two countries, when, with damaged masts, a reduced complement, and in absolute need of that thorough refit, for which she was then, after a very long cruise, speeding to Halifax, the Guerrière encountered the Constitution, 17 days only from port, manned with a full complement, and in all respects fitted for war. §. . It was, as we have already stated, about 2 P. M. opens that the Guerrière, standing by the wind on the .." starboard tack, under topsails, foresail, jib, and Consti-spanker, with the wind blowing fresh from the north* west, discovered the Constitution bearing down towards her. At 3 P. M. each ship made out the other to be an enemy's man of war; and at 3 h. 30 m. each discovered, with tolerable precision, the force that was about to be opposed to her. At 4 h. 30 m. P. M. the Guerrière laid her main topsail to the mast, to enable the Constitution the more quickly to close. The latter, then about three miles distant, shortened sail to double-reefed topsails, and went to quarters. At 4 h. 45 m. P. M. the Guerrière hoisted one english ensign at the peak, another at the mizen topgallantmast-head, and a union jack at the fore; and, at 4 h. 50 m. P. M.,” opened her starboard broadside at the Constitution. The Guerrière then filled, wore, and, on coming round on the larboard tack, fired her larboard guns, “her shot,” says captain Hull, “falling short;" a proof, either that the Guerrière's people knew not the range of their guns, or that the powder they were using was of an inferior

* In noticing the time, we shall generally, as on former occasions, take the mean of the two statements.

quality: both causes, indeed, might have cooperated 813. in producing the discreditable result. o At 5h.5m. P.M., having run up one american ensign constiat the peak, lashed another to the larboard mizen on rigging, and hoisted a third flag at the fore topgallant-#. mast-head, the Constitution opened her fire; and, it is believed, none of her shot fell short. To avoid being raked, the Guerrière wore three or four times; and continued discharging her alternate broadsides, with about as little effect, owing to her constant change of position and the necessary alteration in the level of her guns, as when her shot fell short. After the Constitution had amused herself in this way for half an hour, she set her main topgallantsail, and in five minutes, or at about 5h. 45 m. P. M.,” brought the Guerrière to close action on the larboard+ beam; both ships steering with the wind on the larboard quarter. At 6 h. 5 m. P. M. a 24- o pound shot struck the Guerrière’s mizenmast and §: carried it away by the board. It fell over the star-. board quarter, knocked a large hole in the counter, mast. and, by dragging in the water, brought the ship up in the wind, although her helm was kept hard a-port. By this accident to her opponent, who had then sustained only a very slight loss, the Constitution would have ranged ahead; but, bearing up, she quickly placed herself in an admirable position on the Guerrière's larboard bow. Now the american riflemen in the Constitution's tops had an opportunity of cooperating with their friends on deck; and a sweeping and most destructive fire of great guns and smallarms was opened upon the british frigate, whose bow guns were all she could bring to bear in return, At 6 h. 15 m. P. M. the two ships fell on board Constieach other, the Guerrière's bowsprit getting foul of." the Constitution's starboard mizen rigging. The tempts crew of the latter now prepared to board the Guer-...-a, rière; but, in addition to the impracticability of the but is

pre* See diagram at p. 145. vented, t “Starboard,” by mistake, in the gazette account,

1812, attempt owing to the motion of the ships, a slight T.’ pause was created by the fall of some of the american leaders: a shot from a british marine brought down the first lieutenant of marines while leading forward his party; another well-directed musket-shot passed through the body of the first lieutenant of the ship while at the head of the boarding seamen; and a third shot entered the shoulder of the master, as he was standing near lieutenant Morris. The riflemen in the Constitution's tops, in the mean time, continued Ş., their unerring fire. Among those who suffered on wound the occasion was captain Dacres himself, by a * ball fired from the enemy's mizen top, which inflicted a severe wound in his back, while he was standing on the starboard forecastlehammocks animating his crew. Although suffering greatly, he would not quit the deck. At about the same moment the master was shot through the knee, and a master's mate, Samuel Grant, was wounded very severely. In a few minutes the two ships got clear. Disentangling her bowsprit from her opponent’s mizen rigging, the Guerrière now came to a little, and was enabled to bring a few of her foremost guns on the starboard side to bear. Some of the wads from these set fire to the Constitution's cabin, but the flames were soon or extinguished. The Guerrière’s “bowsprit, at that i... moment striking the taffrail of the Constitution, .* slacked the fore stay of the Guerrière, and, the main fore shrouds on the larboard or weather side being * mostly shot away, the mast fell over on the starboard side, crossing the main stay: the sudden jerk carried the mainmast along with it, leaving the Guerrière a defenceless wreck, rolling her maindeck guns in the Water.”* - * At about 6 h. 23 m. H the Constitution ranged ahead; and the Guerrière soon began clearing away the wreck of her masts, to be ready to renew the action. Just, however, as she had succeeded in doing so, her

* Brenton, vol. v. p. 51. t See diagram.

[ocr errors]

spritsail yard, upon which she had set a sail to en- 813. deavour to get before the wind, was carried away. so The Guerrière now lay an unmanageable hulk in the trough of the sea, rolling her maindeck guns under water: to secure which required increased efforts, the rotten state of the breechings, as well as of the timber-heads through which the long-bolts passed, having caused many of them to break loose. While the british frigate was in this state, the Constitution, at 6 h. 45 m. P. M., having rove new braces, wore round and took a position, within pistol-shot on her starboard quarter. It being utterly in vain to oncontend any longer, the Guerrière fired alee gun, and " hauled down the union jack from the stump of her mizenmast. The following diagram will o the progress of this action, from the time the two ships closed to the moment of the Guerrière's surrender.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Much to his credit, the moment the Constitution Losson hoisted her colours, captain Dacres ordered seven . Americans, that belonged to his reduced crew, to go tiere. below: one accidentally remained at his gun, the remainder went where they had been ordered. This left just 244 men and 19 boys. Out of this number, the Guerrière had her second lieutenant, (Henry Ready,) 11 seamen, and three marines killed, her captain, (severely,) first lieutenant, (Bartholomew Kent, slightly,) master, (Robert Scott,) two master's mates, (Samuel Grant and William John Snow,) one midshipman, (James Enslie,) 43 seamen, 13 marines, and one boy wounded; total, 15 killed and 63 wounded, six of the latter mortally, 39 severely,

WOL, WI. - L

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »